[op-ed snap] A fresh warning: what GEO-6 means for India

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:GEO

Mains level: Suggestion by GEO to deal with air and water pollution


News

CONTEXT

The sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook from the UN Environment Programme has come as another stark warning: the world is unsustainably extracting resources and producing unmanageable quantities of waste.

Relationship between economic growth and environment degradation

  • The linear model of economic growth depends on the extraction of ever-higher quantities of materials, leading to chemicals flowing into air, water and land.
  • This causes ill-health and premature mortality, and affects the quality of life, particularly for those unable to insulate themselves from these effects.

Suggestions for India

  • The UN report, GEO-6, on the theme “Healthy Planet, Healthy People,” has some sharp pointers for India.
  • It notes that East and South Asia have the highest number of deaths due to air pollution; by one estimate, it killed about 1.24 million in India in 2017.
  •  As India’s population grows, it must worry that agricultural yields are coming under stress due to increase in average temperature and erratic monsoons.
  •  The implications of these forecasts for food security and health are all too evident, more so for the 148 million people living in severe weather ‘hotspots’.
  • Evidently, the task before India is to recognise the human cost of poorly enforced environment laws and demonstrate the political will necessary to end business-as-usual policies.
  • That would mean curbing the use of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals across the spectrum of economic activity.

Managing air and water pollution

  • There are some targeted interventions that only require the resolve to reduce air and water pollution, and which in turn promise early population-level benefits.
  • Aggressive monitoring of air quality in cities through scaled-up facilities would bring about a consensus on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, and provide the impetus to shift to cleaner sources of energy.

Responsibility for pollution

  •  It is significant that GEO-6 estimates that the top 10% of populations globally, in terms of wealth, are responsible for 45% of GHG emissions, and the bottom 50% for only 13%.
  • Pollution impacts are, however, borne more by the poorer citizens.

Way Forward

  •  Combating air pollution would, therefore, require all older coal-based power plants in India to conform to emission norms at the earliest, or to be shut down in favour of renewable energy sources.
  • Transport emissions are a growing source of urban pollution, and a quick transition to green mobility is needed. In the case of water, the imperative is to stop the contamination of surface supplies by chemicals, sewage and municipal waste.
  • As the leading extractor of groundwater, India needs to make water part of a circular economy in which it is treated as a resource that is recovered, treated and reused.
  • But water protection gets low priority, and State governments show no urgency in augmenting rainwater harvesting.
  • New storage areas act as a supply source when monsoons fail, and help manage floods when there is excess rainfall.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] An Independent Institutions Bill remains a long-unrealised constitutional aspiration

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Maintaining independence of fourth branch through legislation.


NEWS

CONTEXT

An independent institutions bill should seek the following objectives: One, multi-partisan appointments, two, operational independence and impartiality, and three, accountability to the legislature rather than the executive.An Independent Institutions Bill should feature in their manifestoes.

Credibility in danger

  • The independence and credibility of our (admittedly imperfect) state institutions have never been so thoroughly in doubt since the Emergency.
  • Characterised as the fourth branch of the state — because of their distinctiveness from the executive, legislature and judiciary — these institutions are tasked with the protection of key constitutional values such as democracy, legality, impartiality, probity, human rights and price stability. 
  • The Indian Constitution secures these institutions implicitly by expecting Parliament to enact a law prescribing detailed mechanisms for appointments to and functioning of such institutions — for example, through Articles 280(2) and 324(2).

What is fourth Branch

  • In the Indian context, institutions of the fourth branch include the Election Commission, Lokpal, Central Bureau of Investigation, Reserve Bank, National Statistics Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Information Commission, commissions for various marginalised groups, Central Vigilance Commission, Comptroller & Auditor General, Attorney General, Public Service Commission, University Grants Commission, Finance Commission, Niti Aayog, media regulators and many others.
  • Some of these institutions are constitutional; others have quasi-constitutional status.

Purpose of Independent Institutions Bill 

  • An Independent Institutions Bill should seek the following objectives
    • One, multi-partisan appointments
    • two, operational independence and impartiality
    • three, accountability to the legislature rather than the executive.

Ways to achieve it; outline of bill

  • Parliamentary IICs could include two nominees of the ruling party/alliance (including any party providing support from the outside) and a nominee each from the three largest Opposition parties in each House.
  • The vidhan sabha IICs could have one governmental nominee and one each from the two largest Opposition parties.
  • Thus designed, the IICs will include the voice of the powerful regional parties of the day, and not just the two national parties.The IICs should be guaranteed adequate staff and resources to permit the proper discharge their functions.
  •  Based on applications and consultations with relevant stakeholders (including existing members of that institution, MPs from the relevant state for state-level appointments, area experts and activists), the IIC should draw up a shortlist of at least two — and no more than five — names to fill up the posts.
  • From this shortlist, the final selection should be made by the Lok Sabha’s IIC for central institutions, and the relevant vidhan sabha’s IIC for state institutions.
  • The appointments should be for a fixed term.
  •  Removal from office should require at least four votes in the Rajya Sabha IIC, after a specially-instituted independent inquiry finds a breach of a statutorily specified offence.
  • All institutional decisions should be made by a governing committee rather than the chief officer acting on her own.
  • A robust guarantee of non-interference by the executive should be anxiously policed by the courts.

Way Forward

  • The Bill should require fourth branch institutions to regularly publish reports about their functioning.
  • Based on these public reports, the Lok Sabha or vidhan sabha IIC, as the case may be, should question their senior staff in annual, televised, hearings.
  • Yes, we must “Save the Constitution”. But a slogan is not enough.
  • The current Opposition should put its money where its mouth is, and make a manifesto commitment to enact the Independent Institutions Bill.

[op-ed snap] Jobs, labour market politics to dominate electoral discourse in 2019 Polls

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:Various reports and survey on employment data

Mains level: Contradictions regarding employment data and why it should be an electoral issue.


NEWS

CONTEXT

A charter by major trade unions reflects discontent on issues of jobs, minimum wage. The promises of the past years have created a situation where labour market issues such as disparities in income and the controversial jobs crisis will figure hugely in the forthcoming elections.

Controversies regarding job market

  • The controversies surrounding the jobs crisis largely arise out of two facts
    • The administrative failure of the central government to design credible periodic labour force surveys in place of the then-existent quinquennial National Sample Survey data, whose most recent database pertains to 2011-12, as soon as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) assumed power
    • Delaying the release of the results of the periodic labour force survey.

 

Data And facts as reported by various reports

  • The leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report on jobs surely does not show the government in glory as unemployment, especially unemployment of youth, has arguably peaked and reports of “cleaning” of the jobs data as was done with the gross domestic product (GDP) data have considerably weakened the historically credible statistical architecture in India.
  • Various data sources such as the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), MUDRA scheme on the one hand and private data sources like the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy database and the recently released CII report on jobs in the MSME sector have provided an often conflicting picture on jobs created during NDA rule.

Growth and jobs conundrum

  • The arguments that growth cannot be unaccompanied by jobs or that if the job crisis were so acute there should have been major social unrest sound weak for two reasons.
  • Jobless growth is not new in India (since the 1980s it has figured in the debate) and growth numbers itself are surrounded by doubts because of revisions.
  • The government has effectively snuffed out official data on strikes and lockouts and hence no macro profile of labour unrest could be understood.

Unrest in labour market

  • The major central trade unions have come up with a 43-point charter that reflects discontent on issues such as unemployment and minimum wage.
  • The CII’s claim of jobs creation is hollow on two grounds, viz. they base the job growth in a small segment of the economy, i.e. MSMEs, and extrapolate the numbers to cover the entire workforce of around 450-500 million workers (including a huge agricultural sector) and make extrapolations of growth of employment of 13-15 millions jobs per annum during the last four years.
  • Aanecdotal and research evidence on the adverse effects of demonetization and GST seem to challenge the findings of the CII survey—the Tamil Nadu government has admitted in June 2018 that close to 50,000 MSME firms shut shop in 2017-18.

Influencing Elecotral politics

  • In an economy where labour supply is more than demand, people cannot remain unemployed.
  • Election outcomes are difficult to gauge but the narrative based on primordial identities such as caste and religion is most likely to be moderated by economic controversy, perhaps for the first time in the electoral history of India.

Honey as a biomarker for pollution

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biomarkers

Mains level: Utility of biomarkers in pollution assessment


News

  • Honey from urban areas can be used as biomarker to identify polluted localities, according to a study conducted by Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical research (PCIGR).

What is a Biomarker?

  • A Biomarker is defined as a change in biological response, ranging from molecular through cellular and physiological responses to behavioral changes, which can be related to exposure to or toxic effects of environmental chemicals.

Honey as bio-marker

  • The honey samples, analysed for the study, were collected from six geographical areas within Vancouver, including urban, industrial, residential and agricultural.
  • From these samples, the scientists tested for three major elements — Lead, Zinc, Copper.
  • The results showed that areas with heavy vehicle movement and industrial activity had increased concentration of lead in honey.
  • On the other hand, samples from agricultural land indicated high levels of manganese, which researchers suspect could be because of pesticide use.
  • Since the honey bee collects nectar from within a range of three to four kilometers, it is easy to point the source for its contamination.

Other biomarkers

  • Similarly, another study of the aquatic plant called water hyacinth, or Eichhornia crassipes, found that these can be used as biomarkers.
  • This plant is commonly found in tropical countries and is known for its ability to absorb nutrients and other elements from water.
  • The stems and leaves, have been successfully used as indicators of heavy metal pollution in tropical countries.
  • The uptake of heavy metals in this plant is stronger in the roots than in the floating shoots, states the study.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India’s solar capacity addition has slowed down

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Renewable energy policies in India and issues related to them


News

  • A new report by global analytics firm CRISL, says that India could fall short by about 40 per cent from its stated goal.

India’s lag

  • India, which crossed 25 GW of installed capacity at the end of December 2018, may only be able to add another 44 to 46 GW in the next five years.
  • India may not be able to meet its 2022 commitments of installing 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power.

Why?

  • One of the reasons is an anti-dumping measure imposed in July 2018 called the safeguard tax on imported solar cells, which are widely used in India.
  • This tax was 25 per cent for the first year, 20 per cent for the next six months and 15 per cent for the following six months.
  • This was done as a safeguard measure for the domestic solar module industry, which is unable to sell panels due lower priced imports from China and Malaysia.
  • Coupled with this there was lack of clarity on GST for the solar sector for over a year.

Declining Tariffs

  • The impact of the duty increased the cost of installation by 10-15 per cent, even though module prices fell from $0.30 per watt-peak in March 2018 to $0.24 per watt-peak in December 2018.
  • In 2017 the lowest bid tariff was Rs 2.44 per unit, which could not be reached in 2018.
  • All this meant that capacity addition in 2018 was much below the achievements of 2017. In 2017-18, 9,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity was added, which slowed down to less than 7,000 MW in 2018-2019.
  • The report says that installation rate will climb up in the coming years as the safeguard duties are brought down incrementally.
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

[pib] Registration of political parties under Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rules for registering a Political Party

Mains level: General Elections


News

Registering a Political Party

  • Registration of Political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • A party seeking registration under the said Section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation.
  • This is done as per guidelines prescribed by the Election Commission of India in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the RP People Act, 1951.
  • The applicant association is inter-alia asked to publish proposed name of the party in two national daily news papers and two local daily newspapers, on two days in same news papers.

Important for Prelims

Eligibility of National Political Party

However, to be eligible for a ‘National Political Party of India,’ the Election Commission has set the following criteria −

  • It secures at least six percent of the valid votes polled in any four or more states, at a general election to the House of the People or, to the State Legislative Assembly; and
  • In addition, it wins at least four seats in the House of the People from any State or States. OR
  • It wins at least two percent seats in the House of the People (i.e., 11 seats in the existing House having 543 members), and these members are elected from at least three different States.

Eligibility of State Political Party

To be eligible for a ‘State Political Party,’ the Election Commission has set the following criteria −

  • It secures at least six percent of the valid votes polled in the State at a general election, either to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned; and
  • In addition, it wins at least two seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned. OR
  • It wins at least three percent (3%) of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State, or at least three seats in the Assembly, whichever is more.

For more readings, navigate to:

Procedure of registration of political parties with Election Commission

Electoral Reforms In India

West Nile Virus

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WNV & associated facts

Mains level: Preventing WNV spread in India


News

  • Centre has sent a special medical team to Malappuram district of Kerala from where a confirmed case of West Nile Virus (WNV) fever, a mosquito-borne disease was reported.

West Nile Virus

  • As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the West Nile Virus (WNV) is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the family Flaviviridae.
  • Birds are the natural hosts of this virus.
  • But it spreads to human by Culex mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
  • Once a person gets infected, the virus multiplies thereby causing illness.

Symptoms

  • Infection usually presents as a mild, non-fatal dengue like illness in humans.
  • The symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nausea, vomiting, occasionally with skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
  • A blood test report can only confirm if a person has been infected with it or not.
  • A very small proportion of infection transmission occurred through organ transplant, blood transfusions and breast milk.
  • Fortunately, there has been no human-to-human transmission of WNV through casual contact so far.

Treatment

  • There is no definite treatment of the disease.
  • Prevention by the disease can be done by preventing mosquito bite, using repellents and wearing full sleeves.
  • It is diagnosed with the blood igm levels and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
  • There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for the virus but medical practitioners advice that it is important to recognize the disease and manage the symptoms.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about FSDC

Mains level: Mandate of the FSDC


News

  • The Sub-Committee of the FSDC has discussed ways to address challenges pertaining to the quality of credit ratings in the wake of the IL&FS defaults crisis.

Against faulty Credit Rating

  • Credit rating firms, currently regulated by the SEBI had come under sharp criticism from the RBI recently for failing to identify financial troubles in various companies, especially in the case of IL&FS, which commanded AAA rating just before it started defaulting.
  • RBI officials had expressed concerns over the inability of rating agencies’ to assess credit risk and take timely rating actions.

About  FSDC

  1. FSDC is an apex-level body constituted by the Government of India to create a super regulatory body as mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee in 2008.
  2. Finally in 2010, the then Finance Minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee, decided to set up such an autonomous body dealing with macro prudential and financial regularities in the entire financial sector of India.
  3. An apex-level FSDC is not a statutory body. No funds are separately allocated to the council for undertaking its activities.

Composition

  1. Chairperson: The Union Finance Minister of India
  2. Members:
  • Governor Reserve Bank of India (RBl),
  • Finance Secretary and/ or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA),
  • Secretary, Department of Financial Services (DFS),
  • Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs,
  • Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance.
  1. Other members include chairman of SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA and IBBI

Responsibilities

  • Financial Stability
  • Financial Sector Development
  • Inter-Regulatory Coordination
  • Financial Literacy
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates
  • Coordinating India’s international interface with financial sector bodies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Financial Stability Board (FSB) and any such body as may be decided by the Finance Minister from time to time.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges