Insights Daily Current Events, 01 February 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Open to framing law on euthanasia, says Centre
The centre recently said that it is ready to frame a statutory law on passive euthanasia. However, it said its “hands are stayed” because of a pending litigation in the Supreme Court on mercy killing. This was stated in the recently filed affidavit by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Supreme Court.
What is Passive Euthanasia?
It is the act of withdrawing medical treatment with deliberate intention of causing the death of a terminally-ill patient.
Significance of this affidavit:
This provides the first clear insight into whether the Government considers euthanasia as manslaughter or an act of mercy.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is considering changes based on the recommendations made by an expert panel. The expert panel constituted for this purpose has made changes and cleared the formulation of legislation on passive euthanasia after extensive debates, from July 2014 to June 2015.
- The committee has however refused on legalising ‘active euthanasia’ – an intentional act of putting to death a terminally-ill patient – on the grounds that this would lead to potential misuse and is practised in “very few countries worldwide”.
- It should be noted here that this issue is under the consideration of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court since February 2014. Hence, the centre has said that its hands are tied.
- The debate over this topic is 14 years old. Several draft Bills have been formulated in the last 14 years. The debate on legalising and regulating euthanasia began with a Lok Sabha private member’s Bill – The Euthanasia (Regulation) Bill, 2002 – which was examined by the Health Ministry.
- The debate kick-started again four years later, following the 196thLaw Commission Report on euthanasia and the drafting of the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.
- But the Ministry’s experts under the Director General Health Services took a stand against euthanasia for reasons that it amounted to “intentional killing” and against the Hippocratic oath.
- The Government even viewed euthanasia as an act against progressive medical science’s objective to rehabilitate and treat patients. It observed that death may be a fleeting desire arising out of transient depression and doctors should not fall for the patient’s wish to escape suffering by embracing death.
- However, the Government’s perceptions about euthanasia changed in 2011 when the Supreme Court issued comprehensive guidelines allowing passive euthanasia in the tragic case of the bed-ridden former Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug. In her case the staff of KEM Hospital took care of her till her natural death last year.
- The apex court’s guidelines, accepted by the Government, led to the Law Commission’s 241stReport recommending a re-look at passive euthanasia in 2012.
- The Law Commission subsequently took full two years to draft a new law on the subject – The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill. The Ministry had received the draft Bill in April 2014 and begun its task to fine-tune the law.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Marshall Islands sue Britain, India and Pakistan over nuclear weapons
The Marshall Islands have sued India, Pakistan and Britain, and have sought to persuade the UN’s highest court to take up a lawsuit, accusing the countries of failing to halt the nuclear arms race.
- In this regard, the International Court of Justice s hannounced dates for separate hearings for the three cases between March 7 and March 16.
- In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the tribunal based in The Hagueis competent to hear the lawsuits.
- The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to ‘preliminary objections’ raised by London. A decision will be made at a later date as to whether the cases can proceed.
- In 2014, the Marshall Islands – a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people – accused nine countries of “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
- Eight of the nine countries originally targeted in the lawsuits have officially admitted to possessing a nuclear weapon. Israel has never acknowledged having one, though observers believe it is the sole nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East.
- The government, based in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro, said by not stopping the nuclear arms race, the countries continued to breach their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – even if the treaty has not been signed by countries such as India and Pakistan.
- The Marshall Islands government says it had decided to sue the world’s nuclear heavyweights as it has a particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958 the United States conducted repeated nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.
- But the court has only admitted three cases brought against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.
In March 2014 the Marshall Islands marked 60 years since the devastating hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll that laid waste on the island and exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout. The 15-megatonne test on 1 March, 1954 was part of the intense cold war nuclear arms race and 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
‘Not paying bribes in India is a competitive disadvantage’
A survey of 141 Swedish companies based in India has revealed that country’s investment climate has worsened compared with last year and corruption is one of the main deterrents for doing business.
What else the survey notes?
- One out of three companies surveyed state that ‘not paying bribes’ is a competitive disadvantage.
- A slow roll out of reforms including the Goods and Services Tax, import restrictions, high customs duties and red-tape at the lower levels of bureaucracy and restrictive labour laws, are the other main hurdles.
- 52% of the companies surveyed consider the current business climate to be ‘very favourable’ (lower than the last year’s 60%), while 76% view it as ‘favourable’ (lower than 80% last year).
- Eight out of 10 companies, the same as last year, are looking to increase their investments in the coming three years.
- High inflation, increased labour costs, delay in receiving payments, and long and complex sales processes are among the main factors impacting cost-advantage negatively.
- Swedish companies are also looking forward for an early conclusion of the India-European Union free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, saying the pact was crucial for boosting Swedish investments to India.
The survey also notes that despite a dampening of the sentiment, companies will continue to invest.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
‘Visa on arrival’ to attract Japan, Korea investors
The government has decided to give “visa on arrival” to the business community of Japan and South Korea as of now. It should be noted here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2015 had announced that all Japanese citizens would get “visas on arrival”.
- This is being done keeping in mind the “Make in India” policy of the government and to make India an attractive destination for investors from the two countries.
The government has clarified that the facility will be available at designated airports from March 1 and not all categories of visa would be included in the scheme immediately. It has decided to make the country investor-friendly and hence first extend the facility to business and conference visa seekers. Other categories like research and medical are not being included as of now.
What is “Visa on Arrival”?
A visa on arrival facility means that an applicant would not have to wait for days to travel to India. It will cut red tape and an applicant would be informed within three days through e-mail whether he or she can travel to a destination in India.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.
Government may ask central bank to consider roads as a priority sector
The Road Transport and Highways Ministry has decided to approach the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan with a proposal to include road projects under the priority sector list for lending purposes.
- The road sector is important in supporting the economic growth and nation building and hence the ministry has decided to take this route.
What is ‘Priority Secotr’?
The banks provide a certain portion of ‘priority sector’ lending in the form of small value loans to farmers for agriculture, micro and small enterprises, poor people for housing, students for education and low income groups and weaker sections.
- At present, 40% of loans given by banks should go to priority sectors defined by the RBI. Out of this, 18% should go toward agriculture lending.
The Union government has also decided to ask the RBI to ease non-performing asset norms for bank loans to revive projects.
- It may ask the RBI to not classify bank loans as NPAs if the project has failed to take off beyond two years from its original date of commencement.
- This move is necessary to revive Rs. 40,000-crore worth of highway projects that have not taken off due to bureaucratic delays and cost overruns.
- At present, bank loans, extended for infrastructure projects, become NPAs if the project has been delayed for two years from its original schedule even for reasons beyond the control of promoters such as land acquisition approvals.
The government may also ask the RBI to allow banks to infuse more funds into projects facing cost overruns due to delays. At present, the RBI guidelines allow banks to fund additional interest during construction of projects and other cost overruns up to 10% of the original project cost.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States.
Amendment to Juvenile Justice law challenged
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the new law passed by Parliament allowing suspects aged 16 years of age and above to be tried as adults if they commit heinous offences such as rape and murder.
- The petition has also sought the court to judicially review Section 15 of the 2015 Act which provides an option for a juvenile offender aged above 16 to be tried as an adult if the Juvenile Justice Board gives its consent on a preliminary inquiry.
- The petition contends that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is arbitrary and in violation of the fundamental right of right to equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.
- The petition argues that the Act focuses on punishment of juveniles rather than the stated constitutional objective of all juvenile laws, which is care and protection. The statute further violates the letter and spirit of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 came into force on 15th January, 2016. The new Act repealed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 was passed by Lok Sabha in May, 2015 and by Rajya Sabha in December, 2015 and received Presidential assent on 31st December, 2015.
Some of the key provisions include:
- The Act clearly defines and classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous, and defines differentiated processes for each category. Keeping in view the increasing number of serious offences being committed by persons in the age group of 16-18 years and recognizing the rights of the victims as being equally important as the rights of juveniles, special provisions are incorporated in the Act to tackle heinous offences committed by individuals in this age group.
- It establishes a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA).
- It also proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures.
- Mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care is required according to the Act.
- New offences including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, the use of children by militant groups, and offences against disabled children are also incorporated in the legislation.
- The new law gives the Juvenile Justice Board the power to assess whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime aged between 16 and 18, had acted as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult.’ The board will be assisted in this process by psychologists and social experts.
- It strikes a fine balance between the demands of the stakeholders asking for continued protection of rights of juveniles and the popular demand of citizens in the light of increasing incidence of heinous crimes by young boys.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
U.S. considers re-merger of India, Pakistan desks
Seven years after the State Department was restructured to ‘de-hyphenate’ U.S. relations with India and with Pakistan, it is considering a reversal of the move.
De-hyphenating refers to a policy started by the U.S. government under President Bush, but sealed by the Obama administration, of dealing with India and Pakistan in different silos, without referring to their bilateral relations.
- The de-hyphenation policy of the U.S. was crystallised when the SRAP was set up in 2009 soon after President Barack Obama had taken over, with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke.
How it helped the US?
It enabled the U.S. to build closer military and strategic ties with India without factoring in the reaction from Pakistan, and to continue its own strategy in Afghanistan with the help of the Pakistan military without referring back to India.
The US is now considering a proposal to re-merge the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) back with the Bureau of South and Central Asia (SCA) that handles India, the rest of the subcontinent and Central Asian republics.
Why India opposed being included in SRAP?
- Inclusion of India in SRAP would make the US third party in India-Pak disputes.
- It would also make India indirectly support US policy on Afghanistan.
It should however be noted here that this move is an internal matter of the U.S. government and India has no say in this.
Is it good for India?
- Some experts argue that such merger would bring the US on board as the third party in India-Pakistan talks, which would undermine the authority of India.
- However, few people argue that such merger would be good for both the countries as it would introduce a balance between the two.
sources: the hindu.