There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Thirty Eighth Edition we are covering the following news:
- J&K’s controversial Roshni Act
- What is the emergency use authorisation drugmakers are seeking for the Covid-19 vaccine?
- Farmers ‘Delhi Chalo’ campaign
- Assam proposes law against inter-faith marriages
- Father of Iran’s nuclear programme assassinated
The Jammu & Kashmir administration has recently released a series of lists of alleged beneficiaries of the Roshni Act of 2001, now scrapped, which gave ownership rights to the unauthorised occupants of state land against payment of a premium. Political leaders and bureaucrats have been among those named. The transfers are being probed by the CBI.
Following a recent order by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, the administration has annulled the Act (it was earlier repealed prospectively) and decided to retrieve land transferred under the Roshni scheme. Right-wing groups in Jammu have described the scheme as being aimed at changing the demography of Jammu region, while mainstream political parties have accused the government of being selective against Muslims.
Formally known as the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, it was passed by the then National Conference government led by Farooq Abdullah to give ownership to people in possession of state land, with a cut-off of 1990, and against a payment as determined by the government. Since the aim was to generate resources for hydroelectric power projects, it was called Roshni (Light) Act. In 2005, the PDP-Congress coalition government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed amended the Act to relax the cut-off year from 1990 to 2004.
In a later amendment, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government set the premium at 25% of the market rate and the cut-off date at 2007. The government gave free ownership rights on agricultural land to farmers occupying it, who only needed to pay Rs 100 per kanal of land as documentation fee.
At the time it passed the Act, the government expected to transfer the ownership of 20.46 lakh kanals (1.02 lakh hectares) of state land 16.02 lakh kanals in Jammu region and 4.44 lakh kanals in Kashmir. The government set a speculative target of Rs 25,000 crore.
However, transfer of ownership was approved for only 6.04 lakh kanals — 5.71 lakh kanals in Jammu and 33,392 kanals in Kashmir. And only 3.48 lakh kanals land was actually transferred. The government revised its target to Rs 317.55 crore, and earned only Rs 76.46 crore — Rs 54.05 crore from Kashmir (target Rs 123.49 crore) and Rs 22.40 crore from Jammu region (target Rs 194.06 crore).
In its 2014 report, the CAG termed the scheme a Rs-25,000-crore scam. It flagged irregularities and said arbitrary reduction of prices by a standing committee was done to benefit politicians and influential people.
In October 2018, then Governor Satya Pal Malik repealed the Roshni Act prospectively. Thus all pending proceedings under the Act stood cancelled with immediate effect.
In September 2019, Malik ordered a probe by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau into all dealings under the Roshni Scheme. Following this, another petition was filed in the High Court seeking transfer of the probe to the CBI.
Recently the US drug maker Moderna said it was applying for emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine. A few days earlier, Pfizer applied for emergency use authorisation for the vaccine it has developed in collaboration with BioNTech.
In India, Serum Institute of India, which is trialling a version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, has said it expects to seek emergency use authorisation within the next two weeks.
Vaccines and medicines, and even diagnostic tests and medical devices, require the approval of a regulatory authority before they can be administered. In India, the regulatory authority is the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
For vaccines and medicines, approval is granted after an assessment of their safety and effectiveness, based on data from trials. In fact, approval from the regulator is required at every stage of these trials. This is a long process, designed to ensure that a medicine or vaccine is absolutely safe and effective.
Thus in emergency situations, like the current one, regulatory authorities around the world have developed mechanisms to grant interim approvals if there is sufficient evidence to suggest a medical product is safe and effective. Final approval is granted only after completion of the trials and analysis of full data; until then, emergency use authorisation (EUA) allows the medicine or the vaccine to be used on the public.
While certain foreign nations like USA have EUA provisions India’s drug regulations do not have provisions for an EUA, and the process for receiving one is not clearly defined or consistent. Despite this, CDSCO has been granting emergency or restricted emergency approvals to Covid-19 drugs during this pandemic — for remdesivir and favipiravir in June, and itolizumab in July.
In the last two weeks, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have published interim findings of their vaccine’s efficacy, adding it will be put these together for a scientific journal and approach regulators around the world for EUAs or permission to conduct additional trials. It is possible that SII will push for an EUA to market the vaccine in India sooner, on the basis of the results of its small-scale trials in India, as well as the larger data set from the global trials.
After various protests and agitations organized by farmers challenging the three new farm bills enacted by the central government, farmers from all over Punjab and Haryana have initiated a new campaign called ‘Delhi Chalo’ to voice their aversion to the new laws. A number of farmers have already crossed the Punjab and Haryana borders and entered the national capital to put their cause forward.
This campaign was announced by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana on November 24 when the farmers in Punjab declared to stop their ‘Rail Roko’ agitation which was in action since September 24 in the state. In response to this, Haryana government took serious measures to prevent farmers from entering the national capital by sealing all state borders and national highways, blocking connecting roads of Gurugram and Faridabad, etc. But as the farmers kept on marching undeterred, section 144 was imposed in all over Haryana. Situations got worse when Haryana police started using water cannons in Karnal on protesting farmers in the freezing cold. Although, the overall protest by farmers was peaceful, the farmers were seen throwing barricades put by police into the river at Ambala. Police adopted much harder measures by using tear gas at the Singhu border between Sonipat and Delhi to stop the agitating farmers. Moreover, the Tikri border between Rohtak and Delhi was also sealed down as a precaution. Apart from these measures, barbed wires were put on the barricades to make the entry even more difficult. Along with the road blockages by police to stop farmers, Delhi Metro services from NCR were also temporarily stopped. Due to this, the normal passenger travel has been highly affected and local people are facing a lot of difficulty in the regular conveyance.
It is of great concern that farmers continue to protest as their demands have not been met and the talks between agitating farmers and centre have remained inconclusive after a long meeting that happened at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi. The Centre has proposed creation of committee of experts to look into the law and said few farm union leaders could also be a part of this committee but farmer organizations have rejected this proposal as claimed by a member of Bharat Kisan union, which is one of the largest protesting blocks.
BJP-ruled states continue to propose drafts to put laws preventing inter-faith marriages into action and the latest in this list is the state of Assam. The Assam Government plans to propose a law that will require the bride and groom to declare their religion and income in official documents a month before the wedding. However, it must be noted that the Assam minister Himanta Biswa claimed that the law is not against love jihad but will still be ideated on the basis of those proposed by states of UP and Madhya Pradesh. The law proposed by Assam Government aims to be inclusive of all the religions and empower the women by bringing transparency in marriages so as to prevent any kind of foul play including religion conversion. It mandates the couple to disclose the necessary information of source of income, permanent address, profession and religion in a government prescribed form a month before the wedding and the failure to do so would bring a legal action against the couple. The law seeks to prevent any kind of exploitation that women may face due to the non- disclosure of information by their prospective partners.
However, it is a big concern that this law can result in violation of right to freedom of choice of the two individuals by meddling into their personal issues. The same concern was proposed by Allahabad High Court when it amended its earlier proposal of voiding conversions done for the sole purpose of marriage by passing a verdict that right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of the religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty and interference in a personal relationship, would constitute a serious encroachment to constitutional freedom rights. But these concerns have not stopped the BJP-ruled states to talk about implementing the similar copy-paste legislations and they are supporting these laws which much more vigor and aggression. After Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttarakhand and now Assam, the list keeps on getting bigger and bigger and the anti- love jihad law is seen to be emerging as a topic of new discussion at the national level.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s leading nuclear scientist who was the head of research center in elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and seen as the Father of the country’s nuclear programme, was assassinated on 27th Nov 2020 near Absard, a city near Tehran. He died of injuries in a hospital after assassins targeted his bodyguards and his car in a bomb attack outside the capital. The attack was initiated when a truck carrying explosives detonated near his car. According to Iranian officials, 3-4 attackers were killed in the counterattack.
According to Fars News Agency, complex methods including a remote-controlled automatic machine gun mounted on a pickup truck was used to shoot Fakhrizadeh. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has openly blamed Israel for this attack on behalf of the United States without providing any evidence for his claims. Even top security official, Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani referred to the Israeli government and its spy agency for the attack. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has promised revenge for the act. Iranian Foreign Minister has been critical and has called upon the international community to “condemn this act of state terror” and “end their shameful double standards”. This attack comes after the killing of Qasem Soleimani in January this year.
Fakhrizadeh was long suspected by the West and Israel as the mastermind for the country’s secret atomic weapon programme that was halted in 2003, however, the Iranian government has always denied such allegations and claimed that nuclear activities were entirely peaceful. This comes at a time when Iran is producing an increased amount of enriched uranium, a vital component for military and civil nuclear power. According to IAEA, Iran had 12 times enriched uranium than permitted.
Iran bestowed martyr status on Fakhrizadeh at a full state funeral. His funeral was attended by several officials including Defence Minister Gen Amir Hatami. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in a 2018 presentation said, “Remember his name” addressing Fakhrizadeh. Although there has been no response from Israel, four Iranian nuclear scientists were also assassinated between 2010 and 2012 which Iran believes has Israel’s role. While US President-elect Joe Biden is willing to have a deal with Iran, the assassination could’ve been an attempt to sour relations further and reduce possibilities of future negotiations.