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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 5 September 2020

Contents

  1. Railways propose to decriminalize begging
  2. 2 Years since decriminalisation homosexuality
  3. Kaziranga National Park set to be expanded
  4. RBI alters priority sector norms

RAILWAYS PROPOSE TO DECRIMINALISE BEGGING

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

As part of an exercise to decriminalise/rationalise penalties under the provisions of the Railway Act, 1989, the Ministry of Railways has proposed to decriminalise begging on trains or railway premises and compound the offence of smoking by levying spot fine and dropping all charges/action against the person involved.

Details

Begging

  • Section 144(2) of the Act says that if any person begs in any railway carriage or upon a railway station, he shall be liable for punishment as provided under sub-section (1), which prescribes imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine that may extend to Rs. 2,000, or with both.
  • The railways now propose to amend the Section stating that “No person shall be permitted to beg in any railway carriage or upon any part of the Railway”.

Smoking

  • Section 167 of the Act says that no person in any compartment of a train shall, if objected to by any other passenger, smoke therein. Irrespective of any objections raised, the railway administration may prohibit smoking in any train or part of a train. Whosoever contravenes these provisions shall be punishable with fine up to 100 Rs.
  • Now, the railways propose to amend it in such a way a person caught regarding the offence can pay the fine immediately and not have further action or proceedings taken against them.

Delhi High Court on Criminalization of Begging

  • “Criminalising begging is a wrong approach to deal with the underlying causes of the problem.”
  • “The State simply cannot fail to do its duty to provide a decent life to its citizens and add insult to injury by arresting, detaining and, if necessary, imprisoning persons who beg in search for essentials of bare survival”.

Criminalization of Beggary in India

Beggary laws in India is a relic of the old colonial legacy- e.g., according to the Criminal Tribes Act (1871), indigenous peoples were deemed criminals by birth and herded into concentration camps, where families were separated and forced labour was the norm. (These criminal tribes are now called denotified tribes after independence, which forms a major section of people engaged in beggary.)

Beggary Laws in India

  • There is no central Act on beggary, however, many States and Union Territories have used certain sections of the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959, (Which criminalises beggary) as the basis for their own laws.
  • Through these legislations, the governments try to maintain public order, addresses forced begging or “begging rackets”, prevent annoyance to tourists.
  • In India, begging was first criminalised in the 1920s, as part of a colonial logic that sought to subjugate certain communities by imputing criminality to them.

Definition of Beggary

  • The Act defines beggary as an activity of having no visible means of subsistence, and wandering about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exists by soliciting or receiving alms.
  • However, the provisions of legislation aim to effectively “cleanse” these spaces of individuals who appear poor or destitute.

Unjust Process

  • People found “begging” can be arrested without a warrant, and after a summary procedure, thrown into “Beggars Homes” for anything between a year and three years.
  • Also, many of these beggars homes are poorly regulated without superintendents, probation officers or doctors.

Violation of Fundamental Rights

  • Begging and homelessness are indicators of chronic poverty, therefore, criminalising poverty violates basic human dignity.
  • This coupled with the draconian processes under the Act, violated the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Some argue that – Begging is a peaceful method by which a person sought to communicate their situation to another, and solicit their assistance.
  • Beggary is a manifestation of the fact that the person has fallen through the socially created net.
  • The government has the mandate to provide social security for everyone, to ensure that all citizens have basic facilities, and the presence of beggars is evidence that the state has not managed to provide these to all its citizens.

Way Forward

  • The Centre made an attempt at repealing the Act through the Persons in Destitution (Protection, Care and Rehabilitation) Model Bill, 2016, with provisions including doing away with the Beggary Act and proposing rehabilitation centres for the destitute in each district -yet to be passed.
  • Bihar government’s Mukhyamantri Bhikshavriti Nivaran Yojana – Under the scheme, instead of detaining persons under the Act, open homes were set up and community outreach for destitute persons was put in place.
  • The very real problem of organised begging rackets will have to be addressed by other means, perhaps based on the law of trafficking.

-Source: The Hindu


2 YEARS SINCE DECRIMINALISATION HOMOSEXUALITY

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • In 2018, in the Navtej Singh Johar & Others v. Union of India, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down a part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional as it offended right to privacy.
  • As noted in K.S. Puttaswamy case, privacy has been treated as a fundamental right and a premise for this upliftment was that the privacy of the individual is an essential aspect of dignity.
  • The Court held that Section 377 of the IPC insofar as it criminalizes consensual sexual acts between adults of whatever sexual orientation is an anathema to a constitutional order in which liberty must trump over stereotypes and prevail over the mainstreaming of culture.
  • For two decades, the battle for LGBT rights in India coalesced around Section 377, which was seen as the root issue for a series of problems – violent “therapy” to cure homosexuality, forced marriages, violence by police or state, lack of access to health care or education.
  • The judgment encouraged a clutch of LGBT persons to approach lower courts to demand police protection from their families or demand constitutional rights.

Essential ingredients of Navtej Singh Johar & Others v. Union of India Verdict

  • The basic principle of the dignity and freedom of the individual is an attribute of natural law, which is manifested as basic or fundamental rights of all individuals in a constitutional democracy.

Dignity has a central normative role as well as constitutional value. This normative role is performed in three ways:

  1. First, it becomes basis for constitutional rights;
  2. Second, it serves as an interpretative principle for determining the scope of constitutional rights;
  3. Third, it determines the proportionality of a statute limiting a constitutional right.

Thus, if an enactment puts a limitation on a constitutional right, and such a limitation is disproportionate, such a statute can be held to be unconstitutional by applying the doctrine of proportionality.

Recently in news: National Council for Transgender Persons

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constituted the National Council for Transgender Persons, a requirement under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male.
  • Every transgender person in the country must obtain an identity certificate which will be used as the proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to avail all the rights under the Bill.
  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 prohibits discriminating with transgender people in education, employment, healthcare and other areas.
  • The Bill directs the central and state governments for providing welfare schemes to the Transgender community in these areas.

Click Here to read more about the Bill and National Council for Transgender Persons

-Source: Hindustan Times


KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK SET TO BE EXPANDED

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The Assam government has approved the addition of 30.53 sq km to the 884 sq km Kaziranga National Park.

Details

  • The additional areas straddling two districts — Nagaon and Sonitpur — would make the larger Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) grow to 1085.53 sq km.
  • However, the wildlife habitat still awaits the possession 14.62 sq km “added” earlier in two other districts.
  • The three additions are habitat corridors and would help provide connectivity to Orang and Nameri National Parks across river Brahmaputra from KNPTR besides the hills of Karbi Anglong to the south of the park, where the rhino, tiger, deer and other animals take refuge during the floods.

Kaziranga National Park

  • Kaziranga National Park is located in Golaghat and Nagaon, in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam in northeast India.
  • In the year 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
  • Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
  • Also, the park is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species. Birds like lesser white-fronted goose, ferruginous duck, Baer’s pochard duck and lesser adjutant, greater adjutant, black-necked stork, and Asian Openbill stork specially migrate from the Central Asia during the winter season.
  • The park has successfully managed to grow the population of Greater one-horned rhinoceros, an endangered species.
  • Described as a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species diversity and presence of high-visibility species.

Inhabitants of the National Park:

  • The Endangered Ganges Dolphin
  • Vulnerable and rare species of Bengal Slow Loris
  • Assamese Macaque
  • Capped Langur
  • Golden Langur
  • and the Hoolock Gibbon (only ape found in India).

-Source: The Hindu


RBI ALTERS PRIORITY SECTOR NORMS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Details

  • The revised PSL guidelines will enable better credit penetration to credit deficient areas, increase the lending to small and marginal farmers and weaker sections, boost credit to renewable energy, and health infrastructure, RBI said.
  • This has come after a comprehensive review of the Priority Sector Lending (PSL) guidelines “to align it with emerging national priorities and bring sharper focus on inclusive development, after having wide ranging discussions with all stakeholders,” the RBI said.
  • Bank finance of up to ₹50 crore to start-ups, loans to farmers both for installation of solar power plants for solarisation of grid-connected agriculture pumps, and for setting up compressed biogas (CBG) plants have been included as fresh categories eligible for finance under the priority sector.
  • The revised PSL guidelines have been framed to address regional disparities in the flow of priority sector credit.
  • Higher weightage has been assigned to incremental priority sector credit in ‘identified districts’ where priority sector credit flow is comparatively low.

Priority Sector Lending (PSL)

  • Priority Sector Lending is an important role given by the (RBI) to the banks for providing a specified portion of the bank lending to few specific sectors like agriculture and allied activities, micro and small enterprises, poor people for housing, students for education and other low-income groups and weaker sections.
  • In simple words, PSL means those sectors which the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India consider as important for the development of the basic needs of the country and are to be given priority over other sectors.
  • The banks are mandated to encourage the growth of such sectors with adequate and timely credit.
  • This is essentially meant for an all-round development of the economy as opposed to focusing only on the financial sector.

Priority Sector includes the following categories:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME)
  3. Export Credit
  4. Education
  5. Housing
  6. Social Infrastructure
  7. Renewable Energy
  8. Others

Priority Sector Lending Certificates (PSLCs):

  • Priority Sector Lending Certificates (PSLCs) are a mechanism to enable banks to achieve the priority sector lending target and sub-targets by purchase of these instruments in the event of shortfall.
  • This also incentivizes surplus banks as it allows them to sell their excess achievement over targets thereby enhancing lending to the categories under priority sector.

-Source: The Hindu

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