Voting Rights of Undertrial Prisoners

In News

  • Recently, the Supreme Court decided to examine poll law which deprives under trials, civil prison detainees their right to vote.

More about the news

  • Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951:
    • This section mandates that “no person shall vote at any election is he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police”.
  • The Petition:
    • The petition is challenging a provision in the election law that imposes a blanket ban on under trials, persons confined in civil prisons and convicts serving their sentence in jails from casting their votes.
  • Issue:
    • Comparing with convicts out on bail:
      • While convicts out on bail could vote, under trials, whose innocence or guilt has not been conclusively determined, and those confined in civil persons were deprived of their right to vote.
    • Lack of reasonable classification:
      • The ban lacks reasonable classification based on the nature of the crime or duration of the sentence imposed unlike in countries like South Africa, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Canada, etc. 
    • Infringement of Fundamental Right:
      • This lack of classification is anathema to the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 (right to equality), the petition pointed out.
    • Large number of population not voting:
      • Petition claims that this provision disenfranchises a large segment of the population of the country.
Issue of Undertrial Prisoners:Meaning:An undertrial is a person who is currently on trial or who is imprisoned on remand whilst awaiting trial or A person who is on a trial in a court of law. The 78th Report of Law Commission also includes a person who is in judicial custody on remand during investigation in the definition of an ‘undertrial’.NCRB report on undertrial prisoners in India:The latest National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) report of 2021 shows that a total of 5,54,034 prisoners were confined as on December 31, 2021 in various jails across the country.The number of undertrial prisoners has increased from 3,71,848 in 2020 to 4,27,165 in 2021. A hike of 14.9%. State wise data:Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of undertrials (21.2%, 90,606 undertrials) in the country followed by Bihar (13.9%, 59,577 undertrials) and Maharashtra (7.4%, 31,752 undertrials) at the end of last year.Challenges faced by undertrial prisoners:The criminal justice delivery system in India saw more than 0.2 million undertrial prisoners being neglected in jail for many years. In many cases it exceeded the maximum sentence for the crime which they had committed. There have been cases where the amount of bail is disproportionately high.Voting for preventive detaineesWhile prisoners are not allowed to vote, people under preventive detention can cast their votes through postal ballots.Postal voting or ballots:It is also called  Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB) and under this ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are then returned to the election officers via post.

Recent Improvements in the Judicial System

  • Virtual court system: 
    • The regular court proceedings in our Indian courts in such unprecedented times are either being adjourned or have been carried out virtually via video conferencing
  • e-Courts portal: 
    • It is a one-stop solution for all stakeholders like the litigants, advocates, government agencies, police, and common citizens
      • This portal is designed in a way that uses multiple languages. 
      • This portal is a consolidation of all the portals across the country.  
  • E-filing: 
    • E-filing, also known as electronic filing, is a facility that provides filing of cases through the internet. 
  • National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG):
    • The statistics of cases pending at the national, state, district and individual court level are now made accessible to the general public, researchers, academicians and the society at large
    • Any individual can access this information by visiting the National Judicial Data Grid portal. 
  • National Service and Tracking of Electronic Process (NSTEP):
    • This is a mechanism that consists of a centralised process service tracking application and a mobile app for the bailiffs. 
    • This is used for quick delivery of summons, notices, processes and the reduction of unreasonable delays in process serving. 
  • e-Sewa Kendra:
    • The e-Sewa Kendra is set up as a one-stop centre for accessing all the facilities provided under the eCourts Project. 
    • It has been set up in high courts and one in the district court of each state on a trial basis. 
    • With these centres, a litigant can acquire information on case status and get judgments and orders passed by the courts. 
  • Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS):
    • The Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) is an initiative of the e-Committee to transfer data and information between the different pillars of the criminal justice system, like courts, police, jails, juvenile homes and forensic science laboratories seamlessly, from one platform.

India Abstains on Russia’s Resolution at UNSC on Ukraine’s Alleged Bio Weapons

In News

  • Recently India abstained on a Russia-sponsored draft resolution at UNSC for a probe into Ukraine’s alleged bioweapons.

More about the news

  • Issue:
    • Russia has raised the issue of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine several times at the U.N. Security Council since its forces invaded Ukraine. 
  • Russian resolution at UNSC:
    • Recently a motion was sponsored by Russia at the UNSC that sought to establish a commission to investigate claims by Moscow that the U.S. and Ukraine are carrying out “military biological activities” in laboratories in Ukraine in violation of the biological weapons convention.
  • Failed attempt:
    • The resolution failed to get adopted as only two Council members — Russia and China — voted in its favour
    • In contrast, the U.S., the U.K. and France voted against it.
    • The other Council members, including India, abstained.
  • India’s opinion:
    • In the explanation of the vote, India attached high importance to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which is the first non-discriminatory disarmament treaty banning a complete category of weapons of mass destruction.
    • India also reiterated the need to negotiate a comprehensive legally binding protocol providing for an effective, universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism to strengthen the implementation of the Convention.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)WMDs are weapons with the capacity to inflict death and destruction on such a massive scale and so indiscriminately that its very presence in the hands of a hostile power can be considered a grievous threat. Modern weapons of mass destruction are either nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons—frequently referred to collectively as NBC weapons.

More about the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

  • About:
    • Came into force in 1975 and the Convention was negotiated by the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Aim:
    • Treaty prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological weapons.
  • Signatories:
    • It has 183 signatories, including the United States, Russia, and Ukraine.
    • India has signed and ratified this convention.
  • Significance:
    • It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
    • The BWC is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address WMD proliferation and it has established a strong norm against biological weapons.
    • A total of eight Review Conferences have taken place since the first one in 1980.
  • Issues:
    • There is no implementation body of the BTWC, allowing for blatant violations as seen in the past.
    • This conference takes place every five years to assess and try to improve upon the convention’s implementation, however, it has no provisions to make sure countries are abiding by its terms.
Chemical Weapons Convention, 1997About:It is an arms control treaty that allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties.Genesis:It was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3rd September 1992 after 12 years of negotiations.It opened for signature in Paris on 13th January 1993 and entered into force on 29th April 1997.Administration & prohibition:It is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of CWs by state parties.Significance:It is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control.India:India is a signatory and party.Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)About: The NPTcame into force in 1970. The provisions of the Treaty envisage a review of the operation of the Treaty every five years.The Tenth Review Conference, scheduled for 2020, was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.Aim: It seeks to inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons.Members: A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.Non-signatories:India, Israel, South Sudan and Pakistan never signed NPT and North Korea has declared withdrawal in the past.India’s stand:India refused to sign it on the grounds that the nuclear weapons states must agree to a clear plan for nuclear disarmament.India reiterated its commitment to a Nuclear Weapons Convention calling for a verifiable and non-discriminatory elimination of all nuclear weapons.The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) About:It is a multilateral treaty to ban nuclear weapons test explosions and any other nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. Not in force:It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996, but has not entered into force.

India’s Stand on Russia’s War with Ukraine & way ahead

  • India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been distinctive among the major democracies and among U.S. strategic partners. 
  • Despite its discomfort with Moscow’s war, New Delhi has adopted studied public neutrality toward Russia
  • It has abstained from successive votes in the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine and thus far has refused to openly call out Russia as the instigator of the crisis. 
  • India has been under immense indirect pressure from Western nations that have openly condemned Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. 
  • India has been pressing for the resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.

Performance Grading Index 2020-21

In News

  • Recently, the Ministry of Education released its Performance Grading Index.

About the index

  • Previous Editions
    • The department has released the PGI report for the year 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. 
  • Objective
    • The prime objective of PGI is to promote evidence-based policymaking and highlight course correction to ensure quality education for all. 
  • Grading
    • PGI 2020-21 classified the States/UTs into ten grades:
      • Highest achievable Grade is Level 1, which is for State/UT scoring more than 950 points out of a total of 1000 points. 
      • The lowest grade is Level 10 which is for scores below 551. 
  • It is an evidence-based comprehensive analysis of the school education system across states and Union Territories.
    • It classifies States and Union Territories into 10 grades based on their score out of a total 1,000 points.
  • Their performance is assessed on a total of 70 indicators in five domains:
    • Learning outcome
    • Access
    • Infrastructure and facilities
    • Equity
    • Governance process
  • Sources
    • The Index is based on data drawn from several data sources, including the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE +) 2020-21, National Achievement Survey NAS 2017, and Mid Day Meal Portal. 
Data/ FactsThe Indian Education System is one of the largest in the world with about 14.9 lakh schools, 95 lakh teachers, and nearly 26.5 crore students from varied socio-economic backgrounds.

Major Highlights 

  • Top performers 
    • Gujarat is now among the top performers in school education.
    • Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have joined Kerala, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Maharashtra categorised under Level 2 with a score of 901 to 950 out of a total score of 1,000.
    • A total of 12 States and UTs, including National Capital Territory of Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha, attained Level 3 with a score between 851-900
    • No State figured in the bottom three grades.
  • Best Improver
    • Ladakh has seen the biggest improvement by climbing up from Level 10 in 2019-2020 to Level 4 in 2020-2021.
  • Gross enrolment ratio 
    • It compares the enrolment in a specific level of education to the population of the corresponding age group.
    • The primary section has improved from 101.3% in 2018-2019 to 104.8% in 2021-2022. 
    • For secondary classes, it has risen to 79.6% in 2021-22, from 76.9% in 2018-19
    • For higher secondary level, it has increased from 50.14% to 57.6%.
  • Gender Parity Index (GPI) of GER
    • It indicates the representation of girls in school with respect to their population in the corresponding age group.
    • It was also found to be favourable to girls compared to boys. 
  •  Decline in pre-primary enrolments
    • A total of 94.95 lakh students entered pre-primary classes in 2021-2022, registering a drop of 10% as compared to the previous year when 1.06 crore children enrolled in these classes.
      • In 2020-2021, there was already a decline of 21% enrolment in pre-primary classes.
  • Decline in primary classes Enrolment
    • It includes classes 1 to 5.
    • It also saw a drop for the first time falling from 12.20 lakh in 2020-2021 to 12.18 lakh in 2021-2022.
    • However, the total number of students from primary to higher secondary increased by 19 lakh to 25.57 crore.
  • Decline in number of schools
    • The report records a decline in the number of schools due to closures as well as a lack of teachers.
    • There were 20,000 fewer schools in 2021-2022 as the total number of schools dropped from 15.09 lakh to 14.89 lakh.
    • In terms of state-wise break-up, the states where large numbers of schools were shut down in the second pandemic year included Madhya Pradesh (7,689), Odisha (1,894), Andhra Pradesh (1,395), Uttar Pradesh (1143), Punjab (994), and Maharashtra (509). 
  • Private schools VS Public schools
    • The UDISE+ report also highlighted that the enrolment in private schools continued to decline while the number of students joining government schools increased. 
      • Private school students continued to join government schools as a result of financial constraints wrought by the pandemic.
  • Infrastructure
    • Computer facilities were available in 44.75% of schools, while Internet access was available only in 33.9% of schools.
      • However, their availability has improved as compared to pre-Covid when only 38.5% of schools had computers and 22.3% had Internet facilities.

Significance of the Index

  • Optimal education outcomes 
    • PGI is to propel States & UTs towards undertaking multi-pronged interventions that will bring about the much-desired optimal education outcomes covering all dimensions.
  • Pinpointing the gaps 
    • PGI is expected to help States and UTs to pinpoint the gaps and accordingly prioritize areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.

Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan

In News

  • Recently, a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was released highlighting the cultivation of Poppy in Afghanistan.

Key Points

  • Demand and need driven cultivation: 
    • Driven by the demand for heroin and other opioids, mostly in the West, Afghanistan’s poppy farmers have figured out that in a broken country where there are no jobs, and the de facto government has no money, poppy guarantees survival.

  • Thriving industry in Afghanistan: 
    • Afghanistan’s illicit narcotics industry thrived under the puritanical first Taliban regime, it flourished through two decades of democracy, and it continues to do so under the new Taliban regime.
    • Eighty percent of the world’s opiates come from Afghanistan.
  • Poppy Cultivation: 
    • Land: In 2021 (October and November are the sowing season), it increased by 32 per cent over the previous year. 
      • Last year, poppy was sown on 233,000 hectares, and in some places, farmers even replaced traditional crops with poppy.
    • Climate: If the harvest (in spring) had not been affected by a drought that hit many parts of Afghanistan, there would have been a bumper crop.

  • Price spike: 
    • A ban on cultivation imposed by the Taliban in April 2022, exempted the standing crop and harvest, and sent the price of opium shooting.
  • Alternatives: 
    • The 2021 harvest of 6,200 tonnes, 10 per cent less than in 2021, could be converted into 350-380 tonnes of export-quality heroin. 

Global Scenario

  • The supply source for this huge underground economy is now concentrated in three areas: 
    • Afghanistan, 
    • South-East Asia (mostly Myanmar) and 
    • Latin America (Mexico and Colombia). 
  • Together, they supply nearly all the world’s illicit opium and heroin, but Afghanistan stands out among this group, accounting for around 90% of global illicit opium production in recent years. 

Impact on India

  • Rising health costs: 
    • Among illicit narcotics, opiates are also the most costly in terms of treatment, medical care and, arguably, drug-related violence. 
    • In addition, heroin is the drug most associated with injection, which brings about a host of acute and chronic health problems, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. 
    • 45% of Heroin in India originates from Afghanistan.
  • Stability and security: 
    • Beyond its health impact, the illicit opiate industry also has a detrimental effect on stability and security in a number of places, including through the funding it provides for insurgents in production areas, particularly in Afghanistan. 
  • Terrorist angle:
    • There is ‘deep concern about links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime.’

Reasons Behind the Drug Menace in India

  • Misguided Youth and Peer Pressure psychology
  • Lack of awareness about socio-legal and health consequences
  • Proximity with Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle:
    • Golden Triangle: 
      • It includes the regions of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. 
      • It is Southeast Asia’s main opium-producing region and one of the oldest narcotics supply routes to Europe and North America.
    • Golden Crescent: 
      • It includes Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
      • It is a principal global site for opium production and distribution.       


  • Farmer’s income increase:
    • The income of farmers from opium sales more than tripled from $425 million in 2021 to $1.4 billion in 2022
    • 29 per cent of the Afghan agricultural sector’s total value in 2022, higher by 20 percentage points over the previous year.
  • Employment generation:
    • As a labour intensive crop, poppy was a great source of employment in rural Afghanistan, and led to other trickle-down economic activities. Distributing the work of revenue collection was also a way to keep the factions within from rebelling.

Challenges being faced in Afghanistan

  • Financial: Still international outcasts and with no access to global funding, they are scrambling to raise money by levying taxes, as humanitarian aid keeps Afghanistan going.
  • Regional concern:
    • Russia and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours view drugs as a top concern, more perhaps than the threat of religious extremism, radicalisation, and terrorism. 
    • India has voiced concerns about it from time to time. 
    • At the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation security meetings, the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan are discussed as inter-related threats to regional and global security.

Way Ahead

  • International cooperation: Foster international cooperation for fighting the enduring problem of drug trafficking. The development of international accountability mechanisms and best practices would greatly increase interception capacity. 
  • Global Monitoring: Enhance expert access to the dark web in order to take down online markets and platforms. Implement real-time data monitoring systems for promptly detecting and addressing drug market changes. 
  • People-centered Approach: Implement an integrated, people-centred and human-rights based approach to empowering African societies to develop sustainable solutions to drug use.
  • Public-private Partnerships: Improve government response to drug trafficking on the internet by forging public/private partnerships with internet service providers, tech companies, shipping and mailing companies. 
  • Awareness-Raising and Communication: Use fact-based information to raise awareness of the potential harm from non-medical use of cannabis. Need to close the gap between perception and reality by educating young people and safeguarding public health.
Know about OpiumOpium comes from the sap in unripe poppy-seed pods. The sap dries into a brown latex that contains alkaloids which produce a host of narcotic and pharmaceutical drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, morphine and codeine.


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