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Current Affairs 23 December 2022

CONTENTS

  1. Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill
  2. Uncontrolled re-entries of satellites
  3. J&K Land Grants Rules 2022
  4. Vadnagar
  5. Eco-sensitive zones

Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill


Context:

Recently, Rajya Sabha passed the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill which the government said would provide an effective legal instrument to combat Maritime Piracy.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill:
  2. Key features of the bill:
  3. Challenges of the Bill
  4. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

About Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill:

  • The bill calls for the punishment of those who commit crimes linked to maritime piracy and the prevention of such acts.
  • It will be applicable to all marine areas around and extending beyond India’s Exclusive Economic Zone i.e, beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast.
  • The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is enacted through this bill.

Key features of the bill:

Definition of Piracy:
  • It defines piracy as any illegal act of violence, detention, or destruction committed against a ship, aircraft, person or property, for private purposes, by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft.
  • Such actions would also be considered piracy if they are purposefully encouraged or facilitated.
  • It also encompasses any other behaviour that international law deems to be piracy.
  • Pirate activity also involves voluntarily helping run a pirate ship or an aircraft used in piracy.
Penalties:
  • A pirate offence will result in either: Life imprisonment; or Death, if piracy results in or seeks to result in death.
  • A person who attempts to commit, helps, encourages, or counsels a piracy offence faces a fine and a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.
  • Additionally, up to 14 years in prison and a fine may be imposed for taking part in, organising, or encouraging others to take part in an act of piracy.
  • Crimes will be regarded as extraditable. This indicates that the accused may be extradited to any nation with whom India has signed an extradition agreement in order to face justice there.
  • In the absence of such agreements, extradition will be permitted based on reciprocity between the nations.
Court jurisdiction:
  • Sessions Courts may be designated as the Designated Courts under this Bill by the central government, in conjunction with the Chief Justice of the relevant High Court.
  • The Designated Court will try offences committed by:
  • Regardless of nationality, a person in the Coast Guard or Navy of India.
  • A resident foreign national, a stateless individual, or an Indian citizen.

The Court will not have jurisdiction over offences committed on a foreign ship unless an intervention is requested by:

  • The country of origin of the ship.
  • The ship-owner.
  • Any other person on the ship.
  • Warships and government-owned ships employed for non-commercial purposes will not be under the jurisdiction of the Court.

Need for the bill:

More than 90% of India’s trade is conducted by maritime channels, and more than 80% of the nation’s hydrocarbon needs were met via shipping. As a result, the security of sea lines of communication is crucial.

Challenges of the Bill:

Death penalty
  • Under the Bill, if a person, while committing an act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death, he will be punished with death.
  • This implies a mandatory death penalty for such offences.
  • The mandatory death penalty for any crime, according to the Supreme Court, is unconstitutional since it breaches Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • However, legislation enacted by Parliament mandate the death penalty for particular crimes. For instance, the SC/ST Act (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989).
Imprisonment
  • The Bill stipulates that anyone who engages in an act of piracy faces a maximum 14-year sentence in jail. Committing an act of piracy (which includes voluntarily participating in the operation of a pirate ship or aircraft) is punishable with life imprisonment.
  • It is unclear how the punishment would be assessed in such scenarios because these circumstances may overlap.
Exclusive Economic Zone
  • The Bill will be applicable to all sea areas that are adjacent to and outside of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or outside of 200 nautical miles from the coast.
  • The question is whether the EEZ, or the space between 12 and 200 nautical miles, should also be included by the Bill (from the coastline of India).

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the international agreement defining the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
  • UNCLOS replaces the older ‘freedom of the seas’ concept, dating from the 17th century: national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation’s coastlines according to the ‘cannon shot’ rule.
  • All waters beyond national boundaries were considered international waters: free to all nations, but belonging to none of them.
  • While India ratified UNCLOS in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far.

-Source: The Hindu


Uncontrolled Re-Entries of Satellites


Context:

More than 140 experts and dignitaries have signed an open letter published by the Outer Space Institute (OSI) calling for both national and multilateral efforts to restrict uncontrolled re-entries — the phenomenon of rocket parts falling back to earth in unguided fashion once their missions are complete.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the stages of a rocket launch?
  2. What is an uncontrolled re-entry?
  3. Why are scientists worried about the re-entries?
  4. Way forward

What are the stages of a rocket launch?

  • The Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite in 1957.
  • Today, there are more than 6,000 satellites in orbit, most of them in low-earth (100-2,000 km) and geostationary (35,786 km) orbits, placed there in more than 5,000 launches.
  • The number of rocket launches have been surging with the advent of reusable rocket stages.
  • Rockets have multiple stages. Once a stage has increased the rocket’s altitude and velocity by a certain amount, the rocket sheds it.
  • Some rockets jettison all their larger stages before reaching the destination orbit; a smaller engine then moves the payload to its final orbit.
  • Others carry the payload to the orbit, then perform a deorbit manoeuvre to begin their descent.
  • In both cases, rocket stages come back down — in controlled or uncontrolled ways.

What is an uncontrolled re-entry?

  • In an uncontrolled re-entry, the rocket stage simply falls.
  • Its path down is determined by its shape, angle of descent, air currents and other characteristics. It will also disintegrate as it falls.
  • As the smaller pieces fan out, the potential radius of impact will increase on the ground.
  • Some pieces burn up entirely while others don’t. But because of the speed at which they’re travelling, debris can be deadly.
    • A 2021 report of the International Space Safety Foundation said, “an impact anywhere on an airliner with debris of mass above 300 grams would produce a catastrophic failure, meaning all people on board would be killed”.
  • Most rocket parts have landed in oceans principally because earth’s surface has more water than land. But many have dropped on land as well.

Why are scientists worried about the re-entries?

  • The OSI letter cited examples of parts of a Russian rocket in 2018 and China’s Long March 5B rockets in 2020 and 2022 striking parts of Indonesia, Peru, India and Ivory Coast, among others.
    • Parts of a SpaceX Falcon 9 that fell down in Indonesia in 2016 included two “refrigerator-sized fuel tanks”. If re-entering stages still hold fuel, atmospheric and terrestrial chemical contamination is another risk.
  • Conservative estimates place the casualty risk from uncontrolled rocket body re-entries as being on the order of 10% in the next decade and that countries in the ‘Global South’ face a “disproportionately higher” risk of casualties.
  • There is no international binding agreement to ensure rocket stages always perform controlled re-entries nor on the technologies with which to do so.
  • The Liability Convention 1972 requires countries to pay for damages, not prevent them.
    • These technologies include wing-like attachments, de-orbiting brakes, and extra fuel on the re-entering body, and design changes that minimise debris formation.

Way forward:

  • Any kind of re-entry will inevitably damage some ecosystem, it recommends that bodies aim for an ocean in order to avoid human casualties.
  • Advances in electronics and fabrication have made way for smaller satellites, which are easier to build and launch in large numbers.
  • These satellites experience more atmospheric drag than if they had been bigger, but they are also likelier to burn up during re-entry.
    • India’s 300-kg RISAT-2 satellite re-entered earth’s atmosphere in October after 13 years in low-earth orbit.
    • The ISRO tracked it with its system for safe and sustainable space operations management from a month beforehand.
    • It plotted its predicted paths using models in-house. The RISAT-2 eventually fell into the Indian Ocean.

-Source: The Hindu


J&K Land Grants Rules 2022


Context:

Recently, The J&K Lieutenant Governor’s administration notified fresh land rules under J&K Land Grant Rules-2022 and replaced the J&K Land Grants Rules-1960, which dealt with the special rules to grant government land on lease in erstwhile State of J&K.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What do new land laws entail?
  2. What is the L-G administration’s plan for lease now?
  3. Who all are eligible for lease rights in J&K after amendments?

What do new land laws entail?

  • According to the new land laws, the leases of current land owners will not be extended in case of their lease expiry.
  • It reads that all leases, except the subsisting or expired residential leases, expired or determined prior to the coming into force of these rules or issued under these rules shall not be renewed and shall stand determined.
  • Unlike the previous up to 99 years of lease, the lease period has been reduced to 40 years.

What is the L-G administration’s plan for lease now?

  • An expert committee will enlist all properties where lease had ended.
  • It will be e-auctioned afresh. The rules open bidding to “any person legally competent under Section 11 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.”
    • These rules deem a person or an entity in default of Government Revenue accrued to the government under J&K Land Grant Act, 1960 or Government convicted under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 shall not be eligible for participation in the auction.
  • According to now-repealed land laws, no such land shall be granted on lease to the person, who is not a permanent residence of the State; except where the Government, for the reasons to be recorded, relax this restriction in the interest of industrial or commercial development or in the favour of a registered charitable society.

Who all are eligible for lease rights in J&K after amendments?

  • The L-G administration has diversified the use of land on lease to education, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, skill development and development of traditional art, craft, culture and languages.
  • The land could be leased for hydro-electric projects, stadiums, playgrounds, gymnasiums or other recreational purposes.
  • It also included provisions for self-employment or for housing purposes of ex-servicemen, war widows and the families of martyrs, one who has sacrificed his life in the line of duty.
  • In a first, the land could also be used for facilities of migrant workers, buildings and other construction workers.
Immediate impact of the amendments
  • The new rules have hundreds of properties open for fresh auction, where outsiders could also participate.
  • The government has not yet released the list of properties where lease has ended.

-Source: The Hindu


Vadnagar


Context:

Two sites in Gujarat have made it to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites: Vadnagar, and the Sun Temple of Modhera, both in the Mehsana district of northern Gujarat.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vadnagar, an ancient ‘Living City’
  2. Vadnagar: A centre of Buddhism
  3. ASI’s claims

Vadnagar, an ancient ‘Living City’

  • Vadnagar, a city known by names like Vridhanagar, Anandapur, Anantapur and Nagar, is said to have been inhabited uninterruptedly for over 2,700 years.
  • The description of Vadnagar in UNESCO’s Tentative List reads:
    •  “The town represents a continuously evolving historic urban landscape/area which played a major role in the hinterland trade network of Western India. The continuity of the historic town proves its resilience and outstanding universal value unlike the sites like Harappa and Kalibangan, (Rajasthan) which were abandoned eventually.”
  • The town’s fortifications, arched gateways (toranas), temples, wells, residential structures (kothis) and excavated sites like Buddhist monasteries and dedicated stupas showcase the architectural influence of various cultural periods.
  • The extensive water management system here has also played a role in the town’s continuity.
  • The study of the historical geography of ancient India reveals Vadnagar was situated at a strategic location of two major ancient trade routes: one joining central India with the Sindh and further northwest regions, while another connected the port towns on Gujarat’s coast to northern India.
  • Excavated cowry shells traced to the Maldives further imply involvement in overseas trade.
  • A gold coin, believed to be from the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt that dated back to the 15th century, was also found.

Vadnagar: A centre of Buddhism

  • Ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to Gujarat in September 2014, Modi spoke of Vadnagar being a centre of Buddhism and how the religion had bonded China and India.
  • When the PM visited China in 2015, he presented archaeological drawings of excavations in his hometown, of “a burnt brick structure that has been identified as a Buddhist monastery” to Xi.
  • Chinese traveller Xuanzang or Hieun Tsang is said to have visited Vadnagar around 641 AD, referring to it as ‘Anandpur’ in his writings, which also record how more than 1,000 monks of the Sammitiya School or Little Vehicle lived in 10 monasteries at Vadnagar, suggesting it was an important centre of Buddhist learning.

ASI’s claims

  • The ASI has claimed in its submission to UNESCO that there was a “Roman connection” in the finding of an intaglio (a printing technique) in clay, in a coin mould of Greco-Indian king Apollodotus II (80-65 BC) and in the sealing of a Roman coin. There may have also been a connection to West Asia.
  • Vadnagar is currently surrounded by the remains of older structures, such as a fortification wall punctured by a series of gates that mark the entry and exit points of the town.
  • Primary entry and exit points are marked by elaborate single-storey stone gateways.
  • Ambaji Mata Temple, the city’s oldest, dates back to the 10th -11th Century CE.
  • Two identical gates outside the fortification wall to the north of the town are Kirti Torans, built in yellow sandstone without mortar or any other cementing material.
  • Vadnagar can be compared to the historic living cities of Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi as cities inhabited since the early historic period and in the modern day.
  • Internationally, the Historic town of Vadnagar can be compared to the Historical City of Masuleh in Iran, Quanzhou in China, and the Historic Town of Beypazarý in Turkiye.

-Source: Indian Express


Eco-Sensitive Zones


Context:

Kerala government publishes map for people to seek exemption from ESZ.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
  2. Activities Allowed in ESZs
  3. How are they demarcated?

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  • Eco Sensitive Zones are fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • They are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.
  • No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

Activities Allowed in ESZs

  • Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Regulated activities: Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
  • Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.

How are they demarcated?

  • The term “Eco-Sensitive Zones” is not mentioned in the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986.
  • Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, on the other hand, states that the Central Government has the authority to limit the areas in which any industry, operation, or process, or class of industries, operations, or processes, may be carried out or not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides to Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 stipulates that the central government has the authority to ban or restrict the location of industries and the conduct of certain operations or processes based on specified factors.
  • The government has declared No Development Zones based on the same grounds (NDZs).

-Source: The Hindu


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