The Government of India recently introduced the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 in the Lok Sabha.
The bill intends to prohibit the financing of any WMD-related activity and to empower authorities to take action against financiers of such activities.
Background: The bill proposes to amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Illegal Activities) Act of 2005.
Inventive Legislation: The 2005 Act was passed to make illegal activities involving weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems illegal.
This Act addresses illegal activities involving biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as their delivery systems.
It also includes provisions for integrated legal measures to control the export of materials, equipment, and technologies related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, as well as to prevent their transfer to non-state actors or terrorists.
Need for Amendment: The existing Weapons of Mass Destruction Act does not address the financial aspects of such delivery systems, and new provisions are required to meet international obligations.
The United Nations Security Council’s targeted financial sanctions, as well as the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations, have prohibited the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
Prohibit funding of WMD-related activities.
Give the Centre the authority to freeze, seize, or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources in order to prevent such financing.
Make no funds, financial assets, or economic resources available for any prohibited activity involving weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
These are weapons capable of inflicting death and destruction on such a massive and indiscriminate scale that their mere presence in the hands of a hostile power can be considered a grave threat.
Modern weapons of mass destruction are either nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, which are often referred to as NBC weapons.
The term “weapons of mass destruction” has been in use since at least 1937, when it was applied to massed formations of bomber aircraft.
Nuclear bombs, for example, were used in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks in Japan.
Efforts to control the spread of WMD are codified in international treaties such as the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 Biological Weapons Convention of 1972
India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it has signed the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions.
The Ministry of Rural Development recently announced new wage rates under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the fiscal year 2022-23.
The wage rates are published in accordance with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005.
The MGNREGA wage rates are determined by changes in the CPI-AL (Consumer Price Index-Agriculture Labor), which reflects the increase in rural inflation.
21 of the 34 states and union territories will receive less than a 5% increase, while 10 will receive more than a 5% increase.
Goa has the highest wage increase of the 31 states and UTs, with a 7.14 percent increase.
Meghalaya has the smallest increase of 1.77 percent.
Wage rates in three states – Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura – remain unchanged.
MGNREGA is one of the world’s largest work guarantee programmes.
The scheme’s primary goal is to provide 100 days of employment to adult members of any rural household who are willing to do public work-related unskilled manual labour each fiscal year.
Legal Work Permit: Unlike previous employment guarantee schemes, the act seeks to address the root causes of chronic poverty through a rights-based framework.
At least one-third of the recipients must be women.
Wages must be paid in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, which specifies the statutory minimum wages for agricultural labourers in the state.
Demand-Driven Scheme: The most important aspect of MGNREGA’s design is its legally-backed guarantee that any rural adult will be able to find work within 15 days of requesting it, failing which a ‘unemployment allowance’ will be provided.
Workers can self-select under this demand-driven scheme.
Decentralised planning: There is an emphasis on strengthening the process of decentralisation by giving Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) a significant role in planning and implementing these works.
The act requires Gram Sabhas to recommend the works to be undertaken, and they must carry out at least 50% of the work.
Delay and inadequacy in Fund Disbursement: Most states have failed to disburse wages within the 15-day period required by MGNREGA. Furthermore, workers are not compensated if their wages are not paid on time.
As a result, the scheme has become a supply-based programme, and workers have begun to lose interest in working under it.
There is now ample evidence, including an admission by the Ministry of Finance, that wage payment delays are the result of insufficient funds.
Caste-Based Segregation: There were significant differences in delays based on caste. While 46 percent of payments to SC (Scheduled Caste) workers and 37 percent of payments to ST (Scheduled Tribes) workers were completed within the required seven-day period, non-SC/ST workers received only 26 percent.
Caste-based segregation had a particularly negative impact in poorer states such as Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal.
PRI’s Ineffective Role: Gram panchayats are unable to implement this act effectively and efficiently due to their lack of autonomy.
A large number of incomplete works: There has been a delay in the completion of MGNREGA works, and project inspection has been irregular. Under MGNREGA, there is also a problem with work quality and asset creation.
Job card fabrication: There are several issues associated with the existence of fake job cards, including the inclusion of fictitious names, missing entries, and delays in making job card entries.
There is a need for better coordination among various government departments, as well as a mechanism for allocating and measuring work.
There are some discrepancies in the payouts that must be addressed as well. Women in the industry earn 22.24 percent less than their male counterparts.
State governments must ensure that public works projects begin in each village. Workers who arrive at the job site should be given work as soon as possible.
Local governments must reach out to returned and quarantined migrant workers and assist those in need in obtaining job cards.
Gram panchayats must be given adequate resources, powers, and responsibilities in order to sanction works, provide work on demand, and authorise wage payments to avoid payment delays.
MGNREGA should be integrated with other government programmes. For example, the Green India initiative, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and so on.
The Comprehensive Training Programme on Natural Farming, organised by the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management, has been launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MANAGE).
MANAGE was founded in 1987 as an Indian response to agricultural extension challenges in a rapidly growing and diverse agriculture sector.
In practise, extension entails teaching farmers agronomic techniques and skills to help them improve their productivity, food security, and livelihoods.
It is characterised as “chemical-free farming and livestock-based.” It is a diverse farming system that integrates crops, trees, and livestock, allowing for the best use of functional biodiversity. It is firmly rooted in agro-ecology.
It holds the promise of increasing farmers’ income while also providing numerous other benefits such as soil fertility restoration, environmental health, and mitigating and/or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, popularised this farming method in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution.
It is based on natural or ecological processes that occur in or near farms. Natural farming is regarded as a type of regenerative agriculture on a global scale—a prominent strategy to save the planet.
It has the potential to manage land practises and sequester carbon from the atmosphere in soils and plants, where it can be beneficial rather than harmful.
Natural farming is promoted in India as the Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme (BPKP) under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
BPKP aims to promote traditional indigenous practises that reduce the use of externally purchased inputs.
Natural farming, as the name implies, is the art, practise, and, increasingly, science of collaborating with nature to accomplish much more with less.
It is regarded as a cost-effective farming practise with the potential to increase employment and rural development.
Natural farming eliminates health risks and hazards because it does not use synthetic chemicals. The food has a higher nutritional density and thus provides greater health benefits.
Natural farming maximises the amount of ‘crop per drop’ by working with diverse crops that help each other and cover the soil to prevent unnecessary water loss through evaporation.
Restores Soil Health: The most immediate impact of Natural Farming is on soil biology—on microbes and other living organisms like earthworms. The health of the soil is entirely dependent on the living organisms that inhabit it.
Environment Protection: It promotes better soil biology, increased agrobiodiversity, and more judicious water use, resulting in lower carbon and nitrogen footprints.
Livestock Sustainability: The incorporation of livestock into the farming system is critical in natural farming and aids in the restoration of the ecosystem. Jivamrit and Beejamrit are eco-friendly bio-inputs made from cow dung and urine, as well as other natural products.
Changes in soil structure caused by organic carbon, no/low tillage, and plant diversity promote plant growth even in extreme conditions such as severe droughts and withstanding severe flood and wind damage caused by cyclones.
Many farmers benefit from NF because it makes crops more resistant to weather extremes.
Rainfed Area Development (RAD) focuses on Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) to increase productivity while reducing risks associated with climatic variability.
Sub-mission on Agroforestry (SMAF): It aims to encourage farmers to plant multi-purpose trees alongside agriculture crops for climate resilience and an additional source of income for farmers, as well as improved feedstock for the wood-based and herbal industries, among other things.
The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) was established to develop, demonstrate, and disseminate techniques for making agriculture more resilient to the adverse effects of climate change.
The Mission Organic Value Chain Development for the North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) is a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission of the NMSA, that aims to develop certified organic production in a value chain mode.
Pradhan PMKSY (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana): It was launched in 2015 to address water resource issues and provide a long-term solution that envisions Per Drop More Crop.
The Way Forward
The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. In comparison to 2013, agricultural demand is expected to increase by up to 50%. In such a situation, a transformational process toward ‘holistic’ approaches such as agro-ecology, agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, and conservation agriculture is required.
There is a need to improve agricultural market infrastructure and expand the procurement mechanism to include all foodgrain and non-foodgrain crops in all states.
MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) must also be linked with farm work in order to reduce the cost of cultivation, which has risen at an alarming rate in recent years.
Recent fires involving electric two-wheelers (ETWs) have raised questions about the quality and safety of these vehicles.
EVs are vehicles that are partially or entirely powered by electricity.
While some EVs used lead acid or nickel metal hydride batteries, lithium ion batteries are now considered the standard for modern battery electric vehicles.
An anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and two current collectors comprise a Li-ion battery.
The lithium is stored in the anode and cathode, while the electrolyte transports positively charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode and vice versa via the separator.
The movement of the lithium ions generates free electrons in the anode, resulting in a charge at the positive current collector.
Low operating costs- Electric vehicles have low operating costs because they have fewer moving parts to maintain.
EVs convert more than 77 percent of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels.
They are also very environmentally friendly because they use little or no fossil fuels.
Reduced reliance on energy- Electricity is a domestic energy source.
Performance advantages- Electric motors are quieter, smoother, and faster than internal combustion engines, and they require less maintenance.
Driving range- EVs have a lower driving range than most other vehicles.
Recharge time- It can take 3 to 12 hours to fully recharge the battery pack. Even a “fast charge” to 80% capacity can take up to 30 minutes.
Thermal runaway- Because a battery pack is tightly packed with a number of Li-ion cells, even if a few batteries malfunction and cause a short circuit, it can set off a chain reaction that results in a fire.
The exact cause of the fires in the Ola and Okinawa EVs is currently unknown, as the companies have stated that they are investigating the incident.
According to Okinawa’s preliminary findings, the fire in its scooter was caused by a short circuit caused by carelessness in charging the vehicle.
These batteries could become a fire hazard for a variety of reasons, including
Addressing the gaps- The government, too, has been lax, allowing ETWs with speeds of less than 25 km/h to be sold without serious certification.
Proper investigation- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has ordered an investigation into the vehicles that caught fire unexpectedly.
It has asked the Centre for Fire, Explosives, and Environmental Safety (CFEES) to conduct an investigation.
Various alternatives- In India, debates are raging about whether battery swapping is a better solution for electric scooters.
When a user’s vehicle battery is fully or nearly fully discharged, manufacturers or a third-party provider simply replaces it with a fully charged battery at a battery-swapping station.
One of the most important aspects of EV, charging, is completely under the control of the swapping company, and the customer is never required to charge the battery.
Another advantage of swapping is that there is always an extra pool of batteries available, allowing for plenty of time to charge the batteries.
The government must act quickly to establish stringent regulations and standards.
In keeping with tradition, Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba paid a long-awaited visit to India, his first bilateral visit abroad.
Diplomatic relations- India-Nepal relations are based on a long history of shared culture, tradition, and religion.
On June 17, 1947, the two countries established diplomatic relations.
The importance of Indo-Nepal relations is reflected in India’s policy of putting its neighbours first.
Political relations- The frequent high-level visits by the leaders of the two countries at various points in time, as well as their interactions, are the hallmarks of the two countries’ ties.
The recent visit of Nepal’s Prime Minister to India emphasises the importance of strengthening existing bilateral mechanisms.
Economic ties- India is Nepal’s most important trading partner.
Following the devastating earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, India rushed to lend a helping hand.
Nepal’s trade deficit with India is growing. Nepal and India have signed a bilateral Transit Treaty, a Trade Treaty, and a Cooperation Agreement to Control Unauthorized Trade.
The Government of India pledged grants and soft loans at the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction (2015).
Connectivity- The Nepali authorities sought the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1949 to provide for an open border and the right of Nepali nationals to work in India.
Cross-border rail link- The Rs 787 crore project of a 35-kilometer cross-border rail link from Jayanagar (Bihar) to Kurtha (Nepal) has recently been operationalized.
Initially, the Konkan Railway Corporation will provide the necessary technical assistance.
The 90-kilometer-long 132-kV double circuit transmission line connecting Tila (Solukhumbu) to Mirchaiya (Siraha) has been inaugurated.
It was built with a Rs 200 crore concessional loan from Exim Bank, and a dozen hydroelectric projects were planned for the Solu corridor.
Technical cooperation agreements were also signed, such as Nepal’s induction into the International Solar Alliance in the railway sector and the agreement between Indian Oil Corporation and Nepal Oil Corporation on ensuring regular supplies of petroleum products.
The Mahakali Treaty- Signed in 1996, the Mahakali Treaty covers the Sarada and Tanakpur barrages, as well as the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project.
The $7 billion project requires political will to move forward.
The current joint vision statement on power sector cooperation recognises the opportunities for joint development power generation projects, as well as cross-border transmission linkages and national grid coordination.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States- The agreement provides a 500 million dollar grant for the construction of 318 kilometres of high voltage transmission lines and substations, as well as the maintenance of 300 kilometres of the East-West highway.
Despite the reservations of his coalition partners and China, Mr. Deuba recently pushed through the ratification of the agreement with the (MCC).
During the monarchy, China maintained contact with the Palace, and its main concern was keeping tabs on the Tibetan refugee community.
After the monarchy, China’s focus has shifted to political parties and institutions such as the Army and Armed Police Force, and it sees Nepal as an important component of its expanding South Asian footprint.
Recent years- In 2016, the then-prime minister, Mr. Oli, travelled to Beijing to negotiate a Transit Transportation Agreement.
Later, a Protocol with China was signed, granting access to four sea ports and three land ports.
China has surpassed India as the most important source of foreign direct investment.
In addition, China is working on airport expansion projects in Pokhara and Lumbini.
The Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950- This treaty is viewed as evidence of an unequal relationship and an imposition by the Indians.
To kickstart Track 2 discussions, the two Foreign Ministers should publicly acknowledge the groups’ report on the 1950 treaty.
Due to demonetisation, many Nepali nationals who were legally entitled to hold Rs 25,000 in Indian currency (due to the Nepali rupee’s peg to the Indian rupee) were left high and dry.
The British fixed the boundaries in 1816, and India inherited the areas over which the British had exercised territorial control in 1947.
While 98 percent of the India-Nepal border has been demarcated, two areas, Susta and Kalapani, remain problematic.
Mr. Oli expanded the Kalapani area dispute in 2019 by endorsing a new Nepal map after India issued new maps following the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as Union Territories.
To maintain the positive mood, these issues must be discussed behind closed doors and on Track 2 and Track 1.5 channels.
For the “neighbourhood first” policy to take root, India must be a sensitive and generous partner.