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[op-ed snap] Highway hurdle: the Chennai-Salem corridor

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharatmala

Mains level : Projects are hurriedly being implemented without much concern for environment.


CONTEXT

The Madras High Court verdict quashing land acquisition proceedings for the proposed Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway is an indictment of the arbitrary decision-making process behind the project.

Impact of Court’s Verdict

  • The court has referred to how “peaceful protests were stifled, unwritten gag orders were promulgated, [and] police force was used to handle the peaceful protesters who were making a request to spare them and their lands”.
  • It was only after the court intervened that “these high-handed actions subsided”.
  • It invalidated the notification for intent to acquire land for the project on the ground that the National Highways Authority of India cannot acquire land without complying with the requirement of preparing an environment impact assessment report
  • Need For Environment Impact Assessment and clearance – The decision is important for affirming the principle that environmental clearance ought to be obtained before any project is allowed to advance to a stage where measures become irreversible.
  • It underscores that sufficient data on the possible harm to the environment is needed before resources are committed to a project.
  • In this case, not only would land titles be transferred to the state; heavy compensation amounts would also have been paid by the time the environmental impact is known.

Haste in implementing infra projects

  • The project was pushed by the Centre and the State even though it was set to pass through wetlands, fertile farmlands, reserve forests and waterbodies.
  • Farmers who stood to lose their land and environmentalists had questioned the claim that by reducing the transit time, there would be saving of fuel, thereby cutting the carbon footprint.
  • What has been exposed in the verdict is that the eight-lane corridor was never really cleared as a project under the Centre’s Bharatmala Pariyojana.
  • No deliberation on the project – It did not figure in the list of road projects approved under Bharatmala-I. The NHAI did not explain in its counter-affidavit how the Chennai-Madurai highway, an approved project, was dropped and the Chennai-Salem project included in its place.
  • The court examined the record and found that there was nothing to show that it was approved by either the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs or the Public-Private Partnership Appraisal Committee; the Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai corridor had much higher vehicular traffic to justify its inclusion in Bharatmala.
  • The court’s conclusion that labelling its replacement by the Salem project as a ‘policy decision’ was not a sufficient explanation is unexceptionable.

Conclusion

Having failed to convince the court that the procedures it followed were above board, the least that the Centre can now do is to make a comprehensive study of its impact on the environment and on farming and rural livelihoods before moving ahead.

 

 

 

Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[op-ed snap] Necessary steps to ending poverty

Mains : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Universal Basic services will lead to overty elimination.


CONTEXT

It is by now close to 50 years since Indira Gandhi brought the idea of eradicating poverty into the electoral arena in India. ‘Garibi Hatao’ had been her slogan.

Income Generation And Poverty Elimination

  • The role that income generation actually played in lowering poverty in India may be gauged from the facts that economic growth had surged in the 1980s, and the late 1960s was when agricultural production quickened as the Green Revolution progressed.

Why poverty still exist?

  • So, if there had been a focus on poverty even 50 years ago, why have we not seen it end?
  • This is because the approach of public policy to the problem has been to initiate schemes which could serve as no more than a palliative, as suggested by the very term ‘poverty alleviation’ commonly used in the discourse of this time.
  • These schemes failed to go to the root of poverty, which is capability deprivation that leaves an individual unable to earn sufficient income through work or entrepreneurship.
  • Income poverty is a manifestation of the deprivation, and focussing exclusively on the income shortfall can address only the symptom.

Efficacy of income support programme

  • An income-support scheme for any one section of the population is grossly inequitable.
  • We can think of agricultural labourers and urban pavement dwellers as equally deserving of support as poor farmers.
  • While it is the case that at present agricultural subsidies go to farmers alone, these are intended as production subsidies and so channelled due to the criticality of food production to all.

Welfare Programme More Efficient

  • On the other hand, a welfare programme cannot, ethically speaking, exclude those equally placed.
  • The BJP’s hurried introduction of its scheme also came with an overshooting of the fiscal deficit target, suggesting that it involves borrowing to consume, a fiscally imprudent practice.
  • The PM-Kisan has, however, been dwarfed by the promise of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) of the Congress, which envisages an annual transfer 12 times greater to the poorest 20% households.
  • While this scheme is not discriminatory, it is severely challenged by the issue of beneficiary identification in real time.
  • Poverty is capability deprivation.
  • Health, education and physical infrastructure are central to the capabilities of individuals, and the extent of their presence in a society determine whether the poor will remain so or exit poverty permanently.

What is needed?

1.Universal Basic Scheme

  • In light of a pitch that has been made for the implementation in India of a publicly-funded universal basic income (UBI) scheme, we can say that from the perspective of eliminating poverty, universal basic services (UBS) from public sources are needed, though not necessarily financed through the budget.
  • The original case for a UBI came from European economists.
  • Europe is perhaps saturated with publicly provided UBS.
  • Also the state in some of its countries is immensely wealthy.
  • So if a part of the public revenues is paid out as basic income, the project of providing public services there will not be affected.
  • This is not the case in India, where the task of creating the wherewithal for providing public services has not even been seriously initiated.

2.Focus on Human Development

  • There is indirect evidence that the provision of health, education and public services matters more for poverty than the Central government’s poverty alleviation schemes in place for almost half a century.
  • A discernible pattern is that the southern and western regions of India have lower poverty than the northern, central and eastern ones.
  • This, very likely, is related to higher human development attainment in the former. This indicator is based on the health and education status of a population apart from per capita income, bringing us back to the relevance of income generation to poverty.

Way Forward

  • There is a crucial role for services, of both producer and consumer variety, in eliminating the capability deprivation that is poverty.
  • As these services cannot always be purchased in the market, income support alone cannot be sufficient to eliminate poverty.
  • It is in recognition of the role of services in enabling people to lead a productive and dignified life that the idea of multi-dimensionality has taken hold in the thinking on poverty globally.
  • At a minimum these services would involve the supply of water, sanitation and housing apart from health and education.
  • It has been estimated that if the absence of such services is accounted for, poverty in India would be found to be far higher than recorded at present.
  • The budgetary implication of the scale at which public services would have to be provided if we are to eliminate multi-dimensional poverty may now be imagined.
  • This allows us to appraise the challenge of ending effective poverty and to assess the potential of the income-support schemes proposed by the main political parties. There are no short cuts to ending poverty, but ending it soon is not insurmountable either.
Direct Benefits Transfers

[op-ed snap] Secrets and agents

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Julian assange's arrest weakens freedom of expression.


CONTEXT

The arrest of Julian Assange, the head of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has renewed a global debate on balancing freedom of expression (or the right to information) with considerations towards the national security of a country.

Background

  • After nearly seven years of eluding authorities in the U.S. and the U.K., facing charges related to theft of classified information from government computers, he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11 following Ecuador President Lenín Moreno’s withdrawal of his country’s grant of asylum to Mr. Assange, for “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols”.
  • Ecuador had earlier limited Mr. Assange’s Internet access.
  • As he sits in jail for up to a year on bail-jumping charges from 2012 in a now-closed case relating to sexual assault allegations by a complainant from Sweden, he will find out whether he will ultimately face the prospect of extradition to the U.S.
  • Conspiracy charges, rather than those under the Espionage Act, are what he will likely face, given concerns in the U.K. that he should not be extradited to any country where the death penalty is applicable in his case.

Concerns

  • Assange as Journalist – At the heart of the drama is the question whether Mr. Assange is a “journalist” in the traditional sense of the word and whether, following that line of reasoning, freedom of expression is endangered or constrained by the action taken in this case.
  • Wikileaks link to Trump’s win – There is some irony in this debate given that the voices of liberal America are clamouring the loudest for his interrogation for the alleged crime of conspiracy, not so much in the case of the U.S. diplomatic cables or the dissemination of related top-secret U.S. government information — but owing to WikiLeaks being linked to rogue actors in Russia who allegedly purloined Democratic Party documents and handed them over to Mr. Assange for use on his website, thereby tipping the scales in Donald Trump’s favour in the 2016 election.
  • Wikileaks as mainstream Media Organisation – Nevertheless, can WikiLeaks be considered a mainstream media organisation? Perhaps not.

Conclusion

  • However, the arrest highlights troubling facts, including that the indictment against Mr. Assange, revealed only this month, appears to be flimsy, for it relates to a conversation he is alleged to have had nine years ago with Ms. Manning on a computer break-in attempt that ultimately failed.
  • At a time when strongmen-led governments and resurgent nationalism are at the forefront of domestic politics in many countries, the arrest of a prominent anti-secrecy advocate is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers everywhere.
  • That could ultimately weaken democracy itself.

 

RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Explained: When J&K had its own PM and Sadr-e-Riyasat

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

News

  • Recent statements some politicians have brought the spotlight on two erstwhile positions in Jammu and Kashmir — J&K Prime Minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat (President of the state).

J&K Prime Minister

  • J&K had its own Prime Minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat until 1965, when the J&K Constitution was amended (Sixth Constitution of J&K Amendment Act, 1965) by the then Congress government.
  • It replaced the two positions with Chief Minister and Governor respectively.
  • The first PM of J&K, appointed by Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, was Sir Albion Banerjee (1927-29).

GoT in J&K

  • The state had nine more PMs before Independence. The first after Independence was Mehr Chand Mahajan (October 1947-March 1948).
  • He was replaced with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who until then had been Head of the Administration.
  • The next two J&K Prime Ministers were Khwaja Shamsuddin (1963-64) and Congress leader Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq (until March 30, 1965).
  • It was during Sadiq’s tenure that the Centre replaced the two posts. In fact, Sadiq became the first Chief Minister of J&K, serving until December 1971.

Sadr-e-Riyasat

  • The J&K Constitution was adopted on November 17, 1956 but came into effect only on January 26, 1957.
  • On June 10, 1952, the “Basic Principles Committee” appointed by the J&K Constituent Assembly recommended that “the institution of hereditary rulership shall be terminated” and “the office of the head of the State shall be elective”.
  • The Constituent Assembly resolved that the head of state, named Sadr-e-Riyasat, would be elected by the Legislative Assembly for a term of five years and recognised by the President of India.
  • The Centre did not agree initially because it “impinged upon the provisions of Article 370” where the Maharaja, acting on the advice of the council of ministers, was recognised as the head of state.
  • After negotiations, the matter was resolved on July 24, 1952, when New Delhi agreed to allow J&K to recognise an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat instead of an appointed Governor.
  • Only a permanent resident of J&K could become Sadr-e-Riyasat. Once elected by the Legislative Assembly, the Sadr-e-Riyasat had to be recognised and then appointed by the President of India.

The amendment

  • The Sixth Amendment to the J&K Constitution, carried out in 1965, made a fundamental change to its basic structure.
  • Under Section 147, an amendment is to be assented by the Sadr-e-Riyasat after a Bill is passed by a two-thirds majority of the House, while Section 147 itself cannot be amended by the state legislature, and neither can an amendment that changes the provisions of Constitution of India as applicable in relation to J&K.
  • Sadr-e-Riyasat, however, was replaced with Governor across the J&K Constitution, except in Section 147 which could not be amended.
  • This has led to the existence of two kinds of heads of state in the Constitution — Sadr-e-Riyasat as well as Governor.
  • In 1975, a Presidential Order issued under Article 370 barred the J&K Legislature from making any change to the J&K Constitution regarding appointment and powers of the Governor.
J&K – The issues around the state

What drives tiger dispersal

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Man-animal conflict and its resolution


News

  • The terrain affects tiger dispersal differently in the Western Ghats and central India, two strongholds of wild tiger populations in the country, finds a new study.

Gene flow of big cats

  • A team of researchers studied this across 30,000 sq km in the Western Ghats in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • They collected tiger faeces in forests including Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, and used forensic samples to obtain genetic data of 115 individual tigers.
  • Comparing the data with the team’s earlier study in central revealed an interesting pattern — the relationship between terrain and gene flow is “inverted” in both regions.
  • While gene flow correlated with rough terrain in central India, it was linked with smooth forest terrain containing minimal human disturbance in the Ghats.

Why do tigers traverse?

  • Tigers in India traverse long distances to find mates and new territories.
  • But the movement depends on roughness of the terrain and human disturbance in the area.
  • The central Indian landscape is highly fragmented with high densities of people, while the Western Ghats has lesser human disturbance and is home to the world’s largest contiguous tiger population.
  • A study has revealed that roughness of terrain and human footprint drove tiger gene flow in central India: tigers moved across ridges and rough topography to avoid the presence of people.
Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

India to launch coffee consumption drive

Mains Paper 3 : Food Processing & Related Industries In India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Coffee Cultivation in India


News

  • To bring world coffee producers, including Indian growers, out of this appalling situation, The World Coffee Producers Forum has decided to reach out to the coffee consuming countries around the world.

Coffee consumption drive

  • India, which has a domestic consumption of more than 5 million bags (of 60 kg each)
  • India will plan and roll out a coffee consumption campaign on behalf of global coffee growers who suffered huge financial losses on account of falling coffee prices and soaring labour cost.
  • As a precursor India will kick off a five-year coffee consumption campaign in collaboration with top global roasters including Nestle and Starbucks, cafe chains, other stakeholders and the GoI.
  • A special entity would be formed to execute this country-wide coffee campaign.
  • The plan is to get most of the funding from international roasters while ICO will play a catalyst’s role.
  • The campaign will address a population of 450 million, mostly school and college students, in India. C

Why this move?

  • The context is that coffee growers around the globe are going paupers and turning poverty stricken.
  • As per International Coffee Organization (ICO), 25 million farmers, including more than 3,00,000 in India, produce coffee in 60 counties.
  • Over 90% of these growers are smallholders and are forced to sell their coffees at a price much below the cost of production.
  • This scenario has led to socio-economic issues. These growers and their families have gone deeper into debts. Many even have abandoned their farms and migrated to cities.

Addressing demand-supply issue

  • There is a huge demand-supply imbalance that currently exists in the global coffee markets.
  • That’s the root cause for price fall. Increasing the consumption is the only way to counter this and therefore demand for the commodity in the global markets will increase.
  • The plan is to import excess coffees from Brazil, Colombia and Vietnam, provided the government of India waives off the import duty on coffee which is 105%.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

India stares at pile of solar e-waste

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Need for e-waste management in India


News

  • By 2050, India will likely stare at a pile of a new category of electronic waste, namely solar e-waste, says a study.
  • Currently, India’s e-waste rules have no laws mandating solar cell manufacturers to recycle or dispose waste from this sector.

Solar waste in India

  • India is among the leading markets for solar cells in the world, buoyed by the government’s commitment to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • So far, India has installed solar cells for about 28 GW and this is largely from imported solar PV cells.
  • India’s PV (photovoltaic) waste volume is estimated to grow to 200,000 tonnes by 2030 and around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050 said the study by Bridge To India (BTI), an energy consultancy firm.

What are these modules consisting of?

  • Solar cell modules are made by processing sand to make silicon, casting silicon ingots, using wafers to create cells and then assembling them to make modules.
  • India’s domestic manufacturers are largely involved in assembling cells and modules.
  • These modules are 80% glass and aluminium, and non-hazardous. Other materials used, including polymers, metals, metallic compounds and alloys, and are classified as potentially hazardous.

What worries India?

  • While the solar sector continues to grow robustly, there is no clarity on solar waste management in India.
  • India is poorly positioned to handle PV waste as it doesn’t yet have policy guidelines on the same.
  • A lack of a policy framework is coupled with the fact that even basic recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable.
  • Despite the e-waste regulation being in place for over seven years, only less than 4% of estimated e-waste is recycled in the organised sector as per the latest estimates from the Central Pollution Control Board.
e-Waste Management

India to be treated as NATO ally

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HR 2123

Mains level : India-US strategic relationship


News

  • American lawmakers have reintroduced a key legislation in their House of Representatives which seeks to advance the US-India strategic relationship.

HR 2123 Bill

  • It seeks to send a powerful signal that defence sales to India should be prioritized according to US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, which had worked on this important legislation.
  • The proposed legislation follows the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017 including special language that designated India as a “Major Defence Partner” of the US.
  • Although powerful in its own right, the NDAA FY 2017 has no legal bearing on the State Department’s body of legislation, nor does it compel the State Department to view defence with India more favorably.
  • To fulfil the spirit and intent of the NDAA 2017, the US-India Enhanced Cooperation Act would amend the Arms Export Control Act to put India on par with NATO allies and Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
  • The two taken together illustrates the major changes that have taken place in the India-US relationship over the past two decades.

Impact of the legislation

  • If enacted, the legislation would ensure that the US State Department treats India as a “NATO ally” for the purposes of the Arms Export Control Act.
  • India is the world’s largest democracy, a pillar of stability in the region, and has shown strong commitments to export control policies.
  • This adjustment to US law will further allow the US-India partnership to flourish in line with our security commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Phase 4 of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GSLV

Mains level : Isro missions and discoveries


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved ongoing GSLV continuation programme Phase-4 consisting of five GSLV flights during the period 2021-2024.
  • The will enable the launch of 2 tonne class of satellites for Geo-imaging, Navigation, Data Relay Communication and Space Sciences.
  • It will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency up to two launches per year, with maximal participation by the Indian industry.

About GSLV

  • GSLV Continuation Programme was initially sanctioned in 2003, and two phases have been completed and the third phase is in progress and expected to be completed by Q4 of 2020-21.
  • GSLV has enabled independent access to space for 2 tonne class of satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • One of the significant outcomes of the GSLV Continuation Programme is the mastering of the highly complex cryogenic propulsion technology, which is an essential technological capability to launch communication satellites to GTO.
  • This has also paved the way for the development of a high thrust Cryogenic engine & stage for the next generation launch vehicle i.e. GSLV Mk-lll.
  • With the recent successful launch of GSLV-F11 on 19th December 2018, GSLV has successfully orbited 10 national satellites.
  • GSLV with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has established itself as a reliable launch vehicle for communication, navigation and meteorological satellites and also to undertake future interplanetary missions.

Major impact

  • The operationalization of GSLV has made the country self-reliant in the launching capability of 2 tonne class of satellites for communication & meteorological satellites.
  • It will sustain & strengthen the capability and self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements including next generation navigation satellites, data relay communication satellites and interplanetary missions.
  • It will meet the launch requirement of satellites for providing critical Satellite Navigation Services, Data Relay Communication for supporting the Indian Human spaceflight programme and the next interplanetary mission to Mars.
  • This will also ensure the continuity of production in Indian industry.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries