Village Defence Guards (VDG): A sense of security and confidence
GS Paper- III
Context- The reintroduction of Village Defence Committees (VDCs), although under a new nomenclature, Village Defence Guards (VDG), in Jammu division’s Rajouri and Poonch districts has been met with scepticism. Skeptics question its chances of success in battling terrorism, which has resurfaced in the region after a long hiatus.
What are Village Defence Committees (VDCs)?
- The VDCs, which were established in the mid-1990s to combat terrorists, had generated a feeling of security among the populace.
- These committees were formed with able-bodied males and ex-service people to retaliate if terrorists entered the areas.
- The experiment was a success, as evidenced by a decrease in terrorist activity in the Rajouri and Poonch areas.
What are Village Defence Guards (VDG)
- Village Defence Guards (VDGs) are similar to Village Defence Committees (VDCs). The VDGs play an important role in preserving security in rural parts of Jammu and Kashmir, giving intelligence to security personnel and assisting in counter-insurgency operations.
- The Indian government also arms and trains them.
How are VDGs created?
- Though the Jammu and Kashmir police is playing a critical role in organising the VDGs into a strong force to confront terrorists, the CRPF has been charged with training them in the use of automatic weapons.
- These VDGs must have a pre-planned strategy for dealing with terrorists, or they will be caught off guard in the case of an assault, causing pandemonium.
The similar experiments in other areas
- During the height of the insurgency in Manipur, the Village Volunteer Force (VVF) proved to be a valuable tool. The armed VVF members, who were mostly made up of surrendered militants, not only took on the militants operating in their districts, but they were also extremely helpful in gathering intelligence. These troops, however, were led by personnel deputed from the CRPF and BSF as Liaison Officers and Area Organisers.
- In June 2005, a prominent Congress politician, Mahendra Karma, established the SalwaJudum, a civilian group in Chhattisgarh to confront Maoists. The state government assisted in the establishment of 23 SalwaJudum camps in the districts of Bastar and Dantewada.
- Following the first success in apprehending the Maoists, other states including as Jharkhand and Telangana formed similar militias to combat the Maoist threat.
- When militancy gripped Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s, select people were given guns to respond, and the experiment was a success. They were courageous enough to stand up to the extremists for hours and successfully repel their onslaught. Some of them, including women, were awarded the renowned Shaurya Chakra and Kirti Chakra for repelling extremist assaults.
Importance of reactivated VDG’s
- Reactivating the VDGs would go a long way toward creating security and trust in the communities.
- VDGs also act as a deterrence to terrorists who would face fierce opposition if they attempted to attack the communities.
- Apart from the fact that the VDGs are mostly ex-servicemen, their ability to fight terrorists with automatic weapons and training will be advantageous.
- They might also be used as sources for intelligence gathering. The extra deployment of the CRPF will dramatically cut the reaction time for security personnel to get to danger regions.
Concerns: The Case of SalwaJudum
- The SalwaJudum’s popularity lasted just a short while.
- Following repeated reports of human rights breaches by the volunteers, including beatings and raping indigenous women, a lawsuit was launched in the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court deemed SalwaJudum unlawful and unconstitutional on July 5, 2011, and ordered its disbandment.
- It would be in the best interests of the people of Poonch and Rajouri districts to enhance the VDGs and give them with necessary logistical and training assistance on a long-term basis as a force multiplier rather than destroying them after normality has been restored. The closeness to the 120-kilometer section of the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir necessitates a perpetual security blanket for all communities in the region, given Pakistan’s penchant for mischief.
Source – The Hindu
Disasters at Himalayan Region
GS Paper- III
Context- The most recent disaster to strike the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand was the sinking of the Joshimath. Although climate change has precipitated these occurrences, the most significant underlying causes are bad planning and a lack of vision.
Recent Himalayan calamities
- Nature has issued several warnings about the perils of the Himalayas. According to official data, the 2013 Kedarnath floods killed around 5,000 people.
- The 2015 Gurkha Earthquake in Nepal killed up to 8000 people.
- The recent floods in Pakistan have rendered millions homeless and heartbroken.
- The ‘Joshimath sinking’ phenomena has attracted national and international interest. Other cities and towns in Uttarakhand, meanwhile, are also on the verge of collapse. Joshimath is the first to yield to human forces, fortunately without inflicting any harm to human life.
Reasons for Himalayan calamities (Uttarakhand)
- The geological fragility of Uttarakhand is well known in both scientific and public circles. Building dwellings on dangerous slopes is prohibited by government rules and bylaws.
- Almost everyone now has access to the internet and can locate information. Yet, as reckless development on dangerous slopes goes unabated, one is pushed to question the role of technology advancement and information availability in environmental decision-making.
- The complexities of science and academic language are difficult for bureaucrats to comprehend, and laypeople and bureaucratic mindsets only interact with the research community for mandatory and cosmetic reasons.
Infrastructure of the mountainous and plain areas
- We have proceeded to adopt approaches from other places for use on the sensitive eco-geological systems of the Himalayas.
- Gurugram’s infrastructure development cost the city money. Gurugram-style development is extremely damaging to the Himalayas. Uttarakhand’s “Gurugramisation” must come to an end.
- The gap between research and policy has encouraged detached decision-making and encouraged individuals to carelessly disregard bylaws and regulatory rules. Every ordinary Uttarakhandi is compelled to live a life of uncertainty and anxiety.
Case study of Nainital
- Nainital is one of the most susceptible cities in the Himalayas. The Nainital Lake is located on an active faultline and is bordered by landslide-prone hills.
- It is located in an earthquake-prone area (Zone IV). Small and large landslides have continued to endanger the city since its founding in 1841. The most destructive was a landslide in 1880 that killed 151 people.
- Despite strong scientific evidence, construction codes, and a well-informed public, the city’s biophysical ecosystem is under attack. More than 15,000 people today live on the slope that fell in 1880 (less than a fraction of a second earlier on a geological time scale).
- The Nainital lake level dropped 18 feet in 2017 as a result of excessive water removal from the lake bed to accommodate local and unprecedented visitor demands. Such a fall has never occurred before.
- The eroding “Balianala” is the most serious hazard to Nainital. To make matters worse, development work on the lake’s most significant recharge region, “Sukhatal,” is now ongoing. The goal is to increase tourism-related activity. But the issue is whether a city that receives over 10,000 tourists and 2,000 automobiles each day during the summer and weekends needs additional tourism.
- The carrying capacity of Himalayan cities has been reached. The natural infrastructure is worn, and signs of impending collapse are obvious to the naked eye. For the Himalayas to be sustainable, the government must revise and execute building laws and regulations.
Source – The Hindu
Uranium Contamination in Groundwater: An Immediate Response
Context- The Central Groundwater Board’s most current report on the status of groundwater. It was discovered that uranium levels in the groundwater of the twelve Indian states exceeded permitted limits. According to the Groundwater Yearbook 2021-2022, issued in January 2023, uranium concentrations in the country’s shallow groundwater range from 0 to 532 parts per billion (ppb).
What is a Safe level of uranium in groundwater?
- According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the World Health Organization, the acceptable amount of uranium in groundwater in India is 30 ppb (WHO).
- To reduce the danger of adverse health consequences, a safe threshold of 30 g/L is determined. It should be emphasised, however, that long-term exposure to even low quantities of uranium can create health concerns.
- Uranium concentrations have been confirmed to be under acceptable levels in 13 states, while none of the samples obtained in Kerala had it.
- In terms of the proportion of wells with uranium concentrations greater than 30 ppb, the safe threshold, Punjab is the worst-affected state. Nearly 29%, or almost three out of every ten wells examined in Punjab, are polluted with uranium. Uranium levels in Punjab groundwater were found to be 17.7 times higher than the WHO acceptable limit. The element’s concentration was likewise highest in the state, at 532 ppb.
- Haryana is the second most contaminated state in terms of uranium in groundwater. The state also has the second-highest uranium content in the country, at 518 ppb, or 17.3 times the WHO-recommended safe level.
- The state ranked third in terms of uranium content, with 532 ppb, or 7.9 times the permissible level. For example, uranium was found in significant concentrations in 9.2% of the samples from Uttar Pradesh.
- Uranium concentrations were discovered to be greater than the threshold level in seven other states: Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Telangana, and Bihar in isolated areas.
Uranium is a poisonous element.
- Uranium is a nephrotoxic element, which implies that those who rely on groundwater containing the element are more likely to develop kidney illness.
- Other negative health effects of uranium exposure include bone toxicity and issues such as neurological effects, reproductive and developmental effects, and immune system abnormalities.
- Large doses of uranium can cause rapid health symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Lung irritation and damage, including lung cancer, can result from inhaling uranium dust or fumes.
Causes of contamination
- Uranium contamination is caused by geogenic processes, but it may also be caused by overexploitation of groundwater.
- According to Duke University experts, high amounts of uranium are mostly related to natural uranium concentration in aquifer rocks, oxidation state, and groundwater chemistry.
- Extreme bicarbonate levels were also discovered in uranium-rich locations. According to Rachel Coyte, the study’s primary author, bicarbonates aid in the extraction of uranium from source rocks, which explains why the element is so abundant.
- According to the study, groundwater table reduction, nitrate contamination, and over-exploitation of groundwater from agriculture all aggravate uranium mobilisation.
- According to the BARC report released in 2021, overexploitation of groundwater resources is likely one of the causes of uranium and other geogenic pollutants such as arsenic and fluoride.
Reverse osmosis may be a viable option.
- Water may be purified using reverse osmosis (RO).
- It filters out impurities such as minerals and other dissolved pollutants, including dangerous substances like as uranium, using a specific membrane.
- Applying pressure forces the water through the membrane, leaving pollutants behind and producing clean, filtered water on the other side.
- The membrane removes the pollutants and collects the pure water.
- Uranium pollution has been linked to geological processes as well as overexploitation of groundwater in the country. This study of uranium poisoning in groundwater across India emphasises the necessity for an immediate action. Reverse osmosis (RO), one of the most recent membrane-based technologies utilised in water purification systems to extract uranium, might be a solution.
Source – The Hindu
Rise in government CAPEX pushes investments up by 53%
GS Paper- III
Context- Capital expenditure (capex) by the Central and State governments increased by 61.2% sequentially in the third quarter (Q3) of 2022-23 to 7.1 lakh crore, despite a 41% reduction in private sector investments from 6.31 lakh crore in Q2 to 3.71 lakh crore.
What is the definition of Capital Expenditure (CAPEX)?
- Capital expenditure refers to investments made by the government or private firms in updating existing or constructing new physical assets.
- Capex has a multiplier effect on the economy as enterprises develop, boosting demand and releasing animal spirits.
Types of CAPEX
- A company’s long-term worth can be attributed to a variety of assets. As a result, there are some purchases that can be classified as CAPEX.
- Buildings can be utilised for office space, manufacturing, inventory storage, or other uses.
- The land might be developed further. Accounting approach may change for land owned speculatively as a long-term investment.
- Machinery and equipment may be used to make things and turn raw resources into finished commodities for sale.
- Computers or servers may be used to assist a company’s operational components, such as logistics, reporting, and communication of operations. In certain cases, software might be classified as CapEx.
- Vehicles can be used to deliver items, pick up clients, or be utilised for company reasons by employees.
- Patents may have long-term value if the right to own an idea is realised through product development.
Why need CAPEX?
- Capex is typically used to buy fixed assets that will be useful for longer than one accounting period.
- It may occasionally increase value to an asset by expending upgrade and maintenance costs, extending the shell life of an investment.
- CAPEX boosts the business’s long-term profit earning capability.
India’s capital expenditure
- Allocations for infrastructure, mostly roads and railroads, have increased in India’s budgets.
- In the last Budget, FM announced a significant increase in the government’s budgeted capex.
- In 2022-23, the government would spend 7.5 lakh crore on capital expenditure (much more if grants-in-aid for capital assets, including MGNREGA) – a 27% increase over previous year forecasts (2021-22).
- Furthermore, the government has ambitious plans to geometrically increase expenditure on motorways, logistics parks, metro systems, and housing, with most of this construction being outsourced to private contractors.
Challenges of Capital Expenditure
The following are the challenges faced due to CAPEX –
- Normally, large sums of money are needed to complete a major expenditure, and finances may be scarce. As a result, firms must make prudent capex selections.
- Capex is recorded as a cost in more than one accounting period.
- Once a CAPEX has been incurred, the choice cannot be readily reversed. Reversing the capital expenditure choice may prove to be substantially more expensive for any organisation.
- It becomes harder to anticipate costs that may arise in the future. CAPEX entails significant expenses and outcomes that may be delayed in the future. As a result, describing the precise decision about CAPEX is difficult, affecting future expenditures.
- CAPEX costs and benefits are difficult to define and quantify.
- CAPEX decisions are constant throughout time, and the investments they entail are referred to as long-term investments. These long-term investments complicate obtaining precise discount rates and preserving their equivalent in the future.
Why India focuses on CAPEX?
- Demand stimulation: A focus on capex alleviates supply-chain bottlenecks and revitalises demand.
- Job creation: While capital expenditure increases the economy’s productive capacity, supporting long-term development, it also stimulates job creation and consumption.
The way forward
- Emphasis should also be placed on timely project implementation within the allocated budget by increasing monitoring, redressal procedures, and methods for controlling project delays.
- The solution rests in optimising the project management procedures of all important stakeholders, including implementation agencies, state governments, vendors, and others.
- This would also assist to ensure quality control, which would result in capital assets giving advantages over time due to the multiplier effect.
- The government should also try to reduce wasteful revenue expenditure and focus on developing a balanced and steady virtuous cycle, which can have favourable long-term consequences.
Source – Indian Express
Can an underage Muslim girl marry after attaining puberty?
GS Paper 2
Context: The Supreme Court decided to investigate whether females as young as 15 years old can marry under custom or personal law, despite the fact that such weddings are unlawful under statutory law.
- In a Habeas Corpus case last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that a Muslim girl under the age of 18 is allowed to marry whoever she wishes after attaining puberty.
- The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) in response to the HC judgement, claiming that the HC’s decision effectively permitted child marriage in violation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which is secular legislation.
- While consenting to hear the case on appeal, a bench led by the Chief Justice of India stated that the High Court’s ruling should not be used as a precedent in any other case.
- The Supreme Court’s involvement raises the question of limiting the minimum marriage age for women and the implications for personal law.
How is the age for marriage determined in India?
- Personal laws that govern marriage in communities specify some marital conditions, including age.
- The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, for example, establishes a minimum age of 18 for the bride and 21 for the husband (same for Christians under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Special Marriage Act).
- For Muslims, the requirement is reaching puberty, which occurs when the bride or groom reaches the age of 15.
- This implies that the legal age for marriage varies per community.
Laws for the prohibition of child marriage:
- The Child Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006: Any marriage under the statutory age is prohibited, and offenders of coerced child marriage might face criminal charges.
- However, there is no clause in the statute that states that the law would take precedence over any other laws on the subject.
- Furthermore, child marriages are unlawful but not invalid, and they are voidable at the minor party’s discretion.
- The 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act: Minors’ consent to sexual conduct is not recognised by the law (less than 18).
Can personal laws be overridden?
- Despite the fact that it is permissible in Muslim law, the Supreme Court held in ‘ShayaraBano v Union of India’ (2017) that the practise of instant triple talaq is unconstitutional.
- The Karnataka High Court (2013) held that no Indian citizen may claim protection from the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act based on his religious affiliation.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021:
- It was proposed by the Union Minister for Women and Child Development to raise the age of marriage for women and ensure religious harmony in the age limit.
- However, during the Parliamentary discussion, the Bill was criticised as illegal since it violates Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom as well as the free profession, practise, and spread of religion.
- Poverty and a lack of access to decent health and education are broader concerns that must be addressed before issues like child marriage can be addressed.
- Because criminal laws do not result in cultural change, it will be the responsibility of the government to make the transition acceptable as a social norm.
Source – Indian Express
Corruption in Public Life
GS Paper 4
Context: The CBI has charged former finance secretary Arvind Mayaram with cheating, criminal conspiracy, and corruption.
Pooja Singhal, a Jharkhand IAS official, was previously suspended for theft of MGNREGA funds.
Mayaram, what is the situation?
- When he was finance secretary, he allegedly extended unfair favours to the UK-based business De La Rue by extending a three-year contract for the supply of unique colour shift security thread for Indian currency notes.
What is Corruption?
- Corruption is defined as immoral behaviour that involves the abuse of public or organisational authority, inflicting harm not just to organisations but also to society.
- The word corrupt is derived from the Latin word ‘corruptus,’ which means to shatter or ruin.
- Corruption is a major expression of ethical failure.
- Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for personal benefit.
The Wheel of corruption:
- Corruption and abuse of power in India are exacerbated by the following factors:
- The colonial heritage of unquestioned authority, the proclivity to exert power arbitrarily – it is easy to diverge from ethical behaviour.
- Massive power imbalance – environmental, social disparities, caste heritage, 90% workers in unorganised sector
- In a system of power imbalance, policies such as state subsidies and beneficiary-oriented programmes changed public officials into clients and people into mendicants.
- Over-centralization promotes corruption because a high number of bureaucrats between citizens and decision-makers dilutes responsibility.
Quality of politics – criminal-politician nexus
- Politicians buy votes with money and physical strength, while criminals enter politics to interfere with criminal investigations; monetary gain generates “acceptability” for criminals to enter politics.
The Effects of Corruption:
- There are two techniques to dealing with corruption and abuse of power.
- Overemphasis on values and character — think that values must be restored in order to combat corruption.
- Believe that most people are basically nice, but that a minority percentage cannot reconcile individual interests with societal ideals. We must be tough with such individuals.
- The establishment of institutions and the structuring of incentives are critical for encouraging ethical behaviour among federal officials.
- Systemic change is required. A multifaceted approach
- As a deterrence, punitive actions are used.
- Preventive methods to lessen chances
Source – Indian Express
Facts For Prelims
India’s First Centre of Excellence in Online Gaming to be set up in Shillong
Context: The Digital India Startup Hub, in collaboration with the Software Technology Parks of India, will establish India’s first Centre of Excellence in Online Gaming in Shillong.
- The Shillong Centre of Excellence is anticipated to catalyse businesses and entrepreneurs from throughout the North East Region to create the Next Gen Online Gaming Ecosystem.
- The Minister announced another MeitY project to establish a cutting-edge facility under the National Institute of Electronics and IT (NIELIT) in Shillong to give training in cutting-edge Digital Skills. A 10-acre campus will be available shortly for this purpose, catering to the skilling needs of youngsters in the North East Region.
Context: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has specified identity standards for basmati rice (including brown basmati, milled basmati, parboiled brown basmati, and milled parboiled basmati) for the first time in the country. The Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) First Amendment Regulations, 2023 are aimed at establishing fair practises in the trade of basmati rice and protecting consumer interests, both domestically and globally.
- These guidelines will be implemented on August 1st.
- Previously, there was a problem with Indian Basmati Rice export requirements, which caused many EU nations to limit Indian Basmati exports.
Context: A newly created bandage comprising chitosan (a natural polymer that stops bleeding) and agonist (a chemical that enhances clotting) nanoparticles (produced by MACS-Agharkar Research Institute, an independent institute under DST) can fast reduce blood loss from wounds.
- Because of its cationic nature and hydrogel-forming abilities, chitosan can limit bleeding and increase the concentration of erythrocytes and platelets at the injury site.
The issue with blood loss?
- Uncontrolled bleeding is the major cause of traumatic mortality during accidents or injuries in both military and civilian populations across the world. Severe bleeding produces trauma due to shock, hypothermia, coagulopathy, tissue destruction, and organ failure, which frequently results in death.
- The Hemo-stop bandage can limit blood loss prior to treatment, saving lives and reducing disability on the battlefield. It may also aid in the decrease of healthcare expenditures.