Current Affairs Analysis

29th April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Rohtang Pass; Preparations begin for Kumbh Mela; Kumbh Mela; Chakmas and Hajongs starving in Arunachal; Chakmas and Hajongs; Swamitva Yojana; Geo-mapping exercise in Bihar; ADB grants loan to India to combat COVID-19; Asian Development Bank (ADB); USCIRF downgrades India in Religious freedom; United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF); Atal Tunnel; Petersberg Climate Dialogue; Jagananna Vidya Deevena; Doubling Time
By IASToppers
April 29, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Preparations begin for Kumbh Mela
  • Chakmas and Hajongs starving in Arunachal

Government Schemes and policies

  • Swamitva Yojana
  • Geo-mapping exercise in Bihar

Economy

  • ADB grants loan to India to combat COVID-19

Bilateral & International Relations

  • USCIRF downgrades India in Religious freedom

Also in News

  • Rohtang Pass

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Petersberg Climate Dialogue
  • Jagananna Vidya Deevena
  • Doubling Time

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Polity & Governance

Preparations begin for Kumbh Mela

The state government of Uttarakhand has begun planning for the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, to be held in January 2021.

Major Highlights:

  • A meeting was organised by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the Water Ministry body overseeing the clean up of the river which discussed funds that would be needed by the Uttarakhand government for providing community toilets and urinals for the attendees.
  • For organising the event, the State has sought ₹85 crore from the NMCG for creating 16,075 community toilets (these are made of fibre and portable) and 20,000 community urinals.

Kumbh Mela:

  • ´Kumbh Mela´ is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth.
  • It is celebrated in a cycle of approximately 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites: Prayagraj (Ganges-Yamuna Saraswati rivers confluence), Haridwar (Ganges), Nashik (Godavari), and Ujjain (Shipra).
  • The gathering has a long history and draws large crowds from all over the world, who come to take a ritualistic dip in the rivers.
  • The Maha Kumbh Mela is organised once in 12 years, and the last time the event was held in Haridwar in 2010 & about 10 million had reportedly congregated in the city.
  • The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO has inscribed ´Kumbh Mela´ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Chakmas and Hajongs starving in Arunachal

Delhi based Rights and Risks Analysis Group has sought Indian Prime Minister’s intervention in ensuring food for the Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal Pradesh.

What is the issue?

  • The state government announced the economic package for vulnerable sections amid COVID-19 pandemic to provide 5 kg rice and 1 kg pulses per head to beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.
  • The Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh are facing hunger and starvation as they are not included in the government’s economic package and they are forced to buy cereals at higher prices.
  • The Chakmas and Hajongs do not have ration cards as the state government had arbitrarily seized those through an order on October 25, 1991.

Chakmas and Hajongs:

  • These are ethnic people who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh.
  • Chakmas are predominantly Buddhists, while Hajongs are Hindus.
  • They are found in northeast India, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • They fled erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1964-65 and came to India and settled in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Chakmas lost their land to the development of the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River, Bangladesh.
  • Hajongs faced religious persecution as they were non-Muslims and did not speak Bengali.
  • They eventually sought asylum in India.
  • The Indian government set up relief camps in Arunachal Pradesh and a majority of them continue to live there even after five decades.

Why are they yet to be granted Indian Citizenship?

  • According to the 2011 census, 47,471 Chakmas live in Arunachal Pradesh alone.
  • In 2015, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajongs who had migrated from Bangladesh in 1964-69.
  • The order was passed while hearing a plea by the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas.
  • But, it was not possible due to opposition fearing that it may change the demography of the State and that they may have to share the limited resources available for them.
  • Since they entered India between 1964 and 1969, it makes them eligible for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA).
  • But Arunachal Pradesh is among the states exempted from the CAA since it has an inner line permit to regulate entry of outsiders.

Current status:

  • Out of the 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs, about 61,238 Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens by birth as per Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act and about 5,097 Chakmas and Hajongs have been exercising the right to vote as citizens of India.
  • There are about 4,637 survivors of migration during 1964-1969 but not a single application of these survivors of migration has been processed as on date despite the judgment of the Supreme Court.

Key Fact:

  • The denial of food was a violation of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]

Government Schemes and policies

Swamitva Yojana

Prime Minister has launched ‘Swamitva Yojana’ or Ownership Scheme on the occasion of Panchayati Raj Diwas on 24 April, 2020.

Objective:

  • To conduct surveys of land parcels in rural inhabitant areas using Drone Technology & create a record of land ownership in rural areas.

Key Features:

  • Swamitva Yojana is meant to create a record of land ownership in rural areas using modern technology and aimed to revolutionise property record maintenance in India.
  • The scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj of the Union government.
  • Swamitva Yojana is aimed to provide ownership rights to people in the villages.
  • It is expected to settle disputes related to property rights in rural hinterlands and likely to become a tool for empowerment and entitlement.
  • The residential land in villages will be measured using drones to create a non-disputable record.
  • Drones will draw a digital map of every property falling within the geographical limits of a village and demarcate the boundaries of every revenue area.
  • The scheme will be carried out in close coordination with the Central Panchayati Raj ministry, Survey of India, Panchayati Raj departments and Revenue departments of various states.
  • Property cards for every property in the village will be prepared by states using accurate measurements delivered by drone-mapping.
  • These cards will be given to property owners and will be recognised by the land revenue records department.
  • The delivery of property rights through an official document will enable villagers to access bank finance using their property as collateral.
  • The property records for a village will also be maintained at the Panchayat level, allowing for the collection of associated taxes from the owners.
  • The money generated from these local taxes will be used to build rural infrastructure and facilities.

Significance:

  • The need for this Yojana was felt since several villagers in the rural areas don’t have papers proving ownership of their land.
  • In most states, survey and measurement of the populated areas in the villages has not been done for the purpose of attestation/verification of properties.
  • Freeing the residential properties including land of title disputes and the creation of an official record is likely to result in appreciation in the market value of the properties.
  • The accurate property records can be used for facilitating tax collection, new building and structure plans, issuing of permits and for thwarting attempts at property grabbing.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Geo-mapping exercise in Bihar

The Bihar government has started a geo-mapping exercise to trace, identify thousands of water bodies in the state.

Objective:

  • To focus on developing wetlands — locally known as chaur.

Major Highlights:

  • The Bihar government has begun the exercise of geo-mapping water bodies across the state — locally known as ‘jalkaro’.
  • The exercise is a part of the state government’s Jal Jeevan Hariyali mission.
  • The exercise is meant to map the water bodies that disappeared after widespread encroachment as well as the ones recorded as missing in official records.
  • Geo-mapping will help trace and identify all water bodies to ensure proper usage, including harvesting water and conserving it.
  • The Bihar Remote Sensing Application Centre (BIRSAC) was tasked with handling the geo-mapping exercise.

Significance:

  • Geo-mapping will be conducted before and after the monsoon every year.
  • It would help in identifying the exact number of water bodies in the state along with those which have disappeared in the past decades.
  • The exercise will also help the department in utilising the water bodies for commercial purposes as well.
  • It will give the clear idea about encroached water bodies and the need for their renovation.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Economy

 ADB grants loan to India to combat COVID-19

Asian Development Bank grants USD 1.5 billion loan to India to tackle Covid-19 outbreak. The loan was granted under ADB’s Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Programme.

Asian Development Bank:

  • ADB is a regional development bank established in December 1966.
  • It is headquartered in Manila, Philippines and aims at reducing poverty in Asia and Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration.
  • The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and non-regional developed countries.
  • ADB was modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.
  • ADB is an official United Nations Observer and offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans.
  • The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.

Members:

  • Currently, ADB has 68 members– of which 49 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 from outside the region.
  • India is the founding member of ADB.

Funding:

  • ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
  • ADB also relies on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
  • Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%.
  • The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.

Functions of ADB:

  • Provides loans and equity investments to its Developing Member Countries (DMCs).
  • Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services.
  • Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development.
  • Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs.
[Ref: India Today]

Bilateral & International Relations

USCIRF downgrades India in Religious freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking “countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.

What is the issue?

  • The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has classified India as a “country of particular concern”, along with other countries like Pakistan, North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia.
  • This is the first time since 2004 – which was in the backdrop of the Gujarat riots of 2002, that USCIRF has recommended that India be designated as a country of Particular Concern.
  • Earlier, India was in the Tier-2 category (States under watch list), and now it has been moved to the Tier-1 category (Countries of particular concern).

Reason for downgradation:

  • The report has accused India for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
  • It cited the CAA-NRC issue, revoking of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi riots in February this year as reasons for the downgrade of India.

India’s stand:

  • The Ministry of External Affairs rejected the observations on India in the USCIRF Annual Report accusing it of biased and tendentious comments against India.

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF):

  • USCIRF is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
  • USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Also in News

Rohtang Pass

The Border Roads Organisation has opened the Rohtang Pass for transporting essential supplies and relief materials to Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh amid the lockdown.

Atal Tunnel:

  • The work on the 8.8-km-long Atal Tunnel, below the Rohtang Pass, was also stalled when the lockdown started.
  • The Tunnel is being built under the Rohtang Pass in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali
  • When completed, it will become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet and will be one of the longest road tunnels in India.
  • Tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which otherwise remained cut off from the rest of India for about six months.

Rohtang Pass:

  • It is a high mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh at the elevation of 13,058 ft on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.
  • It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • The pass lies on the watershed between the Chenab and Beas basins.
  • On the southern side of this pass, the Beas River emerges from underground and flows southwards and on its northern side, the Chandra River, a source stream of the river Chenab, flows westwards.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Petersberg Climate Dialogue

The first virtual Climate Dialogue was recently held.

  • It was the 11th session of Petersberg Climate Dialogue which has been hosted by Germany since 2010 to provide a forum for informal high-level political discussions, focusing both on international climate negotiations.
  • The virtual XI Petersberg Climate Dialogue was co-chaired by Germany and the United Kingdom, the incoming Presidency of 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • The dialogue saw participation from Ministers and representatives of about 30 countries.

Jagananna Vidya Deevena

  • Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh launched ‘Jagananna Vidya Deevena’, a fee reimbursement scheme that would benefit 14 lakh college students in the State.
  • From the 2020–21 academic year, the fee reimbursement amount would be credited directly into the accounts of the mothers instead of that of the students in four instalments.

Doubling Time

  • Doubling time is a concept borrowed from finance, where it is routinely used to compute the time taken for an investment to double.
  • In a pandemic, a single-day doubling time would mean that, if there were 100 cases to start with on Day 0, there would be 200 cases on Day 1, 400 on Day 2, 800 on Day 3 and so on. However, if the doubling rate was three days, 100 cases on Day 0 would increase to 200 cases on Day 3.
  • Doubling rate is not known in advance. It has to be calculated, based on the emergence of new cases, and as such, it changes every day.

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