Report on Municipal Finances
Context– The RBI has issued a report on municipal budgets.
Budgetary allocations and transfers of funds:
- The combined budget of all municipal corporations in India is substantially lower than the combined budgets of the Central and State governments.
- The paper demonstrates how municipal organisations are becoming increasingly reliant on money transfers from the State and the Centre, despite their low revenue-generating capabilities.
Revenue raising of municipal corporations:
- According to the report, their ability to generate money is limited.
- Municipal corporations do not borrow much, putting them in desperate need of finances.
- In India, the percentage of own revenue (both tax and non-tax) in overall revenue of urban local authorities has decreased, while government transfers have climbed.
- Approximately 70% of it is spent on wages, pensions, and administrative expenditures, with the remainder set aside for capital spending.
Tax earnings of municipal corporations:
- Municipal corporation taxes in India are severely insufficient to cover their expenditure demands.
- In India, municipal corporations’ own tax income, which included property tax, water tax, toll tax, and other local taxes, accounted for 31-34% of total revenue during FY18 to FY20.
- This proportion was low in comparison to many other nations, and it has also fallen over time.
Variations by state:
- When the municipal corporations’ own tax money is divided by the state, large variances can be noted.
- In 2017-18, municipal corporations’ own tax collection as a proportion of the state’s GDP exceeded 1% in Delhi, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh, while it was 0.1% or less in Karnataka, Goa, Assam, and Sikkim.
Dependence on property taxes:
- Another significant difficulty with municipal corporations’ revenue-raising ability was their reliance on property taxes.
- Property taxes accounted for more than 40% of municipal corporations’ own tax revenue in 2017-18.
- Despite this dominance, property tax collection in India was significantly lower than in OECD nations due to undervaluation and poor administration, according to the research.
About India’s urban local bodies (ULBs)
ULB establishment in India:
- In 1992, the 74th Constitution Amendment Act mandated the establishment of the devolution of powers to urban local bodies (ULBs) as the lowest level of government in cities and towns.
Types of ULBs:
- In India, urban local bodies are classified as Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Notified Area Committee, Town Area Committee, Special Purpose Agency, Township, Port Trust, Cantonment Board, and so on.
- These local entities are tasked with functions pertaining to welfare, public health and safety, infrastructure, and other municipal development activities.
- There are constitutional provisions for ULB fiscal empowerment.
- The ULBs’ primary revenue sources include taxes, fees, penalties, and levies, as well as inter-governmental transfers from the Central and State governments (IGTs).
- The proportion of own revenue to overall revenue (including money from property taxes and ads, as well as non-tax revenue from user charges and fees from construction permits and trade licences) is a key measure of ULB economic health and autonomy.
Fiscal difficulties confronting ULBs:
- Growing fiscal deficits, limits in tax base expansion, and the erosion of institutional systems that permit resource mobilisation remain issues three decades later.
- Revenue losses as a result of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduction and the epidemic have aggravated the issue.
Lack of finances:
- Transferring responsibilities from national and subnational governments to local governments has not always been accompanied by a transfer of financial authority.
- The money raised are largely spent on income, leaving a considerably smaller pie for capacity building.
Excessive dependence on property taxes:
- Local governments have been overly reliant on property taxes, preventing them from adequately using alternative income streams such as trade permits, entertainment taxes, cell tower taxes, solid waste user fees, water fees, and value capture financing.
- Property taxes are also not collected efficiently.
- Across the country, ULBs lack authority in municipal management, and parastatals oversee numerous city-level services (managed by and accountable to the state).
- Municipal administration in India is plagued by personnel challenges, resulting in a failure to provide fundamental municipal services.
- Other complaints include an overabundance of untrained labour, a shortage of competent technical professionals and administrative supervisors, and a refusal to innovate in service delivery techniques.
Suggestions & Way ahead
- Municipal budgets in India are unquestionably insufficient. The revenue resources available to a ULB are substantially below the predicted potential.
- An effective municipal administration is critical for sustainable development, as stated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
- Property taxes, other land-based resources, and user fees are all options for a ULB to increase its revenue.
- Inter-governmental transfers (IGTs) play an important role in the budgetary composition of ULBs, and consistent assistance from the Central and State governments is required until ULBs enhance their own income.
- Measures must be taken to cover a ULB’s operations and maintenance costs in order to improve infrastructure and service.
Source: The Hindu
India-UK – Young Professionals Scheme
Context– The governments of India and the United Kingdom have launched the Young Professionals Scheme to commemorate PravasiBharatiya Divas on January 9, 2023.
- The Young Professionals Scheme was established as part of an India-United Kingdom collaboration. The Migration and Mobility Memorandum of Understanding, which will be signed in May 2021, was announced in November during the G20 conference in Bali.
Key highlights of the scheme:
- The initiative will allow degree-holding nationals aged 18 to 30 to live and work in each other’s nations for two years.
- For two years, they would be permitted to work, study, or travel.
- The programme will initially operate for three years.
- The system allows for up to 3,000 people to switch visas every year.
- It is not even required for a candidate to have a job lined up before applying for the visa.
- As a result, once in their host nation, qualified applicants may seek employment, educational, or cultural opportunities. They may also pay a visit.
- The signature of the agreement obscures more difficult concerns concerning cross-border movement of people.
- A component of the 2021 Migration and Mobility Agreement is to handle the repatriation of illegal migrants to their home countries.
2021 Migration and Mobility Agreement
- On May 4, 2021, the United Kingdom and India signed the ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ agreement.
- Young, professional Indian and British nationals between the ages of 18 and 30 will be permitted to live and work in both countries for no more than two years under this arrangement.
- One of the goals of this agreement is to allow UK and Indian people to improve their talents, which they may subsequently apply in their own countries.
- It also intends to address the issue of illegal migration from India to the UK by hastening the expulsion of migrants who do not have the legal right to be in the country.
- Importance: Both nations are dealing with a number of immigration and homeland security challenges.
- This agreement implies that the two governments will be in continual communication in order to remain on top of these concerns.
- The connection between the United Kingdom and India is founded in India’s colonial past with the British, as well as the partnership shared by both nations following India’s independence.
- In 2004, the bilateral relationship was elevated to the level of strategic partnership.
- In 2004, they transformed their contemporary cooperation to a strategic partnership.
- The United Kingdom supports India’s application for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and serves as an essential liaison for India on global forums.
- The United Kingdom is one of India’s biggest commercial partners, with trade with the United Kingdom totaling $14.497 billion in 2017-2018, according to MoC&I trade figures.
- With a cumulative equity investment of US $26.09 billion (April 2000-June 2018), the United Kingdom is the fourth largest inbound investor in India, trailing only Mauritius, Singapore, and Japan. India remained the third largest foreign investor in the UK and emerged as the second largest overseas job generator, with Indian firms creating over 110,000 employment in the UK.
- The two nations agreed in 2015 to strengthen their defence collaboration by forming capacity partnerships in crucial sectors.
- The Defence Consultative Group Meeting, an organised discussion to explore defence cooperation, is conducted yearly at the level of the Defence Secretary.
- Ajeya Warrior (biannual army-to-army exercise), Konakan (annual navy-to-navy exercise), and Indradhanush (biannual air-to-air exercise) take place between India and the United Kingdom.
- The connection has increased significantly over the last decade, thanks to the establishment of bilateral structures such as the India-UK Education Forum, the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), the Joint Working Group on Education, the Newton-Bhabha Fund, and scholarship programmes.
- Investment in joint UK-India research has increased from less than £1 million in 2008 to more than £200 million now.
- The establishment of an India-UK Clean Energy R&D Centre with an emphasis on solar energy storage, as well as a joint R&D programme in energy efficient building materials, was announced.
- New research collaborations totaling £80 million have also been developed, including a new Shared Strategic Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) with a joint commitment of up to £13 million.
- Cultural ties between India and the United Kingdom are strong and widespread, stemming from the two nations’ shared history.
- Indian culture has gradually been mainstreamed, with absorption of Indian food, movies, languages, religion, philosophy, performing arts, and so on.
- To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, 2017 was designated as the India-UK Year of Culture.
- The Indian Diaspora in the United Kingdom is one of the country’s major ethnic minority groupings.
- According to the 2011 census, around 1.5 million individuals of Indian descent reside in the United Kingdom, accounting for nearly 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6% of the country’s GDP.
- During the India-UK Virtual Summit, the “Roadmap 2030” for future India-UK ties was unveiled for- Revitalized and dynamic interactions between individuals;
- Re-energized trade, investment, and technical collaboration that enhances residents’ lives and livelihoods;
- Enhanced defence and security cooperation contributes to a more secure Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific, as well as India-UK leadership in climate, clean energy, and health that serves as a worldwide force for good.
Source: The Hindu
India Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (IndAusECTA)
Context– TheIndAusECTA Agreement, which was inked last year, just entered into force following Ratification and Exchange of Written Instruments.
Major Areas of IndAusECTA
- Trade in Goods
- Trade in Services
- Rules of Origin
- Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures
- Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation
- Trade Remedies
- Legal & institutional Issues
- Movement of Natural Persons
- Current Trade trends between India and Australia
- India buys 17 billion US dollars from Australia. The majority of India’s imports from Australia are raw materials and intermediate goods (96%).
- They are primarily concentrated in coal (74% of Australia’s exports to India), with coking coal accounting for 71.4%.
- India’s exports to Australia total 10.5 billion US dollars.
- India’s exports to Australia are diverse, with finished items dominating (consumer goods).
- India also spends over $ 4 billion per year on education for kids in Australia.
Benefits for India
- Indian goods across all tariff lines would have zero customs tax access to the Australian market (Australia presently charges a 5% import fee).
- Textiles and apparel, agricultural and fish goods, leather, footwear, furniture, numerous engineering items, jewellery, and some pharmaceuticals all get immediate duty-free entry.
- Cheaper raw materials, faster drug approval
- Immediate Duty-Free Access is expected to generate 10 lakh employment in India and $10 billion in extra exports from India to Australia over the following five years.
- India has offered tariff concessions on tariff lines of export interest to Australia, such as coking and thermal coal, wines, agricultural products – seven of which have TRQ (cotton, almonds shelled and in shell, Mandarin, oranges, lentils, pear), metals (aluminium, copper, nickel, iron and steel), and minerals (Manganese Ore, Calcined Alumina).
- Many sensitive goods, including milk and other dairy products, wheat, sugar, iron ore, apple, walnuts, and others, remain on India’s Exclusion list.
Benefits under Trade in Services:
- Australia has committed to a negative list timeline and has made broad commitments in around 135 sub-sectors, with Most Favoured Nation (MFN) designation in approximately 120 sub-sectors.
- After 5 years of the Agreement’s entry into effect, India has consented to negative listing for the first time.
- For the first time, India is making a commitment to Australia in about 103 Service Sub-Sectors, with Most Favored Nation status in approximately 31 Service Sub-Sectors.
- The agreement opens up opportunities for investment in computer-related services, telecommunications, construction, health care, and environmental services.
- Post-study work permits will assist over 1 lakh Indian students in Australia (18 months – 4 years).
- The agreement calls for a quota of 1,800 Yoga teachers and Indian chefs every year.
- It arranges for work and vacation visas for young professionals.
- In addition, commitments have been made to pursue Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) in professional services over the next 12 months.
Features that protect against unintended consequences:
- The #IndAusECTA also has a number of “protective provisions” designed to safeguard both nations from unforeseen trade repercussions.
Stringent Rules of Origin –
- 35% value addition + change in tariff subheading (CTSH)
- In the computation of Value Addition, two distinct numbers (35% or 45%) were agreed upon depending on the method of calculation (based on whether profit is excluded or included)
- Product Specific Rules were negotiated for 807 different items.
- The’melt and pour’ requirement for iron and steel goods is specified in the Product Specific Rules for these items.
Strict Operational Customs Procedures
- A special phrase was introduced to guarantee that only commodities manufactured in Australia are included for value addition, and no products from other countries are counted.
- In the event of an increase in imports, a 14-year Bilateral Safeguard Mechanism will be available:
- After 15 years, a specific clause on Review has been agreed upon, allowing any nation to request a Review for elements of the Agreement that may be of concern.
- If asked, a review is required (it shall happen)
- It must be finished within 6 months.
End to Double Taxation:
- This remittance was taxed under a clause in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA).
- However, the Agreement has eliminated the disparities in the use of the DTAA for taxation of Indian business royalties, fees, and charges.
- There is no domestic framework in Australia for imposing tax on royalties, fees, and charges paid to parent businesses by firms.
- Exports are predicted to grow by $10 billion by 2026-27, resulting in the creation of around 10 lakh employment.
- By 2035, overall bilateral trade is estimated to exceed US $ 45-50 billion.
- The entry into force of the India-Australia ECTA is expected to solidify and aid in the expansion of Indian products and services’ market share.
- Australia has a lot of potential for exporting completed goods because they seldom make anything and are mostly a raw material and intermediate manufacturing country.
- India can obtain cheaper raw resources, which would not only make India more competitive worldwide, but will also allow it to better serve Indian customers, allowing it to supply more high-quality items at lower rates.
- India – Australia ECTA brings together two significant international economies: India, the world’s fifth biggest, and Australia, the world’s fourteenth largest.
- The two nations’ commerce is highly complimentary, providing possibilities on both sides and paving the road for a win-win solution for both India and Australia.
Source: The Hindu
Context– The 17th PravasiBharatiya Divas conference was recently opened by India’s Prime Minister.
PravasiBharatiya Divas: (PBD)
- The custom of commemorating PravasiBharatiya Divas (PBD) began in 2003 to commemorate this day.
- On January 9, 2003, the first PBD Convention was held to commemorate the contribution of the abroad Indian diaspora to India’s progress.
- PBD Convention has been held every two years since 2015, under a redesigned structure (biennial).
- The 9th of January marks Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa to India in 1915.
- It is celebrated grandly in order to strengthen the Government of India’s relationship with the abroad Indian population.
Concerns Regarding Celebrations:
- Because the overall profile of participants is quite high, low/semi-skilled and blue collar employees may not find a spot or feel comfortable participating in the aforementioned event.
- Participation and involvement should be more inclusive, including vulnerable segments of the diaspora population.
- 17th PBD- “Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in AmritKaal”.
- 16th PBD- “Contributing to AtmaNirbhar Bharat ”.
- The term diaspora traces its roots to the Greek diaspeiro, which means dispersion.
- Since the first batch of Indians were sent as indentured labourers to countries in the east Pacific and Caribbean islands under the ‘Girmitiya’ system, the Indian diaspora has risen exponentially.
- Thousands of Indians were transferred to those nations in the 19th and early 20th century to work on plantations in British colonies that were reeling from a labour shortage following the abolition of slavery in 1833-34.
- The first such migration of Indians to Suriname took place 150 years ago in 2023.
- Nearly 20 lakh Indians moved to Singapore and Malaysia to work on farms as part of the second wave of migration.
Non-Resident Indians (NRI):
- NRIs are Indians who live in other nations.
- To be considered a resident Indian, an individual must have spent 182 days or more in a fiscal year in India, or have stayed in India for 60 days or more in the year and 365 days or more in the four years before the relevant fiscal year.
Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs):
- In 2015, the PIO category was amalgamated with the OCI category.
- Existing PIO cards, on the other hand, are valid until December 31, 2023, after which time holders must get OCI cards.
- A PIO is a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, or Nepal) who has held an Indian passport at any time, or who was born and permanently resided in India as defined in the Government of India Act, 1935, or who is the spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.
Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs):
- In 2006, a new category of OCI was established.
- An OCI card was issued to a foreign national who was eligible to be an Indian citizen on January 26, 1950, was an Indian citizen on or after January 26, 1950, or belonged to a region that became part of India after August 15, 1947.
- Minor offspring of such persons were also eligible for OCI cards, with the exception of those who were citizens of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
- There were 4.7 crore Indians residing abroad as of December 31, 2021.
- NRIs, PIOs, OCIs, and students are all included in the total. Excluding students, the total number is 3.22 crore, which includes 1.87 crore PIOs and 1.35 crore NRIs.
- According to the World Migration Report issued by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration, India has the world’s biggest emigrant population, making it the top origin country internationally, followed by Mexico, Russia, and China.
- The Indian diaspora is geographically diverse.
- United States of America (44 lakh), United Kingdom (17.6 lakh), United Arab Emirates (34 lakh), Sri Lanka (16 lakh), South Africa (15.6 lakh), Saudi Arabia (26 lakh), Myanmar (20 lakh), Malaysia (29.8 lakh), Kuwait (10.2 lakh), and Canada are among the countries with more than 10 lakh Indians living abroad (16.8 lakh).
- According to the World Bank’s newest Migration and Development Brief 2022, “for the first time, India is on course to collect more over $100 billion in yearly remittances.”
- The World Migration Report says that India, China, Mexico, the Philippines and Egypt are (in descending order) among the top five remittance recipient nations, “but India and China were much above the others”.
Involvement in politics:
- The loud political opinions adopted by a segment of the Indian diaspora, notably in the United States and the United Kingdom, are a relatively new phenomena.
- For example, the Hindu American Foundation, a Hindu advocacy organisation established in the United States, was founded in 2003, the same year as the PravasiBharatiya Convention.
- Many notable Indians living abroad are involved in organising worldwide gatherings.
- Indians residing abroad serve as “brand ambassadors” for their nation.
- Overseas Indians may oppose “propaganda” by conveying the truth about India to the globe in a credible and effective manner.
Source: Indian Express
Vishwaguru aspirations and the internationalization of Indian higher education
Context– The 2020 National Education Policy (NEP) was a watershed point in Indian higher education history. The concept seeks a major reorganisation and revitalization of higher education. The recently published University Grants Commission (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023, have reignited discussions over the globalisation of Indian higher education.
Major factors that influence Internationalization of higher education
- To study at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford, Indian students must pay around Rs 70 lakh per year, and more than Rs 55 lakh per year to study at Oxford or Cambridge. Tuition costs alone would be almost 15 times more than at Indian private colleges. The new idea undermines the NEP’s objective of fairness and inclusion by limiting higher education to the super-rich.
- A laudable goal is to have identical academic standards at both the parent university and its overseas campus. However, overseas campuses have become a second-rate alternative, largely available to students who are unable to get admission to the main school. The quality and excellence of teaching and research on international universities cannot compete with those on their home campuses.
- Building solid partnerships, student and faculty mobility, exchange and immersion programmes, joint teaching and research opportunities, collaborative conferences and publications, and the development of online and blended degree programmes have replaced the concept of brick-and-mortar international campuses. Global perspectives on international cooperation have shifted.
Steps to become a global leader in international education
- In general, Indian universities, both public and private, are excessively regulated and badly controlled. The engrained institutional practise of regulating agencies telling colleges what they should do must end. The government should pay more attention to IoEs and broaden their scope and scale so that they can become natural destinations for foreign students.
- To meet the requirements and expectations of international students, India should establish global institutions led by the public and private sectors. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in India is unbalanced. The national GER is roughly 22%, although certain states, such as Tamil Nadu, have a GER of 52%. More public and private universities must be built around the country, with greater autonomy, resources, and stronger governance structures, while regulatory agencies’ roles are reduced.
- Indian universities are severely underfunded. The NEP envisions a 6% annual investment in higher education, as well as a National Research Foundation to disburse additional resources. More tax breaks for CSR and charitable efforts are needed to attract business sector donations to public and private colleges.
- The NEP aims to break down long-standing divides between public and private entities. However, many biases and prejudices remain. The caste system is replicated by an institutionalised hierarchy in the Indian higher education system. The IITs and IIMs are first in the pecking order, followed by the central institutions. Following that are the IISERs, NITs, and, considerably lower down, the state public institutions.
- Much more than school reform would be required if India is to become a popular worldwide destination for students from underdeveloped nations. The government must improve its visa and FRRO registration procedures.
- The quality of infrastructure and dormitories on university campuses must be significantly improved. The safety, security, and well-being of students, particularly women, must be guaranteed. Other types of university towns and education cities can establish a holistic environment in which students and teachers can learn, work, and live.
What should be the India’s approach?
- Instead of allowing developed-country institutions to establish foreign campuses, we must focus on becoming a global higher education destination in our own right.
- We will not achieve the Vishwaguru goal by recruiting great international institutions to establish campuses. We must reclaim the position we held over 2,000 years ago, when Nalanda, Takshashila, Vallabhi, and Vikramshila drew scholars and students from all over the world.
- We have the potential to be true world leaders in offering high-quality education at a low cost. Similarly, we may do high-quality research at a cheaper cost.
- Indian scientists have completed a Mars trip on a $74 million budget, less than the $108 million production cost of the Hollywood blockbuster Gravity.
- Outsourcing Indian higher education to overseas colleges would not help India become a Vishwaguru. Instead of allowing institutions from affluent nations to establish foreign campuses, it should focus on becoming a worldwide higher education destination in its own right.
Source: Indian Express
New India: The world’s next engine of growth
Context- The epidemic has proven to be the tipping point in India’s long-awaited emergence as the world’s next economic engine. New India is reaping fruit at a time when one-third of the global economy is slowing. Finance Minister remarked at FICCI’s 95th annual general meeting that the 2019 budget would define the framework for the next 25 years, which is India’s AmritKaal.
A gloomy global outlook
- According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global growth will virtually half to 3.2% in 2022 and then decline further to 2.7% in 2023, indicating slowing growth in the United States, China, and the European Union.
- Higher food and energy costs have caused global inflation to peak at 8.8 percent in 2022, but it is predicted to fall to 6.5 percent in 2023 and 4.1 percent in 2024.
- The developed world has used excessive stimulus measures. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, in 2020 and 2021, global households added $100 trillion to global wealth on paper as asset prices rose and $39 trillion in new currency and deposits were minted, while debt and equity liabilities increased by about $50 trillion and $75 trillion, respectively, as governments and central banks stimulated economies.
- Meanwhile, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is causing financial hardship well beyond the immediate region.
- While China’s Covid policy has disrupted supply networks, they are now threatened by the possible consequences of a sudden reversal.
- India’s struggle against inflation, which is primarily imported, has been supported by coordinated fiscal and monetary policy, with a little help from falling commodity prices.
India stands at a bright spot amidst significant challenges
- However, India stands out as a rare bright light, with the economy expected to expand over 7% in FY23 and 6.1-6.5% in FY24, keeping the title of the world’s fastest-growing big economy.
- In a positive indication, retail inflation fell to 5.88 percent in November, bringing it back inside the RBI’s tolerance zone after 11 months. While it is too soon to declare success in terms of inflation control, authorities must now design a course that prioritises growth.
- After recently surpassing the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, India is expected to overcome Japan and Germany before the end of the decade to become the world’s third-largest economy.
- Reforms aimed at improving the ease of doing business and lowering the cost of doing business in a large, unified domestic market, as well as a focus on boosting the manufacturing sector through Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes, are attracting large investments, including in critical areas such as semiconductors.
What India has to share with the world?
- Its objective as G20 president is to focus on sectors that have the potential to bring about fundamental transformation, resulting in faster, more inclusive, and resilient growth.
- Similarly, the LiFE (Lifestyle for the Environment) idea builds on old sustainable traditions to strengthen modern-day environmentally conscious habits.
- Finally, knowledge exchange in areas such as digital public infrastructure and financial inclusion will enable more people to use disruptive technology.
- Domestic and foreign investors must now come forward and join in the India economic narrative, which will provide a much-needed boost to global growth in the future. Speaking at the World Economic Forum last year, PM Modi remarked “Make in India, Make for the World”. There has never been a better moment to invest in India and reap the rewards of its many advantages.
Source: Indian Express
Tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA).
Context- With the growing popularity of social media platforms, the use of education applications, and the transition to online classrooms, children are more likely to be exposed to hazardous information. As a result, ensuring children’s welfare and safety online is more important than ever.
Child Sexual Abuse on the Internet
- Online child sexual abuse and exploitation includes behaviours such as the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), live streaming sexual assault of youngsters, accessing sexually graphic material, exhibitionism, and in-person meetings with the abuser.
- This is extremely dangerous for children who are suffering from psychological stress such as anxiety, trauma, or despair.
- It can also result in behavioural changes such as drug and alcohol misuse, self-harm, and decreased academic motivation.
- The ramifications of internet sexual abuse in children are far-reaching and may possibly extend into adulthood, causing challenges with intimacy and harming interpersonal relationships.
Challenges in tackling online abuse
- The quickly changing digital world and advancements in information technology have given birth to stronger encryption services and the dark web, which provide offenders with a secure cover of anonymity, allowing them to indulge in child sexual abuse.
- Needless to say, the danger and complexity of online abuse has increased at an alarming rate and must be addressed as soon as possible. Furthermore, due to the pervasiveness of the internet and online engagement, practically all occurrences of child sexual abuse have a virtual component. As a result, while developing measures to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse, a wide viewpoint and a systems-level approach should be taken into account (OCSEA).
- The primary administrative problems in dealing with OCSEA include insufficient law enforcement capacity, inadequacies in the statutory framework, and a lack of knowledge and concern about the issue.
- Workforce shortages exist in key social welfare organisations. Close coordination between non-traditional partners from business, government departments dealing with technology communication, and law enforcement is urgently needed. Provisions should be made to avoid such incidents and to protect victims or survivors.
Efforts by India in fighting OCSEA
- In recent years, India has taken substantial efforts to address the growing tide of OCSEA instances. It has not only enhanced the reporting procedure for online crimes against minors, but it has also created new tools and software to manage and eradicate the appearance of CSAM on social media and other platforms.
- Efforts have also been made to raise awareness in schools and improve the technical capabilities of law enforcement organisations to cope with the issue in the future. Although this four-pronged methodology has shown some promising outcomes, it has been eclipsed by the country’s exponential increase of cases.
What are steps that can be taken?
- It is critical to assess and enhance the efficacy of cross-sectoral governance systems established to systematise the national response to child sexual abuse material.
- The massive backlog of OCSEA cases in India must also be expedited. In terms of prevention, institutionalising the collecting of national-level CSAM data can also help to increase children’s online security. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s latest Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, may give a chance to satisfy this need.
- Clear directives should be developed further, as should a logical structure of roles and responsibilities for all key parties under standard operating procedures for inquiry. Continuous discussion between business, government, and other partners is required, with a clear agenda and allocation of duties.
- Industry partners, particularly the IT industry, must get appropriate training and knowledge of the enormity of OCSEA, as well as appropriate toolkits and guidelines. Promoting a systematic and consistent strategy to educate the judges and prosecution on CSAM, centred on child-sensitive practises, might be advantageous.
- Similarly, complete remedies or compensation for victims are critical and must be handled by a specialised team.
- Basic internet safety precautions, family support activities, and community awareness training may be integrated into current violence prevention and sensitization programmes. Existing systems must be assessed by monitoring and recording their general efficacy and accessibility, as well as assessing relevant hotlines and portals (to determine if they are linked to appropriate referral systems) and analysing context-specific causes for restrictions.
- A concerted effort must be made to facilitate ethical and knowledgeable media coverage of pertinent situations.
To create a safer online, multiple institutions across the country must work together. The review of present OCSEA response systems and reporting methods, tighter enforcement of preventative legislation, and appropriate funding to continue these efforts are the greatest priorities. The ultimate objective must be to create long-term safeguards for internet platforms that allow children to navigate safely and interrupt offenders’ activity.
Source: Indian Express
Facts for Prelims
Article 176 of the Indian Constitution
Context: In Tamil Nadu, the governor-government squabble arose in the assembly after the Chief Minister protested to the Governor missing sections of his traditional speech to the state legislature and submitted a motion against him, causing the latter to depart the House.
Article 176 (Governor’s Special Address):
The Governor shall address the Legislative Assembly or both Houses (in the event of a State with a Legislative Council), gathered together, at the beginning of the first session following each general election to the Legislative Assembly, and at the beginning of the first session of each year.
The rules governing the procedure of the House or either House shall provide for the allotment of time for debate of the subjects alluded to in such speech.
Article 87: Special address by the President
Young Professionals Scheme
Context: The governments of India and the United Kingdom will commemorate PravasiBharatiya Divas on January 9, 2023, by launching the Young Professionals Scheme.
Concerning the Young Professionals Scheme:
The plan was designed as part of an India-United Kingdom Migration and Mobility Memorandum of Understanding agreed in 2021 and unveiled at the G20 meeting in Bali.
The initiative will allow up to 3,000 of their degree-holding residents between the ages of 18 and 30 to live and work in each other’s nations for two years.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Context: IIT Jodhpur, the Dystrophy Annihilation Research Trust (DART), and AIIMS Jodhpur are collaborating to create a low-cost cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare and incurable genetic condition (DMD).
- It is the most prevalent and deadly kind of muscular dystrophy, characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakening caused by changes in a protein called “dystrophin,” which aids in the maintenance of muscle cells.
- Patients (typically youngsters) have decreased bone density and a higher risk of fracture.
- DMD affects about 5 lakh people in India, and while the ailment primarily affects males, it can also impact girls in rare situations.
- The present therapy alternatives for DMD are limited and costly, and are largely imported from other countries.
What does the latest research include?
- DMD is unique to each sufferer. Gene mutations in one patient may differ from those in another, limiting the scope of universal therapy or therapies.
- The concept behind antisense oligonucleotide (AON)-based treatments is to mask certain exons in a gene sequence.
- The research team is attempting to replace this with molecular tags in order to generate customized/personalised medication.
- Researchers have made strides toward developing generic Utrophin Modulators.
- In human muscle, Utrophin and Dystrophin can co-localize.
- Overexpression of utrophin may operate as a proxy for dystrophin deficiency.