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New Delhi Declaration [UNCCD]

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in News?

Delhi Declaration was signed by UNCCD member countries post the conclusion of COP14 in India

Major points of Delhi Declaration:

  • Recognition that desertification/land degradation and drought undermines health, development and prosperity in all regions and acknowledging that dryland ecosystems are areas of special focus
  • Special emphasis on the impacts of desertification/land degradation and drought are felt most keenly by vulnerable people
  • Reiteration that those practices which conserve and restore land and soil affected by desertification/land degradation, drought and floods, contribute towards achieving land degradation neutrality and can also have long-term multiple benefits for the health, well-being and socioeconomic development of the entire society, especially for the livelihoods of the rural poor, that
  • Strengthening of the adoption of voluntary “land degradation neutrality” targets that include restoration of degraded land by 2030
  • Participation from civil society organizations, local governments and the private sector would be crucial to achieving the objectives of UNCCD
  • special emphasis on community-driven transformative projects that are gender-sensitive at local, national and regional levels to drive implementation
  • In the context of projects aimed at combating desertification/land degradation and drought and achieving land degradation neutrality and resilience-building, it brought the transition and increased access to energy in rural and urban communities, within the scope of the UNCCD
  • Welcomed the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), commit to adopting an integrated, best-practice approach to land restoration based on scientific evidence and traditional knowledge

Land Degradation Neutrality

  • Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems
  • Because land is fixed in quantity, there is ever-increasing competition to control land resources and capitalize on the flows of goods and services from the land. This has the potential to cause social and political instability, fueling poverty, conflict and migration. For that reason, the implementation of LDN requires multi-stakeholder engagement and planning across scales and sectors, supported by national-scale coordination that utilizes existing local and regional governance structures

India and Land degradation

  • India’s land is undergoing degradation or desertification. In 2011-2013, it stood at 29.3 percent of the total land, representing an increase of 0.57 percent (which is 1.87 million hectares in area) compared with 2003-2005, according to a report-cum-atlas by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre
  • Soil erosion due to water and wind, and degradation of vegetation cover were the main processes that has led to land degradation
  • India currently has about 96 million hectares of degraded land
  • Various steps taken:
    • Increment in voluntary target to reduce land degradation from 21million hectare to 26 million hectares by 2030
    • Afforestation initiatives such as National Afforestation Programme
    • Reducing agricultural soil and land degradation by schemes such as PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Rationalization of fertilizers, Soil Health card scheme, etc.
    • Promotion to social forestry including agro-forestry, urban forestry etc.

 

Uniform Civil Code

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Why in News?

The Honb. Supreme Court in a judgement observed that the nation has still not endeavoured to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil code

What is a Uniform Civil Code?

  • Article 44 under Part IV[Directive Principles of State Policy] of the Constitution of India states that it is the duty of the State to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India
  • Under this,the secular activities, such as inheritance covered by personal laws should be separated from religion
  • A uniform law thus prepared and made applicable to all would promote national unity and would uphold the aspirations of Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity as enshrined in the constitution

Why India needs a Uniform Civil Code?

  • Currently religions in India have different personal laws that control their secular activities including marriage laws, laws of inheritance, etc.
  • This situation is considered discriminatory and has been used to protect the continuation of many social evils which have no place in the modern, democratic, liberal India
  • Further, the presence of various personal laws is used by nefarious non-state actors to spread evils of communalism
  • Thus it is argued that:
    • A secular republic like India needs a common civil law for its citizens rather than different laws differentiated on the basis of religions
    • UCC will aid the process of eliminating gender discrimination as personal laws have been used as a shield to protect gender discriminating social laws
    • Upholding of Fundamental Rights as enshrined in Part III

Challenges:

  • Practical difficulties like consensus building in a country with various religions, ethnicity etc.,
  • Some critics argue that personal laws are protected under the right to freedom of religion [Article 25 to Article 28],thus UCC would be against fundamental rights
  • Politicization of the issue when it is called up – thus no political will or consensus

 

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

Paper: General Studies 2, General Studies 4

Topic: mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

Why in News?

The Supreme Court, on Friday, referred to its three-judge bench the Centre’s plea seeking review of the March 20, 2018 verdict which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.

What is the Act?

  • The SC/ST Act 1989 protects the marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities
  • The Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community. This includes denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the legal process
  • The protection is provided from social disabilities such as denial of access to certain places and to use customary passage, personal atrocities like forceful drinking or eating of inedible food sexual exploitation, injury etc, atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation.
  • For speedy trial, Section 14 of the SC/ST Act provides for a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district
  • The prime objective of the SC/ST Act is to deliver justice to marginalised through proactive efforts, giving them a life of dignity, self-esteem and a life without fear, violence or suppression from the dominant castes

Supreme court’s March 20 verdict:

  • On March 20, 2018, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law
  • The top court had said that on “several occasions”, innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
  • The apex court had said that there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act, if no prima facie case is made out or where the complaint is found to be prima facie malafide
  • The Supreme Court held that for persons accused of committing an offence under the Act, approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police will be required before an arrest is made.  Further, the Deputy Superintendent of Police may conduct a preliminary enquiry to find out whether there is a prima facie case under the Act

Why review?

  • The government argues that the verdict dilutes the process of investigation under the law, thus puts the already vulnerable SCs and STs at a disadvantage
  • The strictness of Act’s implementation is a prime deterrent against crime against SCs and STs