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1.Whiff of starvation in Jharkhand deaths sail (The Hindu)

2.Government is working on stricter consumer protection law (The Indian Express)

 

1.Whiff of starvation in Jharkhand deaths sail (The Hindu)

Synoptic line- The public distribution system (PDS) and its disbursal of rations to the poor have come under the scanner in Jharkhand after three persons died allegedly owing to lack of food.

Overview

  • In September, Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old from Simdega district, died. Her mother, Koyli Devi, said the child died of hunger as the family was not getting rations under the State-run PDS for the past several months. The family was removed from the list of PDS beneficiaries as their ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar, government agencies claimed. The death triggered widespread criticism. When two more deaths followed — and the families of the victims said they had not been getting rations either — it drew attention to the glitches in the PDS.
  • The family of Baidyanath Das, who died in October at Jharia in Dhanbad district, said they had applied for ration cards several times, but were yet to be enlisted.
  • The third death was reported from Deoghar district. Ruplal Marandi, a daily wage earner in his 60s, died in October. His daughter Manodi told journalists that her father died of hunger as the family could not collect rations because of a biometric mismatch at the PDS shop.

What is the government stand?

  • In all the three instances, the district administration said the deaths were not due to starvation. The Simdega district administration said Santoshi Kumari died of malaria. The administration of Dhanbad said Baidyanath Das was not keeping good health for a month and his wife and son did odd jobs, so the question of one family member dying of hunger did not arise.
  • At Deoghar, the administration said the family had a ration card and got timely supplies. But in all three cases, there were discrepancies about the functioning of the PDS. Even in the Deoghar incident, the family said it got rations only till August, though dealers and the district administration claimed that the family had collected foodgrains in September too.
  • The gaps were glaring at both Simdega and Jharia: while Santoshi Kumari’s family was struck off the beneficiary list for not linking Aadhaar card to the PDS, the family of Baidyanath Das had never been enrolled.

Why were names deleted?

  • At the centre of the controversy is an order by Chief Secretary directing the district administration to delete the names of PDS beneficiaries whose ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar. The aim was to prevent leakages but it attracted sharp criticism from several quarters.
  • There were about 86.4% PDS beneficiaries in rural areas and about 60.2% in urban areas. Jharkhand has about 2.5 crore PDS beneficiaries. According to official data, 11.30 lakh names of card holders were removed from the list of beneficiaries, and they included a considerable number without linkage to Aadhaar.
  • The Minister admitted that deleting ration cards for not being able to link them with Aadhaar had adversely affected the poor. He cited the Supreme Court order which says Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for social welfare schemes.

Way forward

  • The Food and Public Distribution Department has directed officials to adopt a humane approach by giving rations to even those who are not on the list yet. The Department is also trying to provide compensation as per the National Food Security Act to those who have not got PDS supplies.

 

2.Government is working on stricter consumer protection law (The Indian Express)

Synoptic line- A central authority to be constituted for quick remedial action Consumer Protection- A key to Good Governance Consumer protection had been a key component of governance in India for thousands of years, including the Vedic period. Thus, the protection of consumers interest is a must for New India, for which government is working.

Overview

  • The government would formulate a new, stricter consumer protection law to crack down on misleading advertisements and see that grievances are redressed in a time-bound and cost-effective manner.

Background

  • It was mentioned in the Atharva Veda that nobody should be involved in malpractices of quality and measurement. In India, around 2,500 years ago, during the period of Kautilya, there were guidelines for the government on how trade should be regulated and the interest of consumers protected.

New Consumer Protection Act

  • The government was in the process of enacting more stringent laws for consumer protection. The government is in the process of enacting a new Consumer Protection Act keeping in view business practices and requirements of the country. The proposed Act lays great emphasis on consumer empowerment. Stringent provisions are proposed against misleading advertisements.
  • A Central Consumer Protection Authority with executive powers will be constituted for quick remedial action.
  • The new law, replacing the Consumer Protection Act 1986, will incorporate the revised 2015 United Nations guidelines on consumer protection. It would also reflect the government’s resolve to create a New India.

New Real Estate Act

  • Inflation has been brought down significantly and this has helped in consumer saving. The government has enacted a new Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act to protect the home buyers interest.

Ujala Scheme

  • The government’s Ujala scheme had brought down the price of an LED bulb from Rs 350 to Rs 40-45. This scheme alone has caused saving of more than Rs 20,000 crore for consumers by reducing the cost of LED bulbs and electricity bills.
  • The two-day meet was organised to discuss steps taken by Asian countries to implement UN guidelines on consumer protection as well as challenges faced by consumers of financial services and e-commerce. About 20 countries are participating, including China, Singapore, South Korea, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Pakistan and North Korea have not been invited.