8th November 2019
TOPIC: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. (Paper II)
Discuss that enforcement of regulation is key in preventing school children from accessing unhealthy food.
In a welcome step, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified a draft regulation aimed at prohibiting the sale and advertisement of food rich in fat, sugar and salt to school children inside the school premises and within 50 m around it.
- It comes in response to the 2015 order from the Delhi High Court directing the central agency to frame norms to promote healthy diets in schools.
- Besides prohibiting the sale of junk food, the FSSAI requires schools to simultaneously encourage and promote a safe and balanced diet.
- In a bid to shield the children from consuming unhealthy food items and snacks, the FSSAI prohibits food companies that manufacture such items from advertising or offering for free such foods in school premises and within 50 m of the campus.
- To thwart food companies from luring children to consume foods rich in fat, sugar and salt, the companies are prohibited from using their logos, brand names and product names on books and other educational materials, as well as on school property such as buildings, buses, and athletic fields.
The need for healthy food and a healthy society:
- As a general guidance to provide wholesome food, the agency recommends the use of a combination of whole grains, milk, eggs, and millets; it also listed a set of general guidelines for selection of food products that can be offered in schools.
- Even as malnutrition accounted for over seven lakh (68%) deaths in children under the age of five years in 2017 in India, there is rising obesity in school children in many states.
- According to a July 2017 study, India, with 14.4 million, had the second most number of obese children among 195 countries.
- A recent study found 23 states to have child overweight prevalence more than the national average, with six states having a prevalence of 20%.
- Several studies have shown how a western diet affects the composition and diversity of gut bacteria and sets the stage for many metabolic diseases.
- Hence, any attempt to reduce and discourage the intake of unhealthy foods, which is a major cause of unhealthy weight gain in children, should be welcomed.
Challenges in enforcing the regulation:
- The challenge will be in enforcement, particularly in preventing the sale and promotion of unhealthy food near schools.
- For instance, despite the sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of a school being prohibited, violation is more the norm than the exception.
- Shops that sell tobacco products very often also sell many of the packaged unhealthy foods that the FSSAI now wants to ban.
- The onus of inculcating healthy eating habits also starts at home.
- Besides taking steps to reduce the intake of unhealthy food, both schools and parents should ensure children get adequate physical activity, which is increasingly being neglected for various reasons.
It is a combination of healthy food and regular physical activity that will go a long way in bringing up healthier children.
8th November 2019
TOPIC: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate. (Paper III)
Discuss the merger of Assam rifles and ITBP.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed that Assam Rifles should be merged with ITBP and serve under the operational control of the MHA. The Army is opposed to this proposal.
- Assam rifles is a central paramilitary force.
- It is under the administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence.
- It was formed as Cachar Levy in 1835 to assist the British rulers in maintaining peace in the Northeast.
- It had just about 750 men but proved its capability and efficiency.
Evolution of Assam Rifles:
- The unit was converted into the Assam Military Police Battalion with two additional battalions in 1870.
- They were known as the Lushai Hills Battalion, Lakhimpur Battalion, and Naga Hills Battalion.
- Just before World War I, another battalion, the Darrang Battalion, was added.
- They all rendered great service by assisting the British in Europe and West Asia during the war.
- These battalions were then renamed Assam Rifles. They were regular armed police battalions, with the ‘Rifles’ tag. It was a matter of honor for their competence.
Post 1962 Indo-China war
- After the Chinese aggression in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Rifles battalions were placed under the operational control of the Army.
- Assam Rifles personnel who were acclimatized to the region were better suited for operations then.
- One of the major causes of India’s defeat was that the regular Army units were not used to extreme weather.
- All Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are acclimatized to almost every region of the country due to country-wide deployment of all CAPF battalions.
- The operational role performed by the ITBP at 18,700 feet in Ladakh is a testimony to its capability to guard the border in any part of the country.
- Back in 2001, the Group of Ministers had stated that the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ should be strictly adhered to.
- If ITBP can guard the India-China border in Ladakh, it can also guard the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.
- Having two masters for an organisation — one for administrative control and another for operational control — is absurd and leads to problems of coordination.
- Home Ministry’s move to merge all its 55,000-strong Assam Rifles with the ITBP is a step in the right direction.
Arguments made by the army:
- The Army argues that the Assam Rifles should be merged with it, to ensure national security.
- The army would lose its promotional avenues once this paramilitary force is merged with the ITBP, as it would be directly under the control of the Home Ministry.
- At present, nearly 80% of officers’ ranks from Major upwards are held by Army officers on deputation.
- A Lieutenant-General of the Army holds the post of Director General of Assam Rifles.
- For the time being, the Chief may be appointed from among IPS officers. CAPF was brought under the fold of Organised Group ‘A’ Service this year. The direct officers of Assam Rifles will eventually take up the top posts.
The merger issue needs to be taken up on priority by the CCS so that doubts are cleared. The mode of absorbing the officers should be worked out to avoid a vacuum being created once the deputationists are repatriated to the Army.