Rajya Sabha Current Affairs

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e-Tourist visa extended to citizens of 161 countries: Government

The Union Government has extended the facility of e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) Scheme for citizens of 161 countries. It was announced by Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.

The reply also mentioned that number of foreign tourist arrivals on e-TV during January to November 2016 was 9,17,446. This period registered a growth of 168.5% over same period of previous year. This indicates success of the e-TV Scheme.

About E-Tourist Visa Scheme

  • Union Government had launched e-Tourist Visa Scheme (as Tourist Visa on Arrival scheme) on November 27, 2014.
  • The scheme facilitates pre-authorization of Visa i.e. electronic travel authorisation is given to foreigners prior to travel after applicant registers for visa online.
  • After registration applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it has been approved. The tourist can travel with a print-out of this authorisation.
  • The scheme aims to tap the vast tourism potential of India which still remains untapped and explored.

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Rajya Sabha passes Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016

Rajya Sabha has passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016. The bill repeals Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

The bill comprehensively covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities under it. It complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India became a signatory in 2007.

Salient features of the bill
  • Definition of disability: It has defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept to include 21 conditions as disable. Expands the list of disabilities from seven to 21.
  • It also defines Persons with benchmark disabilities as those with at least 40% of any of the above specified disabilities.
  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid Attack Victims have been included.
  • Rights of persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities (PwDs) shall have the right to equality. They shall not be discriminated against on grounds of their disability.
  • Rights include protection from inhuman treatment and equal protection and safety in situations of risk, humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters and armed conflict.
  • All existing public buildings shall be made accessible for disabled persons.
  • Education and skill development: It provides for the access to inclusive education, self-employment and vocational training to disabled persons.
  • At least 5% seats in all government institutions of higher education and those getting aid from the government are required to reserve seats for persons with benchmark disabilities. Earlier it was only 3%.
  • Employment: The Union and State governments will ensure that at least 4% of the vacancies in identified establishments are filled by persons or class of persons with at least 40% of any of the disabilities.
  • The reservation must be computed on the basis of total number of vacancies in the strength of a cadre. Government can exempt any establishment from this provision of reservation.
  • Legal Capacity: Disabled persons have the equal right to own and inherit movable and immovable property, as well as control their financial affairs in par with others.
  • Guardianship: The district court may order guardianship to the disable person if found a mentally ill person and not capable of taking care of himself or of taking legally binding decisions.
  • District level committees: It will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  • Central and state advisory boards on Disability: They will be constituted Central and State governments respectively.
  • They will advise governments on policies and programmes on disability. The will aslo review the activities of organisations dealing with disabled persons.
  • National and State Fund: It will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for PwDs and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of PwDs will be subsumed with the National Fund.
  • Punishment: It provides for imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, along with a fine ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh, for discriminating against differently abled persons.

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Parliamentary Standing Committee seeks transparency in appointment of judges

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, has called for transparency in the appointments process on the part of the judiciary and the government.

The committee was headed by Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha), Anand Sharma. It has examined delay in filling vacancies in Supreme Court and High Courts.

It has tabled its report in the Rajya Sabha and now it is under the purview of the Union Law Ministry.

Recommendations
  • Need of transparency in the appointments process on the part of the judiciary and the government, while ensuring the independence of the judiciary.
  • Raising of the retirement age of Supreme Court judges to 67 from 65 and that of High Court judges to 65 from 62.
  • Consideration of a fixed tenure for Chief Justices.

Note: The recommendations of the committee are only advisory in nature and are not binding.

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