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5th October Current Affairs

The 2003 Ceasefire agreement

(GS-II: India and its neighbourhood- relations)

In News:

India and Pakistan troops are reported to have exchanged fire briefly along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Details:

This is the first violation along the Kashmir Valley section of the de facto border since February this year.

Background:

India and Pakistan, in February 2021, issued a joint statement to strictly observe the 2003 Ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control(LoC).

About the 2003 ceasefire agreement:

The ceasefire agreement was reached in November 2003, four years after the Kargil War.

On November 26, 2003 the ceasefire took effect along the entire stretch of the India-Pakistan frontier.

It facilitated the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot routes, paving the way for bus and truck services linking the two Kashmirs for the first time in six decades and encouraging cross-LoC contacts, exchanges, travel, and trade.

The ceasefire also enabled India to complete the construction of a fence near the LoC to prevent Pakistan’s infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir, a project that it had begun a couple of decades earlier but had to suspend due to Pakistan’s artillery fire.

Significance?

The 2003 ceasefire agreement remains a milestone as it brought peace along the LoC until 2006. Between 2003 and 2006, not a single bullet was fired by the jawans of India and Pakistan.

But since 2006, ceasefire violations have become the norm with increasing frequency. Recent years have seen an increasing number of ceasefire violations despite an agreement reached in 2018 to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire agreement.

What’s the concern?

This puts a question mark on how long the fresh commitment to ceasefire along the LoC can hold especially with summers approaching. As a matter of annual routine, terror infiltration bids from Pakistan increase as summer begins in the Kashmir Valley. Melting of ice on the high mountains offers Pakistan an opportunity to foment terrorism in the Valley.

Prohibited chemicals in firecrackers

(GS-III: Conservation and Pollution related issues)

In News:

The Supreme Court is all set to go into an affidavit filed by the environment ministry last October on the use of so-called green and improved fireworks — hearing a case that could well decide whether this Diwali will see fireworks.

What’s the issue?

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has informed the court that a lot of research and development has gone into this field following the court’s October 2018 judgment. It urged the court to consider the various proposals and formulations on green/improved crackers that the ministry has come up with in its affidavit filed before the court in October 2020.

The judgment:

The court’s October 23, 2018 judgment banned the sale and production of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR and regulated the use of firecrackers across the country.

Barium-based firecrackers were specifically banned.

Online sale of firecrackers has been completely banned.

The verdict had come in response to a plea seeking a ban on manufacturing and sale of firecrackers across the country to curb air pollution.

Recent observations made by the Supreme Court on the use of firecrackers:

The Supreme Court said it cannot infringe the right to life of other citizens “under the guise of employment of few” while considering a ban on firecrackers.

Have to strike a balance between employment, unemployment and right to life.

How do firecrackers work?

Firecrackers use fuel and oxidisers to produce a combustion reaction, and the resulting explosion spreads the material in a superheated state. The metal salts in the explosive mix get ‘excited’ and emit light.

What is the controversy?

Metals in the mix, which have a varying arrangement of electrons in shells outside their nucleus, produce different wavelengths of light in this reaction, generating spectacular colours. But as many studies show, the burning of firecrackers is an unusual and peak source of pollution, made up of particles and gases.

One study in Milan, Italy, quantified the increase in the levels of several elements in the air in one hour as 120 times for Strontium, 22 times for Magnesium, 12 times for Barium, 11 times for Potassium and six times for Copper.

The Central Pollution Control Board conducted a study in Delhi in 2016, and found that the levels of Aluminium, Barium, Potassium, Sulphur, Iron and Strontium rose sharply on Deepavali night, from low to extremely high.

Similar episodic spikes have been recorded in China and the U.K. Pollution from firecrackers affects the health of people and animals, and aggravates the already poor ambient air quality in Indian cities.

This has resulted in litigation calling for a total ban on firecrackers, and court orders to restrict the type of chemicals used as well as their volume. Many crackers also violate legal limits on sound.

Can green crackers make a difference?

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, through its National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI), Nagpur, has come out with firecrackers that have “reduced emission light and sound” and 30% less particulate matter using Potassium Nitrate as oxidant.

These crackers are named Safe Water Releaser, which minimises Potassium Nitrate and Sulphur use, but matches the sound intensity of conventional crackers, Safe Minimal Aluminium , where Aluminium use is low and Safe Thermite Crackers with low Sulphur and Potassium Nitrate.

Need of the hour:

While deciding on a ban on firecrackers, it is imperative to take into account the fundamental right of livelihood of firecracker manufacturers and the right to health of over 1.3 billion people of the country.

Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) Act of 2016

(GS-II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections)

In News:

The Supreme Court has stepped in to protect homebuyers from exploitation by builders who delay transfer of possession and often redraft delivery schedules.

Need for:

A petition was filed on the lack of a “uniform or model” form for agreements entered into among builders, agents and buyers.

The petition said the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) Act of 2016 had hardly been implemented.

Often hard-earned savings of ordinary citizens who aspired to have their own homes were invested. But many families became penniless waiting for a roof over their heads that the builders had promised them.

The petitioner drew court’s attention to Section 41 and 42 of the RERA:

Section 41 mandated the establishment of a Central Advisory Council.

Section 42 said the Council would ensure the implementation of the Act, drive major policy changes, assure that consumer interests were not thwarted by builders and promoters and craft the faster growth of the real estate sector.

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016:

It is aimed at bringing in transparency and redefining the engagement between various stakeholders.

Key provisions:

A requirement for developers to now register projects with RERA prior to any advertisement and sale.

Developers are also expected to have all sanction plans approved and regulatory clearances in place prior to commencement of sale. Subsequent changes have to be approved by a majority of buyers and the regulator.

The Act ambitiously stipulates an electronic system, maintained on the website of RERA, where developers are expected to update on a quarterly basis the status of their projects, and submit regular audits and architectural reports.

It requires developers to maintain separate escrow accounts in relation to each project and deposit 70% of the collections in such an account to ensure that funds collected are utilised only for the specific project.

The Act also requires real estate brokers and agents to register themselves with the regulator.

The Act also attempts to establish an adjudicatory mechanism for the speedy redressal of disputes. RERA and the Appellate Tribunal are expected to decide on complaints within an ambitious period of 60 days.

Why does it matter?

The Act has been described by the Centre as an attempt at cleaning up the real estate sector, ushering in transparency, accountability and fair-play among stakeholders.

This law will empower the consumer while boosting the credibility of developers.

It is widely felt that the Act will shift housing demand at least in the immediate term towards the organised players, better-equipped as they are to fulfil various stipulations. Most such players have welcomed the Act, saying that it will bridge the trust deficit.

The Conference on Disarmament

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is being held in Geneva.

Details:

At the conference, India expressed deep concern over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems that could endanger peace and security, saying the possibility of terrorists acquiring such weapons necessitates the global community to work together to address this grave danger.

India has said that it supports the full and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and emphasises the strengthening of the OPCW to fulfill its important mandate.

About the Conference on Disarmament:

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is a multilateral disarmament forum established by the international community to negotiate arms control and disarmament agreements based at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Conference meets annually in three separate sessions in Geneva.

The Conference was first established in 1979 as the Committee on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. It was renamed the Conference on Disarmament in 1984.

Formation: 1984.

Membership: 65 Countries.

The Conference was created with a permanent agenda, also known as the “Decalogue,” which includes the following topics:

  • Nuclear weapons in all aspects.
  • Other weapons of mass destruction.
  • Conventional weapons.
  • Reduction of military budgets.
  • Reduction of armed forces.
  • Disarmament and development.
  • Disarmament and international security.

Relationship to the United Nations:

The Conference is formally independent from the United Nations. However, while it is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to it in various ways.

First and foremost, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva serves as the Secretary-General of the Conference.

Furthermore, while the Conference adopts its own rules of procedure and agenda, the United Nations General Assembly can pass resolutions recommending specific topics to the Conference.

Finally, the Conference submits a report of its activities to the General Assembly yearly, or more frequently, as appropriate.

About OPCW:

It is an international organization established by the Chemical Weapons Convention, 1997 to implement and enforce the terms of the non-proliferation treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, or transfer of chemical weapons by signatory states.

The OPCW is authorized to perform inspections to verify that signatory states are complying with the convention.

By the 2001 Relationship Agreement between the OPCW and the United Nations, the OPCW reports on its inspections and other activities to the UN through the office of the Secretary General.

The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”.

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits:

  • Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
  • The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
  • Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
  • Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
  • The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”

External auditor for Hague-based OPCW:

In April 2021, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has been chosen as the external auditor by the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for a three-year term starting 2021.

The appointment was made through an election process at the OPCW conference recently.

India was also selected as the member of the executive council of the OPCW representing Asia group for another two-year term during the OPCW conference.

About the Executive Council:

It is the governing body of the OPCW.

The Council consists of 41 OPCW Member States that are elected by the Conference of the States Parties and rotate every two years.

The Council supervises the activities of the Technical Secretariat and is responsible for promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the Convention.

Each Member State has the right, on a rotating basis, to serve on the Executive Council.