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[op-ed snap] Dark clouds over the RTI

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: The Right to Information (RTI) Act

Mains level: Amendments being done in the RTI Act and its implications on the accountability revolution ushering in the country


Context

Proposed amendments to RTI Act

  1. The government has struck another blow against transparency and accountability
  2. The legislative agenda of the monsoon session of Parliament says: “To amend The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005″
  3. The RTI Act has been under constant threat of amendments
  4. At least two major attempts to amend the Act have been met with such strong popular resistance that the government of the day has had to back off

No good intent

  1. Any amendment to the law should have been discussed before it went to the cabinet, as in the “pre-legislative consultation policy” of the government of India
  2. Bureaucratic jargon such as “consideration” is a euphemism for pushing the amendment through without due consideration of parliamentary processes
  3. There have been steps to steamroller legislative measures (in the garb of money Bills) that have destabilised access to information such as Aadhaar and electoral bonds
  4. Applications for information about amendments made under the RTI Act have been stonewalled and information denied

Retracting from disclosure

  1. Amendments to the RTI rules that were put up for public feedback have reportedly been withdrawn after objections
  2. There have been reports that the proposed amendments seek to change the status of the information commissions

RTI promotes transparency

  1. The spirit of the RTI law lies in not just the filing of an RTI application and getting an answer
  2. It actually mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy with a culture of transparency
  3. Under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, which has been poorly implemented, it says: “It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”

Way forward

  1. Since 2005, the RTI Act has helped transform the relationship between the citizen and government, dismantle illegitimate concentrations of power, legitimise the demand for answers, and assist people in changing centuries of feudal and colonial relationships
  2. Secret amendments to a law fashioned and used extensively are deeply suspect
  3. Any move to amend the RTI Act must involve public consultation
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Counter-drone strategy for airports ready

A “soft kill” approach instead of a hard kill approach has been suggested.

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security)

Mains level: New technologies such as Drones and emerging security threats from them


News

Guidelines for drones

  1. The government is set to unveil a framework to regulate unmanned aircraft systems in the country
  2. The Ministry of Civil Aviation had released draft rules for unmanned aircraft systems in November last year and proposed to ban their operation within 5 km radius of an airport and 50 km from an international border

BCAS to ensure implementation near airports

  1. Aviation security watchdog BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security) has finalised a strategy to neutralise drones near airports
  2. The strategy deals with drones operating near aerodromes as the body is mandated to ensure aviation security
  3. The Ministry of Home Affairs may prepare a separate plan to deal with drone attacks in sensitive zones such as Parliament

Softkill approach to be used

  1. A “soft kill” approach instead of a hard kill approach has been suggested because destroying a drone with a payload of explosives or biochemical will result in an attack and serve the purpose of their handlers
  2. The best approach is to entrap the drones and not destroy them

Back2Basics

BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security)

  1. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India
  2. BCAS is the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in India. It is headed by an officer of the rank of Director General  of Police  and is designated  as Commissioner of   Security (Civil Aviation)
  3. Commissioner of security (CA) is the appropriate authority for implementation of Annexure 17 to Chicago convention of International civil aviation organization (ICAO)
  4. Commissioner of security (CA) is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of the National Civil Aviation Security Programme
  5. The main responsibility of BCAS are laying down standards and measures in  respect of security of  civil flights  at International  and  domestic  airports in India
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

[op-ed snap] EVs have the potential to fuel India’s growth

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EV30@30 campaign, National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), FAME India, International Solar Alliance (ISA)

Mains level: The newscard discusses some issues related to the adoption of the EVs in India.


Context

Most Polluted cities are in India

  1. A recent report by the World Health Organization revealed that 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India.
  2. Emissions from the transportation sector contributed significantly to India’s pollution levels.
  3. As per the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change’s estimates, the sector emitted about 188 MT of CO2 till 2010; road transport alone contributed to 87% of the emissions.

Dependence on Oil Imports

  1. India’s current oil import dependency is about 80%.
  2. According to the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, diesel and petrol contribute to about 40% and 13% of oil consumption, respectively.
  3. The cell estimated, in 2014, that 70% of diesel and 100% of petrol demand was from transportation.

Global Efforts for EVs

  1. Globally, there have been various efforts (including financial/non-financial incentives to end users) to promote EVs.
  2. Many countries have rallied towards the EV30@30 campaign, which aims for 30% sales share of EVs by 2030.
  3. The Netherlands, Ireland and Norway are leading the way, aiming to achieve 100% EV sales in passenger light duty vehicles and buses by 2030.

Indian Initiatives

  1. In India, initiatives such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) are concerted efforts towards building an EV market.
  2. The procurement of over 500 electric buses by various state transport utilities is a testament to India’s commitment.
  3. India is also taking steps towards building a sustainable EV ecosystem.
  4. The department of heavy industry, Bureau of Indian Standards, and the Automotive Research Association of India are working towards establishing various technical standards for design and manufacturing of EVs and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or charging infrastructure.

Bengaluru Example is promising

  1. Enabling systematic adoption of EVs requires coordination among urban planning, transportation and power sectors.
  2. A study by the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) arrived at suitable routes for e-buses in Bengaluru.
  3. Upon analyzing the constraints posed by location and size of depots, schedule of buses and electrical loading of the distribution network, using a geographic information system platform and incentives and policy schemes to compare the total cost of ownership of electric and hybrid buses with that of diesel buses.
  4. It was found that around 164 routes were feasible for transitioning to EVs with minimal change in the system.

India’s vulnerabilities

  1. Power: Our electricity distribution grid assets are currently unable to handle large-scale EV energy requirements.
  2. Battery: On the material front, based on current knowledge, India has very little known reserves of lithium; we also import nickel, cobalt and battery-grade graphite, which are crucial components in battery manufacturing.
  3. Engine Equipments: Unavailability of rare earth materials used for making magnets for EV motors is another constraint.
  4. Know-How: On the technological front, we still lack sufficient technical know-how in lithium battery manufacturing. Other technological gaps include lack of semiconductor manufacturing facilities and controller design capabilities.

Utilising strategic potential

  1. India should consider signing a memorandum of understanding with appropriate countries for a continuous supply of raw materials.
  2. Organizations like the International Solar Alliance (ISA), initiated by India and France, can play a significant role in facilitating such trade.
  3. For example, ISA member countries like Australia, Chile, Brazil, Ghana and Tanzania are rich in lithium reserves.
  4. Similarly, nations such as Congo, Madagascar, and Cuba can partner for the supply of cobalt; Burundi, Brazil, and Australia are rich in nickel reserves.

Determination has a way

  1. In a welcome step, the Indian Space Research Organisation has expressed willingness to transfer its in-house technology non–exclusively to qualified production agencies.
  2. Further, the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu) and RAASI Solar Power Pvt. Ltd are expected to jointly start in-house lithium-ion battery manufacturing soon.
  3. These industries form the bedrock for manufacturing electronics for EVs; policies should bridge gaps that are hindering their growth.
  4. Despite these bottlenecks, there is merit in being ambitious about EVs.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

[op-ed snap] Educating girls can improve India’s health outcomes

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Op-ed is full of vital statistical data

Mains level: Various outcomes associated with girl’s education


News

Countering worst health outcomes

  1. India has some of the world’s worst public health outcomes, but educating girls can change that.
  2. Nationally, according to 2017 government data, 34 out of every 1,000 newborns will not survive till their first birthday, of which 25 would not have lived beyond their first 28 days.
  3. These figures are improving, because of concerted efforts by the national programme—but the gap is much too large for a country aspiring to be a world-beater on most fronts.

Female literacy = Delayed marriage

  1. Ensuring that the girl child is educated sets off a virtuous chain reaction—improved literacy leading to a delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children and a corresponding reduction in poverty.
  2. There are enough cases of girls whose families place greater priority on having their daughters finish school and perhaps college.
  3. These parents say they see a better overall future for their daughters if they are educated.

What data says?

  1. Data comparing two states that lead in terms of welfare indicators (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) and two that lag (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) is revealing. All figures cited here are the most recent government data.
  2. Female literacy rates in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are 92% and 73.9%, respectively, while the same rates for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are about half, at 42.2% and 33.1%, respectively.
  3. Average age at marriage for women in these states is 21.4 for Kerala and 21.2 for Tamil Nadu, above the national average of 20.7 years.
  4. The same figures for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are significantly lower at 19.4 and 19.5, respectively.

Female literacy + delayed marriage = Fewer babies per woman

  1. In many parts of rural India, there is immense pressure on women to produce boys, who will supposedly be the “breadwinners”.
  2. The sex ratio at birth (girls born per 1,000 boys) has fallen and is only around 800 in some North Indian states. Multiple pregnancies with inadequate spacing adversely affect the health of mother and child.
  3. The good news is that where there has been an improvement in literacy and delayed marriage, the fertility rate (average number of children per woman) has reduced.
  4. Kerala (1.7) and Tamil Nadu (1.6) perform better than the national average of 2.3, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are significantly worse at 3.1 and 3.3, respectively, though these figures are improving.

Female literacy + delayed marriage + fewer babies per woman = Higher child survival

  1. A woman who is educated, older when she gets married and plans fewer babies will proactively seek out good antenatal care.
  2. The percentage of women receiving full antenatal care is 61.2 and 45 in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, respectively.
  3. These figures are only 5.9 and 3.3 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, respectively, though improving. Fewer babies receiving better care mean that fewer children die in their first four weeks.
  4. The neonatal mortality rate in all states is improving, but Kerala and Tamil Nadu are way ahead of the national average (28), with figures of 6 and 15, respectively.

A Chain Reaction: Lowering poverty in the long run

  1. As families become smaller and children survive and thrive, they can spend more productively, and improve their economic situation.
  2. Between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of population below the poverty line in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar registered slight improvements from 32.8 to 29.4, and 41.4 to 33.7, respectively.
  3. The percentage of population below the poverty line for Kerala and Tamil Nadu halved from 15 to 7.1 and 22.5 to 11.3, respectively.

Way Forward

  1. States that invested in education and health earlier are alleviating poverty faster now.
  2. China is a global benchmark for how these social investments, made decades ago, formed the foundation for that country’s rapid economic growth.
  3. Ensuring that the girl child is educated sets off a virtuous chain reaction—improved literacy leading to a delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children and a corresponding reduction in poverty.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] World Customs Organization

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WCO

Mains level: Not Much


News

Why in news?

  1. India assumes vice-chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Region of the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
  2. It will be heading the Region for a period of 2 years from 2018 to2020.

World Custom Organisation

  1. The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
  2. The WCO maintains the international Harmonized System (HS) goods nomenclature and administers the technical aspects of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin.
  3. The WCO’s primary objective is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of member customs administrations, thereby assisting them to contribute successfully to national development goals, particularly revenue collection, national security, trade facilitation, community protection, and collection of trade statistics.
  4. The WCO is noted for its work in areas covering the development of international conventions, instruments, and tools on topics such as commodity classification, valuation, rules of origin, collection of customs revenue, supply chain security, international trade facilitation, customs enforcement activities, combating counterfeiting in support of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), drugs enforcement, illegal weapons trading, integrity promotion etc.

[pib] Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

 

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CARA, Hague Adoption Convention

Mains level: Problem of Child Trafficking


News

  1.  Emphasizing child safety and adoption, the Minister of Women and Child Development drew the attention to compulsorily register all the child care institutions in the State and link them with CARA for proper monitoring.
  2. This is done in the ambit of rising incidences of Child Trafficking and illegal adoptions.

Central Adoption Resource Authority

  1. Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory autonomous body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  2. It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
  3. CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
  4. CARA primarily deals with the adoption of the orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.

Back2Basics

Hague Adoption Convention

  1. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international convention dealing with international adoption, child laundering, and child trafficking.
  2. The Convention was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the preeminent organization in the area of private international law. It was concluded on 29 May 1993 and entered into force on 1 May 1995.
  3. It is an effort to protect those involved from the corruption, abuses, and exploitation which sometimes accompanies international adoption.
  4. The Convention has been considered crucial because it provides a formal international and intergovernmental recognition of intercountry adoption to ensure that adoptions under the Convention will generally be recognized and given effect in other party countries.
  5. 96 countries including India has signed and ratified this convention. Whereas Nepal, South Korea and Russia are yet to ratify it.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

President clears Assam Bill against witch-hunt

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Birubala

Mains level: Curbing atrocities in the name of superstitious witchcraft hunting.


News

Mission Birubala

  1. President Kovind has given his assent to the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015 against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago.
  2. Birubala Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996.
  3. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.

Provisions of the Bill

  1. The legislation has made every offence a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
  2. The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch.
  3. It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch.
  4. The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment and up to ₹5 lakh in fine.
Human Rights Issues

Centre increases CVs’ load carrying capacity

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FASTags

Mains level: Reducing logistics cost in Road Transport


News

Trucks can ferry 20-25% more weight

  1. The Transport Ministry has raised safe limits for axle weight for transport vehicles by 20-25%.
  2. The revised axle limits will be applicable to new vehicles.
  3. The move will help reduce logistics costs by 2% and attempts to bring norms at par with international standards.
  4. The Ministry has also proposed to dispense with fitness certificate for new vehicles and make it mandatory to have vehicle tracking system and FASTags for electronic toll collection for all commercial vehicles in its draft amendment to the Commercial Motor Vehicles Act.
  5. The amendments also proposed that a driving license and pollution certificates can be carried in physical or digital form.

Back2Basics

FASTags

  1. FASTag devices employ Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to make toll payments from the prepaid account directly linked with it.
  2. The windscreens of the vehicles are fitted with it.
  3. It enables the four-wheelers to drive through the toll plazas without having to wait for cash transactions at the toll.
  4. A separate lane will be dedicated for such FASTag users.
Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.