Current Affairs 25th March 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)
Context: The Union Government has recently extended the AFSPA Act in 8 districts of Nagaland.
What is Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958?
- Origin: The Act in its original form was promulgated by the British in response to the Quit India movement in 1942.
- After Independence, the act was retained, first brought in as an ordinance and then notified as an Act in 1958.
- Objective: Provide certain special powers to members of the armed forces in disturbed areas in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
- It is enforced by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Disturbed Area: A disturbed area is one which is declared under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
- An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
- The Union Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
- Provisions: Armed forces have been given the following powers:
- Authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area
- Use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law
- Arrest a person without a warrant
- Enter or search a premises without a warrant on the basis of reasonable suspicion
- Ban the possession of firearms
- The Act further provides blanket impunity to security personnel involved in such operations
Significance of AFSPA Act
- Effective Counter-Insurgency: The fighting capability of the militants in the North- East and J&K has improved considerably.
- Hence, with the powers given by AFSPA, the armed forces have been able to protect the borders of the country for decades.
- Operational Hurdles: The Armed Forces are required to operate in hostile terrain. The forces also work in an unfriendly population environment exposing themselves to grave dangers.
- Legal Battles: Operating under such an environment requires a protective law otherwise the forces get embroiled in legal battles and their effectiveness is reduced.
- Effective Law and Order: If the provisions of the AFSPA have to be invoked with regard to a particular area, it means that the State Government was unable to maintain peace and tranquility.
Criticism of AFSPA Act
- In consonance with States: The Act empowers the Union Government to unilaterally take a decision to impose AFSPA; this is usually done informally in consonance with the State Government.
- Violates Human Rights: Allegations have been made against security forces of mass killings and rape.
- Misuse of Absolute Power: The Act has often been used to settle private scores, such as property disputes, with false tip-offs provided by local informants to security forces.
- Failure to Contain Violence: The Act has failed to contain terrorism and restore normalcy in disturbed areas.
- Compromising Professionalism: With AFSPA around, military or paramilitary units do not feel the need for restraint or fire control. That leads to a sharp drop in professionalism.
- Dents India’s Image: A law like AFSPA is inconsistent with the structure and spirit of India’s democracy and brings down India’s image at the global high table.
Parole and Furlough
Context: Supreme Court directed that the prisoners released on emergency parole during the Covid-19 pandemic have to surrender within 15 days.
- It is a system of releasing a prisoner with suspension of the sentence. The release is conditional, usually subject to behaviour, and requires periodic reporting to the authorities for a set period of time.
- Parole is not a right, and is given to a prisoner for a specific reason, such as a death in the family or a wedding of a blood relative.
- It may be denied to a prisoner even when he makes out a sufficient case, if the competent authority is satisfied that releasing the convict would not be in the interest of society.
- Since prisons is a State subject under 7th Schedule of the Constitution, each State Government makes its own Prison Rules.
- It is given in cases of long-term imprisonment. The period of furlough granted to a prisoner is treated as remission of his sentence.
- It is seen as a matter of right for a prisoner, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason, and merely to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties, and to counter the ill-effects of prolonged time spent in prison.
How Parole differs from Furlough?
- Parole and furlough are both forms of conditional release.
- Parole can be awarded in the case of short-term detention, whereas furlough is allowed in the case of long-term detention.
- Parole lasts for one month, whereas furlough is generally granted for a maximum of 14 days.
Significance of Parole and Furlough
- Both parole and furlough are considered as reformative processes. These provisions were introduced with a view to humanise the prison system.
- Parole and furlough are covered under the Prisons Act of 1894.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)
Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a subsidy to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).
About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) 2016
- Aim: To provide deposit-free LPG connections to women in poor households.
- To shift to LPG from conventional fuels like firewood and cow dung cakes, which are considered hazardous.
- Target under the scheme was to release 8 Crore LPG Connections to the deprived households by March 2020.
- The release of 8 Crore LPG connections under the scheme has also helped in increasing the LPG coverage from 62% on 1st May 2016 to 99.8% as on 1st April 2021.
About PMUY 2.0
- The Union budget for FY 21-22, provided for an additional one crore LPG connection under the PMUY scheme. The target was achieved in January 2022.
- One crore additional PMUY connections (under Ujjwala 2.0) aim to provide deposit-free LPG connections to those low-income families who could not be covered under the earlier phase of PMUY.
- Migrants will not be required to submit ration cards or address proof.
Significance of PMUY
- As of March 1, 2023, there were 9.59 crore PMUY beneficiaries.
- The average LPG consumption of PMUY consumers has increased by 20 per cent from 3.01 refills in 2019-20 to 3.68 in 2021-22.
- Subsidy is credited directly to the bank accounts of the eligible beneficiaries
Khandagiri and Udaygiri Caves
Context: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has warned that the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves in Bhubaneswar are eroding at a rapid pace.
About Khandagiri and Udaygiri Caves
- Location: Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves are located in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
- Out of these 33 caves, 15 are situated in the Khandagiri Hills while 18 of them are located in the Udayagiri Hills.
- These twin caves are located on the two adjacent hills, which are part of the Kumari Mountain range.
- These caverns were made somewhere around the 1st and 2nd Century BC under the commission of King Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty that ruled Odisha (erstwhile Kalinga) during that time.
- The rock cut caves were built for the Jain monks to provide them a place to rest and meditate.
- Caves have sculptures only related to deities, religious observances and historical episodes.
- Architecture and intricate sculptures on the walls of these caves depict several stories from mythology and history.
- Inscriptions carved include Hathi Gumpha, Mancapuri and Sarpa Gumpha.
- The multi-layered rock-cut caves illustrate the importance of Jainism in the history of Odisha.
- As per the Jain tradition, Mahavira (24thTirthankara) came to the Kumari Mountain and preached his doctrines.
Securities Transaction Tax
Context: The Government has raised the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) on futures and options contracts, in the stock market by 25% from April 1, 2023.
About Securities Transaction Tax (STT)
- It is a tax levied at the time of purchase and sale of securities listed on stock exchanges in India.
- STT is governed by the Securities Transaction Tax Act (STT Act).
- Taxable securities include equity, derivatives, unit of equity-oriented mutual funds, unlisted shares sold under an offer for sale to the public included in initial public offering (IPO) and where such shares are subsequently listed in stock exchanges.
- Objective: To mitigate tax evasion as the same is taxed at source.
Impact of STT Hike
- It will increase revenues of the government to a certain extent, while discouraging excessive trading in the futures and options (F&O) segment where a large number of retail traders end up losing money.
- It could lead to shifting of F&O traders to other locations that do not attract such taxes for participants.
Vembanad Lake and Ashtamudi Lake
Context: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a penalty on the Kerala government for its failure to check pollution of the Vembanad and Ashtamudi lakes.
- Vembanad Lake is the second largest wetland in India and was declared a Ramsar site in 2002.
- Location: Vembanad is the longest lake in India (96.5 km). It is also the largest lake in the state of Kerala.
- The famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in a portion of the lake. Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, is located in the southern portion of the lake.
- Rivers such as the Achenkovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba and Periyar drain into the lake.
- Location: it is located in Kollam district of Kerala. Kallada River is the major source of water for the lake.
- Hydrology: The name of the lake translates to Eight braids in Malayalam which can be explained by the palm-shaped topography. The lake has an opening to the Arabian Sea.
- Features: Munroe Island (Munroethuruth), a cluster of eight tiny islands, is located in the lake. Chavara South Island is mineral rich, especially for titanium.
- The lake is called the gateway to Kerala’s backwaters and is well known for its houseboat and backwater resorts.
- Ashtamudi Wetland is part of list of wetlands of international importance.
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
- NGT is a statutory body established under National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. Its objective is to deal with environmental cases and speedy implementation of decisions relating to it.
- After Australia and New Zealand, India became the third country to form NGT.
- NGT bench consists of ten Judicial Members and ten Expert Members.
- Individual having a professional qualification with 15 years minimum experience in the subjects of forest conservation and environment and similar areas can become an expert member.
- The chairperson should have been retired as Supreme Court judge. The Judicial members must have been retired as Judge of the High Courts.
- NGT has powers to decide on environmental issues under following laws:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002;
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991.
Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)
Context: Recently RBI asked to monitor card spending under Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) for tax purposes.
About Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)
- The Reserve Bank of India introduced the Liberalised Remittance Scheme in 2004.
- The scheme permits all resident individuals, including minors, to remit up to USD 2,50,000 per financial year (April – March) without any restrictions for any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both.
- There are no limitations on the frequency of remittances under LRS; a resident individual may not make any further remittances under this scheme during the financial year once they have already made a remittance of up to USD 2,50,000.
- Payments for foreign tours through credit cards are not being captured under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) and such payments escape tax collection at source (TCS).
- Requirements: It is mandatory for the resident individual to provide his/her Permanent Account Number (PAN) for all transactions under LRS made through Authorized Persons.
- Ineligibility: The Scheme is not available to corporations, partnership firms, Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), Trusts etc.
Remitted Money can be used for:
- Expenses related to travelling (private or for business), medical treatment, study, gifts and donations, maintenance of close relatives and so on.
- Investment in shares, debt instruments, and buy immovable properties in the overseas market.
- Individuals can also open, maintain and hold foreign currency accounts with banks outside India for carrying out transactions permitted under the scheme.