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AFSPA, Kanpur’s Sisamau drain & Environment Impact Assessment Notification :2019

  • Vaid's ICS, Lucknow
  • 11, Nov 2020
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Topic: For Prelims & Mains


Why in News? Centre has declared entire State of Nagaland a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of 6 more months under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

What does the AFSPA mean?

  • In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

Powers given to armed forces:

  • They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

What is a “disturbed area” and who has the power to declare it?

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
  • The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
  • A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.

What’s the origin of AFSPA?

  • The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958. It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

What has been the role of the judiciary?

  • There were questions about the constitutionality of AFSPA, given that law and order is a state subject. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA in a 1998 judgement (Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India).
  • In this judgement, the Supreme Court arrived at certain conclusions including .
  1. A suo-motto declaration can be made by the Central government, however, it is desirable that the state government should be consulted by the central government before making the declaration;
  2. AFSPA does not confer arbitrary powers to declare an area as a ‘disturbed area’;
  3. The declaration has to be for a limited duration and there should be a periodic review of the declaration 6 months have expired;
  4. While exercising the powers conferred upon him by AFSPA, the authorised officer should use minimal force necessary for effective action, and
  5. The authorised officer should strictly follow the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ issued by the army.

Has there been any review of the Act?

  • On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.
  • The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations:
  1. AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967;
  2. The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and
  3. grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
  • The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.
  • These recommendations have not been implemented.

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Why in News? The river Ganga continues to be unfit for bathing or drinking in Kanpur despite the plugging of Kanpur’s infamous ‘Sisamau drain’.

  • Between June 2016 and November 2018, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) completed a Rs 63-crore exercise to divert sewage from the Sisamau drain to two treatment plants in different parts of Kanpur and stopped the expulsion of the drain, which once emptied out as a massive waterfall, into the river.

Parameters used :

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has defined norms on what constitutes acceptable river water quality.

Three attributes: Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Coliform Matter (TCM) must conform to certain numbers.

  • The DO should be 4 milligram/litre or more for it to be fit for drinking after disinfectation and treatment and, BOD should be 3mg/l or less and TCM/100 ml should be 5,000 or less.
  • For it to be a fit source of bathing water: DO should be 5 or more, BOD should be 3 or less and TCM 500 or less.
  • Water quality reports prepared by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board after the drain was completely tapped in November 2018, showed that the reading in December, in ‘Downstream Kanpur’ — a measuring station — was as follows: the DO was 9, BOD 4.2 and TCM 28,000. In January these readings were 9, 3.3 and 34,000. In February they were 9.2, 3.2 and 28,000.

What is dissolved oxygen (DO)?

Amount of oxygen dissolved (and hence available to sustain marine life) in a body of water such as a lake, river, or stream. DO is the most important indicator of the health of a water body and its capacity to support a balanced aquatic ecosystem of plants and animals.

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Why in News? State-level officers tasked with environmental assessment have objected to several clauses in a draft law that proposes the creation of district-level environment impact assessment authorities.

  • That these objections point to the fact that these authorities may have a conflict of interest and may not be technically competent.
  • The proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2019, makes the District Magistrate (DM) the chairperson of an expert authority, or the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) that will accord environment clearance for “minor” mining projects.
  • Minor mining broadly refers to sand and stone mining in plots smaller than 25 hectares.
  • The EIA 2019 aims to be an update of the EIA 2006. This document prescribes the environment clearance process whereby developers of infrastructure projects that have the potential to significantly alter or impact forests, river basins or other ecologically sensitive regions seek permission from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and experts appointed by it.
  • While expert committees constituted by the MoEF appraise projects, those below a certain size are appraised by State-level authorities called the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
  • On March 2016, the Ministry further delegated the authority to grant clearances for up to five hectares of individual mining lease of minor minerals and 25 hectares in clusters, to the DEIAA.
  • Several provisions in the EIA 2006 over the years have been challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and led to the MoEF modifying rules. The EIA 2019 aims to be an update that accommodates all these revisions.
  • So far the EIA 2019 that has been circulated to States is a ‘zero draft’ meaning that it is at a stage where comments are being sought from State authorities after which the draft will be modified and then further opened to public comments.
  • The 2016 rule that allows the appointment of DM as chairman has already been stayed by the NGT in December 2018 but has still inveigled itself into the draft. The MoEF has also challenged the NGT stay in the Supreme Court.

❖ Demilitarized Zone:

Context: US President Donald Trump recently met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone.

What is it? The DMZ, which runs across the Korean Peninsula, is 248 kilometres long and the 4 kilometres wide. Created as a buffer at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, it’s jointly overseen by the American-led UN Command and North Korea.

❖ Strum Ataka:

India has signed a deal with Russia for acquiring Strum Ataka anti-tank missile for its fleet of Mi-35 attack choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF).