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Current Affairs – 21 December 2020

Protection of Mahanadi floodplain

In News

  • The National Green Tribunal has constituted a high level committee to identify floodplain zones/active floodplain zone from the edge of the Mahanadi river — in wake of State government reclaiming 424 acres of land from the river for development projects.
  • The tribunal has directed the committee to consider the issue and laid down norms so as to ensure that the proposal of the State for construction of the medical college and river front development takes place in accordance with law, without damage to the floodplains of the rivers.

Why this step?

  • Mahanadi riverbed was slated to be affected by setting up of a Medical College and other permanent constructions in the floodplain of the river.
  • Encroachment of Kathajodi and Mahanadi rivers and construction in floodplain area may adversely affect the riverine ecology.
  • There is a need to prevent irreversible damage to the riverine ecology by enforcing the applicable rules, if any.
  • There is no central legislation to regulate the flood plains, except an October 2016 notification issued by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, with respect to Ganga river, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, prohibiting any construction in the active floodplain area of river Ganga or its tributaries.

Other Examples

  • The Water Resources Ministry circulated a model Bill on the subject in 1975 but the same did not fructify into law.
  • There are some State Acts like Manipur Flood Zoning Act, 1978 and the Uttarakhand Flood Plain Zoning Act, 2012.
  • The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 prohibit any permanent constructions within 50 meters of the Wetlands, from the mean high flood level in the past 10 years from the commencement of the rules.
  • In Maharashtra, there are norms for demarcating regulatory and prohibitory zones in the floodplains of the rivers. There are also similar restrictions in certain Master Plans like the Revised Master Plan of Bangalore restricting constructions in catchment area of the lakes.

 

Laying the foundation for faster growth

In News

  • The year 2020 is the first economic crisis that has been triggered by a noneconomic factor that is pandemic COVID-19, which has literally brought the economy to a halt.
  • The major step taken in this light was lockdown, which have impacted the economy severely.

Performance in 2020-21

  • In Q1, the economy declined by 23.9%; it declined by 7.5% in Q2, when the relaxations were eased.
  • Reductions in the first half of GDP at 2011-12 prices in 2020-21 as compared to the first half of 2019-20 is Rs. 11,15,879 crore which is 7.66% of the 2019-20 GDP.
  • There are many indicators such as collection of Goods and Services Tax (GST), improved output of coal, steel and cement and positive growth in manufacturing in October 2020 which point to better performance of the private sector.
  • Of course, some segments of the economy such as the hospitality sector will take time to recover.
  • Thus on the whole, it looks that the setback to the economy can be limited to minus 6% to minus 7%. Of course, this is a substantial improvement over the forecasts of some agencies such as the International Monetary Fund which had estimated the economy to decline by 10.3%.

What to expect in 2021-22?

  • It is important to remember that if only if the Indian economy grows at 8% in 2021-22 will we be compensating for the decline in 2020-21.
  • With this strong growth, Indian economy will only be back to where it was at the end of 2019-20. The two years taken together cancel each other.
  • This should be possible if by that time restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 are withdrawn and the nation goes back to a normal state.
  • Some sectors can act as lead sectors or engines of growth.This is where increased government capital expenditures become relevant.
  • The private sector seems to be revising its future prospects and many new issues in the capital market have met with good response. The global environment for trade and growth is an uncertain factor.
  • Vaccines may ultimately provide a solution, this may take time.
  • However, much of Indian’s growth must rest on domestic factors. Growth must not only be consumption driven but also investment driven. It is the latter which in a developing economy can sustain growth over a long period.

Monetary policy

  • Three major elements in the policy are: a reduction in interest rate through changes in policy rate; providing liquidity through various measures, and regulatory changes such as moratorium. There has been a substantial injection of liquidity into the system and inflation may remain high.

Fiscal Policy

  • Government capital expenditures should be speeded up from now on so that the contraction in the current fiscal year as a whole can be reduced.
  • A detailed investment plan of the government and public sector enterprises must be drawn up and presented as part of the coming Budget.

Growth and investment

  • Corporate tax rate changes may help in augmenting investment.
  • The National Infrastructure Pipeline is a good initiative.
  • Reforms are important in the context of rapid development. Recent controversies over reform shave shown that timing, sequencing and consensus building are equally important. Labour reforms, for example, are best introduced when the economy is on the upswing.

Conclusion

  • Many have cherished the idea of India reaching the status of a $5 trillion economy by 2025. But increasingly the idea is becoming a more distant goal. The Indian economy in 2019 was at around $2.7 trillion. To achieve the level of $5 trillion, we need to grow continuously at 9% for six years from now.
  • That is the challenge before the economy. Jobs and employment will come from growth. They are not independent of growth.

 

Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill, 2020

In News

  • The Maharashtra government presented a draft bill making changes to existing laws on violence against women and children.
  • The Bill, proposed to be enacted as Shakti Act, 2020, has provisions for enhancing punishment including death penalty for rape, fine up to Rs 10 lakh on perpetrators of violence, faster investigations and quicker disposal of cases.

Reason

  • In order to effectively control the heinous sexual offences against women and children, it is necessary to complete the investigation and the trial of these cases within a time frame, which may deter the perpetrators from committing such offences.
  • Stringent punishment, including heavy fines and death penalty, needs to be prescribed.

Which laws are proposed to be amended?

  • It proposes to make changes to the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Actin existing sections of rape, sexual harassment, acid attack and child sexual abuse.
  • The Bill proposes death penalty in cases of rape, gangrape, rape by persons in authority, aggravated sexual assault of minors and in cases of acid attack when grievous injury is caused.
  • The death penalty is proposed “in cases which are heinous in nature and where adequate conclusive evidence is available and circumstances warrant exemplary punishment”.
    • In several offences of rape of adult women or under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the perpetrators of the crime are family members. If the offence is made punishable with death, many victims may not find support from their families, which will result in the offence going unreported.
    • It would endanger the lives of victims as seen in some cases in which the offenders have killed the rape victim if murder and rape both attract the same punishment.
    • Death penalty reduces both the reporting of sexual offences and of conviction rates.
  • The Bill also proposes to add a heavy fine amount of up to Rs 10 lakh on those found guilty. In cases of acid attacks, a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh is proposed.
  • The Bill also directs for an investigation in these cases to be completed within 15 days after an FIR is filed, extendable only by seven days. If it is not done within this time, the investigating officer will have to explain the reasons in a written report to the commissioner of police or special inspector general.
  • The Bill also states that a trial has to be completed within 30 days after the chargesheet is filed against an accused. An appeal filed before a higher court is proposed to be disposed of within 45 days.
    • This time-frame will not be sufficient for gathering all evidence — and will become an excuse for police to not conduct a proper investigation.
    • Also, a hurried investigation and trial, they said, is likely to lead to miscarriage of justice.
  • The Bill proposes setting up exclusive courts for this purpose.
  • Section 354E is added to include intentional acts creating “a sense of danger, intimidation, fear to a woman” apart from insulting her modesty by any act, deed or words including offensive communication will be an offence with a maximum punishment of two years and a Rs 1 lakh fine.
  • This also includes uploading morphed videos of women or threatening them with uploading of photos, videos which could defame, cause disrepute to them or violate their privacy.
  • The Bill also makes it mandatory for Internet, telephone providers and social media platforms to share electronic records, data for probes in cases of sexual violence against women and children within seven days or a punishment of simple imprisonment for one month and fine up to Rs 5 lakh can be imposed.

Provisions for “false” information and “implied consent”

  • Anyone who does that “solely with the intention to humiliate, extort or threaten or defame or harass” a person shall face imprisonment for a term up to one year or fine or both.
  • The Bill also proposes to add an explanation to Section 375 (rape) of the IPC. “Rape committed in circumstance including but not limited to some form of assurance including promise of marriage or understanding between the parties, where they are consenting adults, and from conduct it appears that act has been committed with consent or ‘implied consent’ may be presumed that valid consent is given.” The existing law does not have a blanket assumption of consent being implied in such cases.
    • This “perpetuates the patriarchal notions of viewing women with suspicion, as unworthy of being believed” — and will deter victims from reporting sexual offences.

Other provisions

  • Setting up of a “Women and Children Offenders Registry” linked to the National Registry of Sexual Offenders and will be made available to law enforcement agencies with details of persons convicted of specified offences of sexual violence against women and children.
  • A separate police team will also be set up in each district to probe such cases.
  • Government will set up institutions like the One Stop Centre for providing victims rehabilitation, legal aid, counselling, medical support. Many of these are already proposed under various schemes like Manodhairya in the state.

 

Coastal radar network

In News

  • India’s efforts are in advanced stages to set up coastal radar stations in Indian Ocean littoral states like Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh to further expand the coastal radar chain network which will enable real time monitoring of the high seas for threats.
  • Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already been integrated into the country’s coastal radar chain network.
  • The Indian Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC), Gurugram, is the nodal agency for maritime data fusion.
  • As part of information exchange regarding traffic on the high seas, the Navy concludes white shipping agreements with 36 countries and three multilateral constructs. So far agreements have been concluded with 22 countries and one multilateral construct. Of these, 17 agreements and the one multilateral construct have been operationalised.
  • Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFCIOR) which promotes Maritime Domain Awareness, three more International Liaison Officers (ILO) are expected to join soon.
  • The ILOs from France, Japan and the U.S. have joined the centre.
  • Under Phase-I of the coastal radar chain network, 46 coastal radar stations have been set up across the country’s coastline. Under Phase-II of the project, which is currently under way, 38 static radar stations and four mobile radar stations are being set up by the Coast Guard and is in advanced stage of completion.

Significance

  • The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values. It is necessary to counter the Rise in maritime piracy in the region.
  • IFR-IRO would ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

IFC- IOR

  • The IFC-IOR was established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
  • The IFC has been established at IMAC, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.