[op-ed snap] The Rohingya Reversal

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNHCR

Mains level: Rohingya migrant issue and India’s measures to deal with it


Context

Deportation of Rohingya refugees

  1. At the annual session of the executive committee of the UNHCR held in Geneva, India stated, “We are a responsible state with a functional democracy and rule of law”
  2. On the same day, seven Rohingya men were being taken to the Indo-Myanmar border for a scheduled deportation
  3. Ironically, they had no access to legal counsel, courts or the UNHCR, which is mandated by the government to conduct refugee status determination of Myanmar nationals
  4. The men had entered Assam in 2012 without documentation and were prosecuted for illegal entry under the Foreigners Act

NHRC v. State of Arunachal

  1. In NHRC v. State of Arunachal, the Court extended protection under Article 14 and 21 to refugees
  2. Further, various high courts have upheld the customary international law principle of non-refoulement in deportation cases and have referred the detainees to UNHCR
  3. In view of these principles, the deportation of Rohingya refugees is in contravention of India’s obligations both under the Constitution and international law

Why deportation is illegal?

  1. With regard to the argument that the men were “illegal immigrants”, it should be noted that, given the circumstances that cause them to flee, refugees often cross borders without prior planning or valid documentation
  2. If anything, this should reinforce their status as “refugees”
  3. In the present case, given the overwhelming evidence to show that the Rohingya deported to Myanmar are at risk of being tortured, indefinitely detained and even killed, the deportation potentially violates Article 21, and India’s international obligations

Plight of Rohingyas

  1. Refugees frequently, though not always, are citizens of the state they are fleeing from
  2. The root of the plight of the Rohingya is the denial of citizenship
  3. In Myanmar, they are being issued the controversial National Verification Card which does not recognise their religion or ethnicity — and definitely does not confer citizenship

Way forward

  1. In the absence of a domestic law for refugee protection, it has been up to the judiciary to extend minimum constitutional protection to refugees
  2. By allowing this deportation, the SC has set a new precedent that is contrary to India’s core constitutional tenets
  3. By this verdict, the judiciary has stepped back from its own principles
Rohingya Conflict

[op-ed snap] India and Russia: Salvaging a strategic partnership

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Shadow of US sanctions on India-Russia ties and how to balance both sides


Context

Indo Russia relations

  1. The shadow of America loomed over the India-Russia summit recently held in New Delhi
  2. The question that dominated the meet was whether or not the deal for the Russian air defence missile system, the S-400, would go through
  3. The contract for the S-400 was signed at the Delhi summit

Why worries about the deal?

  1. The U.S. has been publicly warning for months that this purchase could attract provisions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which authorises the U.S. government to impose sanctions on entities for “significant” defence transactions with Russia
  2. The sanctioned entity would be cut off from all business in the U.S. and with U.S. companies

Recent slack in ties

  1. Indian and Russian perspectives today differ on key issues in India’s neighbourhood — Pakistan, Afghanistan and China — and on India’s strategic linkages with the U.S., including on the Indo-Pacific
  2. The Joint Statement issued at the summit has the usual laundry list of priority areas of cooperation, including infrastructure, engineering, natural resources, space and technology
  3. It expresses the commitment to raise trade and investment to a level more commensurate with the potential

Opportunities for cooperation

  1. Russia is natural resources-rich and India is resource-hungry
  2. The U.S. and European sanctions on Russia between 2014 and 2016 are sector- and currency-specific
  3. With proper structuring of business deals, trade and investment exchanges with Russia are possible, and without losing business with Europe and America

No benefits for the US

  1. The threat to India-Russia defence cooperation extends well beyond the suspense over the S-400 deal
  2. Every potential India-Russia defence deal could be subjected to a determination on the applicability of sanctions
  3. Actually imposing sanctions would hurt U.S. defence sales to India, defeating one of the principal objectives of the legislation
  4. The effort by the US would likely be to achieve desired results with the threat of sanctions

Way forward

  1. The India-U.S. strategic partnership is based on a strong mutuality of interests, but it was not intended to have the exclusivity of an alliance
  2. India should not have to choose between one strategic partnership and another
  3. The India-Russia dialogue should not get inextricably entangled in the India-U.S. dialogue
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] Another warning on warming

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPCC, Paris conference, NDCs

Mains level: Key recommendations of IPCC report on climate change


Context

IPCC report on global warming

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released a special report on global warming of 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures
  2. Produced speedily, it provides details on how the global response to climate change needs to be strengthened within the broader context of sustainable development and continuing efforts to eradicate poverty
  3. The impacts of 1.5°C of warming and the possible development pathways by which the world could get there are its main focus

Rising temperatures

  1. If nations do not mount a strenuous response against climate change, average global temperatures, which have already crossed 1°C, are likely to cross the 1.5°C mark around 2040
  2. It was in 2015, at the Paris climate conference, that the global community made a pact to pursue efforts to limit warming to within 1.5°C — half a degree below the previous target of 2°C
  3. For most people, the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C may seem trivial when daily temperatures fluctuate much more widely but the reference here is to global average temperatures

Effects of 0.5-degree increase in temperature

  1. Half a degree of warming makes a world of difference to many species whose chance of survival is significantly reduced at the higher temperature
  2. At 1.5°C warming, ocean acidification will be reduced (compared to 2°C warming), with better prospects for marine ecosystems
  3. There will likely be less intense and frequent hurricanes, not as intense droughts and heat waves with smaller effects on crops, and the reduced likelihood of an ice-free Arctic in summers
  4. Studies conservatively estimate sea levels to rise on average by about 50 cm by 2100 in a 2°C warmer world, 10 cm more than for 1.5°C warming
  5. The risks to food security, health, fresh water, human security, livelihoods and economic growth are already on the rise and will be worse in a 2°C world
  6. The number of people exposed to the complex and compounded risks from warming will also increase and the poorest — mostly in Asia and Africa — will suffer the worst impacts
  7. Adaptation, or the changes required to withstand the temperature rise, will also be lower at the lower temperature limit

Strategies to limit temperature rise

  • Limited overshoot
  1. To limit warming to around 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around mid-century
  2. In comparison, to limit warming to just below 2°C, the reductions needed are about 20% by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075
  • Permit temperatures to exceed 1.5°C temporarily before coming back down
  1. Emissions need to peak early within the next decade or so, and then drop
  2. To stay below 1.5°C, the transitions required by energy systems and human societies, in land use, transport, and infrastructure, would have to be rapid and on an unprecedented scale with deep emission reductions

Role of NDCs

  1. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are commitments that each country made prior to the Paris conference
  2. Even if all the NDCs are implemented, the world is expected to warm by over 3°C
  3. Contributions from the U.S. and other rich countries to the Green Climate Fund and other funding mechanisms for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation are vital to reach the goals of the NDCs

Way forward

  1. Disputes over the implementation of the Paris Agreement at numerous meetings depict the deep divides among rich countries, emerging economies and least developed countries
  2. This special report poses options for the global community of nations
  3. Each will have to decide whether to play politics on a global scale for one’s own interests or to collaborate to protect the world and its ecosystems as a whole
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Forest fires cost India ₹1,100 crore a year: report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the Report

Mains level: Prevention of forest fires


News

Context

  1. With at least one in four people dependent on forests for their livelihood, India is losing at least ₹1,100 crore due to forest fires every year, says a new World Bank report.
  2. The report calls for a national plan for the prevention of forest fire.

Findings of the Report

  1. The  report titled “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India” is jointly prepared by the MoEFCC and the World Bank.
  2. Forest fires occur in around half of the country’s 647 districts every year states the report.
  3. Repeated fires in short succession are reducing diversity of species and harming natural regeneration, while posing a risk to over 92 million in India who live in areas of forest cover.
  4. Analysing patterns and trends the report highlights that central India has the largest area affected by fire.
  5. North-East accounts for 56% of burnt forest land during 2003-2016, followed by southern states and the North-East.
  6. However, North-eastern states account for the biggest share of fire detections, with at least 55% of fire incidents reported during 2003-2016.

Significance of the Report

  1. The findings are significant since preventing forest fires is crucial to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in order to limit global warming.
  2. As per the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC, forest fires globally contribute 2.5 billion to 4.0 billion tonnes of CO2 to carbon emissions every year.
  3. Tackling forest fires is even more important in India as the country has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover by 2030, as part of NDCs.

Way Forward

  1. India aims to increase its forest cover by 5 million hectares, as part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  2. Forest fire management is part of our long-term vision for sustainable forest management.
  3. Forest fires can be controlled only by using an aggressive strategy.
  4. Apart from incentivizing communities and forest departments, there is also a need to bring a social movement across states to address the issue.
Forest Fires

Explained: When a woman is harassed at work

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Role of women & women’s organization, Women Empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the SHWW Act

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the powers and privileges of an aggrieved SH victim at workplace.


News

#MeToo gearing-in  in India

  1. Over the last several days, a number of women in India have called out influential men — actors, standup comics, senior journalists for alleged sexual harassment.
  2. Some of these allegations relate to actions of then colleagues of the women.

Law against Sexual Harassment

  1. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (SHWWA) was passed in 2013.
  2. The rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, are protected under the Act.
  3. It defines sexual harassment, lays down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry, and the action to be taken. It broadens the Vishaka guidelines, which were already in place.

Vishaka guidelines

  1. These were laid down by the Supreme Court in a judgment in 1997.
  2. This was on a case filed by women’s rights groups, one of which was Vishaka.
  3. Legally binding, these defined sexual harassment and imposed three key obligations on institutions — prohibition, prevention, redress.
  4. The Supreme Court directed that they establish a Complaints Committee, which would look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

2013 Act broadening the sense

  1. It mandates that every employer constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
  2. It lays down procedures and defines various aspects of sexual harassment.
  3. An aggrieved victim is a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
  4. Additionally, the Act mentions five circumstances that amount to sexual harassment —
  • implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment;
  • implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment;
  • implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status;
  • interference with her work or creating an offensive or hostile work environment;
  • humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.

Defining Sexual Harassment at Work

  1. Sexual harassment (SH) includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour” committed directly or by implication:
  • Physical contact and advance
  • A demand or request for sexual favours
  • Sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
  1. The WCD Ministry has published a Handbook on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace with more detailed instances of behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment at the workplace.
  2. These include, broadly:
  • Sexually suggestive remarks or innuendos; serious or repeated offensive remarks; inappropriate questions or remarks about a person’s sex life
  • Display of sexist or offensive pictures, posters, MMS, SMS, WhatsApp, or emails
  • Intimidation, threats, blackmail around sexual favours; also, threats, intimidation or retaliation against an employee who speaks up about these
  • Unwelcome social invitations with sexual overtones, commonly seen as flirting
  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  1. The Handbook says “unwelcome behaviour” is experienced when the victim feels bad or powerless; it causes anger/sadness or negative self-esteem.
  2. It adds unwelcome behaviour is one which is “illegal, demeaning, invading, one-sided and power based”.

Mandate of the ICC

  1. Technically, it is not compulsory for an aggrieved person to file a complaint for action.
  2. The Act says the aggrieved victim “may” make, in writing, a complaint of sexual harassment.
  3. If she cannot, any member of the ICC “shall” render “all reasonable assistance” to her for making the complaint in writing.
  4. And if the woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her “physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise”, her legal heir may do so.

Time Frame for raising Complaint

  1. The Act states the complaint of sexual harassment has to be made “within three months from the date of the incident”.
  2. For a series of incidents, it has to be made within three months from the date of the last incident. However, this is not rigid.
  3. The ICC can “extend the time limit” if “it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period”.

Provision of Inquiry

  1. Section 10 of the SHWWA deals with conciliation.
  2. The ICC “may”, before inquiry, and “at the request of the aggrieved woman, take steps to settle the matter.
  3. It can be done provided that “no monetary settlement shall be made as a basis of conciliation”.

Inquiry Process

  1. The ICC may forward the complaint to the police under IPC Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman; maximum punishment one year jail with fine).
  2. Otherwise, the ICC can start an inquiry that has to be completed within 90 days.
  3. ICC has similar powers to those of a civil court in respect of the following matters: summoning and examining any person on oath; requiring the discovery and production of documents.
  4. While the inquiry is on, if the woman makes a written request, the ICC “may” recommend her transfer, leave for three months, or any other relief to her as may be prescribed.
  5. The identity of the woman, respondent, witness, any information on the inquiry, recommendation and action taken, the Act states, should not be made public.

Prosecution of the Convict

  1. If the allegations are proved, the ICC recommends that the employer take action for sexual harassment for misconduct “in accordance with the provisions of the service rules” of the company.
  2. It also recommends that the company deduct from the salary of the person found guilty, “as it may consider appropriate”.
  3. Compensation is determined based on five aspects: suffering and emotional distress caused to the woman; loss in career opportunity; her medical expenses; income and financial status of the respondent; and the feasibility of such payment.

Preventing Misuse of the Act

  1. Section 14 of the Act deals with punishment for false or malicious complaint and false evidence.
  2. In such a case, the ICC “may recommend” to the employer that it take action against the woman, or the person who has made the complaint, in “accordance with the provisions of the service rules”.
  3. The Act, however, makes it clear, that action cannot be taken for “mere inability” to “substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof”.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

Centre reconstitutes EPCA, the authority tasked with tackling environment pollution in NCR

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EPCA

Mains level: Policy measures to tackle Air Pollution issues in the national capital.


News

Reconstitution of EPCA

  1. The Centre has reconstituted the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or the EPCA.
  2. It was tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region.
  3. The EPCA had enforced several measures, including closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant, ban on brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers, and construction activities.

Why reconstitution?

  1. The tenure of the last EPCA expired on October 3.
  2. The EPCA was constituted with the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling the environmental pollution in the National Capital Region.
  3. The EPCA is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in New Delhi as per the pollution levels.

Back2Basics

Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA)

  1. The Union Government constitutes EPCA as Supreme Court mandated body for the National Capital Region under the section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  2. The Authority shall have the power suo-moto, or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organization functioning in the field of environment.
  3. Such complaints may be against any individual, association, company, public undertaking or local body carrying on any industry, operation or process.
  4. It shall deal with environmental issues pertaining to the National Capital Region which may be referred to it by the Central Government.
  5. It takes all necessary steps to for controlling vehicular pollution, ensuring compliance of fuel quality standards, monitoring and coordinating action for traffic planning and management.
Air Pollution

Strategic Policy Group to assist National Security Council

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to Internal Security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SPG, NSC

Mains level: Decision making apparatus of the government in context to National Security.


News

Strategic Policy Group (SPG)

  1. The central government has set up the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to assist the National Security Council.
  2. The other members of the SPG will include NITI Aayog vice chairman, a cabinet secretary, chiefs of the three defence services, RBI governor, a foreign secretary, a home secretary, a finance secretary and a defence secretary.
  3. The secretary of the Department of Defence Production and Supplies, scientific adviser to the defence minister and secretary (R) will also be members of the panel.
  4. The group will assist the National Security Council and undertake among other tasks, a long-term strategic review of the country’s security affairs.
  5. Representatives of other ministries and departments will be invited to the meetings of the group as and when necessary.

Tasks assigned to SPG

  1. The Strategic Policy Group is the first level of the three tier structure of the National Security Council.
  2. It forms the nucleus of the decision-making apparatus of the NSC.
  3. Earlier, Cabinet Secretary was its chairman, but now National Security Advisor is the chairman of the group.
  4. SPG will assist the National Security Council and undertake among other tasks, a long-term strategic review of country’s security affairs.
  5. It will act as a principal mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination and integration of relevant inputs in the formulation of national security policies.
  6. The NSA will convene the meetings of the SPG and the cabinet secretary will coordinate implementation of the group’s decisions by Union Ministries and Departments, and State Governments.

Back2Basics

National Security Council

  1. The NSC of India is an executive government agency tasked with advising the Prime Minister’s Office on matters of national security and strategic interest.
  2. It was established by Former PM Vajpayee on 19 November 1998.
  3. Prior to the formation of the NSC, these activities were overseen by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
  4. Besides the National Security Advisor (NSA), The Deputy National Security Advisor (DNSA), The Ministers of Defence, External Affairs, Home, Finance, and the Deputy Chairman of the NITI Aayog are members.
Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

[pib] Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act 1951

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Representation of People Act, 1951

Mains level: Process of Bye-Elections in India


News

Context

  1. It is understood that some newspapers have reported that the ECI on the one hand announced the bye elections to fill the three casual vacancies in Lok Sabha from Karnataka.
  2. While the bye elections to fill five vacancies in Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh has not been announced by ECI.

Logic behind ECs move

  1. As the vacancies from Karnataka have occurred more than one year before the expiration of the term of House, bye elections are required to be held.
  2. In the case of vacancies from Andhra Pradesh, there is no need to hold bye elections as the remaining term of the Lok Sabha is less than one year from the date of occurrence of vacancies.

Section 151A of R.P. Act, 1951

  1. Section 151A of the RP Act mandates the EC to fill the casual vacancies in the Houses of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  2. A bye-election for filling any vacancy referred to in any of the said sections shall be held within a period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy:
  3. Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply if—
  • The remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year; or
  • The Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the bye-election within the said period.
Electoral Reforms In India

[pib] ‘MedWatch’ Mobile Health App

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the MedWatch Mobile App

Mains level: Not Much


News

Context

  • On the occasion of 86th anniversary, the Indian Air Force has launched an innovative mobile health App named MedWatch in keeping with the PM’s vision of Digital India, Ayushman Bharat and Mission Indradhanush.

MedWatch

  1. The app is conceived by the doctors of IAF and developed in house by Directorate of Information Technology (DIT) with zero financial outlay.
  2. It will provide correct, Scientific and authentic health information to air warriors and all citizens of India.
  3. The app is available on www.apps.mgov.gov.in and comprises of host of features like information on basic First Aid, Health topics and Nutritional Facts.
  4. It includes reminders for timely Medical Review, Vaccination and utility tools like Health Record Card, BMI calculator, helpline numbers and web links.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.