How did Sikkim become a part of India?
(GS-II: Indian Constitution and historical underpinnings)
The Statehood Day of Sikkim was observed on 16th May, 2022.
It was on May 16, 1975 that Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Union of India.
How did the Himalayan state come to join the Indian Union?
Beginning with Phuntsog Namgyal, the first chogyal (monarch), the Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim until 1975.
In 1950, three years after India’s independence, a treaty was signed between Sikkim and the Republic of India. Under the agreement, the former continued its status as a ‘protectorate’ state within the Union of India.
In September 1974, the Chogyals called for a referendum. In the subsequent referendum, as many as 97.5 percent participants voted in favour of joining India, while 2.45 percent voted against the proposal.
On May 15, 1975, then-President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, signed a constitutional amendment, and, a day later, Sikkim became the 22nd state of India; the position of the Chogyal was abolished as well.
During the Anglo-Nepalese war/the Gorkha war (1814 to 1816), Sikkim allied with the East India Company. The Company won and restored to Sikkim some of the territories that Nepal had forcibly taken from it in 1780.
Sikkim became a British Protectorate under the Treaty of Tumlong signed in March, 1861.
Sri Lanka’s 21st Constitutional Amendment
(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)
The government of Sri Lanka intends to introduce the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The 21st Constitutional Amendment seeks to repeal the 20th Amendment.
Overview of the 21st Amendment:
It seeks to reduce the Presidency to a ceremonial position, retaining the powers of the President on all three armed forces.
However, almost all other key powers pertaining to governance, and cabinet ministers will be handed over to the Prime Minister.
It seeks to transfer powers of making key appointments from the President to the Constitutional Council.
The President would be required to act on the Prime Minister’s advice to determine the scope and functions of ministries and appoint ministers, deputy ministers and state ministers.
The 19th Amendment (2015):
It had removed the powers of the President to sack the Prime Minister at his discretion.
It restricted the President’s powers to dismiss Cabinet ministers as he was required to act on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The cabinet ministers could have been dismissed:
Only if the Prime Minister ceased to hold office by death, resignation or otherwise, or,
Only if the Parliament rejects a statement of government policy or the budget or,
If the parliament passes a vote of no confidence against the Government.
20th Amendment (2020):
Increased the executive powers of a President.
It empowered the President to make key appointments to independent institutions.
What’s happening in Sri Lanka?
The proposed amendment comes at the time Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic and political crisis since it was liberated from British rule in 1948.
A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices heaped misery on the people.
Protesters have been gathering across the island nation, calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, while his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed as the new Prime Minister.
Need for these amendments:
The possibility of an amendment is also seen as a means of restoring peace to the country, with officials reaching out across party lines to address the current issue.
The change aims to address the country’s governance issue.
Why is there a fall in India’s foreign exchange reserves?
(GS-III: Indian Economy and issues related to planning)
India’s forex reserves have dropped below $600 billion, plunging by about $45 billion since September 3, 2021, when forex reserves stood at an all-time high of $642 billion.
Reasons behind drop in India’s forex reserves:
The drop is because of a fall in the dollar value of assets held as reserves by the RBI.
Appreciation of the US dollar: The demand for dollars remained high as the Russia-Ukraine war led to a spike in oil and commodity prices.
Capital outflows by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs): FPIs pulled out $21.43 billion since September 2021 as the US Federal Reserve started monetary policy tightening and interest rate hikes.
Effect of gold prices: Decline in gold prices has also played a part in the decline in foreign exchange reserves.
How will this affect the rupee?
Indian rupee fell to an all-time low against the US dollar, breaking through the 77 rupees to a dollar threshold and trading at 77.63 on Thursday (12th May).
If the rupee continues to fall, the Reserve Bank of India will be forced to interfere in the forex market by selling dollars from its foreign exchange reserves.
If the RBI prioritises maintaining the amount of foreign exchange reserves, the rupee could depreciate.
Endosulfan victims case
(GS-III: Disaster and Disaster Management)
The Supreme Court has slammed the Kerala government for State’s inaction in providing relief to the Endosulfan pesticide exposure victims.
This also amounts to a breach of the apex court’s 2017 judgment, which had ordered the State to pay ₹5 lakh each to the victims in three months.
What is endosulfan?
It is a widely-banned pesticide with hazardous effects on human genetic and endocrine systems.
It does not occur naturally in the environment.
It is listed under the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent.
Use of endosulfan is banned by Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The Supreme Court in India has banned the manufacture, sale, use, and export of endosulfan throughout the country, citing its harmful health effects in 2011.
Sprayed on crops like cotton, cashew, fruits, tea, paddy, tobacco etc. for control of pests in agriculture such as whiteflies, aphids, beetles, worms etc.
Effects on humans:
This pesticide is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin and genotoxin (damages DNA).
Endosulfan blocks the inhibitory receptors of the CNS, disrupts the ionic channels and destroys the integrity of the nerve cells.
Endosulfan in the environment gets accumulated in food chains leading to higher doses causing problems.
If Endosulfan is released to water, it is expected to absorb to the sediment and may bioconcentrate in aquatic organisms.
What is Kerala’s case?
From the mid-70s, Kerala villages used aerial spraying of endosulfan on 4,600-ha. cashew nut plantation. Locals reportedly experienced illnesses, palsies and deformities.