GS PAPER II NEWS

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that “all terrorists are criminals, but all criminals are not terrorists”.

Key Points

  • By ruling that “terrorist activity” cannot be broadly defined to include ordinary penal offences, the three Delhi High Court orders granting bail to three student-activists, mark a crucial moment.
  • Quoting sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, and a string of key Supreme Court rulings on terrorism and terror laws, the court reasoned that “the more stringent a penal provision, the more strictly it must be construed”.
  • The three orders issued by the Delhi High Court are perhaps the first instance of a court calling out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
  • According to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament in March, a total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • The ‘Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)’ was passed in 1967.
  • The objective of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for matters connected therewith.
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • “Unlawful activity” was defined as activities including speeches, writings etc that supported secessionist claims or questioned India’s sovereignty.
  • Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life. In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life.
  • Bail under UAPA can be granted only when the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true.

Salient feature of UAPA

  • Who may commit terrorism: According to the Act, the union government may proclaim or designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
  • Commits or participates in acts of terrorism,
  • Prepares for terrorism,
  • Promotes terrorism, or
  • Is otherwise involved in terrorism.
  • UAPA has the death penalty and life imprisonment as the highest punishments. The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged. The offenders will be charged in the same manner whether the act is performed in a foreign land, outside India.
  • Approval for property seizure by National Investigation Agency (NIA): As per the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director-General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. The Bill adds that if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director-General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
  • The investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA): Under the provisions of the Act, investigation of cases can be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Insertion to the schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, comprising of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). The Bill adds another treaty to this list namely, the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

U.S.-Russia face-off at Geneva

Why in News

US President and Russian counterpart met at Geneva in their first presidential encounter. The two leaders are holding talks amid extremely rocky relations between the two governments.

Key Points

  • The US is seeking to restore European ties that were strained under former president Donald Trump, who dismissed the value of NATO and other US alliances and sought out Russia.
  • The US held long days of meetings with leaders at G7, NATO and US-EU summits, where he secured joint communiques expressing concern over Russia and China, and then helped preside over a breakthrough agreement easing a US trade dispute with Europe.

The Schedule

  • No one-on-one between the US and Russia is planned. Their first meeting will include Russian foreign minister and US secretary of state, before opening up to a larger group of US and Russian delegates.

The Geneva Factor

  • The city is known as a Cold War crossroads.
  • In 1955, US President and Soviet leader met there. Then again, they met there in 1985. Interestingly, both meetings led to a de-escalation of tensions.

The Agenda between the US and Russia

  • There are five key issues of this meeting:
  • Poll Meddling, cyberattacks: US is expected to address the two crucial issues of Russian meddling in elections, and Kremlin-backed cyberattacks on US government offices and US corporate targets. Moscow firmly rejects both the claims.
  • Navalny Case, Human Rights: The US might bring up the issue of human rights, especially Russia’s handling of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny. Russia sees US concern as interference in Russia’s domestic affairs
  • New Arms Race: Despite Russia and the US agreeing to extend the arms-reduction nuclear treaty, New START, in February, Russia warned Russia’s latest weapons render Western defence systems obsolete.
  • Personal Slugfest: The two leaders might decide to cool tensions after publicly exchanging barbs. In March, US called Russia a “killer”, to which Putin retorted: “It takes one to know one”.
  • Prisoner Release: The fate of a number of prisoners held by both the government is expected to be discussed, with the two camps having an equal interest in lobbying for their release.

GS PAPER III

National Green Tribunal

Why in News

The National Green Tribunal has dismissed a plea which alleged violation of environmental norms by construction of illegal roads and unauthorized mining in the Aravalli in Gurugram district.

Key Points

  • The National Green Tribunal has junked a plea which alleged violation of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 by the construction of illegal road and unauthorised mining in Aravalli mountains at Manesar village in Haryana’s Gurugram district.
  • A bench headed by NGT Chairperson dismissed the plea seeking review of its March 16, 2021 order directing action against encroachers.
  • The NGT said the grounds as taken by the review applicant, that the Forest Department falsely mentioned in the narrative of the report dated 5th February, 2021, that he is an encroacher was not the issue for consideration before the tribunal while disposing of the original application.
  • The matter in issue in original application was illegal mining and encroachment of forest land and on the basis of the report of PCCF (HoFF), Panchkula, the statutory authorities were directed to take further action in accordance with the law.
  • In light of the above facts, no substantial ground for maintainability of the review application is made out. The review application is devoid of any merit and deserves to be dismissed.

National Green Tribunal

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18th October, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • It was established for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • It includes enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • It is dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible.

About Aravalli Mountains

  • Aravalli Range is the hill system of northern India, running north-easterly for 350 miles (560 km) through Rajasthan state.
  • The series of peaks and ridges, with breadths varying from 6 to 60 miles (10 to 100 km), are generally between 300 and 900 metres in elevation.
  • It is divided into two sections: the Sambhar-Sirohi ranges, taller and including Guru Peak on Mount Abu, the highest peak in the Aravalli Range and the Sambhar-Khetri ranges, consisting of three ridges that are discontinuous.
  • The Aravalli Range is rich in natural resources (including minerals) and serves as a check to the growth of the western desert.
  • It gives rise to several rivers, including the Banas, Luni, Sakhi, and Sabarmati. Though heavily forested in the south, it is generally bare and thinly populated, consisting of large areas of sand and stone and of masses of rose-coloured quartzite.

National Family Health Survey-5 Report on cooking gas

Why in News

According to the ‘National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 Report’, most of the households who have LPG Gas connections are don’t use for cooking.

Key Points

  • In West Bengal, 97% of household having gas connection and only 40% use it for cooking. Such disparity existed in all states of India.
  • Low usage can be led to the cost of subsidized cylinder, which has increased over the past two years.
  • In Himachal Pradesh, LPG coverage stood up to 116.6% as of January 2020, while only 51% of households used it for cooking.
  • The usage of LPG for cooking was significantly lower in rural households. In Gujarat, LPG usage was as high as 94% among the urban households while it was only 45.2% in rural households.
  • The price of subsidized cylinder has been steadily increasing over the last two years, thereby reducing the subsidy amount despite a drastic fall in international LPG cost.
  • According to the report, there was a higher prevalence of tuberculosis in households that were using solid fuels compared to those that were using clean cooking fuels.

National Health Family Survey (NHFS) Report

  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.
  • The NFHS is a collaborative project of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, India; ICF, Calverton, Maryland, USA and the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
  • The responsible ministry for this survey is Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India, designated IIPS as the nodal agency.
  • NFHS was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with supplementary support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • The first National Family Health Survey (NFHS-1) was conducted in 1992-93. The survey collected extensive information on population, health, and nutrition, with an emphasis on women and young children. Eighteen Population Research Centres (PRCs), located in universities and institutes of national repute, assisted IIPS in all stages of conducting NFHS-1.
  • The 2019-20 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), the fifth in the NFHS series, provides information on population, health, and nutrition for India and each state and union territory.

Delta Variant of COVID-19

Why in News

Recently, India discovered a new variant of Corona Virus i.e., AY.1.

Key Points

  • AY.1, or B.1.617.2.1, has a mutation called K417N that is linked to high infectivity and has been associated with the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

Delta Variant

  • The Delta variant is a collection of around 13-15 mutations, of which several are of concern.
  • At least four of these – D614G, E484Q, L452R and P681R – are known or are being investigated for making the Sars-CoV-2 better able to spread, cause more serious disease or resist immunity from a past infection or vaccine.
  • Now, it has picked up a mutation known as K417N. Delta with the K417N mutation has been designated as AY.1 for now, and is informally referred to as ‘Delta plus’.

K417N

  • K417N is a mutation in the Spike protein, the portion of the Sars-CoV-2 that helps it latch on to and enter human cells.
  • At a location coded as 417, the amino acid lysine (K) is changed to asparagine (N).
  • In a study by researchers from Rockefeller University, K417N was among three mutations that diminished the potency of 14 of the 17 key neutralising antibodies produced after vaccination with mRNA doses.
  • This mutation has also been found in the Beta variant (B.1.351 – seen first in South Africa) and some samples of the Gamma variant (P.1 – seen first in Brazil).
  • Both these variants are known to be more resistant to immunity, but it is still being investigated which mutation in particular or the combination of mutations do this.

AY.1 Variant of Corona Virus

  • According to an analysis of GISAID data by outbreak.info, the AY.1 variant has been found in 159 samples worldwide. Of these, 8 have been found in India.
  • All of these 8 cases were found between April 5 and May 15. Data from Next strain shows two clusters of the variant – one in the US and another spread over 8 countries in Asia and Europe.
  • In the UK, the Public Health England – which carries out the most genome sequencing of all agencies worldwide – said the first 5 cases there were sequenced on April 26 and were contacts of people who travelled from, or through, Nepal and Turkey.
  • One of the earliest recorded samples was collected on April 5 from a man in Maharashtra.

Trade Deficit

Why in News

India’s exports rose by 69% to $32.3 billion in May, driven by healthy growth in sectors such as engineering, petroleum products and gems and jewellery.

Key Points

  • The trade deficit widened to $6.3 billion.
  • Imports grew by almost 74% to $38.6 billion, leaving a trade deficit for the month at $6.3 billion.
  • Exports during April-May 2021 have jumped to $62.9 billion, from $29.4 billion in the 2020 period.
  • Imports were recorded at $84.3 billion, an increase from $39.3 billion in the same two months of 2020.
  • The trade deficit came in at $21.4 billion, as against $9.9 billion.

Trade Deficit

  • Trade deficit is a situation where the country’s import dues exceed the receipts from the exports.
  • Trade deficit arises in the course of international trade when the payments for imports exceed the receipts from export trade.
  • A trade deficit is also referred to as a negative balance of trade.