[op-ed snap] No courts for women

Mains Paper 1 : Role Of Women & Women Organization |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Improving women's representationin Judiciary.


CONTEXT

In the context of the apathy shown towards the woman complainant by an all-male bench (headed by the CJI) in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and by the in-house committee which has given a clean-chit to the CJI, one cannot help but ponder: Would this incident have been handled differently if the judiciary was not as male-dominated as it always has been?

Gender disparity in judiciary

  • The judiciary is one of the least diverse institutions in India, with the lack of gender diversity being the most visible yet ignored aspect.
  • Since 1950, the SC has had only eight female judges out of 239, with the present three out of 27 being the highest concurrent representation women have ever had on the SC bench.
  • In the subordinate judiciary, merely 27.6 per cent of the judges are female.
  • This lack of women on the bench, at all levels of the judiciary, is at the very root of the impunity with which the top court has, in a single stroke, destroyed decades worth of progress made in deterring sexual harassment of women from all walks of life.

Collegium system as a barrier

  • Even if a female advocate crosses these barriers to continue and thrive in her profession, the current collegium system for the appointment of judges is simply not designed to ensure her elevation to the bench.
  • At present, the appointment of a judge to a high court is based on a recommendation made by a collegium of the three senior-most judges of that HC, and approved by a collegium of the three senior-most judges of the SC.
  • Although the state and central governments have a role to play in the process, the final say, for all practical purposes, rests with the SC collegium.
  • In 25 HC collegiums across the country, there are just five senior female judges with 19 of the collegiums having no female judge at all.
  • Only one woman so far has been a member of the SC collegium (Justice Ruma Pal), with Justice R Banumathi set to become the second later this year; and, at least until 2025, no female judge is going to occupy the CJI’s position.

Self perpetuating phenomenon

  • This nearly all-male composition of the highest decision-making bodies in the judiciary has made gender disparity a self-perpetuating phenomenon .
  • The data shows that out of the 363 persons recommended for elevation, merely 39 were female (just over 10 per cent). Of these, only 21 were confirmed with the remaining 18 names either being remitted to the HCs or deferred for later appointments.
  • The only way out of this vicious cycle is for the nearly all-male collegiums to go beyond their inherent biases and take affirmative measures to improve gender diversity on the bench.
  • More recommendations by collegium – The HC collegiums should consciously recommend more female names for elevation and the SC collegium must consider such recommendations more favourably.
  • Early elevation in career – Further, the female judges should be elevated early enough in their careers so that they make it to the collegiums and become decision makers (the average age of the 19 female judges elevated since October 2017 is 53 years).

Conclusion

Not a perception problem – Lack of gender diversity is not just a perception problem.

The real impact on proceedings – It is seen to have a real impact on the manner of proceedings and the nature of the final verdict — as is evident in the present instance.

Reinforcing trust in judiciary – specially in the judiciary, gender diversity is a virtue in itself — it reassures litigants that diverse opinions are taken into consideration and re-instils their trust in the justice-delivery system.

Opportunity for course correction –  The present calamity in the judiciary, as unfortunate as it is, also provides an unprecedented opportunity to course correct on several accounts. Here’s hoping the men in power have the wisdom to seize it.

Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Taking tensions seriously

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India- Us ties are not progressing much instead of promises.


CONTEXT

The U.S.’s decision to not extend Iran sanctions waivers, including the one provided to India, has notable implications for India-U.S. relations, given the importance of New Delhi’s energy relationship with Tehran.

 Deleterious Development in bilateral ties

1.Economic Sector

  • It comes on the heels of many other deleterious developments for bilateral ties including the U.S.’s decision to withdraw GSP benefits for Indian exports (in retaliation for Indian tariffs that the U.S. deemed to be prohibitively high) and the Trump administration’s discontent deepening over India’s policies on e-commerce, intellectual property rights and data localisation.
  • These India-U.S. trade and economic tensions aren’t new; the non-security dimension of the relationship has long lagged behind the fast-growing defence side.

Reactions by both sides

  • Both sides have played down these differences and offered reassuring data points:
  • India will scale up oil imports from other top producers;
  • the GSP withdrawal will have minimal impact on India’s economy;
  • the two capitals are working actively on high levels,
  • Most recently through the U.S.-India CEO Forum and the India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue, to ease tensions; and above all the strength of the bilateral relationship can easily withstand all these headaches.

Concerns

  1. long-standing disconnects –  A full-fledged strategic partnership, which both countries endorse, will be difficult to achieve amid such multiple and long-standing disconnects on the trade and economic side.

2. One-sided relationship – Indeed, if bilateral ties are largely driven by technology transfers, arms sales, joint exercises, and foundational agreements on defence, this amounts to a deep but one-sided security relationship, and not a robust and multifaceted strategic partnership.

4.Difficulty in transition – Still, so long as the non-security nuisances affect the bilateral relationship, the shift from a strong security relationship to a bonafide strategic partnership will be difficult.

5. The difference from other partners – After all, one rarely hears complaints or concerns about trade and economic matters in the U.S.’s relations with the U.K., Australia, or Israel, some of its other strategic partners.

Way Forward

  • The U.S. and India have long struggled to agree on what a strategic partnership should look like.
  • Still, no matter how it is defined, any strategic partnership must be broad-based, with trust and cooperation present across a wide spectrum of issues and not just limited to close collaborations in the guns-and-bombs category.
  • In this regard, a true strategic partnership remains, at least for now, elusive between India and the U.S.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Sub-categorization of OBCs

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various commissions mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Sub-categorization of OBCs


News

G. Rohini Commission Recommendations

  • The commission to examine sub-categorization of OBCs is all set to recommend a fixed quota.
  • It is possibly between 8 and 10 per cent of the 27 per cent OBC quota for about 1,900 of the 2,633 castes on the central list.
  • This is the first government-mandated exercise to quantify the skewed flow of benefits among different OBC communities and suggest steps to correct the imbalance.

Why sub-categorization?

  • Presently, half of these 1,900-odd castes have availed less than three per cent of reservation in jobs and education, and the rest availed zero benefits during the last five years.
  • The central government had appointed the Commission under Justice (Retd) G Rohini in October, 2017.
  • Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share.
  • A/c to the Commission, the classification is based on relative benefits availed and not relative social backwardness, which involves parameters such as social status, traditional occupations, religion, etc.
  • Using the quantum of benefits enjoyed by different communities to sub-categorise OBCs is a major departure from recommendations of several Commissions in the past.

History of Sub-categorization

  • Till date, sub-categorization of OBCs as recommended by a few Commissions and implemented by some states has all used indicators of social backwardness as the criteria.
  • The First Backward Class Commission report of 1955, also known as the Kalekar report, had proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs into backward and extremely backward communities.
  • In the Mandal Commission report of 1979, a dissent note by member L R Naik proposed sub-categorisation in intermediate and depressed backward classes.
  • In 2015, former National Commission for OBCs under Justice (Retd) Eswaraiah asked for sub-categorisation within OBCs into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward Classes (Group B) and Backward Classes (Group C).

Reservation based on representation and not backwardness

  • Presently, ten states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Jammu, have sub-categorised OBCs.
  • They used varying criteria, including the ascribed status such as denotified, nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, the religion of a community, caste status before conversion to Christianity or Islam, and perceived status socially or traditional occupation.
  • The Justice Rohini Commission, however, had held that the many communities who are extremely backward in this status show significant representation in jobs and higher education.
  • Even within the DNT communities that are classified under OBC, those that are more isolated in terms of their small numbers or scattered populations have been unable to get the benefit of reservations.
  • The Commission had clarified its stand on fixing OBC quotas based on current representation in reserved seats, and not on social hierarchy.

Conclusion

  • Sub-categorization of the OBCs need not imply establishing a further social hierarchy within the communities included in the Central List on the basis of relative lowness or otherwise of their ascribed social status or traditional occupation.
  • All communities included in the Central list of OBCs are socially and educationally backward — which is a precedent condition for such inclusion — and thus deserving of reservations in education and recruitment.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

How China, followed by India, has led greening efforts across world

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MODIS

Mains level : Afforestation in India


News

  • A new satellite-based study shows that China and India are leading the increase in “greening efforts” across the world.

The findings of MODIS

  • The research team set out to track the total amount of Earth’s land area covered by vegetation and how it changed over time (2000-17).
  • Through NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, the team found that the global green leaf area has increased by 5% since the early 2000s.
  • This translates to a net increase in leaf area of 2.3% per decade, which is equivalent to adding 5.4 × 106 sq km new leaf area over the 18-year period of the record (2000 to 2017).
  • This is equivalent to the area of the Amazon.
  • China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area. India has contributed a further 6.8%.
  • The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%) but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%).

What is MODIS?

  • MODIS is a key instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites of NASA.
  • With its low spatial resolution but high temporal resolution, MODIS data is useful to track changes in the landscape over time
  • MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of our environment.
  • Its data helps improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere.

Highlights of the study

  • The study was entirely based on satellite data with access to forest inventory data.
  • There were no physical checks carried out in either China or India to assess what kind of trees or vegetation was preferred.
  • The quality of trees is good in view of leaf abundance.
  • Satellite data do not have the ability to accurately recognise the species at the global scale.
  • When the greening of the Earth was first observed, it was thought due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance.
  • Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing.

India’s growth

  • With only 2.7% of the global vegetated area, India accounts for 6.8% of the global net increase in leaf area.
  • It is as expected because most of the land cover type in India is cropland (2.11×106 sq km).
  • Total cereal production in India increased by 26% during the same period.
  • There are only a few forests in India, and that is why their contribution is small.
  • Data show that since Independence, a fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests.
  • The Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Report 2017 had recorded that forest cover had increased by 6,600 sq km or 0.21% since 2015.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Indian scientists discover how serotonin helps brain cells cope with stress

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Serotonin

Mains level : Serotonin and its uses


News

  • Indian scientists have discovered that serotonin boosts energy production in brain cells and helps them survive under stress. This new knowledge can potentially be used to develop anti-stress drugs in future.

Role of Serotonin

  • Serotonin is a chemical that relays information from one part of the brain to another and is known to play a key role in a number of functions ranging from sleep to social behaviour.
  • The study by scientists at the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) has found that the neurotransmitter boosts the number of mitochondria in brain cells.
  • Mitochondria in brain cells generate energy to carry out cellular functions and play a role in survival of brain cells under stress.
  • In addition, serotonin also increases production of energy by mitochondria.
  • This role of serotonin in regulating neuronal energetics was not known till now.

Benefits of Serotonin

  • Serotonin reduces toxic reactive oxygen species in neurons, boosts anti-oxidant enzymes and buffers neurons from the damaging effects of cellular stress.
  • The study has uncovered an unprecedented role of serotonin in energy production in neurons, directly impacting how neurons handle stress.
  • It has also identified novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.

Energy boosting function

  • Researchers have also found out the mechanism through which serotonin carries out its energy boosting function.
  • It has emerged that generation of new mitochondria in neurons by serotonin is accompanied by increased cellular respiration and energy chemical ATP.
  • These effects of serotonin involve the serotonin2A receptor and master regulators of mitochondrial generation – SIRT1 and PGC-1a.
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Sand, a global sustainability challenge: UN report

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Illegal sand mining in India


News

  • The UNEP has released a report, Sand and Sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources.
  • It highlights a problem that has largely stayed under the radar: sand consumption globally has been increasing and we are extracting it at rates exceeding natural replenishment rates.

Sand Mining

  • Sand and gravel are the second largest natural resources extracted and traded by volume after water, but among the least regulated.
  • Sand is created by slow geological processes, and its distribution is not even.
  • Desert sand, available in plenty, is not suited for construction use because it is wind-smoothed, and therefore non-adherent.
  • While 85% to 90% of global sand demand is met from quarries, and sand and gravel pits, the 10% to 15% extracted from rivers and sea shores is a severe concern due the environmental and social impacts.
  • Aggregates (a term for crushed rock, sand and gravels used in construction materials) are necessary for building the infrastructure the world needs, especially developing countries bringing their populations out of poverty.
  • Quoting studies, the report estimates that a 40-50 billion tonne of crushed rock, sand and gravel is extracted from quarries, pits, rivers, coastlines and the marine environment each year.
  • The construction industry consumes over half of this, and will consume even more in the future.

Hazards of excessive mining

  • Their extraction often results in river and coastal erosion and threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of ground water levels.
  • The report notes that China and India head the list of critical hotspots for sand extraction impacts in rivers, lakes and on coastlines.
  • Most large rivers of the world have lost between half and 95% of their natural sand and gravel delivery to ocean the report says.
  • The damming of rivers for hydro-electricity production or irrigation is reducing the amount of sediment flowing downstream.
  • This broken replenishment system exacerbates pressures on beaches already threatened by sea level rise and intensity of storm-waves induced by climate change, as well as coastal developments.
  • There are also indirect consequences, like loss of local livelihoods — an ironic example is that construction in tourist destinations can lead to depletion of natural sand in the area, thereby making those very places unattractive — and safety risks for workers where the industry is not regulated.

China and India: Leading in global infrastructure

  • China increased its concrete use by 540% in the last 20 years, exceeding the use of all the other countries combined.
  • Even as domestic consumption rates begin to stabilize, China overseas investment in infrastructure development through the Belt and Road Initiative will drive demand for aggregates in approximately 70 countries.
  • Furthermore, domestic demand in India is expected to drive strong future growth in Asia.

India leads in reusing

  • The alternative substitute materials the report points to, are several from India, including oil palm shell, waste foundry sand, crushed tiles, granite powder, mine waste, bottom ash, and discarded rubber.
  • It also cites the use in India of non-toxic municipal waste in road-building.

Way Forward

  • The report suggests better spatial planning and reducing unnecessary construction — including speculative projects or those being done mainly for prestige — thereby making more efficient use of aggregates.
  • It calls for investing in infrastructure maintenance and retrofitting rather than the demolish and rebuild cycle, embracing alternative design and construction methods, even avoiding use of cement and concrete where possible, and using green infrastructure.
  • The report concludes with a call for large-scale multipronged actions from global to local levels, involving public, private and civil society organisations.
  • This will mean building consensus, defining what success would look like, and reconciling policies and standards with sand availability, development imperatives and standards and enforcement realities.
Coal and Mining Sector

India re-elected as observer to Arctic Council

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arctic Council

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • The 11th Arctic Council ministerial meeting is being held at Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • India has been re-elected as an observer to intergovernmental forum Arctic Council.

India’s interest in Arctic

  • Indian researchers have been studying whether there is a co-relation between Indian monsoon and the Arctic region.
  • India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, an institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has set up a research station, ‘Himadri’, in Svalbard in Norway.
  • It studies the mass balance of glaciers, the effect of the warming on the marine system, the formation of clouds and precipitation, and the effect on biodiversity.

About Arctic Council

  • It is an advisory body that promotes cooperation among member nations and indigenous groups as per the Ottawa Declaration of 1996.
  • Its focus is on sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic.
  • It promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states, the region’s indigenous communities and other inhabitants on common issues, particularly on sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • The Arctic Council consists of the eight Arctic States: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
  • India and China are one of the observer countries since 2013.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.