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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 8 September 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Govt. mulls allowing SEZ occupants to sell locally
  2. Survey on impact of school closures and Shikshak Parv
  3. NCW: Rise in complaints of crimes against women in 2021

Govt. mulls allowing SEZ occupants to sell locally

Context:

The government is considering a proposal to allow producers in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to sell their output to the domestic market without treating them as imports. It is also reviewing the exclusion of export-oriented units (EOUs) and SEZs from the recently notified tax refund scheme for exports.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Special Economic Zones (SEZ)
  2. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in India
  3. Who can set up SEZs?
  4. Other points regarding functioning and application of laws

Special Economic Zones (SEZ)

  • Special Economic Zones (SEZ) is a territory within a country that is typically duty-free (Fiscal Concession) and has different business and commercial laws chiefly to encourage investment and create employment.
  • SEZs are created also to better administer these areas, thereby increasing the ease of doing business.
  • SEZs are located within a country’s national borders, and their aims include increasing trade balance, employment, increased investment, job creation and effective administration.

Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in India

  • The Indian government began to establish SEZs in India during the 2000s under the Foreign Trade Policy to redress the infrastructural and bureaucratic challenges that were seen to have limited the success of EPZs.
  • Asia’s first EPZ (Export Processing Zones) was established in 1965 at Kandla, Gujarat and these EPZs had a similar structure to SEZs.
  • The Special Economic Zones Act was passed in 2005 and with this India’s SEZs were structured closely with China’s successful model.
  • More than 350 SEZs are notified in India, out of which 265 are operational.
  • About 64% of the SEZs are located in five states – Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • The Baba Kalyani led committee was constituted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to study the existing SEZ policy of India and had submitted its recommendations in 2018.

Major Incentives and Facilities Available to SEZ

  • Duty free import/domestic procurement of goods for development, operation and maintenance of SEZ units.
  • Exemption from various taxes like Income Tax, minimum alternate tax, etc.
  • External commercial borrowing by SEZ units upto US $ 500 million in a year without any maturity restriction through recognized banking channels.
  • Single window clearance for Central and State level approvals.

Impact of having SEZs notified so far

SEZs were operational in India from 2000 to 2006 (under the Foreign Trade Policy) and since then:

  • Exports of around Rs. 22,000 Crore (2005-06) has increased to almost Rs. 8,00,000 Crore (2020-21).
  • Investment of Rs. 4,000 Crore (2005-06) has increased to more than Rs. 6,00,000 Crore (2020-21).
  • Employment from just over 1,30,000 persons (2005-06) has increased to more than 23,00,000 persons (2020-21).

Who can set up SEZs?

Any private/public/joint sector or state government or its agencies can set up an SEZ. Even a foreign agency can set up SEZs in India.

Role of state governments in establishing SEZs

  • State governments will have a very important role to play in the establishment of SEZs.
  • A representative of the state government, who is a member of the inter-ministerial committee on private SEZ, is consulted while considering the proposal.
  • Before recommending any proposals to the ministry of commerce and industry (department of commerce), the states must satisfy themselves that they are in a position to supply basic inputs like water, electricity, etc.
  • In all SEZs, the statutory functions are controlled by the government.
  • The government also controls the operation and maintenance function in the central government-controlled SEZs. The rest of the operations and maintenance are privatized.

Other points regarding functioning and application of laws

  • Normal labour laws are applicable to SEZs, which are enforced by the respective state governments.
  • The state governments have been requested to simplify the procedures/returns and for the introduction of a single-window clearance mechanism by delegating appropriate powers to development commissioners of SEZs.
  • To encourage businesses to set up in the zone, financial policies are introduced. These policies typically encompass investing, taxation, trading, quotas, customs and labour regulations.
  • Additionally, companies may be offered tax holidays, where upon establishing themselves in a zone, they are granted a period of lower taxation.
  • The performance of the SEZ units are monitored by a unit approval committee consisting of a development commissioner, custom and representative of state government on an annual basis.
  • Business units that set up establishments in an SEZ would be entitled for a package of incentives and a simplified operating environment.
  • Besides, no license is required for imports, including second-hand machinery.

-Source: The Hindu


Survey on impact of school closures and Shikshak Parv

Context:

  • The prolonged closure of primary and upper primary schools during the pandemic months has led to “catastrophic consequences” for school students, particularly in rural India, says an emergency report.
  • The private sector must come forward and contribute to increasing the quality of education in government schools, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while launching a portal to coordinate private contributions for school development.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Education, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. ‘Emergency Report on School Education’
  2. About Shikshak Parv-2021

‘Emergency Report on School Education’

  • ‘Emergency Report on School Education’ is based on the School Children’s Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) survey – and it notes the catastrophic consequences for school students from the prolonged closure of primary and upper primary schools since the onset of the pandemic.
  • Only 8% of school students in rural India have been able to access online education, while at least 37% have stopped studying altogether. In urban areas around 24% were found to be studying online education regularly.
  • The most important factor has been the limited reach of online education owing to the lack of ownership of smartphones, which stands at less than 50% in rural areas. Also, the ownership of smartphones does not guarantee access to online education given the fact that the smartphones are mainly used by working adults who are not always able to share the gadgets with the children at home.
  • Only a small proportion of the school-going population has been able to continue studies online. Thus, the learning process has been disrupted to a large extent and this could be detrimental to the learning outcomes of school education.
  • The survey also found that the Dalit and Adivasi children were at a greater disadvantage as a mere 5% of the children from these groups had access to online classes.
  • In addition to education, the prolonged school closure has also affected the level of nutrition among the children in rural schools where the midday meals have been stopped.

About Shikshak Parv-2021

  • Shikshak Parv-2021 is celebrated by the Ministry of Education (MoE) from September 5 to 17, 2021. It is organised to recognise the valuable contributions of teachers and to take National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 ahead.
  • The theme for the Shikshak Parv 2021 is Quality and sustainable schools-learnings from schools in India.
  • Five key initiatives in the education sector were launched on the occasion:
    1. School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAA): a quality initiative proposed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to provide global parameters of attainment as standards in schools affiliated to it – to address the deficiency of the absence of a common scientific framework for dimensions like curricula, pedagogy, assessment, infrastructure, inclusive practices and governance process.
    2. NISHTHA Teachers’ Training programme for NIPUN Bharat: a capacity building programme for improving the quality of school education through integrated teacher training launched to create an enabling environment to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, so that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27.
    3. Vidyanjali 2.0 Portal: launched for facilitating education volunteers, donors and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) contributors for school development with focus towards the improvement of literacy by offering volunteer teachers in government schools.
    4. Indian Sign Language Dictionary: launched for the Children and persons with hearing impairments with 10,000 words in it.
    5. Talking Books: audiobooks for the visually impaired.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


NCW: Rise in complaints of crimes against women in 2021

Context:

The country saw a rise of 46 per cent in complaints of crimes against women in the first eight months of 2021 as against the corresponding period of 2020, according to the National Commission for Women (NCW).

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to Women, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the National Commission for Women (NCW)
  2. What the NCW said about increasing number of crimes against women?
  3. Violence against women in India
  4. Constitutional Safeguards and Legislations
  5. Way Forward: What can be done?

About the National Commission for Women (NCW)

  • The National Commission for Women (NCW) is the statutory body of the Government of India – Established under provisions of the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
  • NCW is generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
  • The objective of the NCW is to represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
  • The subjects of their campaigns have included dowry, politics, religion, equal representation for women in jobs, and the exploitation of women for labour.
  • They have also discussed police abuses against women.
  • The commission regularly publishes a monthly newsletter, Rashtra Mahila, in both Hindi and English.

What the NCW said about increasing number of crimes against women?

  • The NCW received almost 20,000 complaints of crimes against women from January to August 2021.
  • Of the 46 per cent rise in complaints of crimes against women in 2021 Half of these cases were from Uttar Pradesh.
  • The highest number of complaints were recorded under
  • The right to live with dignity clause (right to live with dignity clause takes into account the emotional abuse of women), followed by
  • Domestic violence and
  • Harassment of married women (or dowry harassment).
  • Among states and union territories, the highest number of complaints was received from Uttar Pradesh (more than 10,000), followed by Delhi, Haryana and Maharashtra.
  • NCW chief     said there has been a rise in the complaints because the commission has been regularly conducting awareness programs due to which the public is now more aware about its work.
  • The NCW has launched a round-the-clock helpline number to provide support services to women in need where they can also register a complaint. When complaints rise it is a good thing because it means more women have the courage to speak up and there are platforms in place now and they are aware of where to report.

Violence against women in India

  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data show that 24% of women faced domestic violence in 2015-16 not seeing any reduction since 2005-06.
  • Compared to the survey results, the actual reports of domestic violence to the police are negligible at 58.8/ one lakh women.
  • The disparity between the crimes reported in a survey and registered with the police highlights how women are unlikely to seek help.
  • The more telling statistic from the NFHS data is perhaps that 52% of the surveyed women and 42% of the surveyed men think there is at least one valid reason for wife-beating.
  • This attitude highlights how ingrained and normalised the idea is such that an abused woman should not expect support from others.
  • The NFHS data also highlight how the proportion of women reporting violence is increasing among families with lower wealth.
  • The lockdown due to the pandemic is leading to a substantial negative income shock for everyone.
  • In our interviews with unorganised sector workers, we often heard that women suffered domestic violence coupled with the husband’s alcoholism.
  • The NFHS data also show a high correlation between alcohol intake and domestic violence. Keeping in mind that access to alcohol may be limited in these times, frustration could also lead to abuse.

Constitutional Safeguards and Legislations

  1. Fundamental Rights: It guarantees all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State on the basis of gender (Article 15(1)) and special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women (Article 15(3)).
  2. Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSP): It ensures equal pay for equal work (Article 39 (d)).
  3. Fundamental Duties: It ensures that practices derogatory to the dignity of women are prohibited under Article 51 (A).
  4. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005: It provides victims of domestic violence with a means for practical remedy through prosecution.
  5. The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961: It prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry.
  6. The sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and redressal) Act, 2013: This legislative act seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.

Way Forward: What can be done?

  • The most important thing that we can do is to acknowledge and accept that domestic violence happens and work to reduce the stigma attached to the victims of such violence.
  • Such support may prompt abused women to seek at least informal means to redress their issues.
  • The NCW has appealed to women to reach out to their nearest police stations or call the State Women’s Commission for support.
  • While this is the least that can be done, there are some other formal means by which we can extend help to women right now.
  • The provision of cash transfers and ration support are likely to sustain the family and also reduce stress in the household leading to lower violence against women.
  • Since the lockdown began, the amount of TV viewing, particularly of news, has increased. Coupled with a lack of other activity, this is an opportune time to improve messaging.
  • The NCW could increase its advertising expenditure on TV to relay messages requesting women to contact the police station for help.
  • The 181 helpline number set up for this reason should remain active, and women should be reminded of this number via TV ads.
  • The government could also send mass SMS messages as it did during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis as most women have access to at least a basic phone.
  • Studies show that women more than men tend to be affected adversely during epidemics. We need to take these advisories seriously to prevent further widening of the rift between men and women in our society.

-Source: Hindustan Times

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