05 October, 2020

  • Daring Cities 2020 Conference - Kejriwal to attend (Environment)
  • Mixed Signals - GST Collections - Editorial (Economy)
  • Transforming Business and the Insolvency System - Article (Governance)
  • A commission misguided - NCPCR Article (Polity & Governance)
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz

    Solution.

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    Context: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be among the five urban leaders from around the world to speak at the prestigious ‘Daring Cities 2020’ conference on 7th October, 2020. The conference is being hosted by the ICLEI and the City of Bonn, Germany, with the support of the German government. ‘Daring Cities’ is a global forum on climate change for urban leaders tackling climate emergency, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

    What is Daring Cities Conference-UPSC?

    • Created by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn, Daring Cities is a virtual, action-oriented forum to recognize and empower courageous urban leaders – including mayors and other decision-makers, technical staff, researchers, private sector representatives, and community organizers – to disrupt business-as-usual and shift towards business-as-possible. 
    • Daring Cities showcases and catalyzes exemplary local climate action to tackle the climate emergency, including ambitious resilience-building and climate mitigation efforts.
    • Daring Cities builds upon the experience and network established during the Resilient Cities Congresses convened annually from 2010 to 2019 by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn.
    • Resilient Cities gathered urban practitioners, policy makers and researchers working in urban resilience and climate change adaptation. It built an active, informed, and committed community and played a key role in mainstreaming urban resilience in global agreements and processes.
    • During the 10 years of the Congress, thousands of experts from over 80 countries actively participated in and collaborated on hundreds of capacity-building sessions.

    Challenges to achieve SDG 11 Goals – NITI Aayog – India VNR 2020

    • Institutional capacity of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) remains a persistent challenge. Financial autonomy, taxation powers and fund generation capabilities are the areas of concern. Consequently, development plans most often face financial constraints. Some ULBs are looking at alternate sources of financing such as Hybrid Annuity Models, municipal bonds, Infrastructure Investment Trusts etc.
    • Being home to 15 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, the challenge of pollution, particularly air pollution, demands immediate attention in the country.
    • Some large and wealthy cities may have well-managed resource systems but they also have larger ecological footprints. Climate change impacts increase the vulnerability of cities and put further stress on the adaptive capacities of the poor living in them.
    • To reduce congestion and the interlinked problems that come with it, integrated and  spatially distributed urbanisation with an emphasis on small and medium cities and towns, along with promotion of linkages with rural areas, are some of the ways that can be envisioned.

    Ecological Footprints

    The Ecological Footprint is the only metric that measures how much nature we have and how much nature we use. The Footprint helps:

     

    • Countries - improve sustainability and well-being
    • Local Leaders - optimize public project investments
    •  Individuals - understand their impact on the planet 

     

    Important Terms Related to Ecological Footprints 

    • Ecological Footprint accounting measures the demand on and supply of nature.
    • On the demand side, the Ecological Footprint measures the ecological assets that a given population requires to produce the natural resources it consumes (including plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure) and to absorb its waste, especially carbon emissions.
    • The Ecological Footprint tracks the use of six categories of productive surface areas: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, built-up land, forest area, and carbon demand on land.
    • On the supply side, a city, state or nation’s biocapacity represents the productivity of its ecological assets (including cropland, grazing land, forest land, fishing grounds, and built-up land). These areas, especially if left unharvested, can also absorb much of the waste we generate, especially our carbon emissions.
    • Both the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity are expressed in global hectares—globally comparable, standardized hectares with world average productivity.
    • Each city, state or nation’s Ecological Footprint can be compared to its biocapacity.
    • If a population’s Ecological Footprint exceeds the region’s biocapacity, that region runs an ecological deficit. Its demand for the goods and services that its land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption—exceeds what the region’s ecosystems can renew. 
    • A region in ecological deficit meets demand by importing, liquidating its own ecological assets (such as overfishing), and/or emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 
    • If a region’s biocapacity exceeds its Ecological Footprint, it has an ecological reserve.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Mixed Signals |Page 6 

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS Paper-III – Economy 

    Sub Theme: Taxation | UPSC  

    Context: The Gross tax collections from the GST increased to 6-month high of Rs 95,000 crores in the month of September 2020. For the first time in the current financial year, the GST receipts were higher as compared to corresponding month of the Previous year.

    This increase in the GST tax collections is considered to be significant because it highlights that Indian Economy is slowly limping back to normalcy after lockdown-imposed economic slowdown. The increase in the consumer sentiment accompanied by increased expenditure has helped boost the GST revenue. There has been uptick in other high frequency indicators such as PMI, Merchandise Trade data etc. which hints at possible economic recovery. 

    In this regard, let us have a look at the trends in the GST tax collections since its introduction in July 2017.

    Stagnation in GST Tax Collection: As Chart 1 shows, the total monthly collections from State (SGST), Central (CGST), and integrated (IGST) goods and services taxes and the compensation cess first crossed Rs 1 lakh crore in April 2018. But after that, there has been stagnation in GST revenue growth.

    Sluggishness: 

    Share of different components of GST in decreasing order: IGST, SGST, CGST and Compensation Cess.

    As can be seen in chart 2, there has been sluggish growth in all the components.


    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Transforming business and insolvency system - Page 06   

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS III – Indian Economy  

    Sub theme: Economic Model| UPSC     

    Context: Context: The Article highlights that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code along with the Goods and Services Tax regime among other key reforms has helped significantly to improve the ease of doing business in India, increase foreign direct investments into India in 2019-2020, to the tune of nearly $74.5 billion equivalent to significant increase of 20 per cent from the previous year and enable India to emerge as a ‘Make for World’ platform.    

    What is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’) – UPSC?

    • IBC re-conceptualised the framework for insolvency resolution in India. It provides a mechanism for the insolvency resolution of debtors in a time bound manner to enable maximisation of the value of their assets, with a view to promote entrepreneurship, availability of credit and balance the interests of all the stakeholders. 
    • The Code separates commercial aspects of insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings from judicial aspects and empowers and facilitates the stakeholders and Adjudicating Authority to decide matters within their respective domain expeditiously. 
    • It envisages a market mechanism to rescue firms in financial distress and to facilitate closure of firms in economic distress, in accordance with the processes under the Code and rules and regulations made thereunder.   
    • The IBC goes beyond other similar pieces of legislation across the world, and through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI), it has established an unprecedented organisation that both regulates and develops insolvency policy, and assesses market realities. 

    How has IBC helped - UPSC?

    • Two key drivers for the IBC are relatively short time-bound processes, and the focus on prioritising resolution rather than liquidation to support companies falling within its ambit.   
    • Its core implication has been to allow credit to flow more freely to and within India while promoting investor and investee confidence.  
    • It has successfully instilled confidence in the corporate resolution methodology as IBC has streamlined insolvency processes in a sustainable, efficient, and value retaining manner.  
    • Improvement in India’s Ease of Doing Business Rankings to 63rd place. (Published by World Bank)
    • According to the Resolving Insolvency Index (component of Ease of Doing Business), India’s ranking improved to 52 in 2019 from 108 in 2018, which is a leap of 56 places.  
    • The Recovery Rate improved nearly threefold from 26.5% in 2018 to 71.6% in 2019. And, the overall time taken in recovery also improved nearly three times, coming down from 4.3 years in 2018 to 1.6 years in 2019. 

    Other Measures which will improve Investment Climate

    • Implementing the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. It provides for the constitution of Commercial Courts, Commercial Appellate Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division in the High Courts for adjudicating commercial disputes of specified value. 
    • Removing of over 1,500 obsolete and archaic laws.  

    Challenges which needs to be overcome?

    • Backlog of pending cases – roughly 4 crore cases pending for final judgment. 
    • Government of India along with NITI Aayog is working to decriminalize minor offenses. It will significantly reduce the risk of imprisonment for actions or omissions that are not necessarily fraudulent or an outcome of mala fide intent.
    • The government’s intent is to help differentiate between good faith mistakes and intentional bad faith actions, so as to penalise the former, and criminalise the latter. This will improve investors confidence.
    • The report of the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee has suggested to speed up the resolution process as substantial delay leads a company closer to liquidation than resolution.
    • Further, delay in finalising operational control also result in low value liquidation due to a high economic rate of depreciation.   

    Working of Bankruptcy Proceedings during COVID – Way Forward  

    • Given the need for social distancing and the suspension or limitation of physical hearings, a concerted effort should be made to enhance the role of digitally conducting all processes and hearings to achieve greater efficiency in the new normal. Bringing in technology would help ease of access to justice and greatly help ease of doing business from a process and efficiency standpoint as well. 

    The IBC has provided a major stimulus to ease of doing business, enhanced investor confidence, and helped encourage entrepreneurship while also providing support to MSMEs. Its further streamlining and strengthening will surely instil greater confidence in both foreign and domestic investors as they look at India as an attractive investment destination.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: A commission misguided NCPCR - Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Organizations |Mains: GS II – Social Justice 

    Sub theme: Women and Child Issues | UPSC   

    Context: Context: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is the apex body for upholding, monitoring and facilitating child rights in the country. However, this Article highlights recent actions of NCPCR which suggest a grave departure from its primary duty to ensure the well-being of all children, especially children in need of care and protection. 

    About National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

      • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005.

     

    • Thus, NCPCR is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development. 

     

    • The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 provides for a National and State Commission for protection of Child Rights.    
    • The National Commission's Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.        

    Functions of National Commission

    1. Examine and review the safeguards provided by or under any law for the protection of child rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation. 
    2. present to the Central Government, annually and at such other intervals, as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards; 
    3. Inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases
    4. Examine all factors that inhibit the enjoyment of rights of children affected by terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, maltreatment, torture and exploitation, pornography and prostitution and recommend appropriate remedial measures
    5. Look into the matters relating to children in need of special care and protection including children in distress, marginalized and disadvantaged children, children in conflict with law, juveniles, children without family and children of prisoners and recommend appropriate remedial measures; 
    6. Study treaties and other international instruments and undertake periodical review of existing policies, programmes and other activities on child rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation in the best interest of children.
    7. Undertake and promote research in the field of child rights.
    8. Spread child rights literacy among various sections of the society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means
    9. Inspect any juvenile custodial home, or any other place of residence or institution meant for children, under the control of the Central Government or any State Government or any other authority, including any institution run by a social organisation; where children are detained or lodged for the purpose of treatment, reformation or protection and take up with these authorities for remedial action, if found necessary
    10. Inquire into complaints and take suo motu notice of matters relating to –
    1. deprivation and violation of child rights; 
    2. non-implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children;
    3. non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships to and ensuring welfare of the children and to provide relief to such children, or take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities; and 
    1. such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of child rights and any other matter incidental to the above functions.    

    Power of Commission Relating to Inquiries

    • The Commission shall, while inquiring into any matter of children shall have all the powers of a Civil Court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in respect of the following matters, namely — 
    1. summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
    2. discovery and production of any document; 
    3. receiving evidence on affidavits; 
    4. requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office; and
    5. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents.

    Annual Report of the Commission

    • The Commission shall submit an annual report to the Central Government and to the State Government concerned and may at any time submit special reports on any matter which according to the Commission is of urgent necessity. 
    • The Central Government and the State Government concerned, as the case maybe, shall cause the annual and special reports of the Commission to be laid before each House of Parliament or the State Legislature respectively

    The Act provides for Children’s Court  

    • For the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences against children or of violation of child rights, the State Government may, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification, specify at least a court in the State or specify, for each district, a Court of Session to be a Children's Court to try offences against children.
    • Special Public Prosecutor - For every Children's Court, the State Government shall, by notification, specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years, as a Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose of conducting cases in that Court. 

    Concerns Highlighted

    NCPCR has directed DMs to de-institutionalise Child Care Institutions - Amongst its significant powers and duties, the NCPCR has been specifically charged with the monitoring of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) and was instructed to carry out a social audit of the same by the Supreme Court. The social audit was initiated in 2015 and upon its completion, the NCPCR, in its wisdom, directed District Magistrates in eight States to ensure that all children within CCIs be de-institutionalised, repatriated and rehabilitated within a specified period. 

    This will send children back to places where they were abused - This action of NCPCR has raised concern as most of these children are in CCIs due to abusive conditions in the family, and a mandated repatriation without an adequate case-by-case assessment plan within a short period of time would likely place the children again at grave risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect. 

    Adoption & Foster Care not supported by present system - This action suggested by NCPCR exhibits sheer inadequacy of current systems to organise adoption and foster care. 

    Raids by NCPCR on foreign funding of NGOs to stifle dissent - Some NGOs involved in child protection are raided by the government in order to establish whether foreign funds have been misused in any manner. Not only is monitoring of the FCRA regulations outside of the mandate of the NCPCR, but the raids also seem to target individuals who have been outspoken in the criticism of the Central government on issues such as the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.  

    What could have NCPCR done to rehabilitate children amid pandemic? 

    The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues of child malnutrition, child labour, child abuse, child marriage and mental illness. In such situations, NCPCR should have shown concern for the gross violation of children’s rights during the lockdown and in its aftermath. The NCPCR could have used its authority and power to issue recommendations to relieve these grave conditions by reiterating the need for strengthening all child-related institutions (government and non-government) through adequate funds, and appreciating the relief measures that many civil society organisations, including the ones being raided and instructed to close down, were engaged in.

    Amid increasing cases of rape against dalit children, NCPCR should have taken suo motu cognizance and have protected the rights of children who are abused constantly in coordination with district authorities. 

    Conclusion 

    It seems that NCPCR is deriving its priorities from the political agenda of the day rather than upholding a steadfast and fair commitment to the welfare of children.  

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