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25th March Current Affairs

Article 371 of the Constitution

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu is planning to lead an all-party delegation to New Delhi soon to seek amendment of Article 371 (H) which has special provisions pertaining to the state in order to place it at par with special provisions meant for Nagaland enshrined in Article 371 (A) of the constitution.

Other demands:

The special provision with respect to the state should be further strengthened by amending Article 371(H) by inserting provisions for protection of religious or social practices of the tribes of the state, customary law and procedure of the state’s tribes, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to customary laws of the tribes and including provisos to protect local ownership and transfer of land and its resources.

This is necessary to protect tribal rights and customary laws.

What is Article 371 all about?

Articles 369 through 392 appear in Part XXI of the Constitution, titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’.

Article 371 of the Constitution includes “special provisions” for 11 states, including six states of the Northeast.

Articles 370 and 371 were part of the Constitution at the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950; Articles 371A through 371J were incorporated subsequently.

Overview:

Article 371, Maharashtra and Gujarat:

Governor has “special responsibility” to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat; ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government.

Article 371A (13th Amendment Act, 1962), Nagaland:

Inserted after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963.

Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion or social practices, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land without concurrence of the state Assembly.

Article 371B (22nd Amendment Act, 1969), Assam:

The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Assembly consisting of members elected from the state’s tribal areas.

Article 371C (27th Amendment Act, 1971), Manipur:

The President may provide for the constitution of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning.

Article 371D (32nd Amendment Act, 1973; substituted by The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014), Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:

President must ensure “equitable opportunities and facilities” in “public employment and education to people from different parts of the state”. He may require the state government to organise “any class or classes of posts in a civil service of, or any class or classes of civil posts under, the State into different local cadres for different parts of the State”. He has similar powers vis-à-vis admissions in educational institutions.

Article 371E:

Allows for the establishment of a university in Andhra Pradesh by a law of Parliament. But this is not a “special provision” in the sense of the others in this part.

Article 371F (36th Amendment Act, 1975), Sikkim:

The members of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in the House of the People. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections.

Article 371G (53rd Amendment Act, 1986), Mizoram:

Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Assembly… so decides”.

Article 371H (55th Amendment Act, 1986), Arunachal Pradesh:

The Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”.

Article 371J (98th Amendment Act, 2012), Karnataka:

There is a provision for a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education. A proportion of seats in educational institutions and state government jobs in Hyderabad-Karnataka can be reserved for individuals from that region.

Article 371I deals with Goa, but it does not include any provision that can be deemed ‘special’.

Significance:

All these provisions take into account the special circumstances of individual states, and lay down a wide range of specific safeguards that are deemed important for these states.

In these range of Articles from 371 to 371J, Article 371I, which deals with Goa, stands out in the sense that it does not include any provision that can be deemed “special”. Article 371E, which deals with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, too, is not that “special”.

UN Resolution on Kashmir in 1947

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

In News:

There has been some debate on whether India chose the wrong path to approach the UN. In 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah said that had Nehru taken the matter to the UN under Article 51 of the UN Charter, instead of Article 35, the outcome could have been different.

Article 35:

Article 35 only says that any member of the UN may take a dispute to the Security Council or General Assembly.

Article 51:

It says that a UN member has the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence” if attacked, “till such time that the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”.

Do you know about Resolution 47?

Resolution 47 of the UNSC focuses on the complaint of the Government of India concerning the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir, that India took to the Security Council in January 1948.

In October 1947, following an invasion by soldiers from the Pakistan Army in plainclothes and tribesmen, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh sought assistance from India and signed the Instrument of Accession. After the first war in Kashmir (1947-1948), India approached the UN Security Council to bring the conflict in Kashmir to the notice of Security Council members.

Who were the UNSC members who oversaw the issue?

The UN Security Council increased the size of the investigating council to include six members along with permanent members of the UNSC. Along with the five permanent members, China, France, UK, US & Russia, non-permanent members included Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Syria and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

What happened at the UNSC?

India’s position was that it was ready to hold a plebiscite, a direct vote in which an entire electorate votes on a specific proposal, to know of the people’s desire and accept the results of the vote.

Pakistan denied its involvement in the conflict and counter-accused India.

In response the UNSC, under Resolution 39 (1948) stated “with a view to facilitating…the restoration of peace and order and to the holding of a plebiscite, by the two Governments, acting in co-operation with one another and with the Commission, and further instructs the Commission to keep the Council informed of the action taken under the resolution.”

It also ordered for the conflict to cease and to create conditions for a “free and impartial plebiscite” to decide whether Jammu and Kashmir would accede to India or Pakistan.

What did the UNSC order Pakistan to do?

The UNSC ordered that Pakistan was to withdraw its tribesmen and Pakistan nationals who had entered “the State for the purpose of fighting” and to prevent future intrusions and to prevent “furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State”.

It was also ordered Pakistan to cooperate with maintaining peace and order.

What did the UNSC order India to do?

The UNSC had a more comprehensive set of orders for India.

It said that after the Pakistani army and tribesmen had withdrawn from the State and the fighting had ceased, India was to submit a plan to the Commission for withdrawing forces from Jammu and Kashmir and to reduce them over a period of time to the minimum strength required for civil maintenance of law and order.

India was ordered to appraise the Commission of the stages at which steps had been taken to reduce military presence to the minimum strength and to arrange remaining troops after consultations with the Commission.

Among other instructions, India was ordered to agree that till the time the Plebiscite Administration found it necessary to exercise the powers of direction and supervision over the State forces and police, these forces would be held in areas to be agreed upon with the Plebiscite Administrator.

It also directed India to recruit local personnel for law and order and to safeguard the rights of minorities.

How did India & Pakistan react to the UNSC Resolution 47?

Both countries rejected Resolution 47.

Why India rejected?

India’s contention was that the resolution ignored the military invasion by Pakistan and placing both nations on an equal diplomatic ground was a dismissal of Pakistan’s aggression and the fact that the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession.

India also objected to the Resolution’s requirement that did not allow India to retain military presence which it believed it needed for defence.

The Resolution’s order to form a coalition government, would also put Sheikh Abdullah, the Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, in a difficult position.

India also believed that the powers conferred on the Plebiscite Administrator undermined the state’s sovereignty. India also wanted Pakistan to be excluded from the operations of the plebiscite.

Why Pakistan rejected?

Pakistan on the other hand, objected to even the minimum presence of Indian forces in Kashmir, as allowed by the resolution. It also wanted an equal representation in the state government for the Muslim Conference, which was the dominant party in Pakistani-held Kashmir.

Final outcome:

Despite their differences with the provisions of Resolution 47, both India and Pakistan welcomed the UN Commission and agreed to work with it.

World Air Quality Report 2021

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The 2021 World Air Quality Report was released, the report presented an overview of the state of global air quality in 2021.

Details:

Released by IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5.

Key findings:

Bangladesh was the most polluted country in the world in 2021. Bangladesh recorded an average PM2.5 level of 76.9 micrograms per cubic metre in 2021 against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended maximum permissible level of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.

Earlier, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 also Bangladesh was found to be the most polluted country in the world.

The data reveals that not a single country in the world managed to meet the WHO’s air quality standard in 2021.

All over the world, 93 cities reported PM 2.5 levels at 10 times the recommended level.

Among the cities, Dhaka was the second most polluted city in the world with a PM 2.5 level of 78.1 just below New Delhi which had a PM 2.5 level of 85.1 in 2021.

Performance of India:

New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.

As per the report, in 2021, India was home to 11 of the 15 most polluted cities in Central and also in South Asia.

35 Indian cities have been listed by the index under the worst air quality tag for 2021.

Bhiwadi, Rajasthan topped this list and was followed Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Concerns associated with air pollution:

Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for seven million deaths around the world every year.

Air pollution causes and aggravates many diseases, ranging from asthma to cancer, lung illnesses and heart disease.

The estimated daily economic cost of air pollution has been figured at $8 billion (USD), or 3 to 4 per cent of the gross world product.

What can governments do?

Decrease air pollution emissions.

Pass legislation to incentivize the use of clean air vehicles for personal and industrial use.

Invest in renewable energy sources.

Provide financial incentives, such as trade-in programs, to limit the use of internal combustion engines.

Provide subsidies to encourage the use of battery and human-powered transportation methods.

Expand public transportation and power with clean and renewable energy sources.

Battle of Rezang La and the Ahir Regiment demand

(GS-I: Indian History)

In News:

Members of the Ahir community have been demanding an Ahir Regiment in the Indian Army.

Legacy:

The Ahirwal region includes the southern Haryana districts of Rewari, Mahendragarh, and Gurgaon, and is associated with Rao Tula Ram, the Ahir hero of the revolt of 1857.

The community was brought into national limelight after the story of the bravery of the Ahir troops of Haryana in the Battle of Rezang La in 1962 was widely known.

The region has traditionally contributed soldiers to the Indian Army in large numbers.

What’s the demand?

Members of the community have long argued that the Ahirs deserve a full-fledged Infantry Regiment named after them, not just two battalions in the Kumaon Regiment and a fixed percentage in other regiments.

What has been the Army’s response to the demand?

The Army has rejected the demand for any new class or caste based regiment. It has said that while the older regiments based on castes and regions like the Dogra Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Rajput Regiment, and Punjab Regiment will continue, no new demands on the lines of an Ahir Regiment, Himachal Regiment, Kalinga Regiment, Gujarat Regiment or any tribal regiment would be entertained.

Background:

November 18 this year marked the 59th anniversary of the Battle of Rezang La. A memorial was inaugurated on the occasion.

Where is Rezang La?

Rezang La is a mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

It is located between village of Chushul and the Spanggur Lake that stretches across both Indian and Chinese territories.

It had also been the site of a heroic battle on 18 November 1962.

About the battle:

Troops from the 13 Kumaon Regiment defeated several waves of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1962.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, soldiers of the regiment fought to the last man standing, under freezing temperatures, and with limited ammunition.

Significance of the region:

Rezang La is vital for the defence of the crucially important Chushul. Any invader reaching there would have had a free run to Leh.