For Beginners & Senior Students: Art & Culture by Civilsdaily

A comprehensive coverage of NCERTs, NIOS & CCRT Material. Click here & spend next 30 minutes to 10X your confidence

Type: oped-snap


Environmental Conservation and Mitigation strategy Conservation & Mitigation

[op-ed snap] A new balance

Issue:

  1. Expediting environmental clearances of pending projects
  2. Considering them as stumbling blocks for developmental initiatives

Importance of environmental clearance:

  1. Environmental clearance procedures are a prerequisite for efficient and sustainable management of natural resources
  2. They ensure that adverse impacts of economic growth are mitigated and managed, but these procedures are not, ipso facto, against development and growth
  3. Maintaining a balance between environment and development, nevertheless, is not an easy task
  4. The inputs of scientists and non-official experts on the environment ministry’s project appraisal committees are critical to ensure that the imperatives of economic growth and protection of natural resources are served
  5. Independent experts help maintain the checks and balances in the country’s environmental clearance procedures

Way ahead:

  1. A fast-developing country does require the environment ministry to work in tandem with agencies that further economic growth, but it would be alarming if the ministry gives up its primary function and becomes a clearing house
  2. It’s nobody’s case that the environmental clearance procedures in the country are foolproof. Data on projects, for example, is either scanty or dubious
  3. The environment ministry does require a change in direction. But it requires more careful thought and judgement than has been evident so far

Note4students:

Environmental Impact Assessment is an explicit topic in mains syllabus, very close to environmental clearances as it is taken up prior to any clearance. In light of this, the issue treated above becomes important for GS-3 as well as ethics (see Mains 2016 ethics paper to be clear on this).

Primary Education Issues and Policies

[op-ed snap] Good news must move to better on schools

Context:

  1. The findings of the 2016 edition of the Annual Status of Education Report, facilitated by Pratham, an education sector NGO
  2. The findings are in tune with NCERT’s National Achievement Survey for class III, V and X (2014, 2015), and the 2015-16 elementary education survey by District Information System for Education (DISE)

Focus areas- good or bad:

  1. There is cause for cautious optimism on the state of school education
  2. Overall: There have been improvements, surveys show, especially in the elementary grades in learning outcomes, powered by progress in government schools
  3. But large numbers of students still do not learn enough at age-appropriate levels
  4. It is also too early to suggest that the improvements are a trend; and change is not even, with some states slipping
  5. Govt schools: There appears to be renewed trust in government schools, India’s largest network: private school enrolment is stable in all but three states
  6. Enrolment: The other significant finding is the improved enrolment for 15-16 year olds, suggesting a stemming of the dropout rate at the end of class VIII
  7. Amenities: School amenities have improved, but not libraries and computer availability
  8. NCERT’s surveys find that outcomes on conceptual clarity and understanding are lagging

Way ahead:

  1. There is a need for changing the way teaching is undertaken and to focus on augmenting conceptual clarity and analytic ability of students
  2. Ascertain problem areas to help design policies and interventions that augment learning
  3. Imbibing practices and interventions that help improve learning outcomes

Education is not about recalling information but the ability to use the classroom learning to unseen and new situations. After all, today’s students will grow up in a world of rapid technological change calling for ever new skills.

Note4students:

ASER is one of the most credible sources for school level education quality. And needless to say, education is an evergreen topic for mains- essay or GS-2.

[op-ed snap] CBI: Neither caged parrot nor partisan hawk

Issue:

  1. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a long tradition of serving as the political tool of the powers that be
  2. The tradition appears to be gaining strength, rather than being supplanted with healthy professionalism

Solutions:

  1. As India develops as a democracy, integrity of the institutions of the state must strengthen, not weaken
  2. An institutional solution would have three parts, relating to appointment of the organisation’s chief, lines of accountability and professionalism
  3. Appointments: Ideally, the bureau should have its own, directly recruited, professional cadre
  4. The very process of deputation from various police forces is a node for injecting political patronage
  5. The appointment of the bureau’s chief is by the prime minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice. This is not foolproof, as appointment of an interim chief whose tenure would witness the superannuation of some eligible candidates, shows
  6. Accountability: The CBI must report to the executive, as it does. Its chief must testify, on a regular basis, before a multiparty committee of Parliament
    It, along with all other police outfits, must also be accountable to the National Human Rights Commission
  7. Autonomy: Multiple lines of accountability would guarantee autonomy

Note4students:

The trend seen in Mains 2016 is on providing solution to the issues, more so in GS-2. Make note of this one for CBI.

[op-ed snap] Permission To Prosecute

Issue:

  1. The conflicting views of the Supreme Court on the precondition of “sanction” for prosecution of a public servant under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988 have created a legal vortex which could be exploited by unscrupulous public servants to stifle a criminal investigation.
  2. The independence of criminal investigation from the executive is a sine qua non for success of a criminal justice system — this assumes even more significance in corruption cases where allegations are made against a public servant who is a part of the executive which controls the police.

The provision:

  1. Section 19 of the PC Act states: “No court shall take cognisance of an offence… alleged to have been committed by a public servant except with the previous sanction”
  2. The provision aims to balance two competing interests
  3. One is the need to ensure that an honest public servant is not hounded in the performance of his or her duties by frivolous complaints
  4. The other is that investigation into an allegation of crime isn’t stifled at the threshold due to the power wielded by a public servant
  5. Section 19 imposes a bar on the court to take “cognisance” of an offence till sanction is obtained from the government
  6. The bar is against the court to take cognisance for the purposes of trial
  7. There is no prohibition either under the PC Act or the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to start an investigation by lodging an FIR or through a court-initiated investigation under Section 156(3) CrPC

Contradicting positions by the Supreme Court:

  1. In Anil Kumar vs. M.K. Aiyappa (2013) and L. Narayana Swamy vs State (2016), the court held that Section 19, PC Act applies at the threshold itself and that even an investigation cannot be ordered under Section 156(3) CrPC without sanction
  2. However, larger benches of the apex court have taken a diametrically opposite view
  3. In R.R. Chari vs. State (1951), the court held that there was no requirement of sanction for ordering an investigation under Section 156(3)CrPC
  4. In State of Rajasthan vs Raj Kumar (1998), it was held that there was no requirement for sanction before filing a chargesheet under Section 173 CrPC
  5. A bench of five judges of the apex court in Subramanian Swami vs Union of India (2014) held that Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which had required prior sanction for investigation into crimes by high-ranking public servants, was unconstitutional
  6. It was held that investigation is central to the criminal justice system and cannot be subverted by imposing a restriction on the police at the threshold itself
  7. The court held that: “If there is an accusation of bribery, graft, illegal gratification or criminal misconduct against a public servant”, the status of the offender is not relevant
  8. The larger bench decisions rightly take the view that any investigation into a crime cannot be stifled at the threshold itself by giving power to the executive to scuttle it through sanction

Need to move ahead:

  1. These judgments (like Aiyappa, Narayana Swamy) could give a handle to the executive to scuttle a potential investigation; a high-ranked public servant could influence the police not to set criminal law in motion by registering an FIR. And the hands of the court would be tied
  2. Interestingly, several high courts have started to openly disregard Aiyappa
  3. The Kerala High Court in Maneesh vs State held the judgment in Aiyappa was not binding on it
  4. More interestingly, the very judge of the High Court of Karnataka who penned down the Aiyappa judgment, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, has in a subsequent judgment in N.C. Shiv Kumar vs State held that his judgment ignored “settled principles established by earlier judgments of the apex court rendered by larger benches”
  5. It is thus imperative that the Supreme Court render an authoritative pronouncement and correct the apparent anomalies in the state of the law on sanction

Note4students:

This can be a probable issue for mains. Keep in mind name of one case each for pro and against arguments.

Women Empowerment: Policy Wise Social Justice

[op-ed snap] Making cities safer with public transport

Issues with women safety sans public transport:

  1. The security that a well-used, vibrant public transport system offers is often overshadowed by talk of CCTV cameras
  2. Once-sleepy towns that are now buzzing with malls that are open until late haven’t lit up their streets or increased bus frequencies
  3. Even as bedtime across urban and semi-urban India is delayed and a nightlife emerges, the public transport system seems to be dormant
  4. The development of our towns, which today has come to be defined by the large brands that set up shops, is restricted to a privatized pattern of consumption that restricts movement to a set of people who can afford private vehicles
  5. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that deter women from stepping out
  6. International Labour Organization data shows a decline in the country’s female labour force participation from over 35% to 25% between 2004 and 2011

The case of Mumbai:

  1. In Mumbai, which boasts of a fairly good public transport system, hardly 16% of the workforce comprises women
  2. Even as Mumbai’s population continues to increase, the number of BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) buses have reduced from 3,800 to 3,500, of which 10% are always under maintenance
  3. This gravely affects the city’s 2.9 million daily bus commuters, with certain routes discontinued and others non-functioning after a certain hour

The case of Ahmedabad:

  1. A study of Ahmedabad’s Janmarg in the context of gender mainstreaming of public transport revealed that women prefer to take longer routes rather than cross a neighbourhood that is desolate or poorly lit
  2. It also found that the overall travelling cost is high for daily-wage earners due to non-availability of “last mile connectivity”
  3. Late in the evening, when the buses are few or empty, women would prefer to take the autorickshaw
  4. But they would rather drop such late trips altogether because of the higher fares in the three-wheeler
  5. Similarly, the inability of the public transport system to provide the “last mile connectivity” is why most young women in Vietnam ride a scooter to work

Planning the Vienna way:

  1. Vienna was able to incorporate gendered needs in its urban planning through an initial survey that revealed men had a more predictable pattern of movement in the city, while women had a varied pattern of movement owing to their various responsibilities through the day
  2. It also found that women used public transport more often and made more trips on foot than men
  3. Accordingly, city planners worked towards making the city pedestrian-friendly while additional lighting was added to make walking at night safer for women

The way out of the mess:

  1. Women-only buses
  2. Availability of public toilets for women on roads
  3. Bihar example: When the government of Bihar distributed free bicycles to girls in 2007 in a bid to encourage them to continue in secondary school, the female dropout rate reduced drastically
  4. For poor families that could not spare the money for transport to schools that were far away, college too was no longer a distant dream for their daughters
  5. The sea of blue and white in the mornings across Bihar heralded a new vision of empowered girls, claiming the streets and their own movements

Instead of the frustrated attempt at nabbing miscreants by being glued to CCTV camera feeds, perhaps it is time to let women feel confident by being on streets and moving freely through public transport systems that are cheap and efficient, and which cater to the freedom of any pattern of movement any hour of the day, by every socioeconomic class.

Note4students:

This is a new dimension in women safety and work force participation issues. Note it for mains answers.

Child labour Law & the Way Forward Health, Education & Human Resources

[op-ed snap] Safe childhoods for a safe India

Context:

India’s decision to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on Minimum Age of Employment, after a long wait of 2 decades

Some of the worst forms of child labour:

  1. Child slavery including the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and forced recruitment for armed conflict
  2. Child prostitution and their use in pornography
  3. Use of children for illicit activities such as drug trafficking
  4. Exposure to any hazardous work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

Impacts of child labour:

  1. About 4.3 million children wake up to a day of labour and not school
  2. Another 9.8 million are officially out-of-school
  3. Child labour, thus, perpetuates illiteracy and poverty
  4. It is the root cause of organised crimes such as human trafficking, terror and drug mafia

Why so late?

  1. Our failure to ratify the two conventions, which are two of the eight core labour conventions, despite being a founder-member of the ILO, reflected poorly on us as a nation
  2. The bottlenecks in ratifying the conventions were:
  3. Addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children, and
  4. Appropriately raising the age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years
  5. Consequent to the passing of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 by the Indian Parliament prohibiting the employment of children up to 14 years of age, and children up to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, it was imperative that we ratified Conventions 182 and 138

What after ratification?

  1. As a matter of urgency, the government will take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour
  2. Under the provisions of the ILO Conventions 182 and 138, India will not adhere to a fixed deadline by which the worst forms of child labour must be eliminated
  3. It will ultimately depend on the level of moral courage, public concern, social empathy, political will and the implementation of resources invested in the development and protection of children

What to expect now?

  1. We cannot alter the circumstances overnight. To achieve great reforms, one must continue to move in a singular direction with sincerity.
  2. Our government has shown steadfastness and strong resolve to uphold the rights of our children, and so must we. Investment in children is an investment in the future
  3. Safe childhoods for a safe India

Note4students:

Signing these conventions can be asked in prelims or an essay on child labour or a mains question on the same can be expected.

Agricultural Sector Indian Society

[op-ed snap] Focussing on the marginal farmer

Context:

  1. There are rising cases of farmer suicide
  2. The reasons for this vary: cotton crop has been whittled by whiteflies, basmati’s market price has declined, the local moneylender has hiked up rates to 20%
  3. A larger number of small farmers rather than marginal farmers reportedly committed suicide in States like Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka
  4. Somehow, small farmers are also bedeviled by the agricultural crisis

On input costs:

  1. Agriculture in States like Punjab is typically a monoculture of wheat and paddy
  2. When input costs associated with fertilizers, crop-protection chemicals and seeds rose, along with fixed costs associated with agricultural equipment such as tractors and submersible pumps, agriculture became economically unviable
  3. Prices have risen — of arhar seeds and staple crops like paddy and sugarcane, of fertilizers and plain barley
  4. Hiring a labourer can now cost at least ₹20/hour, excluding rates when NREGA is prevalent, compared to ₹6-₹9/hour previously
  5. Animal hire rates have also increased in a similar manner
  6. The cost of labour, associated with both animal and machine labour, has also undergone a substantial jump

Retailoring agriculture:

  1. Solving this crisis requires an inclusive approach
  2. Our policies should encourage integrated pest management, an approach that focusses on combining biological, chemical, mechanical and physical means to combat pests with a long-term emphasis on eliminating or significantly reducing the need for pesticides
  3. State seed policies should focus on encouraging contract farming, along with identification of new genotypes for treating pest and disease syndromes, as well as adverse weather conditions
  4. Precision-farming techniques like Systematic Rice Intensification can help increase seed production in this regard
  5. Our farm equipment policy needs to be retailored with a focus on manufacturing farming equipment and implements that are currently imported

Case Study:

  1. In Vietnam, over 2 million of the Mekong Delta’s rice farmers adopted a “no spray early” rule, curbing insecticide applications within the first 40 days of rice planting
  2. Predatory beetles that commonly prey on rice pests were sustained, encouraging the crop while cutting pesticide use by over 50%

Structural changes:

  1. We need to ensure that institutional financing is available and accessible and benefit provision is simplified while disbursed funds are effectively monitored
  2. States should seek to establish early warning signals, monitoring farmers who go past set limits and seek unsustainable loans
  3. Village-wise lists of deeply indebted farmers must be prepared annually to identify farmers on the flight path to penury and potential suicide
  4. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, along with the local administration, should be tasked with analysing such lists for macro and local policy interventions, along with devising timely loan restructuring initiatives, insurance claim settlements and better counseling

Note4Sudents:

There are increasing farmer suicides. They are living in distress due to which the agricultural activities need to be changed. The op-ed has a solution and suggestion approach needed for a Mains answer.

Primary Education Issues and Policies

[op-ed snap] Lessons in education

Context:

  1. The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) is run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  2. It is a one-of-a-kind, global survey of student achievement in schools, conducted every three years

Some observations:

  1. There is clear and unambiguous reaffirmation that private schools do not perform better than public (government) schools
  2. Secondly, streaming (separating) students into vocational and academic streams early and grade repetitions make schooling systems inequitable
  3. Scores in science are poor for students streamed into pre-vocational or vocational courses
  4. Third, “school choice” mechanisms and structures foster inequity
  5. Fourth, there is an emphatic reaffirmation that gender differences in performance are a result of external influences and are not innate, underlining the importance of gender-equity strategies in education
  6. Fifth, there is no evidence of information and communication technology (ICT) having a positive impact on learning independently
  7. Sixth, teacher qualifications and professional development influence student performance. Peer learning and collaboration are most effective and improve job satisfaction
  8. Seventh, autonomy of schools has positive correlation to performance, autonomy in areas ranging from admissions to curriculum
  9. Eighth, performance in science improves only with high-quality teaching-learning processes within the school—pointing directly to the importance of teachers and the time spent in school

Note4Students:

The list of eight is enough to underline the most basic matter that education requires sustained work on the fundamentals, and that there are no short cuts. We will have to do more and better in schools for the socio-economically disadvantaged, something extra than what is done for the advantaged. Quite simply, the school must become the social institution to compensate for disadvantage if we want to build a just and equitable world. These points need not be reproduced exactly the same way in answers but the essence should be understood. Complement this with today’s ASER report newscard and you have excellent data on school education.

[op-ed snap] Sovereign digicoin: a road map for RBI

Context:

  1. A report of the committee on digital payments notes several benefits of introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC)
  2. It concludes the discussion by recommending that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) evaluate the possibility of RBI-issued digital currency and testing proof of concept
  3. The emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have led central banks around the world to develop a research agenda around digital currencies, both private and sovereign
  4. The Bank of England and the Central Bank of Canada are leading producers of scholarship surrounding it

Various issues relating to Digicoins:

Design:

  1. The report notes that a CBDC would be like “e-cash”, essentially a non-interest-bearing liability of the central bank issued in digital form
  2. The central bank may choose to issue the CBDC as an interest-bearing instrument as wel
  3. In fact, it would be more consequential to financial stability and more relevant to monetary policy if the RBI were to issue it as an interest-bearing instrument
  4. Issued simply as “e-cash”, it would function exactly as physical cash functions presently, as a medium of exchange between peer-to-peer and peer-to-business transactions and as a counter-cyclical store for value
  5. Issued as an interest-bearing instrument, it would compete with the deposits issued by commercial banks

The mechanics of issue:

  1. Unlike private currencies that do not have a specific issuer and essentially rely on the trust of the participants to circulate, a CBDC will create a liability on the balance sheet of the RBI
  2. Operationalizing the CBDC would also sequentially require validation and settlement
  3. Validation is necessary to avoid the so-called “double-counting” problem that arises in the context of digital currencies
  4. It means ensuring that the payer has not already used the “same” CBDC to pay another payee prior to the current transaction
  5. The RBI may develop a standard consensus procedure that determines the precise moment at which the “transfer” from the payer to the payee is completed
  6. This may involve determining the number of “nodes” necessary to validate the transfer for it to be deemed complete by the payment-system participants

The political economy issuing a CBDC:

  1. Since the RBI is also the regulator of the banking system, public-choice economics would in theory suggest that the RBI issue a non-interest-bearing CBDC so that its constituents do not have competitive pressures to contend with

Note4Students:

The op-ed is a complete analysis of bitcoins. Make note of the points. Also note the b2b points for Prelims.

Back2Basics:

Bitcoins:

  1. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a payment system
  2. It was invented by an unidentified programmer, or group of programmers, under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto
  3. The system is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary
  4. The U.S. Treasury categorizes bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency
  5. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency although prior systems existed and it is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Not letting it go waste

Solid Waste Management:

Management of solid waste or garbage must have three elements:

  1. The first element is segregation of biodegradable or wet waste from dry waste at source
  2. The second is that once segregation is achieved, municipal governments can use wet waste to produce compost and biogas in biomethanation plants
  3. Third is that the dry waste, after removing recyclable elements, should go to waste-to-energy plants: This will reduce the volume of waste that remains to be sent to landfills

Waste-to-energy plants:

  1. Waste-to-energy plants use incineration, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)-based combustion or conversion technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification
  2. There is a great deal of confusion about what the different technologies entail
  3. There are also apprehensions about the potentially damaging impact of waste-to-energy plants on the environment in general, the quality of air in particular, and consequently, on public health
  4. There are also questions about whether these plants are financially viable

Case study I:

  1. The waste-to-energy plant based on incineration of unsegregated municipal solid waste at Okhla, South Delhi
  2. It processes almost 2,000 tonnes of unsegregated municipal solid waste every day to feed into its boilers to produce 16 MW of electricity
  3. The plant came under fire initially because it did not comply with emission requirements
  4. It has been recently cleared for operations by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has certified that it now meets the emission standards of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

Case Study II:

  1. Waste-to-energy plant at Ghazipur, East Delhi, based on controlled combustion
  2. It produces RDF from segregated dry waste and uses the same in onsite boilers to generate electricity, performing at EU standards of emissions
  3. The plant receives 1,300 tonnes of mixed waste every day from the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, which is reduced to about 40% of the total after segregation
  4. From 550 tonnes of feedstock, the plant produces 12 MW of electricity

Incineration-based waste-to-energy plants:

  1. Rely on mass burning of municipal solid waste, which involves complete combustion of miscellaneous waste materials into ash
  2. Depending on what is being combusted, the gases generated may contain dioxins and furans, which are toxic and can be lethal
  3. These plants therefore need to put in place emission control filters of a very high standard to check the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere
  4. There is a need for continuous monitoring of emissions and sharing information openly

What’s happening globally:

  1. Singapore uses incineration with due environmental precautions in managing its municipal solid waste after recycling 60% of its waste (among the highest rates in the world)
  2. Japan and a number of European countries also rely on incineration, with due precaution, as they try to minimise the waste that needs to go to landfills
  3. US had a long free run with incineration plants, but thanks to the environmental movement, there has been a significant tightening of regulations with respect to emissions since the 1970s
  4. The abundance of land in the US led to greater recourse to landfills.

Innovation in waste-to-energy:

  1. The innovations in waste-to-energy technologies worldwide have been focusing on pyrolysis, gasification and plasma gasification
  2. This can deliver cleaner emissions but are considerably more expensive
  3. These technologies involve heating of solid waste at very high temperatures in an oxygen-controlled environment, such that the thermal reactions produce synthesis gas (or syngas)
  4. It has the advantage that it can be burned directly or transported through pipelines and/or tankers for use in electricity generation, refining, chemical and fertiliser industries
  5. While syngas can be scrubbed and converted into a clean energy source, the technologies are expensive, compromising the commercial viability of plants based on conversion technologies

Conclusion:

It is important to emphasise that electricity generation from waste is not the most efficient way of generating electricity. It is a way of resource recovery from municipal solid waste and should be considered as a by-product of waste management. Enthusiasts sometimes speak of waste-to-energy as a solution to our energy problem — this is not correct. However, if implemented to global emission standards, it could be a pathway to scientific and sustainable disposal of municipal solid waste, given the scarcity of urban land in the country, while also generating some much needed electricity.

Note4Students:

This is a good article on non-conventional energy generation methods. It can be asked in Mains directly or indirectly.

Back2Bascis:

National Green Tribunal:

  1. Recognising the need for a more empowered body that could enforce adherence to environmental regulations, the National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010
  2. It is an independent judicial body under an act by the Parliament of India
  3. NGT has, in many cases, prodded the pollution control authorities and catalysed action from State Pollution Control Boards/Municipalities, especially in waste management
  4. It has been setting the rules of the game and putting the weight of legal compensation and enforcement behind its rulings

[op-ed snap] Don’t let messengers shoot themselves

Context:

  1. Little attention is paid to serious concerns about the systems of military justice
  2. While delays in the judicial system are notorious, delays for the armed forces can turn fatal in the form of suicide and fratricide (also called “fragging” — where a serviceman kills his brothers-in-arms)
  3. BSF constable Tej Bahadur Yadav’s videos released about tasteless dal and half-burnt parathas

Case Study:

  1. In 1985, Signalman Ranjit Thakur refused food while serving 28 days’ imprisonment for overriding the hierarchy
  2. He made representations directly to senior officers about ill treatment
  3. A summary court martial was conducted for his act of disobeying the order to eat
  4. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment, dismissal from the Army, and disqualification from civilian service
  5. Fortunately for him, the Supreme Court found this sentence to be grossly disproportionate and reinstated him with full pay and benefits

Existential questions:

  1. The BSF’s woes extend much further than merely bad food
  2. The force has faced existential questions ever since it sought legislative recognition
  3. In the BSF Bill, there was a disparity between the Army and the BSF in terms of pay, service conditions, grievance redress mechanisms and deployments to forward areas
  4. Rejecting these concerns and refusing to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee, the Bill was passed and independent India’s first paramilitary force was born
  5. The concerns of stepmotherly treatment in service conditions exist even today across all paramilitary forces in India
  6. These forces are all under the Home Ministry in contrast to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard which are under the Defence Ministry

Armed Forces Tribunal:

  1. The Armed Forces Tribunal came into being in 2007, 25 years after the Supreme Court made scathing remarks about the military justice system
  2. For not having even one layer of judicial scrutiny, for unchecked command influence in decision-making, and for absence of recorded reasons in final judgments
  3. In 1999, the Law Commission’s 169th Report stated that disciplinary and service matters required quick resolution and proposed a special tribunal for the military and paramilitary forces
  4. However, the Armed Forces Tribunal Bill was steered through Parliament only by the Defence Ministry, leaving paramilitary forces, even the Assam Rifles and the Coast Guard, outside the tribunal’s purview

Note4Students:

The article is an analysis on the paramilitary forces, their functioning and inequality meted out to them. Note down the points for Mains answer (possibly an ethics question). Re-read the 4 points under the tribunal paragraph for a possible Prelims question.

Back2Basics:

For Border Security Force Bill, 1968, the then Home Minister, Yashwantrao Chavan, told the Rajya Sabha: “Popularly it is called Border Security Police, but its function is not policing, it is something more than that. Though it is functioning on the borders, it is not the Army. The task of this Force is such that it is something between the Army and the Police Force.”

[op-ed snap] Permission To Prosecute

Context:

  1. There are conflicting views of the SC on the precondition of “sanction” for prosecution of a public servant under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988
  2. This has created a legal vortex which could be exploited by unscrupulous public servants to stifle a criminal investigation
  3. The independence of criminal investigation from the executive is a sine qua non for success of a criminal justice system
  4. This assumes a greater significance in corruption cases where allegations are made against a public servant who is a part of the executive which controls the police

Section 19:

  1. The provision aims to balance two competing interests
  2. One is the need to ensure that an honest public servant is not hounded in the performance of his or her duties by frivolous complaints
  3. The other is that investigation into an allegation of crime isn’t stifled at the threshold due to the power wielded by a public servant
  4. Section 19 imposes a bar on the court to take “cognisance” of an offence till sanction is obtained from the government
  5. The bar is against the court to take cognisance for the purposes of trial
  6. There is no prohibition either under the PC Act or the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to start an investigation by lodging an FIR or through a court-initiated investigation

Court orders:

  1. In 2014 it was held that prior sanction is required for investigation into crimes by high-ranking public servants, was unconstitutional
  2. It was held that investigation is central to the criminal justice system and cannot be subverted by imposing a restriction on the police at the threshold itself
  3. The court held that: “If there is an accusation of bribery, graft, illegal gratification or criminal misconduct against a public servant”, the status of the offender is not relevant

Note4Students:

It is imperative that the Supreme Court render an authoritative pronouncement and correct the apparent anomalies in the state of the law on sanction. The op-ed is an insight into the investigation of cases involving officials.

[op-ed snap]‘Serious job losses are taking place’

Context:

  1. More than two months after the demonetisation, Nobel Laureate and economist Amartya Sen says that any proper “economic reasoning could not have sensibly led to such a ham-handed policy”
  2. He predicts that the demonetisation will hit the economy quite drastically

Impact on Informal sector:

  1. Availability of money plays a very big part in facilitating business and trade
  2. Particularly for small businesses (farming, for example), money is often used in the form of cash

Cashless economy:

  1. In the long run, cashless transactions can perhaps be made into routine practice, through organisation and training, but that would take time
  2. Given the underdevelopment of electronic accounts and transactions, big parts of the economy are vulnerable
  3. Making efficient and correct use of electronic payments and receipts would remain difficult to master and the possibility of losing one’s money would be hard to avoid
  4. Since there is shortage of infrastructure and the slowness of learning in using cashless transactions

Confusion of purpose:

  1. Demonetisation has been seen both as a way of catching and eliminating ‘black money’, and as a way of moving towards a ‘cashless economy’
  2. However, demonetisation can make only a very small contribution — at a huge social cost — to the ‘black money problem’
  3. This is because only a very small proportion of black money (it is estimated to be 6 per cent or so, certainly less than 10 per cent) is in cash
  4. Most black money is in the form of precious metals and other assets in foreign accounts
  5. The inconvenience and loss imposed with no black money (workers earning wages; small businesses doing trade or production; people, even housewives, keeping small savings) are much more acute than any benefit from catching relatively small amounts of black money
  6. There are going to be huge job losses too, and the recent reports by All India Manufacturers’ Organisation are beginning to show that serious job losses are already happening
  7. After the government understood this, the initially trumpeted objective of getting rid of black money through demonetisation was suddenly changed into a very different objective — to leap rapidly into a cashless society
  8. The result has been a combination of chaos and widespread suffering rather than an orderly transition to a cashless society

Note4Students:

The effects of demonetisation, both positive and negative are important for writing a Mains answer. Make note of the points.

Back2Basics:

London’s Financial Times has called “a dramatic drop in business in the 34 days since Narendra Modi… announced his plan to scrap 86 per cent of its banknotes.”

[op-ed snap] Vagaries of the job market

Context:

  1. The mismatch between the number of people who annually reach working age and the availability of jobs
  2. The International Labour Organisation’s latest forecast that a few more millions are set to join the pool of the jobless during this year and the next

A serious concern:

  1. The ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2017’ pertains to the stubborn challenge of reducing the extent of vulnerability that currently affects about 42% of the total working population
  2. There is lack of access to contributory social protection schemes among the self-employed and allied categories, unlike their counterparts in the wage-earning and salaried classes
  3. The former segment accounts for nearly 50% of workers in the emerging economies and 80% in developing countries

Absence of strong welfare legislation:

  1. There is absence of strong welfare legislation or its effective enforcement in a majority of these countries
  2. An increase in the number of people facing vulnerable working conditions is the real danger this poses of a slowdown in reducing the incidence of working poverty
  3. Rise in income levels in the lowest rungs of the population lent the current phase of globalisation the social and political legitimacy

Note4Students:

The challenge for policymakers worldwide is to ensure that incomes do not fall below the levels of basic subsistence as the world marches towards the poverty reduction targets under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. There might not be a direct question but this op-ed has points for a Mains answer.

[op-ed snap] A time of change for the oil industry

Optimism in the industry:

  1. The current surge of optimism is propelled by the OPEC’s November deal to reduce production in 2017 by 1.2 million barrels a day
  2. Traders and speculators bet big on a consequent price rally
  3. By December-end, it seemed a smart bet with prices jumping 30%
  4. In the new year and oil was eyeing the $60 mark, but prices have since started sliding towards the $55 mark and may fall further
  5. They do point to the structural factors that will shape the industry’s medium to long term future

Structural factors:

  1. US shale industry: Less than a decade old, it was enough of a threat to be one of the reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s attempt to squeeze marginal producers out of business by perpetuating oil oversupply
  2. Shale industry is more nimble than its conventional counterpart: quicker to downsize but also quicker to expand operations, and thus respond to market fluctuations
  3. Estimates predict larger increases in capex; drill rig counts are rising steadily
  4. The past two years have forced the industry to evolve
  5. Companies have emerged leaner and fitter; their cost bases are lower
  6. The second factor is the diminishing of OPEC
  7. The final factor is the steady rise in renewables
  8. In 2015, renewable energy overtook conventional energy in term of new installations for the first time, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)
  9. The IEA also expects renewables to account for more than 60% of global power capacity growth over the next five years as the cost of production of solar power, in particular, continues to decline

Note4Students:

The change in supply pattern as well as demand pattern of the Oil industry is interesting to watch. Oil is an extremely important commodity of trade in today’s world and therefore, equally important for UPSC aspirants.

Highest Rated App. Over 3 lakh users. Click to Download!!!