Shah Faesal, two PDP leaders released


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The Jammu and Kashmir administration released former IAS officer and J&K People’s Movement (JKPM) party leader Shah Faesal and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Sartaj Madni and Peer Mansoor, who were booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).

What is the Public Safety Act?

  • The law was introduced by Sheikh Abdullah (Farooq Abdullah’s father) in 1978.
  • It was brought in to prevent timber smuggling, and keep the smugglers in prison.
  • This is a preventive detention law that allows the State government to detain a person up to two years without a trial.
  • It is similar to the National Security Act, but this was enacted two years before the NSA came into being.
  • Even before Dr. Abdullah was detained under the PSA, he claimed to be under house arrest following the abrogation of certain provisions of Article 370, like other politicians in the State.

Why has he been detained under PSA now?

  • In police custody, a person has to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of detention.
  • But the PSA allows the State to hold a person without producing them in court.
  • While the J&K government has not given details as to why Dr. Abdullah has been detained under the PSA, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on September 17 hit out at the BJP over the detention and questioned if this action was precipitated by Mr. Vaiko’s habeus corpus

What happens after PSA is used?

  • Within four weeks of passing the detention order, the government has to refer the case to an Advisory Board.
  • This Advisory Board will have to give its recommendations within eight weeks of the order.
  • If the Board thinks that there is cause for preventive detention, the government can hold the person up to two years.
  • The person detained has limited rights.
  • Usually when a person is arrested, they have the right to legal representation and can challenge the arrest.
  • But, when a person is arrested under the PSA, they do not have these rights before the Advisory Board unless sufficient grounds can be established that the detention is illegal.
  • There have been cases where the High Court has interfered and quashed the detention.
  • According to Section 13(2), the detaining authority need not even inform the detained individual as to the reason for the action, if it decides that it goes against public interest.

Has this been used before?

  • Former IAS officer and founder of Jammu & Kashmir People’s movement Shah Faesalwas stopped from flying out of the country from the Delhi Airport and sent back to Srinagar, where he was detained under the PSA.
  • He is still under detention.
  • In the wake of the Pulwama attack, scores of detainees were slapped with this law, and J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik had approved an amendment to move detainees to jails outside the State.
  • Hurriyat leaders like Masarat Alam, JKLF leader Yasin Malik have also been detained under this law. Incidentally, in January this year, National Conference vice president and son of Dr. Abdullah, Omar Abdullah had promisedto repeal the controversial Act if he came back to power in the State.

India, Bhutan ink MoU for environment cooperation

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bhutan for cooperation in the field of environment protection and management of natural resources.

Key Details:

  • The MoU, signed at a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, will enable establishment and promotion of closer and long-term cooperation in environment protection and management of natural resources on the basis of equity, reciprocity and mutual benefits, taking into account the applicable laws and legal provisions in each country.
  • It will cover air, waste, chemical management, climate change and other areas and will remain in force for 10 years from the date of signing.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding shall facilitate the exchange of experiences, best practices and technical know-how through both public and private sectors and shall contribute to sustainable development.
  • The development followed an earlier MoU between the two countries.
  • An MoU was signed between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the National Environment Commission (NEC), Bhutan in 2013, but it expired in 2016.

What is CPCB?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
  • Established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and later entrusted with functions and responsibilities under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Water Pollution:

  • Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of water bodies. Water pollution is caused when water bodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, and aquifers get contaminated with industrial and agricultural effluents.

Air Pollution:

  • Air pollution refers to any physical, chemical or biological change in the air. It is the contamination of air by harmful gases, dust and smoke which affects plants, animals, and humans drastically. Click here to read about Air Pollutants.
  • It coordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.

CPCB Organisational Structure

CPCB is led by its Chairman followed by the Member Secretary, and other members. The CPCB performs its various functions through the following nine major project budget heads.

  • Pollution assessment (survey and monitoring).
  • R&D and laboratory management.
  • Development of standards and guidelines for industry-specific emissions and effluent standards
  • Training
  • Information database management and library
  • Pollution control technology
  • Pollution control enforcement
  • Mass awareness and publications
  • Hazard waste management

Powers and Functions of CPCB

  • Advising the Central and State Government on matters related to prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution.
  • Planning various programs to control and prevent Air & Water pollution
  • Planning and organising training programs for people involved in activities for the prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution.
  • Collecting, compiling, and publishing statistical and technical reports related to Air & Water Pollution. These reports are used to develop preventive measures to control and reduce pollution.
  • Preparing manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts.

Cabinet sets up Secretaries’ group to attract investment

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of an empowered group of secretaries (EGoS) and project development cells (PDCs) in Ministries and departments for attracting investments to India.

Key Details:

  • Industries are thinking to diversify their investments in different localities, so to ensure that investment is enhanced in India, an EGoS has been formed.
  • It will make India a more investor-friendly destination and give a fillip to the mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat by handholding and further smoothening investment inflows into the country.
  • The two decisions are expected to help domestic industries and lead to direct and indirect employment.

Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS):

  • The EGoS would be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.
  • It would include the Secretary of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade as member convener.
  • NITI Aayog CEO, the Commerce Secretary, the Revenue Secretary and the Economic Affairs Secretary would be members.
  • The Secretary of the Department concerned would be co-opted, depending on the project.

Objectives of EGoS:

  • To bring synergies and ensure timely clearances from different departments and ministries.
  • To attract increased investments into India and provide investment support and facilitation to global investors.
  • To facilitate investments of top investors in a targeted manner and to usher policy stability and consistency in the overall investment environment.

Project Development Cell (PDC):

  • In every Ministry, there will be a project development cell. This will make India a more investor-friendly destination and there will also be hand-holding of the new industries.
  • PDC was approved for the development of investible projects in coordination between the central and state governments.
  • Under the guidance of the secretary, an officer not below the rank of joint secretary of each relevant central line ministry, who will be in-charge of the PDC, will be tasked to conceptualise, strategise, implement, and disseminate details with respect to investable projects.
  • The cell is aimed at creating projects with all approvals, land available for allocation and with the complete detailed project reports for adoption/investment by investors; and to identify issues that need to be resolved in order to attract and finalise the investments and put forth before the empowered group.

Cabinet nod for Agri marketing reforms

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

The Union Cabinet has approved an amendment to the 65-year-old Essential Commodities Act.Cabinet also approved ordinances to remove restrictions on farmers selling their produce outside notified market yards, as well as to facilitate contract farming and allow farmers to engage in direct marketing.

Key Details:

  • The amendment will be made effective immediately via an ordinance, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
  • The Essential Commodities Act (ECA) empowers government to impose curbs on stocking of farm produce.
  • The amendment to the ECA, which has been under discussion for more than a decade, will deregulate the production, storage, movement and distribution of these food commodities.
  • By removing the private sector’s fears of excessive regulatory interference, the Centre hopes to increase private and foreign investment, especially in cold storage facilities and the modernization of the food supply chain.
  • According to the government, even as India has become surplus in most Agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, processing and export.
  • Adequate processing and storage facilities will reduce wastage and increase income for farmers of perishable commodities.
  • The amendment would remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities.
  • However, to protect consumers, the amendment allows regulation during war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity, while providing exemptions for exporters and processors at such times as well.

Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020:

  • It aims to open up agricultural marketing outside notified mandis for farmers.
  • It will help in the creation of one agriculture market across the country wherein farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of Agri-produce.
  • It will also allow for hassle-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agriculture produce.
  • While both agriculture and markets are State subjects, the Centre is counting on the fact that trade and commerce in foodstuffs is part of the concurrent list to push through its ordinance.
  • Industry sources suggest that 60% of agricultural trade already takes place outside the mandis through unregulated sales. By legalizing and facilitating such sales, the Centre hopes that farmers will benefit, rather than middlemen.
  • It is believed that allowing the farmer more choices will raise his income and also reduce wastage and improve quality.
  • Not all States have been on board with these reforms, especially as State governments will not be allowed to levy fees on these sales.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020:

  • It is aimed at facilitating contract farming, where a private buyer contracts to purchase a crop at a certain price at the beginning of a season.
  • The ordinance empowers farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers and exporters.
  • This would facilitate transferring the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the corporate sponsor.
  • It would help attract private investments to the farm sector.
  • However, farmers groups have expressed concern that corporates will benefit more than small farmers from such direct marketing measures.