December 05, 2013
Communal Violence and preservation of National Harmony
- In the backdrop of India’s long history of communal violence, the country certainly needs a specific law with a strong focus on preventing clashes between the majority community and minorities and providing redressal mechanisms and compensation to the victims of such violence.
- The present revised draft of the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill seeks to address some of the problems associated with communal violence in India, and put in place an institutional mechanism for redress.
Why is there a need for such a law?
- Most of the communal clashes are engineered and sustained by chauvinist and anti-social elements in both the majority and minority communities and these clashes are different from ordinary law and order issues.
- It is also observed that, there are institutional bias against minorities and oppressed sections. For instance the Godhra riots which not only witnessed mass killings of a minority community, but also safeguarded many from the majority community which was involved in the heinous act. Hence a special legislation that takes into account the specific character and circumstances of communal violence is therefore vital and unquestionable.
Contentious provisions of the Bill:
- However, some of the provisions of the bill are too sweeping and general to address the real concerns that it intends to address. On these lines, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has argued that many of the provisions are worded vaguely, open to wide subjective interpretation, and hence can be misused. The bill is viewed as an attempt to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the state governments’ (law and order is a State subject) as a result this would be a threat to the federal structure of India.
- The bill also proposes to target ‘hate propaganda’. Thus, anyone who disseminates any information “that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate an intention to promote or incite hatred” could attract the penal provisions of this law.
- In the absence of specific phrasing, there is scope for misuse by subordinate law enforcers.
- What is actually required in preventing communal violence is ‘better policing and administrative precautions’ rather than just prosecuting people who indulge in propaganda with the intention to promote hatred.
- While one cannot deny the fact that India needs special legislation to deal with communal violence, the current draft bill is unlikely to serve the purpose. The failure to eliminate the contentious provisions that are in any case too general and sweeping could endanger the passage of a potentially historic piece of legislation which in effect institutionalises a commitment on the part of government.
- In this regard, it is better that the bill is redrafted to ensure a sharper focus on the specific issues of prevention of communal violence and provide proper redressal mechanism and a wider consultation among various stakeholders including the government, political parties, police and security agencies would not only uphold the democratic principles of our country but also help in preservation of national harmony.
Call for demilitarization of Siachen (India-Pakistan)
- Pakistan has said India should pull out its troops from the Siachen Glacier as waste disposal by Indian soldiers was threatening the glacier (which it claims is one of its largest sources of water) and posed a serious environmental threat.
- The implications of water scarcity were grave in view of climate change.
- The issue of demilitarising Siachen has often been discussed and both India and Pakistan have debated the question of troops’ pullout but in vain.
- Civil society groups too have been debating the issue and there are demands to declare Siachen a protected area.
Courtesy- www.defence.pk (image –top)
Courtesy – http://www.madhyamam.com (image)
The Siachen issue
- The Siachen Conflict is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir.
- A cease-fire went into effect in 2003. The conflict began in 1984 with India’s successful Operation Meghdoot during which it gained control of the Siachen Glacier (unoccupied and not demarcated area).
- India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately west of the Saltoro Ridge.
- Both countries maintain permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). More than 2000 people have died in this inhospitable terrain, mostly due to weather extremes and the natural hazards of mountain warfare.
- The conflict in Siachen stems from the incompletely demarcated territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that from the NJ9842 location the boundary would proceed “thence north to the glaciers.” UN officials presumed there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a cold and barren region.
Egypt to expand ties with India
- Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, has chosen India as the destination of his first visit to Asia .This signifies an important step in taking the relationship of the two countries further.
- As the regime in Egypt prepares for a referendum in January, 2014 on a new pattern of government, India is looking to take forward discussions held during ousted President Mohamed Morsy’s visit especially in the areas of defence, long term oil supply arrangements, joint ventures in refining and fertilizers and greater cooperation in science and technology.
- The two Foreign Ministers (India & Egypt) also discussed specific issues related to enhancing economic cooperation, including need to ease work permit regulations for professionals. Currently, the bilateral trade was $5.4 billion. India is the third largest destination of Egyptian exports ($2.6 billion) and Egypt is the 11th largest destination of Indian exports ($2.9 billion).
- The Indian government has also approved to establish a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology at Al Azhar University in Cairo. The centre, which will be set up as project under the India-Africa Forum Summit, is planned for completion in a year after the confirmation of infrastructure by the host institution. Once completed, it will be able to train 500 students annually.
U.N. monitors say Taliban sanctions failing
- The United Nations team monitoring the Security Council sanctions against the Taliban has warned that the international community is ill-placed to contain a surge of extortion-related funding the jihadist group is expected to raise in the run-up to next year’s (2014) elections in Afghanistan.
- In 2014, Afghanistan there would be significant spike in international spending to finance the large-scale logistical operations necessary for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
- Illicit business activities and investments play a key role in the financial structure of the Taliban and its affiliates. Taliban continues to raise millions from drugs, extortion, in build-up to 2014 elections
- Taliban’s continued ability to raise funds is critical to both its military and political influence in Afghanistan. According to the report, the Taliban is estimated to have raised $155 million from narcotics-related operations in 2012. The Taliban in Helmand province, a key hub for the jihadist group, had raised $8 million from the narcotics trade from January to May, 2013 alone, and an additional $400,000 a month through levies on local transport operators.
- Also 90 to 99% of all gemstones mined in Afghanistan are illegally smuggled out of the country. The Taliban has targeted specifically gemstone and mining operations.
- On these lines the Monitoring Team has recommended that the member-states be asked to submit any relevant information on Taliban bank accounts, hawalas and financial facilitators.
- According to the Monitoring Team’s view, there appears to be little ground for optimism that violence could be defused by a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. But there are no evidence yet.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
In a first for an Indian spacecraft, Mars orbiter now in interplanetary space
- India’s spacecraft to Mars is now coasting in the interplanetary space. In its epic voyage towards the Red Planet, it broke out of the Sphere of Influence (SOI) of the Earth traversing beyond 9.25 lakh km. Chandrayaan-1 had travelled up to 4 lakh km.
- The Mars orbiter crossed the SOI, 72 hours after it was cannoned out of its Earth-bound orbit. It is now in a proper Sun-centric orbit.
- This is the first time that an Indian spacecraft has crossed this distance of 9.25 lakh km. The spacecraft is no longer under the Earth’s influence now, it is in interplanetary space.
- The spacecraft will now coast around the Sun for about 300 days. This helio-centric flight will total 68-crore km before it has its tryst with Mars on September 24, 2014.
Agni V’s next trial will be canister-based
- In a crucial technological accomplishment, a simulated canister-based launch of a dummy missile weighing 50 tonnes was successfully carried out by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently.
- With the success of the “Missile Ejection Test” (MET), DRDO missile technologists are gearing up to conduct the first canister-based test-firing of 5,000-plus km range nuclear weapons-capable Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V (The indigenously developed, nuclear-capable missile has a strike range of 5,000 kms) in March-April, 2014.
- The MET success has been hailed as a very important milestone and a prelude to the main launch. It laid the foundation and provided core competence to the DRDO for the canister launch system.
- India has joined an elite club of nations that possess the ICBM launch capability when the maiden test-firing of Agni-V was successfully conducted in April, 2012.
- Soon after the resounding success of the second Agni V mission in September, 2013, it was decided that the next trial would be canister based.
What is an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)?
- An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a maximum range of more than 5,500 kilometres typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more nuclear warheads).
- Most modern designs support multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing a single missile to carry several warheads, each of which can strike a different target.
- ICBMs are differentiated by having greater range and speed than other ballistic missiles: intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs)—these shorter range ballistic missiles are known collectively as theatre ballistic missiles.
Importance of the successful launch of Agni V:
- Only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United States and Britain, along with Israel, have so far possessed such long-range missiles.
- Tipped to be a “game changer” by experts, Agni V will extend India’s reach all over Asia, parts of Africa and parts of Europe. The Agni series of missiles, including Agni V, is crucial for India’s defence vis-a-vis China since Beijing has upped the ante in recent times by deploying missiles in Tibet Autonomous Region bordering India.
- Agni V can be configured to launch small satellites. It can also be used to shoot down enemy satellites in orbits. Once fired, it cannot be stopped. It can, however, be launched only after a decision by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
Significance of canister launch system (this is the 1st time India is using this technology):
- The canister-launch system is used to impart higher road mobility, the missile will give the armed forces much greater operational flexibility than the earlier-generation of Agni missiles.
- Made of maraging steel, a canister must provide a hermetically sealed atmosphere that preserves the missile for years.
- During firing, the canister would absorb enormous stresses when a thrust of 300 to 400 tonnes is generated to eject the 50 tonnes missile.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope
- The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. (Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts).
- Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with almost no background light.
- Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
- Recently it has helped in identifying faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.
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