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[Burning Issue] Water Crisis

India faces worst water crisis: NITI Aayog

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  1. The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history and that demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken.
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  3. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted.
  4. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the report says.

Ranking the States

  1. The NITI Aayog’s observations are part of a study that ranked 24 States on how well they managed their water.
  2. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh took the top three spots, in that order, and Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana came in last in the ‘Non-Himalayan States’ category.
  3. Himachal Pradesh — which is facing one of its worst water crises this year — led a separate 8-member list of States clubbed together as ‘North-Eastern and Himalayan.
  4. These two categories were made to account for different hydrological conditions across the two groups.

Low performers

  1. About 60% of the States were marked as “low performers” and this was cause for “alarm,” according to the report.
  2. Many of the States that performed badly on the index — Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh — which accounted for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output.

Conservation counts, not Scarcity

  1. The index noted, several of the high and medium performers — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana — irrespective of droughts in recent years.
  2. Therefore, a lack of water was not necessary grounds for States not initiating action on conservation.
  3. Most of the gains registered by the States were due to their restoration of surface water bodies, watershed development activities and rural water supply provision

Reasons for scarcity

Lack of pricing of water: There has been an effort to develop sustainable water supplies in India in recent years with water conservation legislation existing in 80 per cent of the country.

However, poor data management and an abject failure to properly price water have prevented the country from making any significant progress.

Drought in better performing states: In what could serve as encouragement to step up the pursuit of policies to better conserve water, several water-scarce states are the best at managing the resource. Some of the best performers in the national composite water index – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana – are states that have suffered from severe droughts in recent years.

Populist policy: “Policies like several states giving free electricity to farmers or giving financial support for groundwater extraction – borewells and tubewells – results in uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resource.

Failure of drip irrigation: Drip irrigation, a method that means farmers use drastically less fertiliser and diesel, has failed to become popular and its implementation is expensive for most people with state governments providing limited support.

Erratic monsoon and climate change:

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  1. Climate change is a real global challenge today that is altering the water cycle in the worst way possible.
  2. Increased temperature, droughts, river drying and insufficient monsoon to replenish the groundwater has become one of the greatest cause of water scarcity in India.

Poor planning and Leakage:

  1. This is one of the greatest reason for the Shimla water crisis happening now as some reports state that around 20–25% of water is wasted due to the leakage in the pipelines.
  2. Delhi wastes around 40% of its water by leakage problems.
  3. India wastes considerably a lot of water as leakage in pumping and distribution.
  4. When water is becoming such a scarce resource, wasting it by sheer negligence in the maintenance of pipelines indeed a big offence.

Improper wastewater treatment:

  1. In India, there is no policy support for recycling and reuse of the industrial wastewater contrary to other countries that have proper guidelines on wastewater management. Israel uses about 86% of its treated waste water in agriculture.
  2. 70% of urban sewage in India is untreated and is disposed of directly to the water bodies that creates quite a lot of health and environmental concerns.
  3. The National Water Mission aims at increasing the water use efficiency by 20%, but still this is much less than the developed countries of the world.

The Way Forward

  1. India’s traditional irrigation method involves more water consumption. Drip irrigation which is already in practice in India needs to be practised efficiently across the country which will reduce the water usage in agriculture. A lot of revolutionary methods has to be implemented in Indian agriculture to overcome the water crisis.
  2. Wastewater recycle to save our water bodies: As we know, most of our water bodies are polluted because of wastewater released by textile and industries which in turn got mixed up and resulted in polluting the water bodies. Like Israel, India should also take necessary steps to recycle the wastewater and reuse for agriculture and industrial activities.
  3. Extracting water from air and fog are the futuristic technologies: Indian government should invest in these technologies which can be implemented in suitable areas. For eg: extracting water from fog can be done in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam etc.
  4. Desalination: We have seen states like Tamil Nadu, worst hit by drought during this summer. Many parts of TN has sea and setting up desalination plants like Israel’s solar-powered desalination plants will help in overcoming the water crisis.
  5. To prevent leakage, a Proper team with skilled workers should be assigned the job of maintenance and repair of the pipelines. Smart metering and leakage detection system should be designed to check the water wastage in the transmission.

Other steps needed

  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Restoring and maintaining our water bodies
  • Growing trees
  • Mandatory Water recycling in all the apartments, industries and textiles.
  • Reusing the wastewater from RO. During the RO purification process, nearly 70% of water gets wasted. We can store and reuse it.
  • Creating social awareness among the people about the effective use of water.
  • Revolutionize the agriculture practice.

Question

  1. According to NITI Aayog, India is facing her worst water crisis. Elaborate. What steps can be taken to avert a catastrophe?
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Applications of Biotechnology in India

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What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology refers to the industrial use of micro-organism, living plant and animal cells to produce substances useful to the people. It includes the manufacture of antibiotics, vitamins, vaccines, toxic waste disposal systems using microbes etc.

Biotechnology sector in India

  1. Indian biotechnology sector has crossed the $ 3 billion milestones and is growing at the rate of more than 30% over the last few years.  
  2. There is also a general perspective that India could even achieve the target of attaining $20 billion by 2020.

Applications of Biotechnology in India

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Agriculture

  1. Biotechnology revolutionized research activities in agriculture which include tissue culture in plants, the creation of new transgenic plants and animals which eventually used as bio-reactors to produce the drug from their milk, food etc.
  2. Genetic engineering accelerates improvements in plants by increasing the diversity of the gene pool. It has also helped in the production of plants that have
  • a short maturing period
  • higher yield
  • potential to promote food production even in adverse conditions like drought, salinity etc.

Indian scientists have also come up with an inexpensive algal bio-fertilizer technology for rice.

Animal husbandry

  1. Biotechnology is used in the production of the physiological system, embryos transfer, health and well-being of animals.
  2. Indian scientists have developed a procedure for producing several identical buffalo by using the nuclear transfer technique.

Human health

  1. Biotechnology has enabled the production of human insulin through microbes, human growth hormone etc.
  2. Diagnostic kits to diagnose viral infections, hepatitis B etc.

Industry

  1. In the Industrial sector biotechnology has been used for the production of high fructose corn syrup, sweetening agent for soft drinks, improving the production of alcohol, production of the chemical from agricultural waste etc.

Environment

  1. Biotechnology applications have been successfully made in the treatment of wastes.
  2. An important achievement was made when the Indian borne Anand Chakraborty designed a bacterium Pseudomonas putida that could feed on oil which is of great economic and environmental importance in the battle against oil slicks.

Measures taken

  1. The Indian government has been very supportive to the Biotech sector and the National Biotechnology Development Strategy has been approved.
  2. A new patent regime is in place and the regulatory system is being beefed up.
  3. The public involvement in biotech investments has been strengthened through the small business innovation research initiative of the Department of Biotechnology.
  4. The Department of Biotechnology has also committed to spending 30% of its budget on public-private partnership programmes in Biotechnology.  
  5. Biotechnology has also been promoted through emphasizing on higher education, establishing 16 new national level universities, 8 new Indian Institute of Technology and 4 new Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research etc.
  6. Several new interface programmes to connect academic with industry in order to bridge the knowledge to the market chain.

Challenges

  1. Companies have not been able to launch new products at a significant pace because of bureaucratic red-tape and multiple regulatory bodies.
  2. Innovative companies face funding constraints since the investors have shied away from early-stage ventures.
  3. Another issue is the lack of trained manpower. While India has a considerable number of graduates and postgraduates in biotechnology and related fields, they are not employable. Thus companies have to invest heavily in their training before incorporating them into the business.
  4. India also suffers from brain drain. Top global biotech companies are able to poach the brightest Indian minds with attractive job profiles and good remuneration.
  5. Lack of manufacturing capacity. Several biotech parks (established through PPPs) are solely focused on providing biotech services and diagnostics rather than pure biotech manufacturing.

Way forward

  1. India is already facing tough competition from China, Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia in terms of attracting investments. Therefore, it is high time that India should enable better technological and scientific competence, better infrastructure, tax and duty exemptions, better course structure, and easier regulatory procedures in order to remain competitive and spur growth in the industry.
  2. The biotech industry should come up with a concrete action plan to effectively utilize the available infrastructure and resources and focus on strengthening innovation to take the biotech industry to new heights.
  3. The government must promote the domestic biotech industry through steps like venture capital, industry-academia link, entrepreneurship incubation centres etc.

Practice question

  1. Discuss the various applications of Biotechnology in India and analyse its growth potential with reference to initiatives taken by the government regarding the same
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Double Burden of Malnutrition in India

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Double Burden of Malnutrition

  • The increasing income differences have widened the gap between the rich and poor and thus has put India in a position in which it was not before.
  • Malnutrition in India has always been synonymous with undernutrition.
  • But obesity among adults is nearly as big a problem in the country as under-nutrition.
  • Even as under-nutrition continues to remain extraordinarily high in the poorer parts of the country, obesity has reached endemic levels in some of the richer parts of the country
  • Thus the present situation is a perfect example of the paradoxical situation, popularly known as the Double Burden of Malnutrition (DBM).
  • A study by medical journal Lancet has raised concern about this double burden of malnutrition in India.
  • At the same time, a report was also released by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) to understand the current nutritional status of urban population in India.
  • India has the second highest number of obese children in the world after China.
  • At the same time, India has the highest number of moderately and severely underweight children and adolescents in the world.
  • The twin problem of high malnutrition and growing obesity may have a common cause: a high proportion of low birth weight babies in India.
  • The stark nutritional divide across the country mirrors the uneven growth and development across the country.

Lancet Report

  • According to the Lancet, India has the highest number of moderately and severely underweight children and adolescents in the world.
  • In the report, it showed that the prevalence of mild to severe underweight under-20s in India is 22.7% among girls and 30.7% among boys.
  • The number of obese children and adolescents rose from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 globally.  
  • In this trend, India will have more obese than underweight children by 2022.  
  • In India deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are rising alarmingly.  
  • One in 12 deaths can be prevented with 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week.

NNMB report of India  

  • The states having highest obesity rates are: Rajasthan, Kerala, Gujarat, New Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry
  • Cases of hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes in urban population are rising.
  • Kerala has the highest prevalence of hypertension as well as high cholesterol in urban men and women while Puducherry has highest prevalence of diabetes.  
  • Only 57% of children between the ages of 1-3 years & 68% of those between 4-6 years consumed adequate amounts of proteins and calories.  
  • 34% of men and 44% of women are overweight in India.
  • 13% of men & 11% of women are underweight in India.  
  • 16% of children were born with low birth weight (LBW) in Urban areas which puts them at risk for infections and even early death.

Impact of Double Burden of Malnutrition

  • The double malnutrition trap can be particularly dangerous for India, where urban populations are rising, and where people increasingly face a sedentary lifestyle.
  • The World Bank estimated that the annual cost of malnutrition to the world economy is approximately $80 billion.
  • The direct cost to the Indian economy is around $10 billion, and the total costs, direct and indirect, at 2-3% of GDP.
  • It would affect the working conditions of the people.
  • With every case of obesity or malnutrition in children, India is being dragged back in its growth trajectory.
  • The government would need to spend more on health sector which may led to affect other welfare programs.
  • DBM will put pressure on already fragile health systems in India by posing a high risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers (clubbed together as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs).
  • At the same time, we will be losing out on a healthy and well nourished workforce.

Obesity in India

Reasons for Obesity

  • Not taking recommended daily intake (RDI) despite improvement in nutritional status  
  • Although cereal consumption has reduced in compared to 3 decades ago but intake of fat, sugar and oil have increased.
  • 63% of men and 72% of women work for 8 hours per day but they lead a sedentary life.  
  • No proper regime of eating, sleeping & doing physical activity is followed.
  • Traditional foods are being replaced with packed & processed foods.  
  • Only 28% of men & 15% of women exercised in the surveyed states.
  • Increasing tobacco & alcohol consumption in men & women.

Issues related to child obesity 

  • Identification of obesity – in early years is not done as the obese child is often thought of as a healthy child by parents.  
  • Unawareness – about the diet patterns, physical activity habits etc. which leads to developing of an unhealthy environment around children.  
  • Increased income and urbanization – leads to a rise in the consumption of foods high in fats, sugar and salt and low physical activity.  
  • Poor sleep patterns – It also intensifies the effects of genetic risk for obesity  
  • Moderate wasting and stunting – These are also potential risk factors for children becoming overweight or obese.  
  • Major risk of NCDs – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature death, as well as physical and psychological consequences in childhood.  
  • Economic cost – The annual cost of treating the consequences of obesity will reach a staggering $13 billion in India and $1.2 trillion globally by 2025.

What Do WHO Guidelines Say:

  • Height-weight measurement – The weight-for-height and their nutritional status of all infants and children aged less than 5 years at primary health-care facilities should be determined to enable comparing with WHO child growth standards.  
  • Counselling – If identified as overweight, counselling should be provided to parents and caregivers on nutrition, eating habits and physical activity including promotion for breastfeeding.  
  • Obesity management plan – If identified as obese, an appropriate management plan should be developed after further assessment by the health worker at the primary health-care level or an adequately trained professional at a referral clinic or local hospital.  
  • Focus on prevention – and not on providing formulated supplementary foods on a routine basis to children who are moderately wasted or stunted until there is a more definitive evidence base.  
  • Tackle obesogenic environment – By preventing high energy intake and inactive behavior and change the social norms in relation to food and physical activity.
  • Improving Public policy formulation such as Hungary does heavy taxation on high salty foods.
  • Regulation of marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods particularly those targeted at children that are high in salt, sugar and fat  
  • Labelling – the role of positive front of pack and standardized global nutrient labelling on packaged foods may help in promotion of healthy foods and lifestyle.

Malnutrition in India

Reasons for Malnutrition

  • Extremely low incomes – Many of the rural poor survive at incomes, which are not more than Rs 30 a day. they are unable to afford even two square meals a day.
  • Artificially inflated food prices – The market prices of essential food items are way above actual production costs, primarily on account of supply chain inefficiencies and practices like black marketing, hoarding.
  • Lack of storage facility at centre as well as state level is below standard as a result of which almost 40% of fruits/vegetables and 20% of grains get damaged.
  • With less food in market .the price goes up and the poor finds it difficult to afford it.
  • Neglect of female nutrition – In rural societies, patriarchal norms continues unabated. Thus, young girls, newly married women are overworked and denied access to food, which affects their health and that of their newborns.
  • Failure of government sector schemes – Despite massive government interventions through NFSA, PDS, the benefits have not reached the needy due to leakages, corruption and mistargeting of subsidies.

Impact of malnutrition

  • Undernourished children have significantly lower chances of survival than children who are well-nourished.
  • They are much more prone to serious infections and to die from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, measles, malaria, pneumonia, and HIV and AIDS.
  • The risk of death increases with the severity of the undernutrition.
  • Nutrition is important to ensure proper brain formation and development, which starts in the womb: development of the brain goes on during early childhood.
  • Evidence suggests that children who are stunted often enrol late in school, complete fewer grades and perform less well in school.
  • This, in turn, affects their creativity and productivity in later life. Iodine deficiency is known to affect a child’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) adversely.
  • It has also been established that children with deficient growth before age two are at an increased risk of chronic disease as adults, especially if they gain weight rapidly in the later stages of childhood.
  • A low birth weight baby, who is stunted and underweight in its infancy and gains weight rapidly in childhood and adult life, is much more prone to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Steps Government is taking to tackle malnutrition

  • Expanded the safety net through ICDS to cover all vulnerable groups (children, adolescent girls, mothers, expectant women).
  • Fortify essential foods with appropriate nutrients (e.g., salt with iodine and/or iron).
  • Popularise low cost nutritious food.
  • Mid-day Meal Programme.
  • Ensure food security through increased production of food grains
  • Improve dietary pattern by promoting production and increasing per capita availability of nutritionally rich food
  • Affecting income transfers (improve purchasing power of landless, rural and urban poor; expand and improve public distribution system)
  • Recently Government has launched the National nutrition mission

What more is needed

  • Promotion of appropriate infant and young child feeding habits along with timely immunisation.
  • Empower women because they are the best caretakers when it comes to nutrition of their children and they know exactly what is the nutritional requirement of the child.
  • Use of biotechnology with proper safeguards like fortification of grains and promotion of coarse grains and pulses
  • Prevention of anaemia in adolescent girls and pregnant women through nutritional programmes with iron and folic acid and deworming
  • Capacity building of anganwadi workers
  • Child specific growth monitoring cards
  • Introduction of BMI and other index for assessing nutritional status at the anganwadi levels.
  • National health and sanitation committees to monitor nutrition programmes by conducting national health and nutrition days

Conclusion

  • Tackling obesity benefits the economy and the environment, as healthy and sustainable diets are good for productivity levels and the planet
  • While tackling undernutrition through assurance of adequate nutrition (usually interpreted as dietary calories), we need to ensure that it is also about appropriate nutrition (the right balance of nutrients)
  • Our policy response has to move from “food security” to “nutrition security”.

There is the need to revisit the existing nutrition action plans to simultaneously address undernutrition and these emerging non-communicable diseases related to obesity

India is fortunate to have these indicators included in the national health surveys, at a disaggregated enough level to initiate local actions to understand and address this major health challenge

These guidelines will support achieving the SDGs, the global targets set by the Comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and the Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health 2016–2030.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] African Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARDO)

About AARDO

  1. AARDO was formed in 1962 as an autonomous inter-governmental organization and has 33 members from Asia and Africa.
  2. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  3. The main objectives of AARDO are
  • Developing understanding among members for better appreciation of each other’s problems
  • To collectively explore opportunities for coordination of efforts in promoting welfare and eradication of thirst, hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty amongst rural people.
  1. AARDO also promotes collaboration with various international organizations for the economic and social welfare of the rural community.
  2. It enjoys observer status in FAO, IFAD, UNCTAD, UNESCO, ICA, CIRDAP and UNDP.

Functions of AARDO

  1. To hold regional and international conferences, workshops, seminars and meetings to enable the exchange of ideas and experiences among the member countries and to find new areas of collaboration.
  2. To organize and facilitate the conduct of regional, international and in-country training programmes to strengthen the institutional capacity of member countries in sustainable agriculture and rural development and promote networking among these countries.
  3. To initiate research and studies of common interest and disseminate data/statistics and information to member countries.
  4. To provide technical and financial support to its member countries for undertaking pilot projects for experimentation and replication.
  5. To promote dissemination of information on agriculture and rural development through the multi-media approach.
  6. To pursue environment and climate changes in the context of rural development.

India and AARDO

  1. India is one of the founder members of AARDO and is the largest contributor in terms of membership contribution.
  2. India also provided funds for building for AARDO secretariat in Delhi and also significant financial assistance for maintenance of the building.
  3. It also offered 70 fully paid training scholarships for human resource development programme for AARDO under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) to the organization.
  4. In 2016, India and AARDO signed MoU under which capacity building programmes for AARDO member countries for the triennium 2015-2017 had been undertaken.
  5. Recently India and AARDO held a workshop in Kochi that focussed on food security, agriculture, and fisheries.

Way forward

Considering the growing competition between India and China in the African continent, an effective coordination and cooperation with AARDO will prove to be an effective driver in bringing the mutually beneficial relationship with several African countries and ensure sustainable development for both.

Practice Questions

  1. Give a brief account on African Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARDO) and evaluate the relationship between India and AARDO.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] IPC Section 377

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Introduction

  1. For most of human history, homosexuality has been considered a sin across religions and was punished severely.
  2. While earlier perceived as a psychological problem, a dominant view emerged  in the 20th century, that homosexuality was inborn and therefore not immoral, and it was not a disease.
  3. However, even in the 21st century, there is still no unanimity on the issues and resistance persists, despite it being decriminalised in many countries.
  4. In India, its Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a biblical provision of law in 1861, criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexual activities.

Section 377 of the IPC

  1. It reads – Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
  2. The terms “carnal intercourse” and “against the order of nature” are not defined precisely anywhere in the code.

Delhi HC exclusion: Naz Foundation Vs. Govt of NCT of Delhi

  1. In a landmark judgement in 2009, the Delhi high court excluded acts of carnal intercourse by consenting adults in private from the purview of Sec 377.
  2. The court found Section 377 to be inconsistent with the fundamental rights under Article 13(1) of the Constitution.
  3. Additionally, it was found to be in violation of the right to privacy and dignity (Article 21), freedom of expression and right to equality (Article 19 (1) and Articles 14 and 15)

SC upholds the validity of 377 in 2013: Kaushal Kumar vs. Naz Foundation

  1. It set aside the 2009 judgement of the Delhi High Court stating that judicial intervention was not required in this issue. This in effect recriminalized sexual intercourse “against the order of nature”.
  2. The bench took a literal and technical view rather than the wider sweep that the Delhi high court had applied.

NALSA judgement, 2014

The SC held that-

  1. ‘Transgenders’, even though insignificant in numbers, are entitled to human rights.
  2. Sec 377 had been an instrument of harassment and abuse.
  3. Advocated the adoption of the Yogyakarta Principles (norms on gender identity and sexual orientation adopted by human rights experts in 2006)
  4. It was unreasonable to advance the view that constitutional protection is available to a group based on its size.

SC favours Individual Privacy: Puttaswamy vs. Union of India Case

  1. In review petition, the SC ruled that “sexual orientation” is an essential attribute of “identity” and “privacy”.
  2. It termed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as “deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual”.
  3. It recognised that the rights of India’s sexual minorities are founded on “sound constitutional doctrine” effectively making Section 377 unsustainable.
  4. In principle, it maintains that sexual orientation must be protected and lies at the heart of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 14, 15 and 21.

Should Sec 377 be repealed?

Yes, because

  1. It is discriminatory. It violates rights granted under Art. 14, 15 and 21 of the constitution.
  2. A person’s freedom and natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as reasonable.
  3. Public health evidence indicates a clear relationship between lack of social acceptance and legal rights with substance abuse, violence, isolation, and mental illness. This violates a person’s right to a healthy and dignified life.
  4. It causes great humiliation and harassment. LGBTs face a constant threat of blackmail (by acquaintances) and arrest. Life becomes humiliating, as the LGBT are socially ridiculed and mocked at.
  5. Global trends show that many countries, including France, Spain, Canada, the US, Britain, Nepal etc have decriminalised homosexuality. India is among the conservation group including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc.

No, because

  1. It is against the law of nature, which supports sexual intimacy only between a male and a female.
  2. Many child rights activists claim that Sec 377 is a deterrent against sexual abuse of children.
  3. It violates the moral code of most religions.
  4. Public display of (homosexual) affection can cause great unease in conservative societies like India.

Way Forward

  1. The argument against Sec 377 must, ideally, be based on the right to equality (and non-discrimination) and not just on the right to privacy.
  2. A rights-based framework is intricately tied up with India’s quest for social and economic development. LGBTs must have equal rights in a democracy. They deserve a dignified life.
  3. Public display of affection should be tempered by reasonable restrictions.
  4. Judiciary needs to expand the ambit of this discussion to include other issues such as the right to form partnerships, inheritance, employment equality, protection from gender-identity-based discrimination etc.
  5. The norms on gender identity and sexual orientation adopted by human rights experts in 2006 in Indonesia, known as Yogyakarta Principles should be adopted.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Should the Office of Governor be scrapped?

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Why in news?

The office of Governor came under scanner recently in Karnataka when instead of inviting the post-poll alliance partners which had the number in the floor of the house, the Governor invited the single largest party which was way short of the majority. The role of Governor also came into the scanner in Goa, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.

Appointment of Governor

  • The governor is head of the state.
  • The governor is neither directly elected by the people nor elected a specially constituted electoral college.
  • The governor is directly appointed by the President. Thus, he is considered to be a nominee of the Central government.
  • The post of the governor is a constitutional post and not an employment under the Central government.
  • The term of the Governor is prescribed as five years. However, the governor is allowed to hold office at the will of the President.
  • The only qualifications for appointment as Governor are that he should be a citizen of India and must have completed the age of thirty-five years.

Important Constitutional Provisions

Article 153: It requires a governor to be appointed for every state in India.

Article 154: Vests the executive power of the State in the Governor

Article 155: Appointment of the Governor

Article 156: Term of Office of Governor

Article 157: Qualifications for appointment as Governor

Role of Governor in India

The Governor is the chief executive of a State in India. The governor heads the government’s executive branch in each state or territory and, depending on the individual jurisdiction, may have considerable control over government budgeting, the power of appointment of many officials (including many judges), and a considerable role in legislation.

The powers and functions of the Governor of Indian State resemble that of the President of the Union Government. Like the President, the Governor is also a constitutional ruler, a nominal figure. He is not a real functionary. Generally speaking, the Governor acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers.

Under the Constitution of India, the Governor of a State possesses wide powers and functions – executive, legislative, financial and judicial.

Let us now discuss the powers and functions of the Governor of an Indian State.

Executive:

  • The Executive power of the State is vested in the Governor. He exercises this power either directly or through the officers who are subordinate to him. All executive actions of the State are taken in the name of the Governor.
  • An important function of the Governor is to appoint the Chief Minister of the State. Other ministers are also appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The ministers including the Chief Minister hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.
  • He has also the power to appoint the higher officers of the State including the Advocate-General and the members of the State Public Service Commission. He has also a share in the appointment of the Judges of High Court.
  • He is responsible for the administration of the welfare schemes of the scheduled castes and other backward class. He may appoint a minister for this purpose. The Governor has the constitutional right to know the decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administrative affairs of the State and the proposals for legislation. But like the President of the Union, the Governor has no diplomatic or military power.

Legislative:

  • Governor is an integral and indispensable part of the State Legislature. In some States, the State Legislature consists of the Governor and one House, the Legislative Assembly, while in other it consists of the Governor and the two Chambers known as the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Governor possesses the powers to summon and prorogue the Houses of the State Legislature. He can also dissolve the Lower House—the Legislative Assembly—before the expiry of its term.
  • The Governor has been authorized by the Constitution to deliver an address to the State Legislature at the commencement of the first session of each year. He has also the power to send message to the State Legislature. The Governor has to nominate one member to Legislature. The Governor has to nominate one member to Legislature Assembly from the Anglo-Indian Community and also members to the Legislative Council (where it exists) from among the persons who have acquired special knowledge in art, literature, science, social service and co-operative movement.
  • In a State, a public bill cannot become an Act without the approval of the Governor. A bill passed by the State Legislature is presented to the Governor for his assent. The Governor may give his assent to the bill. Or he may withhold his assent from the bill. If the bill is again passed by the House or Houses of the State Legislature, the Governor is to give assent to the bill. He may also reserve certain bill for the assent of the President. This is an important function of the Governor of an Indian State.
  • When the State Legislature is not in session, the Governor may issue an Ordinance. It has same force as the law of the State Legislature. But it must be placed before the Legislature when it assembles again. If it is approved by the State Legislature, it will cease to operate after six weeks of the date of meeting of the State Legislature.

Financial:

The Governor has also financial powers and functions. No money bill can be originated in the State Legislature without the recommendation of the Governor. In every year, the budget is laid before the State Legislature by the Governor. No proposals for taxation or expenditure can be made without the approval of the Governor.

Judicial:

The Governor also exercises judicial powers. He has the power to grant pardons, reprieves or remissions of punishment to any person who has been convicted by courts of law. He has also a great share in the appointment of the judges of the subordinate courts.

Why should the post of Governor be abolished?

  1. It has become retirement home for politicians: The post has been reduced to becoming a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day. Consequently, a candidate wedded to a political ideology could find it difficult to adjust to the requirements of a constitutionally mandated neutral seat. This could result in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka
  2. Non-neutrality of the office of the Governor: The governors are the agents of the Central Government and since most of them are retired politicians belonging to a particular political party ,they remain loyal to the people, who appoint them. As a result of it, they try to topple the State Government if it happens to be a Government by the opposition party. This is undemocratic and immoral
  3. The circumstances has changed in last 70 years: After almost 70 years since India’s Independence, the need for the position of the governor to act as a unifying body with that the federal system has lessened. When the Constituent Assembly of India was debating and drafting the Constitution, between 1946 and 1949, the country had just been formed. There were fissiparous predispositions amongst many and the governors acted as the eyes and ears of the Central Government in the states through periodic reports. At present, mostly the whole of India is at peace with the identity of a Union and the role of the governor has been substantially reduced, whereby it is used to destabilise the Constitution rather than upholding it
  4. Undemocratic to have an selected head of the state: it is undemocratic to have a nominated person as the head of the State. All the powers should be exercised by the elected head. Chief Minister should be responsible for doing everything and should not be checked by the Governors.

Why we need the post of Governor?

  1. Manage things in transition phase: To manage things in transition phase like election period and presidential rule in states.
  2. At the time of Government formation: Ever imagined who will decide that which party should be invited to form the Government if there is a hung assembly? Those saying that the post of Governor should be abolished will find it difficult to answer this question. A Governor has to apply his mind to see that a stable Government is formed in a state
  3. To ensure the legal validity of the laws: The Governor looks into the legal validity of the laws passed by state legislature. He can raise an objection and ask the Government to reconsider certain provisions of law which he finds needing change
  4. Act as a bridge: Work not as an agent but as a bridge between union and states on various issues.
  5. A special responsibility in some states: For many states like in North states we have autonomous regions and also the less developed area. Under direct union supervision, governor has a responsibility to ensure the development of these regions.

Way Forward

Misuse of a position of power should not serve as a justification for removing the office altogether unless such a position has totally lost its relevance

  • In India, the balance in power is tilted towards the Union. The importance of the Governor’s position arises not from the exceptional circumstances that necessitate the use of his discretion, but as a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State
  • As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community.

Here are some suggestions to make the post of governor effective again.

  • The post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees, and the Supreme Court should lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict
  • The recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission and the Punchhi Commission report need to be examined closely to make proper amendments to the functions of the post of governor.
  • Governorships should go to eminent persons with impeccable credentials rather than these posts becoming dumping grounds for retired politicians.
  • A national panel should be prepared after involving the opposition, ruling party, civil society and the judiciary in the selection process; the governor should be appointed from this panel after consultation with the CM of the state in which he or she is to function.
  • Ideally speaking, a governor should not be posted in his native state and should preferably have been at a distance from active politics for a significant period.
  • The arbitrary dismissals of governors should be stopped at all costs by legislating for a fixed tenure. He should not enjoy office at the pleasure of the President and his removal from office must entail impeachment proceedings in the state assembly. The process of dismissal of the governor should be made as difficult as the removal of high court judges.
  • The governor should not be allowed to acquire political positions for a certain period after relinquishing his post. This will enhance the independence of his office and give him more teeth in functioning.
  • The discretionary powers need to be whittled; there has to be clear-cut guidelines on the appointment of CM i.e. inviting the leader of the largest pre-poll alliance or the party to form the government. No efforts should be made to subvert the mandate and install governments through the back door.
  • As far as power to reserve bills is concerned, this should continue but it should be resorted to in the rarest of rare cases and not on a liberal interpretation or malicious intent. If needed, the Governor should be legally made to enlist the opinion of the High Court before reserving bills.
  • The Punchhi Commission has recommended the localizing of emergency provisions under Articles 355 and 356 of the Constitution. According to it, President’s rule should be imposed in those parts of the state where there is constitutional breakdown of machinery — rather than the whole state. This will go a long way in preventing the dismissal of state governments on petty and manufactured grounds of lawlessness
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] E-waste problem in India

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Why in News

According to ASSOCHAM-NEC joint study on “World Environment Day”, India is among the top five e-waste generating countries in the world besides China, the US, Japan and Germany

E-waste –Statistics

  1. The global volume of e-waste is expected to reach 52.2 million tonnes (MT) or 6.8 kg per inhabitant by 2021 from 44.7 MT in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 20%, according to the study
  2. Among states, Maharashtra contributes the largest e-waste of 20% but recycles only about 47,810 tonnes per annum (TPA)
  3. Of the total e-waste produced in 2016, only 20% (8.9 MT) is documented to be collected properly and recycled, while there is no record of the remaining, e-waste, the study said

What is E-Waste?

Electronic waste, abbreviated as ‘e-waste’ is a term used to describe old, end-of-life electronic appliances such as computers, laptops, TV’s, radios, refrigerators etc., which have been discarded by users. E-waste comprises of numerous valuable but harmful substances that can cause an adverse effect on human health

What are the harmful effects?

  1. They contain several hazardous substances, such as mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals.
  2. They emit harmful radiation, degrade the soil, and releases toxins to pollute air and groundwater.
  3. Prolonged exposure to these pollutants can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and brain, and can cause respiratory disorders, lung cancer, skin ailments and other health problems.
  4. 2/3rd of the workers in the unorganised e-waste recycling sector suffer from breathing in difficulties, coughing, irritation etc.

E-waste disposal policy in India

  1. The country’s e-waste disposal policy is actually robust.
  2. The e-waste management rules, laid down by the environment ministry, even revolve around the judicious concept of “extended producer responsibility” (EPR).
  3. Manufacturers are mandated to take back 30% of the discarded electronic equipment for appropriate disposal in the first two years of the enforcement of these rules.
  4. This level is to be raised to 70% in the next five years.

Issues related to E-waste in India

  1. India stands fifth in e-waste generation in the world producing around 1.7 lakh metric tons per annum.
  2. About 4.5 lakh child labourers observed to be engaged in various E-waste activities without adequate protection and safeguards.
  3. A huge gap between present recycling and collection facilities and quantum of E-waste that is being generated.
  4. E-waste bearing toxic materials contaminates soil and groundwater, as well as its exposure, causes health issues to the recycler.
  5. No clear guidelines for the unorganized sector to handle E-waste. Also, no incentives provided to lure people engaged to adopt formal path for handling E-waste.
  6. 80 % of E-waste in developed countries meant for recycling is sent to developing countries such as India, China, Ghana and Nigeria.
  7. Lack of coordination between various authorities responsible for E-waste management and disposal including the non-involvement of municipalities.
  8. There is no large-scale organized E-waste recycling facility in India and the entire recycling exists in the unorganized sector.
  9. Management practices are often poorly designed and have a lot of health and environmental repercussions
  10. The lack of public awareness regarding the disposal of electronic goods and inadequacy of policies to handle the issues related to E-waste enhance the problem in India.
  11. People discard E-waste with regular municipal solid waste which is an extremely dicey practice.
  12. End of life computers often contains sensitive personal information and bank account details which, if not deleted leave opportunity for fraud.
  13. The decline in cost of consumer electronics, rise in middle-class incomes, and the increase in frequency at which devices are discarded.

What needs to be done?

  1. There exists an urgent need for a detailed assessment of the current and future scenario including quantification, characteristics, existing disposal practices, environmental impacts etc.
  2. Institutional infrastructures, including e-waste collection, transportation, treatment, storage, recovery and disposal, need to be established, at national and/or regional levels for the environmentally sound management of e-waste.
  3. Establishment of e-waste collection, exchange and recycling centres should be encouraged in partnership with private entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
  4. Model facilities employing environmentally sound technologies and methods for recycling and recovery are to be established.
  5. Policy level interventions should include the development of e-waste regulation, control of import and export of e-wastes and facilitation in development of infrastructure.
  6. An effective take-back program providing incentives for producers to design products that are less wasteful, contain fewer toxic components and are easier to disassemble, reuse, and recycle may help in reducing the wastes.
  7. End-of-life management should be made a priority in the design of new electronic products.
  8. A circular economy model needs to be  built on the idea of,
  •    Designing out waste and pollution
  •    Keeping products and materials in use
  •    Regenerating natural systems

Need changes in E-waste policy and regulation

  1. The Policy shall address all issues ranging from production and trade to final disposal, including technology transfers for the recycling of electronic waste.
  2. Clear regulatory instruments, adequate to control both legal and illegal exports and imports of e-wastes and ensuring their environmentally sound management should be in place.
  3. There is also a need to address the loopholes in the prevailing legal framework to ensure that e-waste from developed countries are not reaching the country for disposal.
  4. The Port and the Customs authorities need to monitor these aspects.
  5. The regulations should prohibit the disposal of e-waste in municipal landfills and encourage owners and generators of e-wastes to properly recycle the wastes.
  6. Manufacturers of products must be made financially, physically and legally responsible for their products

Some Initiatives taken

  1. E-waste Awareness programme under Digital India initiatives
  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, MeitY, has initiated this to along with industry associations from 2015, to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganised sector, and to educate them about alternate methods of disposing of their e-waste
  1. E-Waste Mass Awareness Campaign through Cinema has also been initiated for awareness amongst the youth

Lessons to learn from other countries/institutions  

  1. European Environment Agency aims to establish a recycling rate of at least 50% across the 31 countries.
  2. Sweden recently announced tax breaks for repair related activities.
  3. Hong Kong to start ‘producer pays’ scheme for 70,000 tons generated in city annually
  4. Apple operates a number of free Take back and recycling programs.
  5. Norway has an e-waste take-back system in place for more than a decade now

Conclusion

  1. In India, the amount of E-waste generated is rising rapidly. With the increasing dependence
    on electronic and electrical equipment, the rise of E-waste generation is well expected in the
    country.
  2. The government schemes offer little relief unless they are implemented and they translate into profitable business there can be no real change.

Practice questions

  1. What is E-waste? Examine the harmful effects of E-wastes on environment and human health.
  2. Discuss various issues regarding E-wastes in India and give suggestions to solve the same.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Artificial Intelligence

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Why in News?

The NITI Aayog has published an ambitious discussion paper on kick-starting the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in India.

About Artificial Intelligence

  1. AI is a constellation of technologies that enable machines to act with higher levels of intelligence and emulate the human capabilities of sense, comprehend and act. Thus, computer vision and audio processing can actively perceive the world around them by acquiring and processing images, sound and speech.
  2. The natural language processing and inference engines can enable AI systems to analyze and understand the information collected.
  3. An AI system can also take action through technologies such as expert systems and inference engines or undertake actions in the physical world.
  4. These human-like capabilities are augmented by the ability to learn from experience and keep adapting over time.
  5. AI  systems are finding ever-wider application to supplement these capabilities across various sectors.

Potential of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to provide huge value to different sectors and can become a key source of competitive advantage for firms.

Healthcare

Helps address the issue of access to healthcare facilities, particularly in rural areas that suffer from poor connectivity and the limited supply of healthcare professionals.

Agriculture

  1. It can address challenges such as inadequate demand prediction, lack of assured irrigation, and overuse/misuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
  2. Improves crop yield through real-time advisory, advanced detection of pest attacks, and prediction of crop prices to informed sowing practices.

Smart Mobility, including Transports and Logistics

  1. Autonomous fleets for ride sharing,
  2. Semi-autonomous features such as driver assist, and
  3. Predictive engine monitoring and maintenance.

Retail

  1. To improve user experience and sale through
    1. personalized suggestions,
    2. preference-based browsing
    3. image-based product search
    4. customer demand anticipation
    5. improved inventory management  
    6. efficient delivery management

Manufacturing

To create a flexible and adaptable technical system to automate processes and machinery to respond to unfamiliar or unexpected situations by making smart decisions.

Energy

Energy system modeling and forecasting to decrease unpredictability and increase efficiency in power balancing and usage.

Smart Cities

Integration of AI in smart cities and infrastructure help meet the demands of a rapidly urbanizing population and provides enhanced quality of life.

Education and Skilling

  1. Improving the learning experience through personalized learning,
  2. automating and expediting administrative tasks, and
  3. predicting the need for student intervention to reduce dropouts or recommend vocational training.

Global Developments in AI

Different countries have identified different focus areas for AI development and deployment

Japan

  1. Areas of interest include industrial productivity improvement, healthcare, medical care and welfare, mobility and information security.
  2. Japan is focusing on moving from the “Industry 4.0” paradigm to “Society 5.0” through the development of AI for delivering public services

France

  1. Areas of interest include healthcare, environment, transport, mobility, defence-security. The government is planning to support AI startups through data availability, public spending and talent reskilling.

USA

Areas of interest include economic prosperity, educational opportunities, quality of life, national and homeland security.

China

  1. Areas of interest include education, healthcare, energy, transport, quality of life, city planning /IoT / robotics.
  2. China is focusing on developing and using AI for delivery of public services through financial support, developing talent pipeline, and leveraging international cooperation.

Artificial Intelligence in India

A national AI strategy needs to be created on a framework based on India’s unique needs and aspirations, while at the same time capable of achieving the country’s full potential of leveraging AI developments.  

Impact of AI in India

  1. It will improve the quality of life and access of choice to a large section of the country.
  2. Increased access to quality health facilities (including addressing the locational access barriers)
  3. Inclusive financial growth for large sections of the population who have been excluded from formal financial products.
  4. Providing real-time advisory to farmers and help address unforeseen factors to increase productivity,
  5. Building smart and efficient cities and infrastructure to meet the demands of the rapidly urbanizing population

Key challenges in adoption of AI in India

  1. Lack of enabling data ecosystems.
  2. Low intensity of AI research
           i. Core research in fundamental technologies
           ii. Transforming core research into market applications.
  3. Inadequate availability of AI expertise, manpower and skilling opportunities
  4. High resource cost and low awareness for adopting AI in business processes
  5. Unclear privacy, security and ethical regulations
  6. Unattractive Intellectual Property regime to incentivize research and adoption of AI

Way forward

The way forward is to factor in current strengths and weaknesses in AI and initiate large-scale transformational interventions, primarily led by the government, with the private sector providing able support.

Practice Questions

  1. Evaluate the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across different sectors.
  2. Compare and contrast on the development of AI among different countries. How is India faring in the development of AI?
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Operation Greens

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Why in news?

The govt. proposed to launch Operation Greens scheme in the Budget 2018.

About Operation Greens scheme

  1. It is a price fixation scheme aims at doubling the farmers’ income by the end of 2022 by ensuring them the right price for their produce.
  2. It focusses on fruits and vegetables, starting with three basic vegetables such as onion, potatoes and tomatoes. It will help in controlling the high fluctuations in the prices of these vegetables.

Why Operation Greens?

  1. India is the second largest producer of vegetables in the world, next only to China which produces 4x more than India. It means that India has still a long way to go in vegetable production.
  2. The problem with vegetable commodities is that when their production increases sharply, their prices collapse because there is not enough modern storage capacity. Furthermore, the links to processing and organised retailing are very weak and small in India. Consequently, farmers often end up receiving less than 1/4th of what consumers pay for their produce in major cities.
  3. Operation Greens aims at addressing these challenges.

Arguments favouring the scheme

  1. The scheme will ensure farmers with the right price for their produce and consumers with low price to buy agricultural produce, due to the control in fluctuation of price in the market.
  2. Operation Greens will increase the demand in the economy with its demand forecasting model.
  3. This scheme is modelled on the lines of highly successful Operation Flood scheme which was driven by smallholders.
  4. It will reduce rising incidents of farmers dumping potatoes and tomatoes on roads across the country due to high fluctuation in market prices.
  5. Also, the prices of vegetables were very high to the point that the government put a ban on exports, de-stocking and even enforced income-tax raids on traders.
  6. Income tax concessions to FPOs will help in bringing the much-needed infrastructure in the agro-horticultural sector.
  7. It will create both forward and backward linkages which will promote the agricultural sector.
  8. Due to the focused nature of the program, the scheme will be scalable over space and time, replicating the success of Operation Flood.

Arguments against the scheme

  1. Linking of MSP with the cost of cultivation is a bad move as the cost of cultivation of crops is different across the country.
  2. Linking of APMCs with the e-NAM market platform is criticized due to the lack of data disclosed on the performance of the e-NAM.
  3. The scheme has no provision for institutional setup in implementing the scheme like the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Operation Flood.

Key Challenges

  1. How will farmers identify the right markets for their products that can give them the right prices on a sustainable basis?
  2. Investments in storage infrastructure require amendments to the Essential Commodities Act with respect to the storage control order.
  3. There are many different varieties of the produce grown in different climatic conditions and in different seasons, making an intervention in markets more complex.
  4. In the horticultural sector, viable technology options for long-term storage, transport, and processing are underdeveloped. Moreover, the energy intensity of the existing technologies is high which poses an additional challenge, particularly with the rising fuel prices.
  5. There is no ready market seamlessly connecting producers to consumers for those targeted vegetables which are at present very small compared to others.
  6. Operation flood was spearheaded by Verghese Kurien to implement the vision and strategy of the scheme with honesty. Can the government locate another Kurien?

Way forward

  1. Set a target that farmers must receive at least 60% of what consumers pay. In the case of milk, farmers get more than 75% of what consumers pay under the Operation Flood.
  2. Connecting major consuming centres to the major producing centres with less number of intermediaries.
  3. Farmer Producing Organisations (FPOs) should be effectively utilized as a starting point for aggregation of commodities, assaying, sorting, grading and packing with barcodes for traceability.
  4. The market for the horticultural produces has to be developed through a viable business model.
  5. Apart from controlling the price fluctuations, the government should also encourage every farmer in increasing production of these vegetables under the Operation Greens scheme.

Practice Question:

  1. The government has launched Operation Greens with high hopes. Given the existing conditions, do you think the scheme will deliver? Critically analyse. 250 Words, 15 Marks.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Special Category States (SCS)

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Meaning and history of the term SCS

  • SCS is a classification given by Centre to assist in the development of those states that face geographical & socio-economic disadvantages like hilly terrains, strategic international borders, economic & infrastructural backwardness and non-viable state finances.
  • Introduced in 1969.
  • 5th Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks.
  • National Development Council grants the status of Special Category States.
  • Initially three states Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Since then eight more have been included – Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
  • Direct transfers subsequently abolished in 2013–14.
  • In 2013, Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) were restructured into 66 schemes, including 17 flagship programmes with significant outlays.
  • In 2016, CSS restructured into only 28 schemes.
  • From 2017–18, the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure removed,
  • Therefore the Gadgil formula is a thing of the past

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The criteria for granting special status:

  • Hilly and difficult terrain
  • Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
  • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
  • Economic and infrastructural backwardness
  • Non-viable nature of state finances.

Advantages of getting special category status

  • Preferential treatment in federal assistance and tax break
  • Significant excise duty concessions.
  • An interest-free loan with a rationalization of public expenditure based on the growth enhancing sectoral allocation of resources.
  • SCS don’t have a hard budget constraint as the central transfer is high.
  • SCSs avail the benefit of debt swapping and debt relief schemes (through the enactment of Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act) which facilitate reduction of the average annual rate of interest.
  • 30% of the Centre’s gross budget goes to the SCSs.
  • In centrally sponsored schemes and external aid special category states get it in the ratio of 90% grants and 10% loans.
  • Income tax holidays for 10 years for setting up new industries, extendable by a further period of five years upon “substantial expansion” of the existing units.
  • Unspent money does not lapse and gets carry forward.

Concerns regarding SCS

  • In the absence of the market, infrastructure, especially power, entrepreneurial skills and local resources, these incentives had hardly helped these states to industrialise.
  • Not much economic progress has been noticed among SCS.
  • Overwhelmingly dependent on central funding.
  • Benefits flow regularly without any accountability or performance monitoring of the states.
  • The amount of proceeds that states receive has increased after the 14th finance commission. So the structure does not seem to have any specific relevance in present context.
  • SCS has been reduced to a political rallying point.
  • Benefit of SCS may act as a stimulus but rest depends on the individual state policy.

14th Finance Commission on SCS

  • The 14th FC does not make any mention of SCS.
  • Its recommendations have been inferred as removing SCS.
  • FC provided a fixed share of states in the net proceeds of the shareable central taxes at 42%.
  • It has been interpreted as removing the distinction between general states and SCS and grant funds on the basis of backwardness of states.
  • The interstate inequalities to be addressed through adequate tax devolutions and grants.
  • Only SCS status was restricted to the states of North-east and three hill states.
  • Under FC, some states to receive revenue deficit grants.
  • States now have much more fiscal space to spend on their own priorities, instead of depending on the centre.

Fiscal Cooperative Federalism

  • The taxes are divided among the states on the principles of equity and efficiency.
  • From the 6th FC onwards, the FCs recommended only non-plan grants.
  • The plan component was under the Planning Commission.
  • Most of the discretionary transfers were made via the centrally sponsored schemes (CSS)
  • Large part of the total transfers were made outside the state budgets, by direct transfer of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to the implementing agencies in the states.
  • Discretionary direct transfers have been abolished now.
  • CSS reduced in number and restructured
  • The distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure is no more.
  • The NCA has also since been done away with.

Criticism received by the 14th FC

  • The 14th FC attracted severe criticisms on grounds of equity and efficiency.
  • Equalisation, equity and efficiency have always guided FC transfers
  • It ensured that same standards of delivery of public services extended to all states
  • This practice was aimed to prevent economic migrations across states.
  • But there are now no efficiency criteria for the transfers.
  • States, especially poor states, that have kept within their Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM) limits, have been made to suffer a cut in their shares instead of being rewarded for maintaining fiscal discipline.
  • Even when these states controlled spending at the cost of limiting their capital
    borrowings despite huge infrastructure deficits.
  • But there were no rewards for resisting populism.

But are SCSs really suffering?

  • Whether there has been a reduction in the resources of SCSs?
  • Whether SCSs have managed to retain their relative advantages vis-a-vis other states?
  • For the SCSs as a whole, the total transfers during the first year under the XIV-FC over the previous year had actually increased by 24.7%, more than most other states.
  • The tax devolutions for the SCS increased by almost 90%.
  • The shares of SCS did not suffered any cut.
  • They had in fact registered much higher increases than under the previous commissions
  • Regarding the relative advantages enjoyed by the SCS, the latest restructuring of the CSS had made an important distinction between these and the other states, in terms of the funding pattern of these schemes.
  • For the “core of the core” schemes, it envisaged that the existing funding patterns would continue, which is 90:10 for the SCS between the centre and states, while other states have to bear a higher proportion of expenditure on their own.
  • For the “core” schemes, the restructured CSS states that the 90:10 formula between the centre and states would apply “for the 8 North Eastern States and 3 Himalayan States,” while it would be 60:40 for the other states.
  • Thus, the SCS continue to retain their relative advantages over the other states.
  • In other words, the category is far from being a thing of the past.

Revisiting Special Category

  • The benefits of SCS are still there
  • Therefore it is important to correct the flaws in the mechanism.
  • There is a need to address the deep-rooted structural weaknesses that afflicted SCSs.
  • Re-examine the continuation of the SCS a state in perpetuity.
  • Adopting a target-based, time-bound arrangement that is focused on accountability, performance, and monitoring of achievements, with specific performance goals to be achieved by the beneficiary states for the benefits to continue.
  • We need a strategy in which funding would be just one essential element and not the most important part.
  • SCSs need supporting institutional set-up adequate to guide them towards predefined goals.
  • Monitoring and accountability and granting of the SCS to a state should be through performance expectation.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] 5G Technology

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Why in News?

In June 2018, The 5G committee of the Telecom Ministry recommended that 6,000 MHz of spectrum can be made available without delay for the next generation 5G mobile service

About 5G

  • 5G is the fifth generation mobile network.
  • It’s a unified platform which is much more capable than previous mobile services with more capacity, lower latency, faster data delivery rate and better utilisation of spectrum.
  • The standards for the usage of 5G are defined and driven by 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

Timeline: Evolution from 1G to 5G

  • 1G: Launched in the 1980s. Analog radio signals and supported only voice calls.
  • 2G: Launched in the 1990s. Uses digital radio signals and supported both voice and data transmission with a BandWidth(BW) of 64 Kbps.
  • 3G: Launched in the 2000s. With a speed of 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps it has the ability to transmit telephone signal including digitised voice, video calls and conferencing.
  • 4G: With a peak speed of 100 Mbps-1 Gbps it also enables 3D virtual reality.
  • 5G: with a speed of more than 1Gbps,it is capable of connecting entire world without limits.

Salient features

  • Capability: 5G will provide much faster mobile broadband service as compared to the previous versions and will provide support to previous services like mission critical communication and the massive Internet Of things(IoT).
  • Speed: With peak delivering rate of up to 20 Gbps and an average of 100Mbps, it will be much faster as compared to its predecessors.
  • Capacity: There will be up to 100 x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency.
  • Spectrum usage: Will provide better usage for every bit of spectrum, from low bands below 1 GHz to high bands.
  • Latency: It’s expected to have lower latency with better instantaneous, real-time access of the data.
  • The 5G, like 4G LTE, also uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing(OFDM) but the new 5G NR(New Radio)air interface will enhance OFDM and provide better flexibility in data delivery.

Applications Of 5G technology

  • High-Speed mobile network: 5G will revolutionize the mobile experience with supercharged wireless network. Compared to conventional mobile transmission technologies, voice and high-speed data can be simultaneously transferred efficiently in 5G
  • Entertainment and multimedia : 5G can provide 120 frames per second, high resolution and higher dynamic range video streaming without interruption. Audiovisual experience will be rewritten after the implementation of the latest technologies powered by 5G wireless. Augmented Reality and virtual Reality services will be better experienced over 5G.
  • Internet of Things : IoT applications collects huge amount of data from millions of devices and sensors and thus requires an efficient network for data collection, processing, transmission, control and real-time analytics which 5G network is a better candidate.
  • Smart cities : Smart city application like traffic management, Instant weather update, local area broadcasting, energy management, smart power grid, smart lighting of street, water resource management, crowd management, emergency response etc can use a reliable 5G wireless network for its functioning.

  • Smart farming : 5G technology will be used for agriculture and smart farming in the future. Using smart RFID sensors and GPS technology, farmers can track the location of livestock and manage them easily. Smart sensors can be used for irrigation control, access control and energy management.

  • Mission critical applications : Like telemedicine services, remote control of critical infrastructure and vehicles. It has the potential to transform industries with highly reliable, low latency link.

High-Level 5G India 2020 forum

Government has constituted High-Level 5G India 2020 Forum with three Secretaries of key Ministries/Departments Telecom, Meity and DST, and also comprising renowned experts. The primary aims of the forum are:

  • early deployment of 5G in India.
  • A globally competitive product development and manufacturing ecosystem targeting 50% of India market and 10% of global market over next 5 to 7 years.

Conclusion

The new 5G technology is expected to launch at the beginning of 2019. With the government push for Digital India, the 5G technology can be a game changer. It can help in better service delivery, faster access to services and deeper penetration of digital services

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Crop Insurance

Image result for crop insurance india

Crop Insurance

  • Refers to insurance services brought by farmers against loss or damage to growing crops.
  • Damages can be due to natural disasters such as drought, hail, floods, or either due to decline in prices of the agriculture commodity.

History of Crop Insurance in India

  • As far back as 1915 in the pre-independence era,  J.S. Chakravarthi had proposed a rain insurance scheme for the farmers with view to insuring them against drought. His scheme was based on, what is referred to today as the ‘Area Approach’.
  • Apart from this, certain princely states like Madras, Dewas, and Baroda, also made attempts to introduce crop insurance relief in various forms, but with little success.
  • After independence, the first crop insurance program was introduced in 1972-73 by LIC on Cotton in Gujarat.
  • Later in 1972, the newly set up General Insurance Corporation (GIC) took over the experimental scheme and subsequently widened the coverage of crops as well as area of implementation. This experimental scheme was based on ‘Individual Approach’.
  • It was realized that crop insurance programmes based on the individual farm approach would not be viable in India.
  • Professor V. M. Dandekar (Father of Crop Insurance in India) suggested an alternate ‘Homogeneous Area Approach’. Based on this approach, the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC) introduced a Pilot Crop Insurance Scheme from 1979.
  • Based on the learning from Pilot Crop Insurance Scheme, the Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme was introduced in 1985 by the Government of India. The CCIS was implemented on Homogeneous Area Approach. All crop loans given for notified crops in notified areas were compulsorily covered under the CCIS.
  • The CCIS was eventually discontinued after Kharif 1999, to be replaced by the improved and expanded National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS).
  • Later “National Crop Insurance Programme” was launched in 2013 by merging three schemes viz. Modified National Agricultural insurance Scheme (MNAIS), Weather Based Crop insurance Scheme (WBCIS) and Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme (CPIS).
  • Since 2016, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is being implemented by replacing MNAIS and CPIS.
  • But WBCIS is still working along with PMFBY.

Crop Insurance Schemes

Why it is difficult to design

  1. The risk of crop loss has a significant systemic component; and
  2. Ex ante risk assessment and ex post loss assessment for individual farmers are costly.

Crop insurance is mandatory for

  1. farmers who have taken short-term crop loan (loanee farmers).

But Crop Insurance is voluntary for

  1. all other farmers (non-loanee farmers).

The premium of crop insurance is

  1. Is deducted from the loan amount for loanee farmers, and claim, if any, is adjusted against the loan amount.
  2. The non-loanee farmers, pay premium from their pocket, and receive the claim amount if crop loss is recognised.

Coverage of crop insurance (according to Govt):

  1. around 26% farmers have been covered in 2017 so far.

Reasons behind the low demand for crop insurance in India

 

  • In India, demand for crop insurance is highly price-sensitive.

 

  1. Even a small change in premium rates leads to wide shifts in demand.
  2. PMFBY, with its attractive premium, is expected to be a hit.

 

  • Poor awareness.

 

  1. An overwhelming majority (60% farmers) lack awareness about crop insurance schemes (NSSO)

 

  • Delay in settlement of claims.

 

  1. Lengthy and complex system of claim settlement discourages farmers from insuring their crops.

 

  • Mandatory only for loanee farmers

 

  1. Thus, PSBs do not have any incentive to sell it to non-loanee farmers.

 

Livestock Insurance

The Livestock Insurance Scheme:

  1. Is centrally sponsored scheme
  2. Implemented on a pilot basis during 2005-08 in 100 selected districts
  3. Presently being implemented in all districts of the country (since 2014) as a sub-mission under the National Livestock Mission

Under the scheme

 

  • The animals

 

  1. Indigenous / crossbred milch animals
  2. Pack animals (Horses, Donkey, Mules, Camels, Ponies and Cattle/Buffalo Male)
  3. and Other Livestock (Goat, Sheep, Pigs, Rabbit, Yak and Mithun etc.)

 

  • The insurance:

 

  1. Done at their current market price
  2. Premium subsidy of 50% is borne entirely by centre

 

  • Twin objectives are to:

 

  1. Protect incomes
  2. Popularize livestock insurance (ultimate aim – qualitative improvement in livestock and their products)

CAG report on Agriculture insurance in India

  • CAG audit report of centre’s crop insurance schemes has highlighted gaps in their implementation.
  • Two schemes that were audited: From Kharif 2011 to Rabi 2015-16
  1. Modified National Agriculture Insurance Scheme ( MNAIS )
  2. National Crop Insurance Programme ( NCIP )
  • The present Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has not been scrutinised by the CAG.
  • It came in Kharif 2016.

Problems highlighted by CAG in Agri-insurance in India

  • Delayed payments by state government.
  • Agriculture Insurance Company Of India Ltd. ( AIC ) failed to follow due to protocols in verification of claims by private insurance companies before releasing funds to them.
  • Difficulty in cross checking
  • Missing records of beneficiaries
  • The low inclusion of Small and Marginal farmers
  • Low coverage of non-loanee farmers.
  • Lack of Awareness

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

  • Started in the Kharif season of 2016
  • To reduce the burden of crop insurance on farmers.
  • In line with ‘One Nation – One Scheme’ theme.
  • Replaced the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).
  • The Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) remains in place, though its premium rates have been made the same as in PMFBY.
  • State governments to decide whether they want PMFBY, WBCIS or both in their states.
  • It incorporates the best features of all previous schemes and at the same time, all previous shortcomings/weaknesses have been addressed.

How is PMFBY different

 

  • Lowest premium for farmers

 

      1. in the history of Independent India
      2. kept at  a maximum of 1.5% for Rabi, 2% for Kharif and 5% for annual horticultural/commercial crops

 

  • Uncapped premium would ensure farmers get a higher claim

 

      1. ≥25% of the claim is settled directly through farmers’ bank account
      2. previous schemes had higher + capped premium

 

  • The scheme is open to all farmers irrespective of whether they are loanees or not

 

      1. previously, loanee farmers were mandated to take crop insurance

 

  • Covers localised losses due to floods

 

      1. Only hailstorm and landslide were covered in previous schemes.

 

  • Post-harvest loss

 

      1. Previous schemes covered only coastal areas for cyclones.
      2. PMFBY covers all-India for both cyclonic and unseasonal rains.

 

  • Use of modern tech for quicker assessment and claim settlement

 

      1. PMFBY makes it mandatory – remote sensing, smartphones etc
      2. Previous schemes only relied on Crop Cutting Experiment (CCE) data instead
      3. Collecting this data and processing of claims delayed settlement

 

  • Awareness generation (AG)

 

    1. Previous schemes did not focus on AG; therefore insurance adoption remained low
    2. PMFBY targets at least 50% coverage through greater AG

Successes of PMFBY

 

  • In the very first Kharif season (2016)

 

    1. The area under coverage increased by 38% (vs. 2015)
    2. The number of farmers covered increased by 47% (vs. 2015)
    3. Sum insured (per ha) increased by 51% (vs. 2015)
    4. The number of non-loanee farmers opting for PMFBY increased by 23%, driven primarily by Maharashtra.
    5. Increase in risk coverage against non-preventable natural risks from pre-sowing to post-harvest losses

Challenges / Loopholes

 

  • Settling claims

 

      1. Slow submitting yield data by states to the insurance companies.
      2. The lackadaisical attitude of state agencies causes painful delays.
      3. Farmers still to get over Rs 5,600 crore worth of estimated claims from the 2016 kharif season

 

  • Assessing crop losses

 

  1. Modern tech not used to the fullest, despite being mandatory causing huge delays in assessment and reporting
  2. The states are also slow in conducting village-level crop-cutting experiments
  • No direct connection with the farmers
    1. Everything from damage assessment to claim settlement by govt and insurance companies.
    2. Therefore farmers have no role.
    3. The premiums are collected and passed on by the banks that extend loans to the farmers.
    4. “More as loan insurance than as crop insurance”.

Conclusion on PMFBY

  • PMFBY has made appreciable progress in terms of coverage
  • But it has failed in timely settlement of claims
  • If the PMFBY has to succeed farmers must have a bigger stake in its functioning
  • Use modern tech in crop assessment and reporting
  • Modern tech is crucial for timely claim settlement
  • Link the insurance database with Core Banking Solution (CBS) so as to keep farmers apprised of premium deductions and claim receipt
  • Centre should take over the entire premium subsidy burden.
  • Ensure social audit
  • Cross check by various authorities and stakeholders
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issues] Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

Image result for Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

Related image

 

  • They are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people.
  • Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.
  • India leads the world in terms of the total number of cases for each of the major NTDs, excluding those that are spatially bound by their requirement for unique insect vectors or snail hosts.

Why NTDs need attention

  • These 17 chronic parasitic, bacterial and viral infections have affected 1.6 billion people across 149 countries.
  • These remain underreported because the victims are the poorest and the most marginalized with no accessibility of  treatment
  • They cause severe illness like disability, disfigurement and cognitive impairment
  • They aggravate poverty by hurting pregnancy outcomes, slowing child development and lowering productivity.

How India shares the burden of Neglected Tropical Disease (As per GBD Study, 2016)

Neglected Tropical Disease Cases in India (as a % of world cases)
Ascariasis 28%
Hookworm disease 23%
Trichuriasis(WhipWorm) 16%
Dengue 53%
Trachoma 53%
Cysticercosis(Tapeworm Infection) 31%
Leprosy (WHO data) 51%
Cystic Echinococcosis 12%
Kala-Azar 45%
Rabies 33%
Filariasis 29%

India’s Performance

  • As per WHO (2017), India has achieved the target for eliminating kala-azar in 82 % sub-districts.
  • As per Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, India is now free from ‘Infective Trachoma’.
  • India became the first member state of WHO, to eliminate chronic disease yaws in 2015.
  • Mass treatment
    • 75% of cases deworming cases received treatment in 2015.
    • 40 Cr filariasis cases received treatment.

Initiatives by Government to curb Neglected Tropical Diseases

National Rabies Control Programme : This programme is being restructured as Integrated National Rabies Control Programme under ‘One Health Approach’,with a aim to provide vaccination to stray dogs and free vaccines through Government hospitals

  • National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP): It is a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of vector borne diseases namely Malaria, Filaria, Kala-azar, Japanese Encephalitis (JE), Dengue and Chikungunya.
  • National Leprosy Eradication Programme: Programme was launched with a goal of elimination of leprosy as public health problem by 2005.

Global Initiatives

CEPI – Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations

  • It is a global alliance between governments, industry, academia, philanthropy, intergovernmental institutions, such as the World Health Organization, and civil society.
  • An alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics
  • It was officially launched in January 2017 at World Economic Forum(WEF) at Davos.
  • The Headquarters will be located in Oslo, Norway.
  • India has joined CEPI to lead the fight against epidemics.
  • CEPI’s plan includes preparations for possible outbreaks of Marburg fever, Lassa fever, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS), Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya etc.

Way forward

  • Think globally, act locally. Study and adopt global ‘best-practices’ after customising them to local needs.
  • Apply integrated approach. Instead of targeting various diseases individually, follow a holistic strategy.
  • Ensure efficient and effective collaboration across various govt departments.
  • Partner with Civil Society Organisations (especially with WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – sector) for ground-level implementation and monitoring.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issues] Government Litigation

Image result for Government Litigation

Why in News?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flagged his concern over the fact that government departments work in silos and two departments of the same government confront each other in court to settle disputes.

Present status of litigation in India

Overall

  • 3.2 cr cases were pending in the Indian judicial system (SC + HCs + Subordinate Courts)

Supreme Court

  • Over 30% of cases in the Supreme Court are more than five-year-old.
  • Those waiting for disposal for more than 10 years constituted 1,550 cases (2% of cases).

High Court

  • A total of 38 lakh cases are pending in 23 high courts. Out of these almost 22%, were 5 to 10 years old. 19% were more than 10 years old. Combined together, 40 per cent pending cases in the high courts have been waiting disposal for at least 5 years now.

Subordinate Courts

  • 2.6 Crore cases pending in subordinate courts across country. This figure does not include cases pending in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Puducherry and Lakshadweep. Despite all the measures adopted, the backlog has shown no sign of decline.

Government Litigation

  • Government is regarded to be the biggest contributor to litigation in India. Approx 46% of the total pending cases in courts pertains to the government. This includes cases relating to Public Sector Undertakings and other autonomous bodies.
  • Government litigation includes service matters, disputes with private entities as well as inter-se disputes between two government departments and disputes between two PSUs
  • The top 5 central ministries that filed cases were railways, finance, communications, home and defence.

Concerns over Government Litigation

Popular Misconception

  • A misconception regarding government litigation is that the government itself is a source of all cases involving the government. This is why existing policies attempt to address the issue of “government being a compulsive litigant” and do not consider cases where the government is a respondent. Only 7% of fresh cases filed before the court in 2014 were filed by the Central government.
  • Nearly 80% of the cases against the govt are filed against a combination of the State Government; parastatal agencies such as the State Road Transport Corporation, universities, etc.; and local bodies. Most of these petitions filed against the State government are in relation to service, land revenue, land acquisition and education. Those against parastatal agencies are in relation to service and labour-related matters, while those against local bodies are service, land acquisition and tax-related.
  • This necessitates a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue (as per VIDHI Centre of Legal Policy).

Public and Private Costs

    • Government litigation proves costly to the public exchequer.
  • 126th Law Commission Report highlighted that besides litigation cost the state bears the additional expenses of setting up courts and related manpower. This prevents the executive from performing its primary role of governance.
  • Economic Survey 2017-18  also pointed out that cost of various PPP projects increase due to litigation pending in court.

Power Imbalance

  • Government litigation is an encounter of unequals where an ill-equipped individual person or entity fights against a massive government machinery
  • Also, 110th Report of Law Commision of India states that procedural law benefits government as compared to litigant which further delays dispensation of justice.

Absence of Monitoring Body

  • 126th Law Commision Report highlights how the absence of monitoring body allows govt departments to initiate and pursue litigation against each other. This further overburdens the exchequer.

No Uniform Administrative Control

  • Both 100th and 126th Law Commision Reports recommended setting up of a ‘Litigation Ombudsman’ in every state and to create a ‘Grievance Redressal System’ within departments, specifically to manage disputes between the government and its employees.
  • National Litigation Policy 2010 proposed to set up a national and regional level monitoring system to minimize litigation. Also to monitor the case burden in each department, ‘Nodal Officer’ was designated to “actively” monitor litigation and track court cases. But no efforts have been made till date in this regard.

National Litigation Policy (NLP), 2010

  • In 2010, the government introduced the NLP with a mission to transform government into an ‘Efficient and Responsible litigant’, so as to achieve the goal of reducing the  average pendency time from 15 years to 3 years.
  • The policy attempts to provide a framework to handle various aspects of government litigation, such as government representation, litigation practices such as seeking adjournments, filing pleadings and appeals, exploring alternative dispute resolution mechanisms etc.
  • The 2015 review was supposed to remove the weaknesses of the NLP 2010 by including fines for govt officers engaging in frivolous litigation.
  • But till date, nothing concrete has been achieved i.e the NLP remains unimplemented.

Way Forward

Economic Survey 2018

  • Expanding judicial capacity in the lower courts and reducing the existing burden on high court and Supreme Court.
  • Need to downsize original and commercial jurisdiction of High courts and enabling the lower judiciary to deal with such cases. Reducing the size of original side jurisdiction has allowed the court to reduce its overall pendency.
  • Courts need to revisit the size and scale of their discretionary jurisdictions and have to avoid resorting them unless it is deemed necessary.
  • Courts need to consider prioritizing stayed cases and should impose strict timelines within which cases can disposed off with temporary injunctions, especially when they involve government infrastructure projects.
  • To free up the judicial time, initiatives like Crown Court Management Services of the UK that are dedicated to the management and handling of administrative duties may be considered.
  • Need to create more subject matter and stage specific benches that will allow the courts to build internal specializations and efficiencies in combating pendency and delay.

LIMBS (Legal Information Management and Briefing System), a web based application created by the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Law and Justice, is an initiative to make the legal data available at one single point and streamline the procedure of litigation matters. This initiative should be strengthened.

Benefits of LIMBS in the long run

  • It will help the government in achieving its objectives of “Minimum government, maximum governance”, “Digital India”, “Ease of doing business” and enhance the Transaction Capacity Governance of the government with an efficient legal framework for speedy resolution of disputes.
  • It provides a low cost web technology access to all the stakeholders involved in a court case in a coordinated way whereby it provides inputs which are available seamlessly on 24×7 basis as per the defined access rules.
  • It helps  in organizing scattered Information at one single database and also create a professional base available for expert advice
  • It reduces the huge expenditures involved in resolving the cases, saves time and makes the working of different departments under a ministry

Recommendations by Law Ministry’s Department of Justice

  • Appointment of a nodal officer in every department at the Joint Secretary Level to coordinate effective resolution of the disputes.
  • Nodal Officer to regularly monitor the status of the cases
  • Promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms- encourage mediation as the preferred form of dispute resolution in service related matters ,Appropriate guidelines in this regard may be drafted by the Government
  • Avoid unnecessary filing of appeals- Appeals should not be filed in routine matters-only in cases where there is a substantial policy matter.
  • An Intuitional ADR mechanism could be considered for resolution of cases between the government and private bodies.
  • All agreements to mandatorily include a reference to either arbitration or mediation.
  • Vexatious litigation should be immediately withdrawn

Civil Society (VIDHI Centre for Legal Policy) Suggestion – A multi-pronged approach

    • A multi-pronged approach needs to be adopted to tackle the issue of “government litigation”, depending on the kind of litigation.
    • For example, to reduce writ petitions filed under service and labour classifications, the state must put in place robust internal dispute resolution mechanisms within each department which inspire confidence in its workers as a means of addressing their grievances against the management.
  • On the other hand, in land acquisition matters, the state must either ensure that quasi-judicial authorities are judicially trained or create a separate class of judicial officers to discharge quasi-judicial functions.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issues] Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016

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Introduction

Citizenship is at the heart of modern nation-state. Citizenship entails rightful claims on the state/govt and that is why it is often fiercely contested.

Who is a citizen in India’s constitutional scheme? What are various principles/kinds of citizenship?

  1. Citizenship defines the relationship of an individual with a political community, and signifies the individual’s full and equal membership of that community. A citizen is defined in opposition to an ‘alien’; the exclusion of aliens is central to the concept of modern citizenship.
  2. The Constitution gives some fundamental rights to non-citizens — the right to equality before the law (Article 14); protection of life and personal liberty (Article 21); freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 25), for example.
  3. However, some other fundamental rights, such as prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15); equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (Article 16); and the six basic freedoms of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, forming associations or unions, movement, residence, and profession (subject to reasonable restrictions, Article 19), are available only to citizens.
  4. Also, only a citizen has the right to vote in elections to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies (Article 326), become a member of these Houses (Articles 84, 191d), and assume certain high offices such as those of President, Vice-President, Governor, and a judge of the higher judiciary.
  5. Under the principle of jus soli (right of the soil), citizenship belongs to everyone born in the territory of a state. Jus sanguinis (right of blood), on the other hand, gives prominence to ties of blood in the grant of citizenship. The “momentum” concept of citizenship underlines individualism, universality and equality, and obliterates identities of ethnicity, religion and caste. “Differentiated citizenship”, however, recognises and accommodates group identities typical of multicultural societies that may at times require differential treatment.

How did Partition and the large-scale migration from territories that became part of Pakistan impact citizenship?

  1. Articles 5-11 of the Constitution describe the various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship. These were enforced on November 26, 1949, ahead of the commencement of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.
  2. Article 11 empowers Parliament to regulate citizenship by law; the Citizenship Act was, therefore, passed in 1955. It has since been amended in 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2015.
  3. Article 5 provided for citizenship on the commencement of the Constitution: all those domiciled and born in India, either of whose parents was born in India, or anyone who had been ordinarily resident in India for at least five years preceding the commencement of the Constitution.
  4. Under Article 6, anyone who migrated to India before July 19, 1948, from territory that had become part Pakistan, automatically became a citizen if either of their parents or grandparents was born in India.
  5. But those who entered India after this date needed to register themselves. Those who had migrated to Pakistan after March 1, 1947, but had subsequently returned on resettlement permits, too, were included within the citizenship net (Article7).
  6. Under Article 8, a person of Indian origin residing outside India who, or any of whose parents or grandparents, was born in India can register as an Indian citizen with the relevant Indian diplomatic mission.

How did the situation in Assam impact the nature of citizenship?

  1. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to amend the 1955 Act to permit members of six communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship if they had entered the country before December 14, 2014.
  2. Under the original Act, an applicant seeking citizenship by naturalization must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  3. The proposed Bill relaxes the 11-year requirement to six years for applicants belonging to these six religious communities and three countries.

The protests in Assam

  1. Many organisations in Assam are up in arms against the proposed Bill, which they fear may trigger demographic change in Assam as illegal Bangladeshi Hindu migrants are granted citizenship.
  2. Several BJP allies are against the amendment; in Meghalaya, where the BJP is part of the government, the state cabinet took a decision to oppose the Bill.
  3. Enthusiasm for the Bill is largely restricted to the Bangla-speaking people in the Barak Valley.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 raises several issues:

First, It makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship based on their religion. It clearly violates Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution.

  • Proponents of the bill argue that even though it does not explicitly state it, the bill grants citizenship based on a reasonable classification. On this view, these minorities are likely to be persecuted in the three states in question; it is unlikely that any other state would grant them citizenship; and therefore, a special dispensation for them is justifiable.
  • The claim that India has special obligations only to persecuted minorities of particular religions is debatable. But even if we grant for a moment that the historical circumstances of these persecuted minorities are different, the form of the bill matters.
  • Instead of simply saying that members belonging to particular religions will be eligible for differential treatment, the bill should have laid down some general secular criteria (persecution history, history of migration etc) which could, in principle, at least, be applied to all groups.
  • But the direct exclusion of Muslims from being eligible for this pathway under any circumstances makes the constitutional form and citizenship communal.

Second, the bill clearly violates the Assam Accord.

  • Whatever one may think of it, the issue of the credibility of an accord signed by the Union of India is not entirely a trivial one. And it may have ramifications for future negotiations.

Third, the bill has potentially interesting implications for asymmetric federalism.

  • One of the proposals under consideration is to exempt Assam from the purview of the bill while making it applicable to the rest of India.
  • There is not much opposition to this bill in other states.
  • The political consequences of this bill are not nearly as severe as in Assam.

Conclusion

  1. In its present from the CAB 2016 suffers from various constitutional improprieties and is highly unlikely to stand judicial scrutiny.
  2. In an incredibly diverse country like India, it is paramount that constitutionalism reigns supreme.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issues] Manual Scavenging

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Meaning of manual scavenging (MS)

  • Is a caste-based occupation involving the removal of untreated human excreta from insanitary (or ‘dry’) latrines
  • It has been officially abolished by law in India as a dehumanizing practice – the Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (MSRA, 2013) has replaced the 1993 Act.
  • There are three types of MS
    1. Manual Scavengers
    2. Sewerage workers/septic tank cleaners
    3. Sweepers

Caste Census 2011 Figures / Appraisal of govt efforts

  1. >1.6 lakh households had at least 1 member working as a MS. This puts the number of manual scavengers in India at ≅1.7 lakh (mostly women).
  2. ≅12k manual scavengers were identified across India in 2016 – 82% of these are in UP (Ministry of Social Justice figures, 2016)
  3. There exist 2.6 Mn insanitary latrines. 72% of these are in Andhra, Assam, J&K, Maha, TN, UP and WB

Problems with the profession / Why it should be banned

  • Undignified life (all the 6 Fundamental Rights are compromised, directly or indirectly)
  • It perpetuates casteism
  • Modern, secular india has no place for such “professions”
  • Doesn’t suit India’s rising global profile – ‘super power’ aspirations
  • Women empowerment (most manual scavengers are dalit women)

MSRA 2013

Prohibits

  • the employment of manual scavengers,
  • the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and
  • the construction of insanitary latrines

Fixes responsibility on each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority to

  • survey insanitary latrines (i.e latrines without water) within its jurisdiction and
  • construct sanitary community latrines (demolition cost to be borne by the owner of such latrine)

Offenses under the act are non-bailable

  • punishable with fines and jail

Seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers, and

  • provide for their alternative employment

Anti-MS Efforts

By the centre (govt of India)

  • Legal measures
    • budgetary support for the implementation of MSRA, 2013
  • Policy support
    • Scholarship schemes for children of those engaged in MS
    • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

By the states

  • MSRA, 2013
    • primary responsibility for its implementation
  • UP govt
    • ‘Daliya Jalao’ initiative freed almost 10% MS (of the state’s total MS burden) within a year (spillover effects in terms of control over polio and diarrhoea)

Institutional action

  • NHRC reprimanding states
  • National Cmsn for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) – welfare functions

Why manual scavenging persists

Govt apathy

  1. poor implementation of the MSRA, 2013
  • 2.6 Mn insanitary latrines still exist (NGO Safai Karamchari Andolan, Census 2011 data)
  • 72% of these are in Andhra, Assam, J&K, Maha, TN, UP and WB
  • 1.3 million Dalits (mostly women) make living as manual scavengers (NGO data)

99% reduction (2014 vs. 2017) in budgetary allocations by the centre

  • This is despite goi’s commitment towards sanitation and a dedicated cess

Indian Railways

  1. continues to be the largest employer of MS (no data available about the no. of MS employed)
  2. typically employs MS through ‘contractors’

Societal prejudice

  1. popular insensitivity towards the issue
  2. the notion of caste and pollution
  3. stigmatisation of the dalits

Way Forward

  • Civil Society
    1. more intense activism is needed
  • Judiciary
    1. judicial activism should be resorted to
    2. if the SC can ban liquor stores on highways, why is MS being ignored?
  • Vigilant Media
    1. can pressurize govt into action by animating the issue of MS
  • Govt
    1. strict implementation of MSRA, 2013
Categories
Burning Issues

Burning Issues- United Nations Peacekeeping

Image result for united nations peacekeeping

What is peacekeeping

  • It’s an effective tool available to United Nations to assist the countries torn by conflict to navigate the path towards peace.
  • Peacemaking has unique strengths like legitimacy, burden sharing, ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates.
  • It provides security, political and peace building support to countries to make a transition from conflict to peace
  • Currently there are 15 peacekeeping operations deployed on four continents
  • The peacekeeping operations also facilitate the host countries in political process, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law

Structure

Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)

  • It provides political and executive direction to UN Peacekeeping operations around the world and maintains contact with the Security Council, troop and financial contributors, and parties to the conflict in the implementation of Security Council mandates.
  • It also provides guidance and support on military, police, mine action and other relevant issues to other UN political and peacebuilding missions.

   Four main offices of DPKO

  1. Office of Operations– It provides political and strategic policy and operational guidance and support to the missions. More on our peacekeeping operations
  2. Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions– It was established in 2007 to strengthen the links and coordinate the Department’s activities in the areas of police, justice and corrections, mine action and weapons/ammunition management, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and security sector reform
  3. Office of Military Affairs– It works to deploy the most appropriate military capability in support of United Nations objectives; and to enhance performance and improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of military components in United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
  4. Policy, Evaluation and Training Division– The division is mandated to develop and disseminate the policy and doctrine guiding the work of Peacekeeping. In addition, the division has the responsibility to evaluate, at the request of the heads of the departments, how those policies are being applied, gather lessons learned and best practices, and use that information to guide the development, coordination and delivery of standardized training, so as to complete the learning cycle. Department of Policy Evaluation and Training is also responsible for developing and maintaining strategic cooperation with various UN and external partners.
  5.  Department of Field Support-(DFS)
  • The Department of Field Support (DFS) provides dedicated support to international peace operations, including to UN peacekeeping, special political and other field missions.
  • DFS works with UN and non-UN partners to plan mobilize and sustain operations in the world’s most complex environments.
  • The Department’s services range from budget, finance, human resources and technology to supply chain, facility and asset management.

The Department has four divisions:

  • Field Personnel Division
  • Field Budget and Finance Division
  • Logistics Support Division
  • Information & Communications Technology Division

What is the job profile of UN peacekeeping missions

  • To create conditions of lasting peace with a viable political process by supporting and not substituting the national efforts
  • Peacekeepers protect civilians, actively prevent conflict, reduce violence, strengthen security and empower national authorities to assume these responsibilities. This requires a coherent security and peacebuilding strategy that supports the political strategy. UN peacekeeping helps host countries to become more resilient to conflict, laying the groundwork to sustain long-term peace, including by addressing root causes of conflict.

The main duties of the peacekeepers are:

  • Protect civilians
  • Prevent conflicts
  • Strengthen Rule of Law
  • Promote human rights
  • Empower women
  • Deliver field support

How is UN peacekeeping funded

  • The financing of UN Peacekeeping operations is the collective responsibility of all UN Member States.
  • In accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations, every Member State is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping.
  • The complex formula established by member states, to apportion peacekeeping expenses, takes into account, among other things, the relative economic wealth of Member States, with the five permanent members of the Security Council required to pay a larger share because of their special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The top 10 providers of assessed contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping operations for 2017 are:

  • United States (28.5%)
  • China (10%)
  • Japan (9.5%)
  • Germany (6.5%)
  • France (6%)
  • United Kingdom (5.5%)
  • Russian Federation (4%)
  • Italy (3.75%)
  • Canada (3%)
  • Spain (2.5%)

Principles of peacekeeping

These three principles are interrelated and mutually reinforcing:

Consent of the parties

The operations are deployed with the consent of the main parties to the conflict. This requires a commitment by the parties to a political process. Their acceptance of a peacekeeping operation provides the UN with the necessary freedom of action, both political and physical, to carry out its mandated tasks

Impartiality

Impartiality is crucial to maintaining the consent and cooperation of the main parties, but should not be confused with neutrality or inactivity. United Nations peacekeepers should be impartial in their dealings with the parties to the conflict, but not neutral in the execution of their mandate.

 Just as a good referee is impartial, but will penalize infractions, so a peacekeeping operation should not condone actions by the parties that violate the undertakings of the peace process or the international norms and principles that a United Nations peacekeeping operation upholds

Non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate

UN peacekeeping operations are not an enforcement tool. However, they may use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, if acting in self-defence and defence of the mandate

Basic details

History of UN Peacekeeping

  • UN Peacekeeping was born at a time when Cold War rivalries frequently paralyzed the Security Council.
  • Peacekeeping was primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground, providing crucial support for political efforts to resolve conflict by peaceful means.
  • Those missions consisted of unarmed military observers and lightly armed troops with primarily monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles.
  • The operations began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East to carry out the operation known as United Nations Truce Supervision Operation (UNTSO)

Changing Nature of Peacekeeping Operations (POs)

  • In the beginning, the goals were primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground
  • The missions consisted of military observers and lightly armed troops with monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles in support of ceasefires and limited peace agreements.
  • Troops and police came from a relatively small number of countries and they were almost exclusively men
  • Today, the UN Peacekeeping has adapted to meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape.
  • Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security but also to facilitate the political processes, protect civilians, disarm combatants, support elections, protect and promote human rights and restore the rule of law.
  • Women peacekeepers today play an increasingly prominent role and are crucial towards improving the performance of our missions. They serve as police officers, troops, pilots, military observers, and other uniformed and civilian posts, including in command positions

Success of POs

  • The UN peacekeeping has been working for more than 60 years and have won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
  • By providing basic security guarantees and responding to crises, the UN operations have supported political transitions and helped buttress fragile new state institutions. They have helped countries to close the chapter of conflict and open a path to normal development, even if major peacebuilding challenges remain.
  • Since 1948, the UN has helped end conflicts and foster reconciliation by conducting successful peacekeeping operations in dozens of countries, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti, and Kosovo

Way Forward

Four Essential Shifts are needed in POs

  • Politics must drive the design and implementation of peace operations because lasting peace is achieved not through military and technical engagements, but through political solutions.
  • The full spectrum of United Nations peace operations must be used more flexibly to respond to changing needs on the ground
  • A stronger, more inclusive peace and security partnership is needed for the future
  • The United Nations Secretariat must become more field-focused and United Nations peace operations must be more people-centred

New approaches needed in POs

  • Conflict prevention and mediation must be brought back to the fore
  • Protection of civilians is a core obligation of the United Nations, but expectations and capability must converge
  • Clarity is needed on the use of force and in the role of United Nations peace operations and others in managing armed conflict
  • Political vigilance is needed to sustain peace

Empowering the field and strengthening the foundations

  • Setting clear direction and forging common purpose
  • Improving the speed, capability and performance of uniformed personnel
  • Strengthening global and regional partnerships
  • Putting policy into practice
  • Engaging with host countries and local communities
  • Addressing abuse and enhancing accountability
  • Improving support systems to enable more responsive and accountable peace operations
  • Supporting innovation and important resourcing requirements
  • Improving Headquarters leadership, management and reform

 Uniting the  strengths

  • The United Nations must unite its strengths, which include politics, partnership and people, to meet the challenges ahead.
  • Political strategies must drive peace operations.
  • Partnerships will be essential to future success in the face of long – running and new crises.
  • People must be firmly put at the centre of the efforts of United Nations peace operations.

Reforming UN Peacekeeping

Efforts to reform the UN’s peace and security architecture began soon after the establishment of the world body and have continued ever since with varied results.

  • The early reforms were driven primarily by international developments, notably the  Cold War, as well as the rapid process of decolonization and the expanding membership of the UN.
  • Similarly, the early friendliness of the post-Cold War era, coupled with the surge in peace agreements, led to the creation of the department of peacekeeping operations (DPKO) and the publication of “An Agenda for Peace” in 1992.
  • Soon thereafter, following the disastrous failures in Mogadishu (1993), Rwanda (1994) and Srebrenica (1995), the Brahmi report on UN peace operations, published in 2000, sought comprehensive reforms of the DPKO.
  • The adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in 2000 and the establishment of the norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P), adopted in the 2005 World Summit outcome document.
  • More recently, the 2015 “High-Level Independent Panel On Peacekeeping Operations” (HIPPO) report sought to redress the growing expectations of UN peacekeeping with its growing inadequacies.

About the 2018 reforms

In March 2018, UN secretary general António Guterres submitted an ambitious blueprint for the consideration of the UN general assembly to restructure the organization’s peace and security pillar.

Goals of the 2018 reforms

  • To prioritize prevention and sustaining peace
  • To enhance the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions
  • To make the pillar coherent, nimble and effective
  • To align the peace and security pillar more closely with the development and human rights pillars to create greater coherence and cross-pillar coordination

Challenges in implementing the 2018 reforms

  • There are three sets of actors involved in success or failure of peace and security reforms 1. Member states (who constitute the so-called “first UN”); 2. The Secretariat (which makes up the “second UN”); and 3. Civil society—both within states and on the international stage (who are recognized as the “third UN”). None of these sets of actors are monolithic. In fact, the differences are often most pronounced within the same set of actors. The differences within these groups have thwarted previous reforms
  • The second challenge is of raising financial resources to ensure the changes. Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with an aversion to multilateralism, indicates that Washington might yet cut its share of the UN budget.
  • Thirdly the political interests of some member states are served in maintaining the present structure. Such states might oppose the reforms
Categories
Burning Issues

Burning Issues- Unprecedented Pre Monsoon Storms

Image result for dust storm india causes

UNPRECEDENTED PRE-MONSOON STORMS IN INDIA

How can we say that the pre-monsoon season in 2018 has witnessed unprecedented storm activity?

  1. Since February this year India has experienced 44 storms all over the country (16 States)
  2. The wind speed, many times, exceeded 130 km per hour (when the threshold speed for storms is 90-100 km per hour).
  3. Even though storms are common for North and north western region of India occurring in the months of April to June, but they are generally accompanied with little or no rain. But this time it was heavy rain, hails and strong winds which increased the intensity and impact of the storm
  4. The severe impact of this storm on the lives, livelihood, livestock of the people has made it unprecedented

What was the impact of this surge in storms?

  1. The storms caused massive damage to the property – around 5000 houses collapsed
  2. Massive loss of life – More than 400 deaths and over 700 injured
  3. The dust storm affected people’s livelihood besides killing their livestock and destroying their crops
  4. There is lack of basic infrastructure – water and electricity – as the electric poles are uprooted due to storms and people cannot use the water pumps in the absence of electricity

Reasons behind the phenomena

Unusually hot conditions

  • Temperatures of over 40 degree Celsius have been observed in northwest, central and east and north peninsular India. Maximum temperature was upto 8 degrees celsius above normal. This led to an intense heat wave.
  • Interaction of hot air near the surface with colder winds from the western disturbances gave rise to intense and widespread storms
  • For example, in Rajasthan, one of the worst affected states 46 degree Celsius temperatures were recorded and  a record-breaking 50 degree Celsius was recorded in neighboring Pakistan

Western Disturbances (WD)

  • These are extra tropical or temperate cyclones originating in the Mediterranean region that brings sudden winter rain to the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent
  • While the western disturbances normally peak between December and February, a greater number of active WD have been observed in spring and summer months
  • Instead of the normal 2-3 active WD seen during the month of April and May, over the past month and a half at least 10 separate active WDs have been observed.
  • WDs carry high-velocity winds that agitate the atmosphere and aggravate storm conditions

Cyclonic circulations

  • Swirling motion of the winds caused due to low-pressure area is called cyclonic circulations
  • In the build-up of the massive storms at the beginning of May, five separate cyclonic circulations were observed across the country

Troughs

  • A trough is an extended area of low pressure.
  • This is where moisture laden winds from the Bay of Bengal met hot and dry air from central and western India. These winds also came in contact with the cold front that develops due to active WDs.
  • The confluence of these different winds culminated in intense and widespread storms across the Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • Similarly, a North-South trough was formed from Bihar to Northern Tamil Nadu along which stormy weather was observed in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Karnataka

Easterly winds

  • Easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal carry moisture and is associated with pre-monsoon thunderstorms in the eastern coast. But this usually happens in the winter months. This year, the easterlies have continued well into May and have interacted with the WDs owing to the east-west trough. This fuelled intense activity over large parts in south india.

Anomalies at sea surface

  • The anomalies in sea surface temperatures (i.e 1-2 degree warmer waters) over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea have spurred greater moisture transfer than usual by the easterly and westerly winds (respectively) causing the spate of storms.

Why are these storms climatologically atypical?

  1. While the timing of the storms was as expected, their extent and intensity surprised many a scientist (explained above)
  2. Unusually hot weather conditions ushering in heat waves across north, northwest and central India (explained above)
  3. An unexpected activity of Western disturbances (explained above)        
  4. The surprising behavior of Easterly winds (explained above)   
  5. The anomalies in the sea surface temperatures over Bay of Bengal (explained above)

Why were the forecasts by IMD inaccurate?

Outdated forecasting models

  • India uses the (obsolete) NowCast model.
  • Switch to the contemporary ‘Unified Model’ is hamstrung by lack of data.

Inadequate Doppler radars

  • IMD has installed only 25 doppler radars so far across the country
  • These cover only 12.5% of India’s land area.

Poor maintenance and upkeep of instruments.

  • Some of the Doppler radars were not functioning when the storms hit.

The differences in the nature of the storms over the Indian region made the predictions difficult

  • Unlike the climatic-scale storms seen in the Middle-East, the recent storms in India had weaker vertical torque but strong horizontal torque.

Way ahead for India

  • Many initiatives have been taken by countries who face similar challenges to control the effects of a dust storm. India needs to learn from their experiments.
  • Example- The great green wall that has been developed by China along the Mongolian drylands, this massive corridor of vegetation purportedly acts as a windbreak for intense sandstorms emanating from the north and reduces the transport of dust further south thereby limiting the possibility of desertification
  • Besides learning from the interventions of other countries the most important step for India is to develop its weather forecasting and monitoring infrastructure
Categories
Burning Issues

Burning Issues- India’s shifting foreign policy stance

Image result for India russia china usa

Why in news

  1. The Shangri-La Dialogue speech (Singapore, Jun 2018) of PM Modi is being seen as a major foreign policy shift.
  2. Despite speaking at the same event, the words of India’s and US’s document were starkly different. This indicates that New Delhi and Washington are no longer on the same page.
  3. Warming up of India to Russia and China is another unmistakable sign of a shift.
  4. It seems the philosophy of Non-Alignment has been revived.

Evidence of changed foreign policy

Informal summits

China

  1. ‘Doklam’ is an issue of the past.
  2. The BRI isn’t as much a concern as before.
  3. India’s non-confrontational attitude with respect to China’s presence in the Maldives and Nepal.

Russia

S-400 Deal is being negotiated.

  1. The frequency of meetings with China and Russia far outnumbers those with USA
  2. PM Modi will have met President Xi and President Putin four-five times each by the end of this year, if one counts informal and formal summits, as well as meetings at the SCO, BRICS and G-20
  3. In contrast, nearly half the year has gone in just scheduling the upcoming 2+2 meet of Indian and U.S. Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Shangrila Dialogue Speech

  1. India referred to the Indo-Pacific as a “natural geographical region”, not a strategic one, while the USA called the Indo-Pacific a “priority theatre” and a “subset of America’s broader security strategy” for its Indo-Pacific Command.
  2. While India referred to India’s good relations with the U.S., Russia and China in equal measure, US vowed to counter China’s moves in the Indo-Pacific, and referred to the U.S. National Defence Strategy released this January, which puts both China and Russia in its crosshairs as the world’s two “revisionist powers”.

The Quad has also been given short shrift.

  1. India rejected an Australian request to join maritime exercises along with the U.S. and Japan this June, and said quite plainly last month that there was no plan to “militarise” the Quad.
  2. This is in contrast with India’s acceptance of military exercises with countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Russia-China led grouping.

India has decided to continue energy deals with Iran and Venezuela in defiance of American sanctions.

Trade protectionism is clearly the other big point of divergence between India and the U.S.

  1. Both countries have, in recent months, taken each other to the World Trade Organisation on several issues.
  2. There has been a surge in disputes between the two countries:
  • on the new American steel and aluminium tariffs,
  • the proposed cuts in H1B professional visas and cancellation of H4 spouse visas,
  • on India’s tariffs and resistance to U.S. exports of dairy and pork products, on Indian price reductions on medical devices, and
  • Reserve Bank of India rules on data localisation on Indian servers for U.S. companies.
  • The row over Harley-Davidson motorcycles has ended up denting the ties quite seriously.

The biggest challenges to a common India-U.S. vision are now emerging from the new U.S. law called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal with the threat of more secondary sanctions.

  1. Both actions have a direct impact on India, given its high dependence on defense hardware from Russia and its considerable energy interests in Iran.
  2. India’s plans to acquire the Russian S-400 missile system will become the litmus test of whether India and the U.S. can resolve their differences.

Recent changes in Indian foreign policy – Shift towards intelligent non-alignment and cautious prudence.

India, in the Shangrila-La speech:

  1. invoked the “Bandung spirit of 1955”.
  2. praised Singapore for teaching the world the importance of making “free and fair choices” and “embracing diversity at home”.
  3. stressed that “When nations stand on the side of principles, not behind one power or the other, they earn the respect of the world,”
  4. warned the world about the possible return of “great power rivalries”, and
  5. emphasised the importance and centrality of the ASEAN in the concept of the Indo-Pacific.

The complexities of dealing with the two major powers have always led India to seek out support for other intermediate powers and coalitions across the world.

  1. The old G-77 was not an ideological construct. India was, in limited ways, mobilising a power source outside of the Great Powers. This strategy has its limitations; its effectiveness in confronting the hard power realities imposed by the Great Powers has always been in doubt. But India is still looking for that functional substitute: A coalition that stands a little apart from the Great Powers.
  2. The rediscovered fascination for the ASEAN, Africa, and the commitment to pursue these relationships shows a shift towards the old coalition building of the 1950s.

Why India shifted its stance?

  1. India’s foremost objective has been the preservation of her ‘strategic autonomy’ with respect to foreign policymaking.
  2. Aligning excessively with any particular nation or group can be counterproductive to India’s long-term interests
  3. The US, in recent years, has displayed the tendency to betray its allies for short-term gains.

Conclusion

  1. India seems to be striving for a more balanced approach in what it increasingly sees as an uncertain world.
  2. The “principled” vision India has embraced projects is a departure from the transactionalism and pragmatism espoused by her over the last few years.
Categories
Burning Issues

Burning Issues- Lateral Entry into Civil Services

Image result for Lateral Entry into Civil Services

Why in News

  • Recently, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has called for applications to fill 10 joint-secretary level posts in various departments.
  • Lateral Entry (LE) is applicable for both private sector professions and those from state governments, Union Territories, PSUs, Autonomous bodies and others.

About ‘Joint Secretaries’

As per the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT):

    • A Joint Secretary is the head of the wing under the charge of Secretary of the Ministry/ Department and he/she reports to Additional Secretary/ Secretary.
    • Joint Secretaries are at a crucial level of senior management in the Government of India. They lead policymaking as well as the implementation of various programmes and schemes of the Department.

Experiments with LE

Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 80s, much before the age of specialisation and opening up of the economy, professionals from both the private sector and state-owned companies headed departments in several ministries.

Outside advisers and consultants have been appointed at both Central and state level. But these have been at the highest levels like RBI, Niti Aayog, PSUs etc

Given the requirements of technical expertise, lateral entry has traditionally been easier in the economic ministries and in the Departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, Electronics, etc.

Support for Civil Service Reforms

  • 1st ARC, 1965
  • Surinder Nath Committee, 2003
  • Hota Committee, 2004
  • 2nd ARC Report, 2005
  • In its 2002 report, the Civil Services Review Committee headed by Alagh, however, recommended lateral entry into other Departments as well, along the lines of countries like the US, where the administration has a mix of permanent civil servants and mid-career professionals.

Challenges / Arguments against LE

Bureaucratic resistance and institutional inertia of the civil services

  • They will not willingly cooperate with the new entrants – adversarial relations
  • They fear that their opportunities for career advancement and promotions will get hit.

Cherry-picking jobs/profile

  • lateral entrants with the right ‘connections’ may join just to enjoy the perks and privileges by cherry-picking the post

No service motive

  • the motive of lateral entrants might be to just enhance their CV

Promote private interest

  • the lateral entrants may join permanently or temporarily to simply promote vested interests of their organization/field

Political will

  • Civil service reforms will curtail the inordinate control that the politcal masters have at present.
  • To succeed, other reforms (besides lateral entry) are needed.

Relevant experience

  • The present system of ‘frequent and arbitrary transfers’ hinder gaining of the relevant experience by incumbent officers. Thus, it is unfair to brand incumbents as ‘generalists’.
  • If given a fair chance, the incumbents too, can emulate private sector expertise.

Need for LE

Inefficient civil service

  • The modern political economy demands a sleek and agile civil service (CS) machinery
  • India’s present CS architecture dates back to the Nehruvian era when the state ruled the roost

Given today’s era of withdrawal of the State, ‘outsiders’ can bring insights of possible impacts of govt policies on diverse stakeholders – the private sector, the non-government sector and the general public 

  • Best decisions can be taken based on this info

Since career IAS have experience of only govt functioning

  • Their solutions/suggestions are less effective in other sectors – the pvt and the non-govt

Erroneous decisions ⇒ litigation

  • Burdening the judiciary and blocking the administration

Flaws in the current IAS recruitment process

‘Type I’ and ‘Type II’ errors

  • Type I error ⇒ recruiting incapable candidates
  • Type II error ⇒ rejecting potential candidates

Lateral entry will give opportunity

  • for promising mid-level professionals to join the elite Service

Bureaucratic inertia

  • LE will inject new ideas, new energy, new competition and new performance standards in the IAS
  • the ‘near-automatic career progression’ will be a thing of the past

Generalists vs. specialists

  • contemporary developmental models mandate special skills for effective delivery of services

Way Forward

Recruitment process for LE

  • An institutionalised system of annual recruitment (43-46 yrs age group) should be there.
  • Paper qualifications should not be too prescriptive.
  • UPSC should handle the entire recruitment process.
  • Allocation of state cadres should be done.
  • Cutting-edge level exposure (village-level) for the first 5 yrs should be mandatory.

‘Regular entry’ IAS officers

  • Must be allowed to work in different sectors outside of the govt to understand the sectors’ needs
  • This will also help them compete on an equal footing with the lateral entrants

Top-heavy bureaucracy

  • Can be avoided by weeding out about 25% of the poorest (regular-entry) performers
  • Transparent performance appraisal (of regular entrants) after 15 yrs of selection

Comprehensive not incremental reforms

  • Are the need of the hour
  • Incremental reforms are doomed to fail

Implement the long-pending recommendations (with respect to internal and external reforms)

  • That are gathering dust in govt archives

Final Word

Do not throw the baby away with the bathwater

Young IAS (regular entry) are indispensable

  • As they bring in youthful spirit, raw enthusiasm, and unspoiled enterprise into administration

yet, LE will bring the best of both youth and experience

  • And take the system closer to the goal of “minimum government, maximum governance”

QUESTIONS

  • Critically analyze the recent govt proposal of Lateral Entry into the Civil Services.

(Post your answers and doubts in the comments section and we will try to get mentors as well as toppers to check and resolve those respectively)