Polity & Governance
- 35th Inception Day of NCRB
- Role of Lieutenant Governor
- Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam
Government Schemes & Policies
- Parliament Passes the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Consumer Protection Act, 1986
Issues related to Health & Education
- COVID-19 declared pandemic
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Methane-oxidizing bacteria for Methane mitigation
- Environment Impact Assessment
Defence & Security Issues
- HC stays Navy’s ELF radar project
Art & Culture
- National Archives of India
Also in News
- Smallest dinosaur
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Polity & Governance
35th Inception Day of NCRB
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) celebrated its 35th Inception Day, on March 12, 2020.
- A Crime Multi Agency Centre (Cri-MAC) for sharing of information on heinous crime and other issues related to inter-state coordination was launched on the occasion.
- A National Cybercrime Training Centre (NCTC) for professional quality e-Learning services on cyber-crime investigation on large scale to police officers, judges, prosecutors and other stakeholders was also launched.
- National Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) being setup by NCRB is expected to be ab game changer for police.
- The importance of capacity building in cyber-crime investigation and the Government’s resolve in tackling the menace of increasing cyber-crime was emphasized.
- The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Hackathon & Cyber Challenge 2020 organised by NCRB in collaboration with Cyber Peace Foundation, which received overwhelming response from police, industry and academia was lauded.
Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS):
- Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan of Govt. of India.
- CCTNS is a project initiated in June 2009 which aims at creating an integrated system for enhancing the efficiency of policing at the Police Station level.
- The huge database of CCTNS will help investigators in solving crime cases faster.
- Make the Police functioning citizen friendly by automating the functioning of Police Stations.
- Improve delivery of citizen-centric services through effective usage of ICT.
- Provide the Investigating Officers of the Civil Police with tools, technology and information to facilitate investigation of crime and detection of criminals.
- Improve Police functioning in various other areas such as Law and Order, Traffic Management etc.
- Facilitate interaction and sharing of information among Police Stations, Districts, State/UT headquarters and other Police Agencies.
- Keep track of the progress of Cases, including in Courts.
- Establishing a basic platform for an Inter-Operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS).
National Crime Records Bureau:
- The National Crime Records Bureau is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL).
- NCRB is headquartered in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India.
- NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
- To empower Indian Police with Information Technology and criminal Intelligence to enable them to uphold law and protect people.
- To provide leadership and excellence in crime analysis particularly for serious and organized crime.
- Create and maintain secure sharable National Databases on crimes and criminals for law enforcement agencies and promote their use for public service delivery.
- Collect and process crime statistics at the national level and clearing house of information on crime and criminals both at National and International levels.
- Lead and coordinate development of IT applications and create an enabling IT environment for Police organizations.
- National repository of fingerprints of all criminals.
- To evaluate, modernize and promote automation in State Crime Records Bureau and State Finger Print Bureau.
- Training and capacity building in Police Forces in Information Technology and Finger Print Science.
Role of Lieutenant Governor
The Madras High Court held that the role of Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor and that of an elected government in the Union Territory were intertwined as per law, and therefore they were expected to act in unison and not in division.
- Government of Puducherry is a democratically elected body that governs the Union Territory of Puducherry, India.
- It is headed by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry as its nominal head, with a democratically elected Chief Minister as real head of the executive.
- Its capital is located at Pondicherry.
- Other union territories don’t have an elected government and legislative assembly.
- Puducherry, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir are the only three Union territories which have democratically elected governments like Indian states.
Role of L-G of Puducherry:
- The Lt. Governor is appointed by the President for a term of five years.
- The executive and legislative powers lie with the Chief Minister and his council of ministers, who are appointed by the President.
- The Governors of the states and territories of India have similar powers and functions at the state level as that of the President of India at Union level.
- Only Indian citizens above 35 years of age are eligible for appointment.
- Governors discharge all constitutional functions such as the appointment of the Chief Minister, sending reports to the President about failure of constitutional machinery in a state, or with respect to issues relating to the assent to a bill passed by legislature, exercise or their own opinion.
Powers of Lt. Governor:
The Governor enjoys many different types of powers:
- Executive powers related to administration, appointments and removals.
- Legislative powers related to lawmaking and the state legislature. The legislative branch comprises the governor and the legislative assembly, which is the highest political organ in state. The governor has the power to summon the assembly or to close the same.
- Discretionary powers to be carried out according to the discretion of the Governor.
Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam
Assam’s government decides the tenure of a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) member, based on how many foreigners he or she declares, basing its assertion on the performance appraisal data submitted by the State in an affidavit filed in court.
What is the issue?
- The honorary managing trustee of Amnesty India, asserted that the Foreigners tribunals were far from fair.
- It has been alleged that Tribunals declaring people foreigner in Assam are run by employees on 2-year contracts.
- The incumbent government only extends contracts of those who mark max people foreigner.
- In its report published Amnesty had called for a review of the existing legislative regime governing the determination of nationality in India.
- The FTs that determine the paramount right to citizenship in Assam are often dismissive, use derogatory language, control their own procedures and apply them in arbitrary ways.
- However, there appear to be aberrations in some cases to the policy of assessing the performance of a member by the percentage of disposal of cases and the rate of declaring alleged non-citizens as foreigners, as per the government data.
Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam:
- Assam currently has 100 FTs.
- The State has completed the process of setting up 200 more FTs, specifically to handle the cases of 19.06 lakh people left out of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published on August 31, 2019.
- Each FT member is appointed under the Foreigners Tribunal Act, 1941, and Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1984, as per the guidelines issued by the government from time to time.
- A member can be a retired judicial officer of the Assam Judicial Service, a retired civil servant not below the rank of secretary and additional secretary with judicial experience, or a practicing advocate not below the age of 35 years and with at least seven years of practice.
- A member is also required to have a fair knowledge of the official languages of Assam (Assamese, Bengali, Bodo and English) as well as be conversant with the historical background to the foreigners’ issue.
What are Foreign tribunals (FT)?
- The Foreigners’ Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies meant to furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act, 1946.
- In 1964, the Centre passed the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order under provisions of Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
Kinds of cases:
- The FTs get two kinds of cases: Those against whom a reference has been made by border police, and those whose names in the electoral rolls have a D (Doubtful) against them.
Why did Foreign tribunals were set up in Assam?
- In 1962, the Registrar General of India in his report said more than 2 lakhs infiltrants had entered Assam from East Pakistan (Bangladesh now).
- As a result, a police drive was initiated to detect and deport such infiltrators.
- Many politicians opposed it stating that several genuine citizens were also being deported in the process.
- As a result, the Central government said that such persons would need to go through a judicial process before being deported which created the Foreign tribunals.
- Following the order, several tribunals were set up in Assam.
- After the Illegal (Migrant) Determination Act (IMDT), 1983 even more tribunals were set up.
- However, in 2005, the Supreme Court defined IMDT as unconstitutional and brought the Tribunals under the Foreigners Act.
Government Schemes & Policies
Parliament Passes the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020
The Rajya Sabha passed the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 recently. The Lok Sabha had already passed this Bill on March 6, 2020.
Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill 2020:
- The bill is issued in an attempt to attract investments in coal mining.
- It pulls off “end-use restrictions” and allows coal mining by any company present in any sector, of which earlier power, iron and steel and coal washery business could only bid for mines.
- The ordinance essentially democratizes the coal industry and makes it attractive for merchant mining companies, including multinationals such as BHP and Rio Tinto, to look at India.
Provisions in the bill:
- The Bill proposes amendments to the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.
- The ‘historic’ decision would boost the ease of doing business and increase the growth avenues in the mining sector.
- Offering of unexplored and partially explored coal blocks for mining through prospecting license-cum-mining Lease (PL- cum-ML).
- It would strengthen the auction process of those mines whose leases were expiring on March 31, 2020 and will facilitate seamless transfer of clearances.
- Democratization of coal mining sector by opening it up to anyone willing to invest.
- Promoting Foreign Direct Investment in the coal mining sector by removing the restrictions and eligibility criteria for participation.
- This will help India in gaining access to sophisticated technology for underground mining used by global miners.
- The move is expected to strengthen Coal India and to achieve the set aim of production of one billion tonnes coal by 2023-2024.
- Allowing of successful bidder/allottee to utilize mined coal in any of the plant of its subsidiary or holding company. The move will also help the steel industry to get cheaper inputs (coal) leading to an increase in ‘competitiveness’ in the market.
- Large investment in mining will create jobs and set off demand in critical sectors such as mining equipment and heavy commercial vehicles.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
A district consumer disputes redressal forum has directed e-commerce platform Flipkart to compensate a complainant by paying over ₹11,000 for delivering a defective mobile handset and failing to redress the grievance.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986:
- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to protect the interests of consumers in India.
- It makes provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith also.
- It protects the consumer from exploitation that business practice to make profits which in turn harm the wellbeing of the consumer and society.
- This right help to educate the consumer on the right and responsibilities of being a consumer and how to seek help or justice when faced exploitation as a consumer.
- It teaches the consumer to make right choices and know what is right and what is wrong.
- As per the act the consumer is one that buys good for the consumption and not for the resale or commercial purpose.
- The Consumer Protection Act covers all public, private and cooperative sector.
- This applies to all the goods and services until and unless Union government exempts it.
- Provisions of the Consumer Protection Act are compensatory in nature.
Magna Carta in the field of consumer protection:
- The Act is regarded as the ‘Magna Carta‘ in the field of consumer protection for checking the unfair trade practices and ‘defect in goods’ and ‘deficiencies in services’ as far as India is concerned.
- It led to the establishment of a widespread network of consumer forums and appellate courts all over India.
- It has significantly impacted how businesses approach consumer complaints and empowered consumers to a great extent.
- It provides Consumer Protection Councils at the national, state and district level to increase consumer awareness.
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF):
- Also known as the “District Forum” established by the State Government in each district of the State. The State Government may establish more than one District Forum in a district. It is a district level court that deals with cases valuing up to ₹20 Lakhs.
State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC):
- Also known as the “State Commission” established by the State Government in the State. It is a state level court that takes up cases valuing less than ₹10 million.
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC):
- Established by the Central Government. It deals with matters of more than 10 million.
Practices to be followed by Business under Consumer Protection Act:
- If any defect found the seller should remove the mentioned defects from the whole batch or the goods affected. For example, there have been cases where car manufacturing unit found a defect in parts of the vehicle usually, they remove the defect from every unit, or they call of the unit.
- They should replace the defective product with a non-defective product and that product should be of similar configuration or should be same as the product purchased.
- The right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
- The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
- The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
- The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
- The right to consumer education.
Issues related to Health & Education
COVID-19 declared pandemic
COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO) recently.
What is a pandemic?
- A pandemic is a measure of the spread of a disease.
- When a new disease spreads over a vast geographical area covering several countries and continents, and most people do not have immunity against it, the outbreak is termed a pandemic.
- It implies a higher level of concern than an epidemic, which the US Centers of Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) defines as the spread of a disease in a localized area or country.
- There is no fixed number of cases or deaths that determine when an outbreak becomes a pandemic.
- The Ebola virus, which killed thousands in West Africa, is an epidemic as it is yet to mark its presence on other continents.
- Other outbreaks caused by coronaviruses such as MERS (2012) and SARS (2002), which spread to 27 and 26 countries respectively, were not labelled pandemics because they were eventually contained.
Which outbreaks have been declared pandemics in the past?
- A major example is the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which killed between 20-50 million. Cholera pandemics have been declared multiple times between 1817 and 1975.
- In 1968, a pandemic was declared for H3N2 that caused about a million deaths.
- The last pandemic declared by the WHO was in 2009, for H1N1.
Why has WHO declared a pandemic for COVID-19?
- China announced the outbreak on December 31 and declared a public health emergency on January 30.
- The WHO waited for 72 days before declaring it a pandemic.
- The outbreak was so far mostly limited to China, which has taken stringent countermeasures.
- In the last two weeks, cases outside China increased thirteen-fold and countries infected have tripled.
- Italy, for instance, had 888 cases on February 29 which rose to 4,636 in a week.
- It is expected that the number of cases and number of deaths go higher in coming days.
Does the declaration change the approach to the disease?
- The categorization as a pandemic can lead to more government attention.
- The categorization by WHO indicates the risk of disease for countries to take preventive measures.
- It will help improve funding by international organisations to combat coronavirus.
- All the necessary steps are being taken out in India and more government funding is not needed at this point.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Methane-oxidizing bacteria for Methane mitigation
Scientists at Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, have isolated 45 different strains of methanotrophic bacteria which have been found to be capable of reducing methane emissions from rice plants.
- Methanotrophs metabolise and convert Methane into Carbon-di-oxide.
- They can effectively reduce the emission of methane, which is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG) and 26 times more potent as compared to carbon-di-oxide.
- In rice fields, methanotrophs are active near the roots or soil-water interfaces.
- A team of scientists have isolated indigenous methanotrophs from Western and Southern India, mainly from rice field soils and freshwater mud and have documented two novel genera and six novel species of methanotrophs from rice fields in Western India.
- The team found that there was a decrease in methane emissions in inoculated plants with a positive or neutral effect on the growth of the rice.
- This could lead to the development of microbial inoculants for methane mitigation in rice.
Rice fields and Methane:
- Rice fields are human-made wetlands and are waterlogged for a considerable period.
- Anaerobic degradation of organic matter results in the generation of methane.
- Rice fields contribute to nearly 10% of global methane emissions.
- Very few studies in the world have focused on methanotrophs from tropical wetlands or tropical rice fields.
- Native and relevant methanotrophs isolated from rice fields can be excellent models to understand the effect of various factors on methane mitigation.
- The biomass from methanotrophs which is a rich source of carotenoids, single-cell proteins leading to methane valorization.
- Besides methane mitigation studies, methanotrophs can also be used in methane value addition (valorization) studies.
- Bio-methane generated from waste can be used by the methanotrophs and can be converted to value-added products such as single-cell proteins, carotenoids, biodiesel, and so on.
- Such studies help reduce GHG emissions, especially anthropogenic or man-made emissions, which a pressing need in the age of global warming.
Environment Impact Assessment
A set of key updates to India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act, the law that governs how the threat posed by large infrastructure projects to the environment ought to be evaluated, proposes to reduce the time given to people to air objections.
What is the proposal?
- The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006, which specifies a “minimum of 30 days” for people to respond.
- The current version of the update, which will likely become law in 60 days, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
- It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA):
- An EIA is an assessment of the likely human environmental health impact, risk to ecological health, and changes to nature’s services that a project may have.
- The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision-makers consider environmental impacts before deciding whether to proceed with new projects.
- Currently, The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEFCC) uses Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 as a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of rapid industrialization on environment.
Evolution of EIA in India:
- There are two types of EIA models – statutory model which makes the assessment of impact compulsory under an enacted law and administrative model under which an administration exercises its discretion to find out whether an impact study is necessary.
- Till 1992, India was following the administrative model of EIA.
- In 1994, Ministry of Environment and Forests, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion of any activity or for setting up new projects listed in Schedule 1 of the notification.
- New EIA was issued in 2006 in supersession of EIA 1994.
- The EIA 2019 replaced the EIA 2006.
Stages of The EIA Process:
- Identifying and Defining the Project or Activity: Although this step may seem relatively simple, defining a “project” for the purposes of an EIA can become complex and even controversial if a mining project is large, has several phases, or involves multiple sites.
- Screening: The screening process determines whether a particular project warrants preparation of an EIA.
- Scoping: Scoping is a stage, usually involving the public and other interested parties, that identifies the key environmental issues that should be addressed in an EIA.
- Preparing Terms of Reference: The Terms of Reference serve as a roadmap for EIA preparation and should ideally encompass the issues and impacts that have been identified during the scoping process.
- Preparing Draft EIA: A draft EIA is prepared in accordance with the Terms of Reference and/ or the range of issues identified during the scoping process.
- Public Participation: Best EIA practice involves and engages the public at numerous points throughout the process with a two-way exchange of information and views.
- Preparing Final EIA: This step produces a final impact assessment report that addresses the viewpoints and comments of the parties that reviewed the draft EIA.
- Decision: A decision to approve or reject a mining project is generally based on the final EIA, but in some instances, an environmental clearance may be just one step in the mine permitting process.
- Administrative or Judicial Review: Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be opportunities for a party to seek administrative and/or judicial review of the final decision and the EIA process.
- Project Implementation: Provided all regulatory requirements are met and permits are obtained, mine development will proceed following the project decision and once opportunities for administrative and/or judicial review are exhausted.
- Monitoring: Monitoring is an important part of project implementation.
Benefits of EIA:
- Reduced cost and time of project implementation
- Cost-saving modifications in project design
- Increased project acceptance
- Avoided impacts and violations of laws and regulations
- Improved project performance
- Avoided treatment/cleanup costs
- A healthier local environment
- Improved human health
- Maintenance of biodiversity
- Decreased resource use
- Fewer conflicts over natural resource use.
Defence & Security Issues
HC stays Navy’s ELF radar project
The Telangana high court has ordered status quo on the Indian Navy’s extremely low frequency (ELF) radar project proposed to be set up in Damagundam reserve forest near Vikarabad, Telangana.
Ruling by the HC:
- The ELF project is being set up by the Eastern Naval Command.
- The HC made it clear to the state, the Centre and the Indian Navy that they cannot cut a tree till they file their counters on what they are proposing to do with the fragile ecosystem.
- The bench wondered as to how the forest department could allow construction of a low-frequency radar in a forest area while hearing a PIL filed by Damagundam Forest Protection joint action committee.
- The defence of the country is crucial and an important aspect, but environment is also the prime concern.
ELF Radar Project:
- The Naval facility sought to be built in the Damagundam Reserve Forest is an Extremely Low Frequency (3 to 30 Hertz) base station which will be used as a communication hub for submarines.
- The transmitters use extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves, which can penetrate seawater to reach submarines at operating depths.
- Building an ELF transmitter is a formidable challenge, as they have to work at incredibly long wavelengths and hence require a huge Antenna.
Art & Culture
National Archives of India
An exhibition named Jallianwala Bagh was recently inaugurated in New Delhi on the occasion of 130th Foundation Day of National Archives of India.
- The present exhibition was primarily presented with the help of original and digital copies of archival documents relating to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre available in National Archives of India.
- This is an earnest attempt to portray the relentless struggle of the Indian people against the British tyranny through the record holdings.
- Based on the original documents, this exhibition is an endeavor to commemorate the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
About National Archives of India:
- The National Archives of India is the custodian of the records of enduring value of the Government of India.
- It was established on 11 March, 1891 at Calcutta (Kolkata) as the Imperial Record Department.
- It is the biggest archival repository in South Asia.
- It has a vast corpus of records viz., public records, private papers, oriental records, cartographic records and microfilms, which constitute an invaluable source of information for scholars-administrators and users of archives.
- The Director General of Archives, heading the Department has been given the mandate for the implementation of the Public Records Act, 1993 and the rules made there under, the Public Records Rules, 1997 for the management, administration and preservation of public records in the Ministries, Departments, Public Sector undertakings etc. of the Central Government.
- The Department functions as an Attached Office of the Ministry of Culture.
Also in News
A group of scientists may have discovered the smallest dinosaur ever found.
- They found the fossilized skull of a dinosaur — the size of a modern hummingbird — trapped in a 99-million-year-old amber in northern Myanmar.
- The animal in question would have weighed 2 grams, claimed the scientists in a paper published in the Nature journal.
- The fossil represented the smallest dinosaur from the Mesozoic era — about 250 million to 65 million years ago — according to the group.
- The discovery suggests miniature body sizes in birds evolved earlier than previously recognised.
- This may provide insight into how dinosaurs evolved to be small and shed light on the lowest limit of vertebrate body size.
- The animal’s skull was less than two centimeters long.
- It had several sharp teeth, which suggested it preyed on insects and other small invertebrates, scientists observed. For this reason, the new species has been given the scientific name of Oculudentavis khaungraae, derived from Latin for ‘eye-teeth-bird’.
- Unlike other predators, its eyes were on the sides of its head, which meant the dinosaur had little or no binocular vision.
- It had limited access to light into the eye, which scientists said was evidence that it was active in well-lit, daytime environments.
[Ref: Down to Earth]