Protesting is a Fundamental Right: UN
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Recently, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee has reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.
- This statement has come in the backdrop of increasing demonstrations over issues like political rights and racial justice.
UN Human Rights Committee:
- It is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1976, which under Article n21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.
Latest Interpretation of the Right to Peaceful Assembly
Fundamental Human Right for People:
- To gather to celebrate or to air grievances in public and in private spaces, outdoors, indoors and online is a fundamental human right.
- Protesters: Everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, can exercise the right of peaceful assembly.
- Protection: Protesters have the right to wear masks or hoods to cover their face and that Governments should not collect personal data to harass or intimidate participants.
Role of Journalists and Human Rights Observers:
- They have the right to monitor and document any assembly, including violent and unlawful ones.
- Governments could not prohibit protests by making “generalised references to public order or public safety, or an unspecified risk of potential violence”.
- Governments cannot block internet networks or close down any website because of their roles in organising or soliciting a peaceful assembly.
- The Committee’s interpretation will be important guidance for judges in national and regional courts around the world, as it now forms part of what is known as ‘soft law’.
- The interpretation is a form of legal advice (not mandatory) from the Committee that monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1976.
- India is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
- The right to protest, to publicly question and force the government to answer, is a fundamental political right of the people that flows directly from a democratic reading of
Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
- Article 19 (1) (a) states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Article 19 (1) (b) states that all citizens shall have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
- However, the State can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of right of assembly on two grounds, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India and public order including the maintenance of traffic in the area concerned.
- Further, Indian courts have reiterated that the right to protest is a fundamental right (Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case – 2012).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty, providing a range of protections for civil and political rights.
- The ICCPR, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, are considered the International Bill of Human Rights.
- The Bill influences the decisions and actions of Government, State and Non-State actors to make economic, social and cultural rights a top-priority in the formation and implementation of national, regional and international policy and law.
- The ICCPR obligates countries that have ratified the treaty to protect and preserve basic human rights
- The Covenant compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy.
- The Covenant was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. 173 countries including India have ratified the Covenant.
India Report on Digital Education, 2020
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Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched India Report on Digital Education, 2020. Recently the MHRD has been renamed as the Ministry of Education.
- It has been prepared by the digital education division of MHRD in consultation with education departments of the states and union territories.
- It elaborates the innovative methods adopted by the MHRD, for ensuring accessible and inclusive education to children at home and reducing learning gaps during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- It has initiated many projects to assist teachers, scholars and students in their pursuit of learning like DIKSHA platform, Swayam Prabha TV Channel, On Air – Shiksha Vani, e-PathShala and telecast through TV channels. It also released guidelines on digital education called ‘PRAGYATA’.
- States and Union Territories have provided digital education at the doorstep of the students. Some of them are:
- Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement (SMILE) in Rajasthan.
- Project Home Classes in Jammu.
- Padhai Tunhar Duvaar (Education at your doorstep) in Chhattisgarh.
- Unnayan Initiatives in Bihar.
- Mission Buniyaad in NCT of Delhi.
- Kerala’s own educational TV channel (KITE VICTERS).
- E-scholar portal as well as free online courses for teachers in Meghalaya.
- Some of the states/UTs like Lakshadweep, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir have also distributed tablets, DVDs and pendrives, equipped with e-contents to students.
- They have also distributed textbooks at children’s doorsteps to ensure inclusive learning in remote areas where internet connectivity and electricity is poor.
- Several states have also focussed on the mental well-being of the children e.g Delhi conducted happiness classes.
- MHRD has also launched the ‘Manodarpan’ initiative, which aims to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.
- While the education is moving towards blended learning through online and offline mode, it shall be the endeavour of all the stakeholders in the field of education to ensure that no student is left behind for want of affordability and accessibility of quality education.
Natesa of Rajasthan temple returns to India
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A rare sandstone idol smuggled out of the country in 1998 is returning to India after 22 years.
- The Natesa icon, currently at the Indian High Commission, London, was originally from the Ghateswar Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.
- It was smuggled out of the country in 1998.
- A few archaeologists behind the ‘India Pride Project’ have also taken consistent efforts for the restitution of the Natesa
India Pride Project:
- It is a group of art enthusiasts who use social media to identify stolen religious artefacts from Indian temples and secure their return.
- The sandstone Natesa figure stands tall at almost 4 ft. in a rare and brilliant depiction of Shiva.
- A beautiful depiction of Nandi is shown behind the right leg of the Natesa icon.
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Ministry of Culture should use this restitution as a much-needed impetus to go after thousands of artefacts stolen since the 1960s.
- It is a famous temple architecture belonging to the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of Rajasthan.
- They ruled much of Northern India from the mid-8 to the 11 century.
- Nagabhata Il, Mhir Bhoj, Mahenedra pal I
- The architecture is known for their sculptures, carved panels and open pavilion style temples belonging to Nagara Style of temple Architecture.
- They used most common sandstones for idols that have various shades of red, caused by iron oxide (rust).
- The greatest development of their style of building is at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
High Level of Ammonia in Yamuna
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Recently, high levels (around 3 parts per million) of ammonia in the Yamuna river has been detected in Delhi which led to the disruption of water supply in Delhi.
- As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water is 0.5 parts per million (ppm)
- Its chemical formula is NH .
- It is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
- It occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents, contamination by sewage or through agricultural runoff.
Effect of High Level of Ammonia:
- Ammonia reduces the amount of oxygen in water as it is transformed to oxidized forms of nitrogen. Hence, it also increases Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).
- If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes. In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.
- Mixing of freshwater with ammonia polluted water.
- Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine or chlorine compounds such as sodium hypochlorite to water.
- This method is used to kill certain bacteria and other microbes in tap water. However, chlorine is highly toxic.
Long Term Solution:
- Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river. Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water. Maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
- Ecological flow is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self regulation.
- The river Yamuna, a major tributary of river Ganges, originates from the Yamunotri glacier near Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas in Uttarkashi district of
- It meets the Ganges at the Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh after flowing through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
- Length: 1376 km
- Important Dam: Lakhwar-Vyasi Dam (Uttarakhand), Tajewala Barrage Dam (Haryana) etc.
- Important Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken.
Aerial Seeding in Haryana
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Recently, the Haryana government has employed aerial seeding techniques to improve green cover in the Aravalli area of the state.
- The project is being carried out on a pilot basis to regenerate the low vegetation density or denuded areas on inaccessible or difficult sites of Aravalli and Shivalik hills.
- Aerial Seeding is a plantation technique wherein seed balls — seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char and other components — are sprayed using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.
- Seeds balls/pellets are dispersed in a targeted area by low-flying drones, with the coating providing the required weight for seeds to airdrop on a predetermined location rather than getting deterred by the wind. These pellets sprout when there is enough rain, with nutrients present within them helping in initial growth.
- Areas that are inaccessible, having steep slopes or no forest routes, can be targeted using this method.
- The process of the seed’s germination and growth is such that it requires no attention after it is dispersed and thus seed pellets are known as the “fire and forget” way of
- They eliminate any need for ploughing and do not need to be planted since they are already surrounded by soil, nutrients, and microorganisms. The clay shell also protects them from birds, ants and rats.
Species to be Used for Aerial Seeding:
- The plant species which are native to the area and hardy, with seeds that are of an appropriate size for preparing seedballs are usually used for aerial seeding, with a higher survival percentage.
Use of Seeding Drone:
- The method involves spraying seed balls or seed pellets from the air using seeding drones. It is equipped with a precise delivery mechanism for seeds of different sizes from a height of 25 to 50 metres. A single drone can plant 20,000-30,000 seeds a day.
- The method is being implemented on 100 acres of land to test efficacy of the seed dispersal mechanism and review the success rate.
- The species that will be planted through aerial seeding include Acacia senegal (Khairi), Ziziphus mauritiana (Beri), and Holarrhena spp (Inderjo), all of which have a higher chance of survival in these areas.
- Also, site specific grass seeds will also be added to the mix as they serve as good soil binders.
- It will provide work opportunities to the local community, especially women, who can prepare the seed balls.
- The method will be useful since there are many areas that are either difficult to reach or inaccessible altogether, making traditional methods of plantation difficult.