Monday, 1 June 2015

Daly News Mail - News of 28/05/2015

Relief for Greenpeace, can operate 2 accounts
  • In a major relief to Greenpeace India, the Delhi High Court on May 27 allowed the NGO to operate two of its domestic bank accounts and liquidate its existing fixed deposits. It can receive fresh donations or contributions from within the country.
  • Additional Solicitor-General Sanjay Jain, representing the Home Affairs Ministry, reiterated his earlier statement that Greenpeace India had violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by merging its foreign donations with domestic ones.
  • He said the NGO had not revealed to the court that there was a statutory remedy available under which around 25 per cent of the non-utilised amount in the FCRA account could be used with government approval. The global NGO had applied for the benefit under this rule, but it did not reveal that to the court in its application.
  • Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the government to decide on the application within four weeks.
  • Mr. Jain said the government was unaware that the NGO had fixed deposits, something that had been revealed only through the petition made in the court.
  • The judge said the source of the fixed deposits could be traced by the government during its probe. The court pulled up the banks for denying access to Greenpeace despite an earlier order allowing them to use the accounts. “Do you go by orders of the court or that of the government,” asked the judge.
Heat wave deaths cross 1,000 in Andhra Pradesh
  • The death toll due to heat wave, sweeping across Andhra Pradesh for the last few days, has crossed the 1,000 mark, with more than 125 deaths reported from various parts of the State on May 27. A majority of the victims are senior citizens.
  • Prakasam district remained the worst hit with 277 deaths being officially confirmed with 75 deaths reported from different parts of the district on May 27. With mercury levels hovering around 45 degree Celsius consistently this season, 10 coastal mandals were the worst-affected making infants, pregnant women, lactating mothers and old people most vulnerable, said District Collector Sujatha Sharma.
Tripura withdraws AFSPA, says insurgency on the wane
The Act has been in force in the State since February 1997
  • The Tripura government has revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as insurgency is on the wane(meaning - decline , diminish) in the State. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar announced the decision after a meeting with his Council of Ministers here on May 27.
  • The repeal of the Act, which has been in force in the State since February 1997, came less than a month after the election to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. The CPI(M)-led Left Front won the election, though it lost a nine per cent vote share to a tribal party.
  • Tribal parties such as the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura had been demanding the withdrawal of the Act, saying it was aimed at suppressing the State’s 33 per cent tribal population.
  • The Chief Minister told presspersons that the Left front government had earlier tried to repeal the AFSPA, but did not get the consent of the security establishment. “The situation has changed to a great extent now,” Mr. Sarkar said.
  • He said the State government had reviewed security matters and the Council of Ministers approved the decision to withdraw the AFSPA. The meeting decided to allow movement of traffic on the Assam-Agartala National Highway till midnight.
  • Last November, the Act, which confers sweeping powers on the armed forces, was extended for six months in the State.
  • The AFSPA had been in force in the State’s 26 police station areas. In four police station limits, the Act was partially enforced.
AFSPA explained: How does it work exactly?
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas. The Tripura government on May 27 decided to lift the controversial law which according to a Press Trust of India report “was in effect for the last 18 years to curb insurgency.”
The Act has often faced flak from human rights groups as it gave sweeping powers and immunity to the army in conflict-ridden areas.

As of now, according to the home ministry, six more states come under the ambit of this law under various conditions. Here is a simple explainer to make sense of it all:

Which other states are under AFSPA right now?
Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except the Imphal municipal area), Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus a 20-km belt bordering Assam), Meghalaya (confined to a 20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.

Why is this required?
The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”

How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.

What about the state government’s role?
The state governments, as in Tripura’s case, can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.

Is the Act uniform in nature?
No. Originally, it came into being as an ordinance in 1958 and within months was repealed and passed as an Act. But, this was meant only for Assam and Manipur, where there was insurgency by Naga militants. But after the northeastern states were reorganized in 1971, the creation of new states (some of them union territories originally) like Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh paved the way for the AFSPA Act to be amended, so that it could be applied to each of them. They may contain different sections as applicable to the situation in each state.

What about Jammu and Kashmir? There were reports saying that it technically wasn’t a disturbed area after 1998.
This is a bit more complex. Jammu and Kashmir (as with a lot of things) has a separate legislation for this—its own Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) which came into existence in 1992. So, as this Indian Express article points out, even if the DAA for J&K lapsed in 1998, the government reasoned that the state can still be declared disturbed under Section(3) of AFSPA.

Is Tripura then the first state to completely do away with AFSPA?
No. It was applied in Punjab and Chandigarh in 1983 due to secessionist movements and lasted for 14 years until there 1997. What is interesting was that while the Punjab government withdrew its DAA in 2008, it continued in Chandigarh till September 2012 when the Punjab and Haryana high court struck it down following a petition filed by a local member of the Janata Dal (United).

There will be no urea price increase in the next four years, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar said .

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