Current Affairs 18 dec 2021

Biodiversity act 2002

  • Environmentalists have expressed concern over amendments to the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 on the grounds that it prioritizes intellectual property and commercial trade at the expense of the Act’s key aim of conserving biological resources.
  • Amendments to the Act were introduced as a Bill in the Lok Sabha by Environment Minister.
  • The bill was enacted for conservation of biological diversity and ensure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources with indigenous and local communities, imposed a heavy “compliance burden” and made it hard to conduct collaborative research and investments and simplify patent application processes.
  • The text of the Bill also says that it proposes to “widen the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local communities and for further conservation of biological resources.”
  • The Bill seeks to exempt registered AYUSH medical practitioners and people accessing codified traditional knowledge, among others, from giving prior intimation to State biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources for certain purpose


  • There was not a “single provision in the proposed amendment to protect, conserve or increase the stake of local communities in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.”
  • Amendments were done to “solely benefit” the AYUSH Ministry.
  • The Bill in the current form would pave the way for “bio piracy” and would mean AYUSH manufacturing companies would no longer need to take approvals and thus defeat the purpose for which the Act was created in the first place.

CCI Imposed penalty on Amazon

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Friday froze its approval given in November 2019 to Amazon’s investment in a Future Group unit on the grounds that the U.S. e-commerce company had suppressed the scope and full details of its investment while seeking regulatory approval.
  • The antitrust regulator also imposed a penalty of ₹200 crore on Amazon for failing to notify the details of its ‘combination’, as required in law.
  • It also imposed a separate penalty of ₹2 crore for suppressing the actual scope and purpose of the combination, a term used in competition law for acquisition, merger or amalgamation of two or more enterprises.
  • The Commission had on November 28, 2019, granted approval for NV Investment Holdings’ proposal to acquire 49% in Future Coupons Private Ltd.
  • The CCI decision further roils the legal landscape as Amazon seeks to block the Future Group’s 2020 decision to sell its retail assets to Reliance Industries.

About Competition commission

  • It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
  • The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
  • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
  • The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India, which has been established by the Central Government with effect from 14th October 2003.
  • CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.


Draft Accessibility Standards/Guidelines

  • Against this backdrop, the Draft Accessibility Standards/Guidelines recently released by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for built infrastructure under its purview (police stations, prisons and disaster mitigation centres) and services associated with them assume significance.
  • The Standards recognize that these spaces and services must be barrier-free by design, for persons with disabilities to fully and effectively enjoy their rights equally with others.
  • Unfortunately, however, the Standards are not in conformity with a rights-based understanding of disability when they state that accessibility is society’s “social responsibility” towards the “differently abled”.
  • This understanding is flawed as accessibility is in fact a legal entitlement that inheres in the disabled as rights-bearing citizens.
  • Steps in the right direction The Standards set out models for building new police stations as well as improving upon existing police stations and prisons that are modern, gender sensitive and accessible.
  • On the positive side, the Standards speak to the need to make the websites and institutional social networks of police stations accessible, ensuring that persons with disabilities accused of committing any crimes are treated appropriately, having disabled friendly entrances to police stations and disabled-friendly toilets.
  • Interestingly, the Standards state that the police staff on civil duty could be persons with disabilities.
  • This is inconsistent with the Office Memorandum issued by the Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities on August 18, 2021, according to which the Centre has exempted posts in the Indian Police Service; the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police Service; as well as the Indian Railway Protection Force Service from the mandated 4% reservation for persons with disabilities in government jobs.
  • A police force that does not have adequate representation of people with disabilities can scarcely be inclusive towards them.
  • The Standards further highlight the distinctly disadvantageous position of persons with disabilities, especially women, children and persons with psycho-social disabilities, during natural disasters.
  • Acknowledging that persons with disabilities must receive equal protection as others in such situations, the Standards provide direction on disability inclusion in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery efforts.
  • They also stress on disability inclusive training for persons involved in disaster relief activities, data aggregation, use of information and communication technology (ICT) and enforcing accessible infrastructure models for schools, hospitals and shelters following the principle of universal design
  • The Standards introduce accessibility norms for services associated with police stations and prisons.
  • These norms promote the use of ICTs to facilitate communication, development of police websites, app based services for filing complaints, making enquiries, etc., as well as encouraging the use of sign language, communication systems such as Braille, images for persons with psycho-social disabilities, and other augmentative and alternative modes of communication.


  • First, the cover letter to the Standards, containing such crucial details as the coordinates of the competent official to whom public comments are to be sent and the last date of submission, is embedded in an image. Consequently, a screen reader (the software used by the blind to access the computer) cannot make out the text.
  • Second, the Standards call for the deployment of directional signage regarding accessibility features in the MHA’s physical infrastructure as well as to indicate the location of accessible toilets. However, they do not require that such signage itself be accessible to the visually challenged, such as through auditory means.
  • Third, the Standards characterize several reasonable accommodations that are necessary for the disabled as being merely recommendatory. These include having trained police personnel in every police station to assist persons with disabilities and placing beepers at all entrances to enable the visually challenged/blind to locate themselves.
  • Finally, in the case of Patan Jamal Vali, the Court suggested connecting special educators and interpreters with police stations to operationalize the reasonable accommodations embodied in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
  • It further recommended setting up a database in every police station of such educators, interpreters and legal aid providers to facilitate easy access and coordination.
  • While the standards do require developing a mechanism to provide human assistance to the disabled such as sign language interpreters, they are short on specifics on this count.

Growth rate

  • Government investment expenditure, supplemented by recovery of private investment expenditure, resulted in gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) showing a positive growth.
  • Gross fixed capital formation, abbreviated as GFCF, consists of resident producers’ investments, deducting disposals, in fixed assets during a given period. It also includes certain additions to the value of non-produced assets realized by producers or institutional units. Fixed assets are tangible or intangible assets produced as outputs from production processes that are used repeatedly, or continuously, for more than one year.
  • Overall, domestic demand including private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) in the first half of 2021-22 remains below its corresponding level in 2019-20 by nearly ₹5.5 lakh crore.
  • Investment as well as consumption demand have to pick up strongly in the remaining two quarters to ensure that the economy emerges on the positive side at the end of 2021-22 as compared to its pre-COVID-19 level.
  • Private consumption demand would pick up with employment and income growth, especially in the small and medium sectors, which is linked to the recovery in the services sectors, particularly the trade, hotels et al. sector.
  • The policy instrument for achieving a higher growth may have to be a strong fiscal support in the form of government capital expenditure.
  • This is currently being facilitated by the buoyant Centre’s gross tax revenues.
  • The fiscal deficit target of 6.8% may come under pressure because of upward revisions in some expenditure items such as food and fertilizer subsidies, MGNREGA and extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana along with some shortfall in non-tax and non-debt capital receipts.
  • In spite of these pressures, it would be advisable for the Centre to continue infrastructure spending.
  • The Centre’s incentivization of state capital expenditure through additional borrowing limits would also help in this regard.
  • An important difference between 2019-20 and 2021-22 arises from the performance of the Centre’s gross tax revenues (GTR).
  • The growth in the Centre’s GTR in the first half of 2019-20 was at 1.5% and there was a contraction of (-) 3.4% for the year as a whole. In the face of such weak revenues, the Central government could not mount a meaningful fiscal stimulus in 2019-20 even as real GDP growth fell to 4.0%.
  • In contrast, the government is in a significantly stronger position in 2021-22 since the growth in GTR in the first half is 64.2% and the full year growth is expected to be quite robust.
  • Thus, the key to attaining a 9.5% real GDP annual growth in 2021-22 lies in the government’s ongoing emphasis on infrastructure spending as reflected in government’s capital expenditure.