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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 4 May 2021

Contents

  1. Manipur HC: Myanmar refugees can approach UNHCR
  2. Centre releases first instalment of SDRF
  3. COVID-19 connection with Neanderthal Genomes
  4. Justice Pant appointed NHRC acting chairperson

Manipur HC: Myanmar refugees can approach UNHCR

Context:

The High Court of Manipur allowed seven Myanmar nationals, who entered India secretly following the February military coup in Myanmar, to travel to New Delhi to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions, Foreign Policies and Agreements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  2. International Laws in relation with handling Refugees
  3. About the Manipur HC order
  4. How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?
  5. What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a UN agency mandated

  • To aid and protect:
    • refugees,
    • forcibly displaced communities, and
    • stateless people, and
  • To assist in their:
    • voluntary repatriation,
    • local integration or
    • resettlement to a third country.
  • The UNHCR was established in 1950 in the wake of the mass displacements caused due to the Second World War in Europe.
  • Since then, it has provided relief to thousands of refugees and displaced persons in many parts of the world – and also won the Nobel Prize for Peace twice (1954 and 1981).
  • The chief legal document that governs the work of the UNHCR is the 1951 Refugee Convention and its parent organisation is the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and works in 135 countries and in India, has offices in New Delhi and Chennai.

International Laws in relation with handling Refugees

  • Even though the refugees are foreigners in the country of asylum, by virtue of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, they could enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as nationals.
  • The 1951 Refugee Convention asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom, and the core principle of the convention is non-refoulement. (Refoulement means the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.)

About the Manipur HC order

  • Though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, the court observed that the country is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
  • The court said: The far-reaching and myriad protection afforded by Article 21 of our Constitution, as interpreted and adumbrated by our Supreme Court time and again, would indubitably encompass the right of non-refoulement. [Non-refoulement is the principle under international law that a person fleeing from persecution from his own country should not be forced to return.]

How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?

  • India hosts over 2,00,000 refugees, victims of civil strife and war in Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Some refugees, the Tibetans who arrived between 1959 and 1962, were given adequate refuge in over 38 settlements, with all privileges provided to an Indian citizen excluding the right to vote).
  • The Afghan refugees fleeing the civil war in the 1980s live in slums across Delhi with no legal status or formal documents to allow them to work or establish businesses in India.
  • The Foreigners Act (1946) and the Registration of Foreigners Act (1939) currently govern the entry and exit of all refugees, treating them as foreigners without due consideration of their special circumstances.

What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?

  • Refugees have been accorded constitutional protection by the judiciary (National Human Rights Commission vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 1996).
  • In addition, the Supreme Court has held that the right to equality (Article 14) and right to life and personal liberty (Article 21) extends to refugees.
  • India remains the only significant democracy without legislation specifically for refugees. A well-defined asylum law would establish a formal refuge granting process with suitable exclusions (war criminals, serious offenders, etc.) kept.

-Source: The Hindu


Centre releases first instalment of SDRF

Context:

Even though usually the first instalment of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) is released in June as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission – the Centre has released the first instalment to States earlier this time, in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 that has claimed thousands of lives since April 2021.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster Management, GS-II: Polity and Governance (Centre-State Financial Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)
  2. National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)

About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

  • The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • It is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
  • The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
  • Disasters covered under SDRF are – Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
  • Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs subject to the condition that the State Government has listed the State specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority, i.e., the State Executive Authority (SEC).

National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)

  • The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, supplements SDRF of a State, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.
  • NDRF is defined in the Disaster Management Act, as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
  • NDRF is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
  • The financial assistance from SDRF/NDRF is for providing immediate relief and is not compensation for loss/damage to properties /crops.
  • In fact, the hitherto existing National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) was renamed as National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) on 28 September 2010 with the enactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005 and consequent changes in the design and structure of disaster management in India.
  • The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the National Disaster Management Authority takes decisions on the expenses from National Disaster Response Fund.

-Source: The Hindu


COVID-19 connection with Neanderthal Genomes

Context:

Studies show that we, Human Beings (Homo Sapiens) have inherited regions of host genomes from Neanderthals, which are an extinct species of hominids that were the closest relatives to modern human beings, that increase the risk of getting severely ill and protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Biotechnology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Neanderthals?
  2. Human Evolution
  3. Findings of recent studies regarding Covid-19

What are Neanderthals?

  • Neanderthal, (Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) are a member of a group of archaic humans who emerged at least 200,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch (about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago).
  • Neanderthals were replaced or assimilated by early modern human populations (Homo sapiens) between 35,000 and perhaps 24,000 years ago.
  • Neanderthals inhabited Eurasia from the Atlantic regions of Europe eastward to Central Asia, from as far north as present-day Belgium and as far south as the Mediterranean and southwest Asia. Similar archaic human populations lived at the same time in eastern Asia and in Africa.
  • Because Neanderthals lived in a land of abundant limestone caves, which preserved bones well, and where there has been a long history of prehistoric research, they are better known than any other archaic human group.
  • Consequently, they have become the archetypal “cavemen.”

Developments regarding our understanding of Neanderthals

  • Until the late 20th century, Neanderthals were regarded as genetically, morphologically, and behaviorally distinct from living humans.
  • However, more recent discoveries about this well-preserved fossil Eurasian population have revealed an overlap between living and archaic humans.
  • Neanderthals lived before and during the last ice age of the Pleistocene in some of the most unforgiving environments ever inhabited by humans.
  • They developed a successful culture, with a complex stone tool technology, that was based on hunting, with some scavenging and local plant collection.

Human Evolution

Human evolution is the evolutionary process that led to the emergence of anatomically modern humans, beginning with the evolutionary history of primates—in particular genus Homo—and leading to the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of the hominid family, the great apes.

Stages of Evolution of Human:

  • Dryopithecus
  • Ramapithecus
  • Australopithecus
  • Homo
    • Homo habilis
    • Homo erectus
    • Homo sapiens
    • Homo sapiens neanderthalensis
    • Homo sapiens sapiens

Findings of recent studies regarding Covid-19

  • A region on host chromosome 3 acts as a significant genetic risk factor towards getting seriously ill and, at the same time, a group of genes on chromosomes 6,12,19, and 21 protect us against the virus.
  • About 50% of South Asians carry the region in chromosome 3 from Neanderthal genomes, the same region that makes us more prone to getting severely sick with the virus.
  • A part of host chromosome 12, previously shown to protect against the virus, also was inherited from Neanderthal genomes. Nearly 30% of South Asians bear the chromosome 12 region.
  • While specific genes from Neanderthals are working against the virus and protecting us from getting a severe disease, others are associated with an increased risk of getting critically ill. This push and pull effect may be one of the intriguing facts about how the selection of genes happens during evolution.

-Source: The Hindu


Justice Pant appointed NHRC acting chairperson

Context:

The National Human Rights Commission said NHRC member Justice (retired) Prafulla Chandra Pant had been appointed as the acting chairperson of the Commission.

The post of chairperson has been vacant since Justice H.L. Dattu, a former Chief Justice of India, completed his tenure on December 2, 2020.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Statutory Bodies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
  2. Powers conferred to the NHRC in inquiries
  3. Composition of NHRC
  4. How are the Chairperson and Members of NHRC appointed?

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The National Human Rights Commission is an Independent Statutory Body constituted on 12 October 1993, by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • The NHRC is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • NHRC deals with the rights related to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by Indian Constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
  • On an international level, the NHRC is established in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted for the promotion and protection of human rights in Paris (October, 1991). It was also endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 December, 1993.

Powers conferred to the NHRC in inquiries

While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular the following, namely;

  1. Summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
  2. discovery and production of any document;
  3. receiving evidence on affidavits;
  4. requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
  5. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
  6. any other matter which may be prescribed.

Composition of NHRC

  • A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women, Minorities, Backward Classes, Protection of Child Rights) and Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities serve as ex officio members.
  • The sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.

How are the Chairperson and Members of NHRC appointed?

The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:

  1. The Prime Minister (Chairperson)
  2. The Home Minister
  3. The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  4. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)
  5. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  6. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)

-Source: The Hindu

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