Current Affair – June 16, 2021

Right of protest is constitutionally guaranteed: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court granted bail to three students arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the northeast Delhi riots in 2020.

Significance of order

Anxiety to suppress dissent and in the morbid fear that matters may get out of hand, the state has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed ‘right to protest’ and ‘terrorist activity’. If such blurring gains traction, democracy would be in peril.

Stronger foundations

  • The foundations of our nation stand on surer footing than is to be likely to be shaken by a protest, however vicious, organized by a tribe of college students or other persons, operating as a coordination committee from the confines of a University situated in the heart of Delhi,”

· Noting that protests against governmental and parliamentary actions are legitimate, the High Court said though such protests are expected to be peaceful and nonviolent, it is not un common for protesters to push the limits permissible in law.

Ruling on the ‘terror act’

Not with standing the fact that the dentition of ‘terrorist act’ in UAPA is “wide and even somewhat vague”, the phrase ‘terrorist act’ cannot be permitted to be casually applied to criminal acts that fall squarely within the dentition of conventional offences,


  • Hitendra Vishnu Thakur versus State of Maharashtra: Terrorism is one of the manifestations of increased lawlessness and cult of violence… A ‘terrorist’ activity does not merely arise by causing disturbance of law and order or of public order. The fallout of the intended activity must be such that it travels beyond the capacity of the ordinary law enforcement agencies to tackle it under the ordinary penal law.

· Every ‘terrorist’ may be a criminal but every criminal cannot be given the label of a ‘terrorist’ only to set in motion the more stringent provisions of TADA.”

  • The intent and purport of the Parliament in enacting the UAPA, and more specifically in amending it in 2004 and 2008 to bring terrorist activity within its scope, was, and could only have been, to deal with matters of profound impact on the ‘Defence of India’, nothing more and nothing less.”
  • A sacrosanct principle of interpretation of penal provisions is that they must be construed strictly and narrowly, to ensure that a person who was not within the legislative intendment does not get roped into a penal provision. The more stringent a penal provision, the more strictly it must be construed.

UAPA’s origin

  • The ‘terrorist act’, including conspiracy and act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act, were brought within the purview of UAPA by an amendment made in 2004, on the heels of Parliament repealing Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
  • POTA’s precursor, the Terrorist & Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) was repealed in 1995.
  • The High Court said the phrase ‘terrorist act’ must get its colour and flavour from the problem of terrorism as was earlier addressed by the Parliament under TADA and POTA
Source: The Hindu

Rice diverted towards Ethanol production

  • The Central government has allocated 78,000 tonnes of rice procured for food security purposes to be diverted to ethanol production instead this year, at a subsidized rate of ₹20 a kg.

·  However, government asserted that the share of rice in ethanol production was “miniscule and transitory”, emphasising that maize would form the primary feedstock for grain based ethanol production instead.

Shift in focus

·  The step part of the government’s plan to double distilling capacities by 2025, partly by encouraging an increase in the share of grain based ethanol production from the current focus on molasses based production.

  • Earlier this month, PM Modi presented a road map advancing the target date for achieving 20% blending of ethanol in petrol by five years to 2025. The last two years have seen blending levels of around 5%, which is likely to jump to 8.5% in the current year.

· The Centre was targeting an ethanol production of 1,500 crore litres by 2025, out of which almost half, 740 crore litres, would be from grain based distilleries, with the remainder coming from sugarbased distilleries. Currently, about a third of the 710 crore litre ethanol production capacity comes from grains. Only 38 crore litres of grain- based ethanol is used for fuel.

  • This year, the Centre had committed for about three lakh tonnes of rice procured by the Food Corporation of India for ethanol production.
  • However, only 78,000 tonnes would be lifted by six distilleries.
Source: The Hindu

Why the southwest monsoon is early

Just about 10 days after it broke over the Kerala coast two days behind schedule, the southwest monsoon has progressed rapidly to cover two-thirds of the country.

How far has the monsoon progressed?

  • Across some areas of south peninsular and central India, the monsoon has arrived 7 to 10 days ahead of its scheduled date. So far, the monsoon has missed Northwest India — Gujarat, Rajasthan, western Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi.
  • As of Tuesday, the entire country except West Bengal and the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, Kerala, and Gujarat had received cumulative rainfall (since the official beginning of the southwest monsoon season on June 1) in excess (20%-59%) or large excess (60% or more) of normal.

Why is it early this year?

  • Cyclone Yaas, formed in the Bay of Bengal during the third week of May, helped the monsoon make a timely arrival over the Andaman Sea on May 21.
  • Despite a two-day delay from its normal onset over Kerala, where it arrived on June 3, the southwest monsoon made fast progress in subsequent days. This was mainly due to strong westerly winds from the Arabian Sea, and also the formation of a low-pressure system over the North Bay of Bengal on June 11 that currently lies over eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • The monsoon currents strengthened and it advanced into the Northeast, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and parts of Chhattisgarh.
  • An off-shore trough, prevailing for a week between Maharashtra and Kerala, has helped the monsoon arrive early over Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and southern Gujarat.

Does early onset mean more rainfall overall?

  • The time of monsoon onset over a region has no direct impact on the rainfall quantum received during the season, or in the monsoon’s progress.
  • For instance, the monsoon took 42 days in 2014 and 22 days in 2015 to cover the entire country. Even with such distinct ranges, India recorded deficient rainfall during both years.

How does early rainfall impact paddy sowing?

  • Early rainfall will not directly impact paddy sowing, with seedlings still in the nursery stage in most paddy growing states.
  • There is still time for undertaking paddy transplanting over most areas that grow rice. Due to rainfall over coastal Karnataka and Konkan, farmers can undertake paddy transplanting in the third to fourth weeks of June. Transplanting is being currently undertaken in Kerala.
  • However, with not much rainfall recorded over Madhya Maharashtra (except Kolhapur, Satara & Sangli districts and the ghat areas) and Marathwada (except bordering districts with Vidarbha) farmers may undertake sowing once these sub- divisions get sufficient rainfall, he said.
  • In Odisha and West Bengal, too, saplings are yet to reach the transplantation stage.

Can these patterns be placed within the context of climate change?

  • After the monsoon onset over Kerala, its progress can either be rapid, consistent or slow, based on ocean-atmospheric conditions. The onset of the monsoon over various parts of the country each year can be ahead of time, in time or late. These variations are generally considered normal, given the complexity of the monsoon.

·  However, climate experts have linked extreme weather events like intense rainfall over a region within a short time span or prolonged dry spell during these four months as indications of climate change.

Source: Indian Express

Silver Line Project of Kerala

Kerala cabinet has given the green light to begin acquiring land for Silver Line. It is Kerala’s flagship semi high-speed railway project aimed at reducing travel time between the state’s northern and southern ends.

What is the Silver Line project?

  • The project entails building a semi high-speed railway corridor through the state linking its southern end and state capital Thiruvananthapuram with its northern end of Kasaragod. The line is proposed to be 529.45 kms long, covering 11 districts through 11 stations.
  • When the project is realized, one can travel from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram in less than four hours on trains travelling at 200 km/hr. The current travel time on the existing Indian Railways network is 12 hours.

Need for the project

  • It has long been argued by urban policy experts that the existing railway infrastructure in the state cannot meet the demands of the future.

·  Most trains run with an average speed of 45 km/hr due to a lot of curves and bends on the existing stretch.

  • Silver Line project can take a significant load of traffic off the existing railway stretch and make travel easier and faster for commuters. This will in turn reduce the congestion on roads and help reduce accidents and fatalities.

Features of the project

  • According to K-Rail, the project will have trains of electric multiple unit (EMU) type with preferably nine cars and extendable to 12 cars each.
  • The government claims the railway line will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help in expansion of Ro-Ro services, produce employment opportunities, integrate airports and IT corridors and faster development of cities it passes through.

Can the project be completed on time?

  • The unofficial deadline for the project is 2025 but many would say it’s not a realistic target, given the laborious nature of land acquisition in a highly densely-populated state like Kerala.
  • Acquiring land, especially from private players, in urban areas remains the key challenge for the project.
  • There’s also significant opposition to the project by environmentalists citing potential damage to the state’s ecosystem in the path of the proposed route. They fear irreversible impact to the state’s rivers, paddy fields and wetlands, triggering floods and landslides in future.
  • Hence, the pace of the project would hinge on the government’s ability to assuage these concerns and speed up acquisition of land.
Source: Indian Express

Largest Chinese inclusion in Taiwan

  • As many as 28 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighters and nuclear capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ). It is the largest reported incursion to date.
  • Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China’s air force near the self ruled island, concentrated in the southwestern part of its air defence zone near the Taiwan controlled Prates Islands.
  • The latest Chinese mission involved 14 J16 and six J11 fighters, as well as four H6 bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons and anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft.
  • Taiwanese combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept the Chinese aircraft and missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.
Source: The Hindu

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