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Current Affairs 21 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. LS passes Bill to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar
  2. PANEX-21: A disaster management exercise of BIMSTEC
  3. ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives intensifies
  4. Oil firms notify mills for 366 crore litres of ethanol

 


LS passes Bill to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar

Context:

The Lok Sabha passed the Election Law (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to link electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem without any substantial discussion.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Policies, Transparency and Accountability in Governance)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the Election Law (Amendment) Bill, 2021
  2. Criticisms/Issues with the bill

Highlights of the Election Law (Amendment) Bill, 2021

  • The Election Law (Amendment) Bill, 2021 allows for the linking of the electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  • The linking of the electoral roll with a person’s Aadhaar would be voluntary.
  • The Bill will allow electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar numbers of new applicants wanting to register as voters and will also allow them to ask for the Aadhaar number from persons already included in the electoral roll.
  • No application shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for the inability of an individual to provide the Aadhaar number. Also, those who cannot provide their Aadhaar numbers will be allowed to present other documents to establish identity.
  • The move will help in dealing with the problem of multiple enrolments of the same person in different places and hence will help in cleaning up the electoral rolls.

Additional qualifying dates

  • Amendment to Section 14 of the RP Act, 1950 will allow to have four “qualifying” dates for eligible people to register as voters.
  • Currently, January 1st of every year is the only qualifying date. People turning 18 on or before January 1 can only register as voters in that particular year whereas those turning 18 after that are having to wait for a year to register as voters.
  • Henceforth January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 will be the four qualifying dates.
  • This move will help increase the electoral participation among the youth and is thus a welcome step for strengthening and deepening democracy in India.

Provision for service voters

  • Amendment to Section 20 of the RP Act, 1950 and Section 60 of the RP Act, 1951 will allow the elections become gender-neutral for service voters.
  • The new amendment will replace the word “wife” with “spouse” in the provisions relating to service voters. This help address the discrimination against male spouses of women armed services employees.

Criticisms/Issues with the bill

  • In 2015, the move to link voter ID to Aadhaar was put on the backburner after the Supreme Court Judgement which held that “the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary”. Besides this, Aadhaar was only meant to be proof of residence. It is not proof of citizenship.
  • Since the Bill allows electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar numbers of applicants wanting to register as voters to establish the identity of the applicant – in the absence of Aadhar the government would be able to use voter identity details for disenfranchising some people and profile the citizens.
  • Experts have said that in the absence of a robust personal data protection law (a Bill in that regard is yet to be cleared by Parliament) any move to allow sharing of data can prove to be problematic.
  • Electoral data at present is held by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in its own database, has its own verification process, and is separate from other government databases. The proposed linkage between the Aadhaar and election database will make data available to the ECI and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This could lead to infringement of the privacy of citizens.

-Source: The Hindu


PANEX-21: A disaster management exercise of BIMSTEC

Context:

Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane at the inaugural event of PANEX-21 said that the COVID-19 pandemic had been a “black swan” event that had overwhelmed national capacities, disrupted supply chains and brought people back to the drawing board.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests, Important International groupings), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is PANEX-21?
  2. About BIMSTEC
  3. History of Formation of the BIMSTEC
  4. Significance of BIMSTEC

What is PANEX-21?

  • PANEX-21 is a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise for the member nations of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries.
  • This is the third in a series of exercises, with the last one conducted in February 2020, which were the early days of the pandemic.
  • The primary aim of the exercise is to foster joint planning and build regional cooperation for responding to natural disasters.
  • Covid-19 pandemic along with other natural disasters have brought out new lessons which involve a change in drills and procedures for carrying out disaster mitigation and management of disaster. The exercise is being conducted keeping in mind these changes and the challenges after the pandemic.
  • It is for the first time that an exercise of this magnitude involving multiple agencies from multiple countries is being undertaken to review our Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mechanism and streamline our response strategy in the backdrop of a pandemic
  • Subject matter experts and delegates from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand participate in it.
  • A Multi-Agency Exercise (MAE) comprising a static display showcasing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HDR) equipment employed by the Indian Armed Forces and various civil agencies took place.

About BIMSTEC

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia:
    1. Bangladesh
    2. Bhutan
    3. India
    4. Nepal
    5. Sri Lanka
    6. Myanmar (South-east Asia)
    7. Thailand (South-east Asia)
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are the member states dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
  • Its members lie in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.
  • The permanent secretariat of the BIMSTEC is in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • The BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship which has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).

History of Formation of the BIMSTEC

  • In 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
  • In 2004, at the first Summit the grouping was renamed as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

Significance of BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC acts as a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • Around one-fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the Bay of Bengal every year.

Important Connectivity Projects related to BIMSTEC

  1. Kaladan Multimodal Project – links India and Myanmar.
  2. Asian Trilateral Highway – connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
  3. Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement – for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic.

Strategic Significance for India

  • BIMSTEC Enables India to pursue three core policies:
    1. Neighbourhood First- primacy to the country’s immediate periphery;
    2. Act East- connect India with Southeast Asia; and
    3. Economic development of India’s North Eastern states- by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • India has moved from Look East Policy to Act East Policy and Indo Pacific cooperation through its diaspora, culture and connectivity. This has led to India’s goodwill in the region.
  • Allows India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Physical connectivity with BIMSTEC would also help India integrate itself with ASEAN’s Master Plan of Connectivity 2025.
  • A new platform for India to engage with its neighbours with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) becoming dysfunctional because of differences between India and Pakistan.
  • BIMSTEC suddenly received special attention as New Delhi chose to treat it as a more practical instrument for regional cooperation over a faltering SAARC.

-Source: The Hindu


‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives intensifies

Context:

About a fortnight since Maldives’s ex-President Abdulla Yameen walked free, after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a money-laundering case, the ‘India Out’ campaign in the island nation has intensified.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Yameen’s push for ‘India Out’ campaign
  2. What is behind the ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives?
  3. Issues that agitated sentiments against India

Yameen’s push for ‘India Out’ campaign

  • Mr. Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was on power from 2013 to 2018 and during this time, India-Maldives ties deteriorated considerably and Mr. Yameen’s perceived China tilt at the time was a major source of concern for India.
  • Significantly, tensions rose over Mr. Yameen’s ultimatum to New Delhi to withdraw two Indian helicopters from the strategically important Laamu and Addu atolls.
  • Yameen is now leading the ‘India Out’ campaign as a resistance to “Indian boots on the ground” in the Indian Ocean Archipelago, even as the ruling administration denies any Indian military presence.
  • To this, the current Maldives government has said that “Spreading hatred and making false allegations regarding bilateral ties with neighbouring countries not only tarnishes the relations with trusted allies who extends consistent support to the Maldivian people, but also affect the safety and security of their citizens in Maldives, and Maldivians living abroad”.
  • Recently, the Government “strongly rejected” attempts to spread “false information” criticising its ties with India, its “closest ally and trusted neighbour”.

What is behind the ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives?

  • The ‘India Out’ campaign started in 2020 as on-ground protests in the Maldives and later spread widely across social media platforms using the phrase with a related hashtag.
  • Protesters said that they are just protesting military presence in the country and not calling for a violent clash against India or Indians in Maldives.
  • This ‘India Out’ campaign is not about people-to-people relations and it is just a form of peacefully expressing concerns according to the protesters.
  • The anti-India sentiment didn’t just sprout overnight and is nearly a decade old. It can be traced back to when Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom became president in 2013 and India-Maldives relations deteriorated. A lot of anti-India rhetoric was used during that time because the Maldivian government was pro-China. Although the Yameen government’s tilt in favour of China was clear, it had also openly discussed an ‘India-First’ policy for the Maldives.

Issues that agitated sentiments against India

Military presence issue in the past

  • The first is the long-standing controversy over the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) that were given by India to the Maldives in 2010 and in 2015, both of which were used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands, and were based in Addu Atoll and at Hanimaadhoo. These helicopters were for humanitarian purposes only, but some in the anti-India constituency, were trying to portray that by gifting these helicopters, India was creating military presence in the country because they were military choppers.
  • When domestic fervour against the perceived military presence of Indian forces in the country reached its peak in 2016, the Yameen government had asked India to take back these gifted helicopters.
  • The successor Solih government’s visibly warm relations with India have only served to fuel anti-India sentiment in the country.

Domestic political grievances

  • Another recurring complaint is the lack of transparency in agreements being signed between the Solih government and India.
  • The ruling government and the defence ministry saying that these agreements are confidential has led to agitation in political circles that percolated down to ordinary Maldivian nationals and has taken the form of a wave of criticism, inflammatory rhetoric and unverified allegations, especially on social media platforms.
  • For example, the UTF Harbour Project agreement signed between India and the Maldives in February 2021 wherein India was to develop and maintain a coastguard harbour and dockyard; and the 2016 Action Plan between India and the Maldives that was signed for ‘defence cooperation’ to enhance “shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region”.

Opposition to the consulate in Addu Atoll

  • The Maldives President remarked on the proposed Indian consulate in the southern Addu Atoll, appearing to keep the option open, amid an ongoing “#SaveAddu” social media campaign by a section of Maldivians sceptical of another Indian mission presence, in addition to the Embassy in Male.
  • Legislators from Addu and local body representatives — from the ruling coalition widely perceived as India-friendly — have pledged support to the initiative.
  • Opposition voices, which earlier led an ‘#Indiaout’ campaign against enhanced military cooperation between the neighbours, have opposed the proposed consulate.
  • Apart from its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, Addu is the second largest city in the archipelago, home to over 30,000 people. Indian government sources familiar with the proposal said the rationale for the consulate was to help Addu residents with speedy visa services.
  • Further, the fact that the announcement appeared in the Indian media last month, before either government made an announcement, has prompted criticism of Indian “heavy handedness”.

-Source: The Hindu


Oil firms notify mills for 366 crore litres of ethanol

Context:

Oil marketing companies (OMCs) have notified sugar mills for the supply of 366 crore litres of ethanol following two cycles of Expressions of Interest (EoI) for the current ethanol supply year that began on December 1.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Ethanol fuel?
  2. Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)
  3. Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025
  4. Advantages of Ethanol Blending

What is Ethanol fuel?

  • Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
  • It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
  • Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
  • Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks.
  • It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
  • There has been considerable debate about how useful bioethanol is in replacing gasoline.
  • Concerns about its production and use relate to increased food prices due to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production, especially from corn.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • Although the Government of India decided to launch EBP programme in 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol, it later scaled up blending targets from 5% to 10% under the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).
  • The Government of India has also advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025

  • The central government has released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025 that proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.
  • The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) had instituted an Expert Group to study the issues such as pricing of ethanol, matching pace of the automobile industry to manufacture vehicles with new engines with the supply of ethanol, pricing of such vehicles, fuel efficiency of different engines etc.

Advantages of Ethanol Blending

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were, however, higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. However, these emissions were relatively lower.
  • Increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at USD 551 billion in 2020-21. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • The oil companies procure ethanol from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  • Further, the government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

-Source: The Hindu

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