Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination and State Civil Service Examinations.

6 September 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Social Issue

GM mustard and GEAC

The environment ministry is set to convene a “special meeting” of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to decide on field-trial approvals for the controversial transgenic mustard developed by the University of Delhi’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP)

  • The CGMCP had earlier applied to grow transgenic mustard (DMH-11) in plots in Delhi and Punjab to test the plant’s effects on honeybees after the GEAC.
  • GEAC had initially cleared the GM crop for “commercial cultivation”, however later backtracked and demanded more tests and additional data on honeybees and other pollinators and on soil microbial diversity.
  • The CGMCP team had proposed to use endosulfan — a banned pesticide — as part of their experiment.
  • GEAC is responsible for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
  • The GEAC is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials (Biosafety Research Level trial-I and II known as BRL-I and BRL-II)

Govt Policies/ GS II

What ails India’s pension regulator

What is PFRDA

Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA) Act, 2013 completes five years, which set up the PFRDA as India’s pensions regulator.

Need of PFRDA

  • The interim PFRDA was established in 2003 to oversee the NPS, and regulate India’s pensions sector.
  • Concerns of inadequate coverage and fiscal unsustainability of traditional civil-servant pensions had led to the NPS being introduced in 2003.
  • The NPS was visualised as a defined-contribution pension scheme, with features including individual pension accounts, multiple pension funds and mandatory annuitisation at exit.
  • Initially NPS was only for Govt employees, later by 2009, it was extended to all citizens, barring members of the armed forces.
  • In this line were introduced a simpler variant of NPS, ‘NPS-Lite’ in 2010.
  • Likewise, the ‘Swavalamban’ scheme was introduced in 2010 where the government co-contributes to the pension corpus of unorganised sector workers not covered by social security schemes.
  • 'Atal Pension Yojana' in 2015, where the government guarantees a minimum post-retirement monthly pension.
  • It also extends co-contribution benefits to unorganised sector workers.

Concerns with PFRDA

A major theme in India’s pension regulatory framework is a pervasive lack of clarity.

For instance, while the PFRDA is the regulator of the pensions sector, it is also responsible for promoting and developing the NPS — a pension ‘product’. This gives rise to concerns of a potential conflict of interest, and requires a clearer delineation of the PFRDA’s role to encourage greater regulatory accountability.

A related issue concerns the NPS Trust’s role vis-à-vis the PFRDA. The NPS Trust is a critical intermediary in the NPS framework, which

  1. holds subscriber funds and assets in its custody
  2. implements PFRDA’s regulations
  3. supervises and monitors other intermediaries

While remaining under the PFRDA’s supervision. At present, the NPS Trust and the PFRDA possess overlapping and concurrent powers, in relation to inspecting other NPS intermediaries. Greater clarity in this regard would certainly be welcome.

The need for greater clarity also spills over to the PFRDA Act. For instance, the Act caps foreign shareholding in Indian pension funds to be the higher of 26 per cent of the pension fund’s paid-up capital or the limits specified for Indian insurance companies. Though, foreign shareholding limits for Indian insurance companies are currently 49 per cent, and foreign exchange regulations cap foreign shareholding in the pensions sector at 49 per cent, the language of the PFRDA Act which reflects dual percentages, creates avoidable confusion.

Protection of Its Consumer

Another major theme in India’s pension regulatory framework is an inadequate emphasis on consumer protection. For an issue as critical as financial consumer protection, especially when the NPS serves as a universal product securing citizens’ retiral incomes, some of these gaps are particularly troubling. For instance, the web-based grievance portal for NPS subscribers allows complaints to be registered only in English, while the Hindi version of the portal is dysfunctional.

A Similar concern with PFRDA (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations, 2015, as it fail to specify clear grounds for approaching the office of the Ombudsman, who functions as the grievance redress authority. This contrasts with the mention of clear grounds for approaching the office of the Ombudsman operational under the regulatory ambit of SEBI and RBI.

Inadequate attention to consumer protection also reflects in the recent PFRDA (Points of Presence) Regulations, 2018. While the Regulations require PoPs, (who are intermediaries and help in on-boarding subscribers to the NPS) to maintain confidentiality of subscribers’ personal information, they fall short of detailing specific standards of care required of PoPs, or expressly penalising PoPs who fail in protecting confidentiality.

Person In News

Justice Ranjan Gogoi

  • Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra recommends Justice Ranjan Gogoi as his successor and the 46th Chief Justice of India.
  • CJI Misra has followed convention by recommending the next senior most Supreme Court judge, Justice Gogoi, as his successor.

Jalaluddin Haqqani

  • Haqqani network founder – Jalaluddin Haqqani – dies

Social Issue

Still too many children out of school

The official numbers of out-of-school children in India are either out of date or contradictory. According to the 2011 Census, the number of out-of-school children in the 5-17 age group was 8.4 crore(a gross estimation).

According to a survey commissioned in 2014 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the number of out-of-school children in the 6-13 age group was only 60.64 lakh

Serious Matter of Concern

  • Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act covers only the 6-14 age group.
  • Education is the right of every child guaranteed by Indian constitution; also it is part of social justice.
  • The Directive Principles of State Policy mandate the state to provide children the right to access education (Under Articles 41, 45, 46).
  • The 86th constitutional amendment Act of 2002 (inserting Article 21A under fundamental rights) and the RTE Act of 2009 dictate its implementation.

An estimate, out-of-school children in this age group were more than 4.5 crore in the country, which is 16.1% of the children in this age group.

. In big States such as Odisha (20.6%), Uttar Pradesh (21.4%), Gujarat (19.1%), Bihar (18.6%), Madhya Pradesh (18.6%), Rajasthan (18.4%) and West Bengal (16.8%), about one-fifth of the children in this age group were out of school. In Kerala, Goa, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the proportion of out-of-school children was lower than the national average.

Frequent and Common Reasons for dropping out of school:

  • The most important reason for boys to drop out of school was to take up jobs to supplement the family earning.
  • For girls, it was the compulsion to participate in household work.
  • There is also a prejudice against educating girls that is prevalent in India.
  • An important reason for drop-out is the socio-economic conditions of the parents of the children. Therefore, calls for a more comprehensive approach that is not reflected in the RTE Act.
  • The most important social reason for drop-out is a lack of awareness of the importance of school education.
  • According to the RTE Act and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, these out-of-school children fall under the category of child labour.
  • It is, therefore, not surprising that the largest number of child labourers in the world is in India.


Upper House Chairman bats for code of conduct

Upper House Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu called for deciding a national policy on the need for Upper House in state legislatures and also urged political parties to evolve a consensus on the code of conduct for their members both inside and outside legislatures

present state of Code of Conducts

  • A Code of Conduct for members of Rajya Sabha come into act since 2005. However there is no such code for Lok Sabha.
  • A code for Union ministers was adopted in 1964, and state governments were advised to adopt it as well.
  • A conference of Chief Justices in 1999 resolved to adopt a code of conduct for judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
  • The 15-point ‘Re-instatement of Values in Judicial Life’ was adopted.
  • It recommended that serving judges should maintain an air of “aloofness” in their official and personal lives.
  • The first step was the constitution of Parliamentary Standing Committees on Ethics in both Houses.
  • The Committee came into place in Rajya Sabha in 1997.
  • It was to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the Members.
  • It was also tasked to examine the cases referred to it with reference to ethical and other misconduct of Members.
  • The First Report of the Ethics Committee was adopted in 1999 and its framework was reiterated in subsequent reports.
  • The Fourth Report was adopted by Rajya Sabha in 2005.
  • A 14-point Code of Conduct for members of the House has been in force since then.
  • These include the following:
  1. In case of conflict between personal interests and public trust, members should resolve it, with private interests subordinated to the duty of public office.
  2. Members should ensure that their and members of their immediate family's private financial interests do not come in conflict with the public interest
  3. In case of any such conflict, it must be resolved without compromising the public interest.
  4. Members should never expect or accept any fee, remuneration or benefit for a vote given or not given by them on the floor of the House. This would apply to
  1. introducing a Bill
  2. moving a resolution or desisting from moving a resolution
  3. putting a question or abstaining from asking a question
  4. participating in the deliberations of the House or a Parliamentary Committee
  • Besides, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States specifies some provisions.
  • It mandates maintaining a ‘Register of Member’s Interests’ in such form as may be determined by the Ethics Committee.
  • This shall be available to members for inspection on request.
  • This is also accessible to ordinary citizens under the RTI Act.

Code in Lower Houser(Lok Sabha)

  • The first Ethics Committee in Lok Sabha was constituted only in 2000.
  • The issue has been raised in every Lok Sabha since then, but has not been taken to its conclusion.
  • The Report of the Ethics Committee was presented to the Speaker in 2014.
  • It related to the amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
  • Its recommendations were included in the report of the Rules Committee of Lok Sabha.
  • It said that the Ethics Committee shall formulate a Code of Conduct for Members.
  • Also, the committee shall suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time.
  • The matter has since been pending with the Ethics Committee.
  • The Rules Committee report also recommended that the Ethics Committee make suggestions on