Heritage tag for 2 irrigation facilities in Telangana
- For the first time in India, two irrigation projects, Sadarmatt barrage and Pedda Cheruvu (BigTank), in Telangana have been recognized as Heritage Irrigation Structures by International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID).
About Heritage Irrigation Structures
- In 2012 ICID initiated the process of recognizing the historical irrigation structures on the lines of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.
Objectives of recognizing “Heritage Irrigation Structure” include:
- Tracing the history of and understanding the evolution of irrigation in the civilizations across the world.
- To study historical irrigation structures from around the world in order to understand the unique features that have sustained the project for such a long period
- To learn the philosophy and wisdom on sustainable irrigation from these structures
- To protect/preserve these historical irrigation structures
Criterion for recognizing “Heritage Irrigation Structure”
- The structure shall be at least 100 years old.
- The structures include dams, irrigation tanks, barrages, canal systems, waterwheels etc.
- It should represent a milestone / turning point in development of irrigated agriculture.
- It was ahead of its times in terms of engineering design, construction techniques etc. and significantly contributed in enhancing food production, livelihood opportunities and poverty alleviation in a region.
- It bears the stamp of a cultural tradition or a civilization of the past.
About Sadarmatt Barrage
- The Sadarmatt anicut was constructed in 1891-92 across Godavari River on the left arm about 50 km downstream of Sriram Sagar Project near Medampally village in Nirmal district of Telangana.
- It was built by Nawab Ikbal-ud-Dowla.
- The anicut was constructed to irrigate 13,100 acres of land.
- Major crops being irrigated under Sadarmatt is paddy (80% of irrigated area), maize and turmeric.
- Currently the Sadarmatt barrage is a part of Kaleshwaram Project which is conceived in order to utilise maximum share in Godavari waters by construction of barrages
About Pedda Cheruvu
- The Pedda Cheruvu literally means big tank.
- It was built in 1897 during the rule of Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad State.
- The 1.8-km-long tank has a catchment area is spread over 68.97 sq. km.
- It provides water for irrigation to over 900 acres in Kamareddy, Sarampally, Narsampally and old Rajampet.
- Currently this tank is developed as a mini tank bund under Mission Kakatiya.
- Mission Kakatiya is a flagship irrigation progamme focused on developing tank-based irrigation.
- Owing to its geographical location, tank irrigation is the ideal type of irrigation for agricultural use in Telangana.
Fuel from air and water
- A Canadian company is making a carbon-neutral liquid fuel by mixing CO2 out of the atmosphere and hydrogen from water.
- Burning of fossil fuels adds about 40 billion tonnes of CO2 every year.
- To keep the global warming to less than 2 degree C, the world is often devising strategies to move towards low carbon economy.
- While cutting down on fossil fuels and moving towards cleaner renewable source is advocated, oil and gas will continue to power activities that are difficult to electrify, such as aviation.
- Further according to International Energy Agency, the energy mix of developing world will continue to be dominated by fossil fuels.
- Thus one strategy for low-carbon economy is to increase “negative emissions”.
- According to IPCC, ‘negative emission’ involves taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it permanently.
Transferring carbon dioxide from biosphere to geosphere
- A company in Switzerland is capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into calcium carbonate rocks.
- A plant is set up in Iceland where they atmospheric CO2 is sequestered in solid calcium carbonate (CaCO3) rocks.
- This carbon which is called direct air capture (DAC) can be converted back to a hydrocarbon fuel.
Air to fuel or A2F
- A Canadian company is making a fuel by converting this DAC into A2F.
- The A2F synthetic fuels will be made using renewable hydrogen combined with carbon-containing molecules not derived from fossil sources.
- Hydrogen is generated from electrolysis of water splitting the water into H2 and oxygen.
- The hydrogen is then merged with the CO2 captured from the atmosphere to form useful fuels similar to petrol.
India awaits longest road-rail bridge — the Bogibeel Bridge
- The strategically important Bogibeel double-deck bridge across Brahmaputra River, connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, is all set to be inaugurated.
About Bogibeel Bridge
- The Bogibeel double-deck bridge is a rail-road bridge across Brahmaputra River connecting Dibrugarh in Assam and Dehmaji in Assam.
- The 4.94 km long bridge is the longest rail-road bridge in India.
- The longest road bridge on Brahmaputra is the 9.15 km Dhola-Sadiya Bridge.
- The double-deck bridge will have a three-lane road in the upper deck and a 74 km two-line railway track in the lower deck.
- The 3-lane road will be connected to the NH37 on the south bank of the Brahmaputra and to the NH52 on the north bank.
- Further Bogibeel rail-road bridge is the fourth being built on Brahmaputra, the other three being :
- Pandu Saraighat
- Naranarayan Setu at Jogighopa
- Boost to development of North-eastern region
- The Bridge will provide rail and road connectivity between the lesser developed districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
- It will provide direct access to the districts of Upper Assam from the rest of the country through the North bank.
- Connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh will give a fillip to the tourist industry.
- Connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh
- Currently a cargo from Dibrugarh in the north-eastern corner of Assam takes over a 600 km detour merely to cross the Brahmaputra via Guwahati.
- With this bridge, the journey will be less than 100 km.
- Besides this will solve the problems associated with ferry services namely
- Ferry services are often disrupted during monsoon between May-October.
- Further ferry services are not suitable for heavy cargo
- Strategic significance
- The project will give a major boost to defence logistics along the border with China.
- India and China share a nearly 4,000 km border and a considerable portion of the border lies in Arunachal Pradesh.
- It will solve the logistical issues face by the armed forces stationed at the China border to get supplies from Tezpur.
- Besides the bridge will also ramp up the movement of troops of armed forces in Arunachal Pradesh cutting down the distance to the border with China by 10 hours.
- Other important projects to boost logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh include:
- Trans-Arunachal highway on the north bank of the Brahmaputra
- Road and rail links over the Brahmaputra and its major tributaries such as the Dibang, Lohit, Subansiri and Kameng.
LEMOA already fully operational
Why in news?
- Earlier this week, India concluded the third foundational agreement- Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which is meant for secure encrypted communications.
- Also, the India-U.S. foundational agreement for mutual logistics support, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), has been fully operationalised over the past few months.
- LEMOA stands for Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), a tweaked India-specific version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which the U.S. has with several countries where it has close military to military cooperation.
- The pact gives both countries access to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment in primarily four areas :
- Port calls
- Joint exercises
- Training and humanitarian assistance
- Disaster relief
- India had concluded the LEMOA in August 2016 in a culmination of a decade of negotiations between the two countries.
- The standard operating procedures (SOPs) document was shared with the U.S. two months ago. (The SOPs include designating the points of contact for the U.S. military to work with, and set up, a common account for payments).
- Now, the LEMOA has been fully operationalised.
- The biggest beneficiary of the LEMOA is the Indian Navy, which interacts and exercises the most with foreign Navies.
- The Navy has a fuel exchange agreement with the U.S. for fuel transfer on the high seas, which is set to expire in November.
- Now fuel exchange gets subsumed into the LEMOA and does away with the need for a separate agreement.
What are the four foundational agreements that U.S. signs with its defence partners?
- The four foundational agreements are:
- General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)
- Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA)
Foundational agreements between India and U.S.
- With COMCASA, India has signed three of the four foundational or enabling agreements with the U.S. meant to improve interoperability between the militaries and allow transfer of high-end military platforms.
- The first one, the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is for information safety, was signed in 2002.
- LEMOA was signed in 2016.
- COMCASA, which was signed at the 2+2 dialogue, is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
- The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
Debate on Uniform Civil Code
What is a civil code?
- A civil code is a systematic collection of laws designed to deal with the core areas of private law such as for dealing with business and negligence lawsuits and practices.
- A jurisdiction that has a civil code generally also has a code of civil procedure.
What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
- Uniform civil Code is a proposal to have a generic set of governing laws for every citizen without taking into consideration the religion.
- Article 44 of the Constitution says that there should be a Uniform Civil Code.
- According to this article, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
- Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.
How did the debate on UCC come about?
- Uniform Civil Code was one of the key issues debated during the writing of the Constitution, with passionate arguments on both sides. However, unable to arrive at a solution, a directive principle was struck regarding this in the constitution.
- The Constituent Assembly debates reveal a lack of consensus on what a potential uniform civil code would entail.
- The stand taken by B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly debates has survived the years. Dr. Ambedkar had said that UCC is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary.
- While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.
- There were yet others who believed that the UCC would deny the freedom of religion.
- It was this uncertainty that led it to be included in the Directive Principles of State Policy rather than the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.
Why does it matter?
- The codification of personal laws has historically generated protests.
- The Hindu Code Bill, one of the foremost pieces of social legislation, had triggered enormous opposition.
- The debate on the UCC is centred on the argument to replace individual personal customs and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption and successions with a common code.
- Those in favour of one code argue that it will end discrimination in religions.
- Detractors contend that it will rob the nation of its religious diversity and violate the fundamental right to practise religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
- In fact, they hold that a state action to introduce the UCC is against the quintessence of democracy.
- The secular state is an enabler of rights rather than an inhibitor in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.
- The objective of UCC should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices.
Why it is difficult to have a UCC?
- India being a secular country guarantees its minorities the right to follow their own religion, culture and customs under Article 29 and 30. But implementing a Uniform Code will hamper India’s secularism.
- Supreme Court decision came in October 2015 to take suo motu cognisance of the discriminatory practices against Muslim women.
- In October 2016, Law Commission published a “questionnaire” to test the waters on the UCC. It wanted to see whether the nation was ready for it.
- Later in 2017, Supreme Court outlawed triple talaq without addressing the core issue: whether personal law practices should prevail over the fundamental rights of life, dignity and non-discrimination.
- This Bench pointed out that it had been 30 years since the court, in the Shah Bano case, urged the government to frame a common code to “help in the cause of national integration.”
- Recently, in its consultation paper, the Law Commission chose codification of personal laws over the UCC as a way to end discrimination within religions.
- Codification of various practices and customs would make them ‘law’ under Article 13 of the Constitution.
- Any ‘law’ that comes under Article 13 should be consistent with the fundamental rights, the Law Commission has reasoned.
- This would protect the plurality of religions, too, and may be the way forward for the near future.
- In fact, the Law Commission has suggested in no uncertain terms that the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage in the country.”
- It said a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity.”
Maneka Gandhi bypassed; nutrition norms cleared
- The NITI Aayog has approved the supplementary nutrition guidelines, prepared by the Ministry for Women and Child Development.
Highlights of the news
- In June, the Secretary in Women and Child Development ministry, wrote to the PMO about the delay in deciding on the norms and sought its intervention to expedite a decision that would back the officials’ position.
- The PMO then suggested that the matter be processed through the Cabinet Secretariat and the NITI Aayog.
- The PMO had stepped in to end a more than yearlong stand-off between Ms. Gandhi and the Ministry’s officials in the wake of sharp differences over the proposed norms.
- Subsequently, the NITI Aayog has approved these supplementary nutrition guidelines bypassing the Minister for Women and Child Development after the intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Need of Nutrition and the related targets
- According to a recent report by Save the Children, an international non-profit organisation, India ranks 116th among 172 nations on the index that measure child malnutrition, child labour, child marriage and early pregnancy.
- The country also has the largest number (48 million) children under the age of five who have stunted growth.
- Thus, the National Nutrition Mission targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
- Although the target to reduce Stunting is atleast 2% p.a., Mission would strive to achieve reduction in Stunting from 38.4% (NFHS-4) to 25% by 2022 (Mission 25 by 2022).
Differences in approaches
- The disagreement was primarily centred around the approaches to food procured as take-home rations and the hot cooked meals served to 10 crore beneficiaries at 14 lakh anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Following were the issues of debate:
- Gandhi recommended that take-home rations be procured either from self-help groups (SHGs) that have adequate manufacturing facilities or from government or private undertakings.
- The ministry the officials had favoured sourcing food items prepared with locally available ingredients, solely from SHGs.
- Take home rations Vs. Hot cooked meals
- The Minister wanted ready-to-eat mixes in packaged form should be served to beneficiaries.
- The ministry officials were in favor of distributing hot cooked meals.
- Constituents of supplementary nutrition
- The Minister asserted that policy-makers need to “stop thinking of giving food and instead think of giving nutrition”.
- The officials say that as per the National Food Security Act “food security is supply of the entitled quantity of food grains and meals”.
- There is need to overlay what the uptake of food is vis-à-vis the models within the ICDS.
- Policy decisions should be based on data, what is the uptake and the quality of food with the different kinds of models that exist as there is no data systems about the quality of food, how people use it, what people think about it.
- There are a lot of assumptions being made within all quarters, but what we need to do is to look at what is actually happening on the ground.
AboutIntegrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme
- Children in the age group 0-6 years constitute around 158 million of the population of India (2011 census).
- These Children are the future human resource of the country. Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing various schemes for welfare, development and protection of children.
- Launched on 2nd October, 1975, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is one of the flagship programs of the Government of India and represents one of the world’s largest and unique programs for early childhood care and development.
- It is the foremost symbol of country’s commitment to its children and nursing mothers, as a response to the challenge of providing pre-school non-formal education on one hand and breaking the vicious cycle of malnutrition, morbidity, reduced learning capacity and mortality on the other.
- The beneficiaries under the Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- Objectives of the Scheme are:
- To improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years.
- To lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child.
- To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout.
- To achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development.
- To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.
- Services under ICDS: The ICDS Scheme offers a package of six services, viz.:
- Supplementary Nutrition
- Pre-school non-formal education
- Nutrition & health education
- Health check-up
- Referral services
Can India take SAHI road to urban mobility?
- The honorable PM inaugurated the first ever Global Mobility Summit ‘MOVE’ in a push to attract investments in electric vehicles manufacturing and encourage people to use public transport.
- The two most important challenges in Urban India today are pollution and congestion.
- According to the ‘Transforming India Mobility’, rapid urbanization has increased India’s transport demand by almost 8 times since 1980.
- Besides according to WHO, there are 14 Indian cities among the top 15 most polluted cities in the world.
- Further Indian cities are also now consistently ranked amongst the world’s most congested cities.
- According to an estimate of the economic loss of congestion, for India’s top four metros, is over USD 22 billion annually.
- Global Mobility Summit ‘MOVE’ is an effort to bring out a comprehensive action-agenda that addresses the issue holistically.
- Accordingly Niti Aayog and Boston Consulting Group have proposed a holistic framework called ‘Transforming India’s Mobility’.
Transforming India’s Mobility:
3C Objectives of the framework
- Clean: Pollution-free clean air
- Seamless, safe, affordable, accessible for all sections including the elderly & disabled and
- Connected in terms of technology as well as connecting key rural and urban centers
- Congestion-free: Minimum congestion levels
4 Key Pillars
Four key pillars under the framework in order to achieve the 3C objectives are
- Connect Bharat
- Optimize travel footprint
- Promote seamless, co-operative transport
- Adopt green modes and technologies
The enablers supplementing include
- Skills and employment
- Intelligent Transport Systems
- Public Awareness
- Governance and Financing
SAHI under Connect Bharat
- The framework recommends SAHI approach for developing connectivity
- The core themes of infrastructure under SAHI approach are
- Safe: Ensuring well engineered, safe infrastructure for travel
- Adequate: Ensuring multiple modes of connectivity including road, rail, coastal and inland waterways, small regional airports, ropeways etc.
- Holistic: Data driven planning, including integrated planning to reduce need to travel
Nepal gets access to all Chinese ports, ending dependence on India for trade
- Nepal and China have finalized the landmark Transit and Transport Agreement that will allow Nepal to access Chinese ports as transit while trading with the world.
- As per the Transit and Transport Agreement, China will allow Nepal the use of four of its ports namely Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianygang, Zhanziang.
- Besides Nepal also have access to dry ports that include Lhanzin, Lhasa and Shigatse and the road infrastructure leading to the dry ports.
- The agreement allows the transit of goods from other countries to Nepal via the Chinese ports.
- Trade with India and third-countries is essential for Nepal for supply of essential goods like fuel and medicine.
- Historically, Nepal has been heavily dependent on Haldia port of Kolkata for third-country trade links.
- In 2017 Nepal for the first time used India’s Vishakhapatnam port for third-country trade.
- In September 2015 Nepal promulgated a new Constitution which was opposed by the Federal Alliance led by Madhesis and other ethnic groups.
- he Madhesi agitation overall demand for statehood led to a prolonged blockade of Nepal’s border with India in 2015 and 2016.
- This left Nepal short of essential goods like fuel and medicine for several months.
- Thus in March 2016, Nepal signed the Transit and Transport Agreement (TTA) with China seeking access to Chinese ports as an alternative to Haldia port.
- Expansion of Trade
Access to four Chinese ports in addition to two ports in India will significantly expand Nepal’s third-country trade links.
This will also end Nepal’s heavy dependence on Indian ports for trade with other countries.
- Low Cost
Trade with Japan, South Korea and other north Asian countries could be routed through China which would cut shipping time and costs.
- While Haldia port is only 1,000 km from Nepal, the Chinese sea ports are atleast 3,000 km from Nepal border.
- Beside infrastructure leading to these ports like road and railway are poor in the Nepal.
- The Chinese side of the infrastructure with its higher altitude poses challenge for building of infrastructure.
- A railway link between Lhasa and Kathmandu connecting China and Nepal is mooted.
- The Friendship Highway, a 806 kilometer road that connects Lhasa and Kathmandu can further be connected to more routes to the ports..
- For instance, the friendship highway is connected to a National highway, which runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu at the China-Nepal border.
- China is also heavily investing in road and electricity infrastructure projects in Nepal.
FPIs start process of falling in line
Why in news?
- Many foreign funds across geographies such as Singapore, Mauritius and the U.S., which invest in the Indian equity markets, have started restructuring their ownership and management structure to comply with the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) diktat that bars Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), among others, from acting as fund managers of foreign portfolio investors (FPIs).
What are FPIs?
- Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) is investment by non-residents in Indian securities including shares, government bonds, corporate bonds, convertible securities, infrastructure securities etc.
- The class of investors who make investment in these securities are known as Foreign Portfolio Investors.
- FPI is induced by differences in equity price scenario, bond yield, growth prospects, interest rate, dividends or rate of return on capital in India’s financial assets.
FDI v/s FPI
- Both Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment are the most well sought type of foreign capital by the developing world.
- Usually, both these are measured in terms of the percentage of the shares they own in a company (ie., 10%, 20% etc.,).
- The real difference between the two is that while FDI aims to take control of the company in which investment is made, FPI aims to reap profits by investing in shares and bonds of the invested entity without controlling the company.
- According to the existing regulation by the SEBI, FPI is investment in shares of a company not exceeding 10% of the total paid up capital of the company.
- Any investment above 10% is FDI as with that size of shareholding, the foreign investor can exert control in the management of the company.
- In a recent decision SEBI has mandated that non-resident Indians, overseas citizen of India and persons of Indian origin cannot be beneficial owners (BOs) of FPIs.
- The threshold for identifying beneficial owners of FPIs on controlling ownership interest is 25 per cent in case of companies and 15 per cent for partnership firms.
- The threshold has been set lower, at 10 per cent, for “high-risk” nations with a history of money-laundering and terrorism.
- FPI investments are capped at a limit of 10 per cent for the equity of a single company.
- If the limit is breached, the BOs must either be treated as a foreign direct investor or sell in order to bring shareholding below the 10 per cent limit within five trading sessions of the breach.
- A large number of FPIs investing in India were facing problems as the senior managing official , an NRI or a PIO, in many cases was identified as the beneficial owner.
- Some of the funds have initiated the process to change the key management personnel (KMP) managing the fund if such person falls in the category barred by the SEBI.
- Many more funds had initiated corrective action to avoid any last minute compliance issues, as any change in the KMP or the fund manager required an approval from all the offshore investors and thereafter refiling of many documents, which is a time-consuming process.
- There can be potential outflows at $75 billion due to the SEBI diktat.
- It could lead to removal of persons of Indian origin from managing India-focussed funds.
- Thus due to possible concerns, the SEBI has now decided to soon review its circular.
Supreme Court refuses to stay amendments to SC/ST Act
- The Supreme Court refused to stay the recent amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
- In light of the “instances of abuse” of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for “vested interests” for political or personal reasons, the Supreme Court on 20th March 2018 laid down stringent safeguards for arrests under the act.
- The ruling led to protests from SC/ST groups which claimed that the SC order “diluted” the provisions of the Act.
- In the face of protests, the Centre filed a review petition in the top court on April 2 but the apex court refused to stay its order.
- The review petition by the government is pending with the Supreme Court.
- Realising that the Supreme Court order “diluting” the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was turning out to be a political hot potato, the government decided to bring in an ordinance and overturn the changes made to the Act by the SC.
- The Union cabinet approved the decision to bring an amendment bill, which, if passed by Parliament, will turn the clock back to the original law that had provisions for an FIR without any preliminary enquiry and immediate arrest of a person.
- A petition was again filed in the Supreme Court against the Union cabinet’s decision to bring an amendment bill to the SC/ST act saying that the decision of the government to amend the SC/ST act is to appease the Dalits ahead of the 2019 general election.
- Now, the Supreme Court accepted the petition but refused to stay the amendments to be brought in by the government.
The Supreme Court judgment on SC/ST Act, 1989
- The Supreme Court had in the judgment laid down stringent safeguards for arrests under the Act “to avoid false implications”and in effect to that the SC laid down three provisions:
- Firstly, it introduced the provision for anticipatory bail where no prima facie case was made out saying that “Unless exclusion of anticipatory bail is limited to genuine case, there will be no protection available to innocent citizens.
- Thus, limiting the exclusion of anticipatory bail in such cases is essential for protection of fundamental right of life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Secondly, the court said a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by a DSP to ensure allegations are not “frivolous or motivated” before a case is registered.
- It added that a public servant, if accused, can be only be arrested with the permission of the appointing authority whereas others can be arrested only after permission is granted from the Senior Superintendent of Police of the district.
- The SSP will have to record in writing the reason for granting permission and hand it to the accused and the concerned court.
- Provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill of 2018
- The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill of 2018 had restored the legislative intent of the original Act, which barred anticipatory bail to a person accused of insulting or hurting a Dalit.
- The amendments were meant to nullify the effect of a March 20 judgment of the court.
- The bill will make three changes to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 —it would
o Set aside the SC order that an FIR should be lodged only after a preliminary inquiry is conducted by a gazetted officer;
o Says that no approval of a senior official would be needed for arrest;
o Says that no provision of section 438 of criminal procedure court would be applicable.
o The amendment bill will insert section 18A that states “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of an FIR against any person”; or arrest, if necessary, of a person shall not require any approval.
Highlights of the recent SC decision
- The Supreme Court admitted the petitions challenging the amendments and directed the government to reply to allegations that the amendments were meant to appease the Dalits ahead of the 2019 general election.
- The petitions urged the government to quash the amendments, which were introduced and passed in Parliament even as the government’s petition to review the March 20 verdict was pending in the Supreme Court.
- In light of this petition, the Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response to petitions challenging amendments made by the government to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, to nullify its March 20 judgment.
- The SC issued notice to the Centre but refused to stay the amendments, saying “no stay can be granted without hearing the government”.
- The bench asked the Centre to file its reply in six weeks.
Analysis of the issue
- Some believe that the March 20 judgement of the apex court was meant to safeguard “innocent people of the country” from arbitrary arrest on the basis of frivolous and motivated complaints under the 1989 Act.
- The verdict was meant to uphold the fundamental right of personal liberty.
- The Minority groups and the Opposition criticised the judgment and demanded immediate action by the Centre.
- Many parties urged the leadership and the government to take immediate steps to protect the rights of the community.
- While non-Dalit MPs agreed that provisions in the Act were being misused.
- It is also contended that the amendments were made “to get political mileage” and said that the law has become an instrument to “blackmail” innocent citizens and urged the court not to remain a mute spectator in the matter.
- The government argued that the amendments to the Act were made without removing the basis of the judgment.
- The Supreme Court should examine the matter thoroughly after the centre gives its response to the Court.
- It should be taken care that the provisions of the act are misused while protecting the rights of the SC/ST community.
- There is a need to balance between the rights of the SC/ST community as well as others.
COMCASA to help keep a watch over Indian Ocean
- The foundational agreement Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which India concluded with the U.S. at the 2+2 dialogue will enable Indian military to get a better picture of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which is seeing increasing Chinese movements.
- COMCASA stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement and is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
- COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
- It comes into force immediately, and is valid for a period 10 years.
- COMCASA allows India to procure and transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is.
- It would facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing U.S.-origin platforms.
- This will also enable greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the US. Data acquired through such systems cannot be disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent.
- India will get access to Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System or CENTRIXS for short which is the secure communication system network of the US.
- Navy ships with CENTRIXS systems on board can communicate securely with the U.S. Navy when needed and can benefit from the wider situational picture of the region as they have a large number of ships and aircraft deployed.
- This will reduce the stress on Indian assets and allow us prioritise our deployments more efficiently.
Note- CENTRIXS consists of a collection of coalition wide area networks (WAN) known as enclaves and is a great enabler, allowing ship-to-ship operational dialogue between the two nations in text and web-based formats.
- There are persistent concerns that this would allow U.S. Navy access to India’s own secure communication network and also that the information shared with the U.S. will be accessible by Pakistan.
- Specific measures have been incorporated in the agreement to “have full access to the relevant equipment and there will be no disruptions.
- Data acquired through such systems cannot be disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent.
- This is an enabling instrument and does not commit India to acquire U.S. platforms. So far in joint exercises, Indian Navy used to temporarily plug in portable CENTRIXS systems to communicate with U.S. assets.
- Thus, both countries will implement this agreement in a manner that is consistent with the national security interests of the other.