NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
Reference: modern Indian history by Spectrum publications
Jyotirao Phule was born on April 11, 1827 in Pune, Maharashtra. He was born in a family that belonged to the lower rung of the social ladder. Jyotirao Phule occupies a unique position among the social reformers of Maharashtra in the nineteenth century. While other reformers concentrated more on reforming the social institutions of family and marriage with special emphasis on the status and right of women, Jyotiba Phule revolted against the unjust caste system under which millions of people had suffered for centuries and developed a critique of Indian social order and Hinduism.
Contribution of Jyotiba Phule:
- Social Movements:
- In 1848, an incident sparked off Jyotiba’s quest against the social injustice of caste discrimination and incited a social revolution in the Indian society.
- Jyotirao was invited to attend the wedding of one of his friends who belonged to an upper cast Brahmin family. But at the wedding the relatives of the bridegroom insulted and abused Jyotiba when they came to know about his origins.
- Jyotirao left the ceremony and made up his mind to challenge the prevailing caste-system and social restrictions.
- He made it his life’s work to hammer away tirelessly at the helms of social majoritarian domination and aimed at emancipation of all human beings that were subjected to this social deprivation.
- After reading Thomas Paine’s famous book ‘The Rights of Man’, Jyotirao was greatly influenced by his ideas.
- He believed that enlightenment of the women and lower caste people was the only solution to combat the social evils.
- Efforts Towards Women Education:
- Jyotiba’s quest for providing women and girls with right to education was supported by his wife Savitribai Phule. One of the few literate women of the time, Savitribai was taught to read and write by her husband Jyotirao.
- In 1851, Jyotiba established a girls’ school and asked his wife to teach the girls in the school. Later, he opened two more schools for the girls and an indigenous school for the lower castes, especially for the Mahars and Mangs.
- Efforts towards Widows:
- Jyotiba realized the pathetic conditions of widows and established an ashram for young widows and eventually became advocate of the idea of Widow Remarriage.
- Efforts towards women’s rights:
- Around his time, society was a patriarchal and the position of women was especially abysmal.
- Female infanticide was a common occurrence and so was child marriage, with children sometimes being married to men much older.
- These women often became widows before they even hit puberty and were left without any family support.
- Jyotiba was pained by their plight and established an orphanage in 1854 to shelter these unfortunate souls from perishing at the society’s cruel hands.
- Efforts Towards Elimination of Caste Discrimination:
- Jyotirao attacked the orthodox Brahmins and other upper castes and termed them as “hypocrites”. He campaigned against the authoritarianism of the upper caste people and urged the “peasants” and “proletariat” to defy the restrictions imposed upon them.
- He opened his home to people from all castes and backgrounds. He was a believer in gender equality and he exemplified his beliefs by involving his wife in all his social reform activities.
- He believed that religious icons like Rama are implemented by the Brahmin as a means for subjugating the lower caste.
- The orthodox Brahmins of the society were furious at the activities of Jyotirao. They blamed him for vitiating the norms and regulations of the society.
- Many accused him of acting on behalf of the Christian Missionaries.
- But Jyotirao was firm and decided to continue the movement. Interestingly, Jyotirao was supported by some Brahmin friends who extended their support to make the movement successful.
- Books and Works:
- Phule was also a merchant, author as well as a municipal council member.
- In 1863, one of his businesses was to supply metal-casting equipment to construction sites.
- He was appointed commissioner to the Poona municipality and served in the position until 1883.
- He was also a reputed author. His well-known books include Gulamgiri (Slavery) and Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator’s Whipcord).
- Dhananjay Keer, the author of Phule’s biography, said that the title of Mahatma was bestowed on Phule by fellow reformer from Bombay, Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar.
Perhaps the biggest legacy of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule is the thought behind his perpetual fight against social stigma that are enormously relevant still. In the nineteenth century, people were used to accepting these discriminatory practices as social norm that needed to be enforced without question but Jyotiba sought to change this discrimination based on caste, class and colour. He was the harbinger of unheard ideas for social reforms. He started awareness campaigns that ultimately inspired the likes of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, stalwarts who undertook major initiatives against caste discrimination later.
Reference: Indian Express
The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was launched in December, 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs. The MPLADS is a Central Sector Scheme which is fully funded by Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
The government decided to suspend operation of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for the next two financial years, and divert Rs 7,900 crore to the fight against COVID-19.
- To enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs to be taken up in their Constituencies.
- Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their constituencies and elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State they are elected from.
- Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
- To create durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc.
Benefits of suspension of MPLAD:
- The cancellation of MPLADS for two years, on the other hand, is a welcome move. In financial terms, there are savings of nearly ₹4,000 crore per year.
- In the short run, during the times of COVID-19 pandemic, MPLADS funds could have been used for procurement of such supplies that will help in fighting against the disease.
- While this is not insignificant, the larger benefit is that this will help Members of Parliament focus on their roles as national legislators.
- As the financial audit of MPLADS is done by the CAG and further examined by the Public Accounts Committee consisting of Members of Parliament, it adds another layer of conflict.
- The NCRWC recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.
- The 2nd ARC report on Ethics in Governance took a firm stand against the scheme arguing that it seriously erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.
Possible effects of the suspension of MPLADS:
- Will adversely impact grass-root level work: MPLAD is meant to execute development work in the constituency, suspending it is a huge disservice to the constituents and will undermine the role and functions of MP.
- Impact efforts at state and local level: As there is enough evidence that covid-19 is best fought at the state and local level, the step will take away expenditure to meet unique requirements of an area.
- Against federalism: As the decision is taken unilaterally by the central government without considering the development needs of the States facing covid-19 outbreak.
- Contrary to popular perception, MPLAD funds cannot be spent at the discretion of an MP in any manner he/she wants. There is a set of guidelines mandating the utilization of the monies. These diktats are updated regularly and are available on the website of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
MPLADS is a very nimble and effective scalpel of targeted micro-level intervention. In the months and days ahead, when distress — medical and economic — will haunt the countryside, these discretionary interventions will help save lives. Despite above concerns, the decision will showcase a right signal and gesture of accountability as the government is readying to announce a second round of financial stimulus to deal with the covid-19 pandemic.
Reference: Indian Express
The convalescent plasma therapy aims at using antibodies from the blood of a recovered Covid-19 patient to treat those critically affected by the virus. The therapy can also be used to immunize those at a high risk of contracting the virus — such as health workers, families of patients and other high-risk contacts. Several countries including China and the US have already started the clinical trials of the Convalescent Plasma Therapy due to the absence of a coronavirus-specific treatment to cure the infected patients. Recently, Kerala has got the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approval for the clinical protocol exploring the feasibility of convalescent plasma transfusion which may be administered to severe Covid-19 patients.
- Convalescent Plasma Therapy, also known as passive antibody therapy, provides a person with already developed antibodies to fight a virus.
- Under the Plasma Therapy, the COVID-19 patients will be infused with an antibody-rich blood plasma of the people who have recovered from the novel Coronavirus.
- The Convalescent Plasma Therapy is based on the antibodies and proteins developed by the immune system that protects the body from any potential harm.
- When any virus attacks the body, the immune system produces antibodies to attack the virus. These antibodies are produced by immune cells ‘B lymphocytes’, found in blood plasma.
- The person who recovers from a virus has developed antibodies that stay in blood to fight the same virus, if it returns. And if these antibodies are infused into other person infected with the same virus, they recognize the virus and attack it. However, these antibodies stay for short period in other person’s blood.
- Some antibodies neutralize the virus and some work by mobilizing the immune cells to combat a disease.
- Advantages of the therapy are that it is the viable option in our healthcare system.
- It is quickly doable and there are no major side effects.
- The most important thing is that convalescent sera is easily transportable to any part of the country/worldwide by maintaining adequate cold-chain process similar to vaccine
- Adding therapeutic plasma exchange in tertiary care centres using convalescent sera of COVID-19 will be the more effective way of therapy in COVID-19 patients.
- Therapy is expensive
- Limited number of plasma donors
- Only the critically-ill patients who need support care will get Plasma Therapy treatment. The therapy will not be used for patients showing mild or no symptoms.
- Despite the potential utility of passive antibody treatments, there have been few concerted efforts to use them as initial therapies against emerging and pandemic infectious threats.
- The absence of large trials certainly contributes to the hesitancy to employ this treatment.
- Also, the most effective formulations (convalescent plasma or hyperimmune globulin, H-Ig) are unknown.
- Convalescent plasma has the advantage that while its antibodies limit viral replication, other plasma components can also exert beneficial effects such as replenishing coagulation factors when given to patients with hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.
- On the other hand, individual convalescent plasma units demonstrate donor-dependent variability in antibody specificities and titers. H-Ig preparations, in contrast, contain standardized antibody doses, although fractionation removes IgM, which may be necessary against some viruses.
- Nonetheless, the construction of a strategic stockpile of frozen, pathogen-reduced plasma, collected from Ebola-convalescent patients with well-characterized viral neutralization activities, is one example of how to proceed despite existing unknowns.
Besides speaking about the success of the convalescent plasma therapy, the study by John Hopkins immunologists stated some of the risks associated with it:
- Transfer of blood substances: As the blood transfusion takes place, there are risks that an inadvertent infection might get transferred to the patient.
- Enhancement of infection: The therapy might fail for some patients and can result in an enhanced form of the infection.
- Effect on immune system: The antibody administration may end up suppressing the body’s natural immune response, leaving a Covid-19 patient vulnerable to subsequent re-infection.
The Convalescent plasma therapy was first used during the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak. The approach was used recently during the outbreak of SARS, MERS and Ebola viruses. The convalescent plasma therapy is akin to passive immunization as, according to researchers, it is a preventive measure and not a treatment for the Covid-19 disease.
Reference: Financial Express
Biological weapon, also called germ weapon, any of a number of disease-producing agents—such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents—that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals, or plants. Biological weapons, like chemical weapons, radiological weapons, and nuclear weapons, are commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction, although the term is not truly appropriate in the case of biological armaments. Lethal biological weapons may be capable of causing mass deaths, but they are incapable of mass destruction of infrastructure, buildings, or equipment.
The UN chief, in his message on the 45th anniversary of the Biological Weapons Convention’s entry into force, said that all countries should reaffirm their unequivocal rejection of the use of disease as a weapon.
Challenges posed by bioweapons:
- The technology associated with the manufacture of biological weapons is relatively inexpensive, and because it is similar to that used in vaccine production facilities, it is easy to obtain.
- The microbial agents needed for most biological weapons are widely available.
- It is difficult to gauge the extent of biological weapons development in other nations since production facilities require little space and are not easy to identify.
- For instance, the acquisition and dissemination of even the most highly restricted organism, Variola major, is not an implausible scenario.
- There is growing concern that biological weapon designs or materials from this program might find their way to other nations or terrorist groups.
- Finally, the series of revelations following the Gulf War regarding the true capacity and scope of Iraq’s biological weapons program has been alarming.
- In addition to creating many tons of pathogens and toxins, including B. anthracis and C. botulinum toxin, Iraq also admitted that it had loaded bombs and missiles with biological agents
Impact of Bioterrorism:
- Bioweapons offer terrorist groups and “rogue states” like Pakistan that are waging an unconventional war against the Indian government for the last three decades an affordable way to counter India’s overwhelming military superiority.
- Genetic maps of deadly viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms are already broadly available in the public domain.
- In effect, biological warfare is using non-human life to disrupt — or end — human life. Because living organisms can be unpredictable and incredibly resilient, biological weapons are difficult to control, potentially devastating on a global scale, and prohibited globally under numerous treaties.
- The threat of bioterrorism is increasing as a result of the rise of technical capabilities, the rapid expansion of the global biotechnology industry, and the growth of loosely sophisticated networks of transnational terrorist groups that have expressed interest in bioterrorism.
Measures needed to control Bioweapons:
- Existing prevention strategies are insufficient to guarantee that biological weapons will not be used. Furthermore, it is clear that biological weapons are proliferating.
- Awareness and education:
- ID professionals are called on every day to diagnose and treat patients with fever, pneumonia, rash, and flulike symptoms; therefore, it is the ID professional who would be among the clinicians most likely to recognize the diseases caused by biological weapons.
- Professional educational and training curricula should be enhanced so that ID professionals are better capable of recognizing the diseases that would follow use of a biological weapon such as anthrax, plague, or smallpox.
- Laboratory diagnosis:
- Should the recognition of an unusual disease or pattern of illnesses prompt consideration of possible biological weapon use, members of the ID community will be called on to advise upon the most rapid procedures for diagnostic confirmation of disease.
- In anticipation of this, ID experts should become familiar with the processes by which either the hospital laboratory or the local or state health department, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as necessary, will perform diagnostic studies to implicate or exclude biological weapons use.
- Systems for distributing therapeutics:
- Should a biological weapon use be confirmed, treatment and intervention strategies for the ill and for the exposed but not yet ill will be critical. Depending on the disease, antibiotics, and/or vaccines or other therapies, as well as quarantine, could be lifesaving.
- Scientific research:
- The ID community already does research that seeks new strategies for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment for infectious disease.
- Commensurate with this, the ID community might elect to encourage and reward basic science research efforts that seek to produce novel diagnostic technologies, preventive, or therapeutic interventions for the diseases caused by biological weapons.
Way forward for India:
The Indian government along with friendly nations need to pool their resources and make major investments in the research and development of state-of-the-art devices that are capable of instantaneously detecting lethal bacteria and viruses in the environment. Clinical labs capable of deploying cutting edge technologies need to be set up. Also, the production and stockpiling of new vaccines needs to be increased. A surveillance system should be set up nationwide that should be staffed with clinicians and veterinarians who are trained to identify a bioweapon attack immediately after such a weapon is unleashed. Advanced countries like the Netherlands and Israel have already initiated such steps. Consequently, a nationwide response plan against any bioweapon attack is in place.
Reference: Indian Express
The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was approved by the Cabinet and introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020. The Bill seeks to amend the Companies Act, 2013 and decriminalize various offences under it. The proposed amendments aim to reduce the burden on the National Company Law Tribunal. The Bill was however vehemently opposed and was demanded to be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
The Company Law Committee (CLC) was constituted to further decriminalize the Act, as a concomitant measure to support the ministry’s objectives. The recommendations of the report of the CLC, as is now in the Bill, moots the fact that decriminalization of minor non-compliance instils confidence in both domestic and global players and boosts foreign investments.
The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020:
- The Bill removes the penalty and imprisonment in certain offences along with the reduction in the amount of fine payable.
- Decriminalization: The Bill proposed 72 amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 to decriminalize various offences which can promote Ease of doing ethical business and Ease of doing honest business.
- Recategorization: The changes categorize at least 23 offences out of the 66 compoundable offences mentioned under the Act in case of defaults (which can be determined objectively and which lack an element of fraud or do not involve larger public interest). Such cases will be dealt with an in-house adjudication framework.
- Producer Companies: Under the 2013 Act, certain provisions from the Companies Act, 1956 continue to apply to producer companies. These include provisions on their membership, the conduct of meetings, and maintenance of accounts. The Bill removes these provisions and adds a new chapter in the Act with similar provisions on producer companies.
- Direct Listing in Foreign Jurisdictions: The Bill empowers the Central government to allow certain classes of Indian public companies to directly list classes of securities (as may be prescribed) in foreign jurisdictions.
- Remuneration to non-executive Directors: The 2013 Act made special provisions for payment of remuneration to executive directors of a company (including managing director and other full-time directors) if the company has inadequate or no profits in a year. The Bill extends this provision to non-executive directors, including independent directors.
- Financial Results Filing & Corporate Governance: Specified class of unlisted companies will now have to prepare and file their financial results periodically and also complete the audit or review of such results.
- Benches of NCLAT: The Bill seeks to establish benches of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in order to ease their burden and decrease the pendency of cases.
- Penalties: It extends lesser penalties for small companies (i.e., with lower paid-up share capital and turnover thresholds), one-person companies (i.e., companies with only one member), and producer companies, in case of all offences which attract monetary penalties.
- Exclusion from listed companies: The Bill empowers the Central government, in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), to exclude companies issuing specified classes of securities from the definition of a “listed company”.
- Exemptions from filing resolutions: The 2013 Act required companies to file certain resolutions with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). However, banking companies were exempted from filing such resolutions. This exemption has been extended to registered non-banking financial companies and housing finance companies by the proposed Bill.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, companies with net worth, turnover or profits above a specified amount are required to constitute CSR Committees and spend 2% of their average net profits in the last three financial years, towards its CSR policy.
Significance of decriminalizing offences:
- Eases investor confidence:
- It will also boost the confidence of the investors along with giving an impetus to the business as the fear of imprisonment will be reduced.
- The decriminalization is only for minor, procedural and technical falls which do not involve fraud, injury to the public interest, or non- compoundable offences.
- This is likely to help start-ups to tap overseas markets for raising capital.
- Window for Penalties:
- Also, the Bill provides for a window within which the penalties shall not be levied for delay in filing of annual returns.
- Better corporate governance:
- This aims to improve corporate governance as it will bring more transparency into affairs of closely held companies which are used by major shareholders of large public interest companies to divert funds through transactions that are not on an arm’s length basis.
- This will enhance the productivity of such non-executive directors because of their increased remuneration.
- The Bill exempts companies with a CSR liability of up to Rs 50 lakh a year from setting up CSR Committees.
- Further, the Bill allows eligible companies (which spend any amount in excess of their CSR obligation in a financial year) to set off the excess amount towards their CSR obligations in the subsequent financial years.
- Lesser penalties for certain offences:
- Section 446B is amended to provide that non-compliance by One Person Companies, Small Companies, Start-up Companies or Producer Companies, or by any of its persons or officer in default, are only liable to one-half the penalty specified in the respective provisions, subject to a maximum of Rs. 2 lakh in case of a company and Rs. 1 lakh in case of person or default officer.
- Benefit to Independent Directors (ID):
- IDs have been recently in the spotlight for corporate lapses and violations.
- The amendments are vital for IDs to dissociate them from personal liabilities of the operational lapses and violations, especially when the offence has been committed without any evidence attributing knowledge, consent, connivance, or lack of diligence of the IDs.
- The Ministry’s notification directs that civil or criminal proceedings not be unnecessarily initiated against the IDs, unless there is sufficient evidence, and if already initiated, must be reviewed.
The aforementioned recommendations endeavour to simplify and accelerate the processes of rectifying defaults by paying penalties, instead of fighting a criminal trial. It also benefits the State by reducing the burden on courts, allowing them to focus on serious offences.
These amendments are admirable steps towards the three-pronged goal of reducing the burden on company courts, ensuring investor interests, and facilitating the ease of doing business while collaterally safeguarding and incentivizing senior management to remain invested. This could well be the step towards showing intent to incentivize domestic and global investments, especially post COVID-19.
Reference: Financial Express
Indian cities have witnessed unprecedented growth over the past few decades that, in turn, has had a drastic impact on water availability. Depleting water resources, changing climate and unsustainable water cycle management are exacerbating the water situation. Many Indian cities have witnessed water exigencies in the form of severe drought and flood. Around 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress. By 2030, India’s demand for water might be double the available supply.
Need for India to have long-term water management plan:
- Indian cities need to diversify their water resources portfolio.
- Indian cities often fail to anticipate water-related issues and are left to react to these.
- With ageing assets, water theft and non-revenue water, our cities cannot continue to dole out water subsidies, which eventually lead to paucity of funds that could have helped upgrade the water infrastructure.
Measures needed to be taken:
- A long-term Water Master Plan should gain higher importance within the Master Plan of cities.
- Rain-water harvesting: Few Indian cities have bye-laws that mandate rainwater harvesting. This will need strong legislation and engineering interventions.
- Recycled water: Recycled water presents itself as an important component of the water portfolio. It is a climate-change resilient water resource, which can be reliably produced using advanced treatment technologies.
- Desalination plants: India too has some desalination plants across few coastal cities, and can capitalise Singapore’s strong experience in seawater desalination in bringing down per unit cost of water and developing seawater as a sustainable water source.
- Integration of digital technology into water management: The availability of smart metres, water-efficient devices and infrastructure monitoring devices to plug any leakages will be useful to sustain operations and maintenance.
- Awareness and Education: Encourage people to reduce their water use by 10 litres a day, observe water conservation week, public visits and engagement, and water visitor centres for people to understand and appreciate the value of water.
Case study of Singapore:
- Singapore’ water story offers many valuable lessons that can be learned, contextualised and implemented in Indian cities.
- At the time of its independence, Singapore faced lack of perennial surface water sources, flooding and polluted water ways, limited groundwater availability with a risk of seawater intrusion and dependence on a neighbouring country for drinking water.
- It was able to turn around this vulnerability.
- Today, Singapore’s diverse water portfolio—four national taps comprising of surface water, recycled water, harnessed rainwater and desalinated water, ensure that the country’s water needs are met sustainably.
- In Singapore, recycled water is called NEWater, wherein used water is treated using advanced treatment technologies (combination of micro and ultra-filtration followed by reverse osmosis and UV disinfection) to ensure that the recycled water complies with the highest water quality standards, and is fit for human consumption.
- Singapore utilises desalinated sea water as its third source of water.
- Integrated and long-term water resources’ planning has been Singapore’s strength. Supported by strong governance, Singapore’s National Water Agency (NWA) judiciously manages the price for its water services, and proactively invests in planning for the future next drop of water. This is supported by strong public outreach and stakeholder engagement programmes, to bolster the value of water
Indian cities can learn a lot from Singapore, but there is no point blaming them without giving them a fair chance to fight. If we have any hesitation taking this decision, we can always go back to the wise words of the founding father of Singapore, the late Lee Kuan Yew, ‘Water dominated every other policy. Every other policy had to bend at the knees for water survival’.