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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 29 May 2021

Contents

  1. Dowry deaths: SC widens scope of Section 304-B
  2. Centre’s Rs. 100-upgrade to mid-day meal scheme
  3. As India watches, Sri Lanka seeks FDI and Currency Swap
  4. RBI Annual Report for 2020-21

Dowry deaths: SC widens scope of Section 304-B

Context:

The Supreme Court indicated in a judgment that a straitjacket and literal interpretation of a penal provision on dowry death may have blunted the battle against the “long-standing social evil”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to women, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dowry system in India
  2. Defining Dowry
  3. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  4. Contention of the Language used in Section 304-B

Dowry system in India

  • The dowry system in India refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride’s family gives to the groom, his parents and his relatives as a condition of the marriage.
  • The dowry system can put great financial burden on the bride’s family, and in many cases, the dowry system leads to crime against women, ranging from emotional abuse and injury to even deaths.
  • The payment of dowry has long been prohibited under specific Indian laws including the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Dowry deaths accounted for 40% to 50% homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018.
  • In 2019 alone, more than 7,000 cases of dowry death were registered under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code.

Defining Dowry

  • A court judgement clarifies the legal definition of dowry as: “Dowry” in the sense of the expression contemplated by Dowry Prohibition Act is a demand for property of valuable security having an inextricable nexus with the marriage, i.e., it is a consideration from the side of the bride’s parents or relatives to the groom or his parents and/or guardian for the agreement to wed the bride-to-be.
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 defines dowry as: “Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly – (a) by one party in marriage to the other party in marriage; or (b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to marriage or to any other persons; at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal law applies.”

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, intended to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry applies to persons of all religions in India.
  • The legislation underwent subsequent amendment, significantly – in 1984, it was changed to specify that presents given to a bride or a groom at the time of a wedding are allowed.
  • The act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code were further amended to protect female victims of dowry-related violence.
  • Amendments to the original Dowry Prohibition Act also established minimum and maximum punishments for giving and receiving dowry and created a penalty for demanding dowry or advertising offers of money or property in connection with a marriage.
  • The Indian Penal Code was also modified in 1983 to establish specific crimes of dowry-related cruelty, dowry death, and abetment of suicide. These enactments punished violence against women by their husbands or their relatives when proof of dowry demands or dowry harassment could be shown.
  • Another layer of legal protection was provided in 2005 under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

Contention of the Language used in Section 304-B

  • The language used in Section 304-B has always flummoxed courts, as the Courts have often opted for a strict and narrow reading of the provision, which was one of the many legal initiatives introduced against dowry.
  • Chief Justice of India who authored the judgment, said courts should instead interpret Section 304-B liberally while keeping in mind the law’s intention to punish dowry and bride-burning.
  • According to Section 304-B, to make out a case of dowry death, a woman should have died of burns or other bodily injuries or “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within seven years of her marriage. She should have suffered cruelty or harassment from her husband or in-laws “soon before her death” in connection with demand for dowry.
  • Over the years, courts had interpreted the phrase ‘soon before’ in Section 304-B as ‘immediately before’. This interpretation would make it necessary for a woman to have been harassed moments before she died. Such “absurd” interpretations should be avoided.
  • According to the current judgement, the Chief Justice of India said that the prosecution needed to show only a “proximate and live link” between the harassment and her death.
  • The court further said the phrase “otherwise than under normal circumstances” in the Section also calls for a liberal interpretation. “Section 304-B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorising death as homicidal or suicidal or accidental. The reason for such non-categorisation is due to the fact that death occurring in ‘other than under normal circumstances’ can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or accidental.”
  • The judgment also raised concern about the casual way in which trial courts examined accused persons in dowry death cases under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The examination of the accused about the incriminatory material against him should be done in a fair manner. The court must put incriminating circumstances before the accused and seek his response. He should be given sufficient opportunity to give his side of the story. The court should question the accused fairly, with care and caution.

-Source: The Hindu


Centre’s Rs. 100-upgrade to mid-day meal scheme

Context:

The Centre has decided to give about Rs. 100 each to children studying in Class 1 to Class 8 in government schools, who are beneficiaries of the Mid-Day Meal scheme.

However, Right to Food activists say this is insufficient to provide the nutrition security envisaged by this measure.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Hunger, Issues related to children, Government Interventions and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the latest government intervention in MDM scheme
  2. Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme
  3. How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-
  4. Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
  5. Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

About the latest government intervention in MDM scheme

The money, Rs. 1200 crore in total, will be given to 11.8 crore children through direct benefit transfer as a one-time payment.

This decision will help safeguard the nutritional levels of children and aid in protecting their immunity during the challenging pandemic times.

The total Central allocation for the Mid-Day Meal scheme in 2021-22 is Rs. 11,500 crores and its largest component is cooking costs, which cover the prices of ingredients such as pulses, vegetables, cooking oil, salt, and condiments.

In 2020, the minimum allocation for cooking cost per child per day was set at just under 5 Rs. for Classes 1 to 5 and Rs. 7.45 for Classes 6 to 8, with the Centre paying 60% of the cost.

Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme

  • The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
  • Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding “adequate nutritious food” for children.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes.
  • The Scheme benefits the Students of:
    • Government schools,
    • Government aided schools,
    • Local body Education Centres,
    • Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
    • Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,
    • National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of labour.

How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-

Post-Independence, Tamil Nadu was the first state to introduce the MDM scheme in the 1960s.

The Central scheme to provide meals to school children began in 1995, however, most states just limited themselves to providing dry rations.

Supreme Court Order: The Game Changer

A Supreme Court order of 2001 provided for all states to introduce cooked meals.

The Supreme Court order specified the states to provide “at least 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days in a year”.

Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?

  • Research has shown how hot, cooked food attracted students to schools and improved their nutritional status.
  • MDM has been proven to attract children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school.
  • Along with Improvement of regularity, educational and nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are also highlighted.
  • Hence, the main positives of this scheme are:
    • Avoiding classroom hunger.
    • Increased school enrolment and attendance.
    • Improved socialisation among castes.
    • Reducing malnutrition.
    • Empowering women through employment.

Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

  • Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight.
  • Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.
  • Many children don’t get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole.
  • A 2005 study found that Caste based discrimination continued to occur in the serving of food.
  • Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc.
  • Poor food quality is a major concern, affecting the health of children (as many media reports show students falling sick dur to lapses in quality checking and control). There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out.
  • The schools do not function during holidays and vacations which deprives children of their one daily meal.

-Source: The Hindu


As India watches, Sri Lanka seeks FDI and Currency Swap

Context:

  • Sri Lanka invited international investment into the Colombo Port City that it described as a “fully Sri Lankan project”, while official sources in New Delhi said they were “keeping a close eye” on the project and its “security implications”.
  • Recently, Bangladesh cleared a USD 200 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka, to help boost its economy.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies and Developments affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Currency Swap deal with Bangladesh
  2. Sri Lanka’s Approach to India
  3. Sri Lanka’s FDI invite

About the Currency Swap deal with Bangladesh

  • Although currency swap between the two countries is an agreement or contract to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions – it is different in the context of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s latest deal. The present deal between the two countries is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
  • Central banks and Governments engage in currency swaps with foreign counterparts to meet short term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or to ensure adequate foreign currency to avoid Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis till longer arrangements can be made. For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market, and a lifeline as it struggles to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debts looms.
  • These swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks as transaction terms are set in advance.
  • This may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country, so this is a landmark of sorts.
  • Bangladesh has not been viewed so far as a provider of financial assistance to other countries. It has been among the most impoverished countries of the world, and still receives billions of dollars in financial aid.
  • But over the last two decades, it has managed to elevate its economy itself majorly, and in 2020, was the fastest growing in South Asia. The country has managed to pull millions out of poverty. Its per capita income just overtook India’s.

Sri Lanka’s Approach to India

  • In 2020, the President of Sri Lanka requested India for a USD 1 billion credit swap, and separately, a moratorium on debts that the country has to repay to India.
  • But India-Sri Lanka relations have been tense over Colombo’s decision to cancel a valued container terminal project at Colombo Port, which made India put off the decision.
  • Earlier, in July 2020, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) extended a USD 400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which the Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February. The arrangement was not extended.

Sri Lanka’s FDI invite

  • Addressing concerns around the recently passed legislation on laws governing the Colombo Port City, which critics fear might be a “Chinese enclave” in the Sri Lankan capital, a team of government Ministers said the China-backed $1.4 billion-Port City, pitted as a financial hub, had the potential to create 83,000 jobs and bring in up to $15 billion in investments.
  • Constitutional experts and opposition legislators argue that the “financial hub”, coming up on reclaimed land adjoining Colombo’s seafront, would enjoy, besides a tax-free status, immunity from Sri Lankan law.
  • It is said by ministers that Sri Lanka would pursue a “non-aligned” foreign policy, amid growing public criticism over the government’s “China-centric” policies.
  • China has been among the top lenders to Sri Lanka, especially since the pandemic struck, offering a $1 billion in loan and a nearly-$ 1.5 billion currency swap facility.

Click here to read About the Colombo Port City

-Source: The Hindu


RBI Annual Report for 2020-21

Context:

RBI said in its Annual Report for 2020-21 that while the economy has not moderated to the extent during the first wave, the surrounding uncertainties can act as a deterrent in the immediate period.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the RBI’s Annual Report for 2020-21

Highlights of the RBI’s Annual Report for 2020-21

  • Gain from foreign exchange transactions rose from just under 30,000 Crore Rs. to more than Rs 50,000 crore in 2020-21
  • The RBI transferred almost Rs. 100,000 crores to the government which is likely to boost the government’s finances
  • RBI has been able to transfer a higher amount to the government as surplus this year following a sharp fall in provisions (drop in expenditure was on account of a lower provision) and gains from foreign exchange transactions during the year ended March 2021.
  • The rupee strengthened by 3.5% against the US dollar (at end-March 2021 over end-March 2020) but underperformed vis-a-vis other Asian countries during 2020-21.
  • Bank frauds of Rs.1 lakh and more fell by 25% in value to Rs.1.38 trillion in the year 2020-21 with the number of such cases also seeing a decline of 15% during the year.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic increased the proliferation of digital modes of payments.
  • Various initiatives such as an innovation hub, a regulatory sandbox and offline payment solutions are underway to ensure that in the digital ecosystem, India maintains its position as a leader.
  • The RBI is also in the process of extending the geo-tagging framework put in place to capture location of bank branches and ATMs to cover payment system touch points, enabling accurate capture of their location across the country.
  • The RBI will ensure a comfortable level of liquidity in the system during 2021- 22 in alignment with the stance of monetary policy.
  • Monetary transmission refers to the process by which a central bank’s monetary policy signals (like repo rate) are passed on, through the financial system to influence the businesses and households.
  • As the vaccination drive picks up and cases of infections fall, a sharp turnaround in growth is likely, supported by strong favourable base effects.

-Source: Indian Express

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