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22nd December Current Affairs

North-East Zonal Councils

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

Recently, PM Modi attended the Golden Jubilee celebrations (50 years) of the North-Eastern Council (NEC) in Shillong.

Points highlighted by the PM:

Regular meetings: Prime Minister himself has visited the North-East more than 50 times in the last 8 years, while ministers have also visited the North-East more than 400 times

8 pillars of North-East development: e.g. Peace, Power, Tourism, 5G connectivity, Culture, natural farming, Sports etc.

Infrastructure development: The government has taken up the project of connecting every capital of a North-Eastern State by road, train and air connectivity

Dhola-Sadiya bridge (the longest bridge in India over the Lohit River in Assam)

PM’s Development Initiative for North-East (PM-DevINE)

Strategic policies:

‘Act Fast for Northeast and Act First for Northeast’ Policy

India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project, Kaladan project and Agartala-Akhaura Rail project.

Inter-state council Vs Zonal Councils:

About Inter-state council: It is a mechanism that was constituted “to support Centre-State and Inter-State coordination and cooperation in India”. It will be constituted by the President under article 263 of the constitution.

Need of Zonal councils:

They provide an excellent forum where conflicts between the Centre and States and States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations.

They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally.

As they are meant for looking after the interests of respective zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.

Bringing out national integration and arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.

Effectiveness of Zonal councils:

In the last 8 years, more than 1,000 issues were discussed in the meetings of the Zonal Councils and 93 per cent of them were resolved, which is a huge achievement.

With the help of Zonal councils, instances of Left Wing Extremism and North East insurgency have been minimized.

Issues associated with Zonal councils:

The complexity of issues – The Council(s) may not deliver fruitful results in the ongoing crisis due to the traversing nature of the issues involved between the states.

Statutory Basis – Moreover, the statutory basis of the Council may also mar the efficiency of the institution while dealing with the sovereign exercise of power by the states.

Advisory in nature – It is just a recommendatory body to investigate and discuss subjects, in which some or all of the states or the Central government have a common interest.

Lack of expertise – No presence of technical and management/administrative experts.

Need for Inter-state councils (ISC):

Resolving new issues – The ISC in recent times is inevitable in the context of a growing divide between the states and the Union government  as a result of the experiments of demonetisation and the GST, farm laws and the subsequent repeal, NEET examination, Agnipath scheme and the deepening tussle between the Governors

Constitutional body – As it is a Constitutional body it has more importance in establishing national integration and ensuring healthy federalism than zonal councils.

Effective communication between different levels of government – In a decentralized polity where the interaction between several levels of government is significant, the interstate council is an essential preliminary step.

Focusing on National issues – It provides an ideal environment for discussing the needs of the people of the country, dealing with their issues, and making decisions that benefit everyone rather than just focusing on particular zones.

Effectiveness of ISC:

The formation of “The National Commission to review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC)” under the Chairmanship of Justice M N Venkatachalaiah in 2001 is one of the outcomes of the ISC meetings.

Interstate council helped to ensure Horizontal federalism in India.

Issues associated with ISC:

Inconsistent meetings – As per mandate ISC have to meet at least thrice a year. But since 1990 only 12 meetings have been held against the mandate of 96 as per the order.

Lack of diversification of issues – Out of 12, nine meetings were held by and large to discuss the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission and consensus-building on the same.

Lack of Functional autonomy – ISC is excluded from discussing topics that fall under the purview of the National Development Council, the Finance Commission, etc. and also areas that relate to the constitutional or statutory responsibility of the Union to discharge any duty.

Lack of political will – There has been a lack of will by the political parties to strengthen the ISC through consensual governance.

Not participatory – There is no presence/engagement of the civil society in the council which makes it less participatory and cooperative.

Not permanent body – The Inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and Central government.

Way forward:

A regular meeting schedule and a permanent secretariat to ISC will ensure that the periodic meetings are more fruitful.

Making ISC a permanent body as suggested by the Sarkaria commission.

Bills of national importance should be placed before the ISC and Zonal councils before being tabled in Parliament.

Zonal councils have to be strengthened with technical and administrative expertise to handle complex issues.

Advises given by the zonal councils have to be taken seriously by the centre in implementing policies or programs.

Conclusion:

The interstate council and Zonal councils are the most dynamic platform to discuss policies and strengthen Centre-State relations. These work as an instrument for cooperation, coordination and the evolution of common policies and act as a bridge to the trust deficit between the centre and the state.

New land rules bring J&K on par with the rest of India

In News:

The abrogation of special status under articles 35A and 370 for Jammu and Kashmir was followed by various initiatives to initiate land reforms and modernization in the erstwhile state.

Toughening the stand on newly introduced land rules that have ended leaseholders’ rights for extension in the Union Territory (UT) has brought Jammu and Kashmir to par with India.

Initiatives taken for land reforms:

In 2020, the Centre notified ‘The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of Central Laws) Order which resulted in the repeal of 11 land laws in J&K, including the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act of 1950.

Domicile requirements to purchase non-agricultural land have been removed, equalising J&K with other states.

Wife and children of an agriculturist would also fall in the Agriculturist category for the purposes of the Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, 1996.

Implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 or RERA to regulate the real estate sector.

‘Aapki Zameen Aapki Nigrani’ under the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP) for modernizing the management of land records has been launched in the UT.

These measures benefit economic development, ease of service delivery to the citizens, and reduction in litigation due to poor record-keeping.

Shortcomings of these measures:

Special-status of J&K still stands as articles that have been abrogated and not completely abolished. This indicates such reforms violate special rights given to domiciles.

Lack of consultation with local leadership – The elected government has been disbanded and such initiatives are almost completely a top-down affair.

Popular dissent people have protested against the measures as they see the removal of domicile needs as an attempt to drastically shift the demography of the region.

Undoing reforms: legislations like the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act of 1950 actually implemented the intended post-independence land reforms, such repeals are undoing the past progress.

Dokra metalcraft

In News:

Lalbazar is becoming a hub for the famous dokra metalcraft.

Details:

Two places are famous in West Bengal for dokra work — Bikna in Bankura and Dariyapur in Bardhaman.

About Dokra:

Dokra is an ancient tradition; its documented history is about 5,000 years

Dhokra (also spelt Dokra) is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been in use in India for 4,000 years.

The product of dhokra artisans is in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of its primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form.

Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated.

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC)

In News:

Centre has appointed Justice Hemant Gupta as Chairperson of the NDIAC

NDIAC was set up through NDIAC Act 2019 and is a 7-member body:

One Chairman + Two eminent persons + Three ex-officio members( CEO and a nominee from finance ministry) + Part-time member ( from trade body)

NDIAC has been declared an institution of national importance

The recent amendment to NDIAC Act 2019:

NDIAC renamed as India International Arbitration Centre

Will conduct International and domestic arbitration and any other forms of alternate dispute resolution.