Daily Current Affairs for 7th September 2020

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Kesavananda Bharati, a saviour of Constitution


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

Why in news?

Kesavananda Bharati Swamiji, who passed away on September 5, was the sole unwitting petitioner in the historic Fundamental Rights case which prevented the nation from slipping into a totalitarian regime.

Who was Kesavananda Bharati?

  • Kesavananda Bharati was the head seer of the Edneer Mutt in Kasaragod district of Kerala since 1961.
  • He left his signature in one of the significant rulings of the Supreme Court when he challenged the Kerala land reforms legislation in 1970.

What was the case about?

  • The case was about the extent of Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.
  • The concept of ‘basic structure’came into existence in the landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case (1973)
  • First, the court was reviewing a 1967 decision in Golaknath v State of Punjab which, reversing earlier verdicts, had ruled that Parliament cannot amend fundamental rights.
  • Second, the court was deciding the constitutional validity of several other amendments.
  • Notably, the right to property had been removed as a fundamental right, and Parliament had also given itself the power to amend any part of the Constitution and passed a law that it cannot be reviewed by the courts.
  • The executive vs judiciary manoeuvres displayed in the amendments ended with the Kesavananda Bharati case, in which the court had to settle these issues conclusively.
  • Politically, the case represented the fight for supremacy of Parliament.

Some Interesting facts:

  • A 13-judge Bench was set up by the Supreme Court, the biggest so far.
  • The case was heard over 68 working days spread over six months.
  • The Bench gave 11 separate judgments that agreed and disagreed on many issues but a majority judgment of seven judges was stitched together by then Chief Justice of India S M Sikri on the eve of his retirement.
  • The basic structure doctrine, which was evolved in the majority judgment, was found in the conclusions of the opinion written by one judge — Justice H R Khanna.

What is the basic structure doctrine?

  • In India, the basic structure doctrine has formed the bedrock of judicial review of all laws passed by Parliament.
  • No law can impinge on the basic structure.
  • What the basic structure is, however, has been a continuing deliberation
  • While parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights, judicial review, secularism are all held by courts as basic structure, the list is not exhaustive.

Significance of the judgement

  • The Kesavananda Bharati judgment innovated the Basic Structure doctrine which limited Parliament’s power to make drastic amendments that may affect the core values enshrined in the Constitution, like secularism and federalism.
  • The verdict upheld the power of the Supreme Court to judicially review laws of Parliament.
  • It evolved the concept of separation of powers among the three branches of governance – legislative, executive and the judiciary.
  • Democracy won that day on a wafer-thin 7:6 majority.
  • The Kesavananda Bharati judgment proved timely and thwarted many an attempt on democracy and dignity of individual during those dark years of Emergency.

Govt. suspends FCRA clearance of four Christian groups


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

Why in news?

  • Of the six NGOs whose licence under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was suspended by the Union Home Ministry this year, four are Christian associations.

FCRA and foreign funding

  • Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Amnesty International’s offices on allegations that the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) had violated provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
  • Amnesty has been vocal about human rights abuses, notably in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
  • The government sought to restrict foreign funding of NGOs on account of maintenance of public interest, whereas sometimes this regulation results in the chilling effect of freedom of speech and expression.

Non-Governmental Organisations in India

  • The term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.
  • NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests. NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots.
  • In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act,1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
  • NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Without this, no NGO can receive cash or anything of value higher than Rs 25,000.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010

  • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.
  • The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India. It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The Act held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”.

NGO’s Obstructionist activism

  • An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, submitted to the PMO and National Security Adviser in June 2019, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic growth by their obstructionist activism.
  • The report accused Greenpeace of attempting to destabilise India’s energy mix in collusion with a US-based anti-coal lobbying group
  • Earlier, in 2015, the Home Ministry had cancelled the FCRA licences of 10,000 organisations, including prominent international funding agency Ford Foundation, the environmentalist Constitutional & Administrative group Greenpeace, and human rights advocacy group Lawyers Collective, etc.

‘Moplah rioters’ not freedom fighters: report


Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in news?

A report submitted to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) in 2016 had recommended the removal of the Wagon Tragedy victims and Malabar Rebellion leaders Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath Ahmad Haji, and Haji’s two brothers from a book on martyrs of India’s freedom struggle.

Key details

  • The report sought the removal of names of 387 ‘Moplah rioters’ from the list of martyrs.
  • The book, Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle 1857-1947, was released by Prime Minister.
  • The report describes Haji as the “notorious Moplah Riot leader” and a “hardcore criminal,” who “killed innumerable innocent Hindu men, women, and children during the 1921 Moplah Riot, and deposited their bodies in a well, locally known as Thoovoor Kinar”.
  • Haji was arrested by the army, tried by an army court and shot dead on January 20, 1922, the report said.
  • The review report becomes relevant since the ICHR recently constituted a three-member committee, including Mr. Issac, to review the entries in the dictionary, including those of Haji and Ali Musliyar.

Malabar/Moplah Rebellion of 1921

  • The year 2021 will mark the 100th year anniversary of the Malabar/Moplah uprising of 1921.
  • The Malabar rebellion, also known as the Moplah rebellion, was an armed revolt staged by the Mappila Muslims of Kerala in 1921.
  • Agitated against the Hindu landlords the British government, In August 1920, Gandhi along with Shaukat Ali (the leader of the Khilafat movement in India) visited Calicut to spread the combined message of non-cooperation and Khilafat among the residents of Malabar.
  • In response to Gandhi’s call, a Khilafat committee was formed in Malabar and the Mappilas, under their religious head Mahadum Tangal of Ponnani who pledged support to the noncooperation movement.
  • The Moplah tenants agitated against the Hindu landlords (locally referred to as janmi) and the British government. Most of their grievances were related to the security of tenure, high rents, renewal fees and other unfair exactions of the landlords.
  • The British government responded with much aggression, bringing in Gurkha regiments to suppress it and imposing martial law.
  • Wagon Tragedy: A noteworthy event of the British suppression was the wagon tragedy when approximately 60 Mappila prisoners on their way to prison, were suffocated to death in a closed railway goods wagon.
  • The six-month-long rebellion is often perceived to be one of the first cases of nationalist uprisings in Southern India.

India, Iran discuss Afghan peace process


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

Why in news?

  • The Defence Ministers of India and Iran discussed ways to take forward bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan, during their meeting in Tehran.

Key details

  • Iran is a 95% majority Shia country, and Iranian officials raised the issue of safety of minorities.
  • Iran is an observer at the SCO.
  • Both India and Iran emphasised upon the age-old cultural, linguistic and civilisational ties between India and Iran.

India’s Afghan Policy and Taliban

  • The United Nations Secretariat held a meeting of the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan.
  • This group includes six neighbouring countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Two global players the United States and Russia, and Afghanistan itself.
  • India has not been invited to this peace process. The reason given for keeping India out of this regional discussion is that India holds no “boundary” with Afghanistan.

India’s Interest in Afghanistan

  • Economic and Strategic Interest: Afghanistan is a gateway to the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian republics.
  • Developmental Projects: Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), along with India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented India’s position in Afghanistan.
  • Security Interest: India has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan supported terrorist group operating in the region (e, g. Haqqani network).

India- Iran

  • Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed that India is no longer involved in the Farzad-B gas field project of Iran.
  • Iran has decided to undertake the construction of Chahbar-Zehdan railway line on its own.

Chabahar-Zahedan Railway Project:

  • In the‘New Delhi Declaration’ signed in 2003, both countries had decided to jointly develop the Chabahar Port complex.
  • The Port development was exempted from the sanctions.
  • India’s main investment in the Chabahar Port where it has taken over operations of one terminal,had progressed well in the last few years, handling 82 ships with 12 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo in 8200 containers since December 2018.

Research paper calls for change in India’s forest policy: D-G Forests


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

Why in news?

Director General of Forests has recently stressed upon a research paper which advocated for sustainable forest management based on certification and a policy characterised by restoration, conservation and production equally was relevant in making a “strong case” for amendment in the forest policy.

Key details

What the paper tells about timber production

  • The paper points to the lack of reliable data relating to growing stock, consumption and production of timber, which constrained forecast of supply and demand projections.
  • Domestic timber production slumped while imports soared after decades of policies focused on production instead of conservation, following a 1996 Supreme Court order which regulated logging in government forests.
  • The import-export policy of the country should be reviewed to rectify the pricing in the market so that it is economically viable to grow trees on farmlands.

  • The domestic demand of timber was growing owing to increasing population and per capita GDP.
  • The India State of Forest Report (2011) estimated timber production from government forests to be 3.17 million m³ and potential timber production from TOFs to be 42.77 million m³.

Timber in India:

Commonly harvested timber from natural forests in India include:

  • Teak (Tectona grandis), both from natural and planted forests.
  • Sal (Shorea robusta)
  • Khair (Acacia catechu)

Common planted species include, among others, fast-growing (and short rotation) species:

  • Teak (Tectona grandis) most widely planted timber species and most of it is harvested from planted forests
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus )
  • Poplar (Poplus spp)
  • Acacia (Acacia spp)
  • Subabul (Leucaena leucocephala)

Although India is one of the world’s top producers of tropical logs, it is also one of the world’s largest consumers of wood products

India State of Forest Report ISFR 2019:

  • The total forest cover of the country is 7,12,249 sq km which is 21.67% of the geographical area of the country.
  • The tree cover of the country is estimated as 95,027 sq km which is 2.89% of the geographical area.
  • The total Forest and Tree Cover of the country is 8,07,276 sq km which is 24.56% of the geographical area of the country.
  • The current assessment shows an increase of 3,976 sq km (0.56%) of forest cover, 1,212 sq km (1.29%) of tree cover and 5,188 sq km (0.65%) of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level as compared to the previous assessment i.e. ISFR 2017.
  • Decrease in forest cover in Recorded Forest Areas (RFA)
  • Forest cover within the RFA/GW has shown a slight decrease of 330 sq km (0.05%) whereas there is an increase of 4,306 sq km of forest cover outside the RFA/GW as compared to the previous assessment of 2017.
  • The top five states in terms of increase in forest cover are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
  • In hill districts, the forest cover is30%
  • In tribal districts, the forest cover is54%

Way forward

  • Increasing wood production will also push carbon sequestration, and help in mitigating effects of climate change.
  • Increasing timber production from Tree outside Forests (TOFs)can revive the rural economy.
  • The conservation policy must focus on maintaining ecological balance and improving biodiversity through protected area management.
  • The restoration policy must target reclamation, rehabilitation and regeneration of degraded landscapes and wastelands.
  • Production forestry should focus on “sustainable increase in forest productivity from TOFs and RFAs”.
  • To boost production through RFAs, States must devise working plans and demarcate 10% of the forests for plantations.
  • For TOFs, a synchronised nationwide policy could be developed.

What is Forest cover

  • Forest cover includes all lands having trees more than one hectare in area with tree canopy density of more than 10%, irrespective of ownership, legal status of the land and species composition of trees.
  • Very Dense Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above.
  • Moderately Dense Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%.
  • Open Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40 %.
  • Scrub Forest: Lands with canopy density less than 10%.
  • Non-forest: Lands not included in any of the above classes (includes water).
  • Recorded Forest Area (RFA): Forest Area (or recorded forest area) refers to all the geographic areas recorded as “forest” in government records.
  • Recorded forest areas comprise Reserved Forests (RF) and Protected Forests (PF), which have been constituted under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.

‘Close old power plants, save Rs. 53,000 crores’


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

Why in News?

  • Several of the power distribution companies (discoms) in Indian states remain financially stressed.

Key Details:

  • The free power for agricultureis a major challenge for the power sector.
  • The proportion of the farm sector’s energy consumption has doubled since the 1970s while revenue realisation has remained stagnant.
  • Energy-use in the agriculture sector has registered a high growth rate as compared to other sectors.
  • The discoms are also required to provide subsidised power to significant segments of their customer base. This has led to low revenue generation.
  • The delayed payments from government entitieshave only deteriorated the discoms’ financial health further.
  • Power thefthas dented the revenue stream of the discoms.

Way Ahead:

  • Analysis by Climate Research Horizon has revealed that the shutting down of thermal power plants older than 20 yearsin selected states can help save the exchequer Rs. 53,000 crores over five years.
  • India’s coal-fired power plants must meet stringent new emission norms by 2022, which were set in December 2015 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). This would require the implementation of the emission control systems (ECSs)in such power plants.
  • Additionally, the move will also help meet India’s climate action goals and help in India’s transition towards renewable energy.

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