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10 July Current Affairs

SC to decide if illegal migrants can be given the status of refugees

In News:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine a “substantial question” from the Union government on whether illegal immigrants can even be considered for ‘refugee’ status.

Details:

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, was hearing petitions filed by two Rohingya men against the government’s proposal to deport their 40,000-strong community to their native land of Myanmar, where “discrimination and possibly summary executions await them”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the primary prayers made in the petitions were to stop any proposed deportation and allow the community rights under the international law.

“But first decide whether they are refugees… Whether illegal immigrants can even be allowed the status of refugees… This is the substantial question here,” Mr. Mehta submitted. The court said it would examine the issue and asked the parties and intervenors to complete pleadings by the next hearing.

The Rohingya, who fled to India after violence in the State of Rakhine in Myanmar, are settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan. The petitions said the Centre’s move violated the constitutional guarantee that the Indian State should “protect the life and liberty of every human being, whether citizen or not”.

NHRC notice:

The National Human Rights Commission had also issued notice to the government on the proposed deportation.

Panic struck the refugee community following media reports of a statement made by then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju in Parliament that the Centre had directed the States to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including the Rohingya. The petitions, filed in the Supreme Court, submitted that the 40,000-odd Rohingya were registered and recognised by the UNHCR in 2016 and granted refugee identity cards.

The pleas said their deportation would violate India’s commitment to international conventions that recognise the ‘Principle of Non-Refoulement’. This principle of customary international law prohibits the deportation of refugees to a country where they face a threat to their lives.

During the hearing, Justice Aniruddha Bose, on the Bench, asked if there were any formal guidelines, legal norms or policy decisions to determine a refugee.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for the petitioners, said the UNHCR conducted intensive questioning of the immigrants to determine whether they had fled persecution or if they had crossed across for sheer economic interests. If the former, they were granted refugee status.

CPCB pulls up 52 firms over handling of waste

In News:

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 52 companies — including Amazon, Flipkart, Danone Foods and Beverages and Patanjali Ayurved Limited — for not specifying a time line or a plan to collect the plastic waste that results from their business activities.

Details:

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, (which was amended in 2018), prescribed by the Union Environment Ministry, says companies that use plastic in their processes — packaging and production — have a responsibility to ensure that any resulting plastic waste is safely disposed of.

Time line for process:

Under this system — called the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) — companies have to specify collection targets as well as a time line for this process within a year of the rules coming into effect on March 2016. The plastic waste can be collected by the company or outsourced to an intermediary.

The Rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators and retailers to manage such waste.

A notice posted on the website of the CPCB, an Environment Ministry body, said these 52 companies hadn’t yet registered at the online portal and disclosed their disposal plans.

“Failing to do so would invite action against the defaulters,” the notice warned. This action can include fines or imprisonment under provisions of the Environment Protection Act.

Little progress:

The companies were to have registered more than a year ago. In spite of these laws, India has made little progress in managing its plastic waste.

According to CPCB estimates in 2015, Indian cities generate about 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day and about 70% of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste.

Nearly 40% of the plastic waste is neither collected nor recycled and ends up polluting the land and water.

Plastic packaging has been singled out as one of the key contributors to plastic waste though there isn’t any number on its relative contribution. However like the companies, States too have come in the CPCB’s firing line.

The National Green Tribunal earlier this year hauled up 25 States and Union Territories for not following its orders on submitting a plan by April 30, 2019, on how they would comply with the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016. They stand to potentially pay a fine of Rs. 1 crore.

‘UN report backs India’s stand on Pak.-based militant groups’

In News:

While India has rejected the ‘Update’ of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on Jammu and Kashmir, human rights activists have pointed out that it includes several unprecedented references to rights violations and constitutional changes undertaken by Pakistani authorities and militant groups, that actually support India’s narrative.

Details:

Urging India not to reject the ‘Update’ in its entirety, the activists have urged it to “engage” with the OHCHR’s findings released.

‘Take first step’:

“The govt should engage with this process to acknowledge the violations, take steps towards accountability, and call for Pakistan to ensure an end to militant abuses [as well]. Often upholding rights is the first step towards ending the cycle of violence,” said Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly.

She added that the government’s “knee jerk denial” of all the UN findings ran counter to the fact that official Indian inquiries “have flagged violations and made recommendations similar to those by OHCHR.”

The MEA maintains that its objections to the OHCHR report are based on human rights violations the report has accused India of. “We are only concerned with those baseless allegations that pertain to us,” an official said, declining to comment on the other references to Pakistan.

Other activists point out that the OHCHR report includes certain new references to human rights violations by militant groups that should be welcomed by New Delhi.

“It is important to note, that for the first time, the UN is taking note of child soldiers being used by militant groups, for example. The report also remarks that Kashmiri groups have been charged with sedition and arrested in both Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Islamabad,” pointed out peace activist Sushobha Barve, who works in Jammu and Kashmir as a part of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.

The OHCHR report released on July 8, that catalogued alleged violations on both sides of the Line of Control and International boundary in Jammu and Kashmir from 2018-2019, said that Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba had all been “accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Indian-Administered Kashmir”. It also mentioned strictures passed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against Pakistan for not curbing terror financing by these groups.

Rising healthcare costs bankrupt families: Minister

In News:

The Central government has admitted that 75 lakh families fall below the poverty line annually due to the rising cost of health care in India.

Details:

Replying to a question on the availability and price control on generic drugs Mansukh L. Mandaviya, MoS, Chemical and Fertilizers said: “Annually we are seeing families slipping below the poverty line because of the escalating costs of health care and medicines in India. Conditions are so poor that children have to stop their education in some extreme cases. It is vital that this fall is netted immediately.’’

He informed the House that the Central government is providing generic medicines under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) which are normally cheaper by 50-90% of average price of the top three brands.

“A total 5,028 PMBJP Kendras have been opened across the country, where 714 of the 900 medicines in the product basket of PMBJP is currently available,’’ said the Minister.

He explained that the product basket of PMBJP now comprises 900 medicines and 154 surgicals and consumable items. Of this, 714 medicines and 53 surgicals are now available for sale at PMBJP Kendras.

“The purchase orders for procurement of 24 medicines and 90 surgical items have already been issued and these medicines/surgicals will be available for sale at PMBJP Kendras in the next two months. For 162 medicines and 11 surgical items, no bids were received in the last two tenders. Floating tenders for required medicines is an ongoing process”.

Ayodhya: SC agrees to hear petition

In News:

The Supreme Court agreed to examine a plea of a claimant to the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land that the mediation proceedings triggered by the court to heal hearts and minds is making no headway.

Details:

In an urgent mentioning before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, the claimant asked the court to instead list the Ayodhya appeals for hearing “at the earliest.”

The application was made by Rajendra Singh, survivor of Gopal Singh Visharad who first approached the court in 1950 for a declaration that “he is entitled to offer worship without any obstruction according to the rites and tenets of his religion at the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram Chandra.s” Visharad had also sought a “permanent prohibitory injunction against the removal of the idols of Lord Ram situated at the place of birth.”

Appearing for him, senior advocate P.S. Narasimha claimed that “not much progress” had been made in the mediation proceedings conducted by an apex court-appointed panel of mediators, including former top court judge, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman; spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the country.

“Despite initial reluctance, the applicant herein wholeheartedly participated in the mediation proceedings conducted by the three eminent persons appointed by the court. However, in the three meetings participated during five months, neither any concrete proposal has come from anyone nor any headway is likely to be made”.

‘Infiltration down after Balakot strike’

In News:

The security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an improvement and the net infiltration from across the border has reduced by 43% after the February 26 last air strike on a terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha.

Details:

Mr. Rai’s remarks came in response to a written question on whether cross-border infiltration in the State has abated after Balakot.

“The security situation in the State has witnessed an improvement in the first half of this year over the corresponding period of 2018. Net infiltration has reduced by 43 %,” he said.

The Central government has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards cross-border infiltration. It’s multi-pronged approach to contain infiltration includes multi-tiered deployment along the International Border and the Line of Control (LoC), border fencing, improved intelligence and operational coordination, and pro-active action against infiltrators.

Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy told the House separately that “terrorist initiated incidents [in J&K] saw a decline of 28%, net infiltration reduced by 43% and local recruitment declined by 40% and neutralization of terrorists has increased by 22%.”

Honour for ‘Plan Bee’ that helped save jumbos

In News:

Plan Bee, an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks, on Tuesday earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.

Details:

The first prize comprises a citation along with a cash award of Rs. 3 lakh.

There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal. Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.

“But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths. NFR’s Rangiya Division and Forest Department field officials worked on certain deterrents and provide a solution to the problem,” NFR spokesperson Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.

The desperation to find an “elephant repellent” was triggered by 67 pachyderms being knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019. Most of these cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.

Headed by Ravilesh Kumar, the former Divisional Railway Manager of Rangiya Division, a team tested the honey bee buzz on a domestic elephant in north-eastern Assam’s Rangapara. The second test at a tea estate under Rangiya Division proved successful on a herd of wild elephants.

A device was subsequently designed to generate the amplified sound of honey bees audible from 700-800 metres. The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat. NFR now has 46 such devices installed at vulnerable points.

SC to consider refugee status for illegal migrants

In News:

The petitions, filed in the Supreme Court, submitted that the 40,000-odd Rohingya were registered and recognised by the UNHCR in 2016 and granted refugee identity cards.

Details:

The pleas said their deportation would violate India’s commitment to international conventions that recognise the ‘Principle of Non-Refoulement’. This principle of customary international law prohibits the deportation of refugees to a country where they face a threat to their lives.

During the hearing, Justice Aniruddha Bose, on the Bench, asked if there were any formal guidelines, legal norms or policy decisions to determine a refugee.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for the petitioners, said the UNHCR conducted intensive questioning of the immigrants to determine whether they had fled persecution or if they had crossed across for sheer economic interests. If the former, they were granted refugee status.

“Sixty to seventy per cent of Rohingya have got to be refugees,” Mr. Gonsalves submitted. The UNHRC report of 2016 on rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar had noted successive patterns of serious rights violations.

‘Indian tariffs not acceptable’

In News:

U.S. President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on India for imposing tariffs on American products and said it was “no longer acceptable”, days after he held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agreed to sort out the traderelated issues.

Details:

Mr. Trump, championing his ‘America First’ policy, has been a vocal critic of India for levying “tremendously high” duties on U.S. products.

“India has long had a field day putting Tariffs on American products. No longer acceptable!”.

Trump’s terse comment within a fortnight after his meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28 where the two leaders aired their concerns over the bilateral trade disputes and agreed for a meeting of their Commerce Ministers to sort out the issues.

Later this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are scheduled to address a major India centric conference in Washington.

India has raised tariffs on 28 items, including almond, pulses and walnut, exported from the U.S. in retaliation to America’s withdrawal of preferential access for Indian products.

France to impose green tax on plane tickets from 2020

In News:

The French government is to impose a tax of up to €18 on plane tickets for all flights from airports in France to fund less-polluting transportation projects, a Minister said.

Details:

The move, which will take effect from 2020, will see a tax of €1.5 imposed on economy-class tickets on internal flights and those within Europe, with the highest tariff applied to business-class travellers flying outside the bloc, Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said.

The new measure is expected to bring in some €182 million a year which will be invested in greener transport infrastructures, notably rail, she said, adding that it will only be applied on outgoing flights and not those flying into the country.

A similar tax was introduced in Sweden in April 2018, which imposed an added charge of up to €40 on every ticket in a bid to lessen the impact of air travel on the climate.

 

 

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