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Policy & Politics

Covid warriors facing unprecedented war

Frontline Covid warriors should de-stress themselves and prepare for the long battle to contain the pandemic. They should try to engage in new experiences, learn new skill or develop a new passion.

Balvinder Kumar

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For the first time when we had heard about the novel coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) appearing in Wuhan, China, we didn’t visualise that this virus could one day lead to a pandemic which would impact humanity in many different ways. The way of thinking, working, social behaviour and conduct are being transformed across the globe, and India is no exception.

The changes that we are witnessing due to pandemic are not only impacting India’s socio-economic and political life but also psychological and mental wellbeing of its citizens including those fighting the pandemic. In the absence of any known effective drug or acquired immunity through vaccine, the pandemic war will be fought for a long time, even virologists, epidemiologists and other experts have no idea, how long it will last.

Besides, for treating positive-tested persons, the only option available for the government is to rely on social distancing. People need to maintain a safe distance from one another and prevent infection. The task therefore becomes far more difficult and challenging. Not only the government is required to enforce social distancing among people but also to treat those who are infected with Covid-19.

To handle the unprecedented situation arising from the pandemic, millions of government and semigovernment healthcare professionals and supporting staff like doctors, nurses, paramedics and other workers along with volunteers of NGOs and institutions were pooled and then deployed in hospitals and other treatment/quarantine centres.

The Central Government, in the 2-3rd week of April, 20, also created the master database of those healthcare professionals and volunteers of nearly 12.4 million (up to that time) and uploaded on the portal (covidwarriors. gov.in). They are the real warriors at the forefront of the war against coronavirus. These frontline health workers or the warriors are facing the daunting task of handling Covid patients under very difficult and unsafe conditions.

They are facing challenges of unprecedent magnitude on different fronts. They not only have to treat patients but also to protect themselves and their families from getting infected. Over and above, they are required to work under uncomfortable and stressful conditions in specialised Covid hospitals, wards and their ICUs. Their working hours are long with heavy work pressure, especially when there is a sudden influx of positive tested persons.

Most of them are exposed to a variety of occupational hazards. As regards physical protection from coronavirus is concerned, it primarily depends on the adequate supply of protective equipment/ measures such as gloves, masks, gowns and personal protective equipment (PPE). Because of timely and concerted efforts of the Government and concerned agencies, their procurement and delivery in sufficient quantity/numbers has been ensured for protection of all the frontline workers. During initial days, after having many isolated incidents of physical attacks on healthcare workers in the field, the law was amended to provide a deterrent legal framework against such attack or violence.

With that, the situation was brought well under control. The other challenge that Covid warriors are continuously facing is regarding physical and mental stress along with the discomfort of wearing PPE for long hours. To address the problem of long working hours at Covid hospitals and to protect themselves and their families from getting infected, the Central Government issued guidelines/SOPs for quarantine facilities–Covid-19 in the first week of April.

As a result, in the state of Delhi, all doctors and paramedics are required to work for 14 days at a stretch and then for next 14 days, they are quarantined in designated places like hotels. Like for example, doctors of Lok Nayak Hospital and G B Pant hospital on Covid duty are accommodated at Hotel Lalit and the payment is being borne by the Govt of NCT of Delhi. Likewise, in other states, quarantine facilities have been set up for doctors and paramedics working in Covid hospitals/ centres. Despite setting up of quarantine centres, most of the frontline workers are facing issues relating to long timings, high workload and very uncomfortable working environment during working days.

As hospitals can’t avail the facility of the central AC, as per SOPs, it becomes really difficult to work and stay in PPE for long hours that too in these summer months. The doctors and paramedics are not only fighting the coronavirus but are also struggling on the personal front. The fear of getting themselves infected is a serious concern for them. Despite taking all the precautions, many doctors and paramedics are getting infected with Covid-19 in different states. Further, whenever they go home, the fear of exposing their family members to coronavirus hover over them as long as they stay at home.

If we allow our doctors and paramedics working in Covid hospitals under highly uncomfortable and stressful conditions with long working hours then that may lead to many other problems relating to their physical and mental health. The chronic stress, if unchecked for a long time, can lead to major health issues such as blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes/high sugar level. It, in fact, weakens the immunity system and even increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety.

Therefore, it’s the prime duty of the in-charge, Covid hospitals to see that the healthcare staff is not subjected to long uninterrupted shifts in a hostile environment. After strenuous working/ duty days, doctors and paramedics should make the best use of quarantine period of 14 days (in some states, it’s of less duration). Since they are required to stay alone in hopefully a comfortable place, they should not only de-stress themselves but also prepare for long drawn battle they have to fight to contain the pandemic.

They should try to engage themselves in having new experiences, learn new skill or develop a new passion. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between new and diverse experiences and enhanced happiness. They can practice mindfulness-based meditation, easy to learn for beginners. This can be practiced online by downloading free apps or by watching YouTube etc.

This is also the time when they should take out time to enjoy soft music, practice dance or start “quality” reading and play mind-stimulating games like Sudoku. Another recommended activity which frontline doctors and paramedics, during quarantine, can do is to spend meaningful time with their family members or close friends through audio-visual platforms like Skype and Facetime. They can productively use social media to nurture meaningful relationships.

Likewise, this period is the time when they can, not only, destress themselves and but also venture into something new and “productive” experiences. While being alone and away from noisy and distracted world, they can invest this time and energy for pursuing their “lost” or “long-unattended” passion.

We in India, like any other nation across the globe, are standing in the midst of a pandemic, totally unsure about its future, how long it will last or how soon our lives will return to normal. However, one thing has become almost clear that this war against coronavirus will be fought for a long time, longer than we thought at the time of the start of the first lockdown. In any case, we collectively have to adhere social distancing and exhibit patience.

Side by side, the policy makers of Central and state governments should continue to extend all possible support to keep our frontline workers fully protected and physically and mentally fit to fight the pandemic. To conclude, as Indian citizens, we must pay our respects and gratitude to all those continuing to fight the Covid war. Balvinder Kumar is Member – Uttar Pradesh – Real Estate Regulatory Authority (UPRERA)

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Policy & Politics

Making it happen: Gram panchayat development plan

Anil Swarup

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It was the first Monday after the Union Budget of 2015, when S M Vijayanand, an IAS officer belonging to Kerala cadre took over as Secretary, Panchayati Raj, Government of India. There was a palpable gloom in the Ministry. The annual allocation of the Ministry had been slashed from over Rs.8,000 crore to just a measly Rs.90 crore, much less than the allocation for Rural Development to most of the districts in the country. More damaging was the spirit behind such a decision; the Ministry of Panchayati Raj was just not wanted, it appeared that the Ministry had no place in the scheme of things for national development.

The Ministry had an outstanding team, strong in experience, stronger in determination to succeed and strongest in its capacity to work as one. Led by Vijayanand, with more than twenty five years of experience in rural development, it was blessed with competent Additional Secretaries, Dr.Reshmi Shukla Sharma and A.K.Goyal . Amongst a committed set of Joint Secretaries were Sarada Muraleedharan, Neerja Sekhar and Sushil Kumar. Rema Hariharan, a senior professional from the National Informatics Centre completed this dream team that was deprived of all resources except their indomitable spirit and professional knowledge.

Monday morning brain storming of all the senior officials of the Ministry, started by the previous Secretary, came handy for freewheeling discussions. In a couple of weeks, the gloom started dissipating as the team realized that as it was not burdened with traditional schemes, it had total freedom as nobody would be asking what they were doing as they were a ‘marginalized’ lot, a rare advantage in a highly-centralized system of governance.

During the Monday morning meetings, it suddenly dawned that, within the next five years along with MGNREGS, Village Panchayats would have a say in planning and spending Rs.4 lakh crore, a whopping sum. Fortunately, the Fifth Finance Commission had stated that grants should flow in a timely fashion, “enabling them to plan and execute the works better”. Thus, local planning was clearly intended. It was decided to use this small opening creatively. The team decided that Government of India should not give any directions, but nothing prevented it from giving professional advice to the State Governments and persuading them to utilize the opportunity to build the capacity of Gram Panchayats to prepare local development plans which later was given the generic name, Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). Since the Constitution mandated the Panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice and all the States had elaborated it in their State laws, no policy decision was required to prepare local plans. However, the stupendous challenge was to get it done in nearly 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats spread over twenty nine states with wide differences in the roles, responsibilities and powers of panchayats. After hours and hours of productive brain storming, the following plan of action was implemented.

1. GETTING THE OWNERSHIP OF STATES

No letter was written and no directions were given. A meeting of State Secretaries in charge of Panchayati Raj was held and it was unanimously agreed that it would make sense to get Gram Panchayats to prepare a local development plan for the resources over which they had command mostly MGNREGS and FFC Grants. Thereafter, the Secretary visited the States. Interactions were held with Chief Ministers/Ministers. The political policy buy in was easier than anticipated.

2. DEVELOPING THE UNDERSTANDING

In an unusual move, the Secretary made a presentation in each of the State capitals, which was attended by the Secretaries in charge of Rural Development and other officers that included those from the field. The presentations were state specific and gave a possible methodology for local participatory planning and strategies and systems needed to operationalize that. This ensured total clarity and deepened the administrative buy in.

What clinched the issue was a “Write-Shop” held in the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) at Thrissur in July, 2015. Senior Officers from all the States were persuaded to attend this five-day event. The second day was spent visiting Village Panchayats of Thrissur District in small groups with each group having an expert as mentor. The teams re-assembled on the third day and independently drafted detailed guidelines for Gram Panchayat level planning as implementable in their States – what they could adopt from Kerala, what they could do better and what they couldn’t do. At the end of five days, draft State-specific guidelines were developed after fully understanding the concept of local planning.

3. FOLLOW UP

The understanding attained had to be deepened through rigorous and systematic follow up, simultaneously, across the country. This was achieved through rapid visits to the States by senior officers in quick succession backed up by calls from the Secretary, to the State Secretaries. Teams were set up at the State level to refine the guidelines developed in the “write-shop”.

Another meeting of State Secretaries was held to tie up the loose ends. In this meeting the State Secretaries felt that they require funds for operationalizing GPDP and the analogy of MGNREGS providing 6% for a similar purpose was mentioned. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj worked intensively with the Ministry of Finance. It was a grey area as the FFC and had not mentioned the use of the award for support arrangements. But a positive-thinking bureaucrat, Ajay Narayan Jha who was earlier Secretary, FFC and now Secretary, Expenditure in Finance Ministry, allowed use up to 10% of the funds for support systems and other essential costs involved in preparing plans. However, the expenses had to be incurred only by the Gram Panchayats. This was a big break-through.

4. CAPACITY BUILDING

This was even a greater challenge. The States were guided by the Additional Secretaries and Joint Secretaries to modify their training plan to suit the needs of GPDPA. A National Resource Group was constituted for identifying the best talent from the experienced practitioners within and outside the Government and the States were given the freedom to choose the service of any expert(s) they wanted. UNDP and UNICEF chipped in with their technical assistance.

5. ACTION

Then, the Gram Panchayats started preparing their plans. Within one year, more than 2,40,000, had prepared some sort of their plan for the first time in the history of Panchayati Raj. The quality of plans did require improvement, but it was a giant leap for Panchayati Raj. Vijayanand and his team demonstrated that persuasion and convincing through rational arguments accompanied by easy and friendly behavior resulted in trust and good relationship. As a leader, Vijayanand also established that an ignored set of officials could work as a team and deliver what was probably one of the biggest game changers in decentralization, arguably one of the best exercises of cooperative federalism, done silently, working beneath the radar but with zest and zeal. He and his team made-it-happen.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Policy & Politics

A tough road ahead for President Joe Biden

Task of reversing Trump’s decisions begins, but is it easy to get America back on the track?

Vijay Darda

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Joe Biden took over as US President in the midst of much acrimony. Outgoing President Donald Trump was supposed to attend the ceremony but he didn’t. He disappeared like an upset and angry child. There was an atmosphere of mistrust. Fear ruled the roost to such an extent that around 36,000 security personnel were deployed for the swearing-in ceremony and out of which 25,000 were National Guards. Every attendee was being frisked and questioned whether he or she was a Trump supporter. You can gauge the gravity of the situation from the fact that 13 personnel of the National Guards were removed from duty before the oath because the Federal Bureau of Investigation suspected that they were supporters of Trump and could do something at the last minute.

America has never seen this kind of mistrust in its 250-year-old democratic history! This example is enough to understand where America stands now after Trump’s four-year term and how big the challenges are for the new President. Biden also understands this and that is why within a few hours of assuming office, he reversed several of Trump’s decisions. He also said that he has no time to waste.

Now, Biden has announced that he will adopt strict measures to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. Masks and social distancing have been made mandatory. Trump kept avoiding this which led to deaths of more than four lakh people. Trump preferred to save the economy over the lives of people. He repeatedly rejected the lockdown. However, he could not even handle the economy.

Today, there is a huge problem of unemployment in America. Government statistics show that about one crore people have become unemployed and they have also applied for unemployment allowance. Providing employment for such people will be the biggest challenge for Biden.

But there is an even greater challenge. Trump has spread the poison of fundamentalism throughout American society by raising slogans of nationalism and America First. The American society is already struggling with the evil of apartheid; this new fundamentalism has made the situation worse.

Trump supporters’ attack on the US Congress reflects the dangers of this fundamentalism. During his tenure, Trump had an antagonistic attitude towards Muslims. Biden has tried to give a message of harmony by abolishing Trump’s Muslim travel ban, but when the wounds of discrimination arise in the society, it takes time to heal them. Many countries of the world are facing similar emotional wounds at this time. The whole world is waiting to see how Biden will deal with this situation.

Even at the global level, Trump has created such a terrible mess that it will take Biden a full term to clear and fix it. The decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and rejoin the World Health Organisation is certainly a good step by Biden. Trump had left the World Health Organization and left the entire field to China. At this time, WHO is completely under Chinese control. How the US will normalise the situation, it is difficult to say because China is in an aggressive mood everywhere. To carry forward its expansionist policies, it is also continuously attacking the US in various ways. The day Joe Biden was sworn in, China banned 28 officials in key positions during Donald Trump’s tenure from entering China. These people will not be able to go to Hong Kong or Macau either. By the way, Trump also closed the doors of the US to 14 Chinese officials last year. Now, how will Biden respond to this Chinese attack?

Here, the whole world is also eyeing what Biden’s stance will be against the background of tension on the borders between India and China. We Indians are very happy with the presence of more than 20 people of Indian origin, including Vice President Kamala Harris in Biden’s team, but how much will these people of Indian origin in America support India or be in a position to do so only time will tell!

Looking at the history, India has not gained much during the regime of Democrat Presidents. India didn’t gain anything during the presidential regimes of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The nuclear treaty with America took place in 2005 at the time of George W. Bush (Jr.), who was a Republican. Then Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of India. Trump may have antagonised the world with his antics and acts but none can deny that he strongly supported India on the issue of Chinese aggression and also tightened the screws on Pakistan to a large extent.

It is expected that Biden will support India but only the passage of time will tell that!

In fact, it is not just we who have an eye on America, but the whole world is watching it because whatever happens in America affects the whole world.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

New US President Joe Biden has started to reverse Donald Trump’s decisions. A flurry of executive orders signed by Trump is planned to be reversed, but the biggest question is whether Biden will find it easy to bring the US out of the mess created by Trump with his antics?

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Policy & Politics

REPUBLIC DAY: WHY IT MATTERS

ASHOK BHAN

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Indian National Congress proclaimed on 26th.January 1929 the Declaration of Indian Independence-“PURNA SWARAJ”as opposed to the DOMINION status offered by the British Regime.

The Indian self-rule movement was a mass-based movement that encompassed various sections of society. It also underwent a process of constant ideological evolution. Although the underlying ideology of the campaign was anti-colonial, it was supported by a vision of independent economic development coupled with a secular, democratic, republican, and civil-libertarian political structure. After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation. The work of these various movements ultimately led to the Indian Independence Act 1947, which ended the suzerainty in India, and the creation of Pakistan. India remained a Dominion of the Crown until 26 January 1950, when the Constitution of India came into force, establishing the Republic of India; Pakistan was a dominion until 1956 when it adopted its first republican constitution. In 1971, East Pakistan declared independence as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

India achieved independence from British Raj on 15 August 1947 following the Indian independence movement. Pt.Jawhar Lal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of Independent India. His phenomenal speech on the eve of Independence-Tryst with Destiny still resonates in the hearts and minds of all Indians. On 29 August 1947, a Drafting Committee, was appointed to draft a permanent constitution for the independent India,with Dr B R Ambedkar as chairman.

Republic Day is a national Pride day for India. It is the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950 replacing the British colonial Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India and thus, turning the nation into a newly formed Independent republic.

The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950 with a democratic government system, completing the country’s transition towards becoming an independent republic. 26 January was chosen as the date for Republic day because it was on this day in 1929 when the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as opposed to the Dominion status offered by the British Regime.

Freedom from British Raj on 15 August 1947 was achieved following the Indian independence movement. The independence came through the Indian Independence Act 1947 an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth .India obtained its independence on 15 August 1947 as a constitutional monarchy with George VI as head of state and the Earl Mountbatten as governor-general. The country, though, did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead its laws were based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935. On 29 August 1947, a resolution was moved for the appointment of Drafting Committee, which was appointed to draft a permanent constitution, with Dr B R Ambedkar as chairman.

While India’s Independence Day celebrates its freedom from British Rule, the Republic Day celebrates the coming into force of its constitution. A draft constitution was prepared by the committee and submitted to the Constituent Assembly on 4 November 1947. The Assembly met, in sessions open to public, for 166 days, spread over a period of two years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. After many deliberations and some modifications, the 308 members of the Assembly signed two hand-written copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 24 January 1950. Two days later which was on 26 January 1950, it came into effect throughout the whole nation. On that day, Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s began his first term of office as President of the Indian Union. The Constituent Assembly became the Parliament of India under the transitional provisions of the new Constitution.

Indian President Dr Rajendra Prasad -in the horse-drawn carriage took part in the first Republic Day parade on Rajpath, New Delhi, in 1950.

The main Republic Day celebration is held in the national capital, New Delhi, at the Rajpath before the President of India. On this day, ceremonious parades take place at the Rajpath, which are performed as a tribute to India; its unity in diversity,rich cultural heritage and constitutional democracy.

The Republic Day parade and celebrations are held in the capital, New Delhi. These are organised by the Ministry of Defence. Commencing from the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s residence), Raisina Hill on Rajpath past the India Gate, this event is the main attraction of India’s Republic Day Celebrations and lasts for more than three days. The parade showcases India’s Defence Capability, diverse Cultural and Social Heritage.

Almost Nine to twelve different regiments of the Indian Army in addition to the Navy, and Air Force with their bands march past in all their finery and official decorations. The President of India who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. Several contingents of various para-military forces of India and police forces also take part in this parade.

The Beating Retreat ceremony is also held after officially denoting the end of Republic Day festivities. It is conducted on the evening of 29 January, the third day after the Republic Day. It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The venue is Raisina Hill and an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the North and South block of the Rashtrapati Bhavan(President’s Palace) towards the end of Rajpath.

The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the President’s body guards , a cavalry unit. When the President arrives, the PBG commander commands for the National Salute, which is followed by the playing of the Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, by the Army. The Army develops the ceremony of display by the massed bands in which Military Bands, Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Army Regiments besides bands from the Navy and Air Force take part which play popular tunes like Abide With Me, Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn, and Saare Jahan Se Achcha.Hindustan Hamara.

On the eve of Republic Day, the President of India distributes Padma Awards to the civilians of India every year. These are the second highest civilian awards in India after Bharat Ratna. These awards are given in three categories, viz. Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, in decreasing order of importance.

Padma Vibhushan for “exceptional and distinguished service”. Padma Vibhushan is the second-highest civilian award in India.

Padma Bhushan for “distinguished service of a high order”. Padma Bhushan is the third-highest civilian award in India .

Padma Shri for “distinguished service”. Padma Shri is the fourth-highest civilian award in India.

While being national honours, the Padma awards do not include cash allowances, benefits, or special concessions in rail/air travel. As Per a December 1995 judgment of the Supreme Court of India, no titles or honorifics are associated with the Bharat Ratna or any of the Padma awards; Honorees cannot use them or their initials as suffixes, prefixes or pre- and post-nominals attached to the awardee’s name. This includes any such use on letterheads, invitation cards, posters, books etc. In the case of any misuse, the awardee will forfeit the award, and he or she will be cautioned against any such misuse upon receiving the honour.

The decoration comprises a sanad (Certificate) issued under the hand and seal of the President and a Medallion. The recipients are also given a replica of the medallion, which they can wear during any ceremonial/State functions etc., if they desire. A commemorative brochure giving out brief details in respect of each award winner is also released on the day of the investiture ceremony.

The conscientious message of the freedom fighters and the forefathers of the constitution is in the PREAMBLE

The preamble is based on the ‘Objectives Resolution which was drafted and moved in the Constituent Assembly by Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 December 1946.[2] B. R. Ambedkar said about the preamble:

It was, indeed, a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other: Liberty cannot be divorced from equality; equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things.

The Supreme Court of India originally stated in the Berubari case presidential reference that the preamble is not an integral part of the Indian constitution, and therefore it is not enforceable in a court of law. However, the same apex court, in the 1973 Kesavananda case, over-ruled earlier decisions and recognised that the preamble may be used to interpret ambiguous areas of the constitution where differing interpretations present themselves. In the 1995 case of Union Government Vs LIC of India, the Supreme Court once again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.

Indian Nation State has evolved only one religion,that is “CONSTITUTIONALISM”

It means that the relationship between the government and religious groups are determined according to constitution and law. It separates the power of the state and religion. There is no difference of religion i.e.Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam are equally respected and moreover, there is no state religion. All the citizens of India are allowed to profess, practice and propagate. Explaining the meaning of secularism as adopted by India, Alexander Owics has written, “Secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution and it means equal freedom and respect for all religions.”

Ashok Bhan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

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Policy & Politics

INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE, 2016 REQUIRES FURTHER FINE-TUNING

RAHUL NAIR

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The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 has ushered in a new era of restructuring process in India. This effective legal framework for timely resolution of insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings has promoted the availability of credit and emboldened the investors’ confidence in the Indian economy. While earlier, there existed multiple laws which led to the creation of multiple fora for dealing with corporate insolvency, the Code has been successful in creating a single unified umbrella which is exhaustive and complete in itself. The establishment of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) as a separate regulatory authority makes regulations robust and precise, relevant to the time and for the purpose.

CONCERNS

However, no system is perfect, and the Code too, notwithstanding its distinct qualities, is not an exception. Chapter II of the Code lists out the process wherein Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) may be initiated against a corporate debtor in case of default of payment. Once the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admits the application, it appoints an Insolvency Profession who manages the affairs of the Corporate Debtor. The lack of emphasis within the Code on the need of aggrandising the value of the property of the debtor and reorganisation of the company is worrying. This not only takes away the protection offered in doing business but provides no incentive for the Committee of Creditors (CoC) to work towards the revival and reorganisation of the corporate debtor during the CIRP. This often results in liquidation of the company, immediately followed by substantial economic loss.

The relatively nascent jurisprudence on the subject and the constant changes made in the Code adds to the problem. The recent amendment brought about by the Government in insolvency law does not inspire much confidence either. In light of the unprecedented pandemic, the Section 10A amendment to the Code grants protection to corporate persons who may have defaulted in discharge of their debt obligation, from any insolvency proceedings against them, starting from 25th March of 2020 until March 25 of this year. The amendment, however, is silent on granting the same relief to the corporate and personal guarantors, who may have been equally affected by the pandemic. This leaves them in a vulnerable position, wherein the creditors have the recourse to take action against them under the Code. Moreover, due to this blanket immunity, it creates an environment wherein corporate debtors are encouraged to commit defaults intentionally, without regard to the creditors.

The Code would do well by incorporating a ‘pre-packaged insolvency scheme’ similar to the practice used extensively in the United States, where the stressed company prepares a reorganisation plan before the Adjudicating Authority for approval. This could be viewed as a pre-IBC window having twofold benefit – it expedites the resolution process, and ipso facto results in less value destruction of the assets, thereby offering better value to the creditors. Such an intended measure assumes special significance at a time when creditors have had to endure long delays even under the new framework of insolvency provisions. Consider the latest IBBI quarterly newsletter as an illustrative example. Out of the 1942 CIRPs filed and pending under the IBC as of 30th September 2020, 1442 have been going on for more than 270 days, while another 349 have been pending for more than 180 days but fewer than 270 days. This structural problem is clearly reflected in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing business Index” with US ranking 6th whereas India ranks a lowly 63rd.

The complication further arises due to the territorial nature of the statute which seldom acknowledges the international character of insolvency matters. Herein lies the need to implement the UNCITRAL Model Law on Insolvency in India which effectively deals with cross-border insolvency issues without interfering with the individual sovereignty of nations.

Another area of concern is the jurisdictional indifference of the tribunals against the commercial viability of resolution plans. A case in point is the recent order passed by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in the case of Kundan Care Products v. Amit Gupta, wherein the bench rejected the successful resolution applicant’s plea for withdrawal of his plan which became unviable post CoC’s acceptance, citing lack of jurisdiction to entertain such plea post CoC’s approval. However, a careful perusal of I&B Code suggests that it does not contain any provision to compel specific performance of a Resolution Plan by an unwilling Resolution Applicant. Moreover, rule 11 of NCLAT rules 2016 gives it ‘inherent powers’ to pass orders as it may deem fit. Such self-imposed restraints on the exercise of powers would deter prospective resolution applicants from laying out their plans, thereby defeating the very purpose of IBC law, which is to maximise the value of assets in the interest of all stakeholders. Nevertheless, the issue must be dealt judiciously, since excessive laxity too, can risk degenerating resolution application into a farce.

CONCLUSION

While the Code has indeed allowed for higher legal clarity when there arises any question of insolvency or bankruptcy, the implicitly incomplete statutory provisions, rising cost of rehabilitation and somewhat questionable jurisprudential layout is threatening to undo much of its positives. Overall, the IBC 2016 could well be termed as a knight, indulging in the classic one step sideward and two step forward movement, as displayed in chess. In this unprecedented time, the level of fine-tuning made in the Code will be crucial in determining the future course of insolvency and bankruptcy law in India.

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Policy & Politics

The rise of cybercrimes during Covid-19 lockdown

Thereis a dramatic rise in cybercrimes across the country, cyberattacks have soared 86% in the four weeks between March and April, said a recent Reuters report quoting Home Ministry officials and detailing fake offers from telecom and streaming services like Netflix Inc, offering discounted services in the lockdown.

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ABSTRACT

 The article gives an analytical information about rising cyberattacks and cybercrimes in India.  there is data transferring or acquiring personal information of users by hacking, frauds or unknown internet viruses. During this catastrophic time, people are vulnerable to internet use, and resultantly became victims of cybercrimes. The article highlights the facts of the cybercrime in lockdown as well as legal aspects of such crimes. further, there are some suggestive defences for addressing the cybercrimes observed in foreign laws and some analytical observation of experts to reduce cybercrimes. In the end, it concludes on the importance of privacy as the fundamental right of the citizens of India and explains the need for such suggestive alternative laws in India to be recommended by government and administrative bodies.

INTRODUCTION

 During the pandemic period, as the world is suffering through a major health crisis, many other dark elements with atrociousness and treacherousness have raised since the lockdown has started. As people were in their respective homes and following the rules of the government, the medium to get used to this lifestyle was the internet browsing and social media surfing, which turns out to be very dangerous because of data transferring or acquiring personal information of anyone by hacking, frauds or unknown internet viruses. It has been discovered that such viruses or frauds are a medium to get access to personal information of the user.

In the catastrophic time of the pandemic, people are vulnerable to internet use, and therefore became victims of cybercrimes. Internet is also a necessary for many corporate and government office employees who are working from home in the lockdown. Cases of data breach through unsecured apps for official meetings in the lockdown is being a major concern, zoom app has been detected as a part of mediums to cybercrimes. It was observed that hackers were able to get access to the meeting IDs and the passwords during the online lectures or other official meetings, inappropriate content used to came across, and no such firewall and barrier can protect from hacking as it is seen that perpetrators are more advanced and more equipped than protectors, which leads to bring the justice for the online users as a Gordian knot.

The 21st century’s advancement in the science and data technology has been seen as a more of a sin in disguise. America after having world class internet technology for data protection cannot even anticipate the scandal like Cambridge Analytica can take place, the Cambridge Analytica scandal which shook the world for internet security and a big alert for social media security. India is not even close to the advancements of technology which America has, In India, internet security is not taken as seriously, which has resulted in the rise to cybercrimes during the pandemic. Looking to the history of cyber threat reports in India, In the cyber threat report of 2019, around 65% of firms face cyber attack in 2019, As per the cyber security reports of 2018 by CISCO, it was found that around 53% of the cyber attacks caused the financial loss of 3.5cr rupees.

As per the report by India Today it was found that Chennai has experienced major cyber attacks with a stat of around 48% in the 2019. It’s the wake-up call to have a major concern for strengthening internet technology, laws of internet technology and to have an extraordinary array of cyber security in the country.

The I.T capital of India, Hyderabad has reported 1,300 cases under information technology Act, 2019 in the year 2020, the city has 70% of increase in cybercrimes. Similarly, Bangalore and other I.T. hub of India has become the highest reported cybercrime city, over 10,555 cases in 2019 that has raised in the lockdown simultaneously, making Karnataka the highest number of cybercrimes. This raises question over how safe India on internet website and cyber space is, as the I.T hubs of the country are the most affected by cybercrimes. In Maharashtra there is 40% rise in cyber crimes compared to last year, crimes related to fraud payment and banking have increased in lockdown. Uttar Pradesh and Assam have comparatively lesser in number of cybercrimes than other states, this is probably because of less use of internet and low digitalization in the sates. In the year 2019, 4,4546 cases of cybercrimes were registered as compared to 28,248 in 2018 as per National Crime Record Bureau data (NCRB). The rise of cybercrimes has already started since last year, The COVID-19 lockdown that started since early 2020 has made a repulsive effect on cybercrimes.

Already More than 550 million Indians that have connected to the Internet in recent years, fueled by rural growth. But the rapid proliferation of Internet users has also left the country’s public and private sectors vulnerable to a cyber attack during the lockdown because most of the work is being done online, it gave an open invitation to cyberattacks moreover the Indian cybersecurity is weak to protect the internet users. There is a dramatic rise in cybercrimes across the country, cyberattacks have soared 86% in the four weeks between March and April, a recent Reuters report quoting Indian Home Ministry officials and detailing fake offers from telecom and streaming services like Netflix Inc, offering discounted services in the lockdown.

According to city crime records bureau data Bangalore, March and April together had 1,308 cybercrime cases with a jump in bank fraud and scams in such cases people impersonating government officials to trick the victims. The spike in cybercrimes and attacks  has targeted general citizen’s wallets and personal data given the sharp increase in the percentage of Indian corporate workforce. The online corporate workers and digital payment users are the easy targets of cyberattacks. India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) reported that cybercriminals had launched thousands of fraud portals related to the coronavirus. These sites have tempted many Indians to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 into making donations. The online users and digital payment workers are the victims of cyberattacks in the lockdown.

STRENGTHENING INDIA’S CYBER DEFENCES

To construct secure cyberspace the defence mechanism against cybercrimes must be created, to make better user-friendly cyberspace, for this, India needs to strengthen cyber defence. Following are the key points:

STRINGENT DATA PROTECTION LAWS

It is a dire need to have strict data protection laws in India, as the right to privacy is a fundamental right of every person guaranteed by the constitution of India, it is important to have strict regulations that protect the privacy of persons despite the existing circumstances. In the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) data is secured by effective regulation on personal data of users, this has reduced the threat to privacy. Therefore, after ensuring similar aims of such laws the application of artificial intelligence aimed for Covid-19 should be structured.

DATA PROCESSING AGREEMENT

 Any parties that act as data processors on their behalf of the data controllers must also sign a data processing agreement. As per Article 28 of the GDPR, rights and obligations of each party regarding the protection of personal data of their users are a present legally binding contract which lays down the data processing agreement to make transparency visible. Data Protection evaluation: To make the software more secured before being in the hands of the user a data protection impact assessment must be conducted by the companies offering artificial intelligence and software solutions on devices by testing them on various levels before launching them. This would help to prevent a threat to the users and making a user-friendly mechanism. The governmental websites need to have much strong data protection evaluation to protect the official data online.

USER-FRIENDLY MECHANISM

There is a need of more user-friendly machine learning tools to make the users understand and feel safe while browsing on internet. Most of the users are unknown of the internet websites and threats, this illiteracy of the internet users in India makes a victim of cybercrimes. The head of a Mumbai-based law firm of Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, Purnima Thacker says, to reduce cybercrime risk for private companies and individuals a user-friendly cyber policy along with impactful and applicable security system, that includes training users, system analyses and quick response and assistance where a user helped in using the secure network.

 Spreading awareness: The awareness and understanding of cybersecurity in this country are also one of the major concern, as people are more driven and focused towards the innovation rather its proper ways for usage. As about installing any application or any software most of the people don’t bother to check the veracity of that software or the true source of the application, even while installation people are so complacent about it regarding unknown sources and application security permission. Several improvements can be made, spreading of awareness has to come in every individual level regarding the usage and do’s and don’t of Internet technology, Children in schools and colleges should be taught about the netiquette. Parents should also need to understand their responsibilities for guiding the children about the Internet technology and also provide an open and free environment for the child to discuss if the child is facing any difficulties or atrocities in the online medium as in the pandemic, children are very much dependent on the internet as they are being educated through online medium.

SAFETY MEASURES TO BE TAKEN IN CONSIDERATION

 The user should check the authenticity of the website while downloading anything from a website. There are various tools available online which checks the authenticity of websites, other than that, a person can also verify if the website has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, dysfunctional elements and broken links.

The user must use effective and reliable antivirus for mobile and desktop. The users must change the passwords timely to protect any unknown interference. User should check the reviews and mentions on the other website as a legitimate website has reviews and mentions, A website with there is no presence of any review or mentions so it can be a sign of fake website or the website may be new. Users should check for the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, a website with SSL certificate means that whatever the data you provide to the website will directly reach to the site without any interference of any 3rd party, website description in detail, for example, the link may be HTTP = Bad, HTTPS = Good.

in https://, the ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’. It indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data and provides protection from the hacker. The user must refrain from accessing anonymous Emails with attachments while sending any personal information through emails do not share any passwords.

Avoid suspicious emails that come with a sense of panic, do not have a blind trust on any links given in any mail or other medium. User should also have a check on the contents of the website, many fake websites don’t have quality and true content, most of the time it is copied, plagiarized and cloned from other sites with blur images. Whereas, a legitimate website comes with quality and distinctive content with clearly and explicitly stated details and good English.

 The Emails that identify by W.H.O or any other organizations contain lotteries or offer prices, certificates on the email are mostly fake IDs to hack the data. The users must not put any information about Debit or credit cards on a website unless necessary and crosschecked. Also, a user should look for their refunds and privacy policy if the website looks as an Ecommerce portal. The user must check the terms and conditions of every website before agreeing to any terms before accessing the website. The website must not be given excessive access to any of the settings of the device, this can lead to data extraction.

CONCLUSION

 The Indian cybersecurity system is poor to protect the internet users from cyberattacks even before COVID- 19 lockdown.

Due to improper security system of internet transaction and data sharing, normal people are the victims of financial and important informational losses. This issue of cyber-crimes rises more in the COVID-19 lockdown period because of two reasons, firstly because people are made to work from home through different applications and software, which are contributing factors as this lowers the security of their system. Secondly, during the time of lockdown many people have lost their jobs, economic security, and source of income this made the rise in crime in society, as there is a low possibility of going out of homes the internet became a new medium for criminals to exploit and explore, making internet browsing unsafe for the general internet user in the lockdown Different kinds of roots are used to extract information from the user for personal benefits such as banking scams, debit cards, credit card frauds, social media scams etc. The cybercriminals are using fake IDs of the renowned organization to send emails for personal benefits.

This is a serious issue of the time because of a breach of private information that is under Art 21 of the constitution of Indian as fundamental right and offence under Sec.72 of information technology, Act 2000 for breach of privacy. These sites have tempted many Indians to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 into making donations. These Fake sites are quite sophisticatedly structured, indistinguishable from other websites. The  ‘PM CARES’ coronavirus fund created by the P.M.O a lot of fake versions of the site have emerged and have successfully solicited thousands of dollars from unsuspecting individuals, Indian home ministry officials said that more than 8,000 complaints have been received from Indians, home and abroad. The cybercriminals have left no stone unturned to exploit the vulnerable user by extracting their information for personal gains.

To avoid cybercrimes the Indian government should support information sharing mechanisms, build attribution capability, and strengthen the coordination of vulnerability disclosure processes, make transparency in software and other website portals and userfriendly mechanisms, these could be the steps that can be taken to better protect the country from the attacks of ongoing cyber-attacks.

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Policy & Politics

Right to Internet access: Essential fundamental right

In these pandemic times, the economy worldwide has been suffering from depression. No wonder, the youth of India is facing anxious moments vis-à-vis their jobs and careers. Due to Covid-19, more than 50 % of businesses have gone online. The shift towards the virtual world is too glaring to miss as online is the only segment which is working well in the new normal. Internet access and good Internet connections are becoming an essential tool for surviving in daily activities.

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Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Opinions that, Constitution is the Soul of the nation. The preamble of the constitution is key to the Mind of the constitution. The Constitution of India is not only protected and enforcement of Fundamental Rights of Citizen of India, but it is also Plays a Vital Role in Guardian of the Government of India for Implementing Public Policies Properly. DR. Ambedkar Speaks in Drafting Committee of Constitution of India on the topic of Freedom of Speech and Expression and Its Significance in Democracy of India. Right to Internet Access is Essential Human Right emerged in Covid-19 Situations. Internet Access is an Integral Part of Freedom of Speech and Expression because using the Internet helps us to manipulates businesses on the Internet and Social Media Campaigning. Education in India landed on Online Access Platforms during the Covid-19 Pandemic with using of the Internet. Therefore, Without Internet Access, We Cannot able to fulfill our daily life goals. We cannot access Online Education Platforms.

In 2016, the Human Rights Council of United Nations General Assembly states that Right to the Internet Access is an essential human right integral allowing Individuals to access Freedom of Speech and Expression. In August 2012, the Internet Society did a survey among more than ten thousand internet users from 20 countries, of which 83% of users strongly agreed to legalize the right of internet access as a basic human right, with 13% on the opposite opinion.

INTRODUCTION

Fundamental Rights are basic rights needed for human beings to live in life. Fundamental Rights help us to eliminate poverty, inequality, and curb major problems faced in society. Fundamental rights Help in the empowerment of human beings. Fundamental Rights helps us in the empowerment of human beings. Fundamental Rights are inserted in our constitution of India and deals with Part III of the constitution of India. In the constitution of India, there are six basic fundamental rights included in the constitution. Right to Life and Personal Liberty, Right to Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Law, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right to Justice against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Right to Employment and Enhancement of Minorities.

In these Pandemic Days whole world economy suffering from depression. Jobs and employment problems create very rapidly. The youth of India suffer from Anxiety and fears of the future career. Due to this pandemic more than 50 % percent of the Market, Businesses are landed in Internet Market. Businesses, as well as the corporate sector, holds all over activities in online mode as well as online webinars, meetings. The major economy of India openly active on the Internet. Internet Access and good Internet connections are becoming an essential tool for surviving in daily activities. Internet Access is not only Plays a crucial role in businesses. It helps in accessing information sources worldwide. We can achieve high-quality education goals and Low-cost education with help of the internet.

Today, we see that since the month of April, the government of India Implements a lockdown phase in India. In the last six months, the government of India reopens businesses in a slow process. Schools and Colleges conduct their online classes of students. Internet access is essential for attend online classes, webinars held by subject experts, and educational study. However, backward areas of our country not access to the Internet yet. More than 40 percent of the backward population of our country does not know how to use the Internet and the Importance of the Internet in the Present Situation.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION, RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND PRIVACY UNDER ARTICLE 19 AND 21 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

Every citizen of India Has freedom of speech and expression. It means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode. It includes the expression of own’s ideas by any communicable media or visible representation (E.g.: Signs, gestures, etc.). The freedoms guaranteed under Article 19(1) are available to citizens only and not to a foreigner or an alien enemy. The term ‘citizen’ under Article 19 means a Natural Person but not a legal person like a company or corporation.

Freedom of Opinion and Expression states that Internet Access is co-relates to this article of the constitution. Every citizen of India has freedom of opinion and expression. Citizens of India can express their own thoughts freely without any hesitation. Businesses, Education, Online Markets as well as the corporate sector are landed on the Internet during Pandemic Days.

Article 21 A of the constitution of India deals with the Right to Education is the fundamental right of every citizen of India. Children of India have the right to education till the age of 14 years. Under this Article of the constitution of India, every child of India has the right to attain compulsory education till the age of 14 years. In the Interest of Education and employment, Internet access is essential for empowerment.

Article 21 of the constitution deals with the Right to Personal liberty but the Right to Privacy includes under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Right to Privacy deals with Right to Internet Access. If the internet access links with education and uses in businesses, Trade, personal enhancement then it is dealing with the personal liberty of human beings.

In this period of the pandemic, Internet access is essential for achieve advanced educational goals in life. Online classes and webinars of students are dependent on the Internet. Good Internet access and Information diffusion are leads to empowerment of human being. Article 19 (1) of the constitution of India deals with the speech and expression of India. Speech and expression through Internet are new generations Information diffusion landed over the Informative World. United Nations General Assembly concludes that in the month of November 2015, the Right to the Internet is an essential fundamental right of every citizen in the world. Internet access is essential for the advancement of education and personal needs fulfillment in life. In August 2012, Internet Society did a survey, regarding Users of the Internet in the World. Then 40 % of the Population opined that Internet Access is the essential fundamental right of every human being in this world. Because It empowers development and Information Diffusion.

Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declared that “Right to Internet Access is essential fundamental Right as Similar to Right to Education” freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Nowadays, unlike traditional media, the internet allows people to seek, receive and impart information rapidly and at an extremely low cost.

In 2016, a report from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the internet to be a basic human right.

United Nations General Assembly states that the Right to development is third generation human right in developing countries. Recognition of the close relationship between the right to Internet Access and basic human right by international laws.

(4) ANALYSE THE FOLLOWING CASE LAW

Aniruddha Bhasin Versus Union of India (Writ Petition No. 1030/2020) [4]

The court held that the Right to Internet Access, also known as The Right to Broadband or Freedom to connect. This case held that suspended Internet broadband connections are temporarily permissible but permanently shut down is an abuse of power. Right to Internet Access is an integral part of Article 21 of the constitution of India. Article 21 A of the constitution of India states the Right to education but It deals with the Right to Internet Access.

The right of freedom to choose trade and profession over the Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) of the constitution of India.

Fahima Shirin Versus State of Kerala (Writ Petition No. 19716/2019) [5]The high court of Kerala delivers the judgment on this case; Right of Internet Access is recognized as Right of privacy and Right of Education under Article 21 of the constitution of India. The court ordered the college to modernize policies so they do not discriminate based on gender or undermine student’s access to educational resources. Finding the restrictions to be “Absolutely unwarranted”. PUCL Versus Union of India (AIR 1997 SC 568) [6]The right to the Internet deals with the right to life and personal liberty. Civil liberties are essential for human development. Internet aids the citizen to express their opinion on a global platform and therefore is covered under the ambit of Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.

MANEKA GANDHI VERSUS UNION OF INDIA (1978 SCR (2) 621) [7]

The case held that every human being has the right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Any competent authority of government cannot be curtailed the Right to Personal liberty of Any Individual Citizen of India except in cases of public order emergency.

Maneka Gandhi is a Registered by the birth citizen of India have the willingness to travel abroad but an Order issued by government authority for not the issuance of Passport to travel abroad in case of public order is unconstitutional and violates Article 21 of the constitution which deals with personal liberty. Because travel to abroad in own willingness is related to personal liberty. There is no question that arises of public order.

(5) CONCLUSION: Internet Access is essential in our daily life because it is the source of Information diffusion and plays a vital role in the development of our life. The golden triangle of the constitution of India includes the Right to life and personal liberty, the Right to Freedom of speech and expression, and the Right to Equality before the law under Article 21, 19, and 14 of the constitution of India Respectively but one section of society easily accesses to the Internet and other section of society unable to access the Internet then such situation leads to digital inequality and causes unable to use of freedom of expression. Clearly, such circumstances Violate provisions of Article 21, 19, and 14 of the constitution of India.

United Nations General Assembly of Human Rights states that the Internet is an essential human right and advises countries presented in the assembly needed to make the Internet Access to the Fundamental Right of every citizen.

In this Pandemic Days, not only Internet Access but Good connection of Internet Access is essential for our education as well as business and other activities. Major backward areas of India do not access to the Internet yet. Lack of Infrastructure and lack of digital literacy causes them could not able to use the Internet. The administration wanted to make a plan in the interest of public policy and delivers Internet Access to every citizen of India.

Today, we see that the Government of India, after first rigorously implementing a lockdown across the country, has started reopening businesses, albeit slowly. Schools and colleges are conducting their online classes. Internet access is essential for attending online classes, webinars held by subject experts, and educational study. However, backward areas of our country have no or limited access to the Internet yet.

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