Current Affairs 16th August

Next 25 years crucial for India’s development: PM #GS2 #Governance

In his eighth consecutive address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for making the next 25 years, in the run-up to the centenary of India’s Independence, a glorious one with “new thresholds, aspirations and dreams”.

He coined the phrase “ Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas ” (With all, development for all, the trust of all, the striving of all). “There comes a time in every nation’s life where it defines anew what development means for it, and resolves anew on how to reach its goals, that moment for our country is now,” he said. He termed the next 25 years as “Amrit Kaal”, a reference to deriving the best in every field, for achieving the goals.

Referring to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Modi recalled those who passed away and lauded the “untiring and committed” work of doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, scientists and entrepreneurs who helped fight the pandemic and were assisted by the development of indigenous vaccines.

He also mentioned that while celebrating independence, “Indians had taken an emotional decision to mark August 14th as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day” for all those who had lost their lives and loved ones in the Partition of 1947.

His speech, nearly 90 minutes in all, went over the efforts of his government to simplify laws, make government less intrusive, invest in infrastructure, including the Rs. 100 lakh crore “Gatishakti initiative”, the master plan for which would be unveiled soon. He pointed out to India’s commitment to the environment and its climate change goals by stating that the country was committed to “circular economy”.

He said his government was committed to the goal of 100% coverage of all welfare schemes, including the Jal Jeevan Mission of tapped drinking water connections to all homes, Ujjwala cooking gas scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana for housing and Jan Dhan bank accounts for everyone.

He also announced the admission for girls in all Sainik Schools across the country and that the use of fortified rice across all government nutrition programmes would also be undertaken. In a nod to the fact that his government has been dealing with long-running protests by farmers groups and Opposition parties on the three contentious farm laws, he asserted that the majority of Indian farmers were small and marginal and his government had prioritised their interests.

Giving the slogan of ‘ c hhota kisan bane desh ki shaan (small farmers should become India’s pride)’, Mr. Modi said 80% of India’s farmers had less than two hectares of land.

“Keeping small expenses in mind, the government is implementing the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) under which more than Rs. 1.5 lakh crore has been transferred into the bank accounts of over 10 crore farmers,” he added.

Reservation ensured

Mr. Modi also said reservation was being ensured for Dalits, STs, backwards and general category poor, and emphasised that the hand-holding of deprived communities was necessary.

He expressed pride in the defence sector’s efforts under “Make in India”, including the trials of INS Vikrant , the aircraft carrier.

Mr. Modi said that development of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh was under way as was the work of the delimitation commission in J&K, and that Assembly election would be held in the Union Territory sooner rather than later. He also lauded the Olympic contingent, which was present at the Red Fort, and said their performance encouraged the youth of the country.

CJI rues ‘sorry state of affairs’ in lawmaking #GS2 #Governance

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Sunday lamented the “sorry state of affairs” of lawmaking and Parliamentary debate in the country, saying there was “a lot of ambiguity in laws” which was triggering litigation and causing inconvenience to citizens, courts and other stakeholders.

Speaking on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day celebrations held at the Supreme Court lawns, Chief Justice Ramana rued how the standards of lawmaking had fallen over the years.

“Now it is a sorry state of affairs. There is a lot of ambiguity in the laws. We don’t know for what purpose they are made. They are causing a lot of litigation and inconvenience to the people, courts…” Chief Justice Ramana said. The observations by the CJI follow closely after Parliament cleared the Tribunal’s Reforms Bill of 2021, which has sought the abolishment of as many as nine appellate tribunals, including the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunals, despite the Opposition charge that the legislation undermined the independence of the judiciary.

The Bill has also revived provisions of tenure and service of members of tribunals which were earlier struck down by the Supreme Court in a judgment. The CJI, in his speech , mentioned how lawyers had led the nation, right from the struggle for Independence to being the first legislators of the country.

‘Constructive debates’

“Then the debates and discussions in the House were constructive. They could elaborately discuss the legislation taking place… Laws used to be discussed and deliberated… Unfortunately, over a period of time… you know what is happening in the House. In the absence of quality debate, courts are unable to fathom the intent and object of the new laws,” the CJI addressed an audience of judges and lawyers.

He said the lack of intellectual heft witnessed in the House could be remedied if more lawyers actively participated in public life rather than confine themselves to their legal practice and homes.

He said the leaders of the Independence struggle were lawyers, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. “They sacrificed not only their professions but also their families and property for the struggle…” the CJI exhorted.

The contributions of the Supreme Court to democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution had been immense over the years, he said. Chief Justice Ramana also noted that the fundamental right of access to justice was evident from the fact that India’s legal services aid machinery catered to 75% of its total population.

Rapid Taliban takeover is surprising, say Indian officials #GS2 #IR

India’s security establishment was taken by surprise at the rapid pace with which the Taliban has taken over control of Afghanistan. “We were surprised at the rapid gains made by the Taliban,” the source said, even as a second source stated that India would operate more flights to Kabul to bring back stranded citizens in Afghanistan.

American officials had previously conveyed to the Indian side about the training and advances made by the Afghan National Army, but the collapse in the face of Taliban advances was not expected, the first source stated.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will take all necessary steps to evacuate our nationals stranded in Afghanistan,” the second source maintained.

As late as Thursday, the Reuters news agency, in a report, cited a U.S. defence official as saying that the Taliban could take over Kabul in 90 days. In actuality, the advance was rapid and U.S. officials were way off the mark. “It’s also possible that this has been agreed upon in advance with the Americans at the Doha talks. We will have to wait and watch how this turns out,” a third official, who also preferred anonymity.

6,808 dead in rain, cyclones in 3 years #GS3 #DM

Nearly 6,800 people lost their lives in the country over the past three years due to hydro-meteorological calamities such as flash floods, landslips and cyclones, and West Bengal has recorded the highest deaths among all States,

The details were provided by the Home Ministry in response to a question by Congress MP from Tamil Nadu, Su. Thirunavukkarasar, earlier this month in the Lok Sabha.

As per the reply, the country recorded 6,808 deaths (2,400 in 2018-19, 2,422 in 2019-20 and 1,986 in 2020-21). West Bengal recorded 964 deaths (383 in 2018-19, 227 in 2019-20 and 354 in 2020-21), which amounts to 14% of deaths due to hydro meteorological calamities.

According to the Ministry, hydro-meteorological calamities and hazards include flash floods, cloudburst and landslips. During the monsoon period (April-October mainly; in Western Ghat terrains from April to December, including the phase of the northeast monsoon), incidents occur in almost all landslip-prone areas, some of which are disastrous, leading to loss of lives, the reply pointed out.

“In most cases, these are triggered by extreme rainfall events or cloudbursts. These types of fatal landslip events are common almost every year, mainly in the Himalayan States, in the Western Ghats, and Konkan areas

M.P., Kerala affected

Other than West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh recorded 833 deaths, followed by Kerala 708 in the same period. In both the States, the spike in the casualties has been caused by floods. For instance, Kerala recorded 455 deaths in 2018-19 due to 2018 floods. Madhya Pradesh recorded 674 deaths in 2019-20 caused by floods.

“What the figures tell us about West Bengal is that for the three consecutive years the deaths due to natural calamities are high. The reason could be the geography of the State where there are both mountains and coastline. The State is susceptible to both landslides, cyclones and floods,” said Tuhin Ghosh, Director of the School of Oceanography, Jadavpur University.

Prof. Ghosh, an expert on disaster management, said that under the Disaster Management Act, States were empowered to take action to prevent deaths due to natural calamities.

Among the other States which recorded high causalties due to hydro meteorological calamities are Maharashtra — 571 deaths — in the same period. Assam, a State that faces regular floods, has recorded 303 deaths, Tamil Nadu 201 casualties and the coastal State of Odisha, 145 deaths in the same period.

Funds allocation

In terms of funds released by the Centre under State Disaster Response Funds, highest funds were allocated to Maharashtra, Rs. 1,288.80 crore, followed by Uttar Pradesh Rs. 773.20 crore and Madya Pradesh Rs. 728 crore. For West Bengal, the funds released by the Centre under State Disaster Response Funds was Rs. 404.40 crore.

Experts also point that over the past three years, West Bengal had braved four tropical cyclones — Fani (May 2019), Bulbul (November 2019), Amphan (May 2020) and Yaas (May 2021).

In response to another question in the Lok Sabha, the Home Ministry’s reply suggests that the damage caused by cyclone Yaas, which made a landfall in north Odisha in May 2021, was more to West Bengal than in Odisha. While in Odisha about 18,094 huts and houses were damaged or destroyed, the number in West Bengal was about three lakh.

In West Bengal, crops were affected over 1,70,891 hectares and in Odisha, 5,672.99 hectares were hit.

No new grand scheme in Modi’s Red Fort address #GS2 #Governance

In his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Rs. 100 lakh crore “Gati Shakti” infrastructure plan with great fanfare. He made no mention of the fact that the same scheme has turned up in his last two Independence Day speeches as well.

In fact, several initiatives announced on Sunday seem to be a rehash of previously launched schemes, some as old as two years ago.

“In the near future, we are going to launch the National Master Plan of Prime Minister ‘Gati Shakti’ which will be a huge scheme and fulfil the dreams of crores of countrymen.

“This scheme of more than 100 lakh crores rupees will result in new employment opportunities for lakhs of youth. Gati Shakti will be a National Infrastructure Master Plan for our country which will lay the foundation of holistic Infrastructure.”

Echoes of past

Back in 2019, similar words issued from the ramparts of Red Fort: “We have decided to invest 100 lakh crore rupees for modern infrastructure in this time period. This will generate employment; will develop new systems and various aspirations will be met.”

In 2020, Mr. Modi had reiterated the same plan, offering more details: “The National Infrastructure Pipeline Project will play an important role in this endeavour. Rs. 110 lakh crore will be spent on this project. ”

It was a similar story with some other announcements on Sunday as well. The Prime Minister said he had “good news to share today” that the Sainik Schools would admit girls. The decision to make all Sainik Schools co-educational by 2021-22 was announced by the Defence Ministry back in October 2019.

“I am announcing the National Hydrogen Mission today with this Tricolour as a witness,” the Prime Minister said on Sunday. However, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced this mission during her Budget speech in February.

The plan to fortify rice with iron and vitamins before distributing it in ration shops and at schools was also announced by then Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in 2019. The resolution to make India energy independent before the 100th anniversary of Independence also puts a deadline on a long-time ambition.

Previous Independence Day speeches from Mr. Modi have included grander ambitions. The schemes to electrify all villages, end open defecation through Swachh Bharat, provide taps in all rural households through Jal Jeevan, put a human in space by 2022, double farmers income by 2022 and double the economy to $5 trillion over a five-year period were all announced from the Red Fort during previous August 15 speeches.

In I-Day greetings, Biden lauds ties #GS2 #IR

Guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s message of truth and non-violence, India achieved its long journey towards Independence, U.S. President Joe Biden said on the country’s 75th Independence Day, asserting that the commitment to respecting the will of the people through democracy continued to inspire the world.

Greeting Indians, Mr. Biden said that in this moment of great challenges and opportunities, the partnership between India and the United States was more important than ever.

“On this day, August 15, 1947, India achieved its long journey toward independence, guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s message of truth and non-violence,” Mr. Biden said in a statement on Saturday.

“Today, that foundational commitment to respecting the will of the people through democracy continues to inspire the world and is the basis of the special bond between our two nations. Over the decades, the ties between our people, including a vibrant community of more than four million Indian-Americans, have sustained and strengthened our partnership,” he said.

Mr. Biden pointed out that in the past one year, the two nations have come together in new ways as they tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, including working in partnership with Japan and Australia — through the Quad grouping — to expand global manufacturing of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

“Together, we must show the world that our two great and diverse democracies can deliver for people everywhere. And as we do, the friendship between our nations will continue to flourish and grow. “I wish all those celebrating today, in India, in the United States, and throughout the world, a safe and happy Indian Independence Day.