National news – January 2017

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

SC: Resolve conflict between POSCO & IPC on ‘rape’ definition

Why in news?

A chink in the colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) condoning sexual intercourse and exploitation of a 15-year-old child ‘wife’ has been brought to the Supreme Court’s attention to end this “statutorily-backed” crime against children.

Current scenario:

  • An estimated 47 per cent of children in India were married off before they turned 18, according to the United Nations. The IPC terms children as those aged under 15 years while POCSO terms children as those aged under 18.
  • POCSO has specific penal provisions against ‘penetrative sexual assault’ and ‘aggressive penetrative sexual assault’ on children below 18.
    • Section 6 of the POSCO Act enunciates the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault as rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment.
    • The benefit of POCSO is not afforded to children when they are in married relationship but over the age of 15. The illegal practice was a serious deterrence to the physical, social, psychological and moral well-being of children.
  • IPC accepts the rape of a 15-year-old by her husband despite the fact that the more recent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 qualifies those aged below 18 as ‘children’.
    • IPC provides an exception to Section 375 (rape) where it allows a man to go scot-free despite having sex with his 15-year-old ‘wife’. This exception ensures that he will not be charged with rape even though child marriage is a crime.

Concerns:

  • Despite being a child by definition (under the age of 18), provisions of POCSO are not applied. The benefit of a Special Act (POCSO) is not afforded to children when they are in married relationship but over the age of 15. Therefore, a child’s status as a child till she attains the age of 18 is denied to her once she is forcefully or otherwise wed.

Haryana – 900:1000

  • Haryana achieved a sex ratio of 900 girls as against 1000 boys in 2016, Civil Registration System (CRS) data.
  • This is much in contrast to the statistics of 2011, when Haryana had the worst sex ratio of 834:1000 among all states in the country.
  • The State government had been making concerted efforts to improve the sex ratio, and now it has taken a leap forward by achieving marked improvement in the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB)

ECONOMY

Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil

Why in news?

The Centre is trying to tie up with the States and roll-out a new scheme called ‘TIES’ — or Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme — to boost export infrastructure where the States must develop their own export strategy in alignment with the national foreign trade policy, as well as enhance co-operation with Central agencies to set up common facilities for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling.

Concerns the sector currently:

  • Indian roads carry nearly 65 per cent cargo against the global trend where railway is the major contributor. Therefore the States should focus on improving the last mile connectivity of major exporting hubs to Inland Container Depot/Ports. Quality of roads including their load bearing capacity may be upgraded for smooth transit of export goods.
  • About 150 Sanitary & Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures (or norms on food safety and animal & plant health standards) and a similar number of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) notifications (including mandatory and voluntary standards) were being issued by World Trade Organisation-member countries each month where 50-60 per cent of these measures have the potential to impact India’s trade.
  • The States should cooperate with the Centre for setting up common facilities like testing labs and training institutes as well as to ensure packaging and storage support to the Indian industry.
  • So far only 17 States (of the 29 States and seven Union Territories in the country) have prepared their export strategy.
  • On services, IT and ITeS had an overwhelming predominance in India’s services exports but were largely restricted to the U.S. and EU markets and are therefore vulnerable to changes imposed by these two trading blocs.

Measures needed

  • There is a need to diversify our services exports in areas like medical tourism, nursing and healthcare, education, audio-visual media that have an excellent potential to be harnessed.
  • The Centre has decided to soon bring out a Logistics Performance Index to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics.
  • Measures in the pipeline include expediting the proposal for a north east corridor to improve connectivity with South East Asian countries and exports to that region.