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Current Affairs 07 April 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)
  2. Japan circumventing sanctions on Russian oil
  3. Fortified Rice
  4. Avalanche
  5. Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)


Context:

The Union Home Ministry recommended an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged violation of FCRA provisions by Oxfam India, one of the largest NGOs working on food, shelter and education of vulnerable groups.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Non-Governmental Organisations -NGOs), GS-III: Indian Economy (External Sector, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the FCRA?
  2. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
  3. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
  4. Issues Related to FCRA

What is the FCRA?

  • The FCRA was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
  • These concerns were, in fact, even older — they had been expressed in Parliament as early as in 1969.
  • The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and associations so that they functioned “in a manner consistent with the values of a sovereign democratic republic”.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010

The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010 is a consolidating act whose scope is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Key Points regarding FCRA
  • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India.
  • It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The Act held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
  • Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020

  • The Act bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions. Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government, or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
  • The Act prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person not registered to accept foreign contributions.
  • The Act makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
  • The Act states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi.
  • The Act proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
  • The Act allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.

Issues Related to FCRA

  • The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state” – however, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government. NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival. FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest – Hence, it can be said that FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.
  • In 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA and stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” failed the test of “legitimate restrictions” as they were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.

-Source: The Hindu


Japan Circumventing Sanctions on Russian oil


Context:

Japan has been purchasing oil from Russia at a price above the $60 per barrel price cap imposed by the West, according to reports this week. This has led to speculation that Japan may be breaching an agreement reached last year to cap the price of Russian oil.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why is there a price cap on Russian oil?
  2. Why is Japan breaking ranks with the West?

Why is there a price cap on Russian oil?

  • The G-7 countries, the EU, and Australia imposed a price cap of $60 per barrel on oil purchased from Russia starting in December.
  • The move was part of the economic sanctions imposed by the West to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
  • The aim of the price cap is to restrict the amount of money that Russia can make by selling its oil, without severely affecting global oil supply.
  • Russia contributes about 10% of global oil supply, so any significant reduction in its oil supplies could send oil prices soaring.
  • The estimated cost for Russia to produce a barrel of oil ranges from $20-$45.
  • The West believes that a $60 per barrel price cap will still allow Russia to keep its oil output steady.

Why is Japan breaking ranks with the West?

  • Japan’s oil import from Russia in the first two months of 2023:
    • Amounted to about 750,000 barrels
    • Purchased at a price of about $70 per barrel
  • Japan’s oil import from Russia is insignificant compared to Russia’s overall oil production of 10.7 million barrels per day in 2022
  • Japan’s decision to purchase oil above the West’s price cap of $60 per barrel highlights the strong incentives for countries to subvert the cap
  • Japan had previously won an exception to purchase Russian oil from Sakhalin-2 in Russia’s Far East to protect its energy security, even when the price cap was first imposed in December.

Will more countries follow Japan?

  • Japan is not the only country that is undermining the West’s $60 price cap on Russian oil. Countries such as India, for instance, are believed to be paying more than $60 per barrel to purchase oil from Russia.
  • As oil prices rise, the chances of a rift developing even among signatories to the oil price cap arrangement grow higher.
  • When buyers are willing to pay more than $60 per barrel to secure supplies, oil traders will likely be happy to subvert sanctions and deliver supplies from Russia.
  • Critics of the oil price cap had warned that implementing the price cap may be difficult because it works against strong economic incentives and because it may be impossible to keep track of all shipments in such a large, opaque oil market.

Will rising oil prices threaten the West’s price cap?

  • OPEC and Russia decided to cut their oil output by 3.66 million barrels per day, sending oil prices soaring 6%.
  • Russian urals, the flagship crude oil sold by Russia, also soared above $60 per barrel, thus breaching the West’s price cap.
  • When the West first imposed its price cap, it had no effect on Russia’s oil output or revenues as Russian urals were trading well below $60 per barrel.
  • But now with urals trading above $60 per barrel, things might turn out to be different.
  • The West would hope that its price cap would keep Russia’s oil revenues in check despite rising oil prices.
  • Russia, which has seen its oil revenues drop due to subdued oil prices and the West’s ban on Russian oil, will be hoping to turn the corner by bypassing Western sanctions and selling oil above the price cap.
  • This will test the West’s ability to effectively implement its price cap.

-Source: The Hindu


Fortified Rice


Context

As many as 269 districts in 27 States have started distributing fortified rice under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), achieving a 100% target set for Phase II by March 2023 in the Rice Fortification Programme, said Union Food Secretary.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy, Public distribution system

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is rice fortification?
  2. Need of rice fortification
  3. What are the standards for fortification?
  4. Advantages
  5. Issues with fortified food

What is rice fortification?

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.
  • The cooking of fortified rice does not require any special procedure.
  • After cooking, fortified rice retains the same physical properties and micronutrient levels as it had before cooking.
  • Fortified rice will be packed in jute bags with the logo (‘+F’) and the line “Fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12”.
  • Various technologies are available to add micronutrients to regular rice, such as coating, dusting, and ‘extrusion’.
  • The last mentioned involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an ‘extruder’ machine.
  • It is considered to be the best technology for India.
  • The fortified rice kernels are blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.
Need of rice fortification
  • India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
  • According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • Fortification of food is considered to be one of the most suitable methods to combat malnutrition.
  • Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population.
  • Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month.
  • Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.

What are the standards for fortification?

  • Under the Ministry’s guidelines, 10 g of FRK must be blended with 1 kg of regular rice.
  • According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg of fortified rice will contain the following: iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
  • Rice may also be fortified with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), vitamin B-1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), vitamin B-2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), vitamin B-3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and vitamin B-6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.
Advantages
  • Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near-natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.
  •  It provides nutrition without any change in the characteristics of food or the course of our meals.
  •  If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittently supplement.
  •  The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.
  •  It upholds everyone’s right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger

Issues with fortified food

  • Fortification and enrichment upset nature’s packaging. Our body does not absorb individual nutrients added to processed foods as efficiently compared to nutrients naturally occurring.
  • Supplements added to foods are less bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient your body is able to absorb and use.
  • They lack immune-boosting substances.
  • Fortified foods and supplements can pose specific risks for people who are taking prescription medications, including decreased absorption of other micro-nutrients, treatment failure, and increased mortality risk.

-Source: The Hindu


Sikkim Nathu La Avalanche


Context:

Recently, a massive Avalanche hit Sikkim’s Nathu La.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Avalanche?
  2. Causes of Avalanches:
  3. Avalanches vs. Landslides: How They Differ

What is Avalanche?

  • An avalanche refers to a sudden and swift movement of snow, ice, and debris down a mountain or slope.
  • Avalanche can be triggered by various factors like heavy snowfall, rapid temperature changes, or human activity.
  • In avalanche-prone areas, specialized teams use techniques such as explosives, snow barriers, and other safety measures to monitor and control avalanche risks.
  • The three main types of avalanches are rock avalanches (composed of shattered rock), ice avalanches (occurring in the vicinity of a glacier), and debris avalanches (consisting of unconsolidated materials such as loose stones and soil).

Causes of Avalanches:

  • Weather Conditions: Heavy snowfall, rapid temperature changes, strong winds, and rain are some of the factors that can contribute to avalanche conditions.
  • Slope Conditions: The steepness, orientation, and shape of a slope can also increase the likelihood of an avalanche. Steep slopes with a convex shape are particularly prone to avalanches.
  • Snowpack Conditions: The structure and stability of the snowpack play a significant role in avalanche conditions. Weak layers of snow or ice within the snowpack can cause it to collapse and trigger an avalanche.
  • Human Activity: Recreational activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and other movements on the slope can trigger avalanches.
  • Natural Events: Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and rockfalls can also trigger avalanches.

Avalanches vs. Landslides: How They Differ

  • Avalanches and landslides are both types of mass movements, but they occur in different environments and involve different materials.
  • An avalanche is a sudden and rapid flow of snow, ice, and debris down a mountain or slope, while a landslide is a movement of rock, earth, or debris down a slope or cliff.
  • Avalanches mainly occur in mountainous areas with heavy snowfall and steep slopes, whereas landslides can happen in a broad range of environments and can be triggered by factors like heavy rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic activity, or human activity.
  • Both avalanches and landslides can be hazardous and potentially fatal, and taking appropriate precautions to avoid them is critical.

Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary


Context:

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) chief recently said that the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary would soon be notified as a tiger reserve.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary:
  2. About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Location: Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary is situated near the Anini district in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It derives its name from the Dibang River, which is a tributary of the Brahmaputra River.
  • The sanctuary is spread across the Eastern Himalayas, featuring majestic mountains, snow-covered peaks, deep gorges, lush forests, and sparkling rivers.
  • The altitude of the sanctuary varies between 1800m and 5000m.
Flora:
  • The sanctuary is home to two primary types of vegetation, including temperate broad-leaved forests and temperate conifer forests (Rhododendra, Bamboo, Gregaria, Tsuga, etc.). Alpine vegetation, consisting of herbs, stunted trees, and dwarf bushes, is found at higher altitudes.
Fauna:
  •  Some of the notable wildlife species found in the sanctuary are the Mishmi takin, Asiatic black bear, tigers, Gongshan muntjac, Red panda, Red goral, and Musk deer.

About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was established in December 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganised management of Project Tiger and the many Tiger Reserves in India.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was amended in 2006 to provide for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger plan to protect endangered tigers.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.
  • The Authority will have eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament of whom two will be elected by the House of the People and one by the Council of States.
  • The Authority, interalia, would lay down normative standards, guidelines for tiger conservation in the Tiger Reserves, apart from National Parks and Sanctuaries.
  • It would provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, tiger estimation, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, report on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit, including future plan for conservation.
  • The Authority would also facilitate and support tiger reserve management in the States through eco-development and people’s participation as per approved management plans, and support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and state laws.
  • The Tiger Conservation Authority would be required to prepare an Annual Report, which would be laid in the Parliament along with the Audit Report.
  • Every 4 years the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conducts a tiger census across India.

-Source: The Hindu


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