Polity & Governance
- SC ends impunity for armed forces
- After Bihar’s samosa tax, Kerala slaps fat tax on junk food
- Agriculture Ministry Launches Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Portal
- Second trial run of Spanish lightweight coaches
Environment & Ecology
- Mahanadi projects would not affect Odisha: Minister
- Bornean orangutan critically endangered
- India, S Africa sign MoUs on ICT, tourism
- INNOPROM 2016
- 2nd Anti-Drug Working Group meeting of Heads of Drug Control Agencies of BRICS countries concludes
Polity & Governance
SC ends impunity for armed forces
The Supreme Court recently in its judgement ruled that every death caused by the armed forces in a disturbed area, whether the victim is a dreaded criminal or a militant or a terrorist or an insurgent, should be thoroughly enquired into.
The judgment came on a plea by hundreds of families in the north-eastern State of Manipur for a probe by a Special Investigation Team into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters involving the Army and the police.
What the Supreme Court said in the judgement?
- It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both. This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties.
- The court dismissed the government’s argument that every armed person breaking prohibitory orders in a disturbed area runs the risk of being considered an “enemy.”
- A thorough enquiry should be conducted into “encounter” killings in disturbed areas because the “alleged enemy is a citizen of our country entitled to all fundamental rights including under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), is an Act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”.
Why is this required?
- The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
Under which conditions AFSPA can be declared?
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
What about the state government’s role?
- The state governments can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.
AFSPA acts so far:
- The AFSPA act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (Seven Sister States in India’s northeast).
- Another passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force.
- In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
- In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.
- The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement alleged to have happened.
In 2005 the Jeevan Reddy Commission said that AFSPA should be repealed and the clauses that are required should be included in other Acts.
Objectionable provisions of AFSPA:
- All that is necessary for a part of the State to be handed over to the armed forces is for the Governor or the Central Government to notify it to be in a “disturbed and dangerous” condition.
- Even a non-commissioned officer of the armed forces is free, on the mere suspicion of violation of the law or commission of an offence, to fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person.
- He can also without any warrant, arrest any person and enter and search any premises.
- No prosecution of anyone indulging in excesses purporting to act under AFSPA is possible except with the previous sanction of the Government.
- The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law.
After Bihar’s samosa tax, Kerala slaps fat tax on junk food
The Kerala government has proposed a 14.5 per cent ‘fat tax’ on burgers, pizzas and other junk food served in branded restaurants.
- It is important to note that Kerala isn’t the first state to impose so-called Fat tax. In January 2016, Bihar government decided to impose a 13.5% value-added tax (VAT) on items such as salted peanuts, samosas, sweets and a few branded snacks.
Implications of the ‘fat tax’:
- The revenue impact of the fat tax will be modest, but it could have a big impact nationwide on the food industry if other states follow suit.
- Companies will pass on this tax partially or fully to the customer which may make the customer cut back on pizzas and burgers.
- Critics believe that imposing the tax is not going to change consumption patterns but will have an impact on the volume of such food products sold.
- It will discourage junk food and play some role in healthy lifestyle of people as Kerala has one of the highest numbers of patients of diabetes or hypertension in the country caused due lifestyle changes.
About Fat tax:
- It proposed tax on foods or drinks judged to be unhealthy and whose consumption is believed to be linked to rising obesity levels. It is similar to the sin tax imposed on items such as alcohol or tobacco to discourage their consumption.
- Fat tax on junk food has been successfully imposed in European countries such as Denmark and Hungary.
Agriculture Ministry Launches Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Portal
The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has formally launched Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) portal (http://kvk.icar.gov.in).
Significance of the portal:
- Each KVK has direct interface with at least 1000 farmers. As the information related to KVK was not available at one place at the National Level, the farmers and other stakeholders had difficulty in accessing the information and also there was no online monitoring system at the National level to review and monitor the functioning of KVKs against the mandates and objectives. This portal will provide a platform to provide the information and advisory to the farmers and facilitate online monitoring of the KVK activities.
About Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVKs):
- The KVK scheme is 100% financed by Govt. of India and the KVKs are sanctioned to Agricultural Universities, ICAR institutes, related Government Departments and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) working in Agriculture.
- There are 645 Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVKs) in the country.
- These centres are established in the Rural Districts of the country.
- The first KVK was established in 1974 at Puducherry.
- KVK, is an integral part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), aims at assessment of location specific technology modules in agriculture and allied enterprises, through technology assessment, refinement and demonstrations.
- KVKs place a special emphasis on training and education of farmers, entrepreneurs, farm women, rural youth, financial institutions extension functionaries as well as voluntary organizations.
- The KVKs are being sanctioned to only those Institutions who have at least 5 years of experience of working in Agriculture.
- While sanctioning KVKs to NGOs, it has been made mandatory for the host Institution to mortgage about 20.0 ha of land in the favor of ICAR.
Mandate and Activities of the KVK:
The mandate of KVK is Technology Assessment and Demonstration for its Application and Capacity Development. To implement the mandate effectively, the following activities are envisaged for each KVK
- On-farm testing to assess the location specificity of agricultural technologies under various farming systems.
- Frontline demonstrations to establish production potential of technologies on the farmers’ fields.
- Capacity development of farmers and extension personnel to update their knowledge and skills on modern agricultural technologies.
- To work as Knowledge and Resource Centre of agricultural technologies for supporting initiatives of public, private and voluntary sector in improving the agricultural economy of the district.
- Provide farm advisories using ICT and other media means on varied subjects of interest to farmers
- In addition, KVKs produce quality technological products (seed, planting material, bio-agents, livestock) and make it available to farmers, organize frontline extension activities, identify and document selected farm innovations and converge with ongoing schemes and programs within the mandate of KVK.
Features of the Portal:
- The portal provides provisions for online monitoring of KVKs which will include reporting of major events on regular basis and submission of monthly reports online.
- The portal will also provide information on different services being provided by different KVKs.
- Weather and Market related informations can also be accessed by the farmers and others.
- The forthcoming programmes will also be available on the website which will benefit farmers and youth in joining different training programmes being organized by KVKs.
- Question and answer facility will also be available for the farmers.
- Agriculture related information of the districts will also be available on the portal.
- The farmers and the Agricultural Officers may register themselves and seek different informations related to KVKs.
Second trial run of Spanish lightweight coaches
The Indian Railways will carry out the second trial run of the Spanish Talgo train on the Mathura-Palwal route.
About Spanish Talgo train:
- The lightweight aluminium coaches, made by Madrid-based Talgo, can travel at much higher speeds due to their weight and also don’t need to de-accelerate at sharp turns like conventional coaches used by the Indian Railways.
- Besides being faster, the light-weight of the Talgo trains coaches means that the train guzzles up to 30 per cent less energy than a train with conventional coaches.
Environment & Ecology
Mahanadi projects would not affect Odisha: Minister
Even as a controversy was brewing over Mahanadi waters with Odisha government opposing Chhattisgarh’s new projects across the river, Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister claimed their projects would not have any adverse impact on Odisha.
About Mahanadi river:
The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India. The river flows through the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
- The word Mahanadi literally comes from two odia words ‘maha’ and nadi’ meaning ‘The Great River’.
- The Mahanadi was notorious for its devastating floods for much of recorded history. Thus it was called ‘the sorrow of Orissa’. However, the construction of the Hirakud Dam has greatly altered the situation.
- The Mahanadi proper enters the sea via several channels near Paradeep at False Point, Jagatsinghpur.
- The combined Delta of the Mahanadi’s numerous distributaries and the Brahmani is one of the largest in India.
Bornean orangutan critically endangered
A global conservation group says Borneo’s orangutans are now a critically endangered species due to hunting and destruction of forest habitat.
- Previously the species was considered to be endangered.
Orangutans are the two exclusively Asian species of extant great apes. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are currently found in only the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
- Both orangutan species are considered to be endangered, with the Sumatran orangutan being critically endangered since 2008.
- Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates; they use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage.
India, S. Africa sign MoUs on ICT, tourism
India and South Africa signed three memorandums of understanding (MoUs), including two on information and communication technology and tourism.
- The MoUs were signed following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendara Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma.
- The first MoU is on cooperation in the area of information and communication technology.
- Another MoU calls for cooperation in the tourism sector and is being seen as an important bid to improve people-to-people ties.
- A third MoU calls for cooperation in grassroot innovation in the science and technology sector.
- The two sides also signed a programme of cooperation in arts and culture.
INNOPROM, the largest annual international industrial trade fair of Russia, organised to showcase engineering innovations from across the world will kick-start on 10th of July, 2016 in Ekaterinburg.
- Indian Commerce Minister is leading the delegation of over 110 Indian companies that will showcase India’s engineering prowess at the Russian engineering and technology event under the Brand India Engineering campaign.
- India is the Partner Country for INNOPROM 2016.
- India’s partnership at INNOPROM provides a significant opportunity to sustain, expand and further develop the privileged strategic partnership between the two countries (India-Russia).
- Besides, the collaboration is in line with Prime Minister’s vision of making India a global destination for high-end engineering and reliable & quality products.
- INNOPROM’16 will also offer India a platform to showcase “BRAND INDIA ENGINEERING” and “MAKE IN INDIA”.
2nd Anti-Drug Working Group meeting of Heads of Drug Control Agencies of BRICS countries concludes
The Narcotics Control Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs organized the 2nd anti-drug Working Group meeting of Heads of Drug Control Agencies of BRICS countries.
- The meeting assumes significance as India shall be hosting the eighth BRICS summit in October, 2016 in Goa. The seventh BRICS summit was held in 2015 in Russia.
- In keeping with the spirit of the eThekwani Declaration, the first anti-drug working group meeting of Heads of Drug Control Agencies of BRICS countries was organized at Moscow, Russia in November, 2015.
What did the participants at the meeting discuss?
During the meeting, the participants discussed the drug trafficking situation including
- Illicit cultivation and production of Opium and Heroin in South West Asia and South East Asia and
- Illicit cultivation of Coca bush in South America, and Illicit cultivation of Cannabis plant used for production of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,
- Diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals,
- Illicit financial flows from drug proceeds, financing of terrorism in certain cases,
- Maritime drug trafficking and challenges and
- Emergence of new psycho-active substances that have posed serious threat to health, safety and well being of society across globe, especially of the youth and also undermines the economic, social and political stability and development of BRICS member states.