Insights Daily Current Events, 05 May 2015

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Insights Daily Current Events, 05 May 2015

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Ghats yields new limbless amphibian

A team of scientists from Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) and Natural History Museum, London, have reported the discovery of a new species of caecilian (limbless) amphibian from the southern part of the Western Ghats.

Details:

Name of the new species: Gegeneophis tejaswini.

  • It is named after the Tejaswini river in north Kerala.
  • It is the 12th Gegeneophis species discovered from the Western Ghats and the fourth from Kerala.
  • Of the 204 caecilian species reported so far, some resemble snakes while others look like worms.
  • The species is nearly blind, with the eye covered by bone.
  • Measuring 135 mm to 224 mm in length, the specimens are pinkish in colour and easily mistaken for earthworms.
  • According to the authors, people usually fail to recognise caecilian amphibians because of their secretive underground life and superficial similarity to earthworms.
  • Given that G.tejaswini is known only from a small series of specimens from a single locality and that very little is known of its general ecology and nothing of its reproductive biology, the authors have proposed that the species be classified as Data Deficient under IUCB criteria.

Caecilians are limbless subterranean amphibians found in wet tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Caecilians
Caecilians

Sources: The Hindu.

States dragging their feet on food security law

A parliamentary panel has taken dim view of the delay in implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 which provides for distribution of discounted food grains to 67% of the population.

  • It has asked the Union Food Ministry to set up a task force for quickening the pace of work in the non-compliant States.
  • Only 11 States have so far operationalised the Act with 25 States unable to comply with preconditions to improve the Public Distribution System.
  • Even the States which are implementing the Act are doing so partially as most of them have continued with the old set of beneficiaries primarily with the aim of not losing any quota of the concessional food grains under the targeted PDS.

The Central government has given several extensions since April to States for carrying out the requirement of displaying the list of beneficiaries, computerisation of the targeted PDS, setting up vigilance committees and building modern storage facilities at strategic points for quick movement of food grains.

About National Food Security Act, 2013:

Also called as the Right to Food act, this act aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.

  • It extends to the whole of India.

Under the provisions of this act, beneficiaries are able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals at the following prices:

  • Rice at 3 Rupees per kg
  • Wheat at 2 Rupees per kg
  • Coarse grains (millet) at 1 rupee per kg.

Salient features:

  • 75% rural and 50% of the urban population are entitled for three years from enactment to 5 kg food grains per month at 3 Rupees , 2 Rupees, 1 Rupee per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively.
  • The states are responsible for determining eligibility.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
  • Children 6 to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
  • The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supplies of food grains.
  • The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of food grains.
  • The Public Distribution System is to be reformed.
  • The eldest woman in the household, 18 years or above, is the head of the household for the issuance of the ration card.
  • There will be state- and district-level redress mechanisms and State Food Commissions will be formed for implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the Act.
  • The poorest who are covered under the Antodaya yojana will remain entitled to the 35 kg of grains allotted to them under the mentioned scheme.
  • The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion(1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, NFSA, PIB.

 

 

Rethink on AFSPA in Arunachal

The Union Home Minister recently assured a delegation of the All-Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union that his Ministry would look into the demand for lifting the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the State.

  • The Home Ministry, through a March 27 notification, had ordered that the AFSPA be extended to all the districts of Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam, triggering strong opposition from the State government.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act:

It is an Act empowering armed forces to deal effectively in ‘Disturbed Areas’. Any area which is declared ‘Disturbed’ under the disturbed areas act enables armed forces to resort to the provisions of AFSPA.

Who declares an area as disturbed?

  • The choice of declaring any area as ‘disturbed’ vests both with state and central government.

Special powers provided to armed forces:

After an area comes under the ambit of AFSPA, any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or another person of equivalent rank can use force for a variety of reasons while still being immune to the prosecution.

Ambit:

  • The act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (seven sisters).
  • In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
  • In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.

The government can declare AFSPA in the following conditions:

  • When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
  • When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.

Legal provisions of AFSPA:

In an area declared, “disturbed” an army officer is legally free to carry out following operations:

  • Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons.
  • Destroy any shelter (private or govt.) from which armed attacks are made or likely to be made or attempted to be made.
  • Arrest any person without warrant who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence.
  • Enter and search, without warrant, any premises for purpose of arrest or to recover any person, arms, explosives.
  • To search and seize any vehicle suspected to be carrying an offender or any person against whom any reasonable suspicion exists that he has or is about to commit an offence.
  • To provide legal immunity to the army personnel found involved in any violation or ethical breach i.e., they cannot be sued or prosecuted.

Why do armed forces need AFSPA?

  • The forces are aware that they cannot afford to fail when called upon to safeguard the country’s integrity. Hence, they require the minimum legislation that is essential to ensure efficient utilization of combat capability. This includes safeguards from legal harassment and empowerment of its officers to decide on employment of the minimum force that they consider essential.
  • The absence of such a legal statute would adversely affect organizational flexibility and the utilization of the security capacity of the state. This would render the security forces incapable of fulfilling their assigned role.

Common people see it as ‘Right to Kill’ Act. Since its inception many Human Rights organizations and civil societies have been opposing it for the following reasons:

  • It makes no distinction between a peaceful gathering of five or more people and a berserk mob.
  • The law also states that, “no prosecution can be initiated against an officer without the previous sanction of the Central government”.
  • The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law.

In 2005 the Jeevan Reddy Commission said that AFSPA should be repealed and the clauses that are required should be included in other Acts.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, ET, NDTV.

 

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