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22nd December Current Affairs

The Belagavi border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka

(GS-II: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure)

In News:

An inter-state dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra dating back to the period of Independence and the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines in 1956 has reared its head again in the Belagavi region of Karnataka.

Details:

The latest flashpoint is following a series of minor incidents over the last week that have inflamed pro-Kannada and pro-Marathi passions on the two sides of the border.

Genesis of the dispute:

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad and Uttara-Kannada.

In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.

However, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided states on linguistic and administrative lines, made Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973).

The Mahajan Commission report:

While demarcating borders, the Reorganisation of States Commission sought to include talukas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50 per cent in Mysore.

Opponents of the region’s inclusion in Mysore argued, and continue to argue, that Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannadigas who lived there in 1956.

In September 1957, the Bombay government echoed their demand and lodged a protest with the Centre, leading to the formation of the Mahajan Commission under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan in October 1966.

Recommendations of the Commission:

The Commission in its report in August 1967 recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra (which formed in 1960) and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.

Later developments:

Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical, and demanded another review.

Karnataka welcomed the report, and has ever since continued to press for implementation, although this has not been formally done by the Centre.

Maharashtra continues to claim over 814 villages along the border, as well as Belgaum city, which are currently part of Karnataka.

Successive governments in Maharashtra have demanded their inclusion within the state– a claim that Karnataka contests.

Uighurs

(GS-II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora)

In News:

China has announced sanctions on four members of the U.S. government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom in retaliation for penalties imposed on Chinese officials over complaints of abuses in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

Background:

The US has imposed new sanctions on several Chinese biotech and surveillance companies for actions in Xinjiang province, the latest step against Beijing over human rights abuses of Uighurs Muslims in the country’s western region.

What’s the issue?

Various countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang.

Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uighurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uighur culture.

China’s response:

Despite mounting evidence, China denies mistreating the Uyghurs, and goes on to insist it is simply running “vocational training” centres designed to counter extremism.

Who are Uighurs?

The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim minority Turkic ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia.

The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

  • China recognises the community only as a regional minority and rejects that they are an indigenous group.
  • Currently, the largest population of the Uighur ethnic community lives in the Xinjiang region of China.
  • A significant population of Uighurs also lives in the neighbouring Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Uighur Muslims for decades, under the false accusation by the Chinese government of terrorism and separatism, have suffered from abuses including persecution, forced detention, intense scrutiny, surveillance and even slavery.

House panel to review Bill on raising marriage age of women

(GS-II: Parliament and state legislatures- functioning)

In News:

Lok Sabha has sent the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which seeks to raise the age of marriage for women to 21 to a standing committee.

Rationale behind the legislation:

The age of marriage should be uniformly applicable to all religions, caste, creed, overriding any custom or law that seeks to discriminate against women.

The Bill would also amend:

  • The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1972.
  • The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936.
  • The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • The Foreign Marriage Act, 1956.

To know more about the Bill, its key provisions, significance and concerns, refer to this article covered by us recently.

What are Parliamentary Committees?

A parliamentary committee is a “committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and which works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat”.

Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds – Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees. The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less, on a continuous basis. The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the task assigned to them.

Constitutional Provisions:

Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

Composition of Departmentally-related standing committees (DRSCs):

Until the 13th Lok Sabha, each DRSC comprised 45 members — 30 nominated from Lok Sabha and 15 from the Rajya Sabha.

However, with their restructuring in July 2004, each DRSC now has 31 members — 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha, to be nominated by Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman, respectively.

They are appointed for a maximum period of one year and the committees are reconstituted every year cutting across party lines.

Significance of Parliamentary Committee System:

  • Inter-Ministerial Coordination.
  • Instrument For Detailed Scrutiny.
  • Acting As Mini-Parliament.

Mekedatu issue

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

Karnataka has demanded that the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) give clearance for the detailed project report (DPR) of Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir Project in its next meeting.

What’s the issue?

Tamil Nadu has protested against Karnataka’s move to build a reservoir on river Cauvery at Mekedatu. However, the Karnataka Government has asserted that there is no “compromise” on the Mekedatu project and the state wants to undertake the project.

What’s the way out then?

The Centre has said the project required the approval of the Cauvery Water Management Authority’s (CWMA).

The Detail Project Report (DPR) sent by Karnataka was tabled in the CWMA several times for approval, but the discussion on this issue could not take place due to a lack of consensus among party states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Also, as per the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal‘s final award, which was modified by the Supreme Court, acceptance of CWMA would be a prerequisite for consideration of the DPR by the Jal Shakti Ministry.

Since the project was proposed across an inter-state river, it required approval of lower riparian state(s) as per the interstate water dispute act.

About the Project:

Mekedatu is a multipurpose (drinking and power) project.

It involves building a balancing reservoir, near Kanakapura in Ramanagara district in Karnataka.

The project once completed is aimed at ensuring drinking water to Bengaluru and neighboring areas (4.75 TMC) and also can generate 400 MW power.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 9,000 crore.

Why Tamil Nadu is against this project?

It says, the CWDT and the SC have found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water so Karnataka’s proposal is ex-facie (on the face of it) untenable and should be rejected outright.

It has also held that the reservoir is not just for drinking water alone, but to increase the extent of irrigation, which is in clear violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Award.

Award by the tribunal and the Supreme Court:

The tribunal was set up in 1990 and made its final award in 2007, granting 419 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry. The tribunal ordered that in rain-scarcity years, the allocation for all would stand reduced.

However, both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka expressed unhappiness over the allocation and there were protests and violence in both states over water-sharing. That saw the Supreme Court take up the matter and, in a 2018 judgment, it apportioned 14.75 tmcft from Tamil Nadu’s earlier share to Karnataka.

The new allocation thus stood at 404.25 tmcft for Tamil Nadu while Karnataka’s share went up to 284.75 tmcft. The share for Kerala and Puducherry remained unchanged.