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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 1 February 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. NITI Aayog’s megacity plan for Little Andaman
  2. India delivers 2 cranes for Chabahar port
  3. Medical board on abortion ‘unfeasible’, says study

NITI AAYOG’S MEGACITY PLAN FOR LITTLE ANDAMAN

Context:

A plan proposed by NITI Aayog for the sustainable and holistic development of the fragile Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group has raised the alarm among conservationists.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment, Environmental Impact Assessment), Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Little Andaman Island
  2. About NITI Aayog’s proposal for Little Andaman
  3. Hurdles to the Development of this Little Andaman vision
  4. Criticisms of the plan: Sloppy and inappropriate

Little Andaman Island

  • Little Andaman Island is the fourth largest of the Andaman Islands of India lying at the southern end of the archipelago (to the south of Port Blair).
  • It belongs to the South Andaman administrative district, part of the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The low-lying island has widespread rainforest and several rare species of marine turtle.
  • The island is home to the Onge aboriginal tribe, who call the island Egu Belong, and has been a tribal reserve since 1957.
  • There are multilingual settlers of Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, and Ranchi communities in the island as well.
  • It is famous by the name of its main village and the largest settlement –Hut Bay. Hut Bay Jetty is the only harbor for ships or boats coming into this island from the capital town –Port Blair.
  • Little Andamans is less explored due to the limited mode of connection with the capital town of Port Blair.

About NITI Aayog’s proposal for Little Andaman

  • The ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, is the NITI Aayog’s proposal to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island.
  • This, the vision says, will be done by building a new greenfield coastal city there, that will be developed as a free trade zone and will compete with Singapore and Hong Kong.
  • The proposal is pivoted along three development anchors and zones.
  1. Zone 1 – spread along the east coast of Little Andaman will be the financial district and medi city and will include an aerocity, and a tourism and hospital district.
  2. Zone 2 – spread over forest and called the leisure zone, will have a film city, a residential district and a tourism (Special Economic Zone) SEZ.
  3. Zone 3 – spread out on forest as well will be a nature zone, further categorised into three districts: an exclusive forest resort, a nature healing district and a nature retreat, all on the western coast.
  • There will be ‘underwater’ resorts, casinos, golf courses, convention centres, plug-and-play office complexes, a drone port with fully automated drone delivery system, nature cure institutes and more.
  • An international airport capable of handling all types of aircraft will be central to this development vision because “all successful case studies and references” studied by the visioning team indicate that an international airport is key for development.

Hurdles to the Development of this Little Andaman vision

There are certain factors, the vision document notes, that could prevent Little Andaman from becoming the new Singapore.

These include:

  1. Lack of good connectivity with Indian mainland and global cities.
  2. A fragile biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
  3. Certain Supreme Court notifications that pose an impediment to development.
  4. Presence of indigenous tribes and concerns for their welfare.

There are other concrete obstacles that the vision takes note of:

  1. 95% of Little Andaman is covered in forest, a large part of it the pristine evergreen type.
  2. More than 600 Sq. Km of the island is Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act.
  3. Almost 500 Sq. Km of the island is protected as the Onge Tribal Reserve, creating a unique and rare socio-ecological-historical complex of high importance.

What the plan demands and how can they be met?

The vision needs 240 sq km (35%) of this protected land.

The solutions suggested are simple and straightforward:

  1. De-reserve 32% of the reserved forest and
  2. De-notify 138 sq km or 31% of the tribal reserve.
  3. If the tribals become an impediment, the vision suggests that they can be relocated to other parts of the island.

Criticisms of the plan: Sloppy and inappropriate

  • The vision document has maps with no legends or explanations and uses inappropriate photographs plagiarised from the Internet.
  • It talks of conservation of national park/wildlife sanctuary on Little Andaman when none exist here and it has no mention of the geological vulnerability of the place, which was amongst the worst-affected in the earthquake-tsunami combination in 2004.
  • The plan has no financial details, no budgeting, or inventorisation of forests and ecological wealth and no details of any impact assessment.
  • The nature resort is planned on one of the most important nesting sites of the globally endangered Giant Leatherback sea turtle.
  • Forest officers raised serious concerns about this vision on grounds of ecological fragility, indigenous rights and vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Such large diversion of forest land would cause obvious environmental loss leading to irreversible damage (more than 2 million trees stand in the forest land sought for these projects), that habitats of various wild animals including endangered sea turtles would be affected, and that the impact could not even be assessed because there was no environment impact assessment report and neither were there any detailed site layout plans for the proposed diversion.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIA DELIVERS 2 CRANES FOR CHABAHAR PORT

Context:

In its latest push to develop Iran’s Chabahar port project, India handed over two cranes for loading and unloading equipment to the Iranian government.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s relations and deals / investments of significance with other countries)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Chabahar Port and its benefits for India
  2. Impact of the recent U.S. election results on the development of the port

The Chabahar Port and its benefits for India

  • The Chabahar Port is Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
  • With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
  • It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
IRAN DROPS INDIA FROM CHABAHAR RAIL PROJECT -

Impact of the recent U.S. election results on the development of the port

  • India’s plans to invest further in the port project are seen as an indicator that the government expects some easing up in U.S. sanctions in the upcoming months.
  • The cranes delivery comes after several delays due to the impact of U.S. sanctions on various parts of the Chabahar project, which have slowed down both the procurement of equipment, as well as banking and insurance arrangements for developing infrastructure, even though India received a “sanctions waiver” from Washington for developing Chabahar port.

-Source: The Hindu


MEDICAL BOARD ON ABORTION ‘UNFEASIBLE’, SAYS STUDY

Context:

A new study finds that – A panel of doctors to decide on termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks as proposed in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020, is “unfeasible” as 82% of these posts are lying vacant in the country.

The MTP Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020, and is likely to be brought before Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session.

Relevance:

GS-I: Indian Society / Social Issues (Issues related to women, Population and associated issues), GS-II: Social Justice, Polity and Governance (Government Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background on Legality of Abortion in India
  2. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  4. Shortfall in Doctors makes the amendment Unfeasible

Background on Legality of Abortion in India

  • Abortion in India is legal in certain circumstances. It can be performed on various grounds until 24 weeks of pregnancy. In exceptional cases, a court may allow a termination after 24 weeks.
  • When a woman gets a pregnancy terminated voluntarily from a service provider, it is called induced abortion. Spontaneous abortion is when the process of abortion starts on its own without any intervention. In common language, this is also known as miscarriage.
  • Before 1971, abortion was criminalized under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as intentionally ‘causing miscarriage’.
  • It was in the 1960s, when abortion was legal in 15 countries, that deliberations on a legal framework for induced abortion in India was initiated.
  • The alarmingly increased number of abortions taking place put the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on alert.
  • To address this, the Government of India instated a Committee in 1964 led by Shantilal Shah to come up with suggestions to draft the abortion law for India.
  • The recommendations of this Committee were accepted in 1970 and introduced in the Parliament as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill.
ABORTIONS TILL 24 WEEKS FOR SPECIAL CATEGORIES - Legacy IAS Academy

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides the legal framework for making CAC services available in India.

Termination of pregnancy is permitted for a broad range of conditions up to 20 weeks of gestation as detailed below:

  1. When continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or could cause grave injury to her physical or mental health;
  2. When there is substantial risk that the child, if born, would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities;
  3. When pregnancy is caused due to rape (presumed to cause grave injury to the mental health of the woman);
  4. When pregnancy is caused due to failure of contraceptives used by a married woman or her husband (presumed to constitute grave injury to mental health of the woman).

The MTP Act specifies –

  1. who can terminate a pregnancy;
  2. till when a pregnancy can be terminated; and
  3. where can a pregnancy be terminated.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is an Amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

Proposals of the bill are:

  1. The requirement of the opinion of one registered medical practitioner (instead of two or more) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation (foetal development period from the time of conception until birth).
  2. Introduce the requirement of the opinion of two registered medical practitioners for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  3. Increase the gestation limit for ‘special categories’ of women which includes survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women like differently-abled women and minors.
  4. The “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorised in any law that is currently in force.
  5. 24 weeks – “Special Circumstances” – The upper limit for permitting abortions was increased from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances – “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently abled and minors.
  6. Constitution of a Medical Board in every State and UT, which will decide on pregnancies beyond 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormalities. Each board will have one gynaecologist, one radiologist or sonologist, one paediatrician, and other members prescribed by the State/UT government

Shortfall in Doctors makes the amendment Unfeasible

  • A recent study found that for each of the years between 2015-2019, the shortfall in these posts hovered between 70% to 80%.
  • The data is based on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Rural Health Survey, which provides details of vacancies filled at secondary healthcare centres.
  • The shortfall was starker in the northeast where Sikkim, Mizoram and Manipur had a total absence of obstetricians and gynaecologists, and a near total absence of paediatricians.
  • Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya had a 100% shortage of paediatricians.

Note: WHO on restrictions regarding termination of pregnancies-

The World Health Organization also urges nations not to create barriers by including complex authorisation processes and noted that “negotiating authorization procedures disproportionally burdens poor women, adolescents, those with little education and those subjected to, or at risk of, domestic conflict and violence, creating inequality in access”.

-Source: The Hindu

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