- India hosts meeting of SCO Ministers.
- 15th Finance Commission.
- Mid-term review of implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission in Rajasthan.
- Clarification by CIC on Arogya Setu App.
- Union Health Ministry’s telemedicine service, eSanjeevani, completes 6 lakh tele-consultations.
Focus: GS 2 ; Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Why in News?
India hosted the 19th Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Ministers responsible for Foreign Economy and Foreign Trade Activities.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri Piyush Goyal said that the current crisis due to Covid-19 is a clarion call to the SCO countries to leverage the economic strength and explore partnerships that enhance trade and investment in the region.
India underlined the necessity to enhance intra SCO trade and investment to ensure speedy recovery
About Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO);-
- It is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.
- It’s creation was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
- It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
- The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
- Its membership was expanded to include India and Pakistan in 2017.
- The SCO also has four observer states i.e. Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia, which may be inducted at a later date.
- The SCO Hq in Beijing, China.
Above Image includes all the SCO members.
Organizational Structure of SCO;-
- The organization has two permanent bodies i.e. the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
- The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years.
- However, the venue of the SCO council meetings moves between the eight members.
- SCO has the capacity to counterbalance North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), therefore, it is sometimes considered as “alliance of the East”, i.e, the Eastern complementary of NATO.
The SCO’s main goals are as follows:-
- Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states.
- Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas.
- Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
Significance for India in SCO;-
Historical Significance:-India has always been seen as a friendly territory to countries that formed part of the erstwhile USSR.
- India since the past has invested in these countries, but due to lack of accessibility, India’s connection to these countries was restricted.
- Also, these countries have apprehensions regarding the growing dominating role of Russia and China. Hence, in light of these developments, India can play a key role in the region.
Diplomatic Ties:-SCO provides a platform to exchange ideas with world leaders like Russia. Hence, India looks for positive engagement with member nations of this organization.
Military:-SCO’s joint military exercises, Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS is a structural institution that focuses on terrorism a common threat affecting nations) inter alia, are significant to India.
- India can rally down the neighbouring countries acting as the hub of terrorism at these platforms.
- The main functions of SCO-RATS are coordination and information sharing. As a member nation, India has actively participated in its activities.
Connectivity:- Through this forum, India can seek another route to Eurasia and Central Asia.
Economic Factor:- Through this platform, new markets could be explored by India for selling Indian goods and tapping foreign resources, thereby benefiting the Indian industries (which are already facing the brunt of economic slowdown due to pandemic).
Challenges for India in SCO;-
Developmental cooperation- It including large-scale projects like telecommunication, infrastructure connectivity, etc. between the associated nations is neutral and can be continued. However, energy concerns pose a serious challenge that demands India’s urgent attention in the prevailing political turmoil between the USA ,Iran and Iraq.
Regional Influence:- In lieu of close relations between Russia and China or China-Pakistan (due to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Belt Road Initiative), India needs to manage its association and tensions with China so as to peacefully maintain the economic, territorial and cultural relations.
Accessibility:- According to Mackinder’s Theory of Heartland, “the core of global influence lies in the area known as the Heartland- a region of the world situated in Eurasia (due to its sheer size, a wealth of resources, and huge population).”
Mackinder stated that the nation in control of the Heartland had the potential to “command the world”, but at the same time, also highlighted the great natural barriers which surrounded the Heartland.
India faces a challenge in harnessing and getting access to the Eurasian heartland because of prevailing geopolitical tensions in the concerned region.
Geopolitical Concerns:– According to Spykman’s Rimland Theory, the coastal areas or littorals of Eurasia are vital in controlling the World and not the Heartland.
In the light of this theory, the rimland nations like Pakistan and Iran, therefore, play a major role in restricting India’s growing hegemony in the region.
Also, how India manages a balance between these two theories will determine India’s leading role in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region.
The following several areas where India can enhance its opportunities they are as follows;-
Military:- China sees itself as a hegemonic power which wants to create a China-centric global order.
India needs to contain this asymmetric power balance by building friendly relations with other countries, strengthening its defence capabilities, and managing the territorial disputes with China in a peaceful way.
Economic:- India also needs to foster & expand its economic engagement with China. Traditionally, the demands of Western China including Xinjiang province were once fulfilled by India.
For instance, until the 1960s, India supplied food grains to Tibet.
Therefore, by opening new avenues for accessing Chinese resources, India could balance its current trade deficit with China in a better way.
Ideologically:- As now the ideological war between Communist China and Democratic India is over, the only prevailing border disputes could be effectively managed by continuous bilateral dialogues.
In this regard, India’s soft power could be harnessed so as to end the mysterious perception that is prevalent in the hinterland areas of China regarding India’s aura.
Russia’s Angle:- India needs to allay Russian fears in the lieu of growing Indo-American ties. Russia holds a significant position for India be it historically, culturally, diplomatically or militarily. Therefore, India needs to increase its engagement with Russia through bilateral and multi-fora dialogues like on the sidelines of SCO.
Focus: GS 3;Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
Why in News?
Towards the end of their deliberations, the Chairman Shri N.K Singh and Members of the 15th Finance Commission today held a virtual meeting with the Chairmen of previous Finance Commissions, Dr C. Rangarajan, Chairman 12th Finance Commission and Dr. Vijay Kelkar, Chairman 13th Finance Commission.
About Finance Commission (FC);-
- The Finance Commission (FC) is constituted by the President of India every fifth year under Article 280 of the Constitution.
- The Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV-FC) was constituted in November 2017 to give recommendations for vertical and horizontal devolution of taxes for five fiscal years, commencing 1 April 2020.
- Finance Commission is a constitutional body, that determines the method and formula for distributing the tax proceeds between the Centre and states, and among the states.
- Two distinctive features of the Commission’s work involve redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the centre and the States respectively and equalization of all public services across the States.
- The Finance Commission also decides the share of taxes and grants to be given to the local bodies in states. This part of tax proceeds is called Finance Commission Grants, which is a part of the Union Budget.
- The Finance Commission has a chairman and four members appointed by the President of India.
- They hold office for such period as specified by the president in his order. They are eligible for reappointment.
- The 15th Finance Commission was constituted by the President of India in November 2017, under the chairmanship of NK Singh. Its recommendations will cover a period of five years from April 2020 to March 2025.
- The share of states in the center’s taxes is recommended to be decreased from 42% during the 2015-20 period to 41% for 2020-21. The 1% decrease is to provide for the newly formed Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh from the resources of the central government.
- Criteria for Devolution (2020-21);-
Functions of the Finance Commission;-
It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:-
The distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds.
The principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
The measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State.
Any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.
The Commission determines its procedure and have such powers in the performance of their functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.
Finance Commission and Qualifications of its Members;-
The Finance Commission is appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution.
As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who:-
- Are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court or
- Have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government or
- Have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration or
- Have special knowledge of economics
The recommendations of the Finance Commission are implemented as under:-
Those to be implemented by an order of the President
- The recommendations relating to distribution of Union Taxes and Duties and Grants-in-aid fall in this category.
- Those to be implemented by executive orders.
- Other recommendations to be made by the Finance Commission, as per its Terms of Reference
Need for a Finance Commission;-
- The Indian federal system allows for the division of power and responsibilities between the centre and states. Correspondingly, the taxation powers are also broadly divided between the centre and states.
- State legislatures may devolve some of their taxation powers to local bodies
Focus: GS 2 ; Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Why in News?
The Ministry of Jal Shakti has been working with the States/ UTs to implement Union Government’s flagship programme Jal Jeevan Mission, which envisages provision of 55 litres of potable water per person per day through tap water connection to every rural home by 2024.
The mission aims to improve the lives of rural people especially women and girls by reducing their drudgery. Funds are provided by Government of India based on the output in terms of household tap connections provided and the utilization of available central and matching State share.
To take the program further, Rajasthan State officials presented the status of planning and implementation of the mission in the State before the National Jal Jeevan Mission through video conferencing.
MEITY issues Clarification regarding orders passed by Central Information Commission on an RTI query with regard to AarogyaSetu App.
Focus: GS 2 ; Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Why in News?
Attention has been drawn to media reports regarding orders passed by Central Information Commission regarding an RTI query with regard to AarogyaSetu App. As per the orders, of the CIC, CPIOs of MeitY, NeGD and NIC have been directed to appear . MeitY is taking necessary steps to comply with the orders of the CIC.
About Central Information Commission (CIC);-
- The Central Information Commission was established by the Central Government in 2005. It was constituted through an Official Gazette Notification under the provisions of the Right to Information Act (2005). Hence, it is not a constitutional body.
- The Central Information Commission is a high-powered independent body which inter alia looks into the complaints made to it and decide the appeals. It entertains complaints and appeals pertaining to offices, financial institutions, public sector undertakings, etc., under the Central Government and the Union Territories.
- The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.
- It hears appeals from information-seekers who have not been satisfied by the public authority and also addresses major issues concerning the RTI Act.
- CIC submits an annual report to the Union government on the implementation of the provisions of RTI Act.
Central Information Commission Constitution and Powers in below image;-
- The Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They are not eligible for reappointment.
- The salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government. But, they cannot be varied to his disadvantage during service.
- CIC, SIC and RTI helps in Good Governance.
Above image attached regarding pillars of Good Governance.
State Information Commission (SIC);-
- The Right to Information Act of 2005 provides for the creation of a State Information Commission at the state level.
- The State Information Commission is a high powered independent body which inter-alia looks into the complaints made to it and decide the appeals.
- It entertains complaints and appeals pertaining to offices, financial institutions, public sector undertakings, etc. Under the concerned state government.
- The Commission consists of a State Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten State Information Commissioners appointed by the Governor.
About Right to Information (RTI);-
- RTI is an act of the parliament which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
- It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
- Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30 days.
- In case of the matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.
- The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Governing of RTI;-
- The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies:
Central Information Commission (CIC) ;-
- Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India.
State Information Commissions (SIC);-
- State Public Information Officers or SPIOs head over all the state department and ministries. The SPIO office is directly under the corresponding State Governor.
State and CIC are independent bodies and CIC has no jurisdiction over the SIC.
Fundamental status of RTI;-
- RTI is a fundamental right for every citizen of India.
- Since RTI, is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, it is an implied fundamental right.
Limitation to RTI;-
- Information disclosure in India is restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes.
- RTI has proven to be very useful but is also counteracted by the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011.
About Aarogya Setu App ;-
- It is Indian COVID-19 tracking mobile application.
- It is developed by the National Informatics Centre which comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- To spread awareness of COVID-19
- To connect essential COVID-19 – related health services to the people of India.
- It uses the smartphone’s GPS and Bluetooth features to track the coronavirus infection.
- With Bluetooth, it determines the risk if one has been near (within six feet of) a COVID-19 – infected person, by scanning through a database of known cases across India.
- Using location information, one can determine whether a particular location is one of the infected areas.
- It is an updated version of an earlier app called Corona Kavach (now discontinued).
Focus: GS 2 ; Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Why in News?
eSanjeevani, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s telemedicine initiative has completed 6 Lakh tele consultations. It took only 15 days to complete the last one lakh consultations. In what can be seen as a big push for the ‘Digital India’ initiative of the Prime Minister, the eSanjeevani digital platform has proved its usefulness and easy access for the caregivers and the medical community, and those seeking healthcare services in the times of COVID. States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat run eSanjeevani OPD for 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. It is a testimony to the fact that eSanjeevani is gradually gaining traction with patients and doctors.
- It is a web-based comprehensive telemedicine solution.
- It aims to make healthcare services equitable by bridging the digital divide that exists in both rural areas and isolated communities.
Types of telemedicine services-;-
- This eSanjeevani platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services viz. Doctor-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani) and Patient-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani OPD) Tele-consultations.
- The former is being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre (AB-HWCs) programme.
- It has made it convenient for people to avail health services without travel.
- It can also be used to provide medical education to interns, people across Various Common Service Centers (CSCs), etc.
- It has been designed as a highly customizable and flexible application for the users to choose from the varied specialties such as teleophthalmology, telecardiology etc.
- It includes demographic and other patient data like clinical examination reports, physical examination reports along with the patient’s medical history, family’s medical history, etc.
- It enables doctors to have a video/audio conversation with the consulting medical experts at the remote end.