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20 May 2024 : The Hindu Editorial Notes PDF

1. A minor girl victim support scheme that loses its way

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable Sections – Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Context
● The Ministry of Women and Child Development in India announced a new scheme on November 30, 2023, to support minor pregnant girl victims under the POCSO Act.

The scheme aims to provide comprehensive care and rehabilitation but faces criticism for inconsistencies, legal oversights, and unclear provisions, potentially complicating its implementation and effectiveness.

 Introduction

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development notified the “Scheme for Care and Support to Victims under Section 4 & 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012” on November 30, 2023.
  • The scheme aims to provide integrated support to minor pregnant girl victims, ensuring emergency and long-term rehabilitation services.
 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:
Enactment and Objective: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was enacted on 14th November 2012, following India’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992.

Purpose: Aims to address sexual exploitation and abuse of children, defining and penalising these offences more specifically and severely.

Child Definition: Defines a child as any person below 18 years.

2019 Amendment: Introduced more stringent punishments, including the death penalty for severe offences, to deter such crimes.

Gender-Neutral: Recognizes that both boys and girls can be victims of sexual abuse, ensuring protection regardless of gender.

Reporting and Awareness: Non-reporting of offences is a specific crime, enhancing transparency and accountability.

Explicit Definitions: Clearly defines offenses like ‘sexual assault’ and criminalizes storage of child pornography.

 Scheme’s Inconsistencies and Oversights

  • Initially meant for abandoned or orphaned pregnant girls, the scheme now includes all pregnant girl victims under the specified sections of the POCSO Act.
  • Despite this expansion, the scheme’s documentation has not been revised to reflect the inclusiveness, leading to significant inconsistencies and oversights.

Misleading Nomenclature

  • The scheme’s name does not reflect its intent, causing confusion as it applies to victims of any gender under Sections 4 and 6 of the POCSO Act.
  • The scheme acknowledges that many pregnant girls are between 13-18 years, highlighting the need for proactive government measures in providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information.

Scope and Limitations

  • The scheme targets minor pregnant girl victims who continue with their pregnancies by choice or due to court decisions.
  • It is silent on whether benefits extend to victims who opt for a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) or have a miscarriage.
  • Unclear provisions for victims who turn 18 during the course of the case or whose circumstances change, potentially up to 23 years.

Legal and Procedural Conflicts

  • The scheme misinterprets Section 27 of the POCSO Act, related to medical examinations, and suggests inappropriate Child Welfare Committee’s consents.
  • Delays in MTPs due to unnecessary stipulations involving district magistrates and medical officers contradict the MTP Act’s requirements for timely interventions.
  • The scheme’s references to MTP are sparse and randomly placed, lacking comprehensive guidance on handling pregnancy discontinuation.

Child in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP) Classification Issues

  • Victims under the POCSO Act do not automatically qualify as CNCP, but the scheme mandates CNCP classification to avail benefits.
  • This requirement contradicts the POCSO Rules and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, leading to unnecessary legal procedures.

Institutional vs. Non-Institutional Care

  • The scheme needs to clarify if entitlements for institutional care also apply to non-institutional care, where girls live with their families.
  • The process for young mothers to surrender their babies under the scheme conflicts with Adoption Regulations, potentially leading to prolonged institutionalisation of infants.

Financial Implications

  • India’s high rates of child marriages and teenage pregnancies imply significant financial burdens for the scheme.
  • Each eligible girl would receive an initial payment of ₹6,000 and a monthly payment of ₹4,000 until age 21 (extendable to 23), resulting in substantial financial outlays.
  • For example, in a southern district, 1,448 girls below 18 gave birth between January 2021 and October 2023. The hypothetical financial outlay for these cases would be ₹49,52,16,000.

Need for Scheme Rectification

  • The scheme, in its current form, is riddled with inconsistencies and lacks alignment with existing laws, rules, and guidelines.
  • To avoid confusion and ensure effective implementation, the Ministry of Women and Child Development must rectify the scheme’s provisions.
  • Incorporating solid evidence and data to support the scheme’s aspects is crucial for its success and alignment with legal frameworks.

Conclusion

  • The scheme aims to provide crucial support to minor pregnant girl victims but suffers from significant oversights and legal inconsistencies.
  • Addressing these issues and ensuring clear, comprehensive guidelines are essential for the scheme to fulfil its intended purpose and effectively support vulnerable victims.
 Implementation of the POCSO Act:
Challenges in Implementing the POCSO Act:

Underreporting: Fear of social stigma, familial pressure, and lack of awareness lead to underreporting of child sexual abuse cases.

Delays in Judicial Process: Long delays in investigation, trial, and judicial proceedings hinder timely justice and can traumatise victims further.

Inadequate Training: Law enforcement officials, medical professionals, and judiciary often lack proper training on handling POCSO cases sensitively and effectively.

Infrastructure Gaps: Insufficient child-friendly courts, inadequate forensic facilities, and lack of specialised support services for victims impair effective implementation.

Victim Intimidation: Victims and their families often face intimidation and threats from perpetrators, deterring them from pursuing legal action.

Awareness Issues: Low awareness among the public, children, and even some professionals about the provisions of the POCSO Act and the rights of child victims.

Rehabilitation Services: Inadequate rehabilitation and counselling services for survivors hinder their long-term recovery and reintegration.

Way Forward for Effective Implementation of the POCSO Act:

Enhance Training: Provide comprehensive training for police, judiciary, medical personnel, and other stakeholders on child rights, sensitive handling of cases, and legal provisions under POCSO.

Speedy Trials: Establish fast-track courts and ensure timely disposal of cases to provide swift justice to victims.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Conduct widespread awareness campaigns to educate the public, children, and professionals about the POCSO Act and reporting mechanisms.

Child-Friendly Infrastructure: Develop more child-friendly courts and forensic facilities to ensure a supportive environment for child victims during legal proceedings.

Support Services: Strengthen victim support services, including counselling, rehabilitation, and legal aid, to aid in the recovery and empowerment of child survivors.

Community Involvement: Engage communities, schools, and local organisations in preventive measures and awareness programs to create a protective environment for children.

Strict Enforcement: Ensure strict enforcement of the law, with zero tolerance for intimidation or coercion of victims and witnesses, to build trust in the legal system.

PYQ: Examine the main provisions of the National Child Policy and throw light on the status of its implementation. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2016)
Practice Question:  Examine the challenges and implications of the newly notified “Scheme for Care and Support to Victims under Section 4 & 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012” by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. (150 Words /10 marks)

2. Renew the generalised system of preferences

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Effects of liberalisation on the economy.
Context
● The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a vital trade program offering lower tariffs to developing countries, is under review in the United States.

● Despite bipartisan support, the program’s renewal has stalled since its expiration in 2020.

● Renewing GSP could strengthen U.S.-India trade relations, boost market access, and support small businesses by providing alternatives to Chinese imports.

 Introduction to GSP

  • The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is an approach used by developed countries for the past half-century to incentivize economic reforms in developing countries through lower tariffs.
  • Each developed country customises its own GSP programme with specific qualification criteria to avoid harm to domestic production.
  • GSP is the oldest and most extensive “aid for trade” approach in the modern multilateral trading system, embodied in the World Trade Organization.
 What is Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)?
The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is a trade program established by developed countries to offer preferential tariff treatment to goods originating from developing countries.

It aims to promote economic growth and development in developing countries by providing them with easier access to international markets.

● GSP programs are customised by each developed country, with specific qualification criteria to ensure compatibility with domestic interests and international trade regulations.

● These programs typically involve lower tariffs or duty-free access for eligible products from beneficiary countries.

GSP criteria often include requirements related to labour standards, environmental sustainability, and intellectual property rights protection.

● GSP benefits are subject to periodic renewal by the legislative bodies of the implementing countries, such as the U.S. Congress.

 Renewing GSP in the United States

  • The United States’ GSP programme is unique because its authorising legislation periodically expires and must be renewed by Congress.
  • The programme expired in 2020 and, despite bipartisan support, has not yet been renewed due to political polarisation.
  • GSP provides vital market access for developing countries, helping small businesses and women-owned enterprises by offering alternatives to Chinese imports and promoting reforms on labour, environmental sustainability, and intellectual property rights.
  • GSP imports also reduce tariff bills for American companies, many of which are small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Support for GSP Renewal

  • Diverse coalitions support GSP renewal in the United States, including a bipartisan group of Florida House members who highlighted its importance in sourcing away from China and lowering the tariff bill for consumers and manufacturers.
  • In the context of friendshoring and nearshoring, GSP is seen as an effective tool for new supply chain objectives.
  • There is strong bipartisan support for restarting GSP talks with India.

U.S.-India Trade Relationship

  • Renewing GSP could enhance U.S.-India trade negotiations, potentially boosting the bilateral trade relationship from its current $200 billion to much higher levels.
  • Prior to the 2020 expiration of the GSP programme, negotiations between the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry had nearly sealed a deal covering up to $10 billion in trade, including medical devices, agricultural commodities, corn-based ethanol, and information technology products.

Potential for Higher Trade Ambition

  • The U.S. and India have made significant progress in their trade relationship, but tools to increase trade are limited.
  • India is actively negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with several partners, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, the European Free Trade Association, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • The Biden administration, however, has stated that the United States will not negotiate FTAs at the moment.
  • Existing trade dialogues lack the leverage for ambitious trade negotiations, and private sector collaborations require regulatory certainty and ease of doing business, which a strong, enforceable trade agreement could provide.

Role of GSP in Enhancing U.S.-India Trade

  • GSP could be a crucial tool for U.S.-India trade negotiations, especially as the United States is not currently pursuing new FTAs.
  • Depending on the qualification criteria included in the final renewal legislation, GSP negotiations could cover various areas such as trade in goods and services, labour rights, child labour restrictions, environmental law enforcement, and good regulatory practices.

Strategic Partnership and Future Ambitions

  • As the U.S.-India strategic partnership grows and both countries play critical roles in the Indo-Pacific, there is a need to aim higher in their trade relationship.
  • GSP, while not a comprehensive solution, would be a strong statement of mutual commitment to enhancing their trade partnership.
  • Renewing GSP could provide stability and support for ongoing and future trade negotiations, helping to achieve ambitious trade goals.

Conclusion

  • The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plays a vital role in promoting economic reforms in developing countries and providing market access.
  • In the United States, GSP renewal is crucial for supporting small businesses, promoting labour and environmental standards, and reducing tariff bills.
  • The U.S.-India trade relationship stands to benefit significantly from GSP renewal, potentially leading to increased trade and stronger strategic ties.
  • As both countries continue to collaborate in the Indo-Pacific, GSP renewal would signal their commitment to deepening their trade relationship and achieving higher trade ambitions.
Practice Question:  Examine the significance of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in international trade, its current status in the United States, and its potential implications for U.S.-India trade relations. Discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with renewing the GSP program. (250 Words /15 marks)

 

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