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Current Affairs

A Public Interest Litigation was filed by social activists Harsh Mander and Karnika Sawhney several years ago, seeking decriminalization of begging in the capital. It also challenged provisions of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959

According to the above mentioned Act, definition of Beggar is – anyone 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 in a public place, whether or not under any pretence of singing, dancing, fortune-telling, performing or offering any article for sale.
Neither the Act nor Indian Penal Code explains what is meant by ‘soliciting alms’ or what constitutes a ‘public place’. This led to ambiguity, inconsistency or abuse in implementation of law.

Various sections of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 (as extended to NCT of Delhi in 1960) were struck down as unconstitutional by Delhi High Court. These provisions either treat begging as an offence committed by beggar or deal with issues like powers of officers to deal with said offence, nature of enquiry to be conducted, punishments and penalties for the offence, institutions to which such offenders could be committed and procedures to be followed after awarding of sentence for said offence. Law prescribes a penalty of 3 years of detention in beggar homes in case of first convictions for begging and the person can be ordered to be detained for 10 years in subsequent conviction.

The court observed that criminalizing begging is a wrong approach to deal with underlying causes of the problem, which is poverty. Poverty in turn has many structural reasons – no access to education, social protection, discrimination based on caste and ethnicity, landlessness, physical and mental challenges and isolation. The court validates the idea that poverty is a human rights issue and the denial of right to life, livelihood and dignity to the poor is a violation of fundamental rights.

The court also observed that begging is last resort to subsistence. People do not wish to beg but they have to. It is the mandate of the government to provide social security for everyone and presence of beggars is evidence that state has not managed to provide these to all citizens.

20 states and 2 UTs have either enacted their own legislations or adopted legislations enacted by other states for the same.

It was launched by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

This programme is part of National Health Mission

National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme aims to treat a minimum of 3 lakh Hepatitis cases over 3 years and eliminating Hepatitis by 2030.

Under this, expensive antivirus will be made available free of cost for Hepatitis B and C, at all government hospitals. Setting up and upgrading facilities for diagnosis and treatment (primarily of Hepatitis B and C) is also included under it. Hepatitis B vaccine will also be provided to babies, within 24 hours of their birth, born from mothers carrying the virus.

The key strategies under the programme are:

  • Preventive and promotive interventions with focus on awareness generation
  • Safe injection practices and socio-cultural practices, sanitation and hygiene, safe drinking water supply, infection control and immunization
  • Coordination and collaboration with different ministries and departments
  • Promoting diagnosis and providing treatment support for patients of Hepatitis B and C through standardized testing and management protocols with focus on treatment of Hepatitis B and C
  • Increasing access to testing and management of viral Hepatitis
  • Building capacities at national, state, district levels and sub district level up to Primary Health Centers and health and wellness centers such that the programme can be scaled up till the lowest level of healthcare facility in a phased manner.

Finance Minister in this year’s budget speech had announced creation of a portal which will be a single window online market place for trade. It will connect businesses, create opportunities and bring together various ministries, departments and private sector. There will be one platform for all stakeholders like traders, manufacturers, logistics service providers, infrastructure providers, financial services and Government departments.

Thus Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry is developing National Logistics Portal for ensuring ease of trading in both international and domestic markets. Portal will be implemented in phases and will fulfill Government of India’s commitment to enhance trade competitiveness, create jobs, boost India’s performance in global rankings and pave the way for India to become a logistics hub.

Indian logistics sector provides livelihood to more than 22 million people as per Economic Survey 2017-18. Survey also estimated that worth of Indian Logistics Market would be around USD 215 billion in next 2 years compared to current USD 160 billion.

Logistics Sector of India is highly defragmented. Aim is to reduce logistics cost from present 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022. It is also very complex involving more than 20 government agencies, 40 partnering government agencies, 37 export promotion councils, 500 certifications, 10000 commodities and 160 billion market size. It has an employment base of 12 million, 200 shipping agencies and 36 logistic services, 50 IT ecosystems, banks and insurance agencies. There are 81 authorities and 500 certificates are required by EXIM.

Improving the sector will facilitate 10% decrease in indirect logistics cost leading to growth of 5% - 8% in exports.

National Logistics Portal will link all stakeholders of EXIM, domestic trade and movements and all trade activities on a single platform.

Import of petcoke for use of fuel was recently banned by Directorate General of Foreign Trade, under Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Earlier in October 2017, Supreme Court had banned use of petcoke in and around Delhi.

Import of petcoke for use as feedstock in industries such as cement, calcium carbide, lime kiln and gasification is allowed.

About petcoke: Petroleum Coke, also called petcoke, is a byproduct from refining of crude oil. It is also called bottom of the barrel fuel. This byproduct is created when bitumen found in tar sands, is refined into crude oil. Bitumen contains high number of carbon atoms than regular oil and these atoms, extracted from hydrocarbon molecules using heat, go on to form petcoke.
It mostly consists of carbon, with variable amounts of sulphur and heavy metals. High grade petcoke containing low amounts of sulphur and heavy metals are used in steel and aluminium industry (for making electrodes). Lower grade petcoke, which constitutes 75-80% of global petcoke manufactured, contains high concentration of sulphur and is used as fuel in coal-fired power plants and cement kilns.
Petcoke produces 10% more per unit carbon dioxide than normal coal. This makes petcoke a huge contributor to creation of greenhouse gases. Increased pollution controls are required during its combustion to capture excess sulphur. The heavy metal content is also a cause of concern, both due to its effects when released into environment and the implications it has for the local environment during storage. It is also a source of fine dust and after burning it also releases toxic gases like nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and hydrogen chloride.

Cement companies in India use about 3/4th of country’s petcoke.

India is world’s biggest consumer of petcoke and half of its annual import (around 27 million tonnes) is from US.

This proposal has been sent by Union Ministry of Agriculture to Food and Agriculture Organization (of UN).

It has been requested to include this proposal in the agenda of the meeting (26th session) of Committee on Agriculture, to be held in Rome, Italy in October 2018.

The proposal will be moved to United Nations General Assembly once it is adopted by FAO, for declaration of 2019 as International Year of Millets.

This matter already received support of member countries, when it was put forth in Bureau Meeting of Committee of Agriculture, in July 2018.

About Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): It is a specialized agency of UN and is an intergovernmental organization, established in 1945. It is headquartered in Rome, Italy. It leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

GOAL: to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food, to lead active and healthy lives.

Priority Areas of FAO:

  1. help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition
  2. make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable
  3. reduce rural poverty
  4. enable inclusive and efficient agriculture and food systems
  5. increase resilience of livelihoods to threats and crisis

About Committee on Agriculture: It was established in 1971. It has over 100 member nations and meets every two years. It is one of the governing bodies of FAO and it provides overall policy and regulatory guidance on issues related to agriculture, livestock, food safety, nutrition, rural development and natural resource management. Its 26th session is scheduled to be held in Rome, Italy which will focus on “Innovations for sustainable food and agriculture”.

About Millets: These are small seeded hardy crops belonging to gramineae family. They grow well in dry zones/ rain-fed areas under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. They have a short growing season; they can develop from seeds to ready to harvest crops in about 65 days. They are beneficial to areas with high population as they can keep well for 2 years or more if stored in good conditions. Thus, they become important from food security point of view also. Benefits of Millets –

  1. Highly nutritious, non-glutinous, non-acid forming and easily digestible
  2. Habitual intake reduces risk of diabetes mellitus
  3. Rich source of minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium
  4. Ragi is rich is calcium and bajra in iron. They are also rich in dietary fibres and various vitamins
  5. It has high amounts of lecithin (it is a fat that is essential in the cells of the body) which is useful for strengthening nervous system. Thus, regular consumption can help overcome malnutrition
  6. Rich in phytochemicals (they are found in fruits, vegetables and beans and other plants and they are believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer) and antioxidants.

Millets which are commonly grown in India – Bajra (pearl millet), Jowar (sorghum), Ragi (finger millet), Barri (proso/common millet), Jhangora (barnyard millet), Kangni (foxtail/Italian millet), Kodra (kodo millet)

In India millets are cultivated in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

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