[op-ed snap] Slow on sanitation

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Constitutional r provisions to end manual scavenging and their lax implementation leading to loss of lives.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The tragic death of six people who entered a septic tank in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur town is a grim reminder that sanitation remains a low-priority area despite the high political profile of Swachh Bharat.

Why these events are recurring?

  • Public understanding of the science of managing septic tanks continues to be poor.
  • the availability of cheap labour to clean these structures has slowed efforts to develop technologies that can safely remove and transport the waste.
  • Sanitation thus remains a challenge in thousands of unsewered towns.

Particulars about this incident

  • What sets the incident apart from the several instances of people dying of asphyxiation in the tanks is that some of the victims were the owners of the property and not workers.
  • Although workers were not affected in this case, it confirms Tamil Nadu’s abysmal overall record at raising sanitation standards.

Data regarding casualties due to unsafe sanitation practices

  • Since 1993, when the first law was passed against manual cleaning, there were at least 144 worker deaths in Tamil Nadu as of November 2018, according to official data reported to the Centre for grant of compensation.
  • Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab also fared badly with a cumulative toll of 146 lives lost during that period.
  • But this is obviously a gross underestimate, since the Safai Karmachari Andolan, which has litigated in the Supreme Court seeking to aggressively prosecute offenders, contends that septic tank cleaning claimed nearly 1,500 lives between 2014 and 2016.
  • More reports of deaths continue to come in.

Provision to prohibit manual scavenging

  • Every death of a manual worker represents a crime, since the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 makes the use of such labour to clean septic tanks an offence punishable with imprisonment of two years or with a fine of ₹2 lakh or both even in the first instance.

State government’s failure to act responsibly

  • State governments are reluctant to prosecute offenders,
  • They are also slow to adopt newer technologies such as Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTP), which can be combined with omniprocessors for safe treatment of waste.

Use of Technology to address concerns

  • For the task of cleaning the tanks, indigenous innovation in robotics looks promising.
  • A prototype is planned to be tested by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and such devices can potentially transform sanitation in India and other developing countries.
  • But the pace of adoption will depend on the priority that governments accord to the long-neglected problem.
  • Last year, Tamil Nadu, and some other States, notably Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, announced plans to scale up FSTP infrastructure.
  • This is a task that deserves the highest importance, and needs to be completed on deadline.

Conclusion

  • What happened in Sriperumbudur highlights the heavy price that communities pay for the lack of scientific sanitation.
  • If governments remain apathetic, citizens would expect the courts to step in to uphold the law against manual scavenging and make individual departments accountable.
  • The science on sanitation has advanced, and policy must urgently catch up.
Swachh Bharat Mission

[op-ed snap] A blow against Article 370

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 370

Mains level: Issues related to special status given to J&K under the Constitution and 2019 order diluting special status of state.


NEWS

CONTEXT

On March 1, 2019, the 77th and 103rd constitutional amendments were extended to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) by a presidential order, with the concurrence of the J&K Governor.These relate to reservations in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State services and special provisions for the advancement of economically weaker sections, respectively.

Background of 370

  • The constitutional relationship between J&K and the Indian Union has been the subject of numerous discussions in recent times.
  • This has rekindled the long-standing debate on the continued relevance of Article 370.

1.What is article 370?

  • As in Article 370, the provisions of the Indian Constitution do not automatically apply to J&K.
  • To extend constitutional provisions and amendments to the State, a presidential order to that effect has to be passed.
  • This order requires the concurrence of the State government, where the subject matter does not relate to the subjects specified in the Instrument of Accession (defence, external affairs, and communications).
  • For other cases, only consultation is required.

2.Erosion of Article 370

  • Accordingly, a 1954 presidential order extended various provisions of the Indian Constitution to J&K.
  • This order was made with the concurrence of the State government and also ratified by the State Constituent Assembly.
  • After the J&K Constitution came into effect in 1957, the State Constituent Assembly was dissolved.
  • Since then, more than 40 such orders have been made, through which most constitutional provisions have been extended to the State.
  • The sheer number of such orders, as well as the circumstances under which they were made, have considerably eroded J&K’s special status under Article 370.

History of diluton of 370

  • From the 1950s there has been a gradual dilution of the procedural norms followed by these presidential orders.

1.1954 Order

  • In passing the 1954 order, procedural propriety was followed in the fullest possible sense as the requisite concurrence was obtained not only from an elected State government but also the State Constituent Assembly.
  • The presidential orders made after the dissolution of the State Constituent Assembly — except a 1986 order extending Article 249, and the present 2019 order — can be seen as the first level of dilution.
  • This is so because for all these orders, while the concurrence of an elected State government was obtained, the State Constituent Assembly did not exist and, therefore, could not give its ratification.
  • Although the Supreme Court upheld this practice in the Sampat Prakash case (1968), it has been criticised as being beyond the scope of Article 370.

2.1986 Order

  • The 1986 order represents a second level of dilution.
  • This is because it was made when J&K was under Governor’s rule as per Section 92 of the J&K Constitution.
  • In the absence of an elected council of ministers, the Governor could not have validly given the requisite concurrence to the presidential order.
  • Even if the Governor acting without a popularly elected government can be considered as a “state government” for the purposes of concurrence, the Governor must at least have had some nexus with the State and some independence from the Centre.
  • However, this is not the case in practice, since the Governor is not only an unelected nominee of the Central Government but also holds office during the latter’s pleasure.

3.2019 Order

  • the third level of dilution brought about by the 2019 order is almost the final blow.
  • In December 2018, the President assumed all the functions of the State government and the Governor through a proclamation under Article 356.
  • In an order passed on the same day, the President directed that all powers assumed by him would be exercisable by the Governor as well, “subject to the superintendence, direction, and control of the President”.

Problems with 2019 order

  • During Governor’s rule, as was the case in 1986, the Governor is at least on paper expected to act independently.
  • However, in the present case involving President’s rule, the Governor is reduced to a mere delegate of the Centre and is expected to act as per the aid and advice of the Central Government.
  • A presidential order made through obtaining such a Governor’s concurrence is tantamount to the Centre talking into a mirror and makes a mockery of Article 370.

A.Federalism is being compromised

  • The manner in which the 2019 order was made also goes against the spirit of federalism, which is a salient constitutional principle.
  • President’s rule is an exception to the general constitutional scheme that envisages representative government at the State level to accommodate regional aspirations.
  • Extending constitutional provisions to the State during this exceptional state of affairs is suspicious.
  • In the absence of popular will backing it, the 2019 order clearly falls foul of the principles of constitutional and political morality.

Conclusion

Commenting on the 1986 order, the Sarkaria Commission had observed that “every action which is legally permissible may not be necessarily prudent or proper from the political stand-point”. Not only is the recent presidential order against federalism generally and the spirit of Article 370 in particular but it also violates the letter of the Constitution.

 

J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] A cop out

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Police Acts

Mains level: The article deals with the important issues related to the  reforms in Indian Police Reforms


News

CONTEXT

It is indeed a tragedy that while the country is forging ahead in different spheres to build a new India, its policing remains mired in a colonial structure. The Acts passed by the states are crude attempts to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions.

Disappointment with police reforms

  • There have been no reformative changes in the police with a view to transforming it into an instrument of service to the people.

1.Supreme Court’s Judgement on police reforms

  • The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in 2006, clearly said that “the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law”.
  • The supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures.
  • The Court issued a slew of directions with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, giving it a measure of autonomy in personnel matters and making it more accountable.
  • It is a great pity that even after 12 years, there has been only partial and, in some states, farcical compliance of the directions.

2. Who is responsible for delays?

A.Centre’s Response

  • The states are primarily to blame.
  • the Centre cannot escape responsibility for its indifference and inaction in the matter.
  • The Police Act Drafting Committee headed by Soli Sorabjee had prepared a Model Police Act in 2006.
  • The expectation was that the Centre would pass an Act on similar lines for Delhi and the Union Territories and that the same model would be adopted at least in those states where the same party held office.
  • Besides, Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states “and to any other by which it is adopted through a resolution passed in that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that State”.
  • Till this day, the Government of India has not taken any definitive action on Sorabjee’s Model Police Act.

B.State’s Response

  • In the absence of any initiative by the Centre, the states, 17 of them so far, have gone amok with their separate police Acts
  • It is ironical that while the British India had one police Act for the entire country, we are confronted with a situation where every state has a different Act with sharp differences in essential features.

Responses on delaying of reforms

  • Justice K T Thomas, who was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to monitor the implementation of its directions, expressed his “dismay over the total indifference (of the states) to the issue of reforms in the functioning of police”.
  • Justice J S Verma, who submitted a comprehensive report on amendments to criminal law in 2012, urged the “states to comply with all six Supreme Court’s directives in order to tackle systemic problems in policing”.

Conclusion

  • The prime minister, while addressing the police chiefs of the country in Guwahati in 2014, raised hopes when he talked of building a SMART police — a police, which would be sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive and techno-savvy.
  • There has hardly been any follow up action and only some cosmetic steps were taken to augment the manpower and infrastructure of the forces.
  • It is indeed a tragedy that while the country is forging ahead in different spheres to build a new India, its policing remains mired in a colonial structure.
  • The Acts passed by the states are crude attempts to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions.
  • The Supreme Court has also, for inexplicable reasons, not cracked the whip so far.

 

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: IR| Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CBC reports, BEPS

Mains level: India-US trade relations


News

Context

  • India and the U.S. signed an inter-government agreement for the automatic exchange of country-by-country (CbC) reports.
  • This will reduce the compliance burden for Indian subsidiary companies of U.S. parent companies.
  • This is a key step in making India compliant with the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, of which it is an active participant.

What is BEPS?

  • Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) is a tax avoidance strategy used by multinational companies by exploiting gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.
  • In order to combat this, many countries entered into agreements to share tax information with each other to enhance transparency and make such profit shifting that much harder.
  • Here, profits are shifted from jurisdictions that have high taxes (such as the United States and many Western European countries) to jurisdictions that have low (or no) taxes (so-called tax havens).
  • The BEPS Action Plan adopted by the OECD and G20 countries in 2013 recognised that the way forward to mitigate risk from base erosion and profit shifting was to enhance transparency.

CBC Reports

  • Against this background, a template was released in 2014, which outlined how MNEs could report the required information for each tax jurisdiction in which they do business. These are called the country-by-country reports.
  • MNEs are also required to identify each entity within the group doing business in a particular tax jurisdiction, and to provide information about the business activities each entity conducts.
  • This information is to be made available to the tax authorities in all jurisdictions in which the MNE operates.
  • This was seen as placing a huge compliance burden on the subsidiary companies of these MNEs.

Assist this newscard with:

India, US to sign pact for exchange of country-by-country reports

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Regulatory Sandbox for Fintech firms

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Regulatory Sandbox

Mains level: Challenges to India as a growing fintech market


News

  • The RBI is set to issue guidelines for a ‘regulatory sandbox’ for financial technology (fintech) firms within two months.

What is Regulatory Sandbox?

  • A sandbox approach provides a secure environment for fintech firms to experiment with products under supervision of a regulator.
  • The concept of a regulatory sandbox or innovation hub for fintech firms was mooted by a committee headed by then RBI executive director Sudarshan Sen.
  • The panel, which submitted its report in November 2017, had called for a regulatory sandbox to help firms experiment with fintech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.
  • If the product appears to have the potential to be successful, it might be authorised and brought to the broader market more quickly.
  • The sandbox will enable fintech companies to conduct live or virtual testing of their new products and services.

Why such move?

  • Fintech or financial technology companies use technology to provide financial services such as payments, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, among others.
  • According to NITI Aayog, India is one of the fastest growing fintech markets globally, and industry research has projected that $1 trillion, or 60% of retail and SME credit, will be digitally disbursed by 2029.
  • The Indian fintech ecosystem is the third largest in the world, attracting nearly $6 billion in investments since 2014, the think tank said.
  • A global survey ranked India, with 1,218 fintech firms, second in terms of fintech adoption, with an adoption rate of 52 per cent.

Issue of Data Privacy

  • The risks for fintech products may arise from cross-border legal and regulatory issues where confidentiality and customer protection are major areas that needed to be addressed.
  • The proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, had categorised all financial data as “sensitive personal data”, which is not the case for many European countries.
RBI Notifications

Global Multidimensional Poverty Report 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Poverty & development issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global MPI report 2108

Mains level: India’s efforts in reducing poverty and their outcomes


News

  • The Global MPI 2018 Report was recently published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.

What is global MPI?

  • The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries.
  • It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards.
  • The global MPI was developed by OPHI with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for inclusion in UNDP’s flagship Human Development Report in 2010. It has been published in the HDR ever since.

Global MPI 2018 Report

  • The report measures MPI, or multidimensional poverty index, which it says can be broken down to show “who is poor” and “how they are poor”.
  • This factor in two measures, poverty rate as a percentage of the population, and intensity as the average share of deprivations that poor people experience.
  • The product of these two is MPI. If someone is deprived in a third or more of 10 weighted indicators, the global index identifies them as “MPI poor”.

India’s progress

  • India has reduced its poverty rate drastically from 55% to 28% in 10 years, with 271 million people moving out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16.
  • The report, covering 105 countries, dedicates a chapter to India because of this remarkable progress.
  • However, India still had 364 million poor in 2015-16, the largest for any country, although it is down from 635 million in 2005-06.
  • Of the 364 million people who were MPI poor in 2015-16, 156 million (34.6%) were children.
  • In India, poverty reduction among children, the poorest states, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims was fastest, the report says.

Statewise Report

  • Bihar was the poorest state in 2015-16, with more than half its population in poverty.
  • The four poorest states —Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh — were still home to 196 million MPI poor people, which was over half of all the MPI poor people in India.
  • Jharkhand had the greatest improvement, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland.
  • At the other end, Kerala, one of the least poor regions in 2006, reduced its MPI by around 92%.

Global Highlights

  • 3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty.
  • 83% of all multidimensionally poor people in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Two-thirds of all MPI poor people live in middle-income countries.
  • Half of the multidimensionally poor are children aged 0-17.
  • 85% of MPI poor people live in rural areas.
  • 46% of those who are multidimensionally poor live in severe poverty.
  • In 2015/16, more than 364 million people are still MPI poor in India.
  • In India, 271 million people moved out of poverty in ten years.
Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Mission Shakti (Anti-Satellite Missile Test)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti 


News

  • In an incremental advance, India has successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti.
  • India becomes the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
  • So far, only the United States, Russia and China have this prowess.

Mission Shakti

  • While Mission Shakti may have targeted an object in outer space, India has long developed the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
  • In 2011, a modified Prithvi missile mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range.
  • The DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
  • The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

What are low earth orbit satellites?

  • The Indian satellite that was shot down was a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
  • These are satellites roughly at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres from the earth and that’s the region where the majority of satellites are concentrated.

ASAT through history

  • ASAT is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground.
  • ASAT weapon systems have a long history and were a product of the Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • They came back into popular currency after China conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Jan 2007.
  • The target was a Chinese weather satellite — the FY-1C – that sailed at an altitude of 865 km. (537 mi).
  • A year later, the US launched ‘Operation Burnt Frost,’ the code name to intercept and destroy a non-functioning satellite named USA-193.

Why target satellites?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructure of any country these days. A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based.
  • These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, and military applications etc.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless.
  • It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Problem of space debris

  • Anything launched into the space remains in space, almost forever, unless it is specifically brought down or slowly disintegrates over decades or centuries.
  • Satellites that are past their life and are no longer required also remain in space, orbiting aimlessly in some orbit.
  • According to the NASA, there were 19,137 man-made objects in space that were large enough to be tracked.
  • These included active and inactive satellites, rockets and their parts, and other small fragments.
  • A satellite that is destroyed by a missile disintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris.
  • The threat from the space debris is that it could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India reassures global community after ASAT tests

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India’s stance for peaceful use of space applications 


News

  • India assured the world that it did not violate any international treaty or understanding with the anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile testing.

A message to the world

  • While the government has conceded that India has long had ASAT capabilities, this is the country’s first demonstration to the world.
  • It has shown that it is capable of bringing down a satellite, and disrupting communication.
  • Because the test was carried out on a satellite placed in the low-earth orbit, one might question whether India can hit any satellite.
  • Targeting satellites in the higher orbits, however, is only a matter of scale of powering the rockets enough to go deeper in the space.

Defying the taboo

  • Destroying space infrastructure like satellites is also taboo in the international community just like the use of a nuclear weapon.
  • Almost every country agrees that space must not be used for wars and has spoken against weaponisation of space.
  • There are international treaties governing the use of space that mandate that outer space and celestial bodies like the Moon, must only be exploited for peaceful purposes.

Outer Space Treaty of 1967

  • The Outer Space Treaty, to which India is a signatory, prohibits countries from placing into orbit around the Earth “any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction”.
  • Among its principles, it bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.
  • The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all state parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes, says the treaty.

Indian stance

  • There are at least four more multilateral treaties that deal with specific concepts agreed to in the Outer Space Treaty. None of these, however, prohibits the kind of test that India carried.
  • India believes in peaceful use of the common outer space that belongs to humanity.
  • India is not in violation of any international law or treaty to which it is a party or any national obligation.
  • The MEA said the A-SAT test was not directed against any country and that India plans to play a role in future in drafting global laws on prevention of arms race in outer space.
  • As is mandatory for any missile test, India did issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to airline authorities across the world informing them about an impending missile test.
  • MEA reiterated India’s support of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament “where it has been on the agenda since 1982.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries