The Union Government recently withdrew parts of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1958 from three Northeastern states: Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur.
AFSPA is still in effect in parts of these three states, as well as parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants the armed forces broad powers.
For example, it allows them to open fire, even killing, on anyone who is breaking the law or carrying arms and ammunition.
It also gives them the authority to arrest people without warrants on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” and to search people’s homes without a warrant.
It can be imposed on a state or parts of a state by the Centre or the Governor of that state after these areas are declared “disturbed” under Section 3.
The Act was amended in 1972, and the powers to declare an area “disturbed” were conferred on the Central Government as well as the States at the same time.
The Union Home Ministry currently issues periodic “disturbed area” notifications to extend AFSPA only to Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
The State governments issue the notification for Manipur and Assam.
Tripura repealed the Act in 2015, and Meghalaya was subject to AFSPA for 27 years until it was repealed by the MHA on April 1, 2018.
Informal Consultation with the State: While the Act empowers the central government to impose AFSPA unilaterally, this is usually done informally in consultation with the state government.
After receiving a recommendation from the state government, the Centre makes its decision.
Coordination with Local Police: While the Act gives security forces the authority to open fire, this cannot be done without first warning the suspect.
The act requires security forces to hand over suspects to the local police station within 24 hours of apprehending them.
It states that the armed forces must work with the district administration rather than acting independently.
Withdrawal: The reduction in AFSPA areas is a result of improved security and faster development as a result of the Indian government’s consistent efforts and several agreements to end insurgency and bring lasting peace to the North-East.
In Nagaland, for example, all major groups — the NSCN(I-M) and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) — are nearing completion of agreements with the government.
Impact: For nearly 60 years, the Northeast has been living in the shadow of AFSPA, creating a sense of alienation from the rest of the country.
The move is expected to aid in the demilitarisation of the region by removing restrictions on movement through checkpoints and frisking of residents.
Insurgency in Nagaland: When the Naga nationalist movement began in the 1950s with the formation of the Naga National Council (NNC), the Assam police allegedly used force to put it down.
As an armed movement took root in Nagaland, Parliament passed AFSPA, which was then imposed on the entire state.
It was imposed in Manipur in 1958 in the Naga-dominated districts of Senapati, Tamenglong, and Ukhrul, where the NNC was active.
Secessionist and Nationalist Movements: As secessionist and nationalist movements arose in other Northeastern states, AFSPA was extended and imposed.
Increased Feelings of Alienation: According to Naga nationalist leaders, the use of force and AFSPA exacerbated the Naga people’s sense of alienation, solidifying Naga nationalism.
Fake Encounters & Draconian Law: Several incidents of violence have been reported in the Northeastern states, as AFSPA grants security forces broad powers.
In a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2012, the families of extra-judicial killing victims claimed 1,528 fake encounters occurred in the state between May 1979 and May 2012.
The Supreme Court formed a commission to investigate six of these cases, and the commission determined that all six were forgeries.
Bypassing the State: In some cases, such as the imposition of AFSPA in Tripura in 1972, the Centre has overruled the state.
Irom Sharmila’s Protest: In 2000, activist Irom Sharmila began a 16-year hunger strike against the AFSPA in Manipur.
Former Supreme Court Justice Jeevan Reddy: In 2004, the then-central government formed a five-member committee led by former Supreme Court Justice Jeevan Reddy.
The committee recommended that AFSPA be repealed, calling it “highly undesirable” and claiming that it had become a symbol of oppression.
Second Administrative Reforms Commission Recommendation: These recommendations were later endorsed by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, which was led by Veeerapa Moily.
The government and security forces should follow the Supreme Court’s, Jeevan Reddy Commission’s, and National Human Rights Commission’s guidelines (NHRC).
At the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the government recently approved genome-edited plants without the burdensome GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) regulation (GEAC).
The government has exempted Site Directed Nuclease (SDN) 1 and 2 genomes from Rules 7-11 of the Environment Protection Act, avoiding a lengthy approval process for GM crops through the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
The Environment Protection Act’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC) would now be tasked with certifying that the genome edited crop is free of any foreign DNA.
It reports to the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
It is in charge of evaluating activities involving the large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from an environmental standpoint.
The committee is also in charge of evaluating proposals for the release of genetically modified organisms and products into the environment, including experimental field trials.
The Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC chairs GEAC, which is co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
Genome editing (also known as gene editing) refers to a set of technologies that allow scientists to alter an organism’s Deoxy-Ribonucleic Acid (DNA) (DNA).
These technologies enable the addition, removal, or modification of genetic material at specific locations in the genome.
Scientists have developed highly effective Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) -associated proteins-based systems thanks to advanced research. This system enables precise intervention at the genome sequence.
This tool has opened up new avenues for plant breeding. Agricultural scientists can now use this tool to edit the genome in order to insert specific traits into the gene sequence.
The process is divided into three categories based on the nature of the edit — SDN 1, SDN 2, and SDN 3.
SDN 1 introduces changes in the host genome’s DNA via small insertions/deletions without the introduction of foreign genetic material.
The edit in SDN 2 entails using a small DNA template to generate specific changes. Both of these processes use no alien genetic material and produce crop varieties that are indistinguishable from conventionally bred crop varieties.
The SDN3 process involves larger DNA elements or full-length genes of foreign origin, which is similar to the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have had their genetic material modified by the introduction of a foreign genetic material.
Soil bacteria are the best mining source for such genes in agriculture, which are then inserted into the host genome using genetic engineering.
In the case of cotton, for example, the introduction of genes cry1Ac and cry2Ab derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) allows the native cotton plant to naturally produce endotoxins to combat pink bollworm.
BT Cotton takes advantage of this advantage to assist farmers in naturally combating pink bollworm, the most common pest for cotton farmers.
The primary distinction between genome editing and genetic engineering is that the former does not involve the introduction of foreign genetic material, whereas the latter does.
In agriculture, both techniques aim to produce variants that are higher yielding and more resistant to biotic and abiotic stress.
Prior to the advent of genetic engineering, such variety improvement was accomplished through selective breeding, which entailed carefully crossing plants with specific traits in order to produce the desired trait in the offspring.
Not only has genetic engineering improved the accuracy of this work, but it has also given scientists greater control over trait development.
GM crops have been a source of contention around the world, with many environmentalists opposing them due to concerns about bio safety and insufficient data. The introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops in India is a time-consuming process involving multiple levels of scrutiny.
Bt cotton is the only crop that has gotten past the regulatory red tape so far.
Scientists in India and around the world have been quick to distinguish between genetically modified (GM) crops and genome-edited crops. They have pointed out that the latter contain no foreign genetic material, making them indistinguishable from traditional hybrids.
Globally, European Union countries have grouped genome-edited crops with genetically modified (GM) crops. Argentina, Israel, the United States, Canada, and other countries have liberal regulations for genome-edited crops.
The Union Cabinet recently approved the “Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance” (RAMP) scheme, which will begin in fiscal year 2022-23.
It is consistent with the recommendations of the U K Sinha Committee, the KV Kamath Committee, and the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC).
In 2019, the Reserve Bank of India established a ‘Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises’ chaired by Shri U K Sinha to recommend long-term measures for the economic and financial sustainability of the MSME sector.
The scheme was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23 by the finance minister.
It is a World Bank-assisted Central Sector Scheme that supports the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises’ CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (Covid) Resilience and Recovery Interventions (MoMSME).
Improving Market and Credit Access
Improving Centre-State Linkages and Partnerships Strengthening institutions and governance at the Centre and State
Addressing the issue of late payments and greening MSMEs
A key component of RAMP is the development of Strategic Investment Plans (SIPs), to which all states and UTs will be invited.
The SIPs would include an outreach plan for identifying and mobilising MSMEs under RAMP, as well as identifying key constraints and gaps, setting milestones, and projecting the required budgets for interventions in priority sectors such as renewable energy, rural and non-farm business, wholesale and retail trade, village and cottage industries, women enterprises, and so on.
An apex National MSME Council would oversee RAMP’s overall monitoring and policy oversight.
The council will be led by the Minister for MSME and will include representatives from various Ministries, as well as a secretariat.
Funding: The total cost of the scheme is Rs. 6,062.45 crore, of which Rs. 3750 crore is a loan from the World Bank and the remaining Rs. 2312.45 crore is a contribution from India.
Implementation Strategy: Funds would be channelled through RAMP into the Ministry’s budget in accordance with Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) to support ongoing MoMSME programmes aimed at improving market access and competitiveness.
Putting the National MSME Reform Agenda into Action
Accelerating Centre-State Collaboration in the MSME Sector
Increasing the efficacy of the Technology Upgrade Scheme (CLCS-TUS)
Improving the Receivable Financing Market for MSMEs
Improving the Effectiveness of Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) Delivery and “Greening and Gender”
Address MSME Sector Challenges: The RAMP programme will address generic and Covid-related MSME sector challenges through impact enhancement of existing MSME schemes, particularly on the competitiveness front.
Address Underserved MSME Blocks: Among other things, the programme will bolster the underserved MSME blocks of capacity building, handholding, skill development, quality enrichment, technological upgradation, digitization, outreach, and marketing promotion.
Create Jobs: Through enhanced collaboration with states, the RAMP programme will be a job enabler, market promoter, finance facilitator, and supporter of vulnerable groups and greening initiatives.
In states where the presence of MSMEs is low, the programme will result in greater formalisation due to the greater impact of the RAMP-covered schemes.
These states’ SIPs would serve as a road map for the development of a stronger MSME sector.
Complement the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission: RAMP will support the AtmanNirbhar Bharat mission by fostering innovation and improving industry standards and practises, as well as providing MSMEs with the necessary technological inputs.
They are the growth engines of the Indian economy, accounting for roughly 30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In terms of exports, they are an essential component of the supply chain, accounting for approximately 48 percent of total exports.
MSMEs also play an important role in job creation, employing approximately 110 million people across the country.
Surprisingly, MSMEs are also intertwined with the rural economy, with more than half of MSMEs operating in rural India.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the Department of Fertilizers’ proposal to extend the application of the New Investment Policy (NIP)-2012 to the three units of Hindustan Urvarak & Rasayan Ltd.
The Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, proposed the 2012 New Investment Policy.
The Government of India approved this policy in 2013 in order to encourage new investments in the urea sector and to make India self-sufficient.
The policy establishes guidelines for determining gas prices as well as other road maps for attracting investment in the urea sector.
It establishes a structure with a floor price and a ceiling price for the amount payable to Urea units, which is calculated based on the delivered gas price (inclusive of charges and taxes) to respective urea units.
The floor and ceiling prices for each urea unit shall be applicable in relation to the calculated Import Parity Price (IPP).
Under the 2008 investment policy, the IPP for urea is defined as the average C&F price excluding any applicable customs duties and handling and bagging charges at the port.
A new study discovered microplastic particles in the blood samples of 17 of the 22 people studied, with half of them being polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics.
It is unclear whether these microplastics can cross the bloodstream and deposit in organs, causing diseases.