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Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2021

Feb 05, 2021

Current Affair 1:
Madras HC: Recommendation of State Human Rights Commission is binding on Government

In the case Abdul Sathar vs. Principal Secretary to the Government, the Madras high court has held that the recommendation of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 is binding on the Government or the relevant Authority. It has also suggested amendments in the Protection of Human Rights Act to provide an internal/self-contained mechanism for the Human Rights Commission to enforce its recommendations.

The court observed:

In this regard, the judgement outlines the following:

  1. The Government is under a legal obligation to forward its comments to the SHRC on the report of SHRC including the action taken or proposed to be taken. If the concerned Government or authority fails to implement the recommendation of the SHRC within the stipulated time, the SHRC can approach the Constitutional Court under Section 18(b) of the Act for enforcement by seeking issuance of appropriate Writ/order/direction.

  1. The State has no discretion to avoid implementation of the recommendation and in case the State is aggrieved, it can only resort to legal remedy seeking judicial review of the recommendation of the SHRC.
  2. The SHRC can order recovery of the compensation from the State and payable to the victims of the violation of human rights under Section 18 of the Act and the State, in turn, could recover the compensation paid, from the Officers of the State who have been found to be responsible for causing human rights violation.
  3. In regard to the imposition of penalty as a consequence of a delinquent official being found guilty of the violation, a limited departmental inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain the extent of culpability of the Official concerned in causing violation in order to formulate an opinion of the punishing Authority as to the proportionality of the punishment to be imposed on the official concerned.
  4. It is open to the aggrieved officers/employees to approach the competent Court to challenge the findings as well as recommendations of the SHRC.

Once you also see,

Act = Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993

Bill = Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Composition of NHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.

 The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman. 

Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC.  The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.

 Chairperson of SHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court.  The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC. 

 Term of office: The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.  The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.  Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years.  The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.  

 Powers of Secretary-General: The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them.  The Bill amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.

 Union Territories: The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories.  Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.   

Current Affair 2:
The Arctic policy of India

 

In the last two decades the topic of the Arctic exploration began to appear on the international agenda more frequently, drawing attention of politicians, businessmen, and analysts all over the world. The most pressing issues for the Arctic region and the countries that are located in it are:

  1. the problems of ecology
  2. strategic development (including uneven) territories
  3. and assessment of their potential (economic, resource, tourism, etc.),
  4. as well as equally important issues of migration
  5. attracting labor resources to the region
  6. and digital transformation of the region       

In the world, as of 2020, there are only 8 Arctic States that are members of the Arctic Council, while there are 1.5 times as many observer countries in it as there are participants themselves. India is not a member; it has an observer status.

What is the reason for such a high interest in the region?    

According to the Independent statistics and analysis agency «U.S. Energy Information Administration», the Arctic contains 13% of the world`s undiscovered oil resources (at about 90 billion barrels) and 30% of world`s undiscovered natural gas resources.

Moreover, deposits of strategic metals (gold, silver, copper, titanium, iron, graphite, lead, nickel, coal, uranium etc.) have been discovered in the Arctic zone. If earlier exploration of the Northern riches was significantly difficult because of the severe climatic conditions, nowadays due to the arctic ice cap melting (according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, ice extent declines per 3,6% every decade starting from 1978, the facilitates of navigation in the Arctic Ocean becomes significantly wider and a possibility of developing Arctic deposits is opened up.

Why India role in this region becomes important? Two important reasons. We will summarize in the end.

The key argument in favor is huge Arctic resources. The main fuel for Indian thermal power plants is coal. It is available in abundance and meets 70% of the total power sector demand. The problem is that the fossil cannot be of predominantly used because of its low calorific value and high ash generation.

India need Arctic region to explore other possibilities.

The second argument for India active participating in arctic issues is about geopolitics. To date Delhi has a leverage for constrain Chinese hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. In any case of aggression from China India can block Malacca Strait and thus cut off energy supply routes to China. Malacca Strait with 80% of China imported oil going through it has great strategic importance for Beijing.

However, with the melting of the polar ice caps, Beijing gets access to the vast energy resources of the North, as well as the ability to use the Northern sea route for transporting them. China's dependence on the Malacca route is consequently decreasing. The factor accelerating Beijing expansion on the Northern Sea Route is a possibility to use it in Sino-European trade. The way from East Asia to Northern Europe by NSR is about 3,9 thousand miles shorter than through the Suez Canal. Under these circumstances, it becomes clear that it will be a fatal mistake for India to let China be the only Asian player in the circumpolar North. One more advantage of counterweighing China in the Arctic Region is an availability to navigate northern routes by India itself. Northern Sea Route enables shipping companies to reduce time and fuel and security costs for transiting goods.

Major conclusions:

  1. Melting of the Arctic ice caps, resultant access to Arctic Ocean routes and fossil fuels, as well as deterioration of Arctic States relations encourages non-regional actors’ activity. The process predominantly refers to the Asian players who face lack of inner recourses.
  2. Since the beginning of the 21st century India makes its first steps in the area. Initial India’s activity was limited to scientific research. Access to the Arctic Council permanent observer status in 2013 inspired Indian political and economic ambitious in the region.
  3. Because of the division over climate change impact on Indian economy and on the whole world, necessity of the Arctic carbon fossils and risks connected with theirs mining taking place in the Indian political and scientific circles, the state has still failed to formulate clear Arctic strategy.
  4. Indian activity in the Arctic is mainly a reaction to the Chinese extension in the Circumpolar North. India fears that without counterweight China will take over northern energy recourses and trade routes, thus will eliminate its dependence on the Malacca Strait, which is one of the main Indian leverage on the Chinese policy.
  5. In the nearest future India will expand its influence in the Arctic Region. Nevertheless, it will be restricted to diplomatic and scientific activity and will not be comparable to the Beijing Arctic Policy.
  6. The second pillar is scientific work. India will go on with train environmentalists, send expeditions and enlarge scientific centre. Due to such an activity Delhi kills two birds with one stone. First, thus India in the eyes of the world community presents itself as an active Arctic actor. Second, environmentally friendly scientific research satisfies both debating sides within Indian political circles.

Current Affair 3:
IIT Kharagpur Study Finds 20% of India Has High Arsenic Levels in Groundwater

Almost 20% of India’s total land area has toxic levels of arsenic in its groundwater, exposing more than 250 million people across the country to the poisonous element, says a new IIT Kharagpur study which used artificial intelligence (AI)-based prediction modelling.

The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, indicates the need for much more rigorous sampling of arsenic levels across India than what exists.

About study:

In the study, the scientists used advanced AI to model the occurrence of arsenic above its national permissible limit of 10 micrograms per litre (g/L) in the groundwater across India based on the various geologic, hydrogeologic and anthropogenic factors that have been known to control the groundwater arsenic distribution in the aquifers.

The study is the first integrated report on the field-sampled arsenic distribution patterns along with an arsenic prediction model using advanced AI across India.

India is worst:

The outcome of the study is particularly important for policymakers and administrators as this knowledge can provide a vital input in identifying safe drinking water sources in arsenic affected areas of India.

Current Affair 4:
Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF)

Source Link

It was set up under the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017. The consumer welfare fund rules of 1992 have been subsumed under the CGST rules, 2017.

The Fund has been set up by the Department of Revenue (Ministry of Finance) and is being operated by the Department of Consumer Affairs (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution).

Financial assistance from CWF is given to various Institutions including Universities, Voluntary Consumer Organization (VCOs) and States to promote and protect the welfare and interests of the consumers, create consumer awareness and strengthen consumer movement in the country.  Grants from CWF have been given for the following major projects:

 

 

  1. Creation of Consumer Law Chairs/ Centres of Excellence in Institutions/Universities of repute to foster research and training on consumer related issues.
  2. Projects for spreading consumer literacy and awareness.
  3. Establish Corpus Fund at the State level, through co-contribution.

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