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24th March Current Affairs

Places of Worship Act

In News:

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a plea challenging the Places of Worship Act enacted in 1991 which freezes the status of places of worship as it was on August 15, 1947.

What’s the issue?

A petition has been filed in the court terming the law as “arbitrary, irrational and retrospective”.

The cut-off date (August 15, 1947) as per the law bars Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs from approaching courts to “re-claim” their places of worship which were “invaded” and “encroached” upon by “fundamentalist barbaric invaders”.

The petitioner also said the Sections of the Act that dealt with the bar on legal claims were against the principles of secularism.

What is the objective of the Act?

The aim of the Act was to freeze the status of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.

It was also to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of such a place of worship as on that day.

It was intended to pre-empt new claims by any group about the past status of any place of worship and attempts to reclaim the structures or the land on which they stood.

It was hoped that the legislation would help the preservation of communal harmony in the long run.

Key features:

The Act declares that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947.

It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.

It declares that all suits, appeals or any other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, which are pending before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, will abate as soon as the law comes into force. No further legal proceedings can be instituted.

Exceptions:

These provisions will not apply to:

Ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of; and any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.

The Act also does not apply to the place of worship commonly referred to as Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This law will have overriding effect over any other law in force.

Bring down benzene emission at fuel outlets, says panel

A joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to study air pollution in Kerala has made the following recommendations:

  • Installation of vapour recovery system at fuelling stations.
  • Retrofitting of diesel vehicles with particulate filters.
  • Stringent action to be taken against industrial units that do not comply with emission norms.
  • Promote battery-operated vehicles and ban old diesel vehicles in a phased manner.
  • Creation of green buffers along traffic corridors.

The short-term measures recommended include:

  • Strict action against visibly polluting vehicles (to be initiated by the Motor Vehicles Department).
  • Introduction of wet / mechanised vacuum sweeping of roads.
  • Controlling dust pollution at construction sites.
  • Ensuring transport of construction materials in covered vehicles.

Need for:

Petrol refuelling stations are a major source of benzene emissions, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter 2.5 concentration. Therefore, installation of vapour recovery system is an important step in improving air quality. The committee recommended that this is to be implemented in coordination with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization [PESO] shortly.

Sources of Benzene:

Automobile and petroleum industry.

Incomplete combustion of coal oil, petrol and wood.

Found in cigarette smoke and charcoal boiled food.

Also present in particleboard furniture, plywood, fibreglass, flooring adhesives, paints, wood panelling.

Stop influx from Myanmar: Centre

In News:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written to the Chief Secretaries of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh to “take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India.”

Background:

The directive comes weeks after the military coup and subsequent crackdown in the neighbouring country led to several persons crossing over into India.

What has the Centre said?

The State governments had no powers to grant “refugee status to any foreigner” and India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.

The Tatmadaw, or Myanmar military, had taken over the country after a coup on February 1.

India and Myanmar share 1,643-km border and people on either side have familial ties.

About the Refugee Convention 1951:

It is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.

The Convention grants certain rights to people fleeing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a particular social group, or political opinion.

India not a member.

The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals. The Convention also provides for some visa-free travel for holders of travel documents issued under the convention.

The Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. A refugee may enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Convention

The 1967 Protocol included refugees from all countries as opposed to the 1951 Convention that only included refugees from Europe.

Maths, physics, chemistry not compulsory for engineering admissions: AICTE

In News:

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — the technical education regulator — has made Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) optional for students who wish to pursue technical courses like biotechnology, textile or agriculture engineering at the undergraduate level. However, PCM remains mandatory for most engineering subjects like computer science.

Details:

The revised regulation is in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) vision that encourages flexibility in the choice of subjects.

As per the latest guidelines:

Students only need to score 45% in any three subjects from a list of 14 in order to qualify.

The universities will offer suitable bridge courses such as mathematics, physics, engineering drawing, etc for the students coming from diverse backgrounds to achieve the desired learning outcome of the programme.

About the New Education Policy:

The aim of the Policy 2020 is to create an education system which is deeply rooted in Indian ethos and can rebuild India as a global knowledge superpower, by providing high-quality education to all.

Highlights of the policy:

Public spending on education by states, Centre to be raised to 6% of the GDP.

Ministry of Human Resource Development renamed as Minister of Education.

Digital Education- related:

An autonomous body, the national educational technology forum, will be created for the exchange of ideas on use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning and administration.

Separate technology unit to develop digital education resources. The new unit will coordinate digital infrastructure, content and capacity building.

Teacher Education- related:

By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four year integrated B.Ed.

Teachers will also be given training in online educational methods relevant to the Indian situation in order to help bridge the digital divide.

School Education- related:

Universalise the pre-primary education (age range of 3-6 years) by 2025.

Universalization of Education from pre-school to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.

A new school curriculum with coding and vocational studies from class 6 will be introduced.

A child’s mother tongue will be used as the medium of instruction till class 5.

New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure:

The NEP proposes changing the existing 10+2 Curricular and Pedagogical Structure with 5+3+3+4 design covering the children in the age group 3-18 years. Under this —

  • Five years of the Foundational Stage: 3 years of pre-primary school and Grades 1, 2;
  • Three years of the Preparatory (or Latter Primary) Stage: Grades 3, 4, 5;
  • Three years of the Middle (or Upper Primary) Stage: Grades 6, 7, 8;
  • Four years of the High (or Secondary) Stage: Grades 9, 10, 11, 12.