Kerala leads race for UN development goals
Kerala tops the States in progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while Bihar is at the bottom of the NITI Aayog’s SDG Index.
- Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim have joined the four southern States among the front-runners, which scored over 65 points out of a possible 100.
- Ending hunger and achieving gender equality are the areas where most States fall far short, with the all-India scores at a dismal 35 and 42 points respectively.
- On the other hand, the NITI Aayog has given India an overall score of 60 points, driven mostly by progress in clean energy and sanitation (88); peace, justice and strong institutions (72); and affordable and clean energy (70).
Sustainable Development Goals –
- The SDGs are a set of 17 broad-based global goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, and intended to be achieved by 2030.
- The Sustainable Development Goals agenda was accepted by all members of the United Nations in 2012 at the Rio De Janeiro Council Meet with an aim to promote a healthy and developed future of the planet and its people.
State of the Forest Report
The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the biennial “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)” recently.
- The report is published by the Forest Survey of India.
- It started in the year 1987 with 16 such reports so far. IFSR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.
- The total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectare which is 24.56 percent of the geographical area of the country.
- As compared to the assessment of 2017, there is an increase of 5,188 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country.
Highlights of the report –
- Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram (85.41%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%), Meghalaya (76.33%), Manipur (75.46%) and Nagaland (75.31%).
- The total mangrove cover in the country is 4,975 sq km. An increase of 54 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2017. Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Gujarat (37 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).
- The extent of bamboo bearing area of the country has been estimated 16.00 million hectare. There is an increase of 0.32 million hectare in bamboo bearing area as compared to the last assessment of ISFR 2017.
- Under the current assessment the total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated 7,124.6 million tonnes and there an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country. The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.2 million tonnes CO2 eq.
AFSPA in Northaeast
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has declared the entire State of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months, under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) which empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without prior notice. The AFSPA has been in force in the Northeast since 1958.
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act –
It is an Act empowering armed forces to deal effectively in ‘Disturbed Areas’. Any area which is declared ‘Disturbed’ under the disturbed areas act enables armed forces to resort to the provisions of AFSPA.
Who declares an area as disturbed?
- The choice of declaring any area as ‘disturbed’ vests both with state and central government.
- Special powers provided to armed forces:
- After an area comes under the ambit of AFSPA, any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or another person of equivalent rank can use force for a variety of reasons while still being immune to the prosecution.
- The act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (seven sisters).
- In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
- In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.
The government can declare AFSPA in the following conditions –
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
In an area declared, “disturbed” an army officer is legally free to carry out following operations –
- Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons.
- Destroy any shelter (private or govt.) from which armed attacks are made or likely to be made or attempted to be made.
- Arrest any person without warrant who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence.
- Enter and search, without warrant, any premises for purpose of arrest or to recover any person, arms, explosives.
- Search and seize any vehicle suspected to be carrying an offender or any person against whom any reasonable suspicion exists that he has or is about to commit an offence.
- Provide legal immunity to the army personnel found involved in any violation or ethical breach i.e., they cannot be sued or prosecuted.
- The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law.
In 2005 the Jeevan Reddy Commission said that AFSPA should be repealed and the clauses that are required should be included in other Acts.