Daily Current Affairs [IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam] – 29th December 2018
Changes to POCSO Act
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Children issue; Sexual Assault
- Cabinet approved changes to Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to protect all children under 12.
- In other words, the amendment will bring punishments for sexual assaults on boys on a par with those against girls.
- These include the provision of death penalty when the child is under 12 years and when a penetrative sexual assault is committed by a relative.
Do you know?
- After Kathua rape case, the government has initiated to bring changes that include death penalty for gang rape of a girl under 12 years and 20 years in jail or death penalty for rape of a girl under 12 years.
Gaganyaan: Indian into space by 2022
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Science and Technology; Space Missions
- The Union Cabinet approved the ambitious Gaganyaan programme, which will send three Indian astronauts to space for up to seven days by 2022 at a cost of ₹10,000 crore.
- As part of the programme, two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed the launch vehicle GSLV MK-III, which has the necessary payload capability to launch a three-member crew module in low earth orbit.
Do you know?
- Escape system tested – The ISRO has also tested the crew escape system, an essential technology for human space flight. Elements of the life support system and the space suit have also been realised and tested
Animal in news: Hangul
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity; Animal Conservation
- Hangul is a sub-species of the European red deer, in Kashmir.
- It is state animal of Jammu and Kashmir.
- It is an endangered species. (IUCN Status: ‘critically endangered’)
- Majorly confined to the Dachigam National Park.
Important Value Additions:
- Kashmiri Red Stag or Hangul is known for its giant antlers bearing 11 to 16 points.
- Only one viable population left today in the wild is largely confined to the Greater Dachigam Landscape (1,000 sq.km.), encompassing the Dachigam National Park (NP) and adjoining protected areas.
- It is one of three critically endangered species in Jammu and Kashmir. The other two are markhor, the Tibetan antelope or ‘chiru’. It was designated as State Animal of Jammu & Kashmir in 1980’s.
- It is listed under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and has also been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Government of India.
States get greater say over coastal regions
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Indian Polity; Centre-State Relations
- Union Cabinet approved the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2018 (after comprehensive review of the provisions of the CRZ Notification, 2011).
- The 2018 notification is aimed at streamlining of Coastal Regulation Zone clearances, enhancing activities in the coastal regions and promoting economic growth while keeping in mind conservation principles of coastal regions.
According to the new notification –
- Only such projects which are located in CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 nautical miles seaward) will require the necessary clearance from the Union Ministry.
- The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II (the areas that have been developed up to or close to the shoreline) and III (areas that are relatively undisturbed) have been delegated to the State level.
- The construction norms on Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which was frozen at 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels, have been relaxed and will now be based on laws which are in vogue.
- The new notification also relaxed the No Development Zone (NDZ) criteria.
- Densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2,161 per square kilometre, falling under CRZ-III A, now have NDZ of 50 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) as against 200 metres stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011.
- For islands close to the mainland coast and for all backwater islands in the mainland, the new norms stipulate an NDZ of 20 metres.
- The notification also permits temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. in beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in NDZ of the CRZ-III areas.
- The new notification may “boost tourism in terms of more activities, more infrastructure and more opportunities and will certainly go a long way in creating employment opportunities in various aspects of tourism”.
- Also, in order to address pollution in coastal areas, setting up of treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ—I B area subject to necessary safeguards.
- Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation, the order said.
India-Bhutan ties: ₹4,500-cr. assistance for Bhutan
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and its neighbours; International Relations
- India to support Bhutan’s development needs by providing ₹4,500 crore. (For Bhutan’s 12th five-year plan)
- Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering who visited India assured his government’s commitment to maintain warm ties with India.
- India to continue to be a reliable partner in development assistance.
Do you know?
- Bhutan remains one of the key recipients of development assistance from India.
- According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India provided ₹4,500 crore for the 11th five year plan that lasted between 2013 and 2018.
- Now, India is committed to supporting Bhutan’s next five-year plan to begin shortly.
- On sharing South Asian Satellite – Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is moving ahead with plans to set up a ground station in Bhutan that will help in telemedicine, disaster relief and climate trends.
- Mangdechhu hydro power project to be completed soon.
- Hydroelectricity is the main source of revenue for Bhutan and negotiations to fix the tariff rates on major projects continue.
Draft National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018
Part of: GS Mains II – Government schemes and policies
- Union Cabinet has approved the draft National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018.
- National Commission for Indian System (NCIM) will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.
Do you know?
- The draft Bill will enable the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards for the purpose of conducting overall education in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
- To assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions, the Bill proposes an entrance and an exit exam that all graduates need to clear to get practising licenses.
TOPIC:General studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Social empowerment
- Social issues
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Why 2018 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill is seriously flawed?
- We had earlier covered about Transgender Persons Bill, 2018, whether the current Bill is a progressive step towards extending constitutional protection to the highly marginalised community. (For more – Transgender Persons Bill, 2018: Rights, revised)
- We came across what were the positives in new bill and concerns in the revised Bill.
Today’s editorial covers the major short comings in the revised bill –
- Lack of proper definition for transgenders
- No provision for self-determination of gender
- No reservations
- Criminalises begging
- Sexual Harassment not addressed
- Civil rights ignored
1. No provision for self-determination of gender
In the landmark NALSA v. Union of India judgment, Supreme Court laid down that –
- Transgender and intersex persons have the constitutional right to self-identify their gender as male, female or transgender even without medical intervention.
- No one should be forced to undergo medical procedures, including SRS, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.
- In other words, medical procedures should not be required as a pre-condition for any identity documents for transgender and intersex persons, nor should there be any requirement of a mental health assessment.
- Requiring a person to submit proof of medical treatment or mental health assessment of their gender identity violates one’s right to dignity, the right to be free from unwanted medical treatment and the right to be free from discrimination.
However, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 which was passed by the Lok Sabha recently, has caused great alarm.
The 2018 Bill in Section 6 establishes a District Screening Committee for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons.
- The District Screening Committee includes a chief medical officer and a psychologist/psychiatrist, which goes to show that medical and psychological tests would be required for grant of change of gender identity.
- The Bill also does not allow for recognition of gender identity as male or female. It only allows for an identity certificate as ‘transgender’.
- This goes against the above decision of the Supreme Court, which recognised the right to self-identify oneself as male, female or transgender and would also be forcing intersex persons to get a gender identity as “transgender”.
2. No reservations
- The Supreme Court, in the landmark April 2014 NALSA judgment, had issued a directive “to extend all kinds of reservations in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments” by treating transgender persons as socially and educationally backward classes.
- However, the 2018 Bill has failed to provide for any reservation for transgender and intersex persons in educational institutions and in public employment.
3. Criminalises begging
- The Bill also makes it a criminal offence for anyone to compel a transgender person into begging. However, a large number of people from the trans and intersex community are engaged in begging and sex work due to discrimination and not having any other opportunities.
- This provision would lead to members of the trans community being criminalised.
4. Civil rights ignored
- The Bill does not have a whole gamut of positive rights such as the rights of trans and intersex persons to inheritance of property, rights within the family such as adoption and to be free from domestic violence, rights of political participation such as the right to vote and hold public office, and the right to health to include free sex reassignment treatments.
5. Sexual Harassment not addressed
- It also does not make sexual violence against transgender and intersex persons a criminal offence.
- The current law on rape is gender specific and transgender persons have no recourse under criminal law for sexual assault.
Do you know?
- U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act 2004 was the first law in the world allowing people to change gender without surgery.
- Since then other countries, including Argentina, Ireland and Denmark, have passed laws that allow people to ‘self-declare’ their gender, rather than seek approval from a panel of medical experts.
The way ahead:
- The Transgender Bill omits positive rights and ignores the protections of the ‘NALSA’ judgment.
- District Screening Committee needs to be removed from the 2018 Bill.
- The Bill needs to state explicitly that no medical or mental health examination will be required and applicants will simply need to submit an affidavit attesting the request for a change of gender identity.
- There should be horizontal reservation in education and employment provided to them. (crucial for their social inclusion)
- The policy makers should ensure that the constitutional rights of transgender and intersex persons are realised.
Connecting the dots:
- Can the new Bill passed for the Transgenders community prove to be an ally for them or just one more element in their exploitation? Discuss.
TOPIC:General studies 2 and 3
- North East Development
- Fostering development in North East India
Bogibeel: A bridge across the Brahmaputra
- Bogibeel, the longest railroad bridge of India, spanning nearly five-km across the Brahmaputra link Dibrugarh with North Lakhimpur district of Assam and parts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh.
- Sixty-eight years after being ravaged by a devastating earthquake and the ensuing floods, Dibrugarh is reclaiming its lost glory.
- It used to be a thriving centre of the plantation industry during the colonial times. For the people of the region, it remains a hub of higher education and medical treatment.
- However, for decades, the only recourse for people to cross the Brahmaputra would be to chug along for over an hour, in a diesel-propelled ferry, which would also carry their vehicles and goods, even cattle.
- Crossing the river could be a costlier proposition than flying between Mumbai and Goa.
Major significance behind this bridge construction
- Commissioning the bridge has reduced the journey time across the river to less than five minutes, bringing relief to people living in these remote parts.
- The single biggest factor which has shackled the development of the Northeast region is the absence of robust connectivity.
- It has the potential to infuse economic dynamism in the region and provide opportunities for the expansion of tourism, industrial development and trade. Bogibeel must be viewed alongside other infrastructure developments in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh.
- The iconic Bhupen Hazarika bridge over the Lohit river was commissioned recently by the prime minister.
- A 7.5 km long bridge over the Dibang river was dedicated to the nation a few days ago.
- The Trans Arunachal Highway has seen considerable progress, especially in the eastern part of the state.
- An airport has been commissioned at Pasighat, barely two hours away from Dibrugarh.
- One of the most pristine parts of Arunachal Pradesh has now become accessible to the rest of the world.
- This could give a fillip to tourism, given that the region has abundant wildlife and is ideal for river rafting and angling.
- However, an imaginative roadmap of tourism development, promotion and branding needs to be crafted, centred around the region’s tribal ethos.
- Dibrugarh lies at the heart of a crucial oil and gas axis in Assam, given its proximity to Digboi and Duliajan oilfields.
- Further east lie the Kharsang gas fields and Kumchai oilfields of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The district also has significant coal deposits.
- There are more than 200 tea factories in Dibrugarh.
- Commissioning of the bridge has raised the prospects of industrial development and opportunities for productive employment for the youth, especially in the mining and plantation sectors.
Improving geo-political relations and reaching to the natural resources
- Bogibeel is the gateway to the historic Stilwell Road, which connects Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China, passing through Myanmar’s Kachin state, via Arunachal Pradesh.
- The 1,800 km long route was used for transporting arms to the Chinese by the Americans during World War II. Its revival for trade is well within grasp now.
- The route could well become the centrepiece of the ambitious Act East Policy.
- It would follow the Asian Highway (AH )14 and reach Kunming along AH3.
- The Chinese stretch has a six-lane highway, while the Indian side in Arunachal Pradesh has a two-lane highway.
- Infrastructure in Myanmar, of course, would need to be strengthened and the land customs station at Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh revived.
- Trade could revitalise economic activity, in what is otherwise one of the most backward parts of Arunachal Pradesh. From a strategic standpoint, movement of troops has become a much quicker, efficient and reliable proposition.
- The road beyond Dibrugarh leads to the frontier parts of Arunachal Pradesh, with a fully functional advanced landing ground of Air Force at Walong, barely 100 km from the Chinese border.
- This was a theatre of armed incursion in 1962. Now access to one of the remotest border outposts in Anjaw has been made much easier.
- Bogibeel is poised to usher winds of change in this part of the world.
- However, the advantage of connectivity must be accompanied by an imaginative blueprint of economic development, drawing upon the region’s advantages.
- The symbolism of Bogibeel goes well beyond the Brahmaputra.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the significance of Bogibeel Bridge in fostering development in North East India and advantage it offers to Act East policy.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements about Hangul
- It is listed as ‘critically endangered’ under IUCN Red List
- It is the state animal of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir
- It is listed under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978
Select the correct statements
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
Q.2) Dachigam National Park is located in –
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Jammu and Kashmir
Q.3) Consider the following about the Dhola–Sadiya Bridge, also referred to as the Bhupen Hazarika Setu:
- The bridge connects the northeast states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The bridge spans the Lohit River, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra River.
- It is the longest bridge in India.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 2 and 3 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.4) The river serves as an international border dividing India and Bhutan. It is a major tributary of Brahmaputra river. It is the main river flowing within a famous national park.
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