Current Affairs – 28th November, 2016

GOVERNANCE AND INTERNAL SECURITY

 

TOPIC:

General Studies 2

  • Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability and institutional and other measures.

General Studies 3

  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

 

Police Reforms in India

 

Introduction

Despite a continual debate over the wisdom and ethics of such an arrangement, political control over the police has come to be accepted as an inevitable reality in modern democracy. It seems as if the police will eternally be mired in arbitrariness and corruption if this kind of system continues. Hence, there is a need to introduce police reforms in our country.

Various steps have been carried out in the past to try and introduce reforms in the police. The Supreme Court guidelines in 2006 followed by the Justice Thomas Committee set up to monitor the implementation of these reforms, enacting of the Model Police Act drafted by a committee headed by Soli Sorabjee and recommendations by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission are a few to be named.

Whatever reforms have been introduced till date or efforts have been made in our country have hardly altered the core of police image, which remains one of an organisation that is nothing but an appendage of the executive, without any operational autonomy.

Challenges for the Police Forces

There are a lot of the challenges that the police forces have to face and because of these challenges various reforms are needed. Such challenges include:

  • Terrorist threats to the security of the state.
  • Cyber-crimes will pose a serious threat.
  • Maoist insurgency, militancy in the Northeast and separatist elements in J&K are bound to make the overall internal security scenario very grim.

 

Contemporary Situation

  • A sense of disappointment over the lack of progress on reforms suggested by the present Prime Minister in 2014 with respect to the concept of SMART Police.
  • The decline is essentially because of the excessive political interference.
  • Supreme Court’s (SC) landmark directions issued in 2006 on police reforms have not been complied with by any state.
  • States have enacted laws to circumvent the implementation of the Court’s directions and some states have passed executive orders which dilute or amend the SC’s directions.
  • The Central government also failed to enact the Model Police Act as a result of the 2006 SC guidelines. The Centre should have taken exemplary steps so that the states would have followed its footsteps. This could have been done through Article 252 of the Constitution of India which gives the Parliament power to legislate for two or more states by consent. Such an Act could apply to the consenting states and to any other states by which it is adopted through a resolution passed by the legislatures of those states.

 

Supreme Court Guidelines

The directives issued by the Supreme Court can be broadly divided into two categories:

  • Those seeking to achieve functional responsibility for the police, and
  • Those seeking to enhance police accountability.

The SC directions include:

  • Constitution of a State Security Commission (SSC) to check the political interference and review the performance of the police.
  • Transparency in the process of appointment of the DGP.
  • Separation of the law and order and investigative functions
  • Establishment of a complaints authority are the more important among them.
  • Ensure that police officers are provided with a minimum tenure security.
  • Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers.

 

Suggested Reforms

  • The government should bring police/public order in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.
  • Based on the recommendations of the Second ARC, the government should at least declare certain crimes as federal and entrust their investigation to a Central agency.
  • Manpower deficiencies should be taken care of and the shortfall of almost half a million policemen nationwide should be bridged.
  • Police transport and the facilities in police stations need to be of top quality. There are police stations in the country which don’t even have a telephone or wireless facility.
  • Forensic facilities are inadequate in all the states. The states should follow the Gujarat model in forensics which has State, regional, district and mobile laboratories.
  • Housing facilities for the police personnel should be taken care of since these have a direct impact on the welfare and morale of the policemen. Policemen are seen to be living in sub-human conditions.
  • Regulation of working hours of policemen is very essential. This will increase efficiency and reduce any kind of resultant stress and multiple complications including rude behaviour with the public and domestic unhappiness.
  • Separation of investigation from law and order also needs to be done and this was also one of the direction of the SC in its guidelines in 2006.

 

Conclusion

Since police and law and order are subjects under the Constitution’s State List, the responsibility devolves upon the States. The security architecture of the country requires a lot more reinforcement and strengthening. Good internal security is essential to sustain the momentum of economic progress and provides the foundation for success and prestige in external relations as well.

Connecting the dots

  • Discuss the need for police reforms in our country and suggest reforms that are required to ensure efficient functioning of the police in India

 

HEALTH/NATIONAL

 

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Amendment to HIV Bill, 2014 – It doesn’t address the concerns

The NDA government had given its approval to introduce official amendments to the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014. However, when the bill has been made available in public domain, it has been not received well by the HIV community.

The HIV and AIDS Bill, 2014

  • It was drafted to safeguard the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV.
  • It sought to address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
  • It also sought to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, prohibit discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, provide for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, place obligations on establishments to safeguard rights of persons living with HIV arid create mechanisms for redressing complaints.
  • It aimed to enhance access to health care services by ensuring informed consent and confidentiality for HIV-related testing, treatment and clinical research.

The proposed amendments and reaction

The protection mandated in the Bill extended to the fields of employment, healthcare services, educational services, public facilities, property rights, holding public office, and insurance. But, now when the draft bill is public, it has received flak from the people affected by HIV as well as those fighting for their rights.

Diluting the right to access treatment

  • The bill was expected to guarantee the rights of India’s 2.4 million HIV positive community.
  • In the Bill, the proposed Section 14 talks of prevention measures that the Central or State governments may take, “as far as possible,” for the provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and Opportunistic Infection (OI) Management, against the spread of HIV.
  • This loophole makes the Bill weak and subject to interpretation, especially the inevitable right to access life saving anti-retroviral therapy.
  • Before advent of ART, death was only option for People living with HIV (PLHIV) but since 2004, Indian government has been providing free-of-cost antiretrovirals for PLHIVs.
  • Today, first-line and second-line ART is available in the government programme free of cost and soon third line of treatment may be also required.
  • However, these drugs were available from government free of cost as it was largely funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). Now, this fund is in danger of being discontinued from 2017 and hence, the HIV community has legitimate increased apprehensions about access to life-saving medicines.

 

Injection Safety Programme

  • An earlier version of the Bill clarified the need to strengthen injection safety programme as IDUs (Injecting Drug Users) can substantially reduce their risk of getting and transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections by using a sterile needle for every injection.
  • However, Clause 22 of the amended bill simply states ‘injection safety requirements’ without specifying the rules.
  • This once again makes the provision open to interpretation. The used needles can be used once again instead of destroying it completely or not boiling it with proper procedure.

Ombudsman’s jurisdiction

  • The original bill had proposed that the ombudsman shall inquire into violations in the provision of health-care services. This was an innovation of civil society.
  • The bill had envisaged an ombudsman working at the district level who would attend to complaints on health issues relating to HIV.
  • There are several cases involving health issues of PLHIVs not being attended to by health services especially in the private sector. Pregnant women living with HIV are worst discriminated against in health services.
  • Thus, the idea was that PLHIVs would not have to go to court which would be cumbersome as well as expensive as a lawyer would be required. Here, they will have to only go to courts on violations of the law relating to health services only after going through the ombudsman, thereby making it quick and efficient.
  • However, the amendment increased the scope of the ombudsman’s jurisdiction which mandates him to enquire into all violations of the provisions of the Bill including discrimination.
  • Also, the new bill proposed that the ombudsman is now to function at the State level and he/she will be only a government servant. So now the ombudsman is neither a full-time officer nor trained in judicial matters.
  • The disaster will unfold as the proposed ombudsman will have to deal with number of issues from informed consent to discrimination etc., coupled with the huge workload. Hence, the proposed amendment would only result in the whole mechanism becoming unworkable.

 

On employment

  • As per the existing law, only a government or a public sector employee can seek employment or reinstatement if s/he is discriminated and not employed or illegally terminated.
  • Hence, if the person is not employed by ‘State’ entities, — as defined under the Industrial Disputes Act — s/he cannot seek employment or reinstatement if s/he has been discriminated.
  • For such cases, a person can only go the civil court and claim damages.
  • The original draft of bill had provided for specific powers to the civil court including employment and reinstatement and compensation for loss of wages and damages.
  • Disappointingly, the amended bill does not confer powers to civil courts in relation to employment, reinstatement and compensation.

Conclusion

There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India.  Even though the prevalence of HIV is decreasing over the last decade, the Bill would provide essential support to National AIDS Control Programme in arresting new infections and thereby achieving the target of “Ending the epidemic by 2030” according to Sustainable Development Goals.

For this, the newly amended bill has to be changed which is creating it difficult for the HIV community of India to survive on a law which instead of giving them assurance, makes their treatment and way of living subject to interpretation.

Connecting the dots:

  • What is HIV and how is it a life threatening disease? How has India battled against HIV? Critically examine.
  • The amendments to HIV Bill, 2014 has been criticised by the HIV community. Discuss the reasons and support the answer with possible solution.