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Current Affairs 22 February 2024

  1. Concerns Over Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary Notification: Potential Violation of Forest Rights Act 2006
  2. Model Code of Conduct
  3. National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  4. Morodharo
  5. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific


Context:

In recent events surrounding the notification of the Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, forest-dwellers expressed concerns about the potential denial of their rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA).

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concerns Regarding Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary Notification
  2. About Forest Rights Act, 2006
  3. Importance of Forest Rights Act, 2006:
  4. Challenges

Concerns Regarding Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary Notification

Exclusion of Tribal Forest Villages:
  • Six tribal forest villages are excluded from the sanctuary, confining residents to a small 3.42 sq. km. area.
  • The exclusion lacks recognition of these villages as revenue villages.
Impact on Cattle-Grazing Traditions:
  • Restrictions on cattle-grazing activities are imposed, potentially affecting the traditional practices of Bargur cattle.
  • Bargur cattle, a native breed to the Bargur forest hills, may face challenges due to these restrictions.
Lack of Forest Rights Holders’ Consent:
  • The notification fails to mention the consent of forest rights holders or the gram sabha, as mandated by the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.
Background Note:
  • In March 2022, the Madras High Court revised an earlier order, limiting the ban on cattle grazing to National Parks, Sanctuaries, and Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu.
  • This order contradicts the FRA, 2006, which recognizes grazing rights of nomadic or pastoralist communities, applying the ban to all forests in Tamil Nadu.

About Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • Schedule Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act or Recognition of Forest Rights Act came into force in 2006.
  • The Nodal Ministry for the Act is Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It has been enacted to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been residing in such forests for generations, but whose rights could not be recorded.
  • This Act not only recognizes the rights to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood, but also grants several other rights to ensure their control over forest resources.
  • The Act also provides for diversion of forest land for public utility facilities managed by the Government, such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops, electricity and telecommunication lines, water tanks, etc. with the recommendation of Gram Sabhas.
  • Rights under the Forest Right Act 2006:
    • Title Rights- ownership of land being framed by Gram Sabha.
    • Forest management rights– to protect forests and wildlife.
    • Use rights- for minor forest produce, grazing, etc.
    • Rehabilitation– in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement.
    • Development Rights– to have basic amenities such as health, education, etc.
Importance of Forest Rights Act, 2006:
  • It broadens the scope of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, which safeguard  the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
  • One of the causes of the Naxal movement, which had an impact on states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Jharkhand, was the alienation of tribes.
  • By recognising community rights to forest resources, it has the potential to democratise forest governance.
  • The act will guarantee that people have the opportunity to manage their forests independently, which will limit official exploitation of forest resources, enhance forest governance, and improve management of tribal rights.

Challenges

  • Governments find it expedient to undermine FRA or give up on it altogether in favour of monetary gains because tribals do not constitute a significant vote bank in the majority of states.
  • Unawareness at the Lower level of forest officials who are supposed to help process forest rights claims is high and majority of the aggrieved population too remains in the dark regarding their rights.
  • The FRA was intended as a welfare programme for tribal members, but the forest bureaucracy misinterpreted it as a tool to legalise expansion.
  • Some environmentalist groups express worry that the FRA favours individual rights more than community rights, leaving less room for the latter.
    • Community Rights effectively gives the local people the control over forest resources which remains a significant portion of forest revenue making states wary of vesting forest rights to Gram Sabha.
  • The forest bureaucracy worries that it will lose the significant influence it already has over land and people, while corporations worry that they would lose their easy access to priceless natural resources.
  • Gram Sabha, which occasionally lacks technical know-how and is educationally incompetent, creates rough maps of community and individual claims.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

An Indian delegation is set to leave for London in an effort to seal the free trade agreement with the UK, as dates for the general elections are expected to be announced in less than a month, which will trigger the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
  2. MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates
  3. Criticisms of the MCC

 Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • The MCC refers to a set of guidelines created by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • It serves as a regulatory tool for political parties and candidates in the run-up to elections.
  • The primary objective of the MCC is to enable the EC to fulfill its constitutional mandate of supervising and conducting free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
Duration and applicability:
  • The MCC becomes operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced.
  • It remains in effect until the date of the result announcement.

MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates:

Campaign Conduct
  • Political parties can criticize opponents based on policies, programs, past records, and work only.
  • Prohibited activities include using caste or communal feelings, criticizing candidates based on unverified reports, bribing or intimidating voters, etc.
  • Political parties must inform local police authorities of the time and venue of any meetings to allow for adequate security arrangements.
  • Parties should establish contact to avoid clashes between processions of multiple candidates.
  • Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
Polling Booth and Identity
  • Only voters and those with a valid pass from the EC can enter polling booths.
  • Authorized party workers at polling booths should wear suitable badges or identity cards.
  • Identity slips provided to voters by party workers should be on plain paper without symbols, candidate names, or party names.
Conduct of Party in Power
  • Ministers cannot combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The party in power cannot advertise at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity to improve election chances.
  • The party in power cannot announce financial grants, promise construction of roads or provision of drinking water from the time of election announcement until the end of the election process.
  • Public spaces and rest houses cannot be monopolized by the party in power.
Election Manifesto
  • Manifestos should not contain anything against the ideals and principles of the Constitution.
  • Political parties should avoid making promises that may influence voters or vitiate the purity of the election process.
  • Manifestos should indicate the rationale and ways to meet financial requirements for promises.
  • Manifestos cannot be released during the prohibitory period prescribed under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951.
Recent Additions to the MCC:
  • Regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI.
  • Prohibition of unapproved print media advertisements on polling day and one day prior to it.
  • Restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.
Legally Enforceable MCC:
  • The MCC does not have statutory backing but is strictly enforced by the EC.
  • Certain MCC provisions can be enforced through corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, and RPA 1951.
  • The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended making the MCC legally binding in 2013.
  • The ECI is against making the MCC legally binding, citing the short duration of elections and the length of judicial proceedings.

Criticisms of the MCC

Limitations and Failures of the MCC:

  • The MCC has not been effective in preventing various forms of electoral malpractices such as hate speech, fake news, money power, booth capturing, voter intimidation, and violence.

Challenges with New Technologies and Social Media:

  • The ECI faces difficulties in dealing with new technologies and social media platforms, which enable the rapid and extensive spread of misinformation and propaganda during elections.

Non-Binding Nature of the MCC:

  • The MCC is not a legally binding document, and its implementation depends on moral persuasion and public opinion, which makes it less effective in preventing electoral malpractices.

Implications on Policy Decisions and Public Interest:

  • The MCC places certain limitations on policy decisions, public spending, welfare schemes, transfers, and appointments, which can have implications for development activities and public interest.

Criticism of Application Timing:

  • The ECI has been criticized for applying the MCC too early or too late, which affects the timing of development activities and public interest.

Lack of Awareness:

  • The MCC is not widely known or understood by voters, candidates, parties, and government officials, which may lead to non-compliance with its provisions.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment submitted the Annual Report 2022-23 of the National Commission of Schedule Caste (NCSC) to the President of India.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  2. Functions

National Commission for Scheduled Castes

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Castes is an Indian constitutional body established with a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Castes and Anglo Indian communities to promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests, special provisions were made in the Constitution. 
  • Article 338 of the Indian constitution deals with National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
Composition:
  • It consists of:
    • Chairperson.
    • Vice-chairperson.
    • Three other members.
  • They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.

Functions:

  • The commission’s responsibilities include monitoring and investigating issues related to safeguards for Scheduled Castes (SCs) under the constitution
  • Enquiring into complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards for SCs
  • Advising and participating in the planning of socio-economic development for SCs
  • Regularly reporting to the President on the implementation of these safeguards
  • Recommending steps to further the socio-economic development and other welfare activities of the SCs
  • Any other function related to the welfare, protection, development, and advancement of the SC community
  • The commission is also responsible for similar functions for the Anglo-Indian community
  • Previously, the commission also had similar responsibilities for other backward classes (OBCs) but was relieved of this responsibility in 2018 through the 102nd Amendment Act.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Archaeologists recently discovered a Harappan-era fortified settlement named Morodharo.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Morodharo: A Harappan-Era Fortified Settlement in Kutch, Gujarat
  2. Key Facts about Harappan Civilization

Morodharo: A Harappan-Era Fortified Settlement in Kutch, Gujarat

Location:

  • Kutch District, Gujarat
Features:
  • Dating back to the Harappan era, the settlement exhibits characteristics of mature to late Harappan phases (2,600-1,300 BCE).
  • Fortification measures 102 m east to west, 58 m north to south, with an average wall thickness of 3.3 m.
  • Notable structures include a 10×10 m platform on the southwest side and a well on the northeast.
  • Burial cairns, stone mounds demarcating boundaries, are present.
  • Unearthed artifacts include Harappan pottery, perforated jar sherds, reserved slipware, and terracotta cakes, resembling those found in Dholavira.

Key Facts about Harappan Civilization

Overview:

  • The first urban civilization in South Asia, coexisting with Mesopotamia and Egypt.
  • Occupied approximately 8,00,000 sq km, encompassing major cities like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira, Lothal, Surkotada, Kalibangan, Banawali, and Rakhigarhi.

Town Planning:

  • Rectangular grid pattern with streets running north-south and east-west.
  • Streets and alleyways designed for carts and pedestrians, featuring covered drains.
  • Cities fortified with mud brick walls for protection.
  • Division into an upraised citadel (western part) and a lower town.

Construction and Material:

  • Use of burnt bricks on a large scale, absence of stone buildings.
  • Residential areas with multiple-story houses around courtyards.

Infrastructure:

  • Sophisticated drainage systems with house and street drains.
  • Well-planned granaries and storage facilities for surplus agricultural produce.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

According to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), at the current pace of growth, the region will not attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) until 2062 or will be 32 years behind schedule.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  2. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Establishment:

  • Founded in 1947.

Mandate:

  • Promotes economic and social development in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Fosters cooperation among its 53 member States and 9 associate members.

Role:

  • Most inclusive intergovernmental platform in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Works on various areas like Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction, Financing for Development, Trade, Investment, Innovation, Transport, Environment and Development, Information and Communications Technology, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Social Development.

Structure:

  • One of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.

Headquarters:

  • Located in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Adoption:

  • Adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

Purpose:

  • Universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all by 2030.

Framework:

  • Sets targets for 231 unique indicators across 17 SDG goals related to economic development, social welfare, and environmental sustainability.
  • Integrated approach recognizing that actions in one area impact outcomes in others.
  • Emphasizes the balance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability in development.

-Source: The Hindu


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