Polity & Governance
- Bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers in West Bengal passed
Government Schemes & Policies
- Supreme Court to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme
- 7th edition of the “International Tourism Mart”
- Prime Minister Launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge
- Prime Minister lays Foundation Stones of City Gas Distribution Projects
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 4 new frog species found in Northeast
Bilateral & International Relations
- Australia refuses to sign UN migration pact
Defence & Security Issues
- Russian IGLA-S declared lowest bidder in Army’s multi-billion dollar deal
- Ex Vajra Prahar 2018
Key Facts for Prelims
- President Kovind visits My Son temple complex
- India gets its first sewer cleaning machine
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Polity & Governance
Bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers in West Bengal passed
To end an era of undecided future for the people residing West Bengal (WB) enclaves, the WB Assembly unanimously passed a West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to provide land rights to enclave dwellers in north Bengal.
Implications of passing of this bill:
- The bill will end era of uncertain future for the people residing in those enclaves as it will help them to get full-fledged status as citizens of India, along with all civic amenities and rights.
- It will also help in distribution of land rights documents people of enclaves in border district of Cooch Behar.
- The process will result in creation of 13 ‘mouzas’ (administrative district), while rest of area will be amalgamated with existing 31 ‘mouzas’.
- Bangladesh and India had exchanged total of 162 enclaves in August 2015 as per historic 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), ending one of the world’s most-complex border disputes that had lingered for seven decades since Independence.
- In Cooch Behar, 111 Indian enclaves, spread across 17,160 acres, became part of Bangladesh territory and 51 Bangladesh enclaves, comprising 7,110 acres, joined India.
- The enclave residents were allowed to either reside at their present location or move to the other country.
- Around 37,334 people residing in enclaves in Indian side refused to go to Bangladesh, whereas 922 enclave dwellers from Bangladesh side preferred to be in India.
Government Schemes & Policies
Supreme Court to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme
The Supreme Court of India has directed all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
- In November 2017, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.
- It had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft scheme for witness protection and had asked the Attorney General to give his suggestions on the issue.
- The court had said that the witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and that the MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.
- In April 2018, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments.
- The court had asked the Centre to finalise the scheme after getting a response from the states and Union Territories.
About Witness Protection Scheme-2018:
- To enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigations without fear of intimidation or reprisal.
- To ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.
- To promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance to criminal law enforcement agencies and the overall administration of Justice.
- To give witnesses the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and Judicial Authorities with full assurance of safety.
- To identify a series of measures that may be adopted to safeguard witnesses and their family members from intimidation and threats against their lives, reputation and property.
Why is there a need for such a scheme?
- Victims and witnesses of serious crimes are particularly at risk when the perpetrator is powerful, influential, or rich and the victims or witnesses belong to a socially or economically marginalised community. Girls and women who report sexual violence are often even more vulnerable and face extreme pressure or direct threats from the accused.
- Also, witnesses need to have the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities.
- They need to be assured that they will receive support and protection from intimidation and the harm that criminal groups may seek to inflict upon them in attempts to discourage or punish them from co-operating.
Hence, legislative measures to emphasise prohibition against tampering of witnesses have become the imminent and inevitable need of the day.
- National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society. It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Its aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.
Functions of NALSA:
- NALSA identifies specific categories of marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for implementation of legal service programmes.
- It provides services of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal.
- It also organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- It works in close coordination with various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies.
7th edition of the “International Tourism Mart”
The 7th edition of the “International Tourism Mart” is being organized in Agartala, Tripura by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura and the North Eastern States.
About the International Tourism Marts:
- The International Tourism Marts is an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
- It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.
- The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis.
- The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
Significance of the event:
- The ITM will see wide participation of International buyers and media delegates from countries around the world and from different regions of the country.
- They will be engaging in business-to-business meetings with sellers from the North Eastern Region.
- This will enable the tourism product suppliers from the region to reach out to international and domestic buyers, with the objective of promoting tourism to the region.
- The North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products.
- The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, its festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination waiting to be explored.
Prime Minister Launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge
The government has launched Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge on resolving seven identified Ease of Doing Business problems with use of cutting edge technologies.
About Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge:
- The objective of this challenge is to tap potential of young Indians, startups and other private enterprises to provide solutions to complex problems using current technology.
- It is in pursuance of Government’s resolve to make India one of the easiest places to conduct business in the world.
- This challenge is aimed at attracting innovative ideas on artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, blockchain and other cutting edge technology to reform government processes.
- The platform for this grand challenge will be on Start Up India portal.
- In World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019), India has recorded jump of 23 positions against its rank of 100 in 2017 to be placed at 77th rank among 190 countries.
- India has improved its rank by 53 positions in the last two years and 65 positions in the last four years (2014-18).
- World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index ranks 190 countries based on 10 parameters, including starting a business, construction permits, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, trade across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
Prime Minister lays Foundation Stones of City Gas Distribution Projects
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for City Gas Distribution (CGD) projects across 129 districts to boost availability of gas supply for half of the country’s population in 26 states and Union Territories.
- The projects, recently awarded by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) would cover 65 Geographical Areas (GAs) under the ninth round of bidding.
Significance of the move:
- Government of India has put thrust to promote the usage of environment friendly clean fuel i.e. natural gas as a fuel/feedstock across the country to move towards a gas based economy.
- Accordingly, development of CGD networks has been focused to increase the availability of cleaner cooking fuel (i.e. PNG) and transportation fuel (i.e. CNG) to the citizens of the country.
- The expansion of CGD network will also benefit to industrial and commercial units by ensuring the uninterrupted supply of natural gas.
Why Natural Gas?
- Natural gas is a superior fuel as compared with coal and other liquid fuels being an environment friendly, safer and cheaper fuel.
- Natural Gas is supplied through pipelines just like one gets water from the tap. There is no need to store cylinders in the kitchen and thus saves space.
- Natural Gas (as CNG) is cheaper by 60% as compared with petrol and 45 % w.r.t. Diesel. Similarly, Natural Gas (as PNG) is cheaper by 40 % as compared with market price LPG and price of PNG almost matches with that of subsidised LPG (based on prices in Delhi).
- India made a commitment in COP21 Paris Convention in December 2015 that by 2030, it would reduce carbon emission by 33% of 2005 levels.
About Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB):
PNGRB was constituted under The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.
Composition of PNGRB
- The PNGRB consists of Chairperson, a Member (Legal) and three other members.
- It also has power of civil court and bench comprising member (legal) and one or more members nominated by chairperson which decides on disputes arising among downstream companies or with outsiders.
- The Act provide for the establishment of PNGRB to protect the interests of consumers and entities engaged in specified activities relating to petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and to promote competitive markets and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- Further as enshrined in the act, the board has also been mandated to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas excluding production of crude oil and natural gas so as and to ensure uninterrupted and adequate supply of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas in all parts of the country.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
4 new frog species found in Northeast
Scientists have discovered four new species of Indian horned frogs from Himalayan regions of Northeast India.
- The team also comprised S D Biju, famously known as the ‘Frogman of India’.
- Horned frogs get their name from fleshy horn-like projection on upper eyelids of some species
- They were discovered in the forests of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
Discovered new species:
Scientists have named them as:
- Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys himalayana),
- Garo white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys oreocrypta);
- Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys flavipunctata)
- Giant Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys periosa).
These frogs vary in size — yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog measures about 5.7-7.5 cm and is smallest among four. Giant Himalayan horned frog measures about 7.1 to 11.2 cm, making it largest of 15 horned frog species found in Northeast India.[Ref: Indian Express, Times of India]
Bilateral & International Relations
Australia refuses to sign UN migration pact
The Australian Government has announced that it would not sign the UN Global Compact for Migration saying that the agreement would undermine its existing immigration policies.
- Australia argues that the Compact is inconsistent with its well-established policies and not in Australia’s interest.
- Australia believes that its immigration policy already promotes safe, orderly and regular migration. Hence, adopting the pact would risk encouraging illegal entry to Australia and reverse the hard-won successes in combating the people-smuggling trade.
- Australia’s harsh immigration policy detains asylum-seekers who try to reach the country by boat on remote Pacific islands. While the policy has led to a decline in people-smuggling, hundreds of people are now being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Evolution of Global Compact for Migration:
- In adopting the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the 193 UN Member States recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level.
- Annex II of the New York Declaration set in motion a process of intergovernmental consultations and negotiations culminating in the planned adoption of the global compact for migration at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018.
- The process to develop this global compact for migration was started in April 2017. It was to reach international consensus at the UN in 2018.
About Global Compact for Migration:
- UN Global Compact on Migration will be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement under auspices of UN to cover all dimensions of international migration in holistic and comprehensive manner.
- The purpose of Global compact of migration is to provide significant opportunity to improve governance on migration, address challenges associated with today’s migration, and strengthen contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.
- The global compact is framed consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and its scope is defined in Annex II of the New York Declaration.
Defence & Security Issues
Russian IGLA-S declared lowest bidder in Army’s multi-billion dollar deal
Indian Army has picked Russia’s Igla-S missile system as choice for its multibillion dollar contract for man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).
About IGLA-S missile system:
- It is latest model of Russian MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense system) technology.
- It offers superior performance over earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India.
- It is designed for use against visible aerial targets at short range such as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), cruise missile, head-on or receding, in presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures.
- As per requirements of Indian Army, it will have maximum range of 6km, altitude of 3km along with all-weather capability.
- Igla-S missile system will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.
Ex Vajra Prahar 2018
India, US Joint Special Forces Exercise 2018 named Vajra Prahar commenced at Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Bikaner in Rajasthan.
About ‘Vajra Prahar’ exercise:
- ‘Vajra Prahar’ is Indo-US Special Forces joint training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US started in 2010.
- It is conducted annually, but there was a gap of three years between 2012 and 2015.
Aim of the Vajra Prahar:
- The aim of the Vajra Prahar exercise is to promote military relations between two countries by enhancing interoperability and mutual exchange of tactics between Special Forces.
Objectives of the Vajra Prahar:
- To share the best practices between the two armies
- To develop joint strategies by sharing expertise of conducting operations in a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism environment
- To capitalise on the rich repository of experiences of each other armies.
Key Facts for Prelims
President Kovind visits My Son temple complex
- President Ram Nath Kovind visited My Son temple complex in Vietnam which has Indian influence and houses Hindu deities like Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva.
- My Son is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples located in Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam, constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa.
- It was the political and cultural capital of Champa Kingdom.
- My Son temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
India gets its first sewer cleaning machine
- The Sulabh International has introduced India’s first “sewer cleaning machine”.
- The machine was unveiled on 19th November on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2018.
- The machine will do away with 99 per cent of manual scavenging” in the country, where at least one worker has died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks every five days since the beginning of 2017.
- It is electro-hydraulically operated, with personal protective devices and quick-view pipe inspection camera which extends up to 20 feet.
- With help of it manual cleaner (safai karamchari) does not have to enter sewers. But if need arises and person has to go, then machine is fully equipped with gas checking machine, protective gears and dress to protect workers from harmful gases.