CURRENT AFFAIRS – 14/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 14/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 14/02/2024

Farmers protest 2.0: How the current protest differs from the 2020-21 edition?

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Indian Express

On 13th February, at the Punjab-Haryana (Shambhu) border, farmers involved in the ongoing protest began removing barricades.

  • In response, Haryana police fired tear gas to disperse the protestors, and prior to this, several farmers were detained, and their vehicles were seized at the border.
  • The protests, known as the ‘DilliChalo’ march, commenced amid heavy security.

Key Highlights

  • Following a second round of meetings between farmer union leaders and Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Arjun Munda recently, a stalemate was reached.
    • Despite the impasse, farmer leaders decided to continue their march towards Delhi.
  • Differences from Previous Agitation (2020-21):
    • The ongoing protest in 2024 differs significantly from the yearlong agitation in 2020-21, where farmers successfully compelled the central government to roll back its agricultural reforms agenda.
    • Protest Details:
      • Over 250 farmers’ unions, organized under the KisanMazdoorMorcha (KMM) and the non-political SamyuktaKisanMorcha, with a combined claim of about 100 and 150 unions, respectively, are leading the protest coordinated from Punjab.
      • The call for “Delhi Chalo” was given in December 2023, with the aim of reminding Prime Minister Narendra Modi of promises made to farmers two years prior.
      • The central government has expressed openness to talks and maintains an “open mind” regarding the farmers’ demands.
    • Are the leaders of 2020-21 active again?
      • The leaders from the 2020-21 farmers’ agitation are not actively involved in the current protests.
      • The SamyuktaKisanMorcha (SKM), which led the 2020-21 agitation, is not participating in the ongoing protest.
      • Factional Changes:
        • The non-political faction, SamyuktaKisanMorcha (SKM), split in July 2022.
        • The breakaway faction, led by Jagjit Singh Dallewal of BharatiyaKisan Union (BKU) Sidhupur, diverged due to differences with the main SKM leadership.
      • Another organization, KisanMazdoorMorcha (KMM), currently active in the protest, was formed by Sarwan Singh Pandher of KisanMazdoorSangharsh Committee (KMSC).
      • KMM comprises more than 100 unions and was established in January.
      • KMM Background:
        • KMSC did not participate in the 2020-21 protests against the farm laws and set up a separate stage at the Delhi border at Kundli.
        • After the 2020-21 protests, KMSC expanded its base and announced the formation of KMM.
      • SKM’s Position:
        • SKM, the flagship body of over 500 farmer unions, is not part of the ongoing protest.
        • In Punjab, 37 farm unions, including the significant BKU Ugrahan, are part of SKM.
        • SKM has called for a Grameen Bharat bandh on February 16 but is not directly involved in the ‘Delhi Chalo’ agitation.
        • SKM issued a statement advocating against the repression of participating farmers, and BKU Ugrahan criticized the Haryana government’s attempts to halt the march.
      • Key Demands in the 12-Point Agenda:
        • MSP Guarantee and Price Determination: The primary demand is the enactment of a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops, aligning with the recommendations of the Dr M S Swaminathan Commission’s report.
        • Debt Waiver: Farmers and laborers are seeking a full debt waiver.
        • Land Acquisition Act (2013): Implementation of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is demanded, with provisions requiring written consent from farmers before land acquisition and compensation set at four times the collector rate.
        • Justice for LakhimpurKheri Killings: Perpetrators of the October 2021 LakhimpurKheri killings should face punishment.
        • Withdrawal from WTO and Free Trade Agreements: The demand includes India’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a freeze on all free trade agreements.
        • Pensions: Farmers and farm laborers are calling for pensions.
        • Compensation for Delhi Protest Deaths: Compensation is sought for farmers who lost their lives during the Delhi protest, along with job opportunities for one family member.
        • Scrap Electricity Amendment Bill 2020: The demand is to annul the Electricity Amendment Bill of 2020.
        • MGNREGA Reforms: Increase the employment period under MGNREGA to 200 days annually, with a daily wage of Rs 700, and establish a link with farming.
        • Regulation on Fake Seeds and Pesticides: Strict penalties and fines for companies producing fake seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers, along with improvements in seed quality.
        • National Commission for Spices: Formation of a national commission for spices like chili and turmeric.
        • Indigenous Rights: Ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples over water, forests, and land.
      • Security Measures and Border Sealing:
        • On February 8, as talks were ongoing, the Haryana government started sealing its borders with Punjab.
        • A massive 12-layer barricade was erected at the Shambhu Barrier on National Highway 1, leading to Delhi.
        • Multiple barricades were set up at various locations like Fatehabad, Khanauri, and Dabwali.
        • Internet shutdowns were reported in several districts.
        • On February 11, Rajasthan also sealed its borders with Punjab and Haryana, imposing Section 144 CrPC in Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts.
        • Haryana’s security measures are notably tighter compared to the 2020 protests when farmers broke through barricades on November 26.
        • Farmers riding tractor-trolleys are reportedly accompanied by cranes and other equipment to overcome the erected barricades.

Jail and bail under the UAPA

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Indian Express

A person named Singh was arrested for hanging banners with pro-Khalistan messages and is accused of being part of a larger conspiracy with Sikhs for Justice, a pro-Khalistan group banned by the Indian government.

  • The arrest raises questions about bail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terrorism law in India.
  • Singh’s case involves Section 43D (5) of the UAPA, which sets a higher bar for granting bail for offenses punishable under Chapters IV and VI of the Act.

Key Highlights

  • Legal Provision – Section 43D (5) UAPA:
    • Section 43D (5) stipulates that a person accused under Chapters IV and VI of the UAPA shall not be released on bail unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to be heard.
    • The provision adds that the accused person cannot be released on bail if the court, after reviewing the case diary or the police report, finds reasonable grounds to believe that the accusations are prima facie true.
  • Challenges and Denial of Bail:
    • Courts have interpreted Section 43D (5) as shifting the onus onto the accused to demonstrate that it is unreasonable to believe the accusations are prima facie true.
    • Despite some cases where bail has been granted, courts generally deny bail under UAPA due to the higher threshold set by this provision.
    • This provision challenges the traditional principle of criminal law that presumes a person innocent until proven guilty, as it places the burden on the accused to prove the unreasonableness of the accusations.
  • Supreme Court’s Impact on UAPA Bail Proceedings
    • In 2019, the Supreme Court, led by Justice A M Khanwilkar in a two-judge bench, delivered a significant ruling in the case of Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali v NIA, which had far-reaching implications for bail proceedings under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
    • The Supreme Court emphasized that when considering bail applications under UAPA, courts should not examine the evidence but accept it at face value.
    • The court asserted that its role is limited to recording a finding based on broad probabilities regarding the accused’s involvement in the stated offense, without delving into the evidence.
    • Burden on the Accused:
      • The Watali judgment established that once charges are framed, an accused faces the arduous task of convincing the court that, despite the framing of charges, the materials presented do not establish reasonable grounds for believing the accusations are prima facie true.
    • Challenges in Bail Arguments:
      • Legal scholars, such as Gautam Bhatia, have noted the severe challenges for defense lawyers in UAPA cases when arguing for bail.
      • The judgment significantly restricted the materials that courts can consider during UAPA bail hearings, adding further constraints to the defense’s ability to challenge the prosecution’s case.
    • Post-Watali Impact on UAPA Bail Proceedings
      • The Watali judgment, by limiting the critical examination of the prosecution’s case during bail proceedings, has raised concerns about the potential infringement on individual liberty.
    • However, despite the constraints imposed by Watali, courts have granted bail in several cases, including some high-profile ones.
      • In 2021, the Delhi High Court granted bail to three student activists – Asif Iqbal Tanha, DevanganaKalita, and Natasha Narwal – involved in the anti-CAA protests in North East Delhi.
      • The Delhi HC applied the Watali precedent but placed the burden on the police to establish a prima facie case, emphasizing specific, individual charges rather than broad speculations and inferences.
      • The court expressed skepticism about the prosecution’s case, noting that the mere use of alarming language in the charge-sheet is insufficient.
      • Supreme Court Intervention:
        • The Supreme Court intervened by staying the Delhi High Court’s ruling, indicating a potential conflict or differing interpretations regarding the application of the Watali precedent.
      • Similarly, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Dalit rights activist AnandTeltumbde, emphasizing that the prosecution needs to establish a nexus and a specific overt act linking Teltumbde to the crime.
        • The Supreme Court dismissed the state’s appeal against the Bombay High Court’s ruling, indicating varying judicial interpretations regarding the scrutiny of evidence in UAPA bail cases.
      • In Union of India vs KA Najeeb, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, led by then CJI N V Ramana, allowed bail under UAPA, considering the significant period of incarceration.
        • Recognizing bail under UAPA as an exception, the decision highlighted the need to balance it with the right to a speedy trial.
      • In Vernon Gonsalves v State of Maharashtra, a different two-judge bench, comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia, differed with the Watali ruling regarding the “prima facie true” test.
        • The Gonsalves decision stated that the prima facie test requires a surface-analysis of probative value of the evidence, emphasizing the need for a qualitative assessment of evidence at the bail stage.
        • The bench granted bail to Gonsalves, offering a distinct interpretation from Watali.
      • Potential Legal Conflict and Need for Clarity:
        • Both Watali and Gonsalves rulings are by benches of the same strength, leading to potential ambiguity in how future benches may apply the “prima facie true” test.
        • If substantial disagreements persist between different two-judge benches, a larger bench may be required to settle the law and provide clarity on the interpretation of the UAPA bail provisions.

About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is an Indian law aimed at preventing unlawful activities and dealing with terrorist activities.
  • It was enacted in 1967 and has been amended several times, with the most recent amendment being the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019.
  • The UAPA allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists without trial, and it provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities.
  • The Act also empowers the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate cases and seize properties connected with terrorism.
  • The UAPA has been the subject of criticism, with concerns raised about its potential misuse and its impact on fundamental rights.
  • The Act has been used to detain individuals involved in unlawful activities, and it has provisions related to the punishment of criminal conspiracy and support to terrorist organizations.
  • The UAPA is also known as the “Anti-terror law” and has been a topic of debate due to its implications for civil liberties and national security.

Clause in draft India-EFTA pact may hit drug industry

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Hindu

A recently leaked draft of the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) being negotiated between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) reveals a clause that could significantly impede access to affordable, generic versions of patented drugs in India.

  • This clause stipulates that within six months of signing the agreement, signatory countries (Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway) must establish a “specific duration” during which pharmaceutical companies applying for drug approvals would be barred from relying on “undisclosed test data” for at least six years.

Key Highlights

  • Inclusion of ‘Biologics Drugs’ Raises Industry Concerns
    • Furthermore, the TEPA draft extends this restriction not only to ‘new’ chemical drugs but also to a class of drugs known as ‘biologics drugs,’ encompassing monoclonal antibodies and vaccine formulations.
    • These biologics drugs involve complex mixtures of organic and inorganic entities, making them challenging to replicate.
    • This inclusion raises concerns for many Indian biotechnology companies actively engaged in developing biologics drugs.
  • India’s Stance Against Monopoly Rights Faces Threat
    • India has a historical stance against extending monopoly rights over patented drugs, given the success of its generics drug industry.
    • This industry, which is the third-largest globally, produces over 60,000 generic drugs across 60 therapeutic categories, boasting an annual turnover of ₹3.4 lakh crore.
    • The Indian government’s Jan Aushadhi Scheme, providing free drugs to the economically disadvantaged, heavily relies on the affordability achieved by the generics industry.
    • Legal researcher Gopa Kumar of the Third World Network and Medicine Sans Frontiers have independently raised concerns over the potential impact of the TEPA clause.
    • They point out that drugs like bedaquiline, essential for tuberculosis treatment, might face availability challenges due to provisions of data exclusivity within the agreement.
    • These concerns highlight the delicate balance between protecting intellectual property and ensuring access to crucial medications.
  • Intellectual Property (IPR) Concerns a Key Challenge
    • IPR concerns have been a central point of contention in the TEPA negotiations.
    • The complexity of IPR negotiations in the context of pharmaceuticals has been a challenge, with the potential to impact drug accessibility and affordability.
    • The issue at the heart of IPR negotiations involves the exclusive marketing rights granted to inventors or patent filers for 20 years.
    • This exclusivity has often led to essential drugs and medicines becoming unaffordable in various countries, including India.
    • The internationally accepted provision of compulsory licensing in Indian law allows drug makers to reverse-engineer and produce generic versions of a patented drug after just three years, provided there is a compelling case that the drug is necessary and currently unavailable due to its high cost.
    • The complexities of IPR negotiations underscore the delicate balance between protecting intellectual property and ensuring accessibility to essential medications, reflecting the broader challenges faced in international trade agreements.
  • The Rise of ‘Data Exclusivity’ and its Impact on Drug Accessibility
    • The conflict between original drug inventors, often European pharmaceutical giants, and Indian drug manufacturers known for reverse-engineering has led to contentious litigation.
    • With the high cost of drug discovery, pharmaceutical companies seek to extend exclusive rights over their valuable drugs, prompting an emerging approach—’data exclusivity.’
    • This concept grants exclusive rights to all data generated during the safety and efficacy testing of a drug, preventing generic drug makers from relying on published clinical trial data to prove the safety and effectiveness of their copy-cat versions.
  • Implications of ‘Data Exclusivity’ on Generic Drug Practices
    • The shift to ‘data exclusivity’ challenges the current practice where generic drug makers produce similar drugs and use published clinical trial data to establish safety and efficacy.
    • This legal change may extend to drugs not patented in India, forcing generic manufacturers to wait out exclusivity periods or repeat expensive clinical trials.
    • The case of Colchicine, a gout medicine, witnessed a 5000% price increase in the United States after one company gained data exclusivity rights, blocking others from manufacturing it.
    • Experts express concern over the impact of data exclusivity on drug accessibility, emphasizing its potential to jeopardize access to essential drugs and delay the approval of generic versions.
    • Over the past two decades, India’s absence of data exclusivity facilitated the affordable entry of new drugs for HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis.
    • Implementing data exclusivity now poses challenges, particularly in the approval of generic versions of newer medicines, potentially affecting public health initiatives and access to critical medications.
    • The rise of data exclusivity is a global trend impacting drug accessibility and patent considerations, prompting scrutiny and concern from experts and advocacy groups.
  • Broader Context of India-EFTA Agreement
    • The India-EFTA text, a comprehensive agreement being negotiated since 2008, aims to enhance investment by EFTA countries in India and reduce tariffs on various exports.
    • The inclusion of provisions related to intellectual property, such as data exclusivity, in this agreement adds a layer of complexity to the ongoing negotiations and raises questions about its potential impact on India’s pharmaceutical landscape and global public health.

About the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA)

  • The Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) being negotiated between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) aims to establish a broad-based trade and investment agreement.
  • The negotiations were officially launched in January 2008 and have seen several rounds of discussions, with the most recent round taking place in November 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The agreement focuses on the reduction of tariffs on high-value goods, market access for agricultural products, and facilitating easier professional mobility.
  • It also includes provisionsrelated to investment promotion, intellectual property rights, and trade and sustainable development.
  • The total trade between the EFTA States and India has been growing steadily, with the combined EFTA-India merchandise trade surpassing USD 6.1 billion in 2022.

What are ‘Biologics Drugs’?

  • Biologics drugs, or biologics, are a class of pharmaceutical products that are derived from living organisms, such as cells or tissues.
  • Unlike traditional chemical drugs, which are typically synthesized through chemical processes, biologics are produced using advanced biotechnological methods.
  • These drugs are often large, complex molecules and may include proteins, antibodies, nucleic acids, or other cellular components.
  • Examples of biologics include monoclonal antibodies, which are used in cancer therapy and autoimmune disease treatment, as well as vaccines, growth factors, and therapeutic proteins.

What is Compulsory Licensing Law?

  • Compulsory licensing is a legal mechanism that allows a government to grant permission to a third party to produce or use a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner.
  • In India, the provision for compulsory licensing is enshrined in the Indian Patents Act, 1970.
  • Under this law, a compulsory license may be issued under certain conditions, including:
    • Non-working of the patent: If the patented invention is not being commercially worked in India, or not being worked to the fullest extent, within three years of the grant of the patent.
    • Reasonable requirements of the public not being met: If the demand for the patented product in India is not being met adequately or on reasonable terms.
    • Exorbitant pricing: If the patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price.
  • The issuance of compulsory licenses aims to strike a balance between protecting the rights of patent holders and ensuring access to essential goods or services for the public, particularly in areas such as healthcare.

What is Data Exclusivity?

  • Data exclusivity refers to a form of intellectual property protection that is separate from patent protection.
  • It involves the exclusive rights granted to the data submitted by a pharmaceutical company to regulatory authorities (such as the Food and Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency) to prove the safety and efficacy of a new drug.
  • During the period of data exclusivity, other companies are generally prohibited from relying on the originator’s data to gain regulatory approval for their generic versions of the same drug.
  • This exclusivity period is designed to encourage innovation by providing a temporary monopoly on the use of the clinical trial data submitted by the original drug developer.
  • It ensures that generic competitors cannot rely on the original research data for a certain period, typically several years.
  • Data exclusivity is distinct from patent protection, as it focuses on the information submitted to regulatory authorities rather than the underlying drug compound.

On the rights of forest-dwellers

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu)

The recent notification of the ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary in Erode district, Tamil Nadu, has sparked concerns among forest-dwellers residing in the vicinity.

  • Residents fear that the notification may pave the way for the denial of their rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA).

Key Highlights

  • Background:
    • The ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary is formed from the North and South Bargur, ThamaraiKarai, Ennamangalam, and Nagalur reserved forests in Anthiyur Taluk.
    • Positioned between the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu and the Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka, the sanctuary holds ecological significance.
  • Exclusion of Tribal Forest Villages:
    • Six tribal forest villages, though excluded from the sanctuary, find themselves in a precarious situation.
    • As these settlements are not classified as revenue villages, the residents face the denial of basic rights and facilities.
    • This exclusion, covering an arbitrary area of 3.42 sq. km, raises concerns about the potential impact on the livelihoods and rights of the forest-dwelling communities.
    • Forest-dwellers in the region are apprehensive that the sanctuary’s notification may signal a violation of their rights under the Forest Rights Act.
    • The Act is designed to recognize and safeguard the rights of tribal and traditional forest-dwelling communities, ensuring their participation in the decision-making processes related to forest resources.
  • Legal Framework:
    • In 1990, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued an order mandating the conversion of all forest villages to revenue villages.
    • The Forest Rights Act (FRA), enacted 18 years ago, also stipulated the conversion of forest villages to revenue villages.
    • However, the actual implementation of these conversion processes has been lacking.
    • The conversion process was intended to record the entirety of the village’s land use, including areas designated for community purposes like schools and health facilities.
    • The recent ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary notification has excluded six tribal forest villages, denying them basic rights and facilities.
    • Additionally, 21 roads totaling 147.1 km have been excluded, raising questions about the necessity of such exclusions.
    • These exclusions appear to challenge legal norms, as there is no legal requirement for roads to be excluded to remain in use.
  • Population and Unrecorded Forest Habitats:
    • As of 2016, Tamil Nadu had 736 forest villages with a recorded population of 23,125, including 7,764 individuals from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities.
    • Nationally, there were 4,526 forest villages with a population of 22 lakh, including 13.3 lakh from ST communities.
    • It is noted that there are likely more unrecorded forest habitations that add to the complexity of the issue.
  • Challenges in FRA Implementation:
    • The notification acknowledges that rights granted under the Tamil Nadu Forest Act 1882 and those conferred under the FRA will continue to be enjoyed by the concerned individuals.
    • However, the challenge lies in the historical underperformance of Tamil Nadu in implementing the FRA effectively, hindering the realization of rights for forest-dwelling communities.
  • Rights Restriction for Cattle-Grazers:
    • The ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary notification imposes restrictions on cattle-grazing activities within the sanctuary, potentially impacting the traditional grazing practices of the Bargur cattle, a native breed to the Bargur forest hills.
    • Despite a revised order by the Madras High Court in March 2022, limiting the ban on cattle grazing to National Parks, Sanctuaries, and Tiger Reserves, Tamil Nadu remains the only state with such a ban.
    • This ban contradicts the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which recognizes grazing rights as community rights regulated by gram sabhas.
  • Extent of Forest Land and Protected Areas in Tamil Nadu:
    • Approximately 20.3% of Tamil Nadu’s land is under notified forests, and around 23.7% constitutes the recorded forest area.
    • The state has 6% of its land designated as Protected Areas, including National Parks, Sanctuaries, and Tiger Reserves.
    • The ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary, spanning 801 sq. km, has now been added to this list.
  • Provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972:
    • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) 1972 governs the notification of Sanctuaries and National Parks.
    • People within Sanctuaries retain their rights unless explicitly prohibited, while in National Parks, no new rights are permitted once the notice of intent is issued.
    • The law mandates the Collector to inquire into the rights of individuals in proposed Sanctuaries or National Parks and decide whether to admit the claims in Sanctuaries and acquire all rights in National Parks.
  • Challenges in Implementation and Legal Framework:
    • Governments have often failed to follow the mandated procedures for inquiries and acquisition of rights, as per the WLPA.
    • Violations of these procedures are routinely condoned by courts, and historical practices rooted in the colonial-era forest bureaucracy continue to influence forest management.
    • Multiple laws, including the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Tamil Nadu Forest Act 1882, the WLPA 1972, the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016, have been established on this colonial foundation, creating complexities in the regulatory landscape.
  • Forest Rights Act (FRA)
    • In the early 2000s, a national outcry emerged after the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) misinterpreted a Supreme Court order, leading to the eviction of encroachers from forest lands.
    • Acknowledging the historical injustice to tribal forest dwellers, the MoEF expressed the need for rectification in 2004.
    • Consequently, the FRA was enacted in 2006 to address the inadequate recognition of forest rights on ancestral lands during the colonial and post-independence periods.
    • The FRA explicitly empowers gram sabhas to determine and recognize forest rights, as well as to protect and preserve forests, wildlife, and biodiversity within their customary and traditional boundaries, including those inside Protected Areas.
    • This marked a significant shift from the Forest Department’s previous control over these responsibilities.
  • Comparison with Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA):
    • As a later law, the FRA supersedes the WLPA.
    • Any provisions in the WLPA conflicting with the FRA are deemed null and void.
    • Consequently, when notifying a Protected Area under the WLPA, the government is required to determine rights under the FRA and seek the consent of the gram sabhas.
    • Violations of the FRA, especially concerning Scheduled Tribes, are also considered crimes under the 2016 amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • Operationalization and Violations:
    • The FRA became operational with the notification of its Rules in January 2008.
    • However, until 2023, the country has continued to acquire Protected Areas, including National Parks and Sanctuaries, totaling 15,605 sq. km, often overlooking the changed legal regime.
    • Tamil Nadu alone has seen the notification of 15 Sanctuaries covering 4,146.7 sq. km, raising concerns about FRA violations and the need for legal adherence.
  • Despite the enactment of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in 2006 to rectify historical injustices and empower local communities, the implementation in Tamil Nadu has been severely limited, raising concerns about the fate of forests, forest-dwellers, and wildlife.
    • As per the 2011 Census, Tamil Nadu had 1,808 revenue villages with numerous habitations accessing 15,826.9 sq. km of forests within revenue boundaries.
    • However, as of September 2023, the state has only recognized and issued individual titles for a meager extent of 38.96 sq. km, constituting a mere 0.25% coverage.
    • The discrepancy between the available forest area within revenue boundaries and the area covered by individual titles highlights a significant implementation gap.
    • While the state reportedly issued 531 community titles, the actual extent of the area covered by these community titles remains undisclosed, adding a layer of mystery to the process.
    • Lack of transparency in reporting the community titles raises questions about accountability and the overall effectiveness of the implementation.
  • National Trend of Defiance:
    • The limited implementation of the FRA in Tamil Nadu mirrors a broader national trend where the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the forest bureaucracy defy established laws, parliamentary mandates, and the aspirations of the people.
    • This pattern, observed across the country, jeopardizes the well-being of forests, forest-dwellers, and wildlife, challenging the intended objectives of the FRA.
    • The statistics underscore the need for enhanced efforts to ensure the rightful implementation of the FRA, with a particular focus on transparency, accountability, and adherence to legal provisions.
    • As the FRA is instrumental in empowering local communities and preserving forest ecosystems, addressing the implementation gaps is crucial for sustainable and inclusive forest management.

About the ThanthaiPeriyar Sanctuary

  • The ThanthaiPeriyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a proposed protected area located in the Erode District of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
  • It covers a forest area of 805.67 km2 and will become the 18th wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • The sanctuary is home to a variety of wild animals such as tigers, elephants, leopards, wild boars, gaurs, and deer.
  • It serves as a connecting point between the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and the Cauvery South Wildlife Sanctuary, facilitating the safe movement of elephants and tigers.
  • The sanctuary is also connected to the Kollegal forests in Karnataka and the Nilgiris, where the Eastern Ghats merge with the Western Ghats.

About the Forest Rights Act (FRA)

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, also known as the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, recognizes and vests the forest rights and occupation in forest land to forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.
  • It aims to reverse the historic injustice meted out to forest-dwelling populations by creating a mechanism for them to claim their land and customary livelihoods from forest resources.
  • The FRA grants individual land rights (IFR) titles to scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who can prove their cultivation of forest land on or before December 13, 2005.
  • It also recognizes community forest resource rights (CFR) over common amenities and sites of cultural, religious, or other significance.
  • The Act also acknowledges the right of communities to protect, regenerate, or conserve community forest resources that they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
  • The FRA has the potential to catalyze development among the poorest and most marginalized forest-dwelling populations in India.

About the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA)

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) of 1972 is an important statute that provides a powerful legal framework for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants in India.
  • The Act has six schedules that provide varying degrees of protection and legal punishments in case of offenses.
    • Schedule I includes animal species that enjoy the highest level of protection, including those that are critically endangered, while Schedule VI includes plants that may be harmful to the ecosystem and are forbidden to be cultivated or planted.
    • The Act prohibits hunting of wild animals specified in Schedules I, II, III, and IV, except as provided under Section 11 and Section 12.
  • The Act also provides for the establishment of authorities such as the National Board for Wild Life, State Board for Wild Life, and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, among others, to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.
  • The Act has been amended several times, with the most significant amendments made in 2022.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2022 aims to upgrade the Act by introducing newer strategies, better management plans, and science-based conservation.

Old-fashioned trust and credibility bind India-UAE ties

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

The ongoing visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) highlights the extraordinary personal relationship between PM Modi and President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, characterized by trust and credibility that surpasses conventional diplomatic norms.

  • This visit, the third in eight months, showcases the depth of the India-UAE bilateral relationship, emphasizing strategic interests and frequent interactions.

Key Highlights

  • Prime Minister Modi’s visit is marked by the inauguration of a grand Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, aligning with the religious calendar.
    • The temple, requested during PM Modi’s 2015 visit, addresses the spiritual needs of the UAE’s large Hindu community.
    • The temple inauguration, along with the mega event Ahlan Modi at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, holds symbolic importance, showcasing cultural and spiritual ties between the nations.
  • Substantive Aspects of the Visit:
    • The visit includes the Prime Minister’s address as the guest of honour at the 11th World Government Summit in Dubai.
    • This annual conference, often likened to Davos, attracts global leaders, industry captains, and thought leaders.
    • The summit’s theme, ‘Shaping Future Governments,’ provides India a platform to articulate its perspectives before a global audience, reinforcing the nation’s influence on the international stage.
  • Diplomatic Relationship Beyond Transactional Norms:
    • The personal diplomacy between PM Modi and President Sheikh Mohamed exemplifies a diplomatic approach grounded in trust, credibility, and shared values.
    • The frequency of interactions and depth of the relationship contribute to shaping one of India’s most dynamic bilateral partnerships, extending beyond conventional diplomatic reciprocity.
  • Strengthening Economic Ties and Regional Cooperation:
    • The ongoing visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) encompasses significant initiatives aimed at bolstering economic ties and regional cooperation.
    • Key highlights include the inauguration of Bharat Mart, a collaboration between DP World and India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, providing retail, warehousing, and logistics facilities in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone Area.
    • The Bharat Mart project aims to boost exports of Indian Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to markets in Iran, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
    • The visit builds on the success of the India-UAE CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), completing its first year in 2023, contributing to a 16% growth in India’s trade with the UAE, reaching $85 billion.
    • CEPA reinforces the UAE’s position as India’s third-largest trading partner and second-largest export destination.
    • The Bharat Mart initiative combined with CEPA has the potential to provide a strong impetus to India’s export of manufactured goods.
    • The project facilitates Indian manufacturers across various sectors to showcase products and access buyers in strategic regions.
    • Initial steps to start trading in national currencies are expected to reduce transaction costs, enhancing economic collaboration.
    • Investments from the UAE have made it the fourth-highest source of foreign direct investment into India in 2022-23.
    • The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is set to open an office in GIFT City, Gujarat.
    • Indian Oil Corporation Limited signed a 14-year deal to purchase liquefied natural gas from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, boosting India’s energy security.
  • Education and Defence Cooperation:
    • The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi initiated a master’s program in energy transition and sustainability in Abu Dhabi.
    • Discussions on sensitive areas of defence cooperation are progressing positively.

Summary on India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Relations

  • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) share strong ties rooted in historical, cultural, religious, and economic connections.
  • The relationship flourished after the accession of H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and the creation of the UAE Federation in 1971.
  • Both countries have made sincere efforts to enhance relations in various fields.
  • The bilateral relationship has seen high-level visits, including presidential, prime ministerial, and foreign ministerial visits, which have contributed to the strengthening of political and economic cooperation.
  • The economic partnership between India and the UAE has significantly evolved, with the UAE being India’s third-largest trading partner and a major export destination.
  • The two countries have signed several bilateral agreements and have institutional mechanisms in place to address sector-specific issues.
  • Furthermore, the Indian expatriate community in the UAE, which numbers over 2.6 million, has played a vital role in the development of the UAE.
  • The cultural relations between the two nations are also significant, with regular cultural exchanges at official and popular levels.
  • The strategic cooperation between India and the UAE has led to the signing of a framework accord on a trans-continental trade corridor, which would connect India with Europe via the Middle East, further enhancing their economic partnership
  • Economic Ties:
    • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have a robust economic relationship, with India being the UAE’s second-largest trading partner and the UAE being India’s third-largest trading partner.
    • The bilateral trade between the two countries has seen significant growth, reaching US$84.84 billion during 2022-23.
    • India’s major exports to the UAE include petroleum products, gold and other precious metal jewelry, telecom instruments, and precious stones, while its major imports from the UAE consist of petroleum, precious metals, stones, gems, and minerals.
    • The UAE is also the seventh largest investor in India, with cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows of US$15.57 billion.
    • Furthermore, the UAE has made substantial investments in India’s energy, technology, and infrastructure sectors.
    • The two countries have set a target to increase their bilateral trade to US$250 billion by 2030.
    • The economic ties between India and the UAE are further strengthened by the significant presence of the Indian expatriate community in the UAE, which contributes to the economic development of both countries and plays a vital role in the bilateral relationship