Current Affairs 6th April 2022

Let dam committee continue for a year #GS2 #Governance

The Centre on Tuesday suggested to the Supreme Court to let the Mullaperiyar dam supervisory committee continue for a year, by which time the National Dam Safety Authority under the new Dam Safety Act will become fully functional.

“During the period of one year, when the National Dam Safety Authority becomes fully functional, the Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar Dam may continue its functioning as per the existing mandate in regulating the operations of the dam,” a note submitted by the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, said.

The Centre suggested that the Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu and Kerala be made accountable in order to ensure that the decisions of the supervisory committee on the maintenance and safety of the dam are duly complied with by the two States. “To address the technical concerns of both the States, their Chief Secretaries may be requested to nominate technical experts to attend the meetings conducted by the supervisory committee,” the Centre recommended. Once the National Dam Safety Authority is fully functional, functions of the supervisory committee would be taken over by the authority and the committee could be dissolved.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar gave Kerala and Tamil Nadu time till Thursday to study the proposal made by the Centre in the note and respond to it. The Dam Safety Act of 2021 has come as a panacea to end the prolonged and bitter legal battle over Mullaperiyar dam between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The 2021 Act comprehensively provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance to prevent disasters caused by dams.

Moreover, the central statute, which came into force in December last year, mandates the setting up of two specialised bodies, National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority, to evolve policies.

IPCC report endorses India’s position on climate finance’ #GS3 #Environment

The Monday report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) endorses India’s position on the need for scale, scope and speed in climate finance, Union Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

Limiting global warming would require major transitions in the energy sector and would mean drastic reduction of fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and the use of alternative fuels, the authors of the study warned.

“India firmly believes that climate change is a global collective action problem that can be solved only through international cooperation and multilateralism. India will continue to be the voice of ambition as well as champion of equity on behalf of developing countries,” Mr. Yadav said at an event organised by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on minimising plastic pollution.

The IPCC report focused on mitigation, or what could be done to reduce emissions to keep the globe on track to ensure that temperature did not exceed over two degrees Celsius — and strive to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius — by the end of the century.

Close to 80% of the total carbon budget for ensuring temperature did not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius and 66% of the carbon budget for preventing an overshoot over 2 degrees Celsius had been used up. Half the global population, the vast majority of the developing world, was responsible for only 14% of global emissions, Mr. Yadav noted.

“India believes that the utilisation of resources must be made on mindful and deliberate utilisation and not mindless and destructive consumption.

SC to soon take up case against poll bonds scheme #GS2 Governance

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Tuesday told advocate Prashant Bhushan that the court had wanted to take up a long-pending challenge against the government’s electoral bonds scheme, but the COVID-19 pandemic played spoilsport in the matter.

Mr. Bhushan, who represents the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms, informed the CJI that the case had been pending for a year without a hearing.

Unlimited donations

The electoral bonds scheme and amendments in the Finance Act of 2017 allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding”.

The exchange between the Chief Justice of India and the lawyer happened when the latter made an oral mentioning for early listing of the case for hearing.

“Let us see, we will take up the matter,” the Chief Justice said. Mr. Bhushan had similarly sought an urgent hearing last October.

‘Transparency in funds’

The government has, however, justified the scheme, saying it will promote transparency in funding and donation received by political parties. It had defended the scheme as a measure to eradicate black money in political funding.

“They [bonds] can be encashed by an eligible political party only through their bank accounts with the authorised bank. The bonds do not have the name of the donor or the receiving political party, and only carry a unique hidden alphanumeric serial number as an in-built security feature,” the government’s 21-page affidavit had said.

The government had described the scheme as an “electoral reform” in a country moving towards a “cashless-digital economy”.

‘Anonymity legalised’

However, the Election Commission of India filed an affidavit in 2019, saying the government’s scheme for political funding has legalised anonymity.

Electoral bonds protect the identity of political donors and parties receiving the contributions.

Donors who contribute less than Rs. 20,000 to political parties through purchase of electoral bonds need not provide their identity details, such as Permanent Account Number (PAN).

BrahMos sale to Philippines a bilateral deal #GS2 #IR

While the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was a joint development between India and Russia, the sale of the systems to the Philippines was a transaction between the two countries, and India would be able to move ahead on a “bilateral basis”, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran has said, amid the global developments following the Russian war in Ukraine.

The Philippines was also given a clarification on the accidental BrahMos missile launch recently.

“I did have an opportunity to speak to Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and our Ministry of Defence has clarified… There was a query and we responded with the fact there was no technical issue as far as we could understand it. There is an inquiry under way, we will have that cleared once the information is available,” Mr. Kumaran said.

Stating that the decision to purchase it by Philippines was a high political decision, the Envoy said it was enabled by a combination of factors, but driven by the political understanding between the two countries.

‘A frontline system’

Elaborating he said that the first agreement was signed only in March last year, a second agreement in November and the deal was signed this January. “This is a frontline system in the Indian defence forces and the fact that we are willing to share was appreciated by the Philippines,” Mr. Kumaran explained. “There is definitely in terms of the Philippines self-defence national security requirements, a clear requirement on the part of their armed force of this capability.”

To a question if China may have an issue with the sale, the envoy referred to a Philippines statement that it saw it as a self-defence platform and so he did not see “how this can be a concern in other capitals.”

Referring to interest from the Philippines in acquiring other defence equipment , he said discussions were on for systems related to aerospace and Navy. He said Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. had offered to do a technical briefing on the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and there was a “degree of interest” from Manila.

Bill in Lok Sabha to ban WMD funding #GS2 #Governance

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar on Tuesday introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha that seeks to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and empowers the Centre to freeze and seize financial assets of people involved in such activities.

Amid sloganeering by Opposition members over repeated fuel price hikes, Mr. Jaishankar introduced the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, which also fulfils India’s international obligations pertaining to weapons of mass destruction.

Earlier law

The earlier law of 2005 regarding WMDs and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) only banned their manufacture.

The Minister said that the United Nations Security Council’s targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have mandated against financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

The Bill seeks to insert a new Section 12A in the existing law which states that “no person shall finance any activity which is prohibited under this Act, or under the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947 or any other relevant Act for the time being in force, or by an order issued under any such Act, in relation to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems”.

The Bill would give the government powers to “freeze, seize or attach funds or other financial assets or economic resources owned or controlled, wholly or jointly, directly or indirectly, by such person; or held by or on behalf of, or at the direction of, such person; or derived or generated from the funds or other assets owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by such person”.

ISRO to send team to probe mysterious objects #GS3 #SnT

The India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will send a team of its experts to Pawanpur village, in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra to investigate what is believed to be remnants of a disintegrated Chinese rocket.

“Inputs from several sources are received on the mysterious flashing light seen in the sky during evening hours on April 3…It is reported that a metal ring and a cylinder-like object was found in an open field in Pawanpur village. As requested by the district administration, a team of scientists form ISRO is visiting Pawanpur for inspection and further scientific enquiry,” read a post on ISRO’s Facebook page.

Social media was abuzz on Sunday with videos of a flaming meteor-like object that was sighted from terrace of people in Maharashtra. Space debris or remnants of satellites, rockets and other objects in space crashing into earth are a common occurrence but it is relatively rare for such objects to fall on land.

Reports from facilities that track the path of such objects suggested that it was a re-entry of a Chinese rocket stage, which was launched in February 2021. There has, however, neither been confirmation from Chinese authorities nor Indian officials on the provenance of these space objects.

Protect assets of COVID orphans: SC #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court has directed District Magistrates (DMs) and child welfare authorities to ensure that properties and assets of children orphaned by the pandemic are protected.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao has asked the officials to take the help of legal services authorities in the districts concerned to provide legal aid to such children.

‘Left stranded’

Many of these children have parents who died suddenly leaving unfinished debts, mortgages and other financial commitments.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the court’s amicus curiae , advocate Gaurav Agarwal, have highlighted how banks may try to recover from the property left behind by the parents, leaving the children stranded without any economic support for continuing their education and for their basic needs.

“The District Children Protection Unit officers and the District Magistrates concerned are directed to take assistance of the District Legal Services Authorities to ensure that the properties of deceased parents of the forlorn children are protected and the children are not deprived of their properties,” the court said.

The NCPCR had flagged in court the unsettled financial commitments as a major issue facing the children, who may yet not have come out of the trauma of losing their parents to the pandemic.

Vital source of income

Equally important is the fact that many of these children may have assets or property which would become vital sources of income to help them become financially independent and look after their education and needs.

To know the whole extent of the problem, the Commission had suggested to the court in an affidavit that States should upload the details of the assets and liabilities on its Bal Swaraj portal, an NCPCR platform dedicated to identify and rehabilitate children affected by the pandemic.

The NCPCR had urged the court to direct the District Magistrates to “take steps regarding the financial liabilities like loans, mortgages, insurance premiums, etc, due on such children”.

Further, it had said heads of lead banks should take up the issue with banks/insurance companies under the supervision of the District Magistrates. One of the basic problems would be operating bank accounts in the case of orphans who have not been named nominees.

The ready money available would be a great source of comfort for emotionally ragged children who suddenly feel stranded without their parents. The Commission had also said the District Magistrates could also ‘see’ if the deceased parents had left behind any property and ensure that the property rights of the children were protected.

The recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 #GS3 #SnT

The Indian Antarctic Bill and its various provisions #GS2 #IR