THE INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1.EXPLAINED: ON GUARDIANSHIP AND ADOPTION OF MINORS
THE CONTEXT: Recently the Parliamentary panel has recommended conferring equal rights on mothers as guardians under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HMGA), 1956 instead of treating them as subordinates to their husband, and has called for joint custody of children during marital disputes. It has also proposed allowing the LGBTQI community to adopt children.
What are the recommendations of the Parliamentary panel on guardianship and child custody?
• The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice tabled its report on August 8, 2022, in both Houses of Parliament on the ‘Review of Guardianship and Adoption Laws’. In its report the committee has said that there is an “urgent need to amend the HMGA (Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956) and accord equal treatment to both mother and father as natural guardians as the law violated the right to equality and right against discrimination envisaged under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.”
• In cases of marital dispute, the panel says there is a need to relook at child custody which is typically restricted to just one parent where mothers tend to get preference. It says courts should be empowered to grant joint custody to both parents when such a decision is conducive for the welfare of the child, or award sole custody to one parent with visitation rights to the other.
• On adoption, the Committee has said that there is a need for a new legislation that harmonises the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956 and that such a law should cover the LGBTQI community as well.
What does the law say on guardianship? How do courts grant child custody?
• Indian laws accord superiority to the father in case of guardianship of a minor. Under the religious law of Hindus, or the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, (HMGA) 1956, the natural guardian of a Hindu minor in respect of the minor’s person or property “is the father, and after him, the mother: provided the custody of a minor who has not completed the age of five years shall ordinarily be with the mother.”
• The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 says that the Shariat or the religious law will apply in case of guardianship according to which the father is the natural guardian, but custody vests with the mother until the son reaches the age of seven and the daughter reaches puberty though the father’s right to general supervision and control exists. The concept of Hizanat in Muslim law states that the welfare of the child is above all else. This is the reason why Muslim law gives preference to the mother over the father in matters of custody of children in their tender years.
• The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Githa Hariharan vs Reserve Bank of India in 1999 challenged the HMGA for violating the guarantee of equality of sexes under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the court held that the term “after” should not be taken to mean “after the lifetime of the father “, but rather “in the absence of the father”. But the judgment failed to recognise both parents as equal guardians, subordinating a mother’s role to that of the father. Though the judgment sets a precedent for courts, it has not led to an amendment to the HMGA.
• The panel’s proposals on guardianship have been made by the Law Commission of India in its 257th report on “Reforms in Guardianship and Custody Laws in India” in May 2015 as well as its 133rd report in August, 1989 on “Removal of discrimination against women in matters relating to guardianship and custody of minor children and elaboration of the welfare principle”.
What about cases of marital disputes?
• In cases of marital disputes, some courts such as the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Bombay High Court have framed rules to grant joint custody or shared parenting. According to experts instead of this “patchwork” there is a need to amend the law, including the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 to introduce concepts such as joint custody.
Can queer and transgender people adopt children in India?
• The Adoption Regulations, 2017 is silent on adoption by LGBTQI people and neither bans nor allows them to adopt a child. Its eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents says that they should be physically, mentally and emotionally stable, financially capable and should not have any life-threatening medical condition.
• Single men can only adopt a boy while a woman can adopt a child of any gender. A child can be given for adoption to a couple only if they have been in a marital relationship for at least two years.
• The HAMA which applies to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists allows men and women to adopt if they are of sound mind and are not minors. Activists say LGBTQI people who seek adoption face institutional discrimination because of stigma. Therefore, the law should be amended to include them as eligible candidates including when they apply as non-single parents such as when they are in civil unions or married for which there is no legal recognition in the country as yet even though the Supreme Court legalised gay sex in 2018.
2.CONSENSUAL SEX ON A GENUINE PROMISE OF MARRIAGE NOT RAPE: SC
THE CONTEXT: Recently, the Supreme Court has held that it is not rape if consensual physical relationship was based on a genuine promise of marriage which could not be fulfilled.
• A Bench highlighted the distinction between “a false promise to marriage which is given on understanding by the maker that it will be broken and a breach of promise which is made in good faith but subsequently not fulfilled”. The court quashed an FIR registered in 2016.
• A woman had accused the appellant of rape and cheating. They were in a consensual relationship on the basis of an assurance of marriage given by the man. However, the duo fell apart.
• Three years later, the woman filed the complaint against him. The court said the registration of FIR in the case amounted to abuse of the criminal process.
• “The parties chose to have physical relationship without marriage for a considerable period of time. For some reason, the parties fell apart. It can happen both before or after marriage,” the Supreme Court said.
CONNECT THE DOTS
About Marital rape
• Marital rape (or spousal rape) is an act in which one of the spouses indulges in sexual intercourse without the consent of the other.
• Rape in India continues with the patriarchal outlook of considering women to be the property of men post marriage, with no autonomy or agency over their bodies.
• They deny married women equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
• Today, more than 100 countries have criminalized marital rape but, unfortunately, India is one of the only 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized
• Domestic violence in India is an entrenched problem, and it has only been exacerbated in recent years. About 70 per cent of women in India are victims of domestic violence.
• However, one of the most horrifying and repressive issues with the Indian legal regime is that marital rape is not criminalized .
• National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) ‘Crime in India’ 2019 reported that a woman is raped every 16 minutes and every four minutes, she experiences cruelty at the hands of her in-laws.
• National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 data indicates that an estimated 99.1 per cent of sexual violence cases go unreported and that the average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others.
• According to one study by the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, between the ages of 15 to 49 have been beaten, raped, or forced to provide sex.
• In India, marital rape is not defined in any statute or law.
• Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines rape as a criminal offence and states that a man commits rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or if she is a minor.
• However, according to Exception 2 to Section 375 “sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape
• However, in a landmark judgment in 2018, the Supreme Court of India held that it will be considered rape if a man has sexual intercourse with his wife if she is aged between 15 and 18
• The only recourse against non-consensual sex for married women are civil provisions under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act or Section 498-A of the IPC on cruelty against a wife by the husband or a husband’s relatives.
THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
3.BANGLADESH RIVER WATER DEAL LIKELY
THE CONTEXT: According to sources, India and Bangladesh are likely to ink at least one major river agreement later this month.
• The planning for the agreement is being tightly guarded by officials on both sides as water sharing between the two countries is considered a sensitive subject given the fact that it often takes political meaning.
• Apart from the major agreements under discussion, sharing of data of river waters and better flood control planning are expected to feature in the upcoming meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC) that will meet in the last week of August ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s September (2022) 6-7 India visit.
• According to sources, that there is a “strong possibility” that an agreement on the Kushiyara that flows from Assam into Bangladesh is part of one such agreement that may get “done” during the JRC.
• A diplomatic source also hinted at a “major agreement” involving the Ganga may also be taken up as there is a “strong urge” to achieve a big river agreement ahead of Prime Minister Hasina’s visit, which may be her last trip to Delhi before Dhaka goes into election mode next year.
Teesta waters agreement
• The Awami League government has been insistent on sealing the Teesta waters agreement, which has eluded settlement so far. Now, it is understood that India has agreed to offer Bangladesh a package on river waters-related deals that will be considered a significant advancement in terms of sharing of river resources with Dhaka.
• Recent West Bengal CM visit, which came against the backdrop of the tightly guarded India-Bangladesh negotiation, has contributed to the speculation on river water sharing between India and Bangladesh.
• Convening the JRC has been a long-pending demand of Bangladesh as the ministerial-level meeting was last held in 2010.
About Teesta river:
• Teesta river is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
• It originates in the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
• The Teesta Barrage dam helps to provide irrigation for the plains between the upper Padma and the Jamuna.
Efforts to resolve the dispute:
• Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983.
• A 2011 interim deal – that was supposed to last 15 years – gave India 42.5 percent of the Teesta’s waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 percent. Bengal opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned.
• Bangladesh sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty 1996.
• The treaty is an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.
• In 2015, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Dhaka generated expectations to take forward the issue but it still remains unresolved.
• However, In India, individual states have significant influence over transboundary agreements, impeding the policymaking process.
• West Bengalis one of the key stakeholders of the Teesta agreement and is yet to endorse the deal.
Importance of Teesta River:
• Its flood plain covers about 14% of the total cropped area of Bangladesh and provides direct livelihood opportunities to approximately 73% of its population.
For West Bengal:
• Teesta is the lifeline of North Bengal and almost half a dozen of districts of West Bengal are dependent on the waters of Teesta.
THE SECURITY AFFAIRS
4.THE EXERCISE VAJRA PRAHAR 2022”
THE CONTEXT: The 13th Edition of the Indo-US Joint Special Forces exercise “Ex Vajra Prahar 2022” commenced at the Special Forces Training School (SFTS), Bakloh (HP). The US contingent is represented by personnel from the 1st Special Forces Group (SFG) and Special Tactics Squadron (STS) of US Special Forces and the Indian Army contingent is formed by drawing Special Forces personnel under the aegis of SFTS.
• The Vajra Prahar series of joint exercise aims to share best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics as also to improve inter-operability between the Special Forces of both the Nations. This annual exercise is hosted alternatively between India and the United States. The 12th edition was conducted at Joint Base Lewis Mcchord, Washington (USA) in October 2021.
• During the course of next 21 days, teams of both armies would jointly train, plan and execute a series of Special Operations, Counter Terrorist Operations, Air Borne operations in simulated conventional and unconventional scenarios in mountainous terrain.
• This joint exercise is a significant step in strengthening the traditional bond of friendship between the special forces of both Nations as well as improve bilateral defence cooperation between India and the USA.
CONNECT THE DOTS
Other Exercises of India with the USA:
• Exercise Yudh Abhyas (Army).
• Cope India (Air Force).
• Red Flag (USA’s multilateral air exercise).
• Malabar Exercise (trilateral naval exercise of India, USA and Japan).
THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5.HOW THE MAIDEN FLIGHT OF ISRO’S SSLV WENT AWRY
THE CONTEXT: On August 7, ISRO got ready for the first developmental flight of the SSLV-D1/EOS-2 mission. The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) D1/EOS-2 mission, was carrying two satellites — the Earth Observation Satellite-2 (EOS-2) which weighed about 135 kg and AzadiSAT which weighed about eight kg.
The mission aimed to place the EOS-2 in a circular low-Earth orbit at a height of about 350 km above the Equator and inclined at an angle of 37 degrees. The initial part of the story was successful with the launch vehicle operating smoothly. However, the mission failed to place the satellites in their required orbits, and the satellites, as they were already detached from the launch vehicle, were lost.
What was the purpose of the SSLV-D1/EOS-2 mission?
• The purpose of this mission was to place the two satellites in circular low-Earth orbits at a height of about 350 km above the Equator. The larger one, the EOS-2 which was designed and developed by ISRO, offered advanced optical remote sensing operations. It would have operated in the infrared region and could have served many purposes, from imaging for climate studies to simply keeping an eye on Earth.
• AzadiSAT, on the other hand, was a collective of 75 tiny payloads weighing around 50 grams each, which were integrated by students. It carried tiny experiments which would have measured the ionising radiation in its orbit and also a transponder which worked in the ham radio frequency to enable amateur operators to access it.
Which part of the mission succeeded and where did it fail?
• The SSLV was composed of three stages powered by solid fuels and these three performed their function as planned. However, when it came to the stage when the satellites had to be set in orbit, there was a glitch which resulted in the satellites being lost forever. With a degree of openness that is unprecedented in ISRO, it was announced that there was a malfunctioning of a sensor which resulted in placing the satellites in an elliptical orbit, rather than a circular orbit.
• The ellipse or oval shape of the elliptical orbit is elongated in one direction and compressed in another (the so-called major and minor axes, which are like two radii of the ellipse). The shortest height above the Earth of this oval orbit was only about 76 km.
Why were the satellites lost?
• If the closest distance to the Earth is only 76 km, as it happened this time, there is an atmospheric drag experienced by the object at that height. Thereafter, unless adequate thrust is applied to overcome the drag, it will lose height and fall towards the Earth because of gravity and may eventually burn up due to friction.
What went wrong with the launch?
• Today rocket technology has progressed to such a stage that even if the course of the rocket is altering from its planned course, there will be sensors that feed back this information to a system. This will immediately trigger a course correction which will restore the trajectory of the rocket.
• There are many sensors as well as a built-in redundancy. That is, even if one or two sensors fail, there will be others that take over and effect the course correction. In the present case, the announcement was that “failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation.”
• This could possibly imply that either redundancy was not built in, which is highly unlikely, or perhaps that it was built in but did not kick off due to a technical glitch.
Why do we need to develop an SSLV when we have successfully used PSLV and GSLV?
• The PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) are quite powerful and can carry huge loads. To place an Earth Orbiting Satellite in a low Earth orbit, one does not need such power horses. The SSLV can easily carry small-to-medium loads from 10 kg to 500 kg. It is less expensive. The three stages being powered by solid fuel is another advantage. Solid fuel is easier to handle, whereas handling the liquid propellants used in the PSLV and GSLV is more complex.
What is the difference between circular and elliptical orbits?
• Mostly objects such as satellites and spacecrafts are put in elliptical orbits only temporarily. They are then either pushed up to circular orbits at a greater height or the acceleration is increased until the trajectory changes from an ellipse to a hyperbola and the spacecraft escapes the gravity of the Earth in order to move further into space — for example, to the Moon or Mars or further away.
• Satellites that orbit the Earth are mostly placed in circular orbits. One reason is that if the satellite is used for imaging the Earth, it is easier if it has a fixed distance from the Earth. If the distance keeps changing as in an elliptical orbit, keeping the cameras focussed can become complicated.
THE GOVERNMENT SCHEMES AND INTERVENTIONS
6.EXPLAINED: GOVT’S OPEN NETWORK FOR DIGITAL COMMERCE (ONDC)
THE CONTEXT: US firm Microsoft has become the first big tech company to join the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), a government-backed project which is aimed at enabling small merchants and mom-and-pop stores in parts of the country to access processes and technologies that are typically deployed by large e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart.
The software giant intends to introduce social e-commerce — group buying experience — in the Indian market, which would include a shopping app for Indian consumers along with their social circle, harnessing the ONDC network to discover the best pricing among retailers and sellers.
What is Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)?
• It is an initiative aimed at promoting open networks for all aspects of exchange of goods and services over digital or electronic networks. ONDC is to be based on open-sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform. It is being developed as a counter to the current duopoly in the Indian e-commerce market which is largely dictated by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.
• In May 2022, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) went live with a test run of ONDC in cities like Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Bhopal, and Shillong where it plans to onboard 150 sellers.
What does Microsoft joining ONDC mean, and who else is on board?
• Microsoft getting on board the the ONDC wagon means the project gets its first international marquee name ahead of its Bengaluru launch.
• A number of participants are currently live on the ONDC network, offering a number of services in the e-commerce supply chain such as buying, selling and offering logistics services. Among those that are live are Paytm, which has joined the platform as a buyer, and Reliance-backed Dunzo, which is offering logistics services for hyperlocal deliveries.
• Companies like Kotak, PhonePe, Zoho and Snapdeal are in the “advanced stage of development”.
How does ONDC work?
• The ONDC platform lies in the middle of the interfaces hosting the buyers and the sellers. So far, the buyer side interface is being hosted by Paytm, whereas the seller side interface is being hosted by other players like GoFrugal, etc.
• When a buyer searches for an item on the Paytm app, from where ONDC has gone live, the app will connect to the ONDC platform, which will connect it to seller side interfaces that will list all the companies from where you can buy the particular item.
• On ONDC, there will be several other backend partners such as logistics service providers, enterprise resource planners, e-commerce store hosting service providers, etc.
What are the challenges ONDC aims to address?
• An ONDC strategy paper published earlier this year has flagged the rising dominance of global players in India’s e-commerce ecosystem, pointing out that the large quantum of investment required to build competitors to the integrated solutions offered by the big players has become an entry barrier for digital marketplaces.
• It also flagged the inability of marketplace sellers to move out of the platform ecosystem, given that the value created by these small players is stored with the larger platforms. With this in mind, ONDC aims to transform the marketplace ecosystem from an operator-driven platform-centric model to a facilitator-driven interoperable decentralised network.
What does it mean for online buyers?
• ONDC is being seen as the UPI-moment for the e-commerce market, and its whole claimed value proposition lies as “democratising” digital commerce, taking it away from the clutches of a handful of deep-pocketed companies, as is the case currently – a number of sellers can offer their goods and services on the network which could be accessed from different platforms, with the delivery and payments infrastructure being handled by different companies.
• In theory, ONDC may enable more sellers to be digitally visible, which means that for online buyers, it could present increased options at a number of different price points.
• One of the biggest criticisms of e-commerce giants globally has been that they have amassed critical data about users’ buying patterns, which gives them an idea about what products are in demand at any given point in time. There have been accusations made against companies like Amazon, in India and elsewhere, that it uses this data to launch similar products through an entity that it indirectly controls, usually at a price point regular sellers cannot match.