However, as early as 2013, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, in its landmark report on gender laws, had recommended setting up of an employment tribunal instead of an internal complaints committee (ICC) in sweeping changes to the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Bill.
The panel was formed in the aftermath of the December 16 Nirbhaya gangrape in 2012 and the ensuing nationwide protests, and submitted its report on January 23, 2013.
Background: At that time of the submission of the report, the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill had already been passed by the Lok Sabha and was awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod. The Bill was passed unchanged by the Upper House a month later.
The Committee, chaired by Justice Verma and including Justice Leila Seth and senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium, termed the Sexual Harassment Bill “unsatisfactory” and said it did not reflect the spirit of the Vishakha guidelines — framed by the Supreme Court in 1997 to curb sexual harassment at the workplace.
Major recommendations made by the panel: Punishment for Rape: The panel has not recommended the death penalty for rapists. It suggests that the punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or RI for seven years to
Punishment for other sexual offences: The panel recognised the need to curb all forms of sexual offences and recommended – Voyeurism be punished with upto seven years in jail; stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means by up to three years. Acid attacks would be punished by up to seven years if imprisonment; trafficking will be punished with RI for seven to ten years.
Registering complaints and medical examination: Every complaint of rape must be registered by the police and civil society should perform its duty to report any case of rape coming to its knowledge. Any officer, who fails to register a case of rape reported to him, or attempts to abort its investigation, commits an offence which shall be punishable as prescribed.
Marriages to be registered:As a primary recommendation, all marriages in India (irrespective of the personal laws under which such marriages are solemnised) should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate. The magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any demand for dowry having been made and that it has taken place with the full and free consent of both partners.
Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure: The panel observed, “The manner in which the rights of women can be recognised can only be manifested when they have full access to justice and when the rule of law can be upheld in their favour.” The proposed Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, should be modified, suggests the panel.
Bill of Rights for women: A separate Bill of Rights for women that entitles a woman a life of dignity and security and will ensure that a woman shall have the right to have complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships.
Review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act: The panel has observed that the “impunity of systematic sexual violence is being legitimised by the armed forces special powers act.” It has said there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA in areas as soon as possible. It has also recommended posting special commissioners for women’s safety in conflict areas.
Police reforms: To inspire public confidence, the panel said, “police officers with reputations of outstanding ability and character must be placed at the higher levels of the police force.” All existing appointments need to be reviewed to ensure that the police force has the requisite moral vision.
Role of the judiciary: The judiciary has the primary responsibility of enforcing fundamental rights, through constitutional remedies. The judiciary can take suo motu cognizance of such issues being deeply concerned with them both in the Supreme Court and the High Court. An all India strategy to deal with this issue would be advisable. The Chief Justice of India could be approached to commence appropriate proceedings on the judicial side. The Chief Justice may consider making appropriate orders relating to the issue of missing children to curb the illegal trade of their trafficking etc.
Political Reforms: The Justice Verma committee observed that reforms are needed to deal with criminalisation of politics. The panel has suggest that, in the event cognizance has been taken by a magistrate of an criminal offence, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process. Any candidate who fails to disclose a charge should be disqualified subsequently. It suggested lawmakers facing criminal charges, who have already been elected to Parliament and state legislatures, should voluntarily vacate their seats.
What’s the issue? The US companies want Donald Trump administration to put pressure on Indian authorities in a bid to seek relaxation on the RBI order of ensuring implementation of data localisation by 15 October. US companies have been lobbying with the Finance Ministry and the RBI over the issue.
Background: U.S trade groups, representing companies such as Amazon, American Express and Microsoft, have opposed India’s push to store data locally. That push comes amid rising global efforts to protect user data but is one that could hit planned investments by the firms in the Indian market, where the companies currently have limited data storage.
What does Data Localization mean? Data localization is the act of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a specific country where the data was generated. Free flow of digital data, especially data which could impact government operations or operations in a region, is restricted by some governments. Many attempt to protect and promote security across borders, and therefore encourage data localization.
Policy goals: Goals set in the Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, along with various government notifications and guidelines such as Reserve Bank of India’s notification on Payment Data Storage 2018, and the Guidelines for Government Departments for Contractual Terms related to Cloud Storage 2017, show signs of data localisation.
The rationale behind such mandates has been attributed to various factors, such as: securing citizen’s data, data privacy, data sovereignty, national security, and economic development of the country. The extensive data collection by technology companies, due to their unfettered access and control of user data, has allowed them to freely process and monetise Indian users’ data outside the country.
Why technology firms are worried? Stricter localisation norms would help India get easier access to data when conducting investigations, but critics say it could lead to increased government demands for data access. Technology firms worry the mandate would hurt their planned investments by raising costs related to setting up new local data centres.
Why government is in favour of data localisation? Greater use of digital platforms in India for shopping or social networking have made it a lucrative market for technology companies, but a rising number of data breaches have pushed New Delhi to develop strong data protection rules.
Also, minimal or deregulated governance on critical data, due to absence of localisation requirements, could be detrimental to India’s national security as data would be outside the purview of existing data protection legislation. The ineffectiveness of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) in this realm aggravates such government fears.
In addition to these, India also aspires to become a global hub for, among others, cloud computing, data hosting and international data centres, all of which are prompting the government to enact data localisation requirements for accelerating the nation’s economic growth, especially in the sphere of digital technologies.
Is data localisation the solution to physical data access and decryption of enciphered data? Can data localisation be conflated with access?
The proposed law by Srikrishna Committee cannot be a knee-jerk reaction to some events; it has to be in line with the SC judgement, which supports the march of technology, innovations, growth of knowledge, and big data analytics for the growth of economies, and for better services to citizens. It recognizes the role of data driven innovation (DDI) for the growth of economies, and for job creation. But it emphasises that the data so collected be utilised for legitimate purposes.
Way ahead: Though these policy goals are justifiable, a deeper analysis is required to determine the possible adverse spill-over effects on relevant stakeholders in case a faulty roadmap is adopted to achieve them.
Adequate attention needs to be given to the interests of India’s Information Technology Enabled Services (ITeS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, which are thriving on cross-border data flow.
Background: Sikkim became the first fully organic state of India in 2016. Over the years around 75000 hectares of land in the state has been converted into certified organic farms following the guidelines as prescribed by National Programme for Organic Production.
Within 1.24 million tonnes of organic production in the country around 80000 million is supplied by Sikkim alone.
Organic farming and its significance: Organic cultivation doesn’t involve the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and thus helps to maintain a harmonious balance among the various complex ecosystems. Also it improves the quality of the soil which further improves the standards of the crops produced there. In the long term, organic farming leads in subsistence of agriculture, bio-diversity conservation and environmental protection. It will also help in building the soil health resulting in sustainable increased crop production.
The first steps towards an Organic State: The first step towards making Sikkim an organic state was to recognise its natural factors that made it an ideal location for organic farming. These included its topography, the local use of traditional farming systems, the diversity of its climatic conditions and the fact the local soil is rich in organic carbon.
Then, in 2003, the ‘Going for Organic Farming in Sikkim’ programme was prepared, along with the Sikkim State Organic Board, which prioritised the creation of new infrastructures and the mobilising of resources. From here, a seven-year plan was introduced to ban chemical fertilisers – gradually replacing them with organic plant nutrients.
The initiatives that propelled Sikkim’s progress: In 2004, the production of organic manure began, replacing other compost. Between 2004 and 2006, two seed testing and processing units were introduced, as well as soil testing laboratories for studying soil health.
The Centre of Excellence for Organic Farming was created. Starting in 2008, several organic certification programmes took place, with much of the land being certified by organisations such as the Department of Science and Technology and the Food Security and Agriculture Department.
In 2010, a bio fertiliser production unit was put together, and the National Level Workshop was introduced in Sikkim’s villages. Later that year, a plan for the adoption of fully organic farming was put into place, known as the Sikkim Organic Mission.
Maintaining the state for the future- To ensure Sikkim stays green in the long term, there are a few additional initiatives that have been introduced to the state:
Firstly, animals are no longer allowed to graze in the reserve forest in order to conserve natural resources. There are still plenty of other spaces for animals to graze, while protecting this land. Plastic bags have been banned, encouraging shoppers to take their own bags to the store to cut down on plastic manufacturing and waste. The State Green Mission was launched, which includes planting fruit bearing trees, plantation drives and more.
Future Policy Gold Award: The prizes, nicknamed the “Oscar for best policies”, honour exceptional policies adopted by political leaders who have decided to act, no longer accepting widespread hunger, poverty or environmental degradation. Previously it was honoured for policies combating desertification, violence against women and girls, nuclear weapons and pollution of the oceans.
· Big step for MSMEs in Budget 2018-19 to boost employment and economic growth. · Budget allocation up from Rs. 6481.96 crore in 2017-18 to Rs.6552.61 crore in 2018-19.
· Allocation under Prime Minister Employment Generation Program has gone up from Rs. 1024.49 crore in 2017-18 to Rs. 1,800 crore in 2018-19. · Corporate tax rate slashed to 25% for companies with annual turnover up to Rs 250 crore from Rs 50 crore.
· The Credit Guarantee Fund has already been enhanced from Rs.2500 crore to Rs. 7500 crore. · Three- fold increase in the allocation for setting up of the state-of-the-art Technology Centres from Rs.150 crore in 2017-18 to Rs. 550 crore in 2018-19.
· Allocation under Khadi Grant enhanced significantly from Rs.265.10 crore in 17-18 to Rs. 415 crore in BE 2018-19. · New scheme of Solar Charkha Mission proposed to further employment generation.
· Allocation for National SC/ST Hub has been raised from Rs. 60 crore to Rs 93.96 crore with a view to giving an impetus to the growth of the business of SC/ST entrepreneurs
· Budget guided by mission to strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, MSME and infrastructure sectors
· MSP for all unannounced kharif crops raised to one and half times of their production cost like majority of rabi crops: · Institutional Farm Credit raised to 11 lakh crore in 2018-19 from 8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15.
· Two New Funds of Rs10,000 crore announced for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry sectors; Re-structured National Bamboo Mission gets Rs.1290 crore. · Loans to Women Self Help Groups will increase to Rs. 75,000 crore in 2019 from 42,500 crore last year
· Outlay on health, education and social protection enhanced to the tune of Rs.1.38 lakh crore in Budget 18-19. · Tribal students to get Ekalavya Residential School in each tribal block by 2022. Welfare fund for SCs gets a boost.
· World’s largest Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families launched with a family limit upto 5 lakh rupees for secondary and tertiary treatment. · Fiscal Deficit pegged at 3.5 %, projected at 3.3 % for 2018-19 · Rs. 5.97 lakh crore allocation for infrastructure
· Disinvestment crossed target of Rs 72,500 crore to reach Rs 1,00,000 crore · Hike in deduction limit for health insurance premium and/ or medical expenditure from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 under section 80D.
· Tax on Long Term Capital Gains exceeding Rs. 1 lakh at the rate of 10 percent, without allowing any indexation benefit. · Plan and Non Plan distinction of expenditure was done away w.e.f. 2017-18 – a holistic view of expenditure would be taken and due focus would be on Capital and Revenue expenditure.
· The Railway Budget was integrated with union Budget w.e.f. 2017-18, ending a very old colonial practice of keeping Railways on a higher pedestal.
· The date of presentation of Union Budget was advanced to Feb 1 w.e.f. 2017-18: This would help ministries and state governments to plan and spend their full budget from April 1st of this year, without being constrained by vote on account.
· Medium Term Expenditure Framework(MTEF) statement was restructured this fiscal to give projected expenditures(revenue and capital) for each demand for next two FYs. This is the harbinger of multi-year budgeting. This would be further improved in future years to have detailed statement of Budgeted Estimates for each demand on multiyear basis.
· Outcome Budget: linking financial outlays against each scheme to their targeted outcome, was provided for the first time as one single document for GoI for 2017-18.
· Small Savings and other administered interest rates were aligned to the prevailing interest regime in the country. This will help the country transition into a low-interest rate regime. This would benefit the people and business.
· Gross Budgetary Allocations of ministries prioritised to check too thin spread of resources.
· We have been able to achieve the implementation of real cooperative federalism by accepting 14th FC’s recommendations involving devolution of 42% resources to the states.
· Public Debt Management Cell (PDMC) created to interface among domestic borrowing, small savings management, external borrowing and contingent liabilities.
· Detailed modalities on the cash management in Central Government were issued in August 2016 to achieve the objectives of reducing idle cash balances, and match inflows and out flows in a manner to avoid idle cash building or curtailing expenditure. In process expenditure would be well spread over the year.
· Switching and buyback operations were carried out as strategic debt management tool to achieve better fiscal management. The aim is to minimise idle cash and also minimise interest payments(almost 25% OF GoI expenditure)
· Small saving and other administered interest rates were aligned to the prevailing interest regime in the country.
· States were excluded from the obligatory borrowing of NSSF.
· The window of giving indiscriminate loans to CPSU or write-off dues without assessing merit stopped.
· Comprehensive CPSU Dividend policy finalised in consultation with DIPAM.
· Senior Citizen Welfare Fund has been created and operationalized.
· NSI organization has been restructured to increase its operational effectiveness and save on administrative costs.
· World Bank Doing Business (DB) Report, 20-18 has ranked India at 100 among 190 countries. India has leapt 30 ranks over its rank of 130 in Doing Business Report 2017.
· DB report acknowledges India as one of the top improver. With a jump of 30 ranks India secured the highest jump in rank of any country in DB Report, 2018. India is the only country in South Asia and BRICS economies to feature among most improved economies of the DB Report this year.
· India has improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score).
· India is guided by Mantra of “Reform, Perform, Transform” of the Prime Minister. A strong leadership has provided the political will to carry out comprehensive and complex reforms, supported by a bureaucracy committed to perform.
· Recapitalization of PSBs by infusion of Rs. 2,11,000 crore over the next two years to support credit growth and job creation
· Budgetary provisions of Rs. 18,139 crore + Recapitalisation Bonds worth Rs. 1,35,000 crore, and the balance through raising of capital by banks from the market while diluting government equity.
· Parliament approved on 5th January, 2018 the proposal to issue Rs 80,000 Crore worth of Recap Bonds as Third batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants for 2017-18 for capitalizing the state-run banks.
· Cabinet gave in-principle approval for Public Sector Banks to amalgamate through an Alternative Mechanism (AM) on 23rd August 2017.
· It would facilitate consolidation among the Nationalized Banks to create strong and competitive banks.
· Alternative Mechanism Committee for Consolidation of the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) set up on 1st Nov 2017.
· Merger of (i) State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur (SBBJ), (ii) State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH), (iii) State Bank of Mysore (SBM), (iv) State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and (v) State Bank of Travancore (SBT) with State Bank of India (SBI) effective from 1st April, 2017.
· It will lead to better management of high-value credit exposures common to SBI and Associate Banks, with more focused oversight and control over cash flows of large corporate borrowing entities as NPAs.
· Customers of Subsidiary Banks will have access to SBI’s global network which spans across all the time zones.
· As on Mar 10, 2017 As much as 6,410 kg gold has been mobilized under the Gold Monetization Scheme so far, according to the reports received till February 18 this year.
· Revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds Scheme approved by Cabinet on 26th July2017.
• Minimum wages increased by 42% in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. • Seventh Pay Commission: Benefited 50 lakh employees and 35 lakh pensioners.
• Gratuity ceiling limit enhanced from Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs for Government employees with effect from 1 January, 2016. Applicable also for employees in the private and public sector in view of the inflation and general increase in wages • The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Act, 2015: Enhances the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from Rs. 10,000 per month to Rs.21,000 per month.
• Contribution of 8.33% of Employee Provident Fund (EPF) for new employees by the Government for three years.
• Contribution of 12% to EPF for new employees for three years by the Government in sectors employing large number of people like textile, leather and footwear.
• Shram Suvidha portal: Unique Labour identification number allocated, online registration of establishments.
• Unique Labour Identification number allocated to give permanent identity to labourers. EPFO issued 12 crores UAN out of which 3 crore have been activated using Mobile services. (As on 31.3.2017). No. of KYC details digitally approved are 7.05 crore. • Amendments in Labour laws to exempt certain industries from returns, labour registration, inspection etc.
• Amendment in factories Act, 1948 to allow for: Night shift for women, increased hours of overtime
• Apprentices Act, 1961 modified to ensure more apprentices. Stipend linked to minimum wages.
• Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017: To increase paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. For the first time, a provision for 12 weeks paid maternity leave has been made for both Commissioning and Adopting mothers. The act has approximately benefited 18 Lakh women employees.
• Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016: Complete ban on the employment of a child below 14 years and prohibition on employment of adolescent (14-18) in hazardous occupation & profession.
• Implementation of Revamped Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme (Revised- 17.05.2016): Financial Assistance increased to Rs. 1 Lakh per adult beneficiary, Rs. 2 Lakh for special category (Children and women), Rs. 3 lakhs for special categories.
• The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act 2017: Employers to pay the wages to employees in cash or by cheque or by crediting the wages in bank accounts of the employee.
• Digital Jeevan Praman Patra introduced for convenience of Pensioners • Housing Subsidy to Beedi, Cine and Non-Coal Mine Workers increased from Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 1,50,000. •
Reforms in BIS laws to improve the standards of goods and services. •
National Career Service Project: bringing employers, trainers and unemployed on single platform, till February 28, 2018, 4.10 Crore jobseekers, 14.87 lakh employers registered and 8.43 lakhs vacancies mobilized, 3151 career counsellors registered on the NCS portal.
More than 1.65 Crore households connected since the launch ofSaubhagya Shri RK Singh, Minister of State (IC) for Power and New & Renewable Energy announced an award scheme under Saubhagya here today to felicitate the DISCOMs / Power Department of the States and their employees for achieving 100 per cent household electrification in their area of operations. Awards would be provided for achieving 100 per cent household electrification at DISCOM/Power Department level of the States. Eight States which have already achieved more than 99 per cent household electrification prior to launch of Saubhagya (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu), are ineligible for participation under the award scheme. All the remaining States and their Discoms are eligible for the award.
Award will be given in three categories, (i) DISCOMs / Power Departments of Special Category States (which includes seven North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K and Uttarakhand); (ii) DISCOMs / Power Departments of other than Special Category States (which includes Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal)having more than 5 Lakh un-electrified households and (iii) DISCOMs / Power Departments of other than Special Category States having less than 5 Lakh un-electrified households.
There will be two quantum of award in each of the three categories. Under first quantum of award, the 1stDISCOM / Power Department to achieve 100per cent household electrification by30th November 2018 would be provided cash award of Rs. 50 Lakh. The Principal Secretary (Energy/Power) of the State will devise the mechanism to distribute this cash prize amongst employees of the concerned DISCOM / Power Department. From this amount, Rs. 20 Lakh will be given to the division of DISCOM/Power Department with highest number of households electrified. Certificate of appreciation would also be given to five officials of concerned DISCOM/Power Department of any level from managing Director to Lineman to be nominated by the Principal Secretary (Energy / Power) of the States. The second quantum of awardincludes cash award of Rs. 100 Crore as grant to the concerned DISCOM/Power Department to be spent in distribution infrastructure development in their area of operation. The Principal Secretary (Energy/Power) of the State will decide work to be executed from this amount.
Other DISCOM/Power Department of the States to achieve 100% household electrification by 31st December 2018 would also be provided certificate of appreciation for five officials of any level from managing Director to Lineman to be nominated by the Principal Secretary (Energy / Power) of the States.
Government of India launched ‘PradhanMantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana’ (Saubhagya) in Sept. 2017 to achieve the goal of universal household electrification in the country by 31st March 2019. The scheme envisages to provide last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining households in rural as well as urban areas. With the support of State Power Departments and DISCOMs more than 1.65 Crore households have already been connected since the launch of scheme. All the States have shown confidence in achievement of the target much before the targeted timelines.