07, December 2017

First package of Samruddhi Corridor gets green clearance

  • According to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), there are five packages of the Nagpur-Mumbai Expressway with a length of 700 km.
  • This is the first environmental clearance granted by the MoEF for one package out of total five packages of the Expressway.
  • According to the MSRDC, it is a greenfield alignment and will reduce travel time, fuel consumption, vehicle operation and maintenance cost in comparison to the existing alternatives. The project is planned to develop new industrial, educational, commercial, tourism nodes in the vicinity of the expressway at a regular interval of 40-50 km, it said.
  • The MSRDC stated that the implementation of the entire project will ensure fast and safe road traffic movement, and reducing travel time to half for motor vehicles. The creation of commercial nodes for multiple development, mainly in industrial, commercial, agricultural, tourism sectors, will result in employment generation, capacity-building as well as connectivity between industrial places on the route.

National Commission for Minorities:

  • The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Six religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in Gazette of India as minority communities by the Union Government all over India. Original notification of 1993 was for Five religious communities Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims.
  • The NCM adheres to the United Nations Declaration of 18 December 1992 which states that “States shall protect the existence of the National or Ethnic, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.

1.Relief Operations

Source: PIB

Indian Navy Op Sahayam For Cyclone Ockhi

  • Southern Naval Command continued ‘OP Sahayam’, an Indian Navy exercise for undertaking Search and Rescue (SAR) and providing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster relief (HADR) material support, over Southeast Arabian Sea and L& M islands in the aftermath of Very Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘OCKHI’.

Highlights:

  • Nine naval ships including frontline ships from Western Naval Command INS Chennai, Kolkata and four types of aircraft including long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft P8I, Dornier, SeaKing and Chetak were continued to be deployed over an extended SAR area up to 300 miles west of L& M islands and 450 miles off Kerala coast.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) in India’s National Strategy

  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations have attracted the attention of the global community in recent years.
  • Building capabilities, interoperability and a conceptual framework for participation in these operations is gaining increasing urgency among Indian policymakers.
  • The Indian armed forces have a wide experience of disaster relief operations both at home and abroad, where they have been the core of relief operations.
  • Due to its sub-continental size, geographical location and its vulnerability to disasters, India has kept its forces ready to render assistance at short notice.
  • In the six decades since independence, India has experienced a number of natural and man-made disasters such as floods, earthquakes, famines, industrial accidents etc. At the same time, India has partnered the global community in providing relief in affected regions.
  • As India moves to occupy an important position in the global community, it is in the process of bolstering its capabilities to match the rising expectations. That India would play an important role

More details: https://idsa.in/system/files/jds_6_1_SarabjeetParmar.pdf

2.Uniform Civil Code: Law panel may recommend piece meal amendments to family laws

Source: The Hindu

The Law Commission will recommend religion-wise “piece meal” amendments to family laws if it finds it difficult to come out with a composite uniform civil code.

  • The civil code cannot be violative of any provision of the Constitution.
  • The commission is in the process of segregating the nearly 45,000 suggestions it has received on its questionnaire on the uniform civil code.

Background:

  • Amid a raging debate on uniform civil code, the law panel had in October last year sought public views on the subject to revise and reform family laws, saying the aim is to address social injustice rather than to do away with the plurality of laws.
  • In an appeal issued then, the commission had said the objective behind the endeavor is to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize various cultural practices even as it assured the people that the “norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms

Indian constitution for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

Pros of the Uniform Civil Code

To provide equal status to all citizens

  • In the modern era, a secular democratic republic should have a common civil and personal laws for its citizens irrespective of their religion, class, caste, gender etc.

To promote gender parity

  • It is commonly observed that personal laws of almost all religions are discriminatory towards women. Men are usually granted upper preferential status in matters of succession and inheritance. Uniform civil code will bring both men and women at par.

To accommodate the aspirations of the young population

  • A contemporary India is a totally new society with 55% of its population is below 25 years of age. Their social attitudes and aspirations are shaped by universal and global principles of equality, humanity, and modernity. Their view of shedding identity on the basis of any religion has to be given a serious consideration so as to utilize their full potential towards nation building.

To support the national integration

  • All Indian citizens are already equal before the court of law as the criminal laws and other civil laws (except personal laws) are same for all. With the implementation of Uniform Civil Code, all citizen will share the same set of personal laws. There will be no scope of politicization of issues of the discrimination or concessions or special privileges enjoyed by a particular community on the basis of their particular religious personal laws.

To bypass the contentious issue of reform of existing personal laws

  • Existing personal laws are mainly based on the upper-class patriarchal notions of the society in all religions. The demand of UCC is normally made by aggrieved women as a substitute for existing personal laws as patriarchal orthodox people still deem the reforms in personal laws will destroy their sanctity and oppose it profusely.

Cons of the UCC

Practical difficulties due to diversity in India

  • It is practically tough to come up with a common and uniform set of rules for personal issues like marriage due to tremendous cultural diversity India across the religions, sects, castes, states etc.

Perception of UCC as encroachment on religious freedom

  • Many communities, particularly minority communities perceive Uniform Civil Code as an encroachment on their rights to religious freedom. They fear that a common code will neglect their traditions and impose rules which will be mainly dictated and influenced by the majority religious communities.

Interference of state in personal matters

  • The constitution provides for the right to freedom of religion of one’s choice. With codification of uniform rules and its compulsion, the scope of the freedom of religion will be reduced.

Sensitive and tough task

  • Such a code, in its true spirit, must be brought about by borrowing freely from different personal laws, making gradual changes in each, issuing judicial pronouncements assuring gender equality, and adopting expansive interpretations on marriage, maintenance, adoption, and succession by acknowledging the benefits that one community secures from the others.
  • This task will be very demanding time and human resource wise. The government should be sensitive and unbiased at each step while dealing with the majority and minority communities. Otherwise, it might turn out to be more disastrous in a form of communal violence.

Time is not yet suitable for this reform

  • Considering a major opposition from Muslim community in India over this issue overlapping with controversies over beef, saffronization of school and college curriculum, love jihad, and the silence emanating from the top leadership on these controversies, there needs to be given sufficient time for instilling confidence in the community.
  • Otherwise, these efforts towards common will be counterproductive leaving minority class particularly Muslims more insecure and vulnerable to get attracted towards fundamentalist and extremist ideologies.

Conclusion:

  • At the end of the day, a UCC can only emerge through an evolutionary process, which preserves India’s rich legal heritage, of which all the personal laws are equal constituents.
  • The codification and implementation of UCC may not necessarily usher in the expected equality among genders and religions.
  • Major sensitization efforts are needed to reform current personal law reforms which should first be initiated by the communities themselves.
  • Current institutions need to be modernized, democratized and strengthened for this change. Sincere efforts towards women empowerment have to be taken for all women of all religions.
  • The plural democracy is an identity of the modern India. Therefore, efforts should be focused on harmony in plurality than blanket uniformity for flourishing Indian democracy.

India needs a Uniform Civil Code for the following reasons:

  • A secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
  • Another reason why a uniform civil code is needed is gender justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example. Many practices governed by religious tradition are at odds with the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.
  • Courts have also often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a uniform civil code including the judgement in the Shah Bano case.

3.Air pollution damages children’s brains, lowers IQ, says Unicef report

Source: The Hindu

Toxic air lowers children’s IQ and memory, affects their test scores and triggers neurological-behavioural problems such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and development delays, according to a new Unicef report.

Highlights:

  • Air pollution causes irreversible damage to young children’s brains.
  • Toxic air lowers children’s IQ and memory, affects their test scores and triggers neurological-behavioural problems such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and development delays, according to the study.
  • The report estimates 17 million babies worldwide — 12 million of them in South Asia — live in areas that record pollution levels six times higher than the international safe limits of 20 microgram per cubic meter for PM10 and 10 microgram per cubic meter for PM2.5.
  • Pollution hurts children’s brains through several mechanisms, with infants before their first birthday being the most vulnerable.
  • Ultrafine particulates such as PM2.5 enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain. These damage the blood-brain barrier — a thin membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances — and cause neuro-inflammation, which is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in elderly people, the Unicef report says.
  • The level of PM2.5, a fine dust that causes and exacerbates respiratory and lung diseases, was 16 times more than the national standard and 40 times higher than the World Health Organization-prescribed grade after Diwali.
  • The report also notes that harmful particles from magnetite, a form of an ore, is a leading cause for pollution in urban areas. As its particles are small, they easily penetrate humans through olfactory nerves and the gut.
  • Magnetite nano particles are highly toxic to the brain due to their magnetic charge and their ability to help create oxidative stress – which is often the cause of neurodegenerative diseases.
  • The report said that poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a kind of pollutants formed from fossil fuel combustion is responsible for loss of or damage to white matter in infant brains.
  • As PAHs are commonly found in areas of high automobile traffic, the UNICEF report believed that urbanisation without adequate protection and pollution reduction measures will put more children at risk.

UNICEF offers solutions

  • The UNICEF report urged citizens, especially in the developing world — South Asia and China — to be aware of the quality of air they breathe, and protect children from exposure to unhealthy air through protective masks or air filtration systems
  • Reducing air pollution means replacing fossil fuel combustion with cleaner, renewable sources of energy, including appropriate use of solar, wind and thermal sources,” the report said in an apparent signal to municipal and political authorities to take action against the issue.
  • The report also urged modern-day town planners to focus on creating new models of urbanisation, which will take care of the rising pollution levels.

4.Back India’s entry into NSG, China told

Source: The Hindu

Russia is speaking to China at “all levels” for India’s membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and hopes that India will win membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement.

This is an example and reflection of Russia’s unwavering support to India’s membership of international nuclear control regimes.

NSG

  • Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
  • Interestingly, the NSG was set up in 1974 as a reaction to India’s nuclear tests to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes.

Background:

  • India sought membership of the NSG in 2008, but its application hasn’t been decided on, primarily because signing the NPT or other nuclear moratoriums on testing is a pre-requisite. However, India has received a special waiver to conduct nuclear trade with all nuclear exporters.
  • India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are among the four UN member states which have not signed the NPT, the international pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Wassenaar Agreement

  • The 41-member group was established in December 1995 and has since become a measure to coordinate and harmonise policies governing exports of arms, dual-use equipment and sensitive technologies
  • The regulations are implemented through two lists: the Munitions List which tracks conventional weapons, and the Dual-Use Goods and Technologies List.
  • New members are accepted based on specific criteria, including countries which produce/export arms or associated dual-use goods and technologies; establish national policies that restrict sale of arms and sensitive technologies to countries of concern; and adhere to non-proliferation regimes.

The four non-proliferation regimes

  • The Wassenaar Agreement is one of the four regimes that govern transfers of potentially dangerous technologies.
  • The other three are the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) which controls export of nuclear material and technology, the Australia Group which restricts trade in materials used to make chemical and biological weapons, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which keeps a check on transfer of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying a payload of at least 500 kg over a range of at least 300 kilometres.
  • Membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group would give India a chance for a closer interaction with member states and also hold up its credentials, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India’s attempt:

  • India became a member of the MTCR in 2016.
  • The membership gives India access to high-end missile technology from across the world and will allow India to purchase top-of-the-line missile systems.
  • The MTCR has also paved the way for India to sell its supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles — developed jointly with Russia — to other countries.
  • The NSG focuses on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • India has attempted to join the NSG multiple times but has been stonewalled by China. In June 2017, China had said that India’s membership bid to the NSG has become “more complicated” under the “new circumstances” as it again ruled out backing New Delhi’s entry in the grouping, saying there should be non-discriminatory solution applicable to all non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory countries.
  • The fourth group India seeks to join is the Australia Group formed in 1985 prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 to 1988. Australia — concerned with Iraq’s development of chemical weapons — recommended putting checks on international export controls on chemical weapons and precursor chemicals. As more members joined, it expanded its focus to include chemical production equipment/technologies and measures to prevent proliferation of biological weapons.

NSG membership- Once admitted, an NSG member state gets:

  • Timely information on nuclear matters.
  • Contributes by way of information.
  • Has confirmed credentials.
  • Can act as an instrument of harmonization and coordination.
  • Is part of a very transparent process.

5.Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court

Source: The Hindu

A Supreme Court judgment has accorded courts in India unlimited discretion to determine which parent should have the custody of minor children involved in international parental child abduction.

  • The verdict holds that Indian courts can decline the relief of repatriation of a child to the parent living abroad even if a foreign court, located in the country from where the child was removed, has already passed orders for the child’s repatriation.
  • The judgment observed that welfare of the child came first over the repatriation order of the foreign court as India was not a signatory to the Hague Convention of “The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”.

Inter-country parental child abduction

Inter-country parental child abduction is a situation that is attained when one parent takes a child or children to a foreign country to prevent the other parent from seeking custody of the child.

Hague Abduction Convention:

  • The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by The Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one-member country to another. The Convention entered into force between the signatories on 1 December 1983.
  • The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence.
  • The primary intention of the Convention is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal or retention thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court.
  • The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.

6.US recognise Jerusalem as Israel capital

Source: The Hindu

The U.S. had never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and had insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

  • President Donald Trump recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of the U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Background:

  • In a major announcement, United States President Donald Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel night and has directed the State Department to initiate the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which many Arab leaders warn can trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East. Israel considers the “complete and united Jerusalem” its capital, but Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.

Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

  • The officials said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be an acknowledgement of “historical and current reality” rather than a political statement. The city’s physical and political borders would not be compromised. They noted that almost all of Israel’s government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the U.S. and other countries maintain embassies.

International status of Jerusalem

  • The walled Old City of Jerusalem, at just one square kilometer, is home to sites that are among the holiest in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Because of its unique cultural and religious significance, the UN General Assembly set aside Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum, or separated body, under UN trusteeship when it voted in 1947 to divide the British mandate of Palestine into two states, an Arab one and a Jewish one.
  • That position remained the international consensus even after the partition plan itself was preempted by Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the subsequent invasion by Arab powers. An armistice the following year divided the mandate along what has become known as the Green Line, which cuts through the middle of Jerusalem. Israel established its seat of government in the western half of the city, while, across a no man’s land lined with barbed wire, Jordan took control of the city’s eastern half, including the Old City.
  • Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequently annexed it, redrawing its municipal borders to include surrounding Arab villages. In 1980, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, designated the united city as Israel’s capital. By contrast, the West Bank, also captured in 1967, was not annexed; it remains under military occupation and Palestinians have partial self-government there, through the Palestinian Authority (PA). While Israel controls the city, the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, stipulated that Jerusalem’s disposition would only be decided on in permanent-status negotiations between the parties. Other major issues under negotiation concern refugees’ right of return, security arrangements, borders, and mutual recognition.

Who lives in Jerusalem?

  • Jerusalem is home to nearly one million residents. West Jerusalem’s population of some 330,000 is almost entirely Jewish. The eastern half of the city, which comprises the Old City, Palestinian neighborhoods, and refugee camps, along with some newer Jewish settlements, is home to about 320,000 Arabs and 212,000 Jews. Unlike Palestinians who live elsewhere in Israel, most Palestinian East Jerusalemites have permanent residency, but not citizenship, since they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city.

How have other countries reacted?

  • The Islamic world is outraged. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of “dangerous consequences”, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi King Salman have cautioned the US, Turkey has threatened to cut ties with Israel, Iran has declared that “the Palestinian nation will achieve victory”, China has said it “could sharpen regional conflict”, Egypt, the Arab League and several European nations have expressed grave reservations, and the Pope has pleaded for status quo. Hamas has threatened an intifada, and Hezbollah could react aggressively. India, friends with both Palestine and Israel, could face a quandary.

Way ahead:

  • Trump’s announcement is likely to compound a broader crisis of confidence among Palestinians that President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in office for many years beyond his electoral mandate, can deliver statehood. Fatah and Hamas have called for protest.

 



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