CURRENT AFFAIRS – 12/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 12/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 12/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 12/03/2024

Test flight of Agni-5with MIRV successful

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a significant achievement in India’s nuclear weapons program, revealing the successful test firing of the Agni-V ballistic missile equipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.

  • This breakthrough enhances redundancy and strategic capabilities, marking a milestone for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Key Highlights

  • Mission Divyastra:
    • The test, named Mission Divyastra, was conducted at Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha.
    • DRDO stated that various telemetry and radar stations meticulously tracked and monitored multiple re-entry vehicles during the mission, which successfully achieved the designed parameters.
    • Notably, the project director for Mission Divyastra is a woman, emphasizing the significant contribution of women in this technological achievement.

In Image: DRDO conducts the first successful flight test of Agni-5 missile.

  • MIRV Technology Overview:
    • MIRV technology allows a single missile to carry multiple warheads, enabling precise deployment at different locations.
    • This technological advancement adds a layer of sophistication to India’s missile capabilities, showcasing the country’s growing technological prowess in the global arena.
    • MIRV-equipped system features indigenous avionics systems and high-accuracy sensor packages.
    • These components ensure that the re-entry vehicles reach their designated target points with exceptional accuracy, underlining the system’s reliability and effectiveness.
  • Agni-V Background:
    • Agni-V, India’s longest-range ballistic missile with a range exceeding 5000 kms, had its maiden flight test in April 2012.
    • Since then, it has undergone multiple successful tests and has been canistered, enhancing ease of handling and operation.
    • The missile utilizes a three-stage solid-fueled engine, capable of striking targets at distances exceeding 5000 kms, covering most parts of China.
  • Strategic Significance:
    • The successful integration of MIRV technology into the Agni-V ballistic missile significantly enhances India’s strategic capabilities, allowing for more versatile and effective deployment of warheads.
    • This achievement positions India as a formidable force in the realm of missile technology, with the potential to impact regional and global security dynamics.
    • India’s struggle to demonstrate a credible capability against China’s distant eastern seaboard targets is mitigated by the Agni-5 with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs).
    • The test is seen as a significant step in India’s pursuit of maintaining a minimum credible deterrence.
  • Agni Series and Nuclear Triad:
    • The Agni series of missiles, comprising a significant part of India’s nuclear weapons delivery system, serves as the backbone of its strategic arsenal.
    • This arsenal also includes Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles and fighter aircraft.
    • India has achieved a crucial milestone by completing its nuclear triad, operationalizing a second-strike capability with the deployment of indigenously built nuclear ballistic missile submarines, which are now actively undertaking deterrence patrols.
  • Anti-Satellite Capability – Mission Shakti:
    • In March 2019, India demonstrated its Anti-Satellite (ASAT) capability under Mission Shakti.
    • The Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully destroyed a live orbiting satellite in low Earth orbit at around 300 km using a new three-stage interceptor missile in a “Hit to Kill” mode.
    • This showcased India’s advancements in space warfare technology.
  • MIRV Technology:
    • The Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation notes that the U.S. was the first country to develop Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.
    • It deployed a MIRVed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in 1970 and a MIRVed Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) in 1971.
    • The Soviet Union quickly followed suit, developing its own MIRV-enabled ICBM and SLBM technology by the end of the 1970s.
    • China, a significant player in the global nuclear landscape, has also fielded MIRV technology and is actively modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
    • According to the Yearbook 2023 of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China’s nuclear arsenal increased from 350 warheads in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023.
    • The report suggests that, depending on its force structure decisions, China could potentially possess a comparable number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to the U.S. or Russia by the turn of the decade.
  • Regional Dynamics and Arms Race Concerns:
    • The evolving capabilities of India, China, and other major nuclear powers underscore the dynamic nature of regional and global security.
    • As nations advance their missile technologies and expand their arsenals, concerns about the potential for a costly arms race in the region become prominent.
    • The strategic landscape is influenced not only by technological achievements but also by decisions on force structures and global geopolitical considerations.

Understanding Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) Technology

  • Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology is a strategic advancement in ballistic missile systems that allows a single missile to carry multiple warheads, each capable of being independently targeted to hit different locations.
  • MIRVs were developed in the early 1960s to enable a missile to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to distinct targets, enhancing the missile’s effectiveness.
  • The United States was the first country to develop MIRV technology, deploying MIRVed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in 1970 and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) in 1971.
  • Functionality:
    • MIRVs allow for the dispersion of several warheads from a single missile, increasing target damage area and reducing the number of missiles needed for a given level of destruction.
    • These warheads can be released at different speeds and trajectories, making them more challenging to defend against compared to traditional missiles.
  • Countries with MIRV Technology:
    • Currently, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China have deployed MIRV missile systems.
    • Pakistan is developing MIRV systems, while Israel is suspected of possessing or developing them.
  • Strategic Implications:
    • The introduction of MIRV technology led to a significant shift in the strategic balance by enhancing first-strike proficiency and reducing the effectiveness of anti-ballistic missile systems.

About the Agni-V ballistic missiles

  • Agni-V is a long-range ballistic missile developed by the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India.
  • It is part of the Agni series of missiles, which are crucial components of India’s strategic missile development program.
  • Key Features of Agni-V:
    • Type: Agni-V is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), meaning it has a range that exceeds 5,500 kilometers (approximately 3,417 miles).
    • Range: The Agni-V has a reported range of over 5,000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching targets across continents.
    • Payload Capacity: It is designed to carry nuclear or conventional warheads with a reported payload capacity of around 1,500 kilograms.
    • Guidance System: Agni-V is equipped with advanced navigation and guidance systems, including ring laser gyroscope-based inertial navigation system (RINS) and a micro inertial navigation system (MINS).
    • Propulsion: The missile is propelled by a three-stage solid-fuel engine, providing it with the necessary thrust to achieve its extended range.
    • Canister Launch: Agni-V is designed for canister launch, enhancing its mobility and quick response capabilities. The canister launch system also provides better storage and transportation options.
    • MIRV Capability: Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) capability allows Agni-V to carry multiple warheads, each capable of targeting different locations independently.

About India’s missile systems

  • India has developed and maintained an extensive missile program, covering a range of missile systems with varying capabilities.
  • The program is overseen by the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is India’s primary agency responsible for military research and development.
  • Ballistic Missiles:
    • India has developed ballistic missiles like the Agni series (Agni-I to Agni-V), Prithvi series, and Agni-P, with ranges varying from short-range to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
    • These missiles serve strategic purposes and are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, enhancing India’s deterrence capabilities.
  • Cruise Missiles:
    • India has developed cruise missiles like the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, Nirbhay sub-sonic cruise missile, and other variants for land, sea, and air launch platforms.
    • These cruise missiles provide India with precision strike capabilities against both terrestrial and naval targets, further strengthening its offensive capabilities.
  • Anti-Tank Missiles:
    • India has developed anti-tank guided missiles like the Nag, Helina, and Amogha to counter armored threats on the battlefield.
    • These missiles are designed to engage and destroy enemy tanks effectively, enhancing India’s ground warfare capabilities.
  • Air Defense Systems:
    • India has developed air defense systems like the Akash missile system, Astra missile for air-to-air engagements, and surface-to-air missile systems for protecting its airspace.
    • These systems play a crucial role in safeguarding Indian airspace from aerial threats and enhancing its overall defense posture.
  • Missile Defense Systems:
    • India has invested in missile defense systems like the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program, which includes the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) system and Advanced Air Defence (AAD) system.
    • These systems are designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles at different altitudes, providing a layered defense against missile threats.

Centre notifies CAA rules ahead of polls

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on March 11, 2024, notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2024, facilitating the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enacted by the Parliament in 2019.

Key Highlights

  • The legislation, passed on December 11, 2019, and receiving assent from the President on December 12 the same year, aims to grant citizenship to undocumented individuals from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian, and Jain communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
  • However, the rules specify that applicants must provide six types of documents, including proof of their “date of entry” into India.
  • Although the Act was slated to come into force from January 10, 2020, its implementation was delayed due to the absence of framed rules.
  • Permissible Documents and Eligibility Certificate:
    • The list of acceptable documents for applicants includes birth certificates, tenancy records, identity papers, licenses, and school or educational certificates issued by government authorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
    • Additionally, an “eligibility certificate” from a “locally reputed community institution” confirming the applicant’s affiliation with the Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist/Jain/Parsi/Christian community is required.
  • Online Registration and Processing:
    • To streamline the application process, applicants are required to register on the portal
    • A dedicated mobile application, CAA-2019, has been developed for this purpose.
    • All necessary documents, along with photographs, must be uploaded online.
    • Subsequent to a background check by security agencies, the applications will be processed.
    • The plea for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be conducted online, streamlining the application process.
    • An empowered committee, facilitated by a district-level committee, will meticulously scrutinize all applications to ensure transparency and adherence to the specified criteria.
    • Empowered Committee Composition:
      • Each State will have an empowered committee, headed by the Director (Census Operations), and will include officers from various departments such as the Intelligence Bureau, Post Master General, State or National Informatics Centre.
      • Additionally, representatives from the Department of Home and Divisional Railway Manager will be invited to contribute their expertise to the committee’s evaluation process.
    • District-Level Committee Responsibilities:
      • The district-level committee, headed by the Senior Superintendent or Superintendent of Post, will play a crucial role in the application process.
      • This committee is tasked with overseeing the scrutiny of applications at the local level, ensuring a thorough examination of each case.
    • Documentary Requirements:
      • Applicants are required to submit evidence of their parents’ date of birth, including a copy of their passport or birth certificate.
      • In cases where these documents are unavailable, the birth certificate of the applicant, clearly indicating the name, address, and nationality of the parents, should be provided.
      • To prove entry into India before the CAA cut-off date of December 31, 2014, additional documents such as passport copies, visas, Census enumerator-issued slips, PAN cards, electricity bills, and insurance policies are mandated.
      • These documents, even beyond their validity period, are admissible if issued by an Indian authority.
    • Exemptions Under CAA:
      • The Citizenship Amendment Act exempts members of the specified six communities from criminal cases under the Foreigners Act, 1946, and Passport Act, 1920.
      • These acts pertain to punishment for illegal entry into the country and overstaying on expired visas and permits.
    • In-Person Appearance and Oath of Allegiance:
      • Applicants must appear in person to subscribe to the application and take an oath of allegiance.
      • Failure to do so may result in the district-level committee recommending refusal of the application, emphasizing the importance of personal commitment in the citizenship acquisition process.
    • Naturalisation Application Process:
      • Applicants seeking naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule are required to submit an affidavit confirming the accuracy of the information provided in the application.
      • Additionally, an affidavit from an Indian citizen, testifying to the character of the applicant, is mandatory.
      • The rules emphasize the importance of a declaration from the applicant, asserting adequate knowledge of one of the languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
        • Adequate knowledge is defined as the ability to speak, read, or write the specified language, ensuring a comprehensive understanding and communication capability.
      • Modes of Acquiring Indian Citizenship:
        • Indian citizenship can be acquired through various modes, including birth, descent, registration, naturalisation, or incorporation of territory.
        • Each mode has specific criteria and procedures, contributing to the diverse ways individuals can become Indian citizens.
      • Exemptions in Northeast and Tribal Areas:
        • Several parts of the northeast region are exempted from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
        • Tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, along with the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Manipur, are exempted from the provisions of the CAA.

About the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is an act that was passed by the Parliament of India in December 2019.
  • It is part of a series of legislative changes related to citizenship and immigration in India.
  • Purpose:
  • The primary objective of the Citizenship Amendment Act is to grant Indian citizenship to specific religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who faced religious persecution in those countries.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • The CAA makes amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955 and specifically addresses individuals belonging to six religious communities: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians.
    • The eligibility criteria include being from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan and having entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • Citizenship and NRC:
    • The CAA is often linked with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a process aimed at identifying and verifying Indian citizens.
    • While the CAA provides a path to citizenship for certain individuals, the NRC could potentially lead to the exclusion of individuals unable to prove their citizenship.

About the Sixth Schedule

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • It provides for special provisions for the administration of tribal areas in these states, outlining the powers and functions of autonomous district councils (ADCs) and regional councils.
  • The main objective is to protect the rights and interests of the tribal population in these areas by providing them with a certain degree of autonomy in governance.

About the Eighth Schedule:

  • The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains a list of recognized languages.
  • It initially listed 14 languages, and subsequent amendments have increased the number to 22 languages.
  • These languages are officially recognized by the Constitution and are entitled to representation in the official language commission.
  • The languages included in the Eighth Schedule are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.

About the Citizenship in India

  • Citizenship in India is governed by the provisions laid out in Part II (Articles 5 to 11) of the Constitution.
  • These articles deal with the acquisition and termination of citizenship.
  • Subsequent amendments and the Citizenship Act of 1955 further elaborate on these provisions.
  • Article 5 – Citizenship at the Commencement of the Constitution:
    • Article 5 specifies the categories of people who were to be considered citizens of India at the commencement of the Constitution (26th January 1950).
    • It includes those who had domiciled in the territory of India and either born in India or had Indian parentage.
  • Article 6 – Rights of Citizenship of Certain Persons who have Migrated to India from Pakistan:
    • Article 6 deals with the rights of citizenship for migrants from Pakistan who entered India on or after 19th July 1948 and before 1st March 1949.
    • Such individuals were deemed citizens of India.
  • Article 7 – Rights of Citizenship of Certain Migrants to Pakistan:
    • Article 7 outlines the rights of citizenship for individuals who migrated to Pakistan after 1st March 1947.
    • If such individuals returned to India after the specified date, they needed to register as citizens within a specified period.
  • Article 8 – Rights of Citizenship of Certain Persons of Indian Origin Residing Outside India:
    • Article 8 empowers the Parliament to make provisions regarding the citizenship rights of persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
  • Article 9 – Persons Voluntarily Acquiring Citizenship of a Foreign State not to be Citizens:
    • Article 9 states that any person who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of a foreign state shall not be a citizen of India.
  • Article 10 – Continuance of the Rights of Citizenship:
    • Article 10 allows Parliament to make provisions for the continuance of the rights of citizenship for persons who migrated to India from Pakistan before 19th July 1948.
  • Article 11 – Power of Parliament to Regulate the Right of Citizenship:
    • Article 11 grants the power to Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law.
    • Parliament has enacted the Citizenship Act of 1955, which lays down detailed provisions regarding acquisition, termination, and other aspects of citizenship.
  • Citizenship Act of 1955:
    • The Citizenship Act of 1955 provides comprehensive details on various aspects of citizenship, including citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization, and termination.
    • It has been amended multiple times to address evolving needs and challenges.

Central transfers and the issue of shares of some States

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Hindu

The Sixteenth Finance Commission is confronted with several challenges, along with some prominent issues raised by states, particularly those in southern India.

  • The primary concern revolves around the observed decline in the share of resources allocated to states from the Centre across successive Finance Commissions.

Key Highlights

  • Examining Share Trends:
    • Table 1 illustrates the shares of various groups of states and specific states during the Twelfth to Fifteenth Finance Commissions.
    • Notably, southern states have experienced a consistent decrease in their share, declining from 19.785% to 15.800%.
    • A comparative analysis between these commissions reveals a similar trend for northern and eastern states, while hilly, central, and western states, including Maharashtra, have emerged as ‘gainer states.’

  • Criteria for Horizontal Distribution:
    • The criteria for horizontal distribution play a pivotal role in influencing the allocation of resources.
    • The steady decline in the share of southern states is attributed to specific criteria that have favored other regions.
    • Understanding these criteria is essential to address the ongoing disparities.
  • Impacted States and Comparative Analysis:
    • Southern states, along with their northern and eastern counterparts, have faced diminishing shares over successive Finance Commissions.
    • In contrast, hilly, central, and western states, particularly Maharashtra, have seen an increase in their allocated shares.
    • Identifying the states that have gained or lost is crucial for formulating equitable resource allocation strategies.
  • Addressing the Trend Reversal:
    • To reverse the declining trend in the share of southern states, the Sixteenth Finance Commission needs to carefully assess the criteria influencing horizontal distribution.
    • A comprehensive analysis is required to identify the factors contributing to the observed disparities and formulate effective measures to rectify the imbalance.
  • Focus on Distance Criterion
    • The distribution of tax devolution shares among individual states is influenced by various criteria and their assigned weights by Finance Commissions.
    • The distance criterion, given its significant weight, has been a key determinant in shaping state shares.
    • Evolution of Distance Criterion:
      • Table 2 outlines the criteria used by Finance Commissions from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth, emphasizing the increasing importance of the distance criterion.
      • Its weight has seen a gradual reduction, from 62.5% by the Eleventh Finance Commission to 45% by the Fifteenth Finance Commission.
      • The equalization principle, central to economic and social justice, has been a guiding principle in these distributions.
    • Losses for Southern States:
      • The primary reason behind the decline in shares for southern states is attributed to the income distance criterion.
      • This criterion dictates that states farther from the highest income state receive a higher share.
      • The reduction in weight for the distance criterion has contributed to the losses experienced by the southern states, amounting to 8.055% points between the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Finance Commissions.
    • Gain for Hilly States:
      • Conversely, hilly states have gained, mainly due to the area/forest criterion, although its impact is not explicitly outlined.
      • The overall loss for southern states under the distance criterion is less than the gain attributed to other criteria, resulting in an overall loss of 3.985% points.
    • Impact on Low-Income States:
      • While low-income states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have gained over time due to the distance criterion, they have experienced losses under other criteria.
      • Their overall shares show a loss of 0.970% points and 1.325% points, respectively.
    • Population Controversy:
      • Population, as a criterion, has been a source of controversy, with the shift from using 1971 data to 2011 data by the Fifteenth Finance Commission.
      • The introduction of the demographic change criterion mitigates the impact on states that have shown improvement in reducing fertility rates.
      • Marginal Impact on Tamil Nadu:
        • For Tamil Nadu, the joint impact of the population shift and demographic change criterion has been marginally positive, showcasing the nuanced nature of the criteria’s influence on different states.
      • Proposals for the Sixteenth Finance Commission
        • The decline in state shares, particularly in southern states, has prompted discussions around potential steps to address the issue.
        • While the income distance criterion remains integral, questions arise about its sustainability.
        • Reviewing Weightage of Income Distance Criterion:
          • Acknowledging the significance of the income distance criterion, the article proposes a potential reduction in its weight by the Sixteenth Finance Commission.
          • This step aims to balance the distribution of resources among states while recognizing the importance of the income distance criterion in ensuring fair allocation.
        • Consideration for Other Criteria:
          • To offset the reduction in the weight of the income distance criterion, a corresponding increase in the weights assigned to other criteria can be considered.
          • This approach seeks to maintain a comprehensive set of criteria while addressing the concerns of states experiencing declining shares.
        • Limiting Cesses and Surcharges:
          • A critical aspect influencing state shares is the size of the divisible pool.
          • Proposing a limit of 10% on the Centre’s gross tax revenues for cesses and surcharges aims to preserve the size of the divisible pool.

About the Finance Commission

  • The Finance Commission of India is a constitutional body that plays a crucial role in the fiscal federalism of the country.
  • It is established under Article 280 of the Constitution of India.
  • The Finance Commission is appointed by the President of India, and its primary function is to recommend the distribution of financial resources between the Union (Central Government) and the States, as well as among the States themselves.
  • Composition:
    • Chairperson:
      • The Finance Commission is headed by a Chairperson who is usually a person with expertise in public finance, economics, or financial management.
    • Members:
      • The Commission consists of four additional members, each with expertise in various fields related to finance and economics.
    • Tenure:
      • The members of the Finance Commission are appointed for a specific tenure, as determined by the President.
      • The tenure can be extended if necessary.
    • Functions and Powers:
      • The primary function of the Finance Commission is to recommend the distribution of net proceeds of taxes between the Union and the States and among the States themselves.
      • Grants-in-Aid:
        • The Commission suggests the principles governing the grants-in-aid to be given to the States from the Consolidated Fund of India.
      • Revenue Deficit:
        • The Finance Commission addresses the issue of revenue deficit and formulates measures to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to bridge the gap.
      • Other Matters:
        • The Commission may also be tasked with any other matter related to finance that the President may refer to it.
      • Reports:
        • The Finance Commission submits its reports to the President, and these reports are then laid before both Houses of Parliament.
        • The recommendations made by the Finance Commission are advisory in nature.
      • Recent Finance Commissions:
        • The 15th Finance Commission, headed by N.K. Singh, submitted its report covering the period 2021-2026.

A tribe in the Western Ghats in need of a lifeline

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

Makuta village, situated in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, specifically falls under the MakutaAranyaValaya near the Kerti reserved forest.

  • The area is recognized as part of the Talacauvery sub-cluster, designated as one of the 10 World Heritage Sites in Karnataka, featuring dense tropical evergreen forests.

Key Highlights

  • Forest Rights Claim:
    • In 2021, the Girijan colony of Makuta village, inhabited by the ‘PhaniYerava’ tribe, successfully claimed their land in the forest under the Forest Rights Act.
    • With the assistance of local individuals, the 19 Yerava households asserted their rights over 135 acres of forest land, tracing back to their ancestors.
  • Occupation Shift and Forest Dependency:
    • Despite acquiring forest rights, the Yeravatribals express limited enthusiasm for the forest-dependent lifestyle due to changing circumstances.
    • The reduction in their exclusive dependence on the forest for livelihood is attributed to the challenges associated with collecting minor forest produce.
    • Engaging in activities like selling forest produce has become less lucrative due to market volatility and exploitation by middlemen.
  • Primary Occupation – Daily Labor:
    • The primary occupation of the forest dwellers has shifted towards daily labor, both casual and agricultural.
    • Many prefer to work in Kasaragod, Kerala, located less than 10 kilometers away, where they are comfortable speaking Malayalam.
  • Minor Forest Produce Collection:
    • While the forest dwellers still collect fuelwood, honey, incense (dhoopa/Vateriaindica), and shekakai (soap pod) as minor forest produce, the quantity gathered is influenced by the availability in the forest and immediate needs.
    • However, the majority of the collected forest produce is for personal consumption, with no significant stockpiling.
  • Challenges and Shift in Livelihood:
    • The shift from forest-dependent activities to daily labor is driven by the challenges faced in the forest produce market and a perception that wage-based work is more financially viable for the effort invested.
    • This transition marks a change in the traditional lifestyle of the Yerava tribe in Makuta village.
  • The Grim Challenge of Addiction in Tribal Villages
    • The implementation of the Forest Rights Act has brought about socio-economic changes, but a concerning issue has emerged — widespread addiction to alcohol.
    • Upon visiting tribal communities to assess their socio-economic status post-Forest Rights Act implementation, a distressing scenario was seen— almost the entire community was found to be in an intoxicated state due to alcohol abuse.
    • The habit, acquired in the city by observing other laborers, has permeated the tribal lifestyle, leading to a cascade effect even among adolescent children.
    • This has resulted in a decline in school attendance, adversely affecting the overall well-being of the community.
    • Roots of Addiction:
      • The tribal community, once intimately connected with the forest, has fallen prey to alcohol abuse, and the origin of this habit remains unclear even to the affected individuals.
      • The addictive behavior has transformed their lives into a state of misery, rendering them unaware of external events.
      • As a consequence, important documents like ration cards and Aadhar cards are entrusted to non-tribal members for safekeeping.
    • Government Concerns and Initiatives:
      • Officials from the Department of Social Welfare express deep concern over the deplorable state of the habitants and recognize the need for a de-addiction drive.
      • Efforts are being made to address the pervasive issue and rehabilitate the affected tribal communities.
      • The challenge is not unique to a specific village but is a recurring theme in various tribal settlements across the Western Ghats region.
    • Unnoticed Social Issues:
      • Non-government organization activists and government officials emphasize that such critical social issues often receive insufficient attention in policy matters in the state.
      • Tribal leaders from communities like Hasalaru, Gowdalu, and JenuKurubas stress the need for serious consideration of these social challenges.
      • They assert that only a few numerically dominant tribal communities have been reaping benefits, urging the government to prioritize the well-being of marginalized groups to effectively address existential concerns like addiction.

About the Forest Rights Act

  • The Forest Rights Act, officially known as the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a landmark legislation in India aimed at recognizing and vesting forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling communities, including Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.
  • The Act seeks to address historical injustices, empower local communities, and promote sustainable forest management.
  • Key Objectives:
    • Recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling communities.
    • Provide a framework for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity, and maintenance of ecological balance.
    • Empower local communities by granting them legal rights over forest resources.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • The Act recognizes the rights of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers who have been residing in forests for generations but whose rights were not recorded.
  • Recognition of Rights:
    • The Act recognizes individual and community rights, including rights to cultivate land that is being cultivated, and ownership over minor forest produce.
    • It also recognizes community rights over traditional/community forest resources.
  • Implementation:
    • The implementation of the Forest Rights Act is a state subject, and state governments are responsible for its effective execution.
    • Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) play a crucial role in the process of recognition and vesting of forest rights.
    • The Gram Sabha is required to initiate the process of determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights.
    • It verifies and recommends the claims before they are finally approved.

Why did the top Court reject SBI’s plea?

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

On March 11, the Supreme Court ruled against the State Bank of India’s (SBI) request to extend the deadline for providing details on anonymously purchased electoral bonds and their encashment by political parties.

  • The Court set a new deadline, requiring the SBI to furnish the information to the Election Commission of India (ECI) within 24 hours, by the close of business hours on March 12.
  • This development follows the Supreme Court’s February 15 decision to strike down the electoral bonds scheme.

Key Highlights

  • Background and Verdict:
    • The Supreme Court’s February 15 verdict on the electoral bonds scheme mandated the SBI to provide details of the bonds to the ECI by March 6, 2024.
    • The specified information included the date of purchase, the purchaser’s name, and the denomination of each bond.
    • Additionally, the ECI was directed to publish this information on its official website by March 13, 2024.
    • In response, the SBI filed a plea seeking an extension until June 30, 2024, to submit the required details.
  • Contempt Plea by NGOs:
    • Simultaneously, the Supreme Court was addressing a contempt plea filed by NGOs — Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause — against SBI Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khera.
    • The plea alleged that the bank was deliberately attempting to withhold information about donors and anonymously contributed amounts to political parties, preventing disclosure before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May.
    • The analysis indicates that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the primary beneficiary of the electoral bonds scheme.
  • SBI Cites Challenges in Electoral Bonds Disclosure
    • The State Bank of India (SBI) sought an extension till June 30, 2024, to furnish details on purchased electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
    • The bank cited complex challenges in retrieving and decoding scattered information related to the bonds, asserting that decoding these details was a time-consuming exercise.
    • In a nine-page application filed on March 4, the SBI explained the intricacies involved in gathering the necessary information.
    • The data, distributed across various branches, was not maintained centrally.
    • The bank revealed that details about bond issuance and redemption were intentionally stored in separate silos to safeguard donor anonymity.
    • Donor information was securely kept in sealed covers at designated branches and later deposited at the main branch in Mumbai.
    • Retrieving information from these independent silos and aligning them posed a significant time-consuming challenge.
    • While certain details like the number of bonds issued are stored digitally, others, including purchaser names and Know Your Customer (KYC) documentation, are physically stored across branches.
    • This dual storage approach aimed to achieve the objectives of the electoral bonds scheme.
    • Decoding 22,217 Electoral Bonds:
      • The SBI outlined the scale of the task, indicating the need to decode 22,217 electoral bonds issued between April 12, 2019, and February 15, 2024.
      • This decoding process involves compiling and comparing 44,434 information sets, as details of bond buyers and recipients were segregated into two distinct information silos.
    • Contentions of the Contempt Plea:
      • The contempt plea filed against the State Bank of India (SBI) accused the bank of intentionally obstructing the disclosure of anonymous contributions to political parties ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
      • The plea highlighted a stark contradiction between the bank’s stance and a Union government affidavit filed on March 15, 2019.
      • The government affidavit asserted that information about electoral bonds was readily traceable and quickly accessible.
      • Secret Number-Based Records:
        • The petitioners contended that the SBI maintained a clandestine number-based record of donors purchasing bonds and the corresponding political parties receiving the contributions.
        • Each electoral bond, they claimed, possessed a unique number, simplifying the tracing process.
        • The petitioners argued that a straightforward database query could generate a report without requiring manual verification.
      • Manpower and Database Capabilities:
        • The contempt plea emphasized the substantial manpower and expansive database capabilities of the SBI.
        • With 2,60,000 employees and a vast network of branches worldwide, including 101 zonal offices and 208 foreign offices in 36 countries, the petitioners found it implausible that the bank could not gather the necessary information within the specified deadline.
        • They asserted that Section (4) of Clause 7 of the electoral bonds scheme mandated the disclosure of information when demanded by a competent court, making it inconceivable that the SBI lacked readily available recorded information in its database.
      • Branches and Political Parties’ Participation:
        • The plea highlighted that only 19 out of the 29 authorized SBI branches sold electoral bonds, and merely 14 branches encashed them.
        • Additionally, data as of January 2024 showed that only 25 political parties had opened accounts eligible for encashing electoral bonds.
        • The petitioners asserted that compiling this information should not be challenging, given the existing system.
      • Top Court’s Response:
        • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) pointed out that the court’s judgment did not mandate the bank to “match” information to identify donors and parties.
        • Instead, the court sought a “plain disclosure” of information.
        • The CJI emphasized that the SBI’s own application acknowledged that such information was readily available.

What is contempt of court?

  • Contempt of court refers to any deliberate disobedience, disregard, or disrespect towards the authority, integrity, or dignity of a court or interference with the judicial process.
  • Contempt can take various forms, including disobedience of court orders, disrespectful behavior towards the court, or any act that interferes with the administration of justice.
  • In India, the power of the courts to punish for contempt is derived from Article 129 and Article 215 of the Constitution, which confer inherent powers on the Supreme Court and High Courts, respectively, to punish for contempt of court.
    • The power to punish for contempt is considered essential to maintain the authority and dignity of the judiciary.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Article 129 – Supreme Court:
      • Article 129 empowers the Supreme Court of India to punish contempt of itself.
      • It states: “The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.”
    • Article 215 – High Courts:
      • Article 215 confers similar powers on the High Courts:
      • “Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court, including the power to punish for contempt of itself.”
    • Contempt of Court Act, 1971:
      • While the constitutional provisions provide the broad framework for contempt powers, the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, is a statutory enactment that further defines and regulates the power of courts to punish for contempt.
      • The Act distinguishes between civil contempt (willful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or other processes of a court) and criminal contempt (publication of any matter or doing any other act that scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court).
    • Types of Contempt:
      • Civil Contempt:
        • In civil contempt, the contemnor willfully disobeys a court order or fails to comply with court directives.
      • Criminal Contempt:
        • Criminal contempt involves acts that scandalize or tend to scandalize the authority of the court, interfere with the administration of justice, or show disrespect to the court.
      • Punishment for Contempt:
        • The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, empowers the courts to impose penalties for contempt, including imprisonment or a fine. The punishment varies based on the nature and gravity of the contemptuous act.
      • Contempt Jurisdiction:
      • Contempt proceedings can be initiated either suomotu (on the court’s own motion) or based on a petition filed by an aggrieved party or the Attorney General.