- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
- The Urgent Challenge of Global Phosphorus Sustainability
- Zonal Councils
- RoDTEP scheme
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
The Union Home Ministry extended for another six months the disturbed area status in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
GS III- Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
- AFSPA Acts in force
- Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA
- Why was AFSPA imposed on the Northeast in the first place?
- Arguments Against AFSPA
- Arguments in Favour of AFSPA
- Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA
- Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA
Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
- AFSPA is invoked when a case of militancy or insurgency takes place and the territorial integrity of India is at risk.
- Security forces can “arrest a person without warrant”, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even based on “reasonable suspicion”.
- It also provides security forces with legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
- While the armed forces and the government justify its need in order to combat militancy and insurgency, critics have pointed out cases of possible human rights violations linked to the act.
- According to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain status quo for a minimum of 3 months.
- The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement alleged to have happened.
AFSPA Acts in force
It is effective in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
History of AFSPA Acts
- An AFSPA Act passed in 1958 was applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam.
- In the following decades it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at present, it is in force in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam).
- Another one passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force.
- An Act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.
Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA
- After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order,
- Destroy any arms dump, hide-outs, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence.
- To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
- To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
- Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
- Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made present over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
- Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
- Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act from prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings, except with the sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.
Why was AFSPA imposed on the Northeast in the first place?
- When the Naga nationalist movement kicked off in the 1950s with the setting up of the Naga National Council — the predecessor of the NSCN — Assam police forces allegedly used force to quell the movement.
- As an armed movement took root in Nagaland, AFSPA was passed in Parliament, and subsequently imposed on the entire state.
- In Manipur, too, it was imposed in 1958 in the three Naga-dominated districts of Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul, where the NNC was active.
- It was imposed in the 1960s in the Kuki-Zomi dominated Manipur district of Churachandpur, which was under the sway of the Mizo insurgent movement, and extended to the rest of the state in 1979, when groups in the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley groups began an armed insurgency.
- As secessionist and nationalist movements started sprouting in other Northeastern states, AFSPA started being extended and imposed.
Arguments Against AFSPA
- Symbol of Hatred: The Jeevan Reddy Committee, which was founded in 2004, criticised AFSPA as a symbol of hatred, persecution, and a tool of oppression.
- Immunity to Security Forces: AFSPA has been dubbed a “draconian Act” for the unrestricted authority it grants the military forces and the impunity that security officers have for their acts performed under the law. Under AFSPA, the “armed forces” have the authority to shoot to kill or demolish a structure based solely on suspicion.
- Human Rights Issue: The AFSPA’s activities have been criticised because people have died as a result of them. It’s been a contentious issue, with human rights organisations condemning it as being too forceful.
- Prolonged continuation: Despite a nearly 25-year ceasefire accord, the Union Government has been chastised for renewing the “disturbed region” tag on Nagaland every year to keep the AFSPA alive.
- Concerns of AFSPA in Manipur: Many protests over suspected extrajudicial executions by the security forces have taken place in Manipur throughout the years. The bullet-riddled body of Thangjam Manorama, who was reportedly raped and killed by a group of Assam Rifles troops in 2004 sparked outrage across the state. Irom Sharmila, often known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, is a towering figure who is well-known for her 16-year hunger strike in protest of AFSPA atrocities.
Arguments in Favour of AFSPA
- The AFSPA is described as a law that takes a straightforward approach to control criminal activity in disturbed areas.
- Fascist techniques and all groups, private and public, that engage in violence and attempt to pressure the government by organised violence must be controlled. As a result, the AFSPA is vital.
Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA
- When India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA.
- They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR.
- In 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had no place in Indian democracy.
- The Act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.
Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA
1997 judgment on AFSPA
- In Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights vs Union of India 1997, a Constitution Bench ruled that the ability to use deadly force under Section 4(a) of the AFSPA should only be used in “certain circumstances.”
- A 1997 Supreme Court judgment advocated “caution and use of minimum force against our own people” in AFSPA regions.
Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) case 2017
- The Supreme Court addressed the extrajudicial executions in 2016, clarifying that the bar under Section 6 of the AFSPA does not offer officers “complete immunity” from any investigation into their alleged misconduct.
- The government received severe criticism from the Supreme Court in 2016 for the continuance of AFSPA.
Reactions to the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland
- Lok Sabha members condemned the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland with some Opposition MPs calling for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as well.
- Nagaland Chief Minister has also called for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
- Human rights bodies in India and beyond are debating the contentious AFSPA that gives unbridled powers to the security forces.
- Nagaland Chief Minister also criticised the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.
- In the northeast, the AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of the State bordering Assam.
- For Jammu and Kashmir, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, is in force.
-Source: The Hindu
The Urgent Challenge of Global Phosphorus Sustainability
The worldwide phosphorus issue is becoming increasingly significant due to limited reserves, contamination problems, and disruptions in the fertilizer industry, making the search for sustainable solutions a top priority.
GS III: Agriculture
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key Phosphorus Facts: Essential Element and Applications
- Challenges Associated with Phosphorus: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Health Concerns
- Strategies for Sustainable Phosphorus Management
Key Phosphorus Facts: Essential Element and Applications
- Phosphorus (P) is a chemical element with atomic number 15, playing a vital role in various biological and industrial processes.
Reactivity and Compounds:
- Phosphorus readily forms compounds, particularly phosphates, through chemical reactions, and it can spontaneously combust in air, producing white smoke.
- Phosphorus compounds are essential in biology, constituting key components of DNA, RNA, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), critical for life processes.
Abundance in Earth’s Crust:
- Phosphorus is commonly found in the Earth’s crust in the form of phosphate minerals, such as apatite.
- Phosphorus compounds are crucial in agriculture as they are used in fertilizers to promote plant growth.
- They are also employed in detergents to break down and remove stains.
- Phosphorus plays a role in metallurgical processes, including steel production.
Phosphorus Deficiency in India:
- India faces a deficiency in apatite and rock phosphate availability.
- Apatite is entirely imported, and rock phosphate production is limited to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
- India is the world’s largest importer of phosphorus, often acquiring it from West African deposits contaminated with cadmium.
Impact on Agriculture:
- Paddy, a staple crop in India, is particularly susceptible to cadmium uptake, and extensive fertilizer use on paddy fields is common.
Challenges Associated with Phosphorus: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Health Concerns
- Phosphorus is a limited resource primarily found in specific geological formations, raising geopolitical concerns regarding its availability.
- Morocco and the Western Sahara region possess the world’s largest phosphorus reserves, but they contain cadmium, a harmful heavy metal.
- Cadmium can accumulate in the kidneys of animals and humans when consumed, posing health risks.
Costly Cadmium Removal:
- Extracting and removing cadmium from phosphorus resources is a costly process, adding economic challenges.
Health and Crop Contamination:
- Cadmium-laden fertilizers can contaminate crops, potentially leading to health issues, including heart disease.
- The European Union has enacted regulations to control cadmium levels in fertilizers.
Limited Cadmium-Free Reserves:
- Only a few countries have significant reserves of cadmium-free phosphorus.
- China’s export restrictions in 2020 and EU nations ceasing purchases from Russia have heightened demand for safe phosphorus.
Impact on Agricultural Transitions:
- Sri Lanka’s ban on synthetic fertilizer imports in 2021, aiming for organic farming, resulted in a sudden decline in crop yields and triggered a political and economic crisis.
- Excessive fertilizer use leads to phosphorus runoff into water bodies, causing algal blooms.
- Algal blooms deplete oxygen in water, leading to fish deaths and posing toxic risks to humans with respiratory and health problems.
- Extracting and processing phosphate rock is energy-intensive, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.
Strategies for Sustainable Phosphorus Management
Smart Agriculture and Precision Fertilization:
- Implement precision agriculture techniques that leverage sensor networks, artificial intelligence, and data analytics to optimize phosphorus application on farms.
- Ensure crops receive precise amounts of phosphorus, reducing excess runoff into water bodies.
Promotion of Balanced Fertilizer Use:
- Promote initiatives like the PM-PRANAM scheme to encourage the balanced use of chemical and alternative fertilizers.
- Raise awareness of regenerative agriculture (RA) practices that emphasize sustainable soil health and reduced fertilizer dependency.
Phosphorus Recovery from Sewage and Waste:
- Develop advanced technologies for efficient phosphorus recovery from sewage and various waste streams.
- Explore innovative filtration, precipitation, and ion-exchange processes to extract and recycle phosphorus for use in fertilizers and other applications.
- Retrofit sewage treatment plants for high-quality phosphorus product recovery, as demonstrated by companies like EasyMining.
Circular Phosphorus Economy:
- Establish a circular economy approach for phosphorus, designing products containing phosphorus for easy recovery and recycling.
- Reduce the need for phosphate mining, minimizing environmental impact.
Global Phosphorus Management Framework:
- Develop an international framework for phosphorus management, akin to global climate agreements.
- Foster collaboration and coordinated efforts on a global scale to address phosphorus-related challenges.
-Source: The Hindu
While chairing 31st Northern Zonal conference in Amritsar, Union Home Minister said anti-drone system will be deployed along the international border for strengthening security.
GS II- Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are Zonal Councils?
- Objectives of the zonal councils
What are Zonal Councils?
- Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India that have been grouped into five zones to foster cooperation among them. These were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganization Act, 1956.
- The Zonal Councils are the statutory (and not the constitutional) bodies.
- They are established by an Act of the Parliament, that is, States Reorganization Act of 1956.
- The act divided the country into five zones (Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern) and provided a zonal council for each zone.
- The Union Home Minister is the common chairman of the five Zonal Councils.
- Each chief minister acts as a vice-chairman of the council by rotation, holding office for a period of one year at a time.
- While forming these zones, several factors have been taken into account which include the natural divisions of the country, the river systems and means of communication, the cultural and linguistic affinity and the requirements of economic development, security and law and order.
- In addition to the above Zonal Councils, a North-Eastern Council was created by a separate Act of Parliament i.e. the North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
- These are advisory bodies that will discuss and make recommendations with regard to any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning between the Centre and States.
Each zonal council consists of the following members
- Home minister of Central government.
- Chief ministers of all the States in the zone.
- Two other ministers from each state in the zone.
- Administrator of each union territory in the zone.
- The Northern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh,
- The Central Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
- The Eastern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal,
- The Western Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
- The Southern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Objectives of the zonal councils:
- To achieve an emotional integration of the country.
- To help in arresting the growth of acute state-consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic trends.
- To help in removing the after-effects of separation in some cases so that the process of re- organisation, integration and economic advancement may synchronise.
- To enable the Centre and states to cooperate with each other in social and economic matters and exchange ideas and experience in order to evolve uniform policies.
- To cooperate with each other in the successful and speedy execution of major development projects.
- To secure some kind of political equilibrium between different regions of the country.
-Source: Indian Express
The Scheme for Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) support which was notified till 30th September 2023 is now being extended till 30th June 2024 at the same rates to the existing export items.
GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Taxation)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) Scheme
- RoDTEP Benefits
Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) Scheme
- The RoDTEP Scheme allows exporters to receive refunds on taxes and duties that are not exempted or refunded under any other scheme.
- Under the scheme, exporters receive refunds on the embedded taxes and duties previously non-recoverable.
- The chief aim of the scheme is to boost the export of goods that were poor in volume.
- The scheme basically replaces the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS).
- The scheme provides for rebates of Central, State and Local duties/taxes/ levies which are not refunded under any other duty remission schemes.
- The RoDTEP scheme can be said to be a combination of the MEIS and the Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies (RoSCTL).
- Under this scheme, refund would be claimed as a percentage of the Freight On Board (FOB) value of exports.
Features of RoDTEP Scheme
- It covers duties and taxes levied at the central, state and local levels that are not reimbursed under any other mechanism. Items that were under the MEIS and the RoSCTL are shifted to the RoDTEP.
- Refunds will be issued to exporters as transferable duty credit/electronic scrips and maintained in an electronic ledger. This is keeping in line with the Digital India mission. This can be used to pay basic customs duty on imported goods. The credits can also be transferred to other importers.
- Faster clearance through a digital platform will be facilitated through a monitoring & audit mechanism, with an IT-based risk management system that would physically verify the exporters’ records.
- The scheme is applicable across all sectors.
- Being WTO-compliant, the RoDTEP scheme can make available from the government benefits to the exporters seamlessly.
- The scheme is more exhaustive in that certain taxes that were not covered under the previous scheme are also included in the list, for example, education cess, state taxes on oil, power and water.
- It will add more competitiveness in the foreign markets, with assured duty benefits by the Indian Government.
- It will also help exporters meet international standards and promote business growth.
- Also under RoDTEP, tax assessment is set to become fully automatic for exporters, hence, Businesses will get access to their refunds for GST via an automatic refund-route.
-Source: The Hindu
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
National Commission for Scheduled Castes submits its Annual Report 2020-21 & 2021-22 to the President of India
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes
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.
- It consists of:
- Three other members.
- They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- 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