Current Affairs 23rd March, 2019

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1. A law to empower forest staff

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A proposed legislation accords significant powers to India’s forest officers — including the power issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide indemnity to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.

Background

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

  • This Act recognizes forest dwellers’ rights and makes conservation more accountable.

  • The Act basically does two things:

  • Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws, and

  • Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.

  • The law recognises three types of rights:

  • Land Rights: Land rights are given to people, who have been cultivating land prior to December, 13, 2005.

  • Use Rights: The law provides for rights to use and/or collect the minor forest produce things like tendu leaves, herbs, medicinal plants etc “that has been traditionally collected, use of grazing grounds and water bodies and use of traditional areas by nomadic or pastoralist communities i.e. communities that move with their herds, as opposed to practicing settled agriculture.

  • Right to Protect and Conserve: The law gives rights to protect and manage the forests to people of village communities.

  • The Act also categorises forests into three categories:

  • Reserve forest

  • Protected forest

  • Village forest

The Indian Forest Act, 2019

The Indian Forest Act, 2019 is envisaged as an amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and is an attempt to address contemporary challenges to India’s forests. The draft law has been sent to key forest officers in the States for soliciting comments and objections.

Concern

  • Independent experts said that the proposed law would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.


2. Statistical institute submits report on VVPAT to EC

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The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) submitted the recommendations of an expert committee on the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slip verification to the Election Commission.

Background

In view of demands from various political parties to increase the percentage of the VVPAT slip counted during elections, the Commission had engaged the ISI to examine the issue of matching the slips with the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) results.

Indian Statistical Institute (ISI):

  • ISI a unique institution devoted to research and teaching, and the applications of Statistics in the Natural and Social Sciences.

  • Founded by Professor P.C. Mahalanobis in Kolkata on 17th December, 1931, the institute gained the status of an Institution of National Importance by an act of the Indian Parliament in 1959.

  • The Headquarters of ISI is located in Kolkata and additionally, there are four centres located in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Tezpur.

  • Primary activities of ISI are research and training of Statistics, development of theoretical Statistics and its applications in various natural and social sciences.

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

  • The VVPAT system is an initiative of the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections.

  • In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter.

  • It is intended as an independent verification system for EVM designed to

  • allow voters to verify that their votes are casted correctly,

  • detect possible election fraud or malfunction and

  • provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.

    • After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.

    • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.


    3. Italy set to become first G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’

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    China and Italy set to sign a deal that will see Italy become the first member of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations to join China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure project (BRI), which is inspired by historic, centuries-old trade routes.

    Italy – China

    Italy's populist government is eager for initiatives like BRI to get underway swiftly as it battles to revitalise a sickly economy, which has slipped into its third recession in a decade.

    Belt and Road initiative

  • The Belt and Road Initiative is a Chinese foreign policy initiative promoted by the President Xi Jinping in 2013

  • Initially the idea of Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) was put forward

  • Subsequently, the two projects together came to be known as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) Initiative. Later, it came to be known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

  • Aim of BRI: Build a trade, investment, and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes

  • G-7 Grouping

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    • The Group of Seven (G-7) is a forum of the world's seven most industrialized economies.

    • The G-6 was formed in 1975 and consisted of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

    • Canada was invited to join the group in 1976 creating the G-7.

    • The group is composed of government leaders from the seven nations who meet to discuss international economic and monetary issues.





    4. Africa- India Field Training Exercise-2019

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    As part of the inaugural Africa-India Field Training Exercise, AFINDEX-19 which commenced on 18 March 2019 at Pune, a number of activities in planning and conduct of Humanitarian Mine Assistance has been undertaken by all 18 participating nations

    About the exercise

    The exercise is focusing on exchange of best practices amongst the participating nations, team building and tactical level operations in conduct of Humanitarian Mine Assistance and Peace Keeping operations based on the guidelines issued by the United Nations.

    AFINDEX-19 will go a long way in further cementing relationship amongst the nations and will act as a catalyst in bringing synergy and cooperation while undertaking such operations under the United Nations mandate.