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Is Sardar Sarovar Dam a boon or a bane?

Why in the News?Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat on his 67th birthday. Addressing a public meeting after the event, PM Modi called the dam an engineering marvel. About Narmada > Narmada, the largest west flowing river in India & the fifth largest river in the country, rises near Amarkantak range of mountains in Madhya Pradesh. > It traverses Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat and meets the Gulf of Cambay. > It is considered as the dividing line between North India drained by the Gangetic basin, and Peninsular India. >Although entirely rain fed, the Narmada has a fairly heavy discharge because of moderately heavy annual average rainfall in the basin, particularly in the upper catchment area. About Sardar Sarovar Project >The Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.  >The foundation stone of the project was laid out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961  The project took form in 1979 as part of a development scheme to increase irrigation and produce hydroelectricity. >The Sardar Sarovar Project is an inter-state project with a terminal dam on river Narmada at Kevadia in Gujarat. >It is meant to benefit the 4 states Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. >It is a multipurpose project with irrigation, power and drinking water benefits, which was accorded environmental clearance in 1987. About Narmada Bachao Andolan? >Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is a social movement consisting of adivasis, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against the number of large dams being built across the Narmada River, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, all over India. >Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on the river and was one of the first focal points of the movement.>It is one of the many dams under the Narmada Dam Project. The main aim of the project is to provide irrigation and electricity to people in these states.>Their mode of campaign includes court actions, hunger strikes, rallies, and garnering support from notable film and art personalities. >Narmada Bachao Andolan, with its leading persons Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, who have received the Right Livelihood Award. The course of this project and Role of World Bank: >The World Bank began working on the Narmada Project after it got clearance from the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. >The bank sent a team for the assessment of the project in economic and technical terms. >This team didn’t focus on the social or environmental issues.>However, the Bank realised the harm that it had done by sanctioning the loan for the project and thus announced that the new projects should “ensure that, after a reasonable transition period, the displaced people regain at least their previous standard of living.” >Despite this, the relocation process was flawed. >The Bank then adopted certain policies to ensure proper relocation of the tribal people and protect them from the forced relocation . >The Indian government, however, did not adopt these policies. >In 1985, irrespective of the harm done by the Sardar Sarovar project, the World bank sanctioned a loan to the state governments for construction purposes. >Medha Patkar and other protesters testified on the Bank’s role in Washington D.C in 1989. >This led to a build-up of pressure on the Bank to set an independent review to assess the situation at hand. A lot of support was withdrawn from the project after this. The Morse Commission: >The Morse Commission was established to look into the construction of the dam, and the environmental cost and human displacement in 1991. >For the first time, a Bank commissioned panel had complete access to the documents to form a report. >The report mentioned the lack of any environmental assessment undertaken either by the Indian Government or the World Bank. >In an internal referendum held, the Bank very closely voted for the continuation of the Narmada Dam Project. >The Indian Government canceled the loan sanctioned by the World Bank on March 31, 1993. Analysis of this project and the cost benefits: What is the Project cost? >Social and environmental impacts have gone far beyond what was estimated at the outset when the project was cleared in the late 1980s. Rehabilitation of even the submergence-affected population is about 80% incomplete >Sea water from the Bay of Khambhat has intruded up to 40 kilometres eastwards into the Narmada” affecting “10,000 hectares of agricultural land. >The SSP received an environmental clearance in 1987 with requirements for detailed surveys and studies. A rehabilitation plan was to be completed “ahead of reservoir filling”. But even today, the families residing in the proposed submergence area are not assured of their rightful rehabilitation. >Thousands of families along the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh are at risk of getting displaced with the closing of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam and resultant rise in the water level in its catchment area >The Narmada Bachao Andolan group claims that 40,000 families in 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh would be displaced when the reservoir is filled to its optimum capacity. >Large dams have forced the displacement of millions of India’s small farmers and landless peasants from across the country, forcing them into urban slums and breaking apart families Downstream habitat change and impacting biodiversity. >The Narmada estuary has become increasingly saline because of the decrease in fresh water flow > Siltation is one of the biggest challenges faced by dams worldwide, and giant dams such as the Sardar Sarovar cannot be easily desilted. What are the benefits: >The basic justification offered for the SSP by the Gujarat government from the time of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal in the 1970s was that there is no alternative to SSP waters for the drought-prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat. >It will provide drinking water to 4 crore people and help irrigate 2.2 million hectares of land. >The irrigation benefits will help in doubling the farmers income by 2022. >The Narmada canal will also irrigate lands in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan. >Project has successfully brought water to the dry Kutch district, where the armed forces are guarding the nation. >Provide flood protection to riverine reaches >Wild life sanctuaries viz. “Shoolpaneshewar wild life sanctuary”, Wild Ass Sanctuary, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and many others will be benefited. >Benefits of fisheries development and recreational facilities

Taper timetable — On quantitative easing in U.S.

Why in the News?conclusion of quantitative easing in the U.S. could affect investment flows into India Introduction:The U.S. Federal Reserve started is unprecedented programme of liquidity infusion through the purchase of asset-backed and Treasury securities in the wake of the global financial crisis.The Federal Reserve will throw its crisis-era stimulus programme into reverse from next month and stick with plans for further rate rises in a mark of confidence that stagnant inflation is set to bounce back.Key points: >The asset wind-down will begin with monthly reductions of a modest $10 billion in the three months through December. >That amount will gradually increase in quarterly increments of $10 billion so as to reach, in October 2018, a monthly cap of $50 billion >The FOMC has, in fact, marginally raised its median projection for U.S. real GDP growth in 2017 to 2.4%, from the 2.2% estimated in June >monetary authorities in the U.S. are focussed on reflating the economy by supporting “further strengthening” in the labour market through an accommodative stance, the central bank has to remain vigilant in warding off any let-up in expansionary momentum What is Quantitative Easing? >Quantitative easing is a massive expansion of the open market operations of a central bank. >It is used to stimulate the economy by making it easier for business to borrow money. >The bank buys securities from its member banks to add liquidity to capital markets. >This has the same effect as increasing the money supply. In return, it the central bank issues credit to the bank’s reserves to buy the securities.What is the Implications on India:>It could affect investment inflows in India >It will have pressure on the current account deficit. >For Indian policymakers, there are both positive and negative cues.

Navy takes delivery of Scorpene submarine

Why in the News?Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) of Mumbai handed over the first of the Scorpene submarines, Kalvari , to the Navy.About Submarine:>This is the Navy’s first new conventional submarine in two decades. >The state-of-the-art technology utilised in the Scorpene has ensured superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low-radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimised shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons.>MDL is constructing six Scorpene submarines with technology transfer from Naval Group, formerly DCNS of France.

Tighter provisions against ‘indecent’ portrayal of women

Context:Cyber Violence against women is increasing and there is an urgent need to address the problem by amending the existing legislation against the indecent portrayal of women.What is Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987?Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987 defines indecent representation of women as “the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part thereof in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprive, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals.”What are the provisions of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987? >The Act prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner. >Any person who contravenes to the provisions of the Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years on first conviction and in the event of subsequent conviction; the imprisonment may extend to five years. Why the crime of indecently portraying women increasing? >There has been considerable decrease in cases when it comes to the print media. >However, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, online obscenity cases increased by 5 times between 2007 and 2011. >At present, online harassments of not only women but also marginalized genders and sexualities have become rampant. Misogynist trolls targeting women have become widespread on social media. What is the historical background? >In 1986, a Bill against the indecent representation of women was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Margaret Alva >The Bill was in response to the demand by the women’s movement for a legislative action against the derogatory depiction of women in India >The bill became law by way of enactment with effect from October 1987- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act What are the Flaws in the law? >Limited scope of applicability: The scope of applicability of the law is limited. It includes only the print media. >Definition Issues: The term “indecent representation” is defined in a vague manner. The definition of the term in laying emphasis on material which tends to “deprave or corrupt” had confused indecency with morality. >The ambiguity of the definition of “indecent representation” has led to varying understanding of the term. This has hindered the effective implementation of the law. What is the need of new law? >Objectification of women has been increasing >A need had been felt to amend the existing law to broaden its scope and bring within its ambit all other forms of media and publication introduced with the technological revolution. >Changes were drawn up by the National Commission for Women in 2009 >Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012. >The bill is not yet passed. What is the Important point of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012 propose? Scope and applicability: >It will include print and digital media as well as electronic modes of distribution of such material >Exception to the publication and distribution of any such material: material which may be published in the interest of science, literature or art or for bona fide religious purpose or for sculptures in ancient monuments or temples. >Advertisements would fall within the scope of the Bill once enacted. Changes: >“Indecent representation of women”: the depiction of the figure or form of a woman in such a way that it has the effect of being indecent or derogatory or is likely to deprave or affect public morality. >“Electronic form”: any information generated, sent or stored in media, magnetic and optical form (as defined in the Information Technology Act, 2000). >“Publish”: includes printing or distributing or broadcasting through audio visual media. Punishment provisions: >At least three years jail for first violation >Up to seven years for repeat offenders >Fines up to Rs. 1 lakh for first conviction; up to Rs 5 lakh if repeated. There had been discussions on the question of bringing films and television programs within the ambit of the Act in order to ensure that there is no indecent portrayal of women in the same. What are the Features of the Bill?Countering the presence of non-consensual material over web >An important outcome is with the regard to the distribution of material on the Internet and the portrayal of women over the web. >There has been an increase in number of cases were women particularly have been subjected to sexually exploitative material and image based sexual abuse. >The proposed amendment is expected to counter the presence of such non-consensual material over web. Stronger Effect >Since the punishments are much harsher, it is expected to have a stronger effect. What are the Drawbacks of the Bill? >The term “indecent representation” continues to be defined in a vague manner. >The definition of the term “indecent representation” has again confused indecency and morality. >A distinction has been drawn between obscenity as defined under the Indian Penal Code in Section 292 and indecency. However, the definition is way too vague thus leaving an opportunity for misuse of the terms. >During 1970s and 1980s, women group focused primarily on nudity and the depiction of women in a sexually suggestive or explicit manner. Thus, the idea of the expression of sexuality particularly that of a woman would amount to obscenity was reinforced. >However, in contemporary times there is a shift in focus to the liberty of women to express their sexuality and sexual desires, freedom from conformation to dress codes and to bodily autonomy. >It would be completely inappropriate to equate nudity with indecency. >Equating both might lead to moral policing of a woman’s body. Way Forward >A standard need to set to determine what exactly the legislations aims to penalize. Thus, a concrete definition of indecent representation of women is the need of the hour. >The cyber abuse against women is just a reflection of the society where women and marginalized communities are abused, harassed, and violated on a daily basis. A societal change by means of education and awareness is the utmost need to tackle the menace of indecent portrayal and objectification of women.

From ocean to ozone, the limits of our planet

Context : Transformative changes must be considered to keep Earth safe for the future. What is the present situation? The population of vertebrate species on Earth in the wild saw a dramatic fall of about 30% between 1970 and 2006, with the worst effects being in the tropics and in freshwater ecosystems. >The ecological footprint of humanity — the natural habitats, such as water and land, transformed or destroyed as a result of human activity — far exceeds the biological capacity of the earth. About Holocene Epoch >The Holocene Epoch is the current period of geologic time. >This term can be misleading, though; modern humans were already well established long before the epoch began>This epoch has since given way to the Anthropocene, which has led to over-reliance on fossil fuels, industrial agriculture and pollution in water, soils and air, loss of species >This has been devastating for many life forms and connected ecosystems throughout the planet. What is the Biophysical Considerations? >Ecosystems that are stressed by the exposure to pollutants may not recover once the pollutants are removed. >When ecological thresholds or tipping points are crossed, significant large-scale changes may occur, such as breakdown of glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctica, the dieback of rainforests in the Amazon, or failure of the Indian monsoons >greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase ocean acidification, land-use change often increases GHG emissions, and increasing nitrogen and phosphorus deplete species biodiversity and freshwater resources and increase warming from climate change. What are the planetary boundaries? >Planetary boundaries are support systems for life on Earth “carrying capacity” and defining “limits to growth”. Stratospheric ozone depletion The stratospheric ozone layer in the atmosphere filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. If this layer decreases, increasing amounts of UV radiation will reach ground level. >Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions) >The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 concluded that changes to ecosystems due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, increasing the risks of abrupt and irreversible changes >Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities. Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metal compounds and radioactive materials represent some of the key human-driven changes to the planetary environment. >Climate Change:Recent evidence suggests that the Earth, now passing 390 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, has already transgressed the planetary boundary and is approaching several Earth system thresholds. Ocean acidification

Strident Pakistan presses for UN envoy on Kashmir

Why in the News? Recently, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Pakistan blamed India and Afghanistan for the volatile security situation in the region and also denied charges of harboring terrorists who target the two countries.What is Pakistan’s Opinion?It stroke a stringent note against its neighbors India and Afghanistan for promoting terrorism in the region.It portrayed Pakistan as a victim of terrorism. Pakistan sought the appointment of a special UN envoy on Kashmir. The country also accused India of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.Pakistan holds the view that India has responded to Kashmiris’ demand for self-determination, with massive and indiscriminate force, indiscriminately shootings on children, women and youth which constitute war crimes.India’s retarioration?India (and also Afghanistan) refuted the accusations lamented by Pakistan.India reacted pretty strongly and called Pakistan a geographical synonym of terror.With regard to Kashmir the country made it very clear that Kashmir was, is and will always remain an integral part of India.Indian administration said that Pakistan has diverted international military and development aid towards creating a dangerous infrastructure of terror on its own territory and now it is paying the price of its own creation.

Hasina floats five-point peace plan

Why in the News?Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put forward a five-point proposal at the 72nd UN General Assembly (UNGA) to find a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisisWhat are the five proposals?Myanmar must stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State permanently and without any conditions. The UN Secretary General should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar. All civilians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, must be protected in Myanmar- For this a proposal was made for creation of ‘safe zones’ under the UN’s supervision. Sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar must be ensured. The recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission Report must be implemented immediately

Centre to hasten GST refunds

Why in the News?The Centre termed as “wild estimates,” exporters claiming that working capital was getting blocked due to delay in Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds.What is GST? It is a destination based tax on consumption of goods and services.  It is proposed to be levied at all stages right from manufacture up to final consumption with credit of taxes paid at previous stages available as setoff.   In a nutshell, only value addition will be taxed and burden of tax is to be borne by the final consumer. The tax would accrue to the taxing authority which has jurisdiction over the place of consumption which is also termed as place of supply.What is a tax REFUND? Timely refund mechanism is essential in tax administration, as it facilitates trade through the release of blocked funds for working capital, expansion and modernisation of existing business.The provisions pertaining to refund contained in the GST law aim to streamline and standardise the refund procedures under GST regime. Thus, under the GST regime, there will be a standardised form for making any claim for refunds. The claim and sanctioning procedure will be completely online and time bound, which is a marked departure from the existing time consuming and cumbersome procedure.Situations Leading to Refund Claims. A claim for refund may arise on account of:Export of goods or services. Supplies to SEZs units and developers. Deemed exports. Refund of taxes on purchase made by UN or embassies etc. Refund arising on account of judgment, decree, order or direction of the Appellate Authority, Appellate Tribunal or any court. Refund of accumulated Input Tax Credit on account of inverted duty structure. Finalisation of provisional assessment. Refund of pre-deposit. Excess payment due to mistake. Refunds to International tourists of GST paid on goods in India and carried abroad at the time of their departure from India. Refund on account of issuance of refund vouchers for taxes paid on advances against which, goods or services have not been supplied. Refund of CGST & SGST paid by treating the supply as intra-State supply which is subsequently held as inter-State supply and vice versa. Thus, practically every situation is covered. The GST law requires that every claim for refund is to be filed within 2 years from the relevant date.

Tax trauma — On GST Network

Why in the News?Glitches in the GST regime are increasing the anxiety among Indian businesses.Background:India’s biggest tax overhaul since Independence, the roll out of the goods and services tax is off to a less than desirable start.The GST Network, its online backbone, is struggling to keep pace with the millions of invoices and returns being filed electronically by businesses across the country.The government has extended the deadline for filing GST returns. But even those filing returns before the last date have struggled.Recently, a   ministerial group formed by the GST Council to resolve the GSTN’s glitches gave an assurance that 80% of the problems would be fixed by the end of October. What are the Issues?For an economy that is slowing down for multiple reasons, even more troublesome is the implication of these implementation stumbles for 85 lakh taxpayers now registered for GST.Exporters, have already alerted the Centre that the delayed timelines for filing GST returns will mean that no refunds can be expected before mid-November on input taxes paid in advance and the integrated GST levied on goods they imported.By their reckoning, as much as Rs. 65,000 crore of working capital will get blocked, cramping their ability to ramp up capacity and raw material procurement in time for festive season orders from around the world.The GST regime is turning out to be neither simple nor friendly for taxpayers.What is the Government’s stand? The government has asserted that many exporters’ funds were blocked for five-six months even before the GST.Solution to speed up refunds is being worked out.Those producing only for the domestic market are no better off.Though the deadline to file the relevant return has been extended to October 31, initially only those who filed by September 28 were to be allowed to revise their credit claims.While revisions will be enabled from mid-October, the tax department is already examining some of these credit claims, triggering unease among firms.Several revisions in deadlines, tax and cess rates, rules, clarifications and tweaks later, the GST regime is turning out to be neither simple nor friendly for taxpayers.

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