Current Affairs - National
On 4th Dec, The Indian Navy takes delivery of the first Survey Vessel (Large) ship, "Sandhayak," constructed at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata, as part of a contract signed on 30 October, 2018.
- Design and Construction: Sandhayak and its three counterparts are designed and constructed in compliance with the rules of the Indian Register of Shipping Classification society by GRSE, Kolkata.
- The vessels are specialized for comprehensive coastal and deep-water hydrographic surveys, determining navigational channels, and collecting oceanographic and geophysical data for both defence and civil applications.
- Operational Scope: The ships are equipped for operations within maritime limits up to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf. In a secondary role, they serve limited defence functions and can function as hospital ships during wartime or emergencies.
- Technical Specifications: With a displacement of approximately 3400 tons and an overall length of 110 meters, Sandhayak is equipped with advanced hydrographic tools, including a Data Acquisition and Processing System, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Remotely Operated Vehicle, DGPS Long-range positioning systems, and Digital side-scan sonar.
- Construction Timeline: The keel for the ship was laid on 12 Mar 19, and it was launched on 05 Dec 21. Sandhayak underwent extensive trials in both harbour and at sea before its official delivery to the Indian Navy on 04 Dec 23.
- Indigenous Contribution: Sandhayak boasts an indigenous content exceeding 80% by cost, aligning with the "Aatma Nirbhar Bharat" initiative.
- The vessel's delivery underscores the collaborative efforts of numerous stakeholders, MSMEs, and the Indian industry in strengthening the nation's maritime capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region, even amidst challenges such as COVID and geopolitical factors during its construction.
Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) highlighted Kolkata as India's safest city for the third consecutive year, with the least number of cognisable offences per lakh population among major cities.
- Crime Data Overview: In 2022, Kolkata reported 86.5 cognisable offences per lakh people, surpassing Pune (280.7) and Hyderabad (299.2). Cognisable crimes involve cases registered under IPC and SLL.
- Declining Crime Rates: Kolkata's crime rate has shown a positive trend, decreasing from 103.4 cases per lakh in 2021 to 86.5 in 2022. Pune and Hyderabad also witnessed a decline from 2021.
- Women's Safety Concerns: While Kolkata maintained its safety record, crimes against women increased from 1,783 cases in 2021 to 1,890 in 2022, resulting in a higher crime rate compared to Coimbatore and Chennai.
- Violent Crimes and Murders: Kolkata experienced a drop in violent crimes, with 34 reported murder cases in 2022 compared to 45 in the previous year. Rape cases remained constant at 11.
On 3rd December, 2023, the Ministry of Tourism introduced the National Best Tourism Village Competition 2024 and the National Best Rural Homestay Competition 2024 to bolster the promotion and development of Rural Tourism across India, building on the success of the 2023 edition that recognized 35 villages.
- Collaboration: These initiatives, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, aim to enhance Rural Tourism in India.
- Role of Competitions: The National Best Tourism Village and National Best Rural Homestays Competitions are strategic initiatives to implement the national strategies.
- These competitions foster collaboration among governments, industry stakeholders, NGOs, and local communities, synergizing efforts to strengthen rural economies.
- Objective of Competitions: The competitions seek to instill healthy competitiveness among villages and rural homestays, recognizing outstanding contributions to Rural Tourism.
- Goal: The goal is to incentivize communities and individuals for active involvement in achieving sustainable development goals.
- Nodal Agency: The Ministry has established the Central Nodal Agency Rural Tourism and Rural Homestay (CNA RT & RH) to effectively implement initiatives for Rural Tourism.
- CNA RT & RH is conducting capacity-building sessions for states to create Master Trainers for spreading awareness at the village level.
- Impact on Tourism: The competitions are expected to boost tourism in lesser-explored regions, encouraging community participation, preserving cultural authenticity, and promoting sustainable and responsible practices in the tourism sector.
On 27th November, 2023, the President flagged off a special boat during the Boita Bandana festival in Paradip, celebrating Odisha's rich maritime history.
- Emphasizing the festival's significance, she highlighted its connection to the state's prosperous maritime trade and cultural heritage.
- Unique Festival: President described Baliyatra as a unique festival that symbolizes Odisha's glorious maritime past and showcases the cultural consciousness of its people.
- Cultural Exchange: The president highlighted the role of merchants in spreading Indian art and culture abroad through maritime trade.
- Efficient Ports: Addressing an event organized by the Paradip Port Authority, the President stressed the need for Indian ports to operate with greater efficiency aligned with global standards.
- Devotee Participation: Devotees from across Odisha participated in Boita Bandana, floating miniature boats in water bodies to honour the maritime glory of the state.
- Annual Tradition: The celebration, an annual tradition, involves paying homage to ancestors and celebrating the seafaring heritage of Odisha.
- Miniature Boats: Colourful miniature boats made of paper, thermocol, and banana branches filled water bodies. This year, large-sized paper boats gained popularity.
Recently, the Supreme Court established clear guidelines regarding the actions of a Governor when withholding assent to a Bill, emphasizing the prompt return of the Bill to the State Legislature.
- Governors Mandated to Send Bills Back Promptly: The Supreme Court asserts that Governors must promptly send back a Bill to the State Legislature if they choose to withhold assent. The emphasis is on expeditious communication.
- No Discretion for Governors if Bill is Reiterated: In the event of the State Assembly reiterating the Bill, with or without amendments, Governors are stripped of any choice or discretion and are obligated to grant assent.
- Article 200 and Legislative Authority: The court interprets Article 200, stating that while Governors can withhold assent, the subsequent actions must strictly follow the constitutional mandate, ensuring communication to the State Legislature for reconsideration.
- Legislature's Autonomy in Decision-Making: The court emphasizes that the final decision on accepting the Governor's advice, conveyed through the message, rests solely with the legislature.
- The expression 'if the Bill is passed again … with or without amendments' indicates the legislature's autonomy.
- Governor's Role and Constitutional Limits: The court underscores that a Governor withholding a Bill without further action is in violation of the Constitution.
- It warns against potential misuse of power, preventing the unelected Head of State from vetoing the elected legislature's functioning.
- Constitutional Imperative of Expedition: The judgment stresses that Bills should be sent back to the Legislature "as soon as possible" with a mandatory message.
- The term "as soon as possible" is deemed a constitutional imperative of expedition, preventing undue delays.
- Verdict's Implication on Tamil Nadu's Case: While the judgment originated from a petition filed by the Punjab government, its implications are seen as significant for Tamil Nadu.
- The verdict could impact the case where the Governor withheld assent to crucial Bills returned by the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
In a significant stride towards bolstering self-reliance, on 21st Nov, the Indian Navy collaborated with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to achieve successful Guided Flight Trials of the first domestically developed Naval Anti-Ship Missile.
- Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM): DRDO gears up to test the long-awaited LRASM, poised to extend the Navy's capabilities in ship-based missile systems.
- The missile may boast a range surpassing 500 kilometres, exceeding the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile's range of 350-400 kilometres.
- Previous Milestones: In May 2022, India successfully tested its first indigenously crafted anti-ship missile categorized as 'Naval Anti-ship Missile-short range' (NASM-SR).
- Weighing 380 kilograms with a 55-kilometer range, NASM-SR is deployable from attack helicopters.
- MRSAM Validation: The Indian Navy validates the Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) during firing from INS Visakhapatnam in March.
- Developed jointly by DRDO and Israeli Aerospace Industries, MRSAM demonstrates the ability to engage Anti-Ship Missiles, emphasizing air defence capabilities.
- About MRSAM: Designed to hit multiple targets within a 70-kilometer range, MRSAM integrates advanced components such as Combat Management System, Mobile Launcher Systems, Long Range Radar, and Rocket Motor.
- The joint venture between DRDO, Israeli Aerospace Industries, and Indian defence industry partners underscores the nation's commitment to technological advancements.
Recently, the Geographical Indication Registry, under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, has recently awarded the GI tag to 'Ladakh Sea Buckthorn,' marking a significant milestone for the region's farmers.
- GI Tag for Ladakh Sea Buckthorn: In a noteworthy development, the Department of Industries & Commerce, Ladakh, is now the Registered Proprietor for 'Ladakh Sea Buckthorn' in Class 31.
- Farmer Enthusiasm in Kargil: Farmers in Kargil express excitement over the special recognition for Sea Buckthorn, a highly profitable crop in UT Ladakh, with 90% of the production originating from the region.
- Focus on Agriculture Sector: Post the Union Territory status for Ladakh, the Agriculture Sector has witnessed significant progress, with special attention from the government. Out of the four GI tags granted, two are directly linked to the Horticulture Sector, providing a boost to farmers.
Definition and Purpose of GI Tag
- Geographical indication rights empower authorized users to prevent third parties from using the indication if their product does not meet relevant standards.
- A geographical indication is a label affixed to products originating from a specific geographical area, known for unique qualities attributed to that origin.
- Application across Sectors: Geographical indications are commonly applied to agricultural products, foods, wine and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products.
- Duration of Registration: Geographical indications can be registered for ten years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional ten years.
Geographical Indications (Background)
- Legislation and Enforcers
- The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, enacted in December 1999, aims to enhance the registration and protection of geographical indications in India.
- Enforced by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, serving as the Registrar of Geographical Indications.
- Registry Location and Commencement
- The Geographical Indications Registry is situated in Chennai.
- The Act came into effect on September 15, 2003.
Accords and Regulates GI
- International Level
- The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property recognizes geographical indications.
- The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) governs geographical indications.
- In India
- Geographical Indications registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
Significance of GI Tags
- Protection Mechanism
- Geographical indication rights allow authorized users to prevent unauthorized use, ensuring adherence to specified standards.
- Example: Darjeeling tea producers can restrict the term "Darjeeling" for tea meeting defined standards.
- Impacts on Rural Development
- Supply chain organization around shared product reputation.
- Price increases and stability for GI products.
- Value addition at all supplies chain levels.
- Preservation of natural resources.
- Preservation of traditions and expertise.
- Potential enhancement of tourism.
- Methods of Protection
- sui generis systems (special protection regimes)
- Collective or certification marks
- Business practices (e.g., administrative product approval schemes)
- Unfair competition laws
- Diverse Approaches
- Approaches vary on conditions for protection and the scope of protection.
- Sui generis and collective or certification mark systems share similarities, establishing rights for collective use by those meeting defined standards.
- Protection is implemented across countries and regional systems, employing a combination of approaches based on legal traditions and historical contexts.
Recently, the Union Health Ministry presented the draft National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023, which seeks to repeal the Pharmacy Act of 1948 and replace the Pharmacy Council of India with a National Commission.
- Objectives of the Proposed Bill: The bill targets enhancing the pharmacy education system, ensuring widespread availability of qualified professionals, promoting universal healthcare, and making pharmacy services accessible to all citizens.
- Key Provisions for Pharmacy Education: Emphasis on periodic and transparent assessments of pharmacy institutions, the establishment of a national pharmacy register, and enforcement of high ethical standards in all aspects of pharmacy services.
- Promotion of Latest Pharmacy Research: Encouraging pharmacy professionals to adopt and contribute to the latest pharmacy research, fostering a culture of continuous improvement in the field.
- Flexibility and Adaptation: The draft bill advocates for flexibility to adapt to changing needs in the pharmaceutical landscape, underlining the importance of staying dynamic in response to evolving healthcare requirements.
- Effective Grievance Redressal: A commitment to establishing an effective grievance redressal mechanism, ensuring accountability and responsiveness in addressing concerns within the pharmacy sector.
- Role of Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board: Introduction of the Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board to maintain a National Pharmacy Register, promoting transparency by documenting details of pharmacy professionals across the country.
On 17th Nov, the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared the controversial Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act unconstitutional, a law that mandated 75% job reservation for state residents in private-sector employment.
- Court Ruling: The Punjab and Haryana High Court declared the Haryana job reservation law unconstitutional, terming it violative of Part III of the Constitution of India.
- Law Background: The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, passed in 2020, aimed at reserving 75% of private-sector jobs with a monthly salary below Rs. 30,000 for residents holding a domicile certificate.
- Political Implications: With Assembly elections approaching, the ruling is a setback for the government's efforts to consolidate local votes, particularly from the Jat community. The government is likely to appeal the decision.
- Act Objective: The law's objective was to address the impact of migrant competition for low-paid jobs on local infrastructure and housing.
- It sought to prioritize locals for such jobs in the interest of social, economic, and environmental factors.
- Legal Challenge: The Gurugram Industrial Association and other employer bodies filed petitions against the law, arguing that it infringed on employers' constitutional rights.
- They contended that the law contradicted constitutional principles of justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity.
- Previous Legal Status: The Act had been stayed by the High Court in February 2022, but the Supreme Court later set aside the order. The Supreme Court instructed the high court to expedite the decision on the petitions.
Recently, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) launched 'Amini,' the fourth vessel in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft (ASW-SWC) series, at Kattupalli in Tamil Nadu. Vice Admiral Sandeep Naithani, Chief of Materiel, presided over the launch ceremony.
- Strategic Significance: Named 'Amini,' the ship symbolizes the strategic maritime importance of Amini Island in Lakshadweep, situated about 400 km west of Kochi.
- Vessel Specifications: The ASW SWC ships are 77m long, with a displacement of 900 tons, boasting a maximum speed of 25 knots and an endurance of approximately 1800 NM.
- Indigenous Shipbuilding Strides: Launched within a year of the third ship, this marks significant progress in indigenous shipbuilding, contributing to the vision of AatmaNirbhar Bharat.
- Contract: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a contract with GRSE on April 29, 2019, for constructing eight ASW SWC ships.
- Four are built at GRSE, Kolkata, and the remaining are subcontracted to L&T Shipbuilding, Kattupalli, for hull and part outfitting.
- Mission Capabilities: Part of the Arnala class, these ships will replace the Abhay class ASW Corvettes, designed for anti-submarine operations in coastal waters, Low-Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO), and Mine Laying Operations.
- Delivery Timeline: The first ship from the project is expected to be delivered in early 2024.
- Indigenous Content: With over 80% indigenous content, the ASW SWC ships contribute to large-scale defence production within the country, fostering employment and enhancing capabilities.