September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

[op-ed snap] Putting accident victims at the centre of vehicles law

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Issues addressed by new Motor vehicle amendment act


Context

An act for penalties

  • It is well known that India is one of the most accident-prone countries in the world.
  • India accounts for nearly 1,50,000 deaths — 10% of all motor vehicles-related fatalities worldwide.
  • The discourse concerning the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 has only followed this trend, as disproportionate press coverage is given to the enhanced penalties to be levied on offenders.
  • However, the debate often revolves around how to minimize road accidents by incorporating deterrents into laws and ignores the interests of the victims.
  • This lack of victim-centricity in the discourse, though deplorable, is unsurprising.

For victims of road accidents

  • The amended Act gives the victims some respite as it provides for an enhanced insurance compensation of ₹5 lakh in case of death of a person in a traffic accident and ₹2.5 lakh where there is “grievous hurt”.
  • The compensation to be awarded following hit-and-run accidents has also been raised to ₹2 lakh when a victim dies and ₹50,000 when he/she suffers a grievous injury.
  • The fact that the NCRB does not collate data pertaining to the socio-economic and demographic profile of victims of traffic accidents is a testament to the relative apathy shown by the state machinery.

Cashless treatment

  • Additionally, the Act now requires insurance companies and the government to notify schemes relating to cashless treatment during the ‘Golden Hour’.
  • It is the crucial period of first 60 minutes from the occurrence of an accident when the risk of fatality can be minimized to the greatest extent.
  • Further, it mandates compulsory insurance of all road users, including pedestrians, who will be covered through a ‘Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’.
  • Lastly, it also provides for interim relief to be provided to the claimants.

Delays in settlement

  • Another problem highlighted by the apex court for which the new Act does not provided any remedy is that of procedural delays on the part of tribunals in claims settlement.
  • The provision for interim compensation is bound to bring some respite to the victims but another unaddressed concern makes this stipulation susceptible to criticism.
  • An absence of in-built safeguards in the compensation mechanism allows for the money to be frittered away by unscrupulous relatives, touts and agents, especially in cases where the victim or his nearest kin are poor and illiterate.
  • It is to address this concern that the Supreme Court in Jai Prakash suggested payment in the form of monthly disbursements of smaller amounts over a longer period of time to victims or their kin.
  • This has been overlooked by the new Act.

Road infrastructure: One stop solution

  • Many of the problems with the Motor Vehicles Act remain unaddressed or are inadequately addressed by the amended version.
  • For instance, though vehicle users who don’t give passage to emergency ambulance vehicle are liable to be punished with fines.
  • Such punitive measures are likely to remain ineffective in the absence of an effective implementation mechanism.
  • Further, other factors that lead to a poor response time, including lack of road infrastructure, also need to be taken into account.

Way Forward

  • Understandably, many of the points raised above cannot be specified statutorily.
  • These provisions, well-intentioned, are no doubt steps in the right direction.
  • However, much more needs to be done if the accident victims are to be provided complete justice.
  • Hence, the government needs to notify an institutional framework which encourages advocacy for victims and facilitates access to the various services.
  • Hence, the government needs to notify an institutional framework which encourages advocacy for victims and facilitates access to the various services.
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s climate score: high on vulnerability, low on resilience

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate change risk and importance of resilience


CONTEXT

HSBC’s 2018 assessment of India ranks it as the country most vulnerable to climate change.

Problems

  • Against scientific warnings, carbon emissions continue to rise in China, the U.S., and India.
  • Brazil is encouraging unprecedented deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. As forest fires worsen global warming, the hardest hit by the resulting floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts will be in India.
  • Cutting hurdles to investment can boost short-term growth and benefit interest groups. But damaging the environment would be self-defeating as it would impact long-term growth and well-being.

India – vulnerability

  • A number of Indian States have experienced extreme heatwaves in the past three years, and Delhi recently recorded a temperature of 48°C, its hottest day in 21 years. 
  • India’s exposure to climate hazards is heightened by the location of its coastline in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. 
  • India also has a high population density located in the danger zone. For instance, Kerala, which experienced intense floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019, is among the States with the highest density.
  • Increasing temperatures and changing seasonal rainfall patterns are aggravating droughts and hurting agriculture across the country. 
  • Extreme storms like the one that hit Odisha this year and the floods that swept Chennai in 2015 are damaging when infrastructure is not resilient.

Importance of resilience

  1. India must boost its coastal and inland defences. 
  2. It needs to do more to build resilience in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, energy, transport, health, and education. 
  3. The priority for spending at the national and State levels for disaster management needs to rise. 
  4. Adequate resources must also be allocated for implementing climate action plans that most States have now prepared.
  5. India must reinforce its infrastructure and adapt its agriculture and industry.
  6. India should replace urgently its fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Way ahead

  • Global leadership must act with greater urgency.
  • Countries should switch rapidly from polluting fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy.
  • There is a need for building much stronger coastal and inland defences against climatic damage.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Bank merger announcement is a needless distraction

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Bank mergers - effectiveness : analysis


CONTEXT

Finance minister announced the last week of the merger of public sector banks.

Challenges with the merger – short term

  • It is coming in the wake of growth sinking to a six-year low and thus a needless distraction.
  • In the short-term, the mergers will contribute nothing towards a turnaround of the economy. 
  • The administrative and logistic challenges of mergers will divert the mind space of bank management away from managing the NPAs and aggressive lending.

Long term view on mergers – positives

  • Large banks will entail cost advantages by way of economies of scale, such as centralised back-office processing, elimination of branch overlap, eliminating redundancies in administrative infrastructure, better manpower planning, optimum funds management, and savings in IT and other fixed costs. 
  • Large banks will also be able to finance large projects on their own while staying within the prudential lending norms.

Long term view on mergers – drawbacks

  • Organic mergers of banks motivated purely by business considerations lead to efficiency gains, arranged marriages of this kind are debatable.
  • They can become too big to fail. 
    • The financial sector is all interconnected and a risk in any part of the system is a risk to the entire system. 
    • If a large bank were to fail, it could bring down the whole financial sector with it, as experienced by Lehman Brothers in 2008, which triggered the global financial crisis. 
    • RBI identified systemically important financial institutions and subjected them to higher capital requirements and more stringent regulation. Eg., SBI
  • The knowledge that a nation will be forced to rescue it encourages irresponsible behavior by big banks.

PSBs – a background

  • Banks were nationalised 50 years ago in a different era, in a different context. 
  • In the event, PSBs rendered commendable service to the nation by deepening bank penetration into the hinterland and implementing a variety of anti-poverty programs. 
  • Of the many factors responsible for India moving from low income to low middle income, financial intermediation by PSBs has a place in that list.

Do we still need PSBs? 

  • The financial sector is wide and deep enough to take care of financial intermediation without the government at the steering wheel.
  • Today’s economic slowdown is due to both cyclical and structural factors. RBI has cut rates and the government has announced a few measures like frontloading expenditures and slashing some taxes. 
  • We will become a $5-trillion economy not by growing at our current potential growth rate but by raising it. That requires structural reforms. 

CONCLUSION

If the government gives up its majority stake in PSBs, it will go a long way in pushing us into a $5-trillion economy.

Banking Sector Reforms

Explained: Where does India stand on plastic waste?

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Single Use Plastics

Mains level : Plastic waste issue


News

Background

  • On this Independence Day address, PM called for a movement to eliminate single-use plastic in India, beginning on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).
  • The move is part of an ambitious drive against Single-Use Plastic (SUP), under the theme “Shramdaan”, for which a detailed plan has been worked out for ministries and departments.
  • The government is reported to be working on a ban on certain plastic items of common use such as carry bags, cutlery and plates under the Environment (Protection) Act, and this may be announced on October 2, well ahead of the earlier deadline of 2022.

Single-use plastic

  • As the name suggests, single-use plastics (SUPs) are those that are discarded after one-time use.
  • Besides the ubiquitous plastic bags, SUPs include water and flavoured/aerated drinks bottles, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, straws, and stirrers, processed food packets and wrappers, cotton bud sticks, etc.
  • Of these, foamed products such as cutlery, plates, and cups are considered the most lethal to the environment.

Plastic waste in India

  • Per capita consumption of plastic is projected to go up from 11 kg in 2014-15 to 20 kg by 2022 (FICCI data); about 43% is single-use packaging with poor rates of recovery.
  • In spite of the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, and amendments made two years later, most cities and towns are not prepared to implement its provisions.
  • Even the biggest Municipal Corporations shouldering a staggering waste burden have failed to implement segregation of waste: collecting recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic etc.
  • This is a growing crisis amid criticism of under-reporting of the true extent of plastic waste.

Plastic waste management

  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 notified by the Centre called for a ban on “non-recyclable and multi-layered” packaging by March 2018, and a ban on carry bags of thickness less than 50 microns.
  • The Rules were amended in 2018, with changes that activists say favoured the plastic industry and allowed manufacturers an escape route. The 2016 Rules did not mention SUPs.
  • On World Environment Day in 2018, India pledged to phase out SUPs by 2022.
  • The PM has called for “a new revolution against plastic”, and some government-controlled bodies such as Air India and the Indian Railways have announced they would stop SUPs.

A failed attempt earlier

  • Recycling reduces the volume of non-recyclables that must be disposed of using methods such as co-processing in cement kilns, plasma pyrolysis or land-filling.
  • Neither is plastic marked with numerical symbols (such as 1 for PET, 4 for Low Density Polyethylene, 5 for Polypropylene and so on) to facilitate recycling using the correct industrial process.

Alternatives to Plastic

  • Although compostable, biodegradable or even edible plastics made from various materials such as sugarcane bagasse, corn starch, and grain flour are promoted as alternatives, these currently have limitations of scale and cost.
  • Some biodegradable packaging materials require specific microorganisms to be broken down, while compostable cups and plates made of polylactic acid, a popular resource derived from biomass such as corn starch, require industrial composters.
  • On the other hand, articles made through a different process involving potato and corn starch have done better in normal conditions, going by the experience in Britain.
  • Seaweed is also emerging as a choice to make edible containers.
  • In India, though, in the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.
  • In January this year, the CPCB said that 12 companies were marketing carry bags and products marked ‘compostable’ without any certification, and asked the respective SPCB to take action on these units.

A Janandolan ahead

  • A ban on single-use plastic items would have to therefore lay down a comprehensive mechanism to certify the materials marketed as alternatives, and the specific process required to biodegrade or compost them.
  • A movement against plastic waste would have to prioritise the reduction of single-use plastic such as multi-layer packaging, bread bags, food wrap, and protective packaging.
  • Consumers often have no choice in the matter.
  • Other parts of the campaign must focus on tested biodegradable and compostable alternatives for plates, cutlery and cups, rigorous segregation of waste and scaled up recycling.

Impact on packaging industry

  • Packaging is projected to grow into a $72.6 billion industry in India by 2020 from about $31 billion in 2015, with a proportionate rise in waste volumes.
  • The pressure on producers to streamline the collection, recycling and processing of all forms of plastic is bound to grow.
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Person in news: Dadabhai Naoroji

Mains Paper 1 : Modern Indian History |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various facts associated with Dadabhai Naoroji

Mains level : Dadabhai Naoroji and his contributions



News

  • September 4, 2019 was the 194th birth anniversary of Dadabhai Naoroji, the “Grand Old Man of India”, who was among the first leaders who stirred national consciousness in the country.

Dadabhai Naoroji

  • Born in 1825 at Navsari, in present-day Gujarat, Naoroji was a prolific scholar with varied interests.
  • His distinguished political career aside, Naoroji was a professor of Gujarati, mathematics, and natural philosophy, and also worked as a businessman.
  • Naoroji’s lasting intellectual contribution was to expound the ‘Drain Theory’.
  • He was closely involved with the Indian National Congress in its early phase, and served as the first Indian member of the British parliament.

Early work in England

  • Naoroji began rousing public opinion in England on Indian issues in 1855, after he moved from India to Liverpool for business.
  • His first agitation, in 1859, concerned recruitment to the Indian Civil Service (today’s IAS).
  • During this period, Naoroji worked closely with Irish leaders in England, who found common cause with the Indian nationalist movement.
  • In 1865 and 1866, Naoroji helped found the London Indian Society and the East India Association
  • The two organisations sought to bring nationalist Indians and sympathetic Britons on one platform.
  • As the secretary of the East India Association, Naoroji travelled in India to gather funds and raise national awareness.

Leader of the INC

  • In 1885, Naoroji became a vice-president of the Bombay Presidency Association, was nominated to the Bombay legislative council by Governor Lord Reay, and helped form the INC.
  • He was Congress president thrice, in 1886, 1893, and 1906.
  • The first session of the Congress in 1885 passed a resolution calling for the formation of a standing committee in the British House of Commons for considering protests from legislative bodies in India.
  • Naoroji dedicated his efforts towards this objective when he returned to England in 1886.

Election to the British parliament

  • Naoroji first ran for the British Parliament in 1886, but did not get elected.
  • His second bid in 1892 was successful, when he won the Central Finsbury seat on a Liberal Party ticket.
  • In the British Parliament, Naoroji worked to bring Indian issues to the fore.
  • In 1893, he helped form an Indian parliamentary committee to attend to Indian interests.
  • The membership of the committee significantly grew in numbers in the coming years, becoming an important lobbying force.
  • Naoroji was a vocal critic of the colonial economic policy in India. In 1895, he became a member of the royal commission on Indian expenditure.
  • A moderate himself, Naoroji acted as a liaison between nationalist Indians and British parliamentarians.

Drain Theory

  • Dadabhai Naoroji was among the key proponents of the ‘Drain Theory’, disseminating it in his 1901 book ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’.
  • Naoroji argued that imperial Britain was draining away India’s wealth to itself through exploitative economic policies including:
  1. The heavy financial burden of the British civil and military apparatus in India;
  2. The exploitation of the country due to free trade;
  3. Non-Indians taking away the money that they earned in India; and
  4. The interest that India paid on its public debt held in Britain.
History- Important places, persons in news

Global Liveability Ranking 2019

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Factors affecting liveability in India


 


News

  • New Delhi has dropped by six places to rank 118th on a list of the world’s most liveable cities due to increase in cases of petty crimes and poor air quality.
  • While New Delhi registered the biggest decline in Asia, Mumbai also fell two places since last year to rank 119th on the list topped by Vienna (Austria) for the second consecutive year.

About the ranking

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) publishes an annual Global Liveability Ranking.
  • The EIU ranking of 140 cities is based on their scores in five broad categories — stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
  • Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable.

Global scenario

  • Among the BRIC countries, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was positioned at the 89th place, Moscow (Russia) at 68th, St Petersburg (Russia) 71st.
  • The Chinese cities in the list include Suzhou at 75th rank, Beijing 76th, Tianjin 79th, Shanghai 80th, Shenzhen 84th, Dalian 90th, Guangzhou 96th and Qingdao 97th.
  • Several major global cities received mixed scores. London and New York ranked 48th and 58th out of the 140 cities in the survey.

Why decline in liveabilty in India?

Abuses against journalists

  • The EIU also flagged “an escalation in abuses against journalists in recent years” in India.
  • It cited a decline in the country’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index where India now sits in the bottom quartile of countries.
  • The study said that Asian cities overall have scored slightly below the global average while three Asian cities — Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (135th), Pakistan’s Karachi (136th) and Bangladesh’s Dhaka (138th) — are among the ten least liveable globally.

Rise in Crime rates

  • The EIU said decline in Mumbai’s rank was mainly due to a downgrade in its culture score, while New Delhi has fallen in the index because of downgrades to its culture and environment score as well as fall in the stability score owing to rising crime rates.

Climatic changes

  • Several cities, such as New Delhi in India and Cairo in Egypt received substantial downgrades on their scores owing to problems linked to climate change, such as poor air quality, undesirable average temperatures and inadequate water provision,” the report said.

Constrained liveability conditions

  • A score between 50-60 points, which is the case for India, indicates constrained liveability conditions.
  • The 2018 update to the WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database shows that New Delhi has the sixth highest annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter among cities around the world.
  • Companies pay a premium to employees who move to cities where living conditions are particularly difficult and there is excessive physical hardship or a notably unhealthy environment.
  • The suggested allowance for Indian cities is 15%.
Air Pollution

[pib] Declaration of certain individuals as terrorists under new UAPA

Mains Paper 3 : Organized Crime & Terrorism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UAPA

Mains level : Impact of the proposed amendments


News

  • Invoking the recent amendments in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Central Government has decided to declare the following individuals as terrorists and add their names to Schedule 4 of the Act:
  1. Maulana Masood Azhar : chief, founder and key leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad
  2. Hafiz Muhammad: chief, founder and key leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawa
  3. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi: chief operation commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba and one of its founder members
  4. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar: runs an international underworld crime syndicate and is involved in perpetrating acts of terror

Additional Information

  • All of the above are involved in terrorist attacks in India, and have been designated as global terrorists under United Nations.
  • Earlier when terrorist organizations were banned, the individuals associated with it simply changed names and continued to carry out terrorist activities.

Back2Basics

Explained: Amendments to the UAPA

Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

[pib] Government to develop a master plan for Tigers at High altitude

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GTF

Mains level : Conserving Tigers at High altitude


News

  • Union Environment Ministry released a report on Status of Tiger Habitats in high altitude ecosystems.

About the study

  • The study is led by the Global Tiger Forum (GTF), with range country governments of Bhutan, India and Nepal, along with WWF.
  • It has been supported by the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHPC) of the IUCN.
  • This provides the action strategy for a high altitude tiger master plan, with gainful portfolio for local communities.
  • It ensures centrality of tiger conservation in development, through an effective coordination mechanism, involving stakeholders and line departments operating within the landscape.

Why such report?

  • Various studies reveal that even ecology at high altitude is compatible for the tiger growth.
  • The habitat of tiger of varied, encompassing several biomes and ecological conditions.
  • However, most of the high-altitude habitats, within the range have not been surveyed for an appraisal of tiger presence, prey and habitat status.
  • Tiger habitats in high altitude require protection through sustainable land use, as they are a high value ecosystem with several hydrological and ecological processes providing ecosystem services.
  • Several high-altitude habitats in South Asia have the spatial presence of tiger, active in-situ efforts are called for ensuring their conservation.

Back2Basics

Global Tiger Forum

  • The GTF was formed in 1993 on recommendations from an international symposium on Tiger Conservation at New Delhi, India.
  • The GTF is the only intergovernmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.
  • Utilizing co-operative policies, common approaches, technical expertise, scientific modules and other appropriate programmes and controls the GTF is focused on saving the remaining 5 sub-species of Tigers distributed over 13 Tiger Range countries of the world.
Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.