Current Affairs (13th April 2021)
‘Refugees’ and ‘Illegal Immigrants’
- Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) appeared to accept the Centre’s contention that the Rohingya people in India are illegal immigrants.
- SC refused to order the release of 300 members of the community, most of whom are in a detention camp in Jammu, and others in Delhi. It said they should be deported according to procedures under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
Illegal immigrant vs refugee
- Under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and the subsequent 1967 Protocol, the word refugee pertains to any person who is outside their country of origin and unable or unwilling to return owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
- Stateless persons may also be refugees in this sense, where country of origin (citizenship) is understood as ‘country of former habitual residence’. (Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies)
- The UN has said the flight of the Rohingya following the Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017 had created the world’s biggest refugee crisis.
- Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh is the biggest refugee camp in the world today. Myanmar maintains that the Rohingya, who are predominantly Muslim, are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- When it comes to dealing with some 40,000 Rohingya who fled to India, the government’s response has been ambiguous. The government had allowed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out verification and provide some of them with identity cards. Some 14,000 Rohingya have been identified as refugees in this way.
- In the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referred to them as illegal immigrants.
India & UN convention
- India has welcomed refugees in the past, and on date, nearly 300,000 people here are categorised as refugees. But India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol. Nor does India have a refugee policy or a refugee law of its own.
- The government can declare any set of refugees as illegal immigrants — as has happened with Rohingya despite the UNHCR verification — and decide to deal with them as trespassers under the Foreigners Act or the Indian Passport Act.
- The closest India has come to a refugee policy in recent years is the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which discriminates between refugees based on religion in offering them Indian citizenship.
- Since the Myanmar Army seized power on February 1, there has been an influx of people Into Mizoram.
- In refugee terms, there is no real difference between Rohingya and these new arrivals. Both have fled the Myanmar Army, although in different circumstances. The only difference is that Myanmar accepts one lot as citizens while it rejects Rohingya, who are stateless.
- New Delhi’s response to those seeking shelter in Mizoram and Manipur will be keenly watched by the Rohingya.
- So far, New Delhi’s confusion about this situation in the Northeast has been evident. It directed security forces to stop more people from crossing over, a decision opposed by the Mizoram government.
- In Manipur, a government order asking people not to provide food or shelter to anyone from Myanmar had to be hastily withdrawn after it was widely criticised.
- While the Supreme Court has ordered “deportation” of Rohingya “following all procedures” under the Foreigners Act, this is much more complex than it sounds.
- The bottom line to legal deportation — as opposed to just pushing people back over the border — is that the other country must accept the deportee as its national.
- Over the last four years, all efforts by Bangladesh to persuade Myanmar to take back the Rohingya at Cox’s Bazaar have been unsuccessful. India managed to send back a handful with much difficulty.
- But in terming Rohingya in India as “illegal” (in contrast to calling them refugees in Bangladesh) and pledging to send them back to Myanmar, India is going against the principle of “non-refoulement”, to which it is bound as a signatory to other international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Non-refoulement means no refugee shall be returned in any manner to any country where he or she would be at risk of persecution.
- India made the case at the UN as recently as 2018 that this principle must be guarded against dilution, and also argued against raising the bar for granting of refugee status, saying this leaves out a lot of people “pushing them into greater vulnerability”.
- How India deals with refugees from different countries differently is also evident in the case of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, many of them in camps in Tamil Nadu.
- The state government provides them an allowance and allows them to seek jobs, and their children to attend school.
- After the end of the Sri Lanka civil war in 2009, India has encouraged return through the method of voluntary repatriation — they decide for themselves in consultation with an agency like the UNHCR, if the situation back home is safe. This method adheres to the principle of non-refoulement.
- UNHCR says it is its priority “to create an enabling environment for voluntary repatriation… and to mobilize support for returnees.” Which means it requires the “full commitment of the country of origin to help reintegrate its own people”.
- Myanmar is right now far from the point where Rohingya or pro-democracy activists would want to voluntarily return home.
- NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter, which was sent to Mars strapped to the Perseverance rover, will take its first experimental flight on the Red Planet on or after April 14.
- NASA had unlocked the rotor blades of its Ingenuity helicopter, thereby allowing them to spin freely, on April 7. If things go as planned, Ingenuity, a 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft, will become the first helicopter to fly on another planet.
- The helicopter was carried along with the Perseverance rover last year on July 30 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and landed at the Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18 this year.
What is the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter?
- The helicopter’s mission is experimental in nature and completely independent of the rover’s science mission – which is searching for signs of ancient life and collecting samples of rock and sediment in tubes for potential return to Earth by later missions.
- Ingenuity is able to fly using counter-rotating blades that spin at about 2,400 rpm. It has a wireless communication system, and is equipped with computers, navigation sensors, and two cameras. It is solar-powered, able to charge on its own.
- According to NASA, the helicopter was placed on the Martian surface to test — for the first time ever — powered flight in the planet’s thin air.
- Its performance during these experimental test flights will help inform decisions about small helicopters for future Mars missions — where they can perform a support role as robotic scouts, surveying terrain from above, or as full standalone science craft carrying instrument payloads.
- Taking to the air would give scientists a new perspective on a region’s geology and even allow them to peer into areas that are too steep or slippery to send a rover, a NASA fact sheet said. In the distant future, they might even help astronauts explore Mars.
- NASA will try and demonstrate rotorcraft flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars with this helicopter, which is why the mission is so crucial.
Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana
- Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) has completed six years. It is a scheme under which loans of upto 10 Lakh rupees are provided to the non-corporate, non-farm, small and micro enterprises.
- PMMY was launched on 8th April 2015. In these years, More than 28 crore 68 lakh loans have been sanctioned.
- The amount of these loans is around 15 lakh crore rupees with about 52,000 rupees being the average ticket size of the loans.
- Finance Ministry has said that under this scheme almost 24 percent of loans have been given to New entrepreneurs, about 68 percent of loans have been given to women entrepreneurs and about 51 percent of loans have been given to SC, ST and OBC borrowers.
- Ministry of Labour and Employment has said that this yojana has helped in generation of 1 crore 12 lakh net additional employment from 2015 to 2018.
- Women have accounted for 62 percent of this estimated increase in employment.
- As part of Indo-Danish bilateral Green strategic partnership, India is all set to take a giant leap towards building a world class innovation ecosystem as Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of India’s premier policy think tank NITI Aayog and Embassy of Denmark to India officially announced their collaboration.
- Under this ambitious partnership,Innovation Center Denmark in India will collaborate with AIM to support various current and future initiatives of AIM, NITI Aayog and its beneficiaries in India as well as develop global innovation Green economy partnerships addressing SDG goals.
- A Statement of Intent (SoI) was signed between AIM, NITI Aayog and Embassy of Denmark to India here at NITI Aayog premises.
- The purpose of SoI is to jointly work towards promoting innovation and entrepreneurship amongst the aspiring entrepreneurs.
- The partnership would be executed through Innovation Center Denmark (ICDK) under the aegis of Embassy of Denmark.
- Meanwhile, as part of the SoI, The Collaboration between AIM and Embassy of Denmark in India will help Indian innovators access Danish technical expertise and allow Danish Innovators to work on India specific solutions.
- AIM-ICDK shall also explore various areas of collaboration such as AIM-Denmark school students innovation exchange and co-innovation development, hosting Indo-Denmark innovation challenges, facilitating startup-incubator collaborations and exchanges, and promotion of startup and entrepreneurship events and competitions through the networks and channels of both parties.
- AIM and ICDK have previously collaborated to host AIM-ICDK Water challenge and the SoI between the two would pave the way for such future collaborations that allow innovation exchanges between two countries.