Current Affairs 11th July

As Taliban advance, India pulls out Kandahar consulate staff #GS2 #IR

As the Taliban’s claims about taking Afghan territory grow, India has decided to temporarily close its consulate in Kandahar, sending a special Indian Air Force flight to evacuate about 50 diplomats and security personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) back to Delhi.

Officials said the move was purely precautionary, and stemmed from reports that if the Taliban continue to push on to the southern city of Kandahar, which was their headquarters in the 1990s, the fighting in the city with Afghan Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) could get fierce.

“Our aim was to ensure that Indian personnel are safe, and we felt the risk of fighting within the city could endanger them,” an official told The Hindu , as a full security review of India’s missions in Afghanistan in the wake of the pull-out of American troops continues.

At present, the Indian Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province remain operational.

Evolving situation

According to the officials, the personnel that returned to Delhi on Saturday would be transported back if the situation improves, while some may alternatively travel to Kabul to continue their consular operations from the Embassy, if required.

In April last year, the government decided to suspend operations at the other two consulates in Jalalabad and Herat and pull all its personnel out from there as well.

While the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said the decision to withdraw the staff was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, security concerns were believed to be the reason they have not been sent back yet.

Officials say they have been particularly worried about Kandahar, with exit routes limited to the airport, as the Taliban forces have taken control of other key districts close to the city. Last Sunday, the district of Panjwai, less than an hour’s drive from Kandahar city, fell to the Taliban fighters.

“There’s an increased level of violence in Kandahar and we may possibly see temporary suspension of services by a number of consulates including the Indian consulate,” Afghanistan Ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay told.

‘Overstated claims’

However, both Indian and Afghan officials warned against overstating the Taliban claims of territorial gains across Afghanistan at present, pointing out that the ANDSF have been successful in pushing back the Taliban onslaught at many places, and the Taliban has lost many of its fighters in the past few weeks of violence as well. On Friday, Kandahar Governor said Taliban militants had been repelled by security forces when they tried to attack the city’s ‘District 7’

“Taliban is exaggerating its claims on territory. They aim to frighten the Afghan people, and through such claims they open a gap of realities, into which they pour fear, terror and uncertainties,” Mr. Mamundzay said.

The MEA declined to comment on the developments, and while it had denied that India had shut down operations at its consulates in Mazar and Kandahar on Thursday, it said the situation was “evolving and fluid”.

“We are carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and its implications on the security and safety of Indian nationals in Afghanistan. Our responses will be calibrated accordingly, depending on how the situation evolves,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said on July 8.

On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at the Taliban, holding them responsible for the growing violence, and between 200-600 casualties every day, despite the fact that the group’s main demand, that the U.S. and NATO troops leave the country, has largely been met.

“Taliban should be asked whom they are fighting for? Who will benefit if Afghanistan is ruined and if Afghans are killed? Are they fighting for Afghanistan, or they want the country to be controlled by others,

Govt. infra spending sees steep fall in Q1 #GS3 #Economy

The second wave of COVID-19 and a steep decline in new investment projects from government agencies dented fresh investment plans in the economy by 18% in the first quarter of 2021-22, compared with the previous quarter.

Despite the government’s stated push for capital spending to revive the economy, public infrastructure investments almost halved compared with the January-March quarter, bringing total outlays on new infrastructure plans down by nearly 39% over April to June this year.

Almost 2,200 new projects entailing fresh investments of Rs. 3,34,572.5 crore were announced during the quarter, compared with 2,716 new projects worth Rs. 4,08,237 crore in the previous three-month period that had seen both private and public sector investments rebounding strongly for the first time since the pandemic hit India.

Overall new investments from the Union and State governments fell 41.6% from nearly Rs. 1.67 lakh crore in Q4 of 2020-21 to Rs. 97,376 crore, as per Projects Today’s survey on project investments in India during Q1 of 2021-22. New public sector irrigation and manufacturing projects also fell off the cliff by 96% and 77% respectively.

By contrast, private investments sequentially declined by a mere 1.7% in the first quarter of this year, thanks to a significant 45% uptick in manufacturing projects from Rs. 1.17 lakh crore between January and March 2021 to over Rs. 1.70 lakh crore in the quarter just concluded.

However, about Rs. 1.1 lakh crore of these private manufacturing investments are related to just four massive projects, including a Rs. 60,000 crore green energy complex announced by Reliance Industries, two PVC units in Gujarat from Adani Enterprises worth Rs. 29,200 crore and a Rs. 10,000 crore copper smelter by Vedanta.

Foreign investment projects slipped 95.4% from the previous quarter, with just 17 projects worth Rs. 3,450.5 crore in Q1 of this year, from 34 projects worth over Rs. 75,000 crore in the preceding quarter.

“While the flaring up of COVID 2.0 affected economic activities as well as fresh project announcements, the severity was not as much as observed in the first quarter of last year immediately after the national lockdown,” said Shashikant Hegde, director and CEO of Projects Today.

“The fall in fresh investments was also because of a sharp fall in announcement of new projects by government agencies — both Central and State. Recognising this, the Finance Ministry has rightly prodded government agencies to front load their capital expenditure plans,” Mr Hegde added, adding that the timely execution of over 8,000 projects worth Rs. 153.37 lakh crore listed in the National Infrastructure Pipeline must also be pushed. “That will not only revive the economy but also instil confidence in private companies to expedite their own capex plans,” he pointed out.

Public investments in new hospitals rose by 25% between April and June, but the number of projects declined from 85 to just 38, while investments in other community services, including water and sewage projects fell significantly.

With Reliance Industries’ and Adani group’s mega projects planned in Gujarat, the western State garnered nearly a third of all new investments, over Rs. 1.08 lakh crore, in the quarter. Maharashtra retained its second position for the second quarter in a row, with Rs. 43,559 crore of new projects.

The April to June quarter also saw electricity investments falling to nearly a third of the preceding quarter’s levels, while investment plans in transport services dropped 55.1%. The National Highways Authority announced only 24 highways worth Rs. 17,285.74 crore and just eight new railway projects worth Rs. 55.6 crore were kicked off.

U.P. law panel moots proposals to promote two-child norm #GS2 #Governance

The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has prepared a proposed draft Bill for population control, under which a two-child norm will be implemented and promoted.

After the law comes into force, a person with more than two children will be debarred from several benefits such as government-sponsored welfare schemes and from contesting elections to the local authority or any body of the local self-government. Ration card units will be limited to four persons.

A person contravening the law will also become ineligible to apply for State government jobs and be barred from promotion in government services and any kind of subsidy. The provisions will come into force one year after the date of the publication of the gazette. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will on July 11 launch the Uttar Pradesh Population Policy 2021-2030 on the occasion of World Population Day.

Sops for sterilisation

The Commission has uploaded the proposed draft Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021 and invited suggestions till July 19. As per the draft, several incentives have been provided to people, including public servants, if they adopt the norm by undergoing voluntary sterilisation.

The incentives include a 3% increase in the employer’s contribution fund under national pension; two additional increments during the entire service; subsidy towards purchase of plot or house site or building a house; rebate on charges for utilities such as water, electricity and house tax; and soft loan for construction or purchasing a house at nominal rates of interest.

A public servant or common citizen who adopts a one-child norm will receive additional benefits such as free health care facility and insurance coverage to the child till age 20; preference to the single child in admission in all education institutions, including but not limited to the Indian Institutes of Management and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences; free education up to the graduation level; scholarship for higher studies in case of a girl child and preference to a single child in government jobs.

Cash incentive

A couple living below the poverty line who have only one child and undergoes voluntary sterilisation, shall be eligible for payment of a one-time Rs. 80,000 if the single child is a boy and Rs. 1 lakh if it is a girl.

Explaining the reasons for bringing out the draft Bill, the Commission headed by Justice Aditya Nath Mittal said there were limited ecological and economic resources at hand in Uttar Pradesh and it was necessary to control and stabilise the population for the promotion of sustainable development with more equitable distribution.

India hands over relics to Georgia #GS2 #IR

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar attended the formal handing- over ceremony of the holy relics of 17th century queen St. Ketevan to Georgia, nearly 16 years after they were found in Goa, describing such historical objects as a “bridge of faith” between the two countries.

Mr. Jaishankar is on a two-day visit to Georgia, a strategically important country situated at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

“Today is a special day, not only for Georgia but also for India. I have the honour to hand over the holy relics of St. Queen Ketevan to the people of Georgia,” Mr. Jaishankar said at the ceremony at the Sameba Holy Trinity Cathedral. “I consider myself blessed that the purpose of my first visit to Georgia is such an auspicious one,” he said.

Mr. Jaishankar handed over the relics of St. Queen Ketevan to the government and the people of Georgia at a ceremony in Tbilisi in the presence of Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

St. Queen Ketevan was a 17th century Georgian Queen. Her relics were found in 2005 at the St. Augustine Convent in Old Goa, on the basis of medieval Portuguese records, people aware of the matter said.

“The presence of some of the relics in India and Georgia is a bridge of faith between our two countries. I hope that in the coming years, the people of both of our nations will traverse that bridge, of spirituality as much as of friendship. The relics are believed to have been brought to Goa in 1627 and interred in St. Augustine Complex.

At the instance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, carried out DNA analysis that confirmed its authenticity. In 2017, at the request of the Georgian government, India sent the relics to Georgia for an exhibition for six months.

Don’t reveal identity in sexual offence cases: SC #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court has asked trial judges to take care to not reveal the identity of victims in sexual offence cases. The court said their privacy should be respected.

The observation came in an order dismissing an appeal made against a Chhattisgarh High Court judgment in a case. The apex court noted that the Sessions Judge had mentioned the name of the victim.

“We take exception to the judgment of the Sessions Judge where the name of victim is mentioned. It is well-established that in cases like the present one, the name of the victim is not to be mentioned in any proceeding. We are of the view that all subordinate courts should be careful in future while dealing with such cases.

Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits the publication of the identity of rape victims or any other details which may reveal the identity. The bar, however, does not ostensibly extend to court judgments. However, the apex court, in the State of Karnataka versus Puttaraja case, had said it would be “appropriate” if courts do not name the victim in its records.

True it is, the restriction does not relate to printing or publication of judgment by High Court or Supreme Court. But keeping in view the social object of preventing social victimisation or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which Section 228-A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this court, High Court or lower court, the name of the victim should not be indicated. We have chosen to describe her as ‘victim’ in the judgment.

Vietnam appoints first Honorary Consul in India #GS2 #IR

As part of Vietnam’s efforts to deepen cooperation with various States, industrialist N.S. Srinivasa Murthy, based in Bengaluru, has been appointed Honorary Consul-General of Vietnam for Karnataka.

“He is the first Honorary Consul-General of Vietnam from India and the 19th across the world. He is the third Consul-General to be appointed globally this year,” said Vietnamese Ambassador in India Pham Sanh Chau. The appointment is for a period of three years.

Mr. Murthy is the owner and managing partner of N. K. Subbiah Setty & Sons, which has been manufacturing agarbattis (incense sticks) since 1932. Speaking at the event, Mr. Murthy said his endeavour will be to promote trade between Vietnam and South India and in particular Karnataka.

Bilateral ties

In a telephonic conversation on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Pham Minh Chinh on his appointment as Prime Minister of Vietnam and expressed confidence that the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) will continue to become stronger under his able guidance.

“PM Modi welcomed the fact that both countries share a similar vision of an open, inclusive, peaceful and rules-based Indian Ocean Region, and hence the India-Vietnam CSP can contribute to promote regional stability, prosperity and development.

Interpol seeks joint fight against ransomware #GS3 #Security

Senior police officers of the Interpol’s member countries have endorsed measures to boost the role of its National Central Bureaus (NCBs), in view of the evolving threats, technology and the pandemic shifting the foundations of police work. In India, the CBI is the NCB for Interpol.

Nearly 300 officers from 167 countries attended the Interpol’s 16th annual conference, held virtually from July 6 to 8.

They reviewed major initiatives, ranging from operational and investigative support to expanding the I-24/7 secure communications network to national police and border control agencies, said the Interpol in a statement. These measures are aimed at optimising the performance and operational capacity of the NCBs, and to enhance international police cooperation against transnational crime and corruption.

The meeting heard that ransomware activities generated $350 million in 2020, according to Chainalysis, a 311% increase over the previous year. “A global strategy in response to the threat of ransomware is critical — one where we successfully build trust, see effective exchange of data, and maximise rapid operational assistance to law enforcement agencies,.

On terrorism, he said the global threat was at the crossroads, with the territorial defeat of the IS opening up a new insurgency phase in West Asia, while in other critical theatres such as Africa, new groups had joined the terrorist movement.

Caregivers of disabled need priority for jabs #GS2 #SocialIssues

The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry earlier this week asked the Health and Family Welfare Ministry to ensure that caregivers of persons with disabilities (PwD) are vaccinated against COVID-19 at the same centre as the PwD on priority basis.

The Department of Empowerment of PwD (DEPwD) under the Ministry wrote in an office memorandum on July 7 that it had received an email from Anjlee Agarwal, a PwD, requesting the facility.

“Caregivers are required to come in close proximity with persons with disabilities for providing support services to PwDs to enable them to perform activities of daily living. As such, it is important to ensure vaccination of such caregivers alongside persons with disabilities,” the DEPwD wrote.

The Health Ministry was asked to issue instructions to all Central and State healthcare authorities and vaccination centres to this effect.

Ms. Agarwal, an activist and wheelchair user, said she had to go to a West Delhi school for the first dose with her two caregivers. “To my utter shock, upon reaching the Tilak Nagar school, the people at the vaccination centre refused to vaccinate my caregivers with the excuse that they were not disabled and the vaccination drive was organised for PwD.

Calibrated opening up is key: Centre #GS3 #SnT

The Union government has informed the Delhi High Court that it has asked all States and Union Territories (UTs) to ensure strict compliance with the national directives for COVID-19 management and take necessary measures under the Disaster Management Act.

An order was also issued to them to consider the implementation of targeted and prompt actions for COVID-19 management until July 31. The government also stated that while the opening of activities after a decline in COVID-19 cases was essential, States and UTs must ensure that “the whole process was carefully calibrated”.

The statement was made in a status report filed by the Union government through its standing counsel, Anil Soni, in connection with the High Court’s suo motu proceedings on violation of COVID-19 protocols in various markets in the national capital.

The Union government submitted that national directives for COVID-19 management included face masks, social distancing, not spitting in public places, working from home, staggering of work/business hours, screenings and frequent sanitisation.

Clarifying that the decision to impose or ease restrictions had to be based on an assessment of the ground situation, the Union government added that State/UT authorities should ensure that there was “continuous focus on containment efforts” and “uniformity in implementing graded restrictions/relaxations”.

The High Court was also informed that the “framework for implementation of prompt and target action” was also shared by the Union government with the States.

The framework, the government said, had a “five-fold strategy for effective management of COVID-19”, — test, track, treat, vaccinate and adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour. The framework also emphasised that “COVID-19 management can succeed only through a whole of government and whole of society approach”.

The States were nonetheless at liberty to plan additional public health measures based on their local situation. The Union government also submitted that a letter was addressed to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Administrators of UTs, stressing effective management of COVID-19 by following advisories issued by the Home and Health Ministries.

A Vacation Bench of the High Court had initiated a public interest litigation (PIL) petition last month after it took note of certain photographs sent to one of the High Court judges on WhatsApp by an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) doctor showing scant regard for COVID-19 protocols by street vendors in markets. The court had observed that such breaches would only hasten the third wave of COVID-19.

Sikkim blossoms: State home to 27% of India’s flowering plants #GS3 #Environment

Sikkim, the smallest State with less than 1% of India’s landmass, is home to 27% of all flowering plants found in the country, reveals a recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). Flora of Sikkim – A Pictorial Guide , released earlier this week, lists 4,912 naturally occurring flowering plants in the tiny Himalayan State.

“The total number of naturally occurring flowering plants in the country is about 18,004 species, and with 4,912 species, the diversity of flowering plants in Sikkim, spread over an area of 7,096 sq. km is very unique,” Rajib Gogoi, Scientist and Regional Head, BSI, Gangtok, and the lead author of the publication, said.

Dr. Gogoi said the publication provides details of 5,068 taxa (including 152 cultivated taxa) belonging to 1,491 genera and 209 angiosperm families which are naturally occurring flowering plants, along with geography, ecology, vegetation pattern and forest types of Sikkim.

The other authors of the publication include Norbu Sherpa, J.H. Franklin Benjamin, D.K. Agrawala, S.K. Rai and S.S. Dash. In the 582-page publication, the authors have included more than 2,000 photographs of about 1,350 plant species from the State.

Kanchenjuga biosphere

The State, which is a part of the Kanchenjunga biosphere landscape, has different altitudinal ecosystems, which provide opportunity for herbs and trees to grow and thrive.

“From subalpine vegetation to the temperate to the tropical, the State has different kinds of vegetation, and that is the reason for such a diversity of flora. The elevation also varies between 300 metres and 8,598 metres above mean sea level, the apex being the top of Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 metres). Dr. Mao emphasised the need to have updated checklist of flora of every State, and active cooperation with the State government is needed in this regard.

Sikkim’s Minister of Forest and Environment Karma Loday Bhutia, who was present at the launch of the publication, said that along with unique geographical features, the people of Sikkim have a unique bond with nature and trees. The Minister referred to the notification titled Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017 which state that the, “State government shall allow any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.” The notification encouraged people to adopt a tree “as if it was his or her own child in which case the tree shall be called an adopted tree”.

Mr. Bhutia, however, expressed concern that certain activities in the mountain State were being carried out without considering their impact on the environment and biodiversity. “The widening of roads to Nathu La, which is of strategic interest to us (bordering China), and the hydel power plants in north Sikkim, should also take into account the environmental concerns of locals. We are not against such activities, but it should not come at the cost of our biodiversity,” the Minister said.

Orchids galore

The publication details 532 species of wild orchids (which is more than 40% of all orchid species found in India), 36 species of rhododendron and 20 species of oak, and more than 30 species of high value medicinal plants, among other species.

Cuba develops the world’s first conjugate vaccine for COVID-19 #GS3 #SnT

Cuba’s State-run corporation, BioFarma, said on Friday that its indigenously produced Soberana 2 vaccine was 91.2% efficacious in phase-3 trials. This follows closely on an announcement that another of its vaccines, Abdala, had reported an efficacy of 92.8% in late stage trials.

The greater-than-90% efficacy puts them in a select league; however, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that had reported an efficacy of over 90%, both the Soberana and Abdala are three-shot vaccines.

Both are subunit vaccines, meaning that a part of the virus fiorms the antigen and s hitched on to another construct. In Abdala the spike protein of the coronavirus is combined with a chemically manufactured adjuvant, whereas in Soberana 2, the spike protein is chemically linked to the tetanus toxoid, making it a conjugate vaccine. The design and manufacturing allows the vaccine to be stored in regular refrigeration settings of 2–8 degree Celsius.

Conjugate vaccines

The most common conjugate vaccines are those used for Haemophilus influenza type b and the pneumococcal bacteria. However, a unique aspect of the Soberana vaccine is that it is by far the only one among coronavirus vaccine candidates that relies on the conjugate vaccine technology.

Marlene Ramirez Gonzales, one of the scientists involved in the Cuban vaccine development project, in a March letter to the British Medical Journal explained the rationale:

“The [Carribean] island’s four vaccine candidates against COVID-19 are developed as subunit vaccines, one of the most economical approaches and the type for which Cuba has the greatest know-how and infrastructure. From protein S – the antigen or part of the SARS-CoV2 virus that all COVID vaccines target because it induces the strongest immune response in humans – Cuban [vaccine] candidates are based only on the part that is involved in contact with the cell’s receptor: the RBD (receptor-binding domain) which is also the one that induces the greatest number of neutralising antibodies…Cuba had already developed another vaccine with this principle. It is Cheimi-Hib, ‘the first of its kind to be approved in Latin America and the second in the world’, against haemophilus influenzae type b, coccobacilli responsible for diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and epiglottitis.”

Experts say that while there are no inherent disadvantages to taking a conjugate-vaccine approach for coronavirus vaccines, they have generally been used against bacteria and not viruses.

The two parts of a conjugate vaccine are typically connected by chains of polysaccharides, according to epidemiologist and public health expert, Chandrakant Lahariya, and they generally induce a weaker immune response in young children. “Cuba has a long history of vaccine development and has developed certain platforms that work to their advantage. So it makes sense for them to adopt this route. There is nothing inherently disadvantageous, though, to this approach,” he said.

Effective response

For an effective vaccine response, not only antibodies but even killer T-cells, or those produced by the immune system and capable of destroying infected cells, must be produced. In a protein sub-unit vaccine, the spike protein may be able to elicit a strong antibody response but when combined with the tetanus toxoid, a very widely used childhood vaccine and therefore one which the immune system recognises, such a T-cell response could also be generated and conferring more effective protection, said Shahid Jameel, virologist and Director, Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University.

He added that while there could be “logistic” concerns with a three-dose vaccine, it wasn’t right to compare efficacies of various vaccines as those numbers had different contexts. “Every vaccine’s efficacy results are in comparison to placebo, and not against another vaccine…. each trial was done differently.”

While the efficacy results of the Cuban vaccines haven’t been published in peer-reviewed journals, that the vaccines have been developed entirely by the public health system and amidst a U.S. trade embargo, are among the reasons why they have evoked interest in several other Caribbean countries as well as beyond.

Global response

Iran’s Pasteur Institute has said it will participate in phase-3 clinical trials for Soberana 02, with another 60,000 to be enrolled in Venezuela. Other countries including Mexico, Jamaica, Vietnam, Pakistan and India have expressed an interest in the Cuban vaccines, as has the African Union (on behalf of all 55 of the African nations). Cuba, which exports medical services, has said it will apply different rates for vaccines depending on the importer’s ability to pay.

Cauvery and the row over Mekedatu project #GS2 #Governance

The story so far: On July 6, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa said in Bengaluru that his government would go ahead with the long-pending Mekedatu dam project in the Cauvery Basin to cater to the drinking water needs of the Bengaluru Metropolitan City and surrounding areas. On the same day, in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu’s Water Resources Minister Durai Murugan met Union Minister for Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and impressed upon him not to grant Centre’s clearance for the project.

This was preceded by a July 3 letter Mr. Yediyurappa wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart M.K. Stalin, calling for talks on the subject. However, the latter did not explicitly react to Mr. Yediyurappa’s offer of negotiations, even as he explained why Tamil Nadu continued to oppose the project. Mr. Stalin has called an all-party meeting in Chennai on July 12.

What do the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court say?

The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in its final order on February 2007, made allocations to all the riparian States — Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, apart from the Union Territory of Puducherry. It also stipulated “tentative monthly deliveries during a normal year” to be made available by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.

Aggrieved over the final order for different reasons, the States had appealed to the Supreme Court. In February 2018, the court, in its judgment, revised the water allocation and increased the share of Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu. The enhanced quantum comprised 4.75 tmc ft for meeting drinking water and domestic requirements of Bengaluru and surrounding areas.

What is Karnataka planning?

Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, Karnataka, which sees the order as an endorsement of its stand, has set out to pursue the Mekedatu project. Originally proposed as a hydropower project, the revised Mekedatu dam project has more than one purpose to serve. Estimated to cost Rs. 9,000 crore, the project envisages the construction of a reservoir of 67.16-tmc ft capacity, which will come up about 4 km away from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. A hydropower plant of nearly 400 MW has also been proposed.

The Karnataka government has argued that the proposed reservoir will regulate the flow to Tamil Nadu on a monthly basis, as stipulated by the Tribunal and the Supreme Court. This is why Mr. Yediyurappa has contended that the project will not affect the interests of Tamil Nadu farmers.

Why is Tamil Nadu opposed to it?

Tamil Nadu feels that Karnataka, through the project, will impound and divert flows from “uncontrolled catchments” to it, a component which was taken into account by the Tribunal in the 2007 order while arriving at the water allocation plan for the State. As per an estimate, around 80 tmc ft of water flows annually to Tamil Nadu, thanks to the catchments including the area between Kabini dam in Karnataka and Billigundulu gauging site on the inter-State border, and the area between Krishnaraja Sagar dam in Karnataka and the gauging site.

As the upper riparian State has adequate infrastructure even now to address the water needs of Bengaluru, there is no need for the Mekedatu project, according to Tamil Nadu. The Mekedatu project also does not find mention in the Tribunal’s final order or the Supreme Court judgment. Besides, given the unpleasant experiences that it has had with Karnataka in securing its share of the Cauvery water over the years, Tamil Nadu is wary of the assurances of the other side.

What happens next?

Tamil Nadu’s petitions against the project are pending with the Supreme Court. The project is yet to get environmental clearance from the Centre. A way out can be found if the two parties agree to the idea of a joint execution, operation and maintenance of the project or a third party’s participation.

What makes the UAPA so stringent? #GS2 #Governance #GS3 #Security

The story so far: The death of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, while in judicial custody, has brought to focus the law under which he was imprisoned. The stringent nature of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which renders it difficult for one held under it to obtain bail, is being seen as one of the principal reasons for Fr. Swamy’s death as a prisoner in a hospital. This has raised questions about the liberty of many others, including 15 others arrested in the Elgar Parishad case and incarcerated under the same law, which is also India’s main anti-terrorism legislation.

What is the origin of the UAPA?

The Union government was considering a stringent law against calls for secession in the mid-1960s. In March 1967, a peasant uprising in Naxalbari imparted a sense of urgency. On June 17, 1966, the President had promulgated the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Ordinance “to provide for the more effective prevention of unlawful activities of individuals and associations”.

Its stringency created a furore in Parliament when it was tabled, leading to the government dropping it. Instead, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which was not identical to the ordinance, was passed.

What is its scope and how has it been expanded over the years?

The Act provided for declaring an association or a body of individuals “unlawful” if they indulged in any activity that included acts and words, spoken or written, or any sign or representation, that supported any claim to bring about “the cession of a part of the territory of India”, or its “secession”, or which questions or disclaims the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Prior to the UAPA’s enactment, associations were being declared unlawful under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952. However, the Supreme Court held that the provision on bans was unlawful because there was no judicial mechanism to scrutinise the validity of any ban. Therefore, the UAPA included provisions for a Tribunal which has to confirm within six months the notification declaring an outfit unlawful.

In its present form, the Act, after the amendments in 2004 and 2013, covers the declaration of associations as unlawful, punishment for terrorist acts and activities, acts threatening the country’s security, including its economic security (a term that covers fiscal and monetary security, food, livelihood, energy ecological and environmental security), and provisions to prevent the use of funds for terrorist purposes, including money laundering.

The ban on organisations was initially for two years, but from 2013, the period of proscription has been extended to five years.

After the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, was repealed, the UAPA was expanded to include what would have been terrorist acts in earlier laws. The 2004 amendments were also aimed at giving effect to various anti-terrorism resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

In 2012, there was a set of amendments, which was notified from early 2013, seeking to bring the UAPA in line with various requirements of the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. In 2019, the Act was amended to empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists.

How do UAPA provisions differ from regular criminal law?

Just like other special laws dealing with narcotic drugs and the now-defunct laws on terrorism, the UAPA also modifies the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to give it more teeth. A remand order can be for 30 days instead of the usual 15, and the maximum period of judicial custody before the filing of a chargesheet is extendable from the usual 90 days to 180 days. This extension, however, depends on the Public Prosecutor filing a report on the progress in the investigation and giving reasons for seeking another 90 days to complete it. The law also makes it more difficult to obtain bail.

What is the controversy about its bail provisions?

Under Section 43D(5) of the Act, bail cannot be granted to a suspect if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are prima facie true. A Supreme Court judgment on this has clarified that this meant that the court considering bail should not examine the evidence too deeply, but must go by the prosecution version based on broad probabilities. This means that the onus is on the accused to show that the case is false but without inviting the court to evaluate the available evidence. This is why human rights defenders feel that the provision is draconian, virtually rendering it impossible for anyone to obtain bail until the completion of the trial.