Current Affairs 28th July 2022

SC upholds powers of arrest, raid under PMLA # GS2 #Polity&Governance

The Supreme Court upheld the core amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which gives the government and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) virtually unbridled powers of summons, arrest, and raids, and makes bail nearly impossible while shifting the burden of proof of innocence on to the accused rather than the prosecution.

The top court called the PMLA a law against the “scourge of money laundering” and not a hatchet wielded against rival politicians and dissenters.

The verdict came on an extensive challenge raised against the amendments introduced to the 2002 Act by way of Finance Acts. The three-judge Bench said the method of introducing the amendments through Money Bills would be separately examined by a larger Bench of the top court.

Money laundering is an offense against the sovereignty and integrity of the country,” the court noted. “It is no less a heinous offense than the offense of terrorism,” Justice Khanwilkar, who authored the judgment, said. The court said these statements were recorded as part of an “inquiry” into the proceeds of crime. A person cannot claim the right against self-incrimination at a summons stage.

The petitioners had argued that the ED could arrest a person without showing him or supplying a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), violating ‘due process and the right to be informed about the grounds of arrest.

Justice Khanwilkar said ECIR was an internal document. Revealing its contents to an accused may have a “deleterious impact” on the case. Besides, the accused was “informed” of the grounds of his arrest.

The petitioners had argued that the “twin conditions” of bail, even for getting anticipatory bail, rendered the hope for freedom non-existent for the accused. The two conditions allowed the prosecutor to oppose the bail plea. Further, the trial court should be convinced that there were reasonable grounds that the applicant was not guilty and was unlikely to commit “any offense” while out on bail”.

The court said money laundering was an “aggravated form of crime the world over”. A stringent law creates “a deterrent effect”. Besides, the amendments allow an accused who has already spent one-half of the term of punishment as an undertrial to seek bail under Section 436A of the CrPC. But this, again, was not an absolute right.

Replacement level fertility achieved #GS2 #Governance

India has achieved replacement level fertility, with 31 States and Union Territories reaching a Total Fertility Rate (an average number of children per woman) of 2.1 or less. Government data showed an overall positive shift towards spacing methods, which would be instrumental in impacting positively maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.

Mission Parivar Vikas (MPV) 2016 had given further impetus to the National Family Planning Programme. Under the scheme, innovative strategies such as the distribution of ‘Nayi Pehel’ kits, ‘Saas Bahu Sammelan’, and ‘Saarthi’ vans are helping in reaching out to the community and initiating dialogues on family planning and healthy birth spacing, and the importance of small families. “More than 17 lakh ‘Nayi Pehel’ kits have been distributed to newlyweds, over seven lakh ‘Saas Bahu Sammelans’ conducted, and over 32 lakh clients had been counselled through ‘Saarthi’ vans since inception.

Although India has achieved replacement level fertility, there is still a significant population in the reproductive age group who must remain at the centre of our intervention efforts. India’s focus has traditionally been on the supply side, the providers, and delivery systems but now it’s time to focus on the demand side which includes family, community, and society. Significant change is possible with this focus, instead of an incremental change.

The street, in 360-degree panoramic view #GS3 #SnT

Google announced the launch of its popular ‘Street View’ feature in India — after failing to bring the experience to India at least twice in the past decade, following security concerns raised by government agencies over collection of data.

For the launch this time, Google has partnered with two Indian firms — mapping solutions provider Genesys International and Tech Mahindra. Under the National Geospatial Policy, 2021, local companies can collect such data and foreign firms can license the data from Indian entities to serve their customers in the country.

The India launch marks the first time in the world that Street View, which allows users to view panoramic and street-level 360-degree views of a particular place, is being brought to life completely by local partners.

Street View will be available on Google Maps with fresh imagery licensed from local partners covering 1,50,000 km across 10 cities in India — Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Nashik, Vadodara, Ahmednagar, and Amritsar.

Google, Genesys International, and Tech Mahindra plan to expand this to more than 50 cities by the end of 2022, and cover a little under one million unique km over the 18-24 months.

To launch Street View, users need to open Google Maps, zoom into a road in any of the target cities, and tap the area they want to view. The company also announced partnerships with local traffic authorities to improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion.

Forest Rights Act: well begun, and now Odisha is ready for the home run #GS3 #Environment

Juguni Ho, Jasai Soren and Pramilla Pradhan are among the 2.59 lakh beneficiaries of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, which has entered its 16th year of implementation in Odisha.

The implementation, which involves raising awareness among the largely uninformed population, rummaging through voluminous government records, ground truthing, and further vetting by government departments, has been a knotty affair. But while many States are nowhere near completing the implementation of the historic Act, Odisha is aiming for a full rollout by 2024.

It is the first State in the country to make budgetary provision for the implementation of the Central Act – ₹8 crore for 168 FRA cells in 2021-22. Till last year, forest rights committees were functioning in Tribal Sub Plan areas. Now, they have been extended to the entire State. The State is not only ensuring tenurial security and entitlement over land but also addressing livelihood and food security under the Act.

While ST and SC Development Department remain the nodal agency for the Act’s implementation, forest rights cells would function from the State level right down to the tahasil level. Besides, district-level nodal officers, civil society organisations, Panchayati Raj Institution members, revenue inspectors, and local youth will work in tandem for faster implementation of the Act.

“Granting of habitat rights to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) has been a non-starter in the entire country. However, habitat right proposals have been duly approved by gram sabhas and many of those proposals are under active consideration of subdivisional-level committees.

Of the 13 PVTGs identified in Odisha, habitat rights are being processed for 11 groups. Mr. Ota says the Lodhas and Lanjia Sauras, who do not believe in the concept of habitat and could apply for individual forest rights.

Mr. Rao says FRA implementation remained virtually static in almost all States except Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh during the past year. While neighboring Chhattisgarh has been at the forefront of reporting and settling individual forest rights and community forest rights claims, Odisha’s new push could close the gap in the months ahead.

Jaishankar to attend SCO conference in Tashkent #GS2 #IR

[The SCO Ministers] will review ongoing cooperation in the expansion of the SCO Organisation and exchange ideas on regional and global developments of common concern. SCO’s major objectives include promoting mutual confidence and good neighborly relations among member states; strengthening regional peace, security, and stability; and creating a framework for effective cooperation.

The meeting in Tashkent on July 28-29, part of the SCO process which includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Central Asian countries is expected to set the agenda and finalize documents for the upcoming Heads of State Council meeting in Samarkand on September 15-16. Iran, whose membership to the SCO is under process, is also likely to be represented at both events.

The Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministries had traded words over discussions between Beijing and Islamabad to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridors (CPEC) to third countries like Afghanistan.

Centre to amend Warehousing Act #GS2 #Governance

The Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry has suggested major amendments to the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act of 2007.

While the Ministry says that the aim is to help farmers get access to the service of quality warehouses, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) fears that the amendments are for bringing back certain provisions of the repealed Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act through the backdoors.

An official in the Ministry said the amendment is to make registration of godowns compulsory and raise the penalty for various offences and to do away the jail term as a punishment for the offences.

At present registration with the Warehousing Development and Regulation Authority (WDRA) is optional. After the proposed amendment, which is yet to be cleared by the Cabinet, registration of all third party warehouses throughout the country, will be undertaken in a phased manner.

Central government will have powers to exempt any class of warehouses from registration with the Authority. This will ensure a gradual and non-disruptive change to a regulated warehousing system,” the official said here on Wednesday.

The WDRA was established in 2010 to ensure scientific storage by prescribing infrastructural and procedural standards. Captive warehouses such as the FCI are excluded from the ambit of the Act. The Act wants to establish a system of negotiable and non-negotiable warehouse receipt (NWR) which is now in electronic form.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha said the repealed Act had also talked about similar provisions such as electronic trading in transaction platforms and freedom for trading at farmgate, cold storage, warehouse, and processing units.

ICMR invites bids to develop vaccine for monkeypox virus #GS3 #SnT

The monkeypox virus has been isolated by the National Institute of Virology, Pune for the first time in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has invited an Expression of Interest (EoI), proposing to hand over the virus strain to interested Indian vaccine and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) industry partners for the development of indigenous vaccine and diagnostic kits for monkeypox.

ICMR-NIV Pune has successfully isolated and cultured the monkeypox virus strain from the samples of infected Indian patients. Genomic sequence of the Indian strains has 99.85% match with the West African strain circulating globally.

There are two known types (clades) of monkeypox virus — one that originated in Central Africa and one that originated in West Africa. The current world outbreak (2022) is caused by the less severe West African clade.

Government initiates work on consumer spending survey #GS3 #Economy

The Centre has kicked off the process of conducting the quinquennial Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) this month, and the questionnaire for the survey has been tweaked to capture data on items received free from the government’s welfare programs. Fieldwork, which will for the first time involve three visits over a year to assess spending patterns in selected households.

Conducted every five years, the HCES is used to arrive at estimates of poverty levels as well as review key economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The results of the survey are also utilized for updating the consumption basket and for the base revision of the Consumer Price Index.

The survey on Household Consumption Expenditure has been planned to collect disaggregated level information from the households on the consumption of food and non-food items. While the 2011-12 data were collected in a single visit, the latest HCES would entail data collection in three visits through a Computer Assisted Personal Interview.

Why is Rupee under pressure? #GS3 #Economy