11TH FEBRUARY CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. TROPEX – 21

News: Indian Navy’s largest war game – the biennial Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX 21) – which commenced in early January, is currently underway with participation of all operational units of Indian Navy including ships, submarines, aircraft as well as units of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard.

Details:

  • The exercise is being conducted over a vast geographical expanse in the Indian Ocean Region including its adjunct waters and is aimed at testing combat readiness of the Navy in a complex multi-dimensional scenario set in the context of the current geo strategic environment.
  • The Theatre Level exercise also aims to validate Navy’s offensive-defence capabilities, safeguard national interests in the maritime domain and promote stability and peace in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Conduct of TROPEX is being overseen by Naval Headquarters with participation from all three Commands of the Indian Navy and the Tri-Services Command at Port Blair.
  • TROPEX is being progressed over distinct phases that also test the Navy’s transition from peacetime to hostilities.
  • In the first phase, the Indian Navy had conducted coastal defence exerciseSea Vigil’ along the entire coastline and Island territories of India on 12-13January 2021. This exercise aimed to validate the coastal defence setup of the country, which was entirely revamped after the 26/11 Terror attacks at Mumbai.
  • The exercise witnessed large-scale participation from Indian Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police of 13coastal States and Union Territories along with other stakeholders in the maritime domain.
  • Valuable lessons emerging from the exercise are being incorporated in the existing procedures to further fine-tune the coastal defence architecture of the country.
  • Exercise Sea Vigil was followed by a large-scale Tri-Service joint amphibious exercise AMPHEX-21, which was conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands from 21-25 January.
  • The amphibious exercise was aimed at validating India’s capabilities to safeguard the territorial integrity of its Island territories and enhance operational synergy and joint warfighting capabilities amongst the three Services.
  • The Weapon Workup Phase of TROPEX, which concluded recently, witnessed multiple ‘on-target’ ordnance deliveries including missiles, torpedoes and rockets from frontline warships, aircraft and submarines and demonstrated the lethal firepower of the Indian Navy and reaffirm the Navy’s capability to carry out long range maritime strikes in the Indian Ocean Region, a capability that is central to meeting operational challenges and ensuring safe seas and secure coasts.
  • This large scale Theatre Level Exercise puts to test and validate Navy’s Concept of Operations in various conflict scenarios, hone its war-fighting skills, bolster its role towards maritime security in the wider Indian Ocean Region and is in keeping with the theme of being a ‘Combat Ready, Credible and Cohesive force’.

 

2. Suicides in Police

 

News: The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) conducted a study in 2004 into the factors causing stress in forces and suggest remedial measures. The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad did a similar study in 2012 for Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). BPR&D has also undertaken a research study on “Comparative Analysis of Attrition and Suicide Cases in CAPFs and Corrective Measures” through the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in September, 2020.

Background:

  • Since ‘Police’ is a State subject as per the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, the personnel matters of State police are handled by State Governments themselves. State Governments are expected to take appropriate steps for welfare of State Police personnel.
  • Improvement of working conditions of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel is a constant endeavor and instructions in this regard are issued by the Ministry as and when required.
  • The issue is also reviewed by the Government from time to time in consultation with professional agencies. Some of the measures taken to check such incidents and to improve working conditions of CAPFs/ARs personnel are given below.

Details about the study:

  • Transparent policies pertaining to transfer and leave of CAPFs and AR personnel. The hospitalization period due to injuries while on duty is treated as on duty. Choice posting is considered to the extent possible after the personnel served in hard area.
  • Regular interaction of officers with troops to find out and redress their grievances.
  • Ensuring adequate rest and relief by regulating the duty hours.
  • Improving living conditions for troops, providing adequate recreational/entertainment, sports, communication facilities etc. Crèche facility is also provided at various establishments (where feasible) to facilitate the female employees.
  • Facility of retention of government accommodation at the place of last posting(for keeping the family) while posted in North Eastern (NE) States, Jammu & Kashmir(J&K) and Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas (except State Capitals)
  • Providing better medical facilities, organizing talks with specialists to address their personal and psychological concerns and organizing Meditation & Yoga routinely for better stress management.
  • Adequately compensating the troops deployed in difficult areas.
  • Other welfare measures like facility of Central Police Canteen (CPC), scholarship for wards etc.
  • Air travel to non-entitled class of personnel in J&K. Also Air courier service has been provided to CAPF personnel deployed in NE States, J&K as welfare measure.
  • Designating retired CAPF personnel as ex-CAPF personnel for better identity and community recognition.
  • Promotions are released regularly to eligible personnel as and when the vacancies arise. Financial benefits under Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) are given in case promotion does not take place for want of vacancies on completion of 10, 20 & 30 years of service.

Way Forward:

  • Regarding State police forces, the Central Government has been persuading the States for implementation of various police reforms, including those relating to appropriate pay, working hours and promotional prospects of Constables, provision of housing and manpower & basic facilities in police stations.
  • Under the scheme of Assistance to States for Modernisation of Police, implementation  of  police reforms  is also  being incentivized,  which   inter alia include police reforms like “Outsourcing of peripheral and non-policing activities”, “computerization of police stations” and “Replacement of orderly system by system”  to reduce burden on State police personnel.

 

3. Major Port Authorities Bill

 

News: Parliament passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020.

Objective:

  • With a view to promote the expansion of port infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce, the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 bill aims at decentralizing decision making and to infuse professionalism in governance of major ports.
  • It imparts faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability. The Bill is aimed at reorienting the governance model in central ports to landlord port model in line with the successful global practice.

Salient Features of the bill:

  • The salient features of the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 are as under: –
  • The Bill is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections has been reduced to 76 from 134 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete Sections.
  • The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority which will comprise of 11 to 13 Members from the present 17 to 19 Members representing various interests. A compact Board with professional independent Members will strengthen decision making and strategic planning.
  • Provision has been made for inclusion of representatives of State Government in which the Major Port is situated, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Defence and Customs, Department of Revenue as Members in the Board apart from a Government Nominee Member and a Member representing the employees of the Major Port Authority.
  • The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined. Port Authority has now been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariff- based on market conditions. The Board of Port Authority has been delegated the power to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
  • An Adjudicatory Board has been proposed to be created to carry out the residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for Major Ports, to look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires, to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to revive such projects and to look into complaints regarding services rendered by the ports/ private operators operating within the ports.
  • The Boards of Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff except in national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default. In the present MPT Act, 1963 prior approval of the Central Government was required in 22 instances.
  • The Board of each Major Port shall be entitled to create specific master plan in respect of any development or infrastructure.
  • Provisions of CSR & development of infrastructure by Port Authority have been introduced.
  • Provision has been made for safeguarding the pay & allowances and service conditions including pensionary benefits of the employees of major ports

Significance:

  • This will also help in bringing transparency in operations of Major Ports.
  • This will empower the Major Ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernizing the institutional framework of Major Ports.

4. How to mitigate Flash Floods?

Story of Flash Floods so far:

  • A flash flood is a rapid flooding of low-lying areas: washes, rivers, dry lakes and depressions.
  • It may be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane, tropical storm, or meltwater from ice or snow flowing over ice sheets or snowfields.
  • Flash flood incident in Uttarakhand is another warning of the dangers that a Himalayan state like Uttarakhand faces from natural processes like landslides, snow avalanches cloudbursts or lake bursts.
  • As we saw in 2013 in the same state, such processes can trigger much bigger disasters and cause massive destruction.
  • But it is possible to work towards minimising the threat of such incidents and reduce their impact.
  • There are over 1,000 glaciers in Uttarakhand. Almost all of them are receding. Most of the glaciers also have debris cover.
  • When glaciers retreat due to rising temperatures, the snow melts but the debris remains. This debris aids in the formation of lakes.

How do Glaciers affect this?

  • Glaciers have reduced considerably in mass and surface area since the little ice age period.
  • This has led to the formation of a large number of glacial lakes all across the Himalayas.
  • Many of these high-altitude lakes are potentially dangerous, because of their potential to cause flash floods in the event of a breach.

Associated Risk:

  • Over the years, the frequency of formation of these lakes has increased.
  • But despite that, there are not many GLOF (glacial lake outburst flood) events happening in Uttarakhand.
  • Not as many as in Sikkim, for example. This is because Uttarakhand has very steep slopes, and the water manages to find a way out.

Suggestions:

  • R&D: There are a lot more glaciologists and others who are working in the area and generating data. Multiple scientific groups and institutions are involved. But there is no coherent output. Lots of data are being generated but not being put to good use. There has to be one agency dedicated to the job.
  • Surveillance: The first step in tackling the threat from these glacial lakes is to start monitoring them and the glaciers more actively and regularly. There is a need to monitor every glacier. Glaciers in one basin do not have remarkably different properties. Relying only on satellites and remote sensing is not going to be enough. What is required is a consolidated state of glaciers in India, with the ability to zoom in on any of them and track the changes happening year by year.
  • Planning: Construction-related activities in the state might not have a direct link to Chamoli incident, but these are not entirely benign. The Himalayas are very young mountain systems, and extremely fragile and a minor change in orientation of the rocks can be enough to trigger landslides. It is important to include glaciers in any environment impact assessment for major projects such as the construction of dams. The entire catchment areas should be made part of the impact assessment.
  • Mitigation: If we monitor the glaciers regularly, it would enable us to identify the lakes that need mitigation solutions. Several structural and geotechnical measures can be applied, and there are successful examples where the threat from these lakes has been reduced. It is possible to construct channels for the gradual and regulated discharge of water from these lakes, which will reduce the pressure on them, and minimise the chances of a breach. At the same time, it also reduces the volume of water that goes into the flash flood. Also, alarm systems can be set up at the lakes that will warn the community downstream whenever an overflow happens.

Conclusion:

  • It is not possible to completely prevent these kinds of incidents. But their potential to cause destruction can certainly be minimized. Scientists can find a way to let the lake waters slowly drain at the nearby river at a regulated rate so that there is no flooding, and the pressure on the lake does not become unbearable. Such solutions can be applied in Uttarakhand, and some work is being done.