QUESTION : What is your assessment of the way the nationalist leaders addressed the language issue post independence? Substantiate your views.
- Issue Of Language
WHY IN NEWS ?
- While negotiating independence from Dutch colonial rule, Indonesian nationalists decided that a reformed version of Malay (renamed Bahasa Indonesia) would become the official language.
DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL LANGUAGE IN INDONESIA :
- Here, hundreds of languages were spoken across thousands of islands that now comprise the modern nations of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
- During Colonial rule, Malay became an accepted language of communication as it was grammatically simple, non-hierarchical, and easier to learn than other regional languages.
- Over centuries of Colonial rule, Malay had evolved due to the need in maritime Southeast Asia for a lingua franca for trade and other exchanges.
- While negotiating independence from Dutch colonial rule, Indonesian nationalists decided that a reformed version of Malay (renamed Bahasa Indonesia) would become the official language.
- Bahasa Indonesia aimed to bring more than 300 ethnic groups together with no one ethnic group, including the Javanese, overshadowing the rest.
- From the outset of its independence, Indonesia recognised the importance of avoiding the inequality that was likely to occur by imposing the language of one dominant ethnic group over others.
DEBATES IN THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY ABOUT LANGUAGE :
- In contrast, the issue of adopting a national language could not be resolved when the Constituent Assembly began drafting India’s Constitution.
- The adoption of a national language, the language in which the Constitution was to be written, and the language in which the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly were to be conducted were the main questions debated.
- On the one side were members from the Hindi-speaking provinces who argued for adopting Hindi as the sole national language.
- One of the member (R.V. Dhulekar), declared “People who do not know Hindustani have no right to stay in India…. and those who do not know Hindi are not worthy to be members of this Assembly.”
- To counter such an argument, a member of the Assembly from the south said “This kind of intolerance makes us fear that the strong Centre which we need… will also mean the enslavement of people who do not speak the language of the Centre.”
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT 1963:
- There was widespread resistance to the imposition of Hindi on non-native speakers, especially in Tamil Nadu.
- This led to the passage of the Official Languages Act of 1963, which provided for the continued use of English for all official purposes.
- Hindi became the sole working language of the Union government by 1965 with the State governments free to function in the language of their choice.
- Meanwhile, the constitutional directive for the Union government to encourage the spread of Hindi was retained within Central government entities in non-Hindi-speaking States.
LOSS OF LANGUAGE :
- According to the 2001 Census, India has 30 languages that are spoken by more than a million people each.
- The Constitution lists 22 languages and protects them in the eighth schedule. Many languages are kept out of this schedule even if they deserve to be included.
- This includes Tulu which is spoken by over 1.8 million people and has inscriptions dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
- Hindi language came to replace prestige dialects such as Awadhi, Maithili and Braj. The literary value of these dialects diminished in due course.
- The growing importance of Hindustani in colonial India and the association of Urdu with Muslims prompted Hindus in north India to develop a Sanskritised version, leading to the formation of a modern standard Hindi a century later.
- If other well-evolved or endangered and indigenous languages are not protected and promoted, our future generations may fail to understand their real roots and culture.
- While discussing Hindi and its use, there is a need to focus on the merit of other Indian languages.
- Instead of focusing on one national language, emphasis must be on learning a language beyond one’s mother tongue and getting to know a different way of life.
QUESTION : Write the relevance of Gandhian principles in modern times and its changing scenario since Indian freedom struggle.
- Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated on 2 October every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This year will mark his 151st birth anniversary
MAHATMA GANDHI :
- He is globally famous for his propagation of ahimsa or non-violence.
- Gandhiji was the architect behind Dandi March, or the protest organised by Indians against the salt tax imposed by the British in 1930.
- He assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and urged colonial India to become self-reliant and ditch British products.
- He also protested during the Quit India movement in 1942 calling for the British to leave India.
- The Non-Cooperation Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement are some of his popular mass movements.
- He also fought the caste system in India, untouchability.
- He created awareness about equality and brotherhood among different religions .
GANDHI’S IDEAS OF NON-VIOLENCE :
- Gandhi’s idea of non-violence was not a dream; it was a realistic hope, armed with a dose of practical idealism; that of the global welcoming of the law of love.
- With Gandhi, the philosophy of non-violence turned into an instrument of public dissent and a pragmatic tool of the powerless against the powerful.
- While being an instrument of conflict resolution and universal harmony, non-violence was also an essentially moral exercise.
- He viewed non-violence essentially as an ethical commitment and a constructive political action.
- For Gandhi, the ethical and the political were the same.
- Therefore, for him, the struggle against violence and fanaticism was at the same moral level as disobeying unjust laws.
DEMOCRACY AS A VALUE :
- Gandhi said that democracy is not a political regime but a value, which needed to be created and cherished.
- The modern state contained forces that threatened liberty.
- Violence was a sign of the failure of a legitimate political power.
- This transition from violence towards politics is needed.
- It could not take place without the intervention of the ethical in the political.
MORALITY IN POLITICS :
- Gandhi’s principal aim was to civilise modern politics from within, by eliminating resentment, hatred and coercion.
- His politics of non-violence was a method to mobilise collective power in a manner that attends to its own moral education in an exemplary and innovative way.
- The very essence of our civilisation is that we give a paramount place to morality in all our affairs, public or private.
- His view of morality was not a denial of politics.
- On the contrary, Gandhi’s moral idealism was completed by a political realism, which sought the construction of a democratic society.
- Political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress.
ETHICS IN POLITICS :
- Gandhi argued for a dedicated and committed political ethos, which did not accept the necessity of “dirty hands” in politics.
- Ethics tells us what it ought to be. It enables man to know how he should act.
- Gandhi showed that a life of excellence is an agency and a transformative force which is an experience of conscience underpinning the harmony between ethics and politics.
- He said that he always derived politics from ethics or religion.
- Gandhi considered politics as a work of the heart and not merely of reason.
- French philosopher Blaise Pascal, also said: “The heart has its reasons which reason itself does not know.” In the same manner, Gandhi believed that the heart, and not reason, is the seat of morality.
ETHICAL CITIZENSHIP AND SOCIAL STABILITY :
- The Gandhian effort for non-violent politics was a cultivation of one’s capacity for ethical citizenship.
- Swaraj is meant to civilise us, and to purify and stabilise our civilisation. A person who is a lover of his country is bound to take a lively interest in politics.
- Gandhi believed that next to constructive work, a society also needs to be inwardly empowered, since human beings are capable of love, friendship, solidarity and empathy.
- It is the moral nature of man by which he rises to good and noble thoughts.
SEVEN SINS BY GANDHI :
Gandhi warned people of seven sins which has potential to destroy the life.
- Wealth Without Work
- Pleasure Without Conscience
- Knowledge without Character
- Commerce Without Morality
- Science Without Humanity
- Religion Without Sacrifice
- Politics Without Principle
HIS FOCUS ON SELF-KNOWING :
- The Gandhian appeal to the ethical in politics was not only a way to seek Truth, but also of coming to know oneself in ever-greater depth.
- Therefore, he advocated an awareness of the essential unity of humanity.
- That awareness called for critical self-examination and a move from egocentricity towards a “shared humanity.”
SHARED HUMANITY :
- From Gandhi’s perspective, non-violence was an ontological truth that followed from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life.
- This “shared humanity” needs to strive to remove its ethical imperfections in order to be able to live with global challenges.
RELEVANCE OF GANDHIAN IDEAS IN MODERN TIMES :
1) Social Sphere:
- Inclusive development of India is possible only by realization of Gandhi’s idea of Sarvodaya.
- In Indian context, principle of Satyagraha still holds good. Example is Jessica Lal’s case. Through peaceful protest in the form of candle march almost all over the country justice was delivered.
- Gandhi’s views about sanitation is seen today in Swachh Bharat Mission.
- Striving for upliftment of Depressed Classes is still as relevant as was during Gandhi’s times.
2) Political Sphere:
- Gandhi’s weapon of non-violence has been used by leaders from across the world.
- Some of the example of such leaders are Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi.
- There is great resonance of the historic salt march at Dandi with the way Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader, brought peace and reconciliation to be all the darkness and loneliness against a brutal and hostile regime.
- Gandhi was a strategist, a genius and he molded his movement according to the situation. He could visualize the mood of the nation and strategically took each step in a well defined way. So our politicians can learn a lot about strategisation from Gandhi
3) Economic Sphere:
- Make in India is manifestation of Gandhi’s ideals of self sufficiency.
- Gandhi’s philosophy of inclusive growth is fundamental to the building of a resurgent rural India.
- He believed in “production by the masses” rather than in mass production, a distinctive feature of the industrial revolution.
- Gandhi warned the country for unrestricted industrialism and exploitation of nature for human greed.
- Serious environmental pollution and non-sustainable nature of development are consequence of not aligning with Gandhian environmentalism.
5) Administration Sphere:
- Internal affairs like insurgency issues in Kashmir, central India or in the North Eastern states could be managed is much better way by following Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence and Satyagraha.
6) International Sphere:
- Even India’s foreign policy is based on peaceful co-existence and it is reflected in not indulging in aggression first though India remains prepared as the security threats accumulate.
- To conclude we can say that most of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi hold relevance even in today’s world.
- In today’s world, ‘Eye for an Eye’ is no solution as it only aggravates the situation.
- Gandhiji believed profoundly in the possibility of introducing humanity to the principle of non-violence. In this era of Nationalistic rivalries and impending Cold war-II, it is all the more necessary to follow Gandhi’s ideal in spirit.
QUESTION : Critically assess contribution of Lal Bahadur Shastri to post-Independent India’s consolidation.
- Lal Bahadur Shastri and His Contributions
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Lal Bahadur Shastri shares his birthday with Gandhi and hails from the province of Jawaharlal Nehru. He became India’s second Prime Minister (1964-66).
- He served for more than 40 years in INC and participated in the freedom movement.
ABOUT LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI :
- He was an Indian politician born on 2nd October 1904, at Mughalsarai, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and who served as the 2nd Prime Minister of India.
- He was given the title “Shastri” meaning “Scholar” by Vidya Peeth as a part of his bachelor’s degree award.
PRE INDEPENDENCE :
- He became a life member of the Servants of the People Society (Lok Sevak Mandal), founded by Lala Lajpat Rai.
- There he started to work for the upliftment of backward classes, and later he became the President of that Society.
- Deeply impressed and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (with whom he shared his birthday), he joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s.
- He participated in the non-cooperation movement,the Salt Satyagraha, individual satyagraha and Quit India Movement.
CONTRIBUTIONS AND JOURNEY OF SHASTRIJI :
- As a Minister of Railways, he resigned twice, assuming moral responsibility for railway accidents in 1956 .
- Setting an early standard, Shastri was one of six who left their cabinet posts in 1963 to work in the party organisation under the Kamaraj Plan.
- He was chosen by Nehru & unanimously elevated as Nehru’s successor, upon his death.
- His Prime-ministership began amid a renewed bout of food scarcity and resultant price rise. It caused a forex crisis from food procurement. Given the political churn that existed, Shastri was able to construct the Food Corporation of India on the way to an eventual ‘Green Revolution’.
- Under his tenure, he forced certain corrupt CMs of Congress and Cabinet Ministers to vacate their offices.
- He had to deal with the language violence in Tamil Nadu, youth challenges in Orissa, enduring demand for a Punjabi suba and continuing farce in Kashmir.
- In the international arena too, Shastri had to navigate between a subdued Non-Aligned Movement, the nuclear challenge of China, a change in the Soviet leadership, a new leader in Pakistan and a war with it. Prepared for a prolonged war, he resisted indiscriminate international intercession, restrained internal war fever especially its potential to deteriorate in communal outbreaks, remained firm through the retreats in one sector and the advances in another in the war’s widening arc, and rallied the country with his call of ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ to become his epitaph.
- In the end, he accepted the Soviet offer for mediation and set about the road to Tashkent, where an agreement was signed with his Pakistani counterpart, President Muhammad Ayub Khan in January 1966, more or less restoring the status quo. (He breathed his last in Tashkent)
- There was a discernible shift from personalised to institutionalised government; the laying of stress from industry to agriculture, and a move from command to economy.
- Crucially, he remained modest in both his personal probity and policy making and was not invested solely in his occupancy of his office.
QUESTION : What are government’s priorities and intentions for integrating biodiversity across sectors and into economic, trade and finance policies ?
- UN Summit on Biodiversity
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The UN Summit on Biodiversity convened on September 30 in the midst of a global crisis caused by the novel coronavirus that is thought to have spilled over to humans from an animal reservoir
- The Summit highlighted the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development. It will provide an opportunity for Heads of State and Government and other leaders to raise ambition for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021. This framework, and its effective implementation, must put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 to meet the SDGs and realize the Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”.
- The Summit is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and commitment to improve our relationship with nature, addressing the causes of change, and ensuring that biodiversity and the contributions it provides to all people are at the heart of sustainable development and the fight against climate change
KEY ISSUES :
- Addressing the loss of biodiversity is essential for poverty eradication, sustainable jobs, economic development and meeting the SDGs :
- More than half of the world’s GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature, through the contributions of nature to people such as pollination, water quality, and natural materials. Construction, agriculture, and food and beverages are the three largest sectors most dependent on nature. In recent years, biodiversity loss has been consistently identified by business leaders as one of the top risks to global business.
- All people depend on a healthy planet :
- Investments in biodiversity including through jobs, incentive reform, and policies that boost conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of biodiversity, and through an inclusive “One Health” approach are essential elements of reducing the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks, and ensure a sustainable, equitable and green recovery of economies.
- Sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity is key to ensure that no one is left behind :
- Every person, in every community, depends on biodiversity, but poorer and marginalized groups are those most directly vulnerable to biodiversity loss.
- Restoration of biodiversity and implementation of nature-based solutions will be essential to meet the SDGs :
- Nature-based solutions can contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, food and water security and to protection from flooding and other extreme events, and they provide key opportunities for integrating biodiversity into actions to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs
- The Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development provides a critical opportunity to halt biodiversity loss and encourage its sustainable
- Urgent action on biodiversity is needed across all sectors and from all actors :
- Action on biodiversity for sustainable development is needed by public and private sectors, including from national and sub-national governments, cities, the business and finance world, and civil society
- Aichi Targets were adopted at the Nagoya Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
- There is consensus that Aichi targets , to be achieved by 2020, have failed. Also, according to the latest UN Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, none of the 20 targets has been fully met.
- A bright spot is the partial progress made on protecting surface and subsurface water, inland, coastal and marine areas.
- WWF’s Living Planet Index points to steep declines in vertebrate populations (a key indicator) by 68% over 1970 levels.
REASONS FOR LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY :
- Habitat loss and fragmentation
- Over-exploitation of species
- Introduction of alien species
- Global Climate Change
- Climate change is another environmental problem that has surfaced in the last couple of decades.
- It happens due to the pollution of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases and other contaminants.
- Environmental pollution
- Natural causes like floods, earthquakes etc.
INDIAN SCENARIO :
- India is one of the few megadiverse countries and one that recognised the value of nature as much as the destructive impact of unregulated resource exploitation.
- National laws of the 1970s and 1980s have shielded islands of biodiversity, particularly in about 5% of the country’s land designated as protected areas.
WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA :
- India should join the coalition of the enlightened.
- With the members of CBD set to draw up fresh conservation targets, India too must use it as an opportunity to plan a trajectory of green growth after COVID-19.
- Plans and targets should be set around clean energy, ecological agriculture, a freeze on expansion of mining and dam-building, resource recovery from waste, and regeneration of arid lands.
QUESTION : India being one of the most flood affected nations in the world requires strong and healthy coordination between Centre and States for long term flood management. Analyse
- Flood forecasting in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India needs a technically capable workforce that can master ensemble weather and flood forecast models.
CURRENT FLOOD FORECASTING SYSTEMS IN INDIA :
- In India, local agency makes a decision in a flood forecast in a way they merely use the words “Rising” or “Falling” above a water level at a river point.
- There are many times this happens in India during flood events, when the district administration, municipalities and disaster management authorities receive such forecasts and have to act quickly.
- Ensemble forecast:
- In India, there is a form of flood forecast known as the Ensemble forecast that provides a lead time of 7-10 days ahead, with probabilities assigned to different scenarios of water levels and regions of inundation.
- An example of the probabilities ahead could be something like this: chances of the water level exceeding the danger level is 80%, with likely inundation of a village nearby at 20%.
- The Ensemble flood forecast certainly helps local administrations with better decision-making and in being better prepared than in a deterministic flood forecast.
MULTIPLE AGENCIES WORKING IN INDIA :
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issues meteorological or weather forecasts while the Central Water Commission (CWC) issues flood forecasts at various river points.
- The end-user agencies are disaster management authorities and local administrations.
- Therefore, the advancement of flood forecasting depends on how quickly rainfall is estimated and forecast by the IMD and how quickly the CWC integrates the rainfall forecast (also known as Quantitative Precipitation Forecast or QPF) with flood forecast.
- Thus, the length of time from issuance of the forecast and occurrence of a flood event termed as “lead time” is the most crucial aspect of any flood forecast to enable risk-based decision-making and undertake cost-effective rescue missions by end user agencies.
- Outdated technologies and a lack of technological parity between multiple agencies and their poor water governance decrease crucial lead time.
WHAT ARE ISSUES ?
- IMD has about 35 advanced Doppler weather radars to help it with weather forecasting.
- Compared to point scale rainfall data from rain gauges, Doppler weather radars can measure the likely rainfall directly from the cloud reflectivity over a large area; thus, the lead time can be extended by up to three days.
- But the advantage of advanced technology becomes infructuous because most flood forecasts at several river points across India are based on outdated statistical methods (of the type gauge-to-gauge correlation and multiple coaxial correlations) that enable a lead time of less than 24 hours.
- This is contrary to the perception that India’s flood forecast is driven by Google’s most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques.
- These statistical methods fail to capture the hydrological response of river basins between a base station and a forecast station. They cannot be coupled with QPF too.
- Google AI has adopted the hydrological data and forecast models derived for diverse river basins across the world for training AI to issue flood alerts in India. This bypasses the data deficiencies and shortcomings of forecasts based on statistical methods.
- Just as the CWC’s technological gap limits the IMD’s technological advancement, the technological limitations of the IMD can also render any advanced infrastructure deployed by CWC infructuous.
- The limitations of altitude, range, band, density of radars and its extensive maintenance enlarge the forecast error in QPF which would ultimately reflect in the CWC’s flood forecast.
- Forecasting errors increase and the burden of interpretation shifts to hapless end user agencies. The outcome is an increase in flood risk and disaster.
GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS :
- IMD has begun testing and using ensemble models for weather forecast through its 6.8 peta flops supercomputers named Pratyush and Mihir.
- The forecasting agency has still to catch up with advanced technology and achieve technological parity with the IMD in order to couple ensemble forecasts to its hydrological models.
- It has to modernise not only the telemetry infrastructure but also raise technological compatibility with river basin-specific hydrological, hydrodynamic and inundation modelling.
- To meet that objective, it needs a technically capable workforce that is well versed with ensemble models and capable of coupling the same with flood forecast models.
- It is only then that India can look forward to probabilistic-based flood forecasts with a lead time of more than seven to 10 days and which will place it on par with the developed world.
- Central Water Commission (CWC) has modernised its flood management system over the years, there are still massive gaps that need to be filled to make it a much more responsive system.
- Two types of measures are taken for flood protection: Structural (embankments, dams, reservoirs, and natural detention basins), and non-structural (flood forecasting and warning, floodplain zoning).
WHAT INDIA CAN LEARN ?
- The developed world has shifted from deterministic forecasting towards ensemble weather models that measure uncertainty by causing perturbations in initial conditions, reflecting the different states of the chaotic atmosphere.
- A study by the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, Telangana shows that it is only recently that India has moved to using hydrological (rainfall-runoff models) capable of being coupled with QPF.
- The United States which is estimated to have a land area thrice that of India, has about 160 next generation S-band Doppler weather radars with a range of 250-300 km.
- The United States, the European Union and Japan have already shifted towards Ensemble flood forecasting along with Inundation modelling.
- India has only recently shifted towards Deterministic forecast i.e. Rising or Falling type forecast per model run.
- India will need at least an 80-100 S-band dense radar network to cover its entire territory for accurate QPF.
- On the structural side, the management of reservoirs and dams, maintenance of embankments and data collection on a river’s silt-bearing capacity have to be improved.
- On the non-structural side, data on river flow and discharge must be enhanced; the installation and maintenance of technical equipment such as gauges have to be expedited.
- The information on floods is given to the public; it has to be timely, useful and in a non-technical language.
- An independent evaluation of the flood forecasting system must be put in place to identify the gaps in the system, and ensure that CWC performs its role better than it is doing now.
WAY FORWARD :
- Disaster Preparedness Plan: A comprehensive flood management plan is needed to include Disaster preparedness
- Integrated Approach: Steps need to be taken for watershed management through an integrated approach. Often these approaches involve both hard engineering solutions and ecologically sustainable soft solutions
- Prioritising Buffers, Flexibility and Adaptability: This includes reviewing safety criteria of dams and canals, re-building these with higher safety factors, creating new intermediate storages, and introducing dynamic reservoir management.
- Reducing Disaster Risk Reduction: There is a need for efficient implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, this will reduce the vulnerability of any disaster.
- Focusing on Urban Flood Management: Keeping in view the fact that the problem of Urban Flooding is becoming more severe and losses are mounting every year.
- Installation of early warning systems so that losses can be minimised.
- India has a long way to go before mastering ensemble model-based flood forecasting. With integration between multiple flood forecasting agencies, end user agencies can receive probabilistic forecasts, reducing flood hazard across the length and breadth of India.
QUESTION : What are the reasons and costs of rising air pollution in Delhi? Enumerate the measures taken by government in this direction .
- Air Pollution
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The launching of an anti-pollution campaign by the Delhi administration.
ANTI-POLLUTION CAMPAIGN IN DELHI :
- With air pollution returning to pre-COVID levels, the Delhi administration has launched a major anti-pollution campaign this month.
- The campaign is focused on cutting the deadly smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the National Capital Region as well as on chemical treatment of stubble burning from nearby States.
REASONS FOR AIR POLLUTION IN DELHI :
- Stubble Burning: Stubble burning in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana is blamed for causing a thick blanket of smog in Delhi during winters.
- It emits large amounts of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like Methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compounds (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
- Vehicular Emission: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have declared vehicular emission as a major contributor to Delhi’s increasing air pollution.
- Vehicles contribute 40% of the total pollution load in the city.
- Topography: Delhi lies in landlocked Indo-Gangetic region which does not have a geographical advantage that eastern, western or southern parts of the country enjoy.
- There is no sea breeze to disperse the concentrated pollutants.
- Construction Sector: Large scale construction in Delhi-NCR is another culprit that is increasing dust and pollution in the air.
- Fire Crackers: Despite the ban on cracker sales, firecrackers were a common sight this Diwali. It may not be the top reason for air pollution, but it definitely contributed to its build up.
- Dust Storm from Gulf countries: During the smog in the year 2017, the dust storm from Gulf countries was also the reason which enhanced already worse condition.
REDUCING EMISSION FROM TRANSPORTATION :
- Delhi’s long-term solution will depend importantly also on abating emissions from transportation.
- Delhi needs a 65% reduction to meet the national standards for PM2.5.
- Vehicles, including trucks and two-wheelers, contribute 20%-40% of the PM2.5 concentrations.
- Tackling vehicle emissions would be one part of the agenda, as in comparable situations in Bangkok, Beijing, and Mexico City.
PLAN OF ACTION COMBATING EMISSIONS :
A three-part action comprises emissions standards, public transport, and electric vehicles.
1) Stricter enforcement of emission controls
- Two-wheelers and three-wheelers were as important as cars and lorries in Beijing’s experience.
- Bangkok ramped up inspection and maintenance to cut emissions.
- The first order of business is to implement the national standards.
2) Strengthening public transport
- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) around the world show how the sizeable investment cost is more than offset by the benefits, and that financing pays off.
- Delhi has lessons from its BRT experience in designating better BRT lanes, improving the ticketing system and synchronising with the Metro.
- The Supreme Court’s ruling to increase Delhi’s bus fleet and align it with the Metro network must be carried out.
- The ‘odd-even’ number plate policy can help, but the system should reduce exemptions, allow a longer implementation period, and complement it with other measures.
3) Adoption of electric vehicle: A long term solution
- Subsidies and investment will be needed to ensure that EVs are used to a meaningful scale.
- The Delhi government’s three-year policy aims to make EVs account for a quarter of the new vehicles registered in the capital by 2024.
- EVs will gain from purchase incentives, scrappage benefits on older vehicles, loans at favourable interest and a waiver of road taxes.
NEED FOR COORDINATION AT VARIOUS LEVEL :
- Transport solutions need to be one part of pollution abatement that includes industry and agriculture.
- Delhi’s own actions will not work if the pollution from neighbouring States is not addressed head on.
- Technical solutions need to be underpinned by coordination and transparency across Central, State, and local governments.
- Public opinion matters.
- Citizen participation and the media are vital for sharing the message on pollution and health, using data such as those from the Central Pollution Control Board.
GOVT INITIATIVES TACKLING AIR POLLUTION :
- Notification of National Ambient Air Quality Standards and sector-specific emission and effluent standards for industries;
- Setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality;
- Introduction of cleaner gaseous fuels like CNG, LPG etc and ethanol blending;
- Launching of National Air Quality Index (AQI);
- Leapfrogging from BS-IV to BS-VI standards for vehicles by 1st April 2020;
- Banning of burning of biomass;
- Promotion of public transport network;
- Pollution Under Control Certificate;
- Issuance of directions under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- Installation of on-line continuous (24×7) monitoring devices by 17 highly polluting industrial sectors;
- Regulating the bursting of pollution-emitting crackers;
- Notification of graded response action plan for Delhi identifying source wise actions for various levels of air pollution, etc.
- Even – Odd formula.
- It is a matter of prioritising people’s health and a brighter future. Once the pandemic is over, Delhi must not stumble into yet another public health emergency.
QUESTION : Critically analyse the performance of the National Green Tribunal in safeguarding environmental rights.
- National Green Tribunal (NGT)
WHY IN NEWS?
- October 18 was a significant day, as it marked the 10th anniversary of the National Green Tribunal, or NGT.
WHAT IS NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL (NGT)?
- It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
- NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
- The NGT has five places of sittings, New Delhi is the Principal place of sitting and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four.
STRUCTURE OF NGT :
- The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
- The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- A Selection Committee shall be formed by central government to appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members.
- There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.
POWERS AND JURISDICTION :
- The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment).
- Being a statutory adjudicatory body like Courts, apart from original jurisdiction side on filing of an application, NGT also has appellate jurisdiction to hear appeal as a Court (Tribunal).
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, but shall be guided by principles of ‘natural justice’.
- While passing any order/decision/ award, it shall apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.
The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment, these include:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974,
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977,
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- Any violation pertaining to these laws or any decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT
PERFORMANCE OF NGT:
The NGT has created a new breed of legal practitioners,
- protected vast acres of forest land,
- halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
- It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye towards enforcing the laws, and held large corporate entities to account.
- It has protected the rights of tribal communities and ensured the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.
- Dilution of criteria: The Central Government attempted to dilute the criteria for appointments to the NGT and other tribunals. The rules were ultimately suspended by the Supreme Court.
KEY CHALLENGES :
- Administrative problems
- NGT has never got the minimum strength of ten judicial and ten expert members to address the increasing number of environmental litigations across the country.
- The great majority of cases are not resolved within the stipulated time-period of six months.
- The act has limited the jurisdiction of tribunal to “substantial question of environment” i.e. situations where ‘damage to public health is broadly measurable’ or ‘significant damage to environment’ or relates to ‘Point Source of Pollution.
- The qualifications for a technical member are more favorable to bureaucrats (especially retired) and to irrelevant technocrats.
- There are also serious challenges as far as implementation of the NGT orders is concerned.
WAY FORWARD :
- Strengthening it by giving more powers and by investing in itsinfrastructure.
- Judicial review is an important power that must be given to NGT.
- Other environment-related laws must be included within NGT’S ambit.
- NGT also needs to put certain systems in place for transparent decision-making.
- NGT needs to establish principles and criteria to estimate fines, damages and compensation.
- It should also identify institutions and experts who can help it to scientifically estimate environmental damages/compensation/fines on a case-to-case basis.
- NGT must put internal checks and balances for efficient and transparent delivery of justice.
- Suomotu jurisdiction has to be an integral feature of NGT for better and effective functioning.
- There is a need for the central and state governments to work in collaboration with the NGT for an effective outcome.
- In the present era, equilibrium between development and environment is of utmost importance.
QUESTION : Despite the law banning manual scavenging, this practice still exists. Examine the causes and suggest steps needed to overcome problem of manual scavenging in India.
- Manual Scavenging In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Even in 2020, the Indian government and our civil society continue to grapple with the inhuman nature of manual scavenging.
MANUAL SCAVENGING :
- Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.
- The practise of manual scavenging is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes were expected to perform this job.
- Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India.
- Frequent deaths occur as manual scavengers don’t even have adequate tools and protective gear to clean the manhole. It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO IN INDIA :
- While civil society started a movement in the 1990s to abolish dry latrines, the focus now is on manhole deaths and the provision of safety equipment to sanitation workers.
- The movement has been demanding the abolition of the dehumanizing practice of the manual removal of human excreta and calls for the introduction of mechanization for handling waste.
- Various State governments and the Central governments have responded to these civil society demands by introducing different legislations to stop manual scavenging and provide incentives to build toilets.
- Currently, the Indian government seems to be framing the issue as a spectacle in the form of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and is addressing the problem in terms of an obstacle in the way of tourism promotion.
- Abysmal situation:
o During the last Chennai floods, sanitation workers from the Nilgiris district were made to travel in garbage trucks to Chennai.
o This situation has continued even during the coronavirus pandemic eg. in Tamil Nadu, sanitation workers are asked to work in newly formed COVID-19 wards.
STEPS TAKEN IN PAST :
- Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993
o The Act prohibited the construction of unsanitary dry latrines and employing manual scavengers.
o The Act had defined ‘manual scavenger’ as a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta.
o However, the government’s description of the dry latrine was a problem, as it defined dry latrine as “latrine other than a water-seal latrine”.
o Manual scavenging was not just a practice related to dry latrines, but also to insanitary latrines and open defecation.
- Safai Karamchari Andolan
o The Safai Karamchari Andolan, a social movement that campaigned against manual scavenging, along with other organizations, filed public interest litigation(PIL) in the Supreme Court.
o The demand was to direct State governments and Union Territories to strictly enforce the law to stop the practice of manual removal of human excreta.
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act,2013
o Though the construction of dry latrines has drastically reduced, the number of deaths in manholes, sewers and septic tanks continues to remain high.
o The Indian government had plans to amend the 2013 Act to completely mechanize the cleaning of sewers and manholes and build new sewers.
o However, neither the past nor the present amendment addresses the issue of labor safety.
- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
o The same is the case with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which skirts the issue of labor rights and the stigma attached to sanitation.
o Also, not only toilets but even cleaning work is seen as a lowly job in India.
o Most sanitation contracts are given to private contractors or self-help groups, and such staff hardly have ID cards, leave alone the protection of medical insurance policies.
ISSUES RELATED TO MANUAL SCAVENGING :
However, while manual scavenging for many may have ended as a form of employment, the stigma and discrimination associated with it lingers on.
o This makes it difficult for liberated manual scavengers to secure alternative livelihoods.
o People could once again return to manual scavenging in the absence of other opportunities to support their families.
Correctly identifying manual scavengers remains a key challenge.
WHY MANUAL SCAVENGING PREVALENT IN INDIA ?
Scavenging has been an occupation imposed upon certain citizens of the country by the society, which later on continued as a traditional occupation among Scheduled Castes.
- Manual scavenging exists primarily because of absence of water borne latrines. The House-listing and Housing Census, 2011 reported that there are about 26 lakh insanitary latrines in the country.
- With emergence of urban areas these people were also employed for cleaning of sewers or septic tanks.
- Low level of education, awareness about their rights, laws and low self esteem force them to take such work.
- Lack of empathy among the government, contractors and household members employing manual scavengers is another reason, wherein these class of people fail to see the agony of the manual scavengers.
- Poor implementation of the existing laws has also helped in continuation of this practice.
- These section of society are not organized and don’t have any significant voice in the government structures which cause their voice being unheard.
- There is a need to provide vehicles for sanitation workers to travel to their designated workspaces.
- Urgent need to dissociate caste from labor:There are hardly any exclusive trade unions for sweepers.
- There is a need for political will and social pressure to avoid any further deaths.
- If the law on manual scavenging is to be effective, the penalties must be uniformly and visibly enforced.
- It is equally important for State governments to address the lack of adequate machinery to clean septic tanks.
- Toilet designs proposed by the government include those in which fully composted waste must be removed from pits every two years
- The Centre must ensure that this does not become an avenue to oppress members of some communities, reflecting social inequalities.
- The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority.
QUESTION : Exemplify the term “ Sponge City” and Discuss its relevance for Indian urban landscape.
- Urban Floods
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The torrential rains in Hyderabad killed over 50 people. In the past, it was Chennai that saw a massive flood costing much damage and lives. For Mumbai, the monsoon has become synonymous with flooding and enormous damages
WHAT IS URBAN FLOODING ?
- Flood is defined as “an overflow of a large body of water over areas not usually inundated”. Thus, flooding in urban areas is caused by intense and/or prolonged rainfall, which overwhelms the capacity of the drainage system.
- Urban flooding is significantly different from rural flooding- urbanization increases flood risk by up to 3 times, increased peak flow results in flooding very quickly. Further, it affects large number of people due to high population density in urban areas.
CAUSES OF URBAN FLOODING :
- Meteorological Factors:
- Heavy rainfall, cyclonic storms and thunderstorms
- Hydrological Factors:
- Overbank flow channel networks, occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage in coastal cities.
- Anthropogenic Factors:
Unplanned Urbanization is the key cause of urban flooding. A major concern is blocking of natural drainage pathways through construction activity and encroachment on catchment areas, riverbeds and lake beds.
IMPACT OF URBAN FLOODING :
1.Impact on Human:
- Loss of life & physical injury
- Increased stress; psychological trauma
- Contamination of water supplies leading to diseases
- Rise in mosquito borne diseases
3.Impact on Economy:
- Damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructures
- Disruptions to industrial production
- Disruptions to utility supplies
- Impact on heritage or archaeological site
- Post-disaster rescue and rehabilitation adds to financial burden of the government
4.Impact on Transport and Communication:
- Increased traffic congestion, disruption in rail services
- Disruption in communication- on telephone, internet cables
5.Impact on environment:
- Loss of tree cover, loss of habitat
- Impact on animals in zoo, stray animals
THE RECENT CASE OF HYDERABAD :
- Unprecedented rainfall: In September 2019, the rainfall was the highest in 100 years. The rainfall received in 2020 has been the highest for the month of October in a century.
- Ignoring scientific tools: Scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, built climate change adaptation tools for Hyderabad. However, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority did not use it.
- Mismanaging the city’s drainage systems:
- The floods of October 2020 occurred because we did not discharge the water in time.
- And when we did discharge the water, we did it in a sudden, uncontrolled manner.
- Antiquated infrastructure:
- Hyderabad’s century-old drainage system (developed in the 1920s) covered only a small part of the core city.
- And as the city grew beyond its original limits, not much was done to address the absence of adequate drainage systems.
- Communities left out: The issues of incremental land use change, particularly of those commons which provide us with necessary ecological support — wetlands were neglected.
- The role of local communities in managing local ecosystems — people with traditional rights for fishing and farming was also ignored.
WHAT IS A ‘SPONGE CITY’ ?
- A great risk that climate change introduces to urban centers is flooding due to unpredictable and extreme weather patterns. Hence, sponge cities are urban ecosystems that are designed to take advantage of the floods, rather than letting them destroy livelihoods. These cities tap into biophilic urban design elements like green roofs, open green spaces, and interconnected waterways that can naturally detain and filter water
- A sponge city follows the philosophy of innovation: that a city can solve water problems instead of creating them. In the longrun, sponge cities will reduce carbon emissions and help fight climate change.
- These can all be delivered effectively through an urban mission along the lines of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Smart Cities Mission.
NATIONAL FLOOD COMMISSION :
- Rashtriya Barh Ayog or the National Flood Commission (NFC) was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in 1976.
- It aimed to study India’s flood-control measures after the projects launched under the National Flood Control Programme of 1954 failed to achieve much success
WHY REVIVE NFC?
- An accurate estimate is crucial for framing flood management programmes.
- The NFC estimated that the total area vulnerable to floods in 1980 was around 40 million hectares.
- There is another problem. The very definition of the flood-prone area does not reflect the effectiveness of the flood management works undertaken.
WAY FORWARD :
- Ban against terrain alteration:
- Builders, property owners, and public agencies have been flattening terrain and altering drainage routes. This causes irreversible damage.
- Detailed documentation of wetlands and watersheds
- We need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
- The Metropolitan Development Authorities, National Disaster Management Authority, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved in such work together.
- Wetland policy: We need to start paying attention to the management of our wetlands by involving local communities.
- Porous building materials: Our cities are becoming increasingly impervious to water, not just because of increasing built up but also because of hard, non-porous construction material that makes the soil impervious.
- To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, bioswales and retention systems, permeable material for roads and pavement, drainage systems can be used. It will allow storm water to trickle into the ground, green roofs and harvesting systems in buildings.
- Stop the blame: Acknowledging the role of different actors for the city can create a practical space to begin this work. The constant search for a scapegoat to blame should stop.
- We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water. Doing so will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines, provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable.
QUESTION : Discuss the significance of the QUAD grouping, especially for India. Is it’s relevance mere tokenism? Critically analyse.
- QUAD And India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- It is reported that the second Ministerial meeting of the four countries under the Quad will be held in Japan.Sadly, the person who conceived this idea, Shinzō Abe, has stepped down as the Prime Minister of Japan. Mr. Abe was a strategic thinker who thought beyond the limited timeframe of Japanese revolving-door politics.
- Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) is the strategic dialogue between the four countries viz. India, United States, Japan, and Australia. It has been recently revived and is being viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- The grouping’s informal origins can be traced to 2004.
- In the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia, India, Japan and the US launched an ad-hoc humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) mission, which allowed them to come together operationally. Since then the four navies have worked together on several occasions.
- The Quad was formally initiated in 2007 at the prompting of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.
- Formal Quad meetings were not possible following strong objections from China in 2007.
REASONS THAT MADE QUAD A NON-STARTER IN 2007 :
- The American establishment still believed that it could, somehow, persuade China to become a ‘responsible stake-holder’
- US also required Chinese goodwill in dealing with America’s priorities — the nuclear issue with North Korea and Iran, and the War on Terror – and did not want to antagonize China with QUAD.
- Japan and Australia were riding the China Boom to prosperity.
- If India was ambivalent at the time, it was because this mirrored the uncertainties of others.
- As a result, the idea merely remained on the table and there was no clearly enunciated concept or proposed structures.
INTENTION BEHIND CHINA’S OBJECTION :
- Dubbed it as Cold-War Type Coalition: The Chinese, however, labelled it as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
- QUAD would interfere with China’s Indo-Pacific plans: The real reason for China’s hyper-reaction was out of concern that such a grouping would “out” China’s plans for naval expansion by focusing on the Indo-Pacific maritime space.
- Grand Maritime Plans: China was hoping that its naval build-up might slip under the radar if QUAD become a non-starter because the Americans were distracted by continental challenges including Russia, Afghanistan and Iran, and would not look sea-ward.
What happened once the idea of Quad 1.0 had died down?
- China gained in confidence to reveal its hand.
- It advanced a new claim — the Nine-Dash Line — in the South China Sea.
- China undertook the rapid kind of warship building activity reminiscent of Germany before 1914.
- China built its first overseas base in Djibouti.
- It also started systematically to explore the surface and sub-surface environment in the Indian Ocean beyond the Malacca Straits.
- The global pandemic and the faltering global economy are taking a toll on the region’s growth and prosperity.
- The two major Pacific powers (China and America), are moving into a more adversarial phase of their relationship.
- Emergence of new players like the U.S. and Japan has only increased multiple regional rivalries in
- the region.
- India objected to Chinese naval presence in Sri Lanka. Now India will not be able to object to U.S. naval warships and Japanese presence there.
SIGNIFICANCE OF QUAD FOR INDIA :
- India has taken a significant turn in its policy for the subcontinent by joining quad grouping.
- It provides New Delhi a powerful platform to advance its interests in East Asia.
- It will deepen India’s ties with the US, Australia, and Japan with benefits in diplomatic leverage and sharing of burden in defense.
- It will also provide India a significant chance in shaping US policies in Afghanistan-Pakistan to the benefit of India.
- It will provide a powerful platform to advance Indian interest in the region and strengthen the Act East policy.
- Foster economic growth with better market adaptation, so it will lead to more employment opportunities in India.
- It helps India and the other three nations to counter China’s OBOR. As India is refused to join OBOR it helps India to connect with other markets like Central Asian and Southeast Asian markets.
NEGATIVE IMPACT OF QUAD FOR INDIA :
- It further hampers the bilateral relations between India and China.
- It went against the Non-Alignment movement which is India’s initiative.
- Quad may affect India-Russia relations and gave further impetus to improve China-Russia relations, which will impact India.
- While the quadrilateral grouping will bring developmental projects, it will considerably erode India’s primacy in the neighborhood region.
- While India has impeded the Chinese desire to have a diplomatic mission in Bhutan, it would be a challenge if the US pursues the same.
- Similarly, India also runs the risk of seeding ground to Japanese & US Navies in Sri Lanka.
WAY AHEAD :
- The challenge before the quad grouping lies in finding areas of mutual interest
- All the member nations should work with cooperation.
- Financial institutions like World Bank and Asian Development Bank must focus on infrastructure funding in the region. It will help in counter China’s large scale infrastructure building in countries of Southeast Asia to Africa under the Belt and Road Initiatives to economic growth.
- Owing to India’s presence and impact in South Asia the neighborhood first policy should not take a backseat.
- A positive agenda built around collective action in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, monitoring shipping for search and rescue or anti-piracy operations, infrastructure assistance to climatically vulnerable states, connectivity initiatives and similar activities, will re-assure the littoral States that the Quad will be a factor for regional benefit and not military alliance as alleged by China.
QUESTION : ‘Role of Amnesty International in protection of human rights’ and define new challenges faced by this NGOs.
- Amnesty International
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Amnesty’s decision to close its operations in India
ABOUT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL :
- Amnesty International is a worldwide human rights organization (International NGO) founded in 1961 by the British lawyer Peter Benenson
- It is independent of all governments and all financial players and had won the Nobel Peace Prize way back in 1977.
OBJECTIVES OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL :
- The main objective of Amnesty International is to conduct rigorous research and initiate measures to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to provide justice for the deprived section of the community.
AREAS OF WORK :
The major areas that are covered by the Amnesty International include –
- Women’s, children’s, minorities’ and indigenous rights
- Ending torture
- Abolition of the death penalty
- Rights of refugees
- Rights of prisoners of conscience
- Protection of human dignity
REASONS BEHIND THIS HALT OF OPERATIONS BY THIS NGO :
Its working had been made difficult due to government actions in recent years for ex:
- Freezing of its bank accounts by government of India in early September 2020.
- Constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate from past two years
- Intrusive scrutiny from state agencies
- Critical reporting of abrogation of Article 370 was viewed by Union Government as interference in Domestic Politics of India
GOVERNMENT’S ARGUMENT FOR TAKING ACTION AGAINST NGO :
- Non-Compliance with Indian Laws:
- Amnesty International Foundation and its three subsidiaries — Amnesty India Private Limited, Indians for Amnesty International Trust and Amnesty International South Asia Foundation — are not registered under the FCRA,2010 a pre-requisite for civil society groups, associations and NGOs to receive foreign donations.
- It made use the “prior permission” route, which meant applying to the government each time it wanted to accept a foreign donation.
- Flouting Financial Laws:
- Having failed to receive registration under the FCRA, the Amnesty had taken the “commercial route” and accepted funds through Foreign Direct Investment, which Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) said is a contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
- Interference in Domestic Politics:
- MHA also stated that India does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations, in a pointed reference to Amnesty’s reports on alleged human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir.
- Not an Isolated Case:
- The action against AI including freezing their funds is part of the government’s scrutiny of more than 20 international NGOs including Greenpeace, Compassion International, and Ford Foundation, over the past few years.
- Long History of monitoring:
- The enquiry into Amnesty International had been undertaken by both the UPA and the NDA regimes over the past decade. The UPA government had blocked over ₹5 crore foreign funds to Amnesty between 2010 and 2013 after receiving allegedly adverse intelligence reports.
NEW RULES FOR NGOs UNDER FCRA AMENDMENT,2020 :
- The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 was passed by the Parliament amending Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
- In order to receive foreign funds, an NGO has to register with the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is assigned a unique FCRA registration number, to be renewed every five years.
- Every FCRA-registered NGO will have to open an FCRA-marked bank account with a designated branch of State Bank of India in New Delhi.
- The cap on administrative expenses has been lowered from 50% of foreign funds received to 20%.
- It prohibits the transfer of foreign grants received by an entity to a partner organisation or an associated person, which is a usual practice.
- Criticism: This has been criticized as an act to suppress the NGOs that dissent against the government.
- The amendment will impact many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in India.
- This has strengthened the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability, and will help in curbing fraud and threats of the sovereignty of the country in the name of NGOs.
CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT’S ACTION :
- Against Democratic Spirit: The freedom of civil society organisations to operate underpins any functioning democracy. Curbing the activities of NGOs through excessive State interference is considered as moving backwards in Democracy.
- Climate of Fear: Treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals will stoke a climate of fear and dismantle the critical voices in India.
- Fundamental Rights Impacted: Such witch-hunting by government agencies violates people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law.
- Intolerance to Criticism: Freezing of account is akin to freezing dissent.
WAY AHEAD :
- Democratic regimes that are bound by constitutionalism should not consider critical activism by groups such as Amnesty as being adversarial, but instead view it as constructive critique of their functioning.
- If the critique of such groups is not reasoned, the state can rebut it through communiqués and responses, but should not restrict freedom of expression through intimidation or restraining actions.
- For India to aspire to become a leading Power and a just nation, it must build on its strengths such as its demographic dividend and the procedural institutions that have been built over decades.
- It is to be hoped Amnesty’s decision to halt operations is therefore temporary and that it would be able to function within India’s regulatory framework.
QUESTION : Examine and review the safeguards provided by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and challenges faced by NCPCR while dealing child crimes.
- The National Commission For Protection Of Child Rights (NCPCR)
WHY IN NEWS ?
- We note with great concern some of the recent actions of the Commission that suggest a grave departure from its primary duty to ensure the well-being of all children, especially children in need of care and protection.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS ABOUT NCPCR :
- The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament.
- National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development ,Government of India.
- The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Under the NCPCR the Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
- The Commission visualizes a rights-based perspective flowing into National Policies and Programmes, along with nuanced responses at the State, District and Block levels, taking care of specificity and strengths of each region.
- In order to touch every child, it seeks a deeper penetration to communities and households and expects that the ground experiences gathered at the field are taken into consideration by all the authorities at the higher level.
- Thus the Commission sees an indispensable role for the State, sound institution-building processes, respect for decentralization at the local bodies and community level and larger societal concern for children and their well-being
FUNCTIONS AND POWES :
- Examine and review the safeguards provided by or under any law for the time being in force for the protection of child rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
- Present to be central government, annually and at such other intervals, as the commission may deem fit, reports upon working of those safeguards;
- Inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases;
- Examine all factors that inhibit the enjoyment of rights of children affected by terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, maltreatment, torture and exploitation, pornography and prostitution and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
- Look into matters relating to children in need of special care and protection, including children in distress, marginalised and disadvantaged children, children in conflict with law, juveniles, children without family and children of prisoners and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
- Study treaties and other international instruments and undertake periodic review of existing policies, programmes, and other activities on child rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation in the best interest of children.
- Undertake and promote research in the field of child rights.
- Spread child rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for protection of these rights through publications, media, seminars and other available means.
- Inspect or cause to be inspected any juvenile custodial home or any other place of residence or institution meant for children,
- Inquire into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters related to:
- Deprivation and violation of child rights.
- Non implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children.
- Non compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships to and ensuring welfare of the children and to provide relief to such children
CHILD RIGHTS :
- According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children – that India ratified in 1992 – all children are born with fundamental rights.
- Right to Survival – to life, health, nutrition, name, nationality
- Right to Development – to education, care, leisure, recreation, cultural activities
- Right to Protection – from exploitation, abuse, neglect
- Right to Participation – to expression, information, thought, religion
The four basic principles on which these above mentioned rights are based are:
- Non-discrimination (Article 2)
- Best Interest of the Child (Article 3)
- Right to Life Survival and Development (Article 6)
- Respect for the views of the child (Article 12): Children have the right to voice their opinions and have these be taken into account in decisions that affect them.
CONSTITUTIONAL AND INSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS :
- Article 14- The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws with in the territory of India.
- Article 15- The State shall not discriminate against any citizen. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provisions for women and children.
- Article 21- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
- Article 21 A- The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
- Article 23- Traffic in human beings and beggary and other forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.
- Article 24- No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
- The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act was notified on 13th December 2002, making free and compulsory education a Fundamental Right for all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
- Article 39(e) & (f) direct that the state policies are directed towards securing the tender age of children.
- Article 45 states that the state shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
- Article 47- The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties
- Article 51A mentions that it shall be the fundamental duty of the parent and guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen.
- Article 243G read with Schedule 11 – provide for institutionalization of child care by seeking to entrust programmes of Women and Child Development to Panchayat (Item 25 of Schedule 11), apart from education (item 17), family welfare (item 25), health and sanitation (item 23) and other items with a bearing on the welfare of children.
CHALLENGES FOR CHILDREN IN INDIA :
- CHILD LABOUR
- SEXUAL ASSAULT
- HEALTH EDUCATION AND NUTRITION
MAJOR CONCERNS :
- Amongst its significant powers and duties, the NCPCR has been specifically charged with the monitoring of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) and was instructed to carry out a social audit of the same by the Supreme Court.
- Civil society organisations have raised several obvious concerns about this, especially because most of these children are in CCIs due to abusive conditions in the family.
- A mandated repatriation without an adequate case-by-case assessment plan within a short period of time would likely place the children again at grave risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
- They also point to the sheer inadequacy of current systems to organise adoption and foster care.
- Not only is monitoring of the FCRA regulations outside of the mandate of the NCPCR, but the raids also seem to target individuals who have been outspoken in the criticism of the Central government on issues such as the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN :
- We would have expected the NCPCR to show concern for the gross violation of children’s rights during the lockdown and in its aftermath.
- The NCPCR could have used its authority and power to issue recommendations to relieve these grave conditions by reiterating the need for strengthening all child-related institutions (government and non-government) through adequate funds, and appreciating the relief measures that many civil society organisations, including the ones being raided and instructed to close down, were engaged in.
- We would have expected the NCPCR to exhibit its priorities better by taking suo motu cognisance of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh.
- It should have made a test case of the lack of systems to fight crimes against children instead of moving to undermine and dismantle whatever little does exist for their protection.
GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES AGAINST CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE :
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS):
- Anganwadi Services: holistic development of children under the age of six years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- Scheme for Adolescent Girls: facilitate, educate and empower adolescent girls.
- Child Protection Services: provide safe and secure environment for children through a wide range of social protection measures.
- National Crèche Scheme: providing a safe place for mothers to leave their children while they are at work.
- National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR): Ensures that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Please note: The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act): Protect children from offenses of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences.
- Pan-India expansion of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: Address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and address other related issues of disempowerment of women.
- One Stop Centres(OSCs): Single window for women to a range of services including access to police, medical, legal and psychological support and temporary shelter.
WAY AHEAD :
- Strengthen the reporting mechanism on violence against children by making it more accessible to children.
- Develop a framework for protection of children from online abuse and ensuring privacy, safety and confidentiality of data shared on digital platforms.
- Enhance financial investment on child protection components
- Sensitise parents, service providers and community for early identification and management of children facing abuse and violence; and sensitisation of children, parents and caregivers on gender issues.
- Create awareness amongst children on safe usage of online platforms and protection from cyber abuse.
- Strengthen the juvenile justice system in India and provide care, support and rehabilitation to survivors, particularly of sexual violence.
- Ensure safe schools by integrating safe school principles in curricula, conduct awareness raising workshops and develop capacities of teachers and other staffs
QUESTION : The pandemic has disrupted our normal lives, but it also provides an opportunity to bring in changes that we desire in our education strategy. Discuss the changes that are required.
- Principles of National Education
WHY IN NEWS ?
- There is a need to explore the contours of national education practices leading to 2047 when politically independent India becomes 100 years old.
HOW DO WE PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE ?
To power India’s ascend in the global growth path, we need to reassess our education strategy to maximise the potential of our large talent. This can be achieved through the following ways.
- Digital technologies need to be incorporated to deliver lessons to students. It can be harnessed to enable remote learning for students across all age groups
- The teachers need to be trained to become better educators.
- The youth of the country need to be mobilised by offering them customised learning courses that are tailored to complement their capabilities, skillsets and employability needs.
- Also in addition to hard skills, more emphasis should be given to cognitive and soft skills.
- A transdisciplinary learning approach will help in building resilience and improving adaptability.
- Peer-to-peer, peer-to-teacher and group discussions are some great ways to foster learning over digital platforms.
- Using 3D Visualizations, simulations, prototyping and AR/VR based training can be used to strengthen technology skilling which is imperative in moving forward.
From a teacher’s perspective, the next education practices can be viewed through the following five design principles.
- Autonomy: To Excel is the key
- The greatest insurance for autonomy is excellence in students’ outcomes rather than a piece of legislation.
- As long as institutions continue to excel, they will earn their autonomy through social, community and citizens’ sanctions. Legislation may help.
- In practice, autonomy cannot be defined by entitlement nor limited by unlawful encroachment.
- By 2047, autonomy has to be imbibed as an institutional culture rather than a personal perquisite of a vice chancellor, principal or a director.
- There needs to be autonomy in teaching methods, autonomy of the learner in creating her own curriculum, autonomy of thought and self-governance — Swayttata.
- Learning: Technology Rich Settings
- In 2047, six billion people in the world would constitute the middle class. With little money but with enormous hunger for learning, they will define the learner base for a networked global university system
- Technology will proliferate intelligence from hardware to software to everywhere.
- Teachers will evolve from ring masters to zen masters, raising awareness rather than delivering content
- The four core tasks of the university: creation; dissemination; accreditation and monetisation of knowledge will require a sweet synthesis of algorithm and altruism.
- Learning will involve mobilisation of knowledge for a specific person; is a specific context to face specific challenges or problems.
- In the ultimate analysis, learning will be about propagation of crucial questions rather than pre-determined answers. Pressure of performance will have to co-exist with the pleasure and ecstasy of learning — ananda.
- Trans-disciplinarity: Coherence across fields
- The new National Education Policy (NEP) roots for multi-disciplinary institutions rather than standalone schools. Multidisciplinarity involves experts from different disciplines working together, each drawing on their unique disciplinary knowledge.
- However, by 2047, trans-disciplinarity rather than multi-disciplinarity will be the norm. Transdisciplinarity is about creating a coherence of intellectual frameworks beyond the disciplinary perspectives.
- Knowledge in 2047 will move from discipline-based units to the unity of meaning and understanding.
- The reductionist knowledge of the West that explains the whole as the sum of parts will yield space to the quest for the part less whole that the rishis of the Upanishads described as purnatwa.
- Technology-Innovation: School as connecting hub
- Technology-led innovation will take learning from cognition to immersion.
- Traditionally, students of professional courses learnt through field and factory visits. Today, it is possible for a factory experience to be simulated in a classroom
- In 2047, school will not be a brick and mortar house but a connecting hub that will digitally decode, deliver and disperse knowledge.
- Disruptive innovation will enable technology to give greater access to hitherto exclusive knowledge and fulfil unmet learner needs.
- Technology will not be a cosmetic add-on but serve a strategic purpose. Leading schools of the world will harness talent and technology seamlessly.
- Values, mindset and culture: Nurturing minds with values
- By 2047, Indian teachers will be engaged in nurturing global mindsets based on three classical values of India:
satyam(authenticity), nityam (sustainability) and purnam (wholeness).
- Mindsets will be based on how learners receive information and not what information they receive; on how to think rather than what to think.
- Education is finally about creating and sustaining wholesome cultures rather than serving the templates of outmoded civilisations.
- The most valuable outcome of education is the becoming of a competent and compassionate human being.
- The granting of autonomy to premium institutions should not affect the equity and accessibility to quality education and appropriate measures should be taken to address such concerns.
- A teacher is like a guiding light who will help us navigate through the continuous process of learning, unlearning and relearning in our lives. This pandemic has been a great teacher to us – helping us prioritise our needs, assess our strengths and also teaching us alternative ways of living our lives.
QUESTION : Why is Hepatitis C considered to be a global health concern? Discuss.
- Nobel Prize in the discovery of Hepatitis C virus
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
MORE ABOUT NEWS :
- The Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work helped explain a major source of blood-borne Hepatitis C virus that couldn’t be explained by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
- Tests have been developed to identify blood that has this virus, so that infected blood is not given to any patient.
ABOUT HEPATITIS :
- Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- The Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause for the disease but other infections, toxic substances e.g. alcohol, certain drugs, and some autoimmune diseases can also be the cause of it.
- There are five main types of hepatitis viruses namely A, B, C, D and E. While all cause liver disease, they vary in important ways.
- Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water (transmitted via oral-faecal route).
- Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through unsafe blood transfusions or contaminated needles/syringes (particularly among the drug users), sexual-transmission or even mother-to-child transmission.
- Hepatitis A and B are preventable by vaccine.
- There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. However, it can be treated with antiviral medication.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DISCOVERY :
- According to the World Health Organization, about 71 million people (6 -11 million of them in India) have chronic infection with the Hepatitis C virus, which also happens to be a major cause of liver cancer.
- No vaccine: A vaccine for the disease has still not been developed.
- The disease is hard to detect because it remains asymptomatic for a long time before leading to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- The discoveries of Hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV), and the establishment of effective screening routines, have virtually eliminated the risk of transmission via blood products.
- Three main causes of blood-borne infections — Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV — all have been identified.
INDIA AND HEPATITIS C :
- An estimated 0.5-1 per cent of the country’s population (or 10-13 million people) suffers from Hepatitis C.
- Punjab has a larger burden of disease due to high drug-abuse and injectable drugs usage.
GLOBAL SCENARIO :
- According to WHO, Hepatitis B and C together are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year.
- In 2016, 194 governments across the globe adopted WHO’s global strategy which aims at eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.
INDIAN SCENARIO :
- In India, 40 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B virus and 6 to 12 million with the Hepatitis C virus.
- In 2018, the government launched the National Viral Hepatitis Program. The program is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.
STEPS BY INDIA TO ADDRESS HEPATITIS ISSUES :
- Inclusion of Hepatitis B vaccination under the expanded Universal Immunization Programme.
- Launching of the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme in July 2018 under National Health Mission by the Health Ministry. The aim of the programme is to combat hepatitis and achieve countrywide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030.
- Recently, an automated coronavirus testing device named ‘COBAS 6800’ was launched which can also detect viral Hepatitis B & C, among others.
QUESTION : With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic. Discuss the role of CAG in India
- Role and Significance of CAG during covid-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
- With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic the role of the supreme audit institution of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has assumed the significance.
KARNATAKA CASE – HOW EMERGENCY SITUATION IS MISUSED FOR CORRUPT PRACTICES ?
- Emergency calls for attention on outcomes rather than rules
- In the expediency of saving lives and alleviating suffering, there can be reasonable exceptions to compliance with established rules and standard operating procedures. As a result, questions of inconsistencies are likely to be overlooked.
- In Karnataka, there was political allegation that funds (to the tune of ₹2,000 crore) were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of PPEs, sanitisers, ventilators, masks and other equipment at prices higher than those prevailing in the market
- In August 2020, the Karnataka State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the CAG to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment
- The panel also asked the CAG to ‘conduct an audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The government had used the SDRF amount for purchase of equipment in various districts’
ROLE OF CAG DURING THESE TIMES :
- Mandate: The statutory responsibility of CAG as an independent, objective, and non-partisan constitutional authority includes appraising disaster preparedness, ensuring that management, mitigation operations, procedures are complied with, and proper internal controls are in place.
- Realigning to COVID-times: The CAG has issued an order creating a new vertical — health, welfare and rural development on June 1 restructuring the office of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure
- Need to audit Health related expenditure: It is necessary that the CAG undertakes performance audits of COVID-19 related procurements, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Employee State Insurance (ESI) hospitals.
- Audit objectives may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centres and polyclinics, laboratories and hospitals.
- Quality of Governance: As the CAG’s performance audits are driven by economy, efficiency and effectiveness, the audit should also focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms.
- Leveraging Technology: The entire process of procurement of COVID-19-related equipment and drugs, proper documentation, and compliance with rules and regulations can be streamlined with data analytics and AI.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CAG DURING COVID-19 TIMES :
- Helps Prevent Spread of Pandemic: Auditing of hospitals, dispensaries and labs is expected to provide the assured health-care services including infection control and hygiene.
- Disaster Management: If all the major purchases by government entities at all levels are audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management.
- Good Governance: CAG audit will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.
- Long term benefits: Audit recommendations can contribute improvements in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation
ABOUT CAG :
- CAG is an independent authority under the Constitution of India.
- He is the head of the Indian audit & account department and chief Guardian of Public purse.
- It is the institution through which the accountability of the government and other public authorities (all those who spend public funds) to Parliament and State Legislatures and through them to the people is ensured.
INDEPENDENCE OF CAG :
- There are several provisions in the Constitution for safeguarding the independence of CAG.
- CAG is appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal and provided with tenure of 6 years or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
- CAG can be removed by the President only in accordance with the procedure mentioned in the Constitution that is the manner same as removal of a Supreme Court Judge.
- He is ineligible to hold any office, either under the Government of India or of any state, once he retires/ resigns as a CAG.
- His salary and other service conditions cannot be varied to his disadvantage after appointment.
- His administrative powers and the conditions of service of persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department are prescribed by the President only after consulting him.
- The administrative expenses of the office of CAG, including all salaries, allowances and pensions are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India that is not subject to vote.
CAG AS ANTI-CORRUPTION INSTITUTION :
- Article 148 of the Constitution provides for a CAG with the legal status of a Supreme Court judge.
- The CAG is sworn in under Article 148(3) to uphold the integrity of the nation.
- In order to preserve his independence, the CAG’s expenses are charged (without vote) to the Consolidated Fund of India. He can be removed from office only under Article 124(4).
- It is the duty of the CAG to audit all receipts which are payable into the Consolidated Fund of India. The rules and procedures are designed to ensure an effective check on the assessment, collection and proper allocation of revenue.
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITY :
- In present times audits are getting complex because forms of corruption and maladministration extremely difficult to detect.
- Besides the historic task of keeping a close watch on the Central and State governments, CAG are now auditing several public-private partnerships (PPP) projects.
- In this context CAG of India has suddenly landed in the midst of unprecedented opportunity and challenge.
- No criterion or procedure has been prescribed either in the Constitution or in the statute for the appointment of CAG.
- This has given the sole power to the executive to appoint a person of their choice as the CAG. This goes against the international best practices prevalent across the world.
- The CAG has the authority to inspect any Government office and to call for any accounts. However, in practice, the supply of records is often denied.
MAJOR CAUSES OF CORRUPTION IN INDIA :
- Corruption is a massive problem in India. It is perhaps the single biggest problem of this century. It is a hurdle towards the effective functioning of a healthy democracy such as ours. India ranked 80 in corruption perception index 2019.
- Lack of effective management and organization
Due to lack of proper management and poor organization, respective departments are malfunctioning. This leads to coordination and control failure among the departments and levels of the organization. This uncontrolled and unsupervised administration leads to corruption
- Lack of economic stability:
Economic crisis and hike in price are significant reasons for corruption in India. This leads to unemployment and a change in the lifestyle of people. It further develops a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the people, especially the poor.
- Lack of moral values and ETHICAL CRISIS :
When it comes to values, it has to be the grooming done by the family and the school. Home and educational institutions play a significant role in molding the character of an individual. Lack of moral values taught in the early years of childhood could lead to corrupt children because children imitate their parents. If the parents are corrupt, then it is most likely that the child will also become corrupt
- Lack of good control and vigilance:
In India, some agencies day in and day out to prevent corruption. There are several anti-corruption laws too. Some officials of these agencies get tempted towards illegal commissions and leave corrupt people without a penalty or punishment. Honest officials are required, and more such agencies must be established
- Lack of decent remuneration:
In the private sector, employees gets the final call on deciding the salary and the benefits of employment. He has complete autonomy and has no pressure from the government.
- With corruption likely in pandemic management, the CAG’s audit can ensure checks and balances in the health sector
QUESTION : How severe is the issue of mental health in India and at the same time covid-19 impacted millions of Indians mentally. Examine this by giving appropriate solutions while tackling such issues.
- Impacted mental health during pandemic
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The fear of being infected and anxiety about an uncertain present and future have impacted mental health of vulnerable communities during the pandemic.
How the Covid- 19 pandemic has impacted population around the world?
- Change in daily lives-
- Before the pandemic, India’s progress as one of the fastest growing economies led to large paradigm shifts in the daily lives of its citizens.
- Major lifestyle shifts led to the rise of many lifestyle disorders.
- The pandemic has completely changed the way people live.
- New Normal-
- Necessary precautions such as social distancing, limited interactions and mask usage have become the new normal, with huge social, physical, economic and mental consequences.
- Dire socio-economic conditions arise–
- Mass migration, unemployment and economic distress — make at-risk groups even more vulnerable during such times.
- Rising stress–
- While progress on a COVID-19 vaccine is promising, uncertainty as a result of the pandemic is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
- The fear of getting infected, coupled with a lack of knowledge, isolation from the community and the economic fallout has created a new level of stress.
- Vulnerable Population-
- Health-care workers, infected people, the elderly, migrant workers, those from resource-poor backgrounds, women facing domestic violence, individuals with compromised immunity, and those suffering from physical or psychological problems.
REASONS BEHIND THE INCREASE IN SUICIDES DURING PANDEMIC :
- Lack of care in the treatment institution-
- The findings reveal that one in four of these deaths occurred among hospitalised patients, demonstrating the need for extra care and vigilance during institutional treatment for either COVID-19 or any other illness.
- Alcohol or drug addiction-
- The sudden closure of alcohol/liquor outlets resulted in an increase in alcohol-related suicides.
- Ignorance of early signs of poor mental health-
- Such as a sudden change in behaviour, substance use, anxiety, disturbed sleep and difficulty in communication.
IMPORTANT STEPS TO PREVENT SUICIDES :
- Avoid distressing information– While the feeling of uncertainty during this pandemic is normal, being informed and limiting ourselves to authentic sources of information and reducing exposure to distressing news is a good mechanism.
- Educate people for their health- Any sudden change in health should not be ignored.
- Creation of national suicide prevention strategy– The plan incorporates the three universal strategies-
- A ban or reduction in access to highly hazardous pesticides.
- Reduction in consumption and availability of alcohol.
- A non-sensationalised and responsible portrayal of suicide by the media.
- Media role in awareness- The media would need to follow Press Council of India’s guidelines on reportage of suicide and also create awareness about suicide prevention.
- Destigmatising suicide- There is urgent need for Destigmatising suicide as a phenomenon and encourage in large platform to seek help from the counsellor.
- Regular Contact support- It is to ensure there is an increase in the number of functional and accessible helplines and training of gatekeepers. If suicide has been attempted the individual has the required intervention and regular contact support.
WAY FORWARD :
- Specific preventive strategies at the community level such as (i) implementing effective communication and (ii) providing adequate psychological services should be carried out in order to attenuate the psychological and psychosocial impact of COVID-19 outbreak.
- Health education needs to be enhanced using online platforms, social fear related to COVID-19 needs to be correctly addressed while stigma and discrimination need to be recognized as major challenges able to reinforce the feelings of uncertainty in a period of social crisis.
- Hospitals protocols linked to the early and effective management of health emergency need to be implemented while healthcare professionals need to be supplied by adequate protective facilities.
- Scientific community should provide appropriate information to attenuate the impact of anxiety, frustration, and all the negative emotions which represent important barriers to the correct management of social crisis and psychological consequences related to pandemic.
- Unmet needs should be rapidly identified by medical staff who need to communicate frequently and in a timely manner with most of patients to understand the risk to develop new symptoms or worsen a preexisting psychological distress.
- Marginalized populations such as elderly individuals or those with psychological problems should be able to actively consult with clinical psychotherapists to rapidly detect warning signs.
- Telemedicine should be really implemented especially in areas where mental health services are poorly represented or severely impaired by the rapid spread of pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
- Implementing community-based strategies to support resilience and psychologically vulnerable individuals during the COVID-19 crisis is fundamental for any community.
QUESTION : Explain the changing scenario of geopolitics of Europe-Asian nations like Armenia and Azerbaijan taking into account of India.
- Confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The military confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan reflects the failure of the Madrid principles.
Dissolution of Soviet Union
- Formally established in 1922, at its height the Soviet Union was composed of fifteen republics, the largest of which was Russia.
- The Russian-dominated Soviet Union encompassed 15 republics–Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
- In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government. The 15 republics broke away.
Armenia and Azerbaijan :
- Armenia declared sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and independence on September 23, 1991.
- Azerbaijan declared sovereignty on September 23, 1989, and independence on August 30, 1991.
- Azerbaijan is majority Muslim and Armenia is majority Christian.
- Located in the main corridor of oil and gas supplies to Europe, Armenia and Azerbaijan have also relied on a nationalist rhetoric.
- Armenia, lies just south of the great mountain range of the Caucasus mountains and fronting the north-western extremity of Asia.
- To the north and east Armenia is bounded by Georgia and Azerbaijan, while its neighbours to the southeast and west are, respectively, Iran and Turkey.
- Azerbaijan, officially called Azerbaijani Republic, is a country of eastern Transcaucasia.
- It lies on the southern flanks of the Caucasus Mountains, bounded on the north by Russia, on the east by the Caspian Sea, on the south by Iran, on the west by Armenia, and on the northwest by Georgia.
Nagorno-Karabakh region :
- It is a mountainous, landlocked region inside the borders of Azerbaijan, and has been a source of dispute since before the creation of the Soviet Union.
- The dispute worsened after Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence from the USSR after the end of the cold war.
- Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised internationally as Azerbaijan’s territory but has a mostly Armenian population who have resisted Azerbaijani rule for more than a century.
- In 1991 the region declared independence with Armenian support and called itself the Republic of Artsakh which has not been recognized by the international community.
Armenia-Azerbaijan war, 1994 :
- A war between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces ended in a ceasefire in 1994, with Armenia in full control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
REASONS BEHIND CURRENT CONFLICT :
- Territorial: Nagorno-Karabakh region has 95% of the population as ethnically Armenian and is controlled by them but it is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
- Religious: Armenia is Christian majority, while Azerbaijan is Muslim majority country.
- Domestic Politics: The leaders of both the nations have fueled the issue time and again for their vested political interests.
- With the Covid-19 pandemic taking a toll on the price of Azerbaijani oil and gas, it may be that Armenia has decided to attack the region.
- Armenia had asked for Nagorno-Karabakh’s reunion with the country as a precondition for a possible return of other territories.
- Azerbaijan has asserted the it’s long-standing claim over the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Ignoring Madrid principles:
- They provided for a prohibition on the use of force, respect for territorial integrity, and recognition of the equal right to self-determination.
- In the absence of a peacekeeping force and the political will for peace, low-level frictions have persisted over the years.
- Regional geopolitics:
- Regional powers including Russia, Turkey and Iran are invested in the South Caucasus to varying degrees. It could develop into a larger regional conflict.
- Turkey has already declared its support for Azerbaijan, while Russia is traditionally closer to Armenia.
- Russia and Turkey are jostling for influence in Syria and Libya.
- Oil and gas:
- The wider South Caucasus is a crucial artery for gas and oil from Azerbaijan into Turkey and on to Europe and other world markets.
- Azerbaijan supplies about 5% of Europe’s gas and oil demands (helping to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russia).
- The humanitarian issue involves civilians on both sides being killed.
THE MINSK GROUP :
- It functions under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
- It was formed in 1992 to mediate between Baku and Yerevan during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, when Armenian militias illegally occupied and claimed the Azerbaijani region.
- It was Co-chaired by Russia, France and the U.S.
- The US, Russia and France are the three countries, where the Armenian diaspora is the most powerful.
- It put forward the Madrid principles in 2007.
THE MADRID PRINCIPLES :
- The Madrid Principles was the basis for the formulation of a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- They were drawn from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act principles, signed at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
EFFECT ON INDIA :
- In recent years, Indian-Armenian bilateral cooperation has seen rapid growth.
- The then Vice-President of India visited Yerevan (Armenia) in 2017.
- Armenia bought the India SWATHI military radar system in March 2020.
- Many Indian students study in Armenian medical Universities and in recent years Armenia has witnessed an increasing flow of Indian labour migrants.
- For Armenia, close relations with India are vitally important as India provides a counter balance to the rival strategic axis between Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey.
- India-Azerbaijan: India is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multimodal network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
- Azerbaijan is a dialogue partner of (SCO), which India is a member of.
- In 2018, the then Indian External affairs minister had visited Baku (Azerbaijan), the first-ever bilateral visit of an Indian External Affairs Minister to Azerbaijan.
- India’s ONGC-Videsh is an investor in Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) oil fields and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
- However, Azerbaijan supports Pakistan’s position on Kashmir issue.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is no better starting point than the reasonable framework outlined in the Madrid Principles.
- The conflict between the two countries has reached alarming levels and the international mediators should intervene immediately and push sides for substantive negotiations to prevent any further escalations.
- Growing Pakistan- China-Turkey’s influence in the south caucasus region is a source of concern for India. It is important for it to strengthen its ties with both the countries in line continuing its non-aligned stance, and call for peace in the region.
QUESTION : Does India support the establishment of a sovereign independent state of Palestine and India’s interest in West Asia ? Discuss.
- Arab World’s two-state solution and India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel
ABRAHAM ACCORD ?
- Recently, Israel, UAE and Bahrain have signed the Abraham Accord. The Abraham accord is the first Arab- Israeli peace deal in 26 years.
- The accord seeks to normalize ties between the three countries. As per the accord, UAE and Bahrain will establish embassies, exchange ambassadors with Israel.
- Additionally, the two countries will also cooperate and work together with Israel across a range of sectors including tourism, trade, healthcare and security.
- The agreement is expected to lay a foundation for peace in the region. It would pave way for many countries like Oman, Sudan etc. to recognize Israel.
INDIAN INTEREST IN WEST ASIA :
- Geopolitical: West Asia occupies an important position in international relations due to its geographical location and proximity to continents and countries South Asia, China, Central Asia, Europe, and Africa.
- Energy: The region is strategically significant due to its enormous energy resources, trade route links to different parts of the world.
- It is the world’s largest oil-producing region accounting for 34% of world production, 45% of crude oil exports and 48% of oil proven reserves.
- Diaspora: Indian expatriates have constituted a substantial share of the regional labour market.
- Remittances from the region constitute a major chunk of total remittances to India.
BENEFITS FOR INDIA :
- Geopolitically, India has welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel, calling both its strategic partners.
- Abraham Accord is a step forward in ensuring the Gulf region remains a vital link to maintain India`s energy security.
- The deal will help India improve defence and security relations with the UAE.
- India is one of the few countries in the world to have good relations with almost all the countries in the Gulf Region.
- Since India also has good relations with Iran, India can play a role in the evolution of a regional security framework to ensure long-lasting peace in the region.
- By choosing the right steps, the deal will help India gain greater influence in the region.
CRITICISM OF ARAB WORLD :
- In 1945 and reportedly on British prompting, the League of Arab States was formed to ‘draw closer the relations between member states and co-ordinate their political activities with the aim of realizing a close collaboration between them.
- To safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.
- It has achieved none of its objectives and its hopes have been worn down to disillusion and cynicism emanating.
- The critique of mystifications of Arab nationalism was a promise; but the promise of getting light at the end of the tunnel did not bear the expected results.
- This was attributed by a UNDP Human Development Report many years ago to deficits of knowledge, freedom and empowerment of women.
- Thus, absence of participatory governance and its institutions, disregard for individual freedoms, and the prevalence of one-person rule resulted as ‘living in Infra-historical rhythm’.
- Admittedly, sectional though uneven progress was made, but as the experience of the Arab Uprising of 2011 showed, deep disagreements prevented the emergence of an Arab order and its impact on Arab unity. It was most evident in their responses to regional and global problems.
THE PALESTINE ISSUE :
- The one problem on which Arab states professed unity of opinion, but not necessarily of approach, related to Palestine and to the demand for a Palestinian state.
- After multiple resorts to war and popular uprisings, the tenacity of Israel and its American backers forced the Ara b states and their international supporters to accept the Camp David and Oslo Accords and finally the Saudi-sponsored 2002Arab Peace Initiative.
- It involved a de facto recognition of Israel and the latter accepted it with 14 reservations.
- The truth behind this Saudi initiative has now been made public. It is candid and revealing and sheds much light on the Saudi suspicion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership.
- The ostensible reason for this is perceived threat from Iran, the spread of regional terrorism and the rise of Islamism.
- The take-off occasion was the conference in Warsaw in February 2019 that was hailed by Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu as ‘a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations’.
- It could be seen as a stage in the success of Israel’s grand strategy, aimed to outflank the hostile core that surrounds it and gain the major political-security goal of countering Arab hostility through relations with alternate regional powers and potential allies.
- It has been furthered by post-2011 developments in individual Arab countries and the aura bestowed on political Islam or Islamism presented by its protagonists who argued that Arab nationalism is a stage towards greater Islamic unity.
PUBLIC OPINION VS POLICY :
- These failures to jolt the system at the individual-country and regional levels have an impact on perceptions of the Palestinian problem.
- The Arab Center Washington DC and its Arab Opinion Index for 2019-2020 published last week concluded that 79% of the respondents felt the Palestinian cause concerns all Arabs and not the Palestinian people alone. This figure in 2012-2013 was 84%.
- It is thus difficult not to conclude that opinion at the public/respondent level is not in step with official policy orientation.
- It may in any manner further the Palestinian cause more so because the direction of Israeli policy would inevitably result in de facto annexation of most parts of the West Bank even if a formal annexation is deferred.
WAY FORWARD :
- The deal between the UAE and Israel represented a significant breakthrough in diplomatic relations between the two nations as the USA works to facilitate cooperation between Arab nations and Israel.
- The PLO leadership has been left high and dry even if not yet disowned by its own people. The promised Two-state solution is nowhere in sight except for some variants of Bantustans.
- It would be better to explore a One-state solution even if involves a South Africa-like apartheid that would sooner or later prick the conscience of world opinion and their governments and allow a Palestinian-Mandela to use Gandhian principles to seek justice.
- So the Arab World in a geopolitical sense no longer exists. It will retain its focus on linguistic homogeneity and attendant cultural glory.
- As for the Palestinians and in the event of hard tactical options being forsaken, they might even explore the creation of a Palestinian point of lamentation, hoping that justice would eventually be forthcoming as has been with their Abrahamic cousins.
- Direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth.
QUESTION : Critically analyse the performance of the RTI Act. Mention its significance and related concerns with suggestive measures .
- Right To Information Act, 2005
WHY IN NEWS ?
- A report card has been brought out by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies to mark the 15th anniversary of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
RTI ACT 2005:
- Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information, barring a few exempted categories such as information which might affect the sovereignty of the country or private information which might have a bearing on a person’s right to privacy
AUTHORITIES UNDER RTI ACT :
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) is set up under the Right to Information Act.
- The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.
o This body hears appeals from persons who have not been satisfied by the public authority, and also addresses major issues related to the RTI Act.
- Information Commissions at the Centre and in the States are the final adjudicators empowered to act against violations of the legislation.
- Appointment: The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—
o The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
o The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; and
o A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Tenure: In the case of the Information Commissioners they are appointed for five years subject to the age limit of 65 years.
PROCESS OF RTI COMPLAINT:
- When the initial request for information made to a public information officer, designated by each public authority, fail, the petitioner is entitled to lodge an appeal to an authority within the department concerned.
- When that fails too, a further appeal can be made to the office of the CIC or the State Information Commission.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RTI ACT :
- The right to information has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression.
- Without access to relevant information, people’s ability to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully is curtailed.
- The RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in decision-making processes and hold governments accountable.
- It empowers citizens to access their basic rights and entitlements, especially in the absence of effective grievance redress mechanisms to address service delivery failures.
PERFORMANCE OF RTI :
- Transparency and accountability: Every year nearly six million applications are filed under the RTI Act, making it the most extensively used transparency legislation in the world.
- During the COVID-19 crisis too, the law has been widely used to seek important information. It includes information about availability of medical facilities to hold government departments accountable for delivery of foodgrains and social security benefits meant for those in distress, including migrant workers.
- Light on corruption and arbitrary abuse of power:
o Information has been accessed about the anonymous electoral bonds through which thousands of crores have been channelled into political parties.
o The Prime Minister’s Office has been queried about the expenditure of the PM CARES Fund set up to provide relief during disasters like the current pandemic.
- RTI amendments: Earlier the Information Commissioner and CIC were made on a par with the Election Commissioner and the CEC, respectively. But the government removed this statutory protection.
- The non-appointment of commissioners in the Information Commissions in a timely manner leads to a large build-up of pending appeals and complaints.
- Non-imposition of penalties in deserving cases by commissions promotes a culture of impunity among public authorities.
- The Commissioners are appointed by the State government, there is a conflict of interest when queries are posed to them. They tend to be pro-government.
- RTI and Coronavirus crisis: If the poor and marginalised affected by the public health emergency are to have any hope of obtaining the benefits of government schemes, they must have access to relevant information.
WAY FORWARD :
Open Data Policy:
- Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites.
- Compiling of Similar RTI Applications:
- Many RTI Applicants file multiple RTI applications on the same subject/seek the same information, which increases the burden of the information department of various public institutions.
- Preventing Misuse of RTI:
- RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition.
- Balancing with Privacy Right:
- Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Increasing Public Awareness:
- This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas.
- Therefore, RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities. It is used by citizens as well as the media.
QUESTION : What must India do better to keep pace with its South Asian neighbor’s in tackling hunger? Analyse the causes and the challenges in achieving this goal.
- SDG-2 :Removing Hunger
WHY IN NEWS ?
- 16th of October is being celebrated as World Food Day. Food is the essence of life and the bedrock of our cultures and communities. A proper food system can be a powerful means to bring people together to grow, nourish, and sustain the planet.
THE FOOD SYSTEM :
- It is a framework that includes every aspect of feeding and nourishing people: from growing, harvesting and processing to packaging, transporting, marketing and consuming food.
- To be sustainable, a food system must provide enough nutritious food for all without compromising feeding future generations.
CHALLENGES TO FOOD SYSTEMS :
- Global hunger: More than two billion people globally still lack access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food.
o Projections show that the world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, or to meet global nutrition targets.
- Multi-dimensionality of India’s food challenges:
o Malnutrition, Anemia:
The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.
o Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity.
o Fragmentation of landholdings: In India, more than 86% of farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.
o Climate change continues to be a real and potent threat to agrobiodiversity, which will impact everything from productivity to livelihoods across food and farm systems.
Climate-related shocks made it difficult for farmers to deal with pest and locust attacks, as well as floods and cyclones.
- COVID-19 poses a threat to food security and agricultural livelihoods. It also compounds the threats already faced by 690 million people around the world.
GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES :
- Public distribution system: Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes food grain during lockdown through the Public Distribution System. It provided much-needed emergency assistance to families around the country.
o The government also successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million schoolchildren.
- Agricultural growth: Due to the government’s efforts to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain during lockdown, the agriculture sector grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares.
- Agricultural productivity has improved significantly in recent decades. India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains.
- Dealing with climate change through the development of drought and flood tolerant seed varieties, weather-based agricultural advisories, promotion of millets, and small-scale irrigation.
- The Integrated Child Development Services provides cooked meals and take-home rations to 100 million children under the age of six, as well as to pregnant and lactating mothers.
- The mid-day meal programme under which every child in every Government and Government aided primary school was to be served a prepared Mid Day Meal.
INITIATIVES BY UN :
- The UN, and its three agencies — the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (The World Food Programme) are working with government, civil society, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to build sustainable food systems.
o The FAO is celebrating 75 years of fighting hunger in over 130 countries.
o IFAD has become the first UN agency to receive a credit rating.
o For its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
- The food agencies of the United Nations (UN) have pledged to work together to end hunger, eradicate food insecurity and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2.
THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME :
- It is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations.
- It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, the largest one focused on hunger and food security, and the largest provider of school meals.
- Founded in 1961, it is headquartered in Rome
WAY FORWARD :
- In India, resilient food systems will have to be built back as the world is not on track to achieve global targets.
- The way India produce foods must change through agroecology and sustainable production practices in agriculture and allied sectors.
- All of the nations across the world must stop the waste: one-third of the food we produce is wasted.
- World should call for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust.
- Governments, the private sector, civil society and local communities have a role to play in transforming food systems.
- World should withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks and deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and provide decent livelihoods for food chain workers.
- We must all work in concert to make sure that our food systems nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together.
- As countries begin to develop and implement COVID-19 recovery plans, it is also an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so they can build back better and make food systems more resilient and sustainable.
QUESTION : Discuss the aims and objectives of UN’s World Food Programme.
- Nobel Peace Prize-2020
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Nobel peace prize of 2020 has been accorded to World Food Programme (WFP) for its efforts to combat hunger, bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
DO YOU KNOW ?
- According to the WFP, 132 million more people could become malnourished as a consequence of the pandemic.
- To the 690 million people who go to bed each night on an empty stomach, perhaps another 100 million or more will be added.
ABOUT WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME (WFP) :
- Founded in 1961, WFP is the food assistance branch of United Nations
- It deals with hunger eradication and promotes food security in the world.
- WFP is funded completely by voluntary donations.
- It is a member of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and works in close tandem with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
- WFP partners with more than 1,000 national and international NGOs to provide food assistance and tackle the underlying causes of hunger.
- WFP is the largest humanitarian organisation implementing school feeding programmes worldwide
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS PRIZE AWARDED TO WFP :
- Hunger as Weapon of War: For its efforts to combat hunger and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
- Need for International Cooperation: The message this award is sending to the world — that we need multilateralism as an expression of international solidarity.
- Dangers of Pandemic: The award is also a warning that the novel coronavirus pandemic is reversing the substantial gains made in the fight against hunger and poverty. The Nobel Prize to the WFP will nudge our collective conscience to come together and relieve this looming humanitarian crisis.
- Need for Funding: The WFP’s achievement are modest, not because it is an inefficient institution, but because it is perennially under-funded
- An important message which this award is sending to the world is that the world needs multilateralism as an expression of international solidarity in the face of the global crisis
FOOD SECURITY AND NEED OF MULTILATERALISM :
- Food, energy and water security are inter-linked with strong feedback loops. There exists inter-connectedness among these challenges.
- Enhancing food security may lead to diminished water and energy security. It may also have collateral impact on health security.
- Raising crop yields with current agricultural strategies means higher incremental use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides.
- India’s unprotected farmers are exposed to serious health risks as a result and often get bankrupted not due to crop failure but debilitating health costs.
- One has to realize of these inter-connections and hence come together to work collectively in a multilateral framework.
- A narrow Nationalistic approach to global challenges like Climate Change, hunger and Poverty will not be sustainable in long run
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are cross-domain but also cross-national in character, and hence demand greater multilateral cooperation in order to succeed.
- Thus, there is need for a more democratic world order since lack of cooperation from even a single state may frustrate success in tackling a global challenge.
WHAT IS “WORLD HUNGER MAP”?
Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba is working with WFP to develop digital “World Hunger Map”.
- The map will help to monitor global hunger and operations to end scourge by 2030 which is one of UN’s key Sustainable Development goals.
- It also aims to boost efficiency of interventions and shorten emergency response times.
- A fresh pandemic may erupt in any remote corner of the world and spread throughout the globe. Prevention cannot be achieved through coercion, only through cooperation. It is only multilateralism that makes this possible.
QUESTION : Explain Multilateralism and the basis of India’s claim to a permanent seat at the UN. and challenges to India’s claim.
- Challenges before China at UN Is An Opportunity for India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The United Nations turned 75 this year. India also beat China in the elections for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This was the first such victory in a decade.
CHINA’S STRENGTHS :
- Taking advantage of its position as a member of the P-5 and as a huge aid giver, China made itself invincible in UN elections.
- It won among others, the top positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
CHINA’S RISE AT THE UN – HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- World War II saw strong U.S.-China collaboration against the Japanese, including U.S. operations conducted from India.
- Their bilateral ties saw the U.S. include the Chinese in a group of the most important countries for ensuring world peace post- World War II, along with the U.S., the USSR and the U.K.
- This enlarged into the P-5, with France being added by the UK at the San Francisco conference held in 1945 where the UN charter was finalised.
- The pure multilateralism of the League of Nations was thus infused with a multipolarity, with the U.S. as the sheet anchor.
CHINA’S REDUCED STATURE :
- China lost the election to tiny Samoa for a seat on the UN Statistical Commission.
- It just about managed to get elected to the UN High Rights Council, coming forth out of five contestants for four vacancies.
- China’s candidate had lost to a Singaporean in the race for DG World Intellectual Property Organization.
MULTILATERALISM UNDER THREAT :
- Multilateralism is under unprecedented stress fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and a certain disenchantment with globalisation.
- At the root, of course, is the rise of China and its challenge to U.S. global hegemony.
NEED FOR INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS :
- There is a need for multilateralism backed by strong multipolarity relevant to contemporary realities.
- Most important are institutional reforms in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and at the Bretton Woods Institutions so that their governance leverages the capabilities of the major players among both the developed and developing countries
INDIA AT UN :
- India was one of the largest contributors of soldiers in the war against Germany and Turkey and became a founding member of the League of Nations even though it was a colony.
- At the end of WWII, India participated in all the three UN conferences becoming a charter member of the UN even before Independence.
- Pakistan, on the other hand, joined the UN in September 1947 on application.
WAY FORWARD :
- Earlier in the year, India was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for a two-year term.
- India will also host the BRICS Summit next year and G-20 Summit in 2022.
- These are openings for India in collaborating the world in critical areas that require global cooperation especially climate change, pandemics and counter-terrorism.
- India also needs to invest in the UN with increased financial contributions in line with its share of the world economy and by placing its people in key multilateral positions.
Against the backdrop of pandemic and subsequent pushback against China at the UN, it is also an opportune moment for India and a Reformed Multilateralism.
QUESTION : Issues facing police administration and reasons for lack of full implementation of the directives given by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case. Critically analyse.
- Police Reforms In India
WHY IN INDIA ?
- The police have been in the news for incidents involving violence and killings. These instances points to the urgent need for the implementation of the Supreme Court directives given in the Prakash Singh case.
PAST ATTEMPTS FOR POLICE REFORMS:
- The first serious attempt was when the National Police Commission (NPC) was set up in 1977.
- The NPC submitted eight reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs between 1979 and 1981.
- Seven of these reports were circulated to the States in 1983.
Prakash Sing Case.
- No action was taken on the reports of the reports until 1996.
- In 1996 Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer, filed a PIL in the apex court in 1996 demanding the implementation of the NPC’s recommendations.
- In 2006, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directives on police reform.
DIRECTIONS OF SC IN PRAKASH SINGH VS UNION OF INDIA :
- Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
- Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
- Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
- Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
- Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
- Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
- Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.
- In India, the political executive has the power of superintendence and control over the police forces to ensure their accountability.
- Only six States provided a minimum tenure of two years to the Director General of Police (DGP).
- A report of the NITI Aayog shows that the composition of recommended authorities in several states is at variance with the Model Police Act, 2006 and the Supreme Court directions.
- Vacancies and an overburdened force: Vacancies have been around 24%-25% in state police forces since 2009.
- Poor quality of investigations: Crime per lakh population has increased by 28% over the last decade (2005-2015). However, convictions were secured in only 47% of the cases registered under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Improving police infrastructure: CAG audits have found shortages in weaponry with state police forces.
- Funding issues: Expenditure on police accounts for about 3% of the central and state government budgets.
- An overburdened police force: While the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police per lakh persons. Note that the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons.
- Low incentives for performance: 86% of the state police comprises constabulary. Constables are typically promoted once during their service. This could weaken their incentive to perform well.
WAY FORWARD :
- Expecting political will to implement police reforms is difficult to come by, it is for the judiciary to step in and enforce the directives it had passed.
- Police-public relations: One of the ways of addressing this challenge is through the community policing model. For example Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala.
- Constabulary related issues: A constable is expected to have some analytical and decision-making capabilities, and the ability to deal with people with tact, understanding and firmness.
- Reducing the burden: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has recommended to outsource or redistribute some non-core police functions (such as traffic management, disaster rescue and relief, and issuing of court summons) to government departments or private agencies.
- Police Complaints Authority: And it must implement the Supreme Court’s directive on setting up a Police Complaints Authority in every state of India.
A bold step towards bringing down crimes is possible only when the politicians-criminals-police nexus is strangled
QUESTION : While India has made some progress in its fight against AIDS, it still has to take several appropriate steps to eliminate completely from India like polio . Discuss
- HIV Infections Among Children And Deaths In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- There are fewer new HIV infections among children and AIDSrelated deaths in India.
MORE INFORMATION :
- The 2019 HIV estimates note that there has been a 66.1% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a 65.3% reduction in AIDS-related deaths in India over a nine-year period. This indicates India’s progress in reducing the HIV impact on children through the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
- Also, the number of pregnant women living with HIV has reduced and treatment coverage has also expanded.
REASONS FOR HIV IN INDIA :
- Unsafe sex and low condom use
- Migration and mobility
- Injecting drug use with contaminated injecting equipment
- They an HIV prevalence of 9.9%.
- Gay men and other men who have sex with men
- Low status of women
- This increase their vulnerability to protect themselves and negotiate safer sex
- Widespread stigma
- Stigma towards people living with HIV is widespread. The most affected groups are often marginalized, have little or no access to legal protection of their basic human rights.
- Inability to reduce stigma and discrimination. The UNAIDS report points out that certain colonial laws legitimize stigma and give license to the harassment of groups at the highest risk of HIV.
- Inability to integrate HIV/AIDS into the mainstream of public health activities
- Inadequate focus on vulnerability factors, especially poverty, illiteracy and empowerment of women
- Inadequate geographic and population coverage in terms of targeted interventions
- Inadequate attention paid to the issues around antiretroviral treatment
- Changes in the pattern of migration and improving use of Information and Communication Technology has raised the risk
STEPS TAKEN :
- Project Sunrise: It aims for prevention of AIDS specially among people injecting drugs in the 8 North-Eastern states
- National strategic plan (2017-24) and Mission SAMPARK
- India made HIV testing for all pregnant women free and HIV treatment is offered the same way nationwide without cost to pregnant mothers living with HIV through the national ‘treat all’ policy.
- Now, for two years, UNICEF has worked with the World Health Organization and NACO to identify high burden districts (in terms of density of pregnant women living with HIV) as the last mile towards disease elimination.
- Since 2002, the EMTCT of HIV programmes or prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV are launched in India.
- A series of policy, programmatic and implementation strategies were rolled out so that all pregnant women can access free HIV testing along with other services at antenatal clinics, and free treatment regimens for life to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to babies.
- This has been made possible in government health centres and grass-root level workers through village health and nutrition days and other grass-roots events under the National Health Mission.
- Approach being promoted by UNICEF in focusing attention and resources in high burden districts is supported by the HIV strategic information division of NACO and UNAIDS.
National Aids Control Program :
- The National AIDS Control Organization, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the first phase of National AIDS Control Programme in 1992.
MAIN TARGETS UNDER 90-90-90 STRATEGY :
- By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
- By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
- By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression
WAY FORWARD :
- Region and state wise plans must be evolved to tackle the spread of new infections.
- New policies for AIDS infected children must be integrated with Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Anganwadi infrastructure and ASHA workers must be given special training.
- Drug users must be shown compassion by the law enforcement agencies and the Police must coordinate with the medical community to ensure that unsafe use of needles by drug addicts is checked.
- Due to the stigma faced by sex workers they are not able to get access to health counsellors, medical clinics, etc. There must be a comprehensive policy to tackle this.
- National Aids Control Programme (NACP) Phase IV aims to reduce new infections by 50 per cent and also provide comprehensive care, support and treatment to all persons living with HIV/AIDS.
- 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS sets world on the Fast-Track to end the epidemic by 2030. India must ensure achieving its targets through sustained focused campaign with renewed vigour.
QUESTION : List the recent developments in India-US relations. What are various issues in India-US relations ?
- India-US 2+2 Ministerial forum meet
WHY IN NEWS ?
- At the Delhi meet which is scheduled soon, India must ensure that its gamble with Trump’s regime so close to the U.S. election pays off.
KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- S. Secretary of State and U.S. Defence Secretary, are visiting India for the Third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
- Considering the upcoming US election uncertainty, India must consider carefully just what it discusses and projects from the meeting.
PROBABLE AGENDA FOR THIS MEETING :
- The US brief is clear, to ensure that India (also Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia), makes a strong, public, strategic commitment to the U.S. on its plans in the Indo-Pacific.
- Other items on the agenda will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
o In the last two meetings, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA were signed.
- Analysing the relations with China
o It is critical to study just how India hopes to collaborate with the U.S. on the challenge that China poses on each of India’s three fronts:
At the LAC,
In the maritime sphere, and
In the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region surrounding India.
OTHER ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE :
- Trade issues:
- The US needs to commit to restoring India’s Generalised System of Preferences status for exporters.
- The Indian government could also press for more cooperation on 5G technology sharing.
- India could also focus on getting an assurance that its S-400 missile system purchase from Russia will receive an exemption from the U.S.’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions.
‘2+2’ DIALOGUE :
- It is a format of dialogue where the defence and foreign ministers meet with their counterparts from another country.
- India holds such talks with Japan and the US.
- The US holds such dialogues with Australia and Japan also.
IMPORTANCE OF 2+2 DIALOGUE:
- The India-U.S. 2+2 Dialogue is aimed for enhancing strategic coordination between both the countries and maintaining peace and stability in Indo-Pacific region.
- Key components covered under the 2+2 Dialogue :
- Trade issues,
- Defence agreements,
- Cooperation on fighting terrorism,
- Advancing “a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” and
- Promoting sustainable “debt-financing” in the region
- The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
- Geospatial information: Anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on geospatial intelligence.
- Signing BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
- This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation.
- The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in August 2016.
- It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
- This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
- The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in September 2018.
- It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war
- It is like WhatsApp for the two militaries, which is safe and provides real-time communication.
- COMCASA paved the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.
WAY FORWARD :
- 2+2 summit will help to develop ‘engage relationship’ between India and US which has seen lots of up and down in recent times
- but the India-U.S. relationship shouldn’t be allowed to define India’s geopolitical character, strategic future or the limits of its other bilateral relationships.
- India must keep its options open and be multi-aligned, even as the U.S. forms a key part in that scheme of things.
- Positives of current 2+2 dialogue can be carried forward to other areas such as finance and agriculture.
- Although China has reacted on the 2+2 Dialogue as only of a symbolic significance, and unlikely to yield a structural change in regional security layout and strategic balance. India and the U.S. can take a positive leap from the Dialogue and achieve the regional peace and prosperity on a large extent.
- The two governments must now strive to complete the unfinished agreements and set the course for their newly designated ‘Comprehensive Strategic Global Partnership’. More immediately, with the political backing of both leaders, negotiators must move towards the much anticipated yet elusive trade deal
QUESTION : Role of the UN ensuring intern ethics and major challenges India may face as a non-permanent member of the UNSC”. Discuss.
- India’s Presence At The UN
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India’s journey at the UN as it enters it 75year. It also analyses the challenges India faced at the UN and tracks India’s transformation from being an outlier to the high table.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.
- On June 26, 1945, India became one of the first 50 countries to sign the UN charter.
- The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the UN Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories.
- India joined the United Nations after ratifying the UN Charter on October 30, 1945.
3 PHASES AT UN –
1st : FROM INDEPENDENCE TO 1989 :
- The first phase lasted until the end of Cold War in 1989.
- During this phase, India had learnt to explore and enhance its diplomatic influence in easing armed conflicts in Asia and Africa by disentangling them from the superpower rivalry.
- India also leaned that the UN could not be relied upon to impartially resolve vital security disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir.
- India strove to utilise the UN only to focus on common causes such as anti-colonialism, anti-racism, nuclear disarmament, environment conservation and equitable economic development.
- India seemed to claim the moral high ground by proposing, in 1988 three-phase plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from the surface of earth.
- But it resisted attempts by neighbouring countries to raise bilateral problems.
- Defeat in 1962 war against China meant a definitive redesign of the country’s diplomatic style to privilege bilateral contacts over the third party role by the UN.
- The 1990s were the most difficult decade for India in the UN.
- The 1990s were marked by the sudden end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the unrivalled power.
- Besides, the uncertain political climate along with the balance of payments crisis constrained the country’s capability to be active in various bodies, especially in the Security Council (UNSC) and the General Assembly.
- There was a change in India’s foreign policy: At the UN as India showed pragmatism in enabling the toughest terms on Iraq even after Gulf War or in reversing position on Zionism as racism.
- At the same time call for an end to aerial attacks on Yugoslavia did not garner much support in the UNSC.
- India’s diplomatic difficulties was exposed when it suffered a defeat in the hands of Japan in the 1996 contest for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC.
- India resolutely stood against indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995.
- India strongly rejected the backdoor introduction for adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
- It is against this background that India surprised the world in 1998 with its Pokhran nuclear weapon tests, ignoring the likely adverse reaction from the nuclear club.
3rd : RISE IN INFLUENCE IN 21ST CENTURY :
- The impressive economic performance in the first decade of the 21st century due to economic liberalisation and globalisation policies, helped a great deal in strengthening profile.
- This is only aided by its reliable and substantial troop contributions to several peacekeeping operations in African conflict theatres.
- India has emerged as a responsible stakeholder in non-traditional security issue areas such as the spread of small and light weapons, the threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and the impact of climate change.
- India has scaled up its contributions to development and humanitarian agencies, while India’s share to the UN assessed budget has registered a hike from 0.34% to 0.83%.
- India’s successful electoral contests for various prestigious slots in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council, the World Court, and functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council indicates its growing popularity
CHALLENGES FOR INDIA AT UN :
- Security Council expansion
o India has long sought a permanent seat at the Council.
- The draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism: India proposed the draft but it encountered reservations from among Islamic and other countries on provisions regarding definition of terrorist and the convention’s application to state armed forces.
- Volatile global situation
- The Trump administration’s disdain towards multilateral institutions,
- The changing U.S.-China equation,
- China’s growing political isolation on account of the spread of the novel coronavirus, and
- China’s aggressive territorial forays in eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea,
- An unabated economic slowdown
PRIORITIES AT THE UNSC AS A NON-PERMANENT MEMBER :
- India’s future role will depend on its ability to deal economic slowdown and a troubled relationship with China.
- This is pertinent as India will soon begin its two-year term as a non-permanent UNSC member (January 1, 2021).
- Its areas of priority will continue to be the upholding of Charter principles, act against those who support, finance and sponsor terrorists, besides striving for securing due say to the troop contributing countries in the management of peace operations.
- It is reasonable to assume (based on earlier patterns) that India will work for and join in consensus on key questions wherever possible.
- But it may opt to abstain along with other members including one or two permanent members.
- As a non-permanent UNSC member now, India needs to uphold the Charter principles in the backdrop of a turbulent world.
QUESTION : Strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan region for India. Comment
- India’s neighbour (Gilgit-Baltistan region)
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Reports indicate that the Pakistan government is on the verge of declaring Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan.
- Technically speaking Gilgit-Baltistan was a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) at the time of Partition.
- British rule: The region because of its strategic importance in the context of the Great Game in Central Asia, had been leased to the British by the Dogra Maharaja.
- Gilgit had its own British-officered local army, the Gilgit Scouts, which switched allegiance to Pakistan within a week of the Maharaja’s accession to India.
- Since independence: From the beginning Gilgit-Baltistan was governed as a separate entity by Pakistan and not as a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
- Islamabad had hesitated to declare it a province of Pakistan because of its claim that J&K is disputed territory and its future must be decided by a plebiscite among all its inhabitants.
CURRENT STATUS OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN :
- It is an autonomous region now and with this elevation, it will become the 5th province of the country.
- Currently, Pakistan has four provinces namely Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh.
INDIA’S STAND :
- India has held that the Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it.
- India completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
- While protesting Islamabad’s efforts to bring material change in Pakistan occupied territories, India held that Pakistan should immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.
GEOPOLITICS OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN :
- The revocation of Article 370 by India and the bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories have sent a clear message that the Kashmir dispute is dead For India.
- Pakistan’s move is a clear reaction to the Indian decision.
- Public opinion in Gilgit-Baltistan has long been in favour of full integration into Pakistan as a province as the predominantly Shia and ethnically distinct population of the region has very little in common with PoK.
CHINESE INTEREST :
- The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through Gilgit-Baltistan and China has invested heavily in the region.
- In view of India’s continuing claim to the area, Beijing is interested in delinking Gilgit-Baltistan formally from Kashmir in order to protect its investments.
- China opposes New Delhi’s decision to separate Ladakh from J&K.
- Beijing views the Indian move as the first step towards India attempting to enforce its claim on Aksai Chin, currently under Chinese occupation.
STRATEGIC LOCATION :
- It is contiguous to Ladakh as well as Xinjiang and could act as a staging post against India if a major India -China conflict erupts in Ladakh.
- There is already substantial Chinese civilian presence in Gilgit-Baltistan related to CPEC projects.
- China is interested in stationing military personnel as well.
- India must calibrate its response carefully because merely by turning up the rhetorical heat, it may play into Chinese and Pakistani hands and escalate the situation. Rhetoric must always be determined by a meticulous assessment of capability.
QUESTION : Discuss the implications of the new Jammu and Kashmir UT land laws.
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The changes in land laws in Jammu and Kashmir notified by the Centre on October 26 allow the purchase of land by those who are not permanent residents of the Union Territory, for the first time.
LATEST CHANGES IN LAND LAWS :
- Under the newly introduced J&K Development Act, the term “being permanent resident of the State” as a criteria has been “omitted”, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest in the UT.
- No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector.
- The government may now allow transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialized education in J&K”.
- Also, No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist.
- An Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.
- No domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in the UT.
- Free movement of people, and an integrated national market can advance development
- Will improve local people’s livelihood
- Educational(RTE will be applicable) :Establishment Institutes like IITs, IIMs ,they will improve the quality of education
- Economical :Many new industries may attract means more employment generation
- Will fulfill the aspirations of Artice 19 : to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India
- More revenue generation of govt from tourism
- More burden on natural resources and environmental pollution
- Internal security issues
- Commercialization of land and property
- Cultural issues i.e. intermingling of people
ISSUES INVOLVED :
- For more than two years now, J&K has been without an elected government. All the changes being introduced in the UT have been steamrolled by the Centre rather than being legislated by elected representatives of the people.
- This has created suspicions in the J&K that the Centre is gradually disempowering the local population and consolidating control through executive power.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR REORGANIZATION ACT, 2019
- The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, provides for reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
- The Bill reorganises the state of Jammu and Kashmir into: (i) the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and (ii) the Union Territory of Ladakh without a legislature.
- The Union Territory of Ladakh will comprise Kargil and Leh districts, and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will comprise the remaining territories of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be administered by the President, through an administrator appointed by him known as the Lieutenant Governor.
- The Union Territory of Ladakh will be administered by the President, through a Lieutenant Governor appointed by him.
- The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will be the common High Court for the Union Territories of Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir. Further, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have an Advocate General to provide legal advice to the government of the Union Territory.
- The Legislative Council of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be abolished. Upon dissolution, all Bills pending in the Council will lapse.
- The Centre’s policy towards J&K must be buttressed(supported) by a robust political process that enables people’s participation and ensures stability with growth and development
QUESTION : Discuss the ASER survey 2020 key findings in the area of education and how Covid 19 Pandemic has affected rural education?
- Annual Status Of Education Report(ASER)
WHY IN NEWS ?
- In a year of severe disruption for schools caused by the COVID¬19 pandemic, students in rural areas have received only marginal assistance in the form of structured learning materials from teachers, and have had to rely more on parents and siblings to study at home.
ABOUT ASER SURVEY :
- This is an annual survey (published by education non-profit Pratham ) that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
- ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
- It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 REPORT :
- The survey shows a small shift in enrollment from private to government schools, across all grades and among both girls and boys.
- The proportion of boys enrolled in government schools rose from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020.
- The survey shows that while the proportion of children not currently enrolled for the 2020-21 school years is higher than the equivalent figures for 2018, for most age groups these differences are small.
- Among enrolled children, more than 60% live in families with at least one smartphone. This proportion has increased enormously in the last two years, from 36.5% to 61.8% among enrolled children.
- Whether acquired before or after school closures in March 2020, more than 80% children have textbooks for their current grade.
- Data showed that at 50.6%, teachers who taught between Grades III to V were the best trained. Most teachers were in possession of phone numbers of at least 50% of their students
KEY FINDINGS- IMPACT OF COVID-19 :
- About 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home. In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks. More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.
- In the week of the survey, about one in three rural children had done no learning activity at all.
- About two in three had no learning material or activity given by their school that week, and only one in 10 had access to live online classes.
- 3% of rural children aged 6-10 years had not yet enrolled in school this year, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
IMPORTANT CONCLUSION FROM THE ABOVE REPORT :
- Evidence based policy making: The data collected could facilitate intervention by the education system in some respects, even if, going forward, schools opt for a hybrid solution of partial reopening and online learning.
- Expanding availability of textbooks to all, including those who dropped out or are waiting to be formally admitted, will help parents and siblings aid learning.
- Bridging the divide on educational aids, now including smartphones, will enable transmission of learning materials, and personal tutorial sessions.
- Opportunity for Observational Learning: The education system could creatively use opportunities during the current year to broaden learning. Students could use the safety of the open countryside to learn, under guidance from teachers, a host of topics by doing things themselves which helps create strong foundations.
- Need for Monitoring: When schools re-open, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school, and very importantly to understand whether there is learning loss as compared to previous years,
- Leveraging Home Support to improve learning: Schools should find ways to build on the home support going forward, given that families provided learning support to children during pandemic, either from parents or elder siblings.
WAY FORWARD :
- Covid-19 has left the nation with deep economic distress and uncertainty over school-reopenings and thrown open new challenges in every sector.
- The nationally representative sample highlighted the role played by the families where everyone in the family supported children regardless of their education levels.
- This strength needs to be leveraged by reaching out to more students and reducing the distance between schools and homes.
QUESTION : Do you think Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill ,2019 can emerge as the lynchpin for resolving stressed assets in a time-bound manner? Critically analyse
- Insolvency And Bankruptcy Code (IBC)
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Prime Minister mentioned the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC 2016) as one of the key legislative reforms that would help aid India’s path to self-reliance on a high growth trajectory.
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, along with the Goods and Services Tax regime, among other key reforms, were helping in significantly improving the ease of doing business in India and enabling it to emerge as a ‘Make for World’ platform.
- IBC is credited for a surge in Foreign Direct Investment into India in 2019-2020, to the tune of nearly $74.5 billion, or a significant increase of 20 per cent from the previous year
WHAT IS INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY ?
- Insolvency is a situation where individuals or companies are unable to repay their outstanding debt.
- Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a situation whereby a court of competent jurisdiction has declared a person or other entity insolvent, having passed appropriate orders to resolve it and protect the rights of the creditors. It is a legal declaration of one’s inability to pay off debts
- Thus, an individual/entity can be insolvent without being bankrupt and insolvency can lead to bankruptcy if the insolvent individual/entity is unable to overcome the financial catastrophe.
INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE,2016 :
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) is the bankruptcy law of India which seeks to consolidate the existing framework by creating a single law for insolvency and bankruptcy.
- Insolvency Resolution: The Code outlines separate insolvency resolution processes for individuals, companies and partnership firms.
- The process may be initiated by either the debtor or the creditors.
- The code aims to protect the interests of small investors and make the process of doing business less cumbersome.
- Insolvency regulator: The Code establishes the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India, to oversee the insolvency proceedings in the country and regulate the entities registered under it. The Board will have 10 members, including representatives from the Ministries of Finance and Law, and the Reserve Bank of India.
- The Code provides a time-bound 180-day process to resolve insolvency of companies and individuals.
INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE (AMENDMENT) BILL,2019 :
- The Bill amends the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
- Under the Code, a financial creditor may file an application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for initiating the insolvency resolution process.
- The NCLT must find the existence of default within 14 days.
- Thereafter, a Committee of Creditors (CoC) consisting of financial creditors will be constituted for taking decisions regarding insolvency resolution.
- The CoC may either decide to restructure the debtor’s debt by preparing a resolution plan or liquidate the debtor’s assets.
- The Bill addresses three issues.
- First, it strengthens provisions related to time-limits. Second, it specifies the minimum payouts to operational creditors in any resolution plan. Third, it specifies the manner in which the representative of a group of financial creditors (such as home-buyers) should vote.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE IBC :
- The IBC has been a far-ranging and structurally significant reform that has transformed insolvency resolution in India.
- Replacing a rather inefficient bankruptcy law regime, the IBC has focused on time-bound resolution, rather than liquidation, as an empowering tool to support companies falling within its ambit.
- It has successfully instilled confidence in the corporate resolution methodology, and perhaps, more importantly, on creating a possibility for the creditors recouping some of their investments in firms being liquidated or going in for resolution.
- Its core implication has been to allow credit to flow more freely to and within India while promoting investor and investee confidence.
- Despite the suspension of the IBC for a limited duration due to the COVID 19 pandemic, in the short, medium and long term, it will prove to have been a timely reform.
- The IBC has provided a major stimulus to ease of doing business, enhanced investor confidence, and helped encourage entrepreneurship while also providing support to MSMEs.
- Its further streamlining and strengthening will surely instil greater confidence in both foreign and domestic investors as they look at India as an attractive investment destination.
MEASURES TAKEN BY THE GOI :
- Criminal penalties: The Government of India is also working toward decriminalisation of minor offences.
- NITI Aayog is playing an active role in this exercise, which will reduce the risk of imprisonment for actions or omissions that are not necessarily fraudulent or an outcome of mala fide intent.
- Other legislative measures include the rolling out of the commercial courts, commercial divisions and the Commercial Appellate Divisions Act, 2015, to allow district court-level commercial courts, and the removing of over 1,500 obsolete and archaic laws.
- Together with the IBC, these highlight a major and multi-dimensional effort by the government to provide comfort, relief and reliability to the potential investors.
- The Ministry of Corporate Affairs along with Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI), are working diligently on putting in place a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and non-MSME framework to help expedite this process.
- Through the IBBI, it has established an unprecedented organisation that both regulates and develops insolvency policy, and assesses market realities.
- India suffers from a serious backlog in court cases, to the tune of nearly four crore matters pending final judgment. The novel coronavirus pandemic is likely to exacerbate this.
- The enforceability of contracts has been a challenge. On an average, it takes as many as 1,445 days for a contract to be enforced, and that too at a cost of nearly 31% of the claim value.
- The report of the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee speaks of the critical need for speed in the working of the bankruptcy code.
- It is clear that the inability to make significant decisions without full clarity of ownership and control delays resolution.
- And, the longer the delay, the more likely that the entity in question would move towards liquidation rather than resolution.
- The delays result in low value liquidation due to a high economic rate of depreciation. Higher value stems from the firm being acquired as a going concern.
- Two key drivers for the IBC are relatively short time-bound processes, and the focus on prioritising resolution rather than liquidation.
- There could perhaps be a look at institutionalising the introduction of a pre-packed insolvency resolution process, the need for which is highlighted by the necessary suspension of the IBC proceedings.
- It will also help resolve matters expeditiously, outside of the formal court system, and allow resolution even during the COVID-19 altered reality.
- Bringing in technology would help ease of access to justice and greatly help ease of doing business from a process and efficiency standpoint as well.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is need for setting up more tribunals in different parts of the country to handle the greater-than-expected volume of cases.
- IBC must consider that there are distinct advantages if the existing management is allowed to keep running the company such as knowledge, information and expertise.
- India is more concerned with the recovery of NPA, not with the running of units, thus the first priority is to save the banking system.
- Thus the banks also must push policy makers towards this move because they’re unlikely to get more if the case comes before the NCLT.
- Proactive training/onboarding of judges, lawyers, and other intermediaries will be necessary for effective implementation of the code.
- Technological infrastructure needs to be strengthened to avoid any kind of data loss and to maintain confidentiality. There is a requirement of enhanced IU infrastructure.
- This will help companies that need last mile funding to access a wider pool of capital that caters to this requirement and should also enable such funding on competitive terms bute government have to work with the intent to help differentiate between good faith mistakes and intentional bad faith actions, so as to penalise the former, and criminalise the latter.
QUESTION : Do you think the reforms proposed for agricultural sector under the realm of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan ensure better price realization for farmers? Elucidate
- Legal Challenges Faced By Farm Acts
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Farm Acts passed by the Parliament could face the legal hurdle in the court when challenged on its constitutional basis. This article explains the issue.
- Recently, Parliament passed three acts related to agriculture. These Acts are-
1) The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020.
2) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
3) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
- This has led to the question: Does the Union government have the authority to legislate on what are rightfully the affairs of States?
GENERAL CONCERNS AND CRITICISMS :
- These bills are anti-farmer and will only result in reduced crop prices for farmers and undermine seed security even further.
- Food security will be eroded as government intervention is eliminated.
- These bills promote corporate control of the Indian food and farming systems.
- They will also encourage hoarding and black marketing, in addition to exploitation of farmers.
- The bills also lack any assurance about Minimum Support Price(MSP).
WHY AGRICULTURE IS CONSIDERED AS STATE’S PREROGATIVE :
- Agriculture is a State subject in the Constitution, listed as Entry 14 in the State List (List II).
- Entry 26 in the State List refers to “trade and commerce within the State”.
- Entry 27 in the State List refers to “production, supply and distribution of goods”.
- Entry 28 refers to “markets and fairs”.
- For these reasons, intra-State marketing in agriculture was always considered a legislative prerogative of States.
LEGAL BASIS USED BY PARLIAMENT TO PASS THE FARM ACTS :
- The central government invoked Entry 33 in the Concurrent List (List III).
- Entry 26 and 27 in List II are listed as “subject to the provisions of Entry 33 of List III”.
- Entry 33 in List III: Trade and commerce in, and the production, supply and distribution of, — (a) the products of any industry where the control of such industry by the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest, and imported goods of the same kind as such products; (b) foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils; (c) cattle fodder, including oilcakes and other concentrates; (d) raw cotton, whether ginned or unginned, and cotton seed; and (e) raw jute.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF “ENTRY 33” :
- Entry 33, in its present form, was inserted in List III through the Constitution (Third Amendment) Act, 1954 after heated constitutional debates.
- The contention of the dissent was the following:
- As per Article 369 in the original version of the Constitution, the responsibility of agricultural trade and commerce within a State was temporarily entrusted to the Union government for a period of five years beginning from 1950.
- The 1954 Amendment attempted to change this into a permanent feature in the Constitution.
- According to dissident “if matters enumerated in Article 369 in were placed in List III, State autonomy would be rendered illusory and State powers and rights would be progressively pulverised…”.
- While another dissident argued that “passage of the Bill would transform the Indian Constitution into a “unitary Constitution” instead of a “federal Constitution” and reduce “all the States’ powers into municipal powers”.
- Notwithstanding the strong dissenting voices, the Bill was passed.
SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENTS :
- In many of its judgments after 1954, the Supreme Court of India has upheld the legislative powers of States in intra-State agricultural marketing.
- Most notable was the ruling of the five-judge Constitution Bench in I.T.C. Limited vs. Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and Others, 2002.
- The Tobacco Board Act, 1975 had brought the development of the tobacco industry under the Centre.
- However, Bihar’s APMC Act continued to list tobacco as an agricultural produce.
- In this case, the question was if the APMC in Monghyr could charge a levy on ITC for the purchase of unprocessed tobacco leaves from growers.
- An earlier judgment had held that the State APMC Act will be repugnant to the Central Act, and hence was ultra vires.
- But the Constitution Bench upheld the validity of the State APMC Act, and ruled that market fees can be charged from ITC under the State APMC Act.
- It was unwise on the part of the Centre to use Entry 33 in List III to push the Farm Bills. Such adventurism weakens the spirit of federal cooperation that India needs in this hour of crisis. Second, agriculture is exclusively a State subject.
- Second, agriculture is exclusively a State subject. Everything
- that is ancillary or subsidiary to an exclusive subject in List II should also fall under the exclusive legislative purview of States.
QUESTION : Disinformation is as dangerous as misinformation. With reference to increased instances of fake news, comment on measures to address the same.
- Social Media and Fake News
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The article discusses the major concerns over the advent of social media platforms as information and news dispersion media and suggests certain measures to counter these shortcomings.
IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS :
- DISINFORMATION :
Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organisation or country.
Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm
- MAL-INFORMATION :
Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organisation or country.
- The increasing availability of affordable internet services has led to a situation where anywhere between 500 million and 700 million people are now newly online in India, almost all from towns and rural areas.
- Of late, there has been a growing call to hold the tech firms accountable for their actions. These firms have been struggling to meet calls to contain the online spread of misinformation and hate speech online and are also being accused of suppressing both left-wing and right-wing views.
- Biases News :
- Most of the information available to the people have been through the social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter where there are no journalistic norms and anyone can say anything at any time about any topic with scant respect for the truth.
- The threat of false news:
- The spread of false and malicious news can stoke violence at short notice
- Echo chamber algorithms:
- The echo chamber effect has been greatly enhanced by the highly targeted algorithms that the social media companies use
CAUSES FOR RISE IN FAKE NEWS :
- Internet and Social media: Many people now get news from social media sites and networks and often it can be difficult to tell whether stories are credible or not. Social media sites can play a big part in increasing the reach of these types of stories.
- Lack of Checking Authenticity: Everyone is busy in sharing/liking/commenting on news items without checking the authenticity of news.
- No codes of practice for Social Media: Traditionally we got our news from trusted sources, journalists and media outlets that are required to follow strict codes of practice. However, the internet has enabled a whole new way to publish, share and consume information and news with very little regulation or editorial standards.
- Stratified Organization of Fake News: Fake news is no longer being considered a rare or isolated phenomenon, but appears to be organized and shrewdly disseminated to a target population. It is believed that the high possibility of these organized bodies coming into existence with the help of political influence.
IMPORTANT FAKE NEWS EXAMPLE FROM INDIA :
Misinformation related to coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is in the form of social media messages related to home remedies that have not been verified, fake advisories and conspiracy theories
Misinformation and disinformation related to Kashmir is widely prevalent
- 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, which claimed over 60 lives and displaced thousands, were fueled by videos circulated on WhatsApp.
- As part of the 2016 Indian banknote demonetisation, India introduced a new 2,000-rupee currency note. Following this, multiple fake news reports about “spying technology” added in the banknotes went viral on Whatsapp and had to be dismissed by the government.
- The NaMo app, an app dedicated to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, was reported to have promoted and spread fake news.
- Indian WhatsApp lynchings
DANGERS/THREATS POSED BY FAKE NEWS :
- Political parties try to gain political advantages by polarizing the voter’s mind which further intensifies the tensions between different sections of society.
- Political campaigning has progressed from mere appeals in the name of identity or loyalty or tall promises to something akin to psychological warfare.
- As communal tendencies emerge in politics due to the spread of fake news economic development has taken back seat. The problems faced by the problems are not solved by the government.
- It can disturb the social fabric of the society and tensions among communities persists for long times. It can lead to violence between two or more communities thereby creating enmity and hatred between them. It reduces the tendencies of cooperation between different communities.
- Deep fakes are used by countries to target other countries and bring chaos or desired political changes. China and Russia are using deep fakes to target the hostile countries to gain political and trade benefits.
Faith in Media:
- People’s faith in social, print and electronic media reduces which could affect the benefits of these Media as well the spirit of democracy as media being the fouth estate of democracy. In its purest form, fake news is completely made up, manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN AS WAY FORWARD :
- TECH GIANTS : First, we know that tech firms are already under fire from all quarters.
- ACCUSED AND SUPPRESSED :
Tech giants are struggling to contain the online spread of misinformation and hate speech online, they are being accused of suppressing both left-wing and right-wing views.
- CHECKS AND BALANCES :
Second, unlike the U.S., which has now become unlikely to directly regulate such firms, India might need to chart its own path by keeping them under check before they proliferate.
- REGULATING THIRD PARTIES :
Google and Facebook clearly engage in both free speech and press activities when they display content created by third-parties.
- DECORUM OF INTERNET :
New Indian legislation needs to preserve free speech while still applying pressure to make sure that Internet content is filtered for accuracy, and sometimes, plain decency.
- CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY :
Facebook, for instance, has started to address this matter by publishing ‘transparency reports’ and setting up an ‘oversight board’ to act as a sort of Supreme Court for Facebook’s internal matters.
- TRANSPARENCY :
However, for all these companies’ efforts at transparency, we cannot ignore the fact that these numbers reflect judgements that are made behind closed doors.
- CLARITY IN DATA :
What should be regulatory attempts to influence the transparency of information that members of the public see are instead being converted into secret corporate processes.
- EXTENT OF BIAS :
We have no way of knowing the extent of biases that may be inherent inside each firm.
- HYPER-PERSONALISATION :
The fact that their main algorithms target advertising and hyper-personalisation of content makes them further suspect as arbiters of balanced news.
- ACCESS TO VARIETY :
This means that those who use social media platforms must pull in another direction to maintain access to a range of sources and views.
QUESTION : What do you understand by gig economy? Discuss the advantages and challenges offered by gig economy.
- The New Code On Social Security
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The new Code on Social Security allows a platform worker to be defined by their vulnerability — not their labour, nor the vulnerabilities of platform work.
WHAT IS GIG ?
- A gig is a temporary contract job. It denotes a short-term contract or a freelance work as opposed to a permanent job. The contract employee gets paid once he finishes the work.
WHAT IS GIG ECONOMY ?
- A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.
- Examples of gig employees in the workforce could include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.
- Companies like Uber, Ola, Deliveroo have made a huge success with this concept. Even software companies hire gig workers on a project basis.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO GIG ECONOMY ?
- The comfort of working from home – In a modern digitized world, it is easy to work from home with the click of a mouse. It is independent contract work and workers don’t need to go to the office for work but can work remotely from home too.
- More choices – There is a wide range of choices for the employment seeker as well as the job provider as proximity to work place does not matter here. People also change jobs several times.
- Experimentation – Gig economy is a reflection of experimentation too.
- Uncertain business climates – As the nature of jobs is changing (eg. by automation, artificial intelligence), there is no need to hire permanent employees.
STUMBLING BLOCKS IN A GIG ECONOMY ?
- There is no certainty, stability or job security in gig economy.
- Workers can be terminated anytime here in a gig economy.
- Workers do not have a bargaining power in a gig economy.
- Workers do not get pensions, gratuity, perks etc that is available for full-time workers.
- There is no basis on which banks and other financial service providers can extend lines of credit when steady income is not assured.
- The social welfare objectives can be neglected if business and profitable avenues of freelancing are prioritized.
- It is not accessible for people in many rural areas where internet connectivity and electricity still is a distant dream. Hence they are deprived of this opportunity and this stems up inequality debate again.
- Confidentiality of documents etc of the workplace is not guaranteed here. When there is a situation where gig worker is potentially working for others as well, including competitors, the employer is wary of what he shares with the gig worker and perennially suspicious.
- In few work projects where teamwork is essential, gig economy becomes dysfunctional in such a scenario.
- It is still in a nascent stage in a country like India.
DID YOU KNOW ?
- Global Gig Economy Index report has ranked India among the top 10 countries.
- The report says there has been an increase in freelancers in India from 11% in 2018 to 52% in 2019, thanks to various initiatives including Startup India and Skill India.
ISSUES OF GIG WORKERS – EXAMPLE OF SWIGGY (FOOD DELIVERY PLATFORM )
- Swiggy workers have been essential during the pandemic.
- They have faced a continuous dip in pay, where base pay was reduced from ₹35 to ₹10 per delivery order, despite braving against the odds of delivering during Pandemic
- Stable terms of earning have been a key demand of delivery-persons
DOES NEW VERSION OF LABOUR CODES OFFER ANY RELIEF TO GIG WORKERS ?
- The three new labour codes passed by Parliament recently acknowledge platform and gig workers as new occupational categories in the making.
- Defining gig workers is done in a bid to keep India’s young workforce secure as it embraces ‘new kinds of work’, like delivery, in the digital economy.
- In the Code on Social Security, 2020, platform workers are now eligible for benefits like maternity benefits, life and disability cover, old age protection, provident fund, employment injury benefits, and so on.
ISSUES WITH NEW LABOUR CODES FOR GIG WORKERS :
- Platform delivery people can claim benefits, but not labour rights.
- This distinction makes them beneficiaries of State programmes but does not allow them to go to court to demand better and stable pay, or regulate the algorithms that assign the tasks.
- This also means that the government or courts cannot pull up platform companies for their choice of pay, or how long they ask people to work.
- The laws do not see them as future industrial workers.
- They are now eligible for government benefits but eligibility does not mean that the benefits are guaranteed. Actualising these benefits will depend on the political will at the Central and State government-levels.
- The language in the Code is open enough to imply that platform companies can be called upon tso contribute either solely or with the government to some of these schemes. But it does not force the companies to contribute towards benefits or be responsible for workplace issues.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is a need for the government to step in and implement radical changes in labour laws or implement tax rebates and concessions that can be passed on directly to drivers or delivery partners as health or insurance benefits.
- However, some experts say that this would directly affect prices of service delivered to the end customer.
- With a population of over 1.2 billion, and a majority of them below the age of 35, relying on the “gig economy” is perhaps the only way to create employment for a large semi-skilled and unskilled workforce. Therefore, It is important to hand-hold this sector and help it grow. We need policies and processes that give clarity to the way the sector should function
- There are no guarantees for better and more stable days for platform workers, even though they are meant to be ‘the future of work’.
QUESTION : Examine the strength, potential and challenges of the organic food sector in India.
- Organic Farming and its advantages
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India has 30 per cent of the total organic producers in the world, but accounts for just 2.59 per cent (1.5 million hectares) of the total organic cultivation area of 57.8 million hectares. India ranks first in the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming.
- Sikkim became the first State in the world to become fully organic and other States including Tripura and Uttarakhand have set similar targets. North East India has traditionally been organic and the consumption of chemicals is far less than rest of the country. Similarly the tribal and island territories are being nurtured to continue their organic story.
WHAT IS ORGANIC FARMING ?
- Organic farming is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in a natural way. It aims to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco-friendly pollution free environment.
COMPONENTS AND ORGANIC FARMING :
- Maintaining genetic diversity
- Managing soil health
- Selection of variety
- Nutrient management
- Water management
- Weed management
- Pest and Disease management
- Livestock management
- Protecting the long-term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention.
- Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil microorganisms.
- Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures.
- Weed, disease and pest control rely primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention.
- The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing.
- Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats
NEED OF ORGANIC FARMING :
- With the increase in population in India, we need not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in a sustainable manner.
- The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends.
- Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for the existence of life and property.
- The agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability.
- It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future
ITS BENEFITS :
- Farmers can reduce their production costs because they do not need to buy expensive chemicals and healthier farm workers.
- It can support substantially higher levels of wildlife especially in low lands and where animals can roam in pastures or graze on grassland.
- In the long term, organic farms save energy and protect the fewer residues in food.
- Organic farming practices not only benefit dairies as well as when dairies feed their cows organic feed, the cows experience better health.
- More animals and plants can live in the same place in a natural way.
- Pollution of ground water is stopped.
ITS DISADVANTAGES :
- Organic food is more expensive because farmers do not get as much out of their land as conventional farmers do. Organic products may cost up to 40% more.
- Marketing and distribution is not efficient because organic food is produced in smaller
- Food illnesses may happen more often.
- Organic farming cannot produce enough food that the world’s population needs to survive. This could lead to starvation in countries that produce enough food today.
GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES PROMOTING OF :
- Government of India has been promoting organic farming under two dedicated Schemes, namely, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) since 2015-16 under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
- Organic Farming has also been supported under other Schemes viz Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Network Project on Organic Farming under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
- Third party certification of organic farming is promoted by Agriculture Processed Food and Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce.
WAY FORWARD :
- Natural farming is not a new concept in India, with farmers having tilled their land without the use of chemicals – largely relying on organic residues, cow dung, composts, etc. since time immemorial. This is also in sync with the Sustainable Development Goal 2 targeting ‘end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’.
- India needs to bring more area under Organic farming in the future, with better incentives to the cultivators.
- Organic farming has the bright prospect in the future with advantages of soil and biodiversity preservation, environment conservation and healthy citizens.
- India needs the introduction of structural changes through policy interventions and technological deployment in organic farming and make it resilient, sustainable and profitable.
- Hence with greater awareness and capacity building of the producers on compliance with international standards, Indian organic farmers will soon be reinforcing their rightful place in global agri trade.
QUESTION : Explain how can RBI monetary policy stabilize Indian economy at the time of GDP sudden contraction ?
- RBI’s Monetary Policy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Latest Monetary policy review, after the reconstitution of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
ABOUT MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE MPC:
- The RBI has a government-constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) which is tasked with framing monetary policy using tools like the repo rate, reverse repo rate, bank rate, cash reserve ratio (CRR).
- It has been instituted by the Central Government of India under Section 45ZB of the RBI Act that was amended in 1934.
- The MPC is entrusted with the responsibility of deciding the different policy rates including MSF, Repo Rate, Reverse Repo Rate, and Liquidity Adjustment Facility.
MONETARY POLICY :
- Monetary policy is adopted by the monetary authority of a country that controls either the interest rate payable on very short-term borrowing or the money supply. The policy often targets inflation or interest rate to ensure price stability and generate trust in the currency.
- The monetary policy in India is carried out under the authority of the RBI.
MAIN OBJECTIVES OF MONETARY POLICY :
- To maintain price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth as price stability is a necessary precondition for sustainable economic growth.
- In India, the RBI plays an important role in controlling inflation through the consultation process regarding inflation targeting. The current inflation-targeting framework in India is flexible.
NEED TO STABILISE THE ECONOMY :
- RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das went to great lengths to emphasise that the current ‘inflation hump’ was a transient phenomenon.
- He said it needed to be looked through when taking measures to support the ‘emerging impulses’ and helping the economy return to its feet.
- Through a series of liquidity enhancing and credit flow supportive steps, the central bank repeated its commitment to maintaining stability in the financial markets.
- Resources-strapped Central and State governments are expected to resort to substantially higher levels of borrowing to meet their spending needs.
- There can certainly be no argument at this point that the economy needs all the support it can get to recover from its 23.9% estimated contraction of the first quarter.
- The RBI sees a gradual recovery, forecasting a marginal growth of 0.5% in the fourth quarter that would narrow the full-year contraction to 9.5%.
- It is the inflation assumptions, however, that cause disquiet. From a projection of 6.8% for Q2, CPI inflation is posited to sharply ease — 5.4% in Q3 and 4.5% in Q4.
- The RBI did try to compensate for the pause on rate cuts by further making it cheaper for new loans to be provided. It did this by tweaking the risk weights and bringing down the cost of creating credit for banks. It also provided more liquidity to aid credit creation.
- In a nutshell, while there are encouraging signs of recovery, it is not entirely clear how things will pan out and that is why RBI continues to be in a wait-and-watch mode. Ideally, as the economy recovers and supply lines are restored, retail inflation should ease, but everything depends on the rate of Covid-19 infections coming down. If that goes up again, for any reason, then all bets are off.
- In overlooking the risks that the persistence of supply bottlenecks, cost-push pressures from higher taxes on transport fuels and the possibility of food-price inflation becoming entrenched pose to the outlook on prices, the RBI has clearly sought to talk up confidence.
QUESTION : What do you understand by CRISPR Cas9 editing technology? Recently there have been growing ethical concerns regarding the genome editing technology. Discuss.
- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2020
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The recently announced Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2020 has two women scientists as its recipients. Emmanuelle Charpentier, microbiologist and Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist shared the honour for the development of a method for genome editing.
ABOUT THE DISCOVERY :
- The two scientists have pioneered the use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) – Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) system as a gene-editing tool.
- In a short period of eight years since its discovery, the method has already made a significant impact in biology, medicine, and agriculture.
- It is not often that one sees practical applications of scientific findings in such a short time. The only other work with such a quick and revolutionary impact, is PCR (polymerase chain reaction) invented by Kary Mullis in 1983.
- The Nobel committee recognised Charpentier and Doudna as the sole discovers for programming a Cas9 protein to cut a piece of DNA at a specific site with the help of a small piece of RNA, thereby proving the ability of CRISPR-Cas9 to function as a gene-editing tool
WHAT IS GENE EDITING ?
- Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).
- These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.
- There are currently three powerful Gene editing technologies:
- Zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) and CRISPR-Case9 Technology.
- There are two different types of gene editing technology depending on which types of cells are treated:
- Somatic gene therapy: transfer of a section of DNA to any cell of the body that doesn’t produce sperm or eggs. Effects of gene therapy will not be passed onto the patient’s children.
- Germline gene therapy: transfer of a section of DNA to cells that produce eggs or sperm. Effects of gene therapy will be passed onto the patient’s children and subsequent generations
WHAT IS CRISPR-Cas9 ?
- It is a Gene editing technique which is short for Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
- The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool has two components — a short RNA (Ribonucleic acid) sequence that can bind to a specific target of the DNA and the Cas9 enzyme which acts like a molecular scissor to cut the DNA.
- To edit a gene of interest, the short RNA sequence (gRNA) that perfectly matches with the DNA sequence that has to be edited is introduced.
- Once it binds to the DNA, the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA (like scissors) at the targeted location where the RNA sequence is bound. Once the DNA is cut, the natural DNA repair mechanism is utilised to add or remove genetic material or make changes to the DNA.
ETHICAL CONCERN :
- The technology holds promise in improving the quality of life but there are dangers of its misuse.
- A Chinese researcher recently claimed to produce ‘designer babies’ using the new gene-editing tools like CRISPR.
- In the case of the Chinese twins, the genes were edited to ensure that they do not get infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
- Issues with producing babies with particular genetic traits
- Potential infection to HIV virus already had other alternative solutions and treatments.
- The gene-editing was done without any regulatory permission or oversight.
- While CRISPR technology is not 100 percent accurate, and it is possible that some other genes could also get altered by mistake.
- Following a global outcry, the WHO formed a panel of gene-editing experts which said “a central registry of all human genome editing research was needed in order to create an open and transparent database of ongoing work.
- In the last six years, the tool has enabled scientists to edit human DNA in a dish and early-stage clinical trials are being attempted to use the tool to treat a few diseases, including inherited disorders/diseases and some types of cancer.
- In the male-dominated world of science, this year’s Nobel chemistry prize should be widely celebrated worldwide.
- The recognition that Charpentier and Doudna’s work has received will encourage women to take up science as a career, despite the hard struggle to balance family life and an arduous life in a scientific career.
- The CRISPR technology can detect specific sequences of DNA within a gene and uses an enzyme functioning as molecular scissors to snip it.
- It also allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
- The technology can also be configured for detection of multiple other pathogens in the future.
- Unlike in the case of humans, the tool is being extensively used in agriculture. It is being tried out in agriculture primarily to increase plant yield, quality, disease resistance, herbicide resistance and domestication of wild species.
- The huge potential to edit genes using this tool has been used to create a large number of crop varieties with improved agronomic performance; it has also brought in sweeping changes to breeding technologies.
SITUATION IN INDIA :
- In India, several rules, guidelines, and policies backed by the Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989 notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, regulate genetically modified organisms.
- The above Act and the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving human participants, 2017, by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the Biomedical and Health Research Regulation Bill implies regulation of the gene-editing process.
- This is especially so in the usage of its language modification, deletion or removal of parts of heritable material. However, there is no explicit mention of the term gene editing.
- It is time that India came up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.
WAY FORWARD :
- Experts recommend that germline editing should be done only on genes that lead to serious diseases and when no other reasonable treatment alternatives exist.
- Among other criteria, they stress the need to have data on the health risks and benefits and the need for continuous oversight during clinical trials. They also recommend following up on families for multiple generations.
- CRISPR technology is indeed a path-breaking technology, to alter genes in order to tackle a number of conventional and unconventional problems. The most promising use of the CRISPR technology is in treatment of diseases. For example, sickle cell anaemia.
- However, experiments and tests to validate its use must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny by the regulators, and their use must be controlled to prevent commercial misuse.
- Scientists across the world are still working to determine whether the CRISPR technology is safe and effective for use in people.
- India should come up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.
QUESTION : Critically analyse the performance of Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) for manufacturing of mobile phones in India.
- Phased Manufacturing Programme
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Initiatives taken by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to provide impetus to domestic manufacturing in India.
MOBILE INDUSTRY IN INDIA :
- India produced around 29 crore units of mobile phones for the year 2018-19; 94% of these were sold in the domestic market, with the remaining being exported.
- The mobile production has increased from $13.4 billion in 2016-17 to $31.7 billion in 2019-20.
- Over the years, firms such as Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo, and OnePlus have invested in India, but mostly through their contract manufacturers.
PRODUCTION LINKED INCENTIVE (PLI) SCHEME :
- Under the new PLI scheme, companies that set up new mobile and specified equipment manufacturing units or expanded their present units would get incentives of 4-6 per cent on incremental sales from goods made in India.
- The PLI scheme aims to give out incentives worth Rs 5,334 crore in total in the first year, to be divided among all the successful applicants.
- The total incentive to be given to each company will be decided by an empowered committee.
o It will have secretaries from the Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Expenditure, Department of Revenue, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, apart from the MeitY secretary and the CEO of the Niti Aayog.
- Duration: It will cover target segments that are manufactured in India for a period of five years.
POSSIBLE BENEFITS :
- The companies would bring additional investment in electronics manufacturing to the tune of ₹11,000 crore.
- They will generate more than two lakh direct employment opportunities in the next five years, along with the creation of additional indirect employment of almost three times the direct employment.
- The approved companies under the PLI Scheme are expected to lead to total production of more than ₹10.50 lakh crore, of which around 60% will be exports.
- The government expects domestic value addition to grow from the current 15-20% to 35-40% in case of mobile phones and 45-50% for electronic components.
- It will help in building a strong ecosystem across the value chain and integrating with the global value chains.
- It will strengthen the electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
CONCERNS WITH PLI POLICY :
- Focus on production, not value addition: The new PLI policy offers an incentive subject to thresholds of incremental investment and sales of manufactured goods; these thresholds vary for foreign and domestic mobile firms.
- Shift from China is unlikely
o Chinese firms that dominate the Indian market are not a part of the PLI policy.
o Recently, a study showed that if the cost of production of a mobile phone is say 100 (without subsidies), then the effective cost (with subsidies and other benefits) of manufacturing mobile phones in China is 79.55, Vietnam, 89.05, and India (including PLI), 92.51.
- Export competitiveness: Though India’s mobile phone exports grew from $1.6 billion in 2018-19 to $3.8 billion in 2019-20, our export competitiveness is in mobiles with lower selling price.
- Difficult for domestic firms
o The five foreign firms that have been chosen already have facilities in India, and can be expected to continue with their strategy of dependence on imported inputs.
o Domestic firms have been nearly wiped out from the Indian market.
- Supply chain co-location
PLI scheme does not complete the mobile manufacturing ecosystem. For example, though Samsung is invested hugely in India, it has not co-located its supply chain in the country.
- The PMP policy and the new PLI may be helpful in only increasing domestic production, and not value addition which would bring in much more benefits to India.
- The government must encourage foreign firms chosen under the PLI policy to co-locate their supply ecosystems in the country.
QUESTION : India needs to move beyond the inflation targeting in its monetary policy. Discuss.
- RBI’s Policymaking
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The article analyzes how the COVID-19-triggered recession had led to some of the strongly held economic assumptions being revised around the world.
CHANGES IN THE ECONOMIC POLICYMAKING :
- Recently the U.S. Fed declared that the Fed will not let inflation stand in the way of maximising employment.
- The reason for this was that the Phillips Curve, the relationship between inflation and unemployment, may no longer hold in the U.S. economy.
- This is significant, given that the Anglo-American economics has been dominated by Phillips Curve.
WHY THIS NEED FOR CHANGING INFLATION TARGETING :
- Data show that the model that currently guides India’s inflation control strategy may be quite irrelevant.
- This is seen in the recent behaviour of inflation.
- We know that output contracted by more than 23% in the first quarter of this year.
- Despite this staggering decline the inflation rate did not change,
- This was contrary to experience that inflation reflects an ‘over heating’ economy, one growing too fast in relation to its potential.
- This view represents the RBI’s official understanding of inflation, and presumably forms the basis of its policy of inflation targeting.
- It was endorsed by the Government of India when it legislated the modern monetary policy framework to enable the RBI to pursue inflation targeting.
- If the Phillips Curve, which the RBI’s approach internalises, exists, inflation should have decreased as India’s economy contracted during the lockdown.
- The current inflation targeting mechanism had been imagined with developing economies in mind.
- Inflation targeting mechanism is based on the idea that food prices are an important determinant of inflation along with imported inflation.
- Accordingly, a macroeconomic contraction need not lower inflation.
FOOD PRICES :
- Agricultural commodity prices are an indicator of changes in supply and demand, and as such, can detect abnormal conditions that need to be brought to attention.
- Price monitoring supports well-functioning international and national markets through the provision of timely and transparent market information and constitutes a basis for evidence-based decision making and food security strategies.
- Past price volatility events have put in evidence the value of timely market information and analysis in order to mitigate the negative effects on low-income groups of population whose expenditure on food represents a large proportion of their total expenses.
CURRENT SCENARIO :
- Rising food prices: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO’s) food price index with reference to a base period (2002-04 = 100) touched 182.5 points in January 2020, the highest since the 185.8 level of December 2014.
- Year on Year inflation rate is also rising: the year-on-year inflation rate based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO’s) food price index has also risen steadily from 1.13% in August 2019 to 2.86% in September, 5.58% in October, 9.33% in November, 12.22% in December, and now, 11.33% for January 2020.
- Consumer food price index (CFPI) inflation stood at 99% in August 2019 and climbed to 5.11%, 7.89%, 10.01%, 14.19% and 13.63% in the succeeding five months.
- The wholesale price index for food articles has started rising earlier from 2.41% in January last year to 7.8% in August 2019.
- Retail and wholesale food inflation rates for December 2019 are the highest.
ROLE OF FOOD PRICES IN INDIA :
- A recent working paper of the RBI’s research department suggested that a more eclectic model than the one that underlies inflation targeting does a better job of forecasting inflation in India.
- This model accepts a role for food prices, a possibility that is missed when embracing economic models developed in the western hemisphere, where food prices have stopped trending upwards over half a century ago.
- According to Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO), food security has basically four pillars:
- Availability: food should be available in sufficient quantity at all times and at all places;
- Affordability: food should be affordable, i.e., people should have economic access (ample income) to buy food;
- Absorption: food should be safe and nutritious that body can absorb for a healthy life; and finally.
- Stability: food system should be reasonably stable, as high volatility in food systems impacts adversely not only the poor but also endangers the stability of political and social systems
PHILLIPS CURVE ?
- The Phillips curve is an economic concept, stating that inflation and unemployment have a stable and inverse relationship.
- The theory claims that with economic growth comes inflation, which in turn should lead to more jobs and less unemployment.
- However, the original concept has been somewhat disproven empirically due to the occurrence of stagflation in the 1970s, when there were high levels of both inflation and unemployment.
- The RBI shifting away from its rigid inflation targeting policy is in tune with the time and signals that the central bank is finally alive to India’s economy.
QUESTION : Border management is a complex task due to difficult terrain and hostile relations with some countries. Elucidate the challenges and strategies for effective border management.
- Terror Threat To India And It’s Neighbourhood
WHY IN NEWS ?
- During the pandemic, open terror attacks have been reducing, presumably because terror outfits lack resources. However with their past resilience, they continue to pose threats to modern society, especially to India and its neighbourhood.
TERRORISM-STILL A THREAT FOR INDIA AND THE WORLD :
- Once the pandemic eases, we may see a resurgence of terror.
- The aggravation of poverty in developing nations due to COVID-19 could offer a fertile ground for recruitment and intensified religious indoctrination, which are dangerous to peace.
- Al-Qaeda is still strong: In the past few years, it is true that the al-Qaeda has lost many of its leaders in encounters with U.S. agencies.
- The al-Qaeda has a robust cadre from which a strong and young leader could still emerge to lead it in order to intimidate the civilised world.
- Global reach backed by global ambitions: They are present not only in West Asia but also in Africa. The other outfits JeM, LeT, etc. are confined to the Afghanistan-Pakistan area.
DOHA ACCORD :
- Withdrawal of troops: The US will draw down its troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down. And all troops will be out within 14 months (all would include non-diplomatic civilian personnel).
- What Taliban Commit?: The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
- Removal of sanctions: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months and US sanctions by August.
- Prisoner Swap Clause :According to the agreements, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be released by March 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations, and the remainder in another three months. A possible trouble spot because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ.
- On ceasefire: The agreement states ceasefire will be simply an item on the agenda when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the completion of an Afghan political agreement.
IMPLICATIONS OF DOHA ACCORD FOR INDIA :
- The Doha Accord signed this year between the Taliban and the U.S., which has brought about an improved relationship between the two.
- The U.S. has agreed to a near-total withdrawal of its troops in return for the Taliban’s promise to preserve peace in Afghanistan.
- The Taliban and the al-Qaeda need each other in many areas.
- Both are friendly towards Pakistan and could pose a problem or two to India in the near future.
- Many recent raids by the National Investigation Agency point to an al-Qaeda network in India.
- Once the situation gets better, the al-Qaeda, in cahoots with other aggressive Islamic outfits in and around Pakistan, is bound to escalate the offensive against India.
- This is one factor that makes the al-Qaeda and other terror outfits still relevant to India’s security calculus.
WHAT IS CROSS-BORDER TERRORISM ?
- The term ‘cross-border’ implies a movement or an activity across a border between the two countries.
- Cross-Border Terrorism is a form in which soil of one country is used to create terror in bordering countries.
- As a grey zone conflict, it is an undeclared war and considered to be highest form of strategy to bleed a nation for prolonged period by small efforts
FACTORS FAVOURING CROSS-BORDER TERRORISM :
- Porous borders: These indicate borders which are not highly protected. India’s borders with most of her neighbours cannot be physically sealed or wired due to difficult terrain, and other factors. Terror groups take advantage of such porous borders and infiltrate into another country.
- Support from non-state actors: India’s troubled relationship with Pakistan fuels the latter’s support for secessionist groups, which are provided financial support, weapons and training by the establishment in Pakistan.
- Internal support: Many times, terrorists find support from the local population due to varying reasons like ideological or ethnic affinity, fear, monetary lure, etc.
- Corrupt officials: Unfortunately, many officials in the establishment of a country can abet terrorists and allow their illegal entry for terrorist activities purely for financial benefits.
TERRORISM IN INDIA :
India subdivides terrorism in four major groups:
- Ethno-nationalist terrorism – This form of terror focuses either (a) on creating a separate State within India or independent of India or in a neighboring country, or (b) on emphasising the views/response of one ethnic group against another. Violent Tamil Nationalist groups from India to address the condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka, as well as insurgent tribal groups in North East India are examples of ethno-nationalist terrorist activities.
- Religious terrorism – This form of terror focuses on religious imperatives, a presumed duty or in solidarity for a specific religious group, against one or more religious groups. Mumbai 26/11 terror attack in 2008 from an Islamic group in Pakistan is an example of religious terrorism in India.
- Left-wing terrorism – This form of terror focuses on economic ideology, where all the existing socio-political structures are seen to be economically exploitative in character and a revolutionary change through violent means is essential. The ideology of Marx, Engel, Mao, Lenin and others are considered as the only valid economic path. Maoist violence in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are examples of left wing terrorism in India.
- Narcoterrorism – This form of terror focuses on creating illegal narcotics traffic zones. Drug violence in northwest India is an example of narco-terrorism in India.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is a need to reassess our policies on number of issues pertaining to the management of India’s international borders such as intelligence apparatus, internal security and border management.
- Technical solutions are necessary to augment and complement the traditional methods of border guarding.
- They not only enhance the surveillance and detection capabilities of the border guarding forces but also improve the impact of the border guarding personnel against infiltration and trans-border crimes.
- India should move in the direction of specialisation of military to fight cross-border terrorism.
- Military should also look at alternative means to strike at the terror camps across the LoC and LAC through mechanisms like Precision Engagement Capability.
- A judicious mix of properly trained manpower and affordable and tested technology is likely to yield better results.
- We should keep a close eye on the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State because there is evidence that their recruitment remains undiminished by the problems posed by the pandemic.
QUESTION : Discuss how Artificial Intelligence can be used to meet India’s socio-economic needs.
- India’s Innovation Potential
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recognising the innovation potential of India, the government is putting in place a framework of collaboration, facilitation and regulation to boost innovative ecosystem of India.
REALISTIC INNOVATION POTENTIAL IN INDIA :
- Innovation in India is being structured around the triad of collaboration, facilitation and responsible regulation. It is advanced by cross-disciplinary collaboration.
- India is the fastest growing country in terms of Internet usage, with over 700 million users and the number projected to rise to 974 million by 2025.
- The JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) trinity has 404 million Jan Dhan bank accounts with 1.2 billion Aadhaar and 1.2 billion mobile subscribers.
- There is a potential to add over $957 billion to India’s GDP by 2035 with artificial intelligence (AI).
- The realistic potential of technology for India resonates in the ‘Amara law’ named after Roy Amara, a Stanford computer scientist, who said that “People tend to overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short run, but to underestimate it in the long run.”
INITIATIVE OF GOVT. OF INDIA :
Recently, Indian government organised two event to boost innovation:
1) Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) summit: Several overseas Indian-origin academicians and Indians participated to ideate on innovative solutions to various challenges.
2) Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) 2020 summit: It charter a course to effectively use AI for social empowerment, inclusion, and transformation in key sectors such as health care, agriculture, finance, education and smart mobility.
OTHER INITIATIVES OF GOVERNMENT :
Innovation needs risk capital in terms of resources and psychological security for researchers. It needs an environment where it is safe to fail. The government has been building a comprehensive framework to this end.
- Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scholarships: Attract youth talent to the study of science at an early age and thus build the required critical human resource pool for Science & Technology system.
- Ramanujan Fellowship: Meant for brilliant Indian scientists from outside India to take up scientific research positions in India.
- Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) scheme: Providing avenues to women scientists and technologists for capacity building.
- Smart India Hackathons (SIH): To provide students a platform to solve some of pressing problems of society.
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM): To promote innovation and entrepreneurship across India.
- Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) scheme: Largest early stage biotech funding programme in India. Aims to encourage researchers to take bio-technology closer to market through a start up.
- Future Skills PRIME (Programme for Reskilling/Upskilling of IT Manpower for Employability) capacity building platform
- Triad of Scheme for Transformational and Advanced Research in Sciences (STARS), Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) and Impactful Policy Research in Social Science (IMPRESS): Common objective is to boost India specific research in social and pure sciences.
- National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems: Aims to catalyse translational research across Al, IoT or the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Big Data Analytics, Robotics, Quantum Computing, Data Science.
Initiatives by other regulatory bodies
- The Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India allow for regulatory sandboxes for piloting new ideas.
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently introduced recommendations for regulating cloud services in India, suggesting a light-touch regulation in collaboration with industry, balancing commercial freedom and principles adherence.
SUGGESTIONS TO STRENGTHEN INNOVATION ECOSYSTEM OF INDIA :
- Increase R&D spending: Government should formulate policy with the aim of increasing total GERD (Gross domestic expenditure on R&D) to 2% of India’s GDP.
- Global partnerships in innovation: Global innovation partnerships need to be strengthened by enhancing public-private partnership mechanisms and increased public funds should be earmarked for joint industrial R&D projects.
- Idea-to-market challenge: Government needs to create a special fund to help Indian innovations to advance their start0ups during difficult times.
IINDIA SPECIFIC HIGHLIGHTS
o India has become the third most innovative lower-middle-income economy in the world.
o India ranks in the top 15 in indicators such as the (ICT) services exports, govt. online services, graduates in science and engineering, and Research and Development-intensive global companies.
o India improved the most in three pillars: Institutions (61st), business sophistication (55th), and creative outputs (64th).
o The consistent improvement in the index rankings is owing to the immense knowledge capital, the vibrant startup ecosystem, and the amazing work done by the public and private research organisations.
o India Innovation Index 2019 which was released by the NITI Ayog, has been widely accepted as the major step in the direction of decentralisation of innovation across all the states of India.
GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX :
- It provides detailed metrics about the innovation performance of 131 countries and economies around the world.
- Its 80 indicators explore a broad vision of innovation, including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.
- It is published annually by Cornell University, INSEAD and the WIPO.
- 2020 Theme: Who will Finance Innovation?
o The GII 2020 sheds light on the state of innovation financing by investigating the evolution of existing mechanisms and by pointing to progress and remaining challenges.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is a need to broaden and improve the capability of top rung educational institutions in the country to produce greater innovation outputs.
- Increased spending on research and development with greater collaboration between the industry and educational institutions may help to enhance innovation capability.
- A collaborative platform consisting of all the stakeholders of innovation – innovators, researchers, and investors from the industry should be developed.
- To be successful in this endeavour, India must make the right institutional, industrial, and policy reforms
- Encouraging innovation in the private and public sectors of the economy is critical, especially if these companies are to become more competitive globally.
- Innovation has the potential to build a future where AI will transform education and health care, machine learning will make commerce robust, clean energy will drive economy, gene-editing would help us bring back extinct species and virtual reality will change the way we interact with the physical world.
- In spite of the challenges facing India’s innovation system, India is presented with an opportunity to become a global innovation hub and eventually transform itself into an innovation-driven economy using its existing resources.
QUESTION : What is offset liability and discuss the significance of the policy in Indian Defence.
- Offset in Indian Defence
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, the government diluted the “offset” policy in defence procurement. This Policy decision was taken with a view to reduce cost of defense deals and also in response to a CAG report on the same issue.
ABOUT DEFENCE OFFSETS :
- An offset provision in a contract makes it obligatory on the supplier to either “reverse purchase, execute export orders or invest in local industry or in research and development” in the buyer’s domestic industry.
- Most countries restrict trade in defence equipment and advanced technologies in order to safeguard national interest. But for commercial gains and for global technological recognition, governments and firms engage in offset deals.
OBJECTIVES OF OFFSET POLICY :
- The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) defined offsets as a “mechanism generally established with the triple objectives of:
- Partially compensating for a significant outflow of a buyer country’s resources in a large purchase of foreign goods
- Facilitating induction of technology and
- Adding capacities and capabilities of domestic industry
RATIONALE BEHIND OFFSETS :
- Boosting domestic defence industry: Since defence contracts are costly, the government wants part of that money either to benefit the Indian industry, or to allow the country to gain in terms of technology.
- Leverage capital acquisitions to develop Indian defence industry by
- Fostering development of internationally competitive enterprises,
- Augmenting capacity for Research, Design and Development related to defence products and services and
- Encouraging development of synergistic sectors like civil aerospace, and internal security”
ISSUE WITH NEW POLICY :
- CAG Report: According to the recent CAG report, between 2007 and 2018, the government reportedly signed 46 offset contracts worth ₹66,427 crore of investments.
- However, the realised investments were merely 8%, or worth ₹5,457 crore.
- It also noted that there is not a single case where the foreign vendor had transferred high technology to the Indian industry.
- New Policy: In a response to CAG report, the government has decided not to have an offset clause in procurement of defence equipment if the deal is done through inter-government agreement (IGA), government-to-government or an ab initio single vendor.
- Misplaced Rationale: The government held that the offset load extra cost in the contract to balance the costs, and doing away with the offsets can bring down the costs in such contracts.
- However, the higher (upfront) cost of the agreement due to the offset clause would pay for itself by: reducing costs in the long term by indigenisation of production and the potential technology spill-overs for domestic industry.
- Impact of New Policy: As most defence deals are bilateral, or a single supplier deal (given the monopoly over the technology).
- The dilution means practically giving up the offset clause.
- This would impact India’s prospects for boosting defence production and technological self-reliance.
- Further, India has voluntarily given up a powerful instrument of bargaining to acquire scarce advanced technology
WAY FORWARD :
- There is a need to establish a formal mechanism for implementation of the defence offset policy.
- What India needs is an effective body to handle offsets, liberal FDI and licensing policies, and a better banking provision.
- Also there is a need for a clear roadmap for transfer of technology through offsets, keeping in view India’s long-term military industrial objectives.
- India needs to re-conceive or re-imagine the offset clause in defence contracts with stricter enforcement of the deals, in national interest, and in order to aim for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, or a self-reliant India.
QUESTION : Explain how digital transactions on the Universal Payment Interface (UPI) has brought payment revolution in India and list the issues of MDR.
- Digital Payment
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Digital payments have found strong ground, especially in India, increasingly relegating all other modes of payments to the background.
- According to a report, Indian digital payment industry is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2023.
- The Indian startup ecosystem is expected to play a crucial role in enabling this industry as it is capable of leveraging the opportunities by addressing a multitude of challenges.
- National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is an umbrella organization for all retail payments in India.
- It was set up in 2009 with the support of RBI and Indian Banks Association (IBA).
- The idea for NPCI emerged in the vision document on payments system, 2005-08 released by RBI in 2005.
ADOPTION OF DIGITAL PAYMENTS IN INDIA :
- Digital payments have found strong ground in India reducing all other modes of payments to the background.
- Through a faster system of simultaneous debits and credits, the money value is transferred from one account to the other across banks.
- With such versatility and ease of settling financial transactions, the growth of digital payments is going to be phenomenal, supported by banks and Fin-Tech companies.
EVOLUTION OF DIGITAL PAYMENTS IN INDIA :
- A major thrust toward large value payments was effected through the Real Time Gross Settlement System, or RTGS, launched by the RBI in March 2004.
- The large value payments on stock trading, government bond trading and other customer payments were covered under the RTGS.
- It substantially reduced the time taken for settlements.
- Around the same time, the RBI introduced National Electronic Funds Transfer, or NEFT to support retail payments.
- Now, NEFT is available round the clock and RTGS will follow from December 2020 — only a few countries have achieved this.
- These systems were seeded and reinforced with the setting up of the umbrella retail payments institution: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
- NPCI was set up by 10 lead banks at the instance of the RBI in 2009.
- The NPCI as a not-for-profit company
HOW NPCI TRANSFORMED RETAIL PAYMENT SYSTEM IN INDIA :
- The NPCI’s success against deeply entranced formidable international players, supported by innovative technology, viz. Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), is well recognised by central banks in many other countries.
- The Bank for International Settlements’s endorsement of the NPCI model in 2019 is a major accolade.
- With digital payment being a public good like currency notes, it was necessary that the corporation was fully supported by the RBI and the government as an extended arm of the sovereign.
- It was also necessary to contain expectations on profits, avoiding direct or indirect control by powerful private interests could dilute the public good character of the outfit.
ISSUES OF CONVERTING NPCI INTRO FOR-PROFIT :
- Converting NPCI intro for-profit company will be a retrograde step with huge potential for loss of consumer surplus along with other strategic implications.
- Instead the strategy should be to assist the NPCI financially, either by the RBI or the government, to provide retail payment services at reduced price (in certain priority areas).
- This may also help support expansion of the payment system network and infrastructure in rural and semi-urban areas in partnership with Fin-Tech companies and banks.
ISSUE OF MDR :
- In Budget 2020-21, the government prescribed zero Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for RuPay and UPI, both NPCI products.
- Zero MDR on UPI and RuPay will help to popularise digital payments benefiting both customers and merchants.
- There is justification in this zero MDR prescription by the government.
- It is justified because depositors implicitly pay around 3% to banks as net interest margin, being the difference between saving and risk free bond rate, for enjoying certain payments services traditionally.
- When banks enjoy such a huge amount of current account savings account (CASA) deposits, in return, is it not incumbent on them to provide such payment services?
- The government left out other providers of digital payment products from this MDR prescription.
- Taking advantage of this dichotomy, many issuing banks switched to mainly Visa and Master cards for monetary gains.
- As customers were induced by such supplier banks, it created a kind of indirect market segmentation and cartel formation, though there is hardly any quality difference in payment products.
- It may be noted that even the European Central Bank imposed a ceiling on MDR for all, protecting consumer interest.
PRICING FOR DIGITAL PAYMENTS :
- The ideal pricing for digital payments products should be based on an analysis of-
(i) producer surplus
(ii) consumer surplus
(iii) social welfare for which we need cost-volume-price data.
- A factor which needs to be reckoned is the float funds digital payments allow (cash withdrawal is a drain on the banking system), which is a source of sizeable income for banks.
- The RBI will do well to study and arrive at a rational structure of pricing including MDR (possibly also penalty on default by customer).
WHAT IS MDR ?
- The merchant discount rate (MDR) is charged to merchants for processing debit and credit card transactions.
- To accept debit and credit cards, merchants must set up this service and agree to the rate.
- The merchant discount rate is a fee, typically between 1%-3%, that merchants must consider when managing business costs
- The introduction of UPI by National Payments Corporation of India has shown a remarkable result. Also, RBI’s Vision 2021 is a step in the right direction as it looks to create a robust digital payment ecosystem by moving towards a cash-lite economy.
- In this context, government has a crucial role to play in protecting consumers against exploitation (i.e., setting level playing field regime in MDR)
QUESTION : WTO has become dysfunctional and irrelevant in recent times. What challenges is it facing? Suggest steps to revive WTO.
- World Trade Organisation
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The WTO is on the verge of getting fresh top leadership
CHALLENGES BEFORE WTO :
- Backlash Against Globalisation: There is a backlash against globalisation, free trade and by extension, against international organisations such as WTO.
- New Negotiating positions by Nations: People who have lost out from technological disruption, globalisation or free trade have found an important voice and have started asserting themselves through political choices made in national elections (electing conservative parties/people to power). These changes are subsequently reflected in country negotiating positions in the WTO.
- Restoring Faith of common man: WTO has to demonstrate that it is on the side of the underdog i.e. it’s mission is to enhance the conditions of poor people and not further the agenda of corporates
- To build New Agenda: It is common knowledge that the Doha Round of trade negotiations has long been dead. The new task for WTO is to build a consensus around a new common work programme and a negotiating agenda.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN BY WTO ?
- Recalibrating Special treatments
- The WTO must carefully recalibrate the Special and Differential Treatment for countries that deserve it.
- Conclude negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies
- The multilateral negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies is proceeding apace and must be concluded by the next Ministerial Conference in June 2021.
- Correct Agriculture Subsidies
- Agriculture has always been a contentious subject in past WTO negotiations.
- SDG-2 provides sufficient guidance in this critical area: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
- Electronic Commerce
- Electronic Commerce poses enormous challenges for developing and least-developed countries. These challenges have to do with digital infrastructure, digital literacy and data sovereignty.
- The SDG-9 that talks of building resilient infrastructure, promotes inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation, should guide these negotiations.
STEPS TO REVIVE WTO PROCESS :
- Engaging with USA to bring it back into the WTO fold. Genuine concerns must be addressed which will build confidence in the process
- DSB must be revived. Without the dispute redressal mechanism the whole idea of the WTO will be defeated. Hence this must be a priority. USA must be convinced of the same.
- Limiting the agenda of the next ministerial conference to produce outcomes. This can improve confidence in the body. Only fisheries subsidies can be taken up in June 2021 ministerial.
- China and its trade practices must be addressed. Role of state owned enterprises, forced technology transfer and non market economies must be discussed and clarified.
- Discussions must move ahead on the agenda of WTO negotiations. While developed countries issues may be considered to be included, this must not dilute existing DOHA development agenda. Agriculture issues(Public stock holding procurement, special safeguarding mechanism), Special and differential treatment rules must be finalized.
- WTO must deliberate on whether plurilateral agreements(only some countries negotiate and agree) should be part of WTO. If they are part of WTO, induction of other countries into the agreement at a later date and applicability of agreement on MFN basis to countries which are not part of agreement, must be decided
- Global trade is facing uncertain times due to pandemic, protectionism and trade wars. WTO is pivotal in ensuring security and predictability in such uncertain times. Hence it is important to rejuvenate the global body to promote economic growth of the world.
QUESTION : Discuss the problems faced by the power sector in India. Suggest some measures to tackle these problems.
- Power Distribution Companies in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Indian government responded to COVID-19’s economic shock with a stimulus package of ₹20-lakh crore, out of which ₹90,000 crore was earmarked for DisComs (later upgraded to ₹1,25,000 crore).
- DisComs are the utilities that typically buy power from generators and retail these to consumers.
FINANCIAL ISSUES WITH DISCOMS :
- Not Exactly a Stimulus: While government’s package was called a stimulus, it is really a loan, meant to be used by DisComs to pay off generators. Stimulus loans are near market term and not soft loans.
- Threat from Renewable Energy: Increasing competition from Solar Powers whose tariff has come down to Rs 2.90 per unit (as compared to Rs 6 per unit average cost of electricity supply for distribution utilities) combined with existing long-term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with mainly coal-based thermal power generating projects has led to financial rigidity & therefore financial loss for DisComs.
- Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic has completely shattered incoming cash flows to utilities. The lockdown disproportionately impacted revenues from commercial and industrial segments. But a large fraction of DisCom cost structures are locked in through PPAs that obligate capital cost payments.
- Underestimation of dues: The government’s PRAAPTI (or Payment Ratification And Analysis in Power procurement for bringing Transparency in Invoicing of generators) portal shows that DisCom dues to generators are in range of one lakh crore rupees. The portal is a voluntary compilation of dues, and is not comprehensive.
- Rise in Informal loans: Over the years, DisComs have delayed their payments upstream (not just to generators but others as well) — in essence, treating payables like an informal loan.
- The gap between the cost of electricity bought (average cost of supply) and supplied (average revenue realized) for discoms is still substantial in most states and ranges from ₹2.13 per unit in Andhra Pradesh to ₹0.09 in Chhattisgarh.
WHY DO DISCOMS NOT PAY ON TIME ?
- Inefficiency of utilities leads to high losses, called Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses, a term that spans everything from theft to lack of collection from consumers. However, this is an incomplete explanation
CHALLENGES OF PAYABLE TO DISCOMS
- DisComs cash flow is disrupted due to dues that are payable to them.These dues are of three types.
- Improper Tariff fixation by regulators: Regulators themselves have failed to fix cost-reflective tariffs thus creating Regulatory Assets,which are to be recovered through future tariff hikes.
- Pending Subsidies: Second, about a seventh of DisCom cost structures is meant to be covered through explicit subsidies by State governments. Cumulative unpaid subsidies, with modest carrying costs, make DisComs poorer by over ₹70,000 crore just over the last 10 years.
- Consumer Bills pending: Third, consumers owed DisComs over ₹1.8 lakh crore in FY 2018-19, booked as trade receivables.
- Coordination Issues: Multiple ministries and agencies are currently involved in managing energy-related issues, presenting challenges of coordination and optimal resource utilisation, hence undermining efforts to increase energy security, as reported by the Kelkar Committee in 2013
- Fuel security concerns .
GOVT. INITIATIVES FOR POWER SECTOR :
- Financial restructuring/ bailout (Ahluwalia Committee 2001)
- Central FRP Scheme 2012
- Operations, infrastructure, and technology improvements (APDRP 2001, R-APDRP/IPDS 2008, DDUGJY & SAUBHAGYA 2014/2017, Smart Grid Pilot project & NSGM 2012-15), and structural reform (Electricity Act 2003).
- UDAY (Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana) scheme, launched in November 2015, is the latest attempt to address the severe financial stress due to accumulation of debt by the Discoms, with a focus on improving the overall efficiency and financial turnaround
ELECTRICITY GRID ?
- The entire electricity grid consists of hundreds of thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines and millions of miles of low-voltage power lines with distribution transformers that connect thousands of power plants to millions of electricity customers all across the country
WAY AHEAD :
- More Stimulus: There is a need a much larger liquidity infusion so that the entire electricity chain will not collapse
- Improving AT&C losses is important, but will not be sufficient. We need a complete overhaul of the regulation of electricity companies and their deliverables.
- Rationalisation of subsidies whereby doling out of free electricity can be eliminated to those who do not deserve such support.
- Proper Regulation: Regulators must allow cost-covering tariffs.
- Realigning PPAs in the wake of renewable energy:
- In the interim, it may be prudent for the discoms to sign only medium-term PPAs, if at all, as most of the power transactions move to the power exchanges.
- In the recent past, several initiatives have been taken to address the challenges in the power sector. These include structural changes in the regulatory framework, and the UDAY scheme to address financial issues being faced by companies distributing electricity. But power sector still face loses and old issues. Government must effectively replace and modernise old and inefficient plants and lines to achieve the electricity production and demand target.
QUESTION : What do you understand by Deepfake? Discuss the challenges posed by Deepfake.
- Menace of Deepfakes
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Deepfakes have emerged as a new tool to spread computational propaganda and disinformation at scale and with speed.
WHAT IS DEEPFAKE ?
- Deepfakes are the synthetic digital media content (video, audio, and images) manipulated using Artificial Intelligence.
- Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make videos/images of fake events, hence the name deepfake
- Deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content
POSITIVE SIDE OF DEEPFAKES :
- AI-Generated Synthetic media can help make the accessibility tools smarter, affordable and personalizable, which can help people augment their agency and gain independence.
- AI-Generated synthetic media can bring historical figures back to life for a more engaging and interactive classroom. This will have more impact, engagement, and will be a better learning tool.
- AI-Generated synthetic media can bring unprecedented opportunities in the entertainment business that currently use high-end CGI, VFX, and SFX technologies to create artificial but believable worlds for compelling storytelling.
- Samsung’s AI lab in Moscow brought Mona Lisa to life by using Deepfake technology.
- Autonomy & Expression
- Synthetic media can help human rights activists and journalists to remain anonymous in dictatorial and oppressive regimes. Deepfake can be used to anonymize voice and faces to protect their privacy
NEGATIVE USE OF DEEPFAKE :
- Such technologies can give people a voice, purpose, and ability to make an impact at scale and with speed. But as with any new innovative technology, it can be weaponised to inflict harm.
- Overriding Consent: Deepfake technologies make it possible to fabricate media — swap faces, lip-syncing, and puppeteer — mostly without consent and bring threat to psychology, security, political stability, and business disruption
- Damage reputations: Deepfakes can depict a person indulging in antisocial behaviours and saying vile things. These can have severe implications on their reputation, sabotaging their professional and personal life. Even if the victim could debunk the fake via an alibi or otherwise, it may come too late to remedy the initial harm.
- Targeting Women: The very first use case of malicious use of a deepfake was seen in pornography, inflicting emotional, reputational, and in some cases, violence towards the individual.
- Exploitation: Malicious actors can take advantage of unwitting individuals to defraud them for financial gains using audio and video deepfakes. Deepfakes can be deployed to extract money, confidential information, or exact favours from individuals.
- Social Harm: Deepfakes can cause short- and long-term social harm and accelerate the already declining trust in news media. Such an erosion can contribute to a culture of factual relativism
- Creation of Echo Chambers in Social Media: Falsity is profitable, and goes viral more than the truth on social platforms. Combined with distrust, the existing biases and political disagreement can help create echo chambers and filter bubbles, creating discord in society.
- Undermining Democracy: False information about institutions, public policy, and politicians powered by a deepfake can be exploited to spin the story and manipulate belief. This can aid in altering the democratic discourse and undermine trust in institutions.
- Misused as tool of authoritarianism: Deepfakes can become a very effective tool to sow the seeds of polarisation, amplifying division in society, and suppressing dissent.
- Liar’s dividend – an undesirable truth is dismissed as deepfake or fake news. It can also help public figures hide their immoral acts in the veil of deepfakes and fake news, calling their actual harmful actions false.
SOLUTION OR WAY FORWARD ?
- To defend the truth and secure freedom of expression, we need a multi-stakeholder and multi-modal approach.
- Regulation & Collaboration with Civil Society: Meaningful regulations with a collaborative discussion with the technology industry, civil society, and policymakers can facilitate disincentivising the creation and distribution of malicious deepfakes.
- New Technologies: There is also need easy-to-use and accessible technology solutions to detect deepfakes, authenticate media, and amplify authoritative sources.
- Media literacy for consumers and journalists is the most effective tool to combat disinformation and deepfakes. As consumers of media, we must have the ability to decipher, understand, translate, and use the information we encounter
- Even a short intervention with media understanding, learning the motivations and context, can lessen the damage. Improving media literacy is a precursor to addressing the challenges presented by deepfakes.
- Shallowfakes are videos that are either presented out of context or are doctored with simple editing tools. They are crude but still impactful.
- The email or text message carrying a link appears to come from a trusted source like a bank.
- The link takes the user to a fake website and once details like login name and passwords are entered, the login credentials reach the hacker.
CATFISH ACCOUNT :
- It refers to the practice of setting up fictitious online profiles, generally, for luring another person into a fraudulent romantic relationship.
- Collaborative actions and collective techniques across legislative regulations, platform policies, technology intervention, and media literacy can provide effective and ethical countermeasures to mitigate the threat of malicious deepfakes
QUESTION : Discuss. What steps have been taken by the government to tackle the problem of stubble burning? Also suggest some measures to solve the issue of stubble burning.
- Stubble Burning In North Indian States
STUBBLE BURNING ?
- Stubble burning is the act of setting fire to crop residue to remove them from the field to sow the next crop
- It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing
- It begins around October and peaks in November, coinciding with the withdrawal of southwest monsoon.
- On December 10, 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned crop residue burning in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH STUBBLE BURNING :
- Air Pollution: A study estimates that crop residue burning released 149.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), over 9 million tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 0.25 million tonnes of oxides of sulphur (SOX), 1.28 million tonnes of particulate matter and 0.07 million tonnes of black carbon.
- Responsible for the haze in Delhi: Crop burning contributed nearly 40% of the near-surface PM 2.5 in Delhi in 2016, which saw one of Delhi’s severest pollution episode
- Soil Fertility: The heat from burning paddy straw penetrates 1 centimetre into the soil, elevating the temperature to 33.8 to 42.2 degree Celsius. This kills the bacterial and fungal populations critical for a fertile soil. The solubility capacity of the upper layers of soil has also been reduced.
- Pests in atmosphere: Burning of crop residue causes damage to other micro-organisms present in the upper layer of the soil as well as its organic quality. Due to the loss of ‘friendly’ pests, the wrath of ‘enemy’ pests has increased and as a result, crops are more prone to disease.
- Stubble burning during a pandemic could worsen the situation by making lungs weaker and people more susceptible to disease
GREEN REVOLUTION AND STUBBLE BURNING :
- The origin of stubble burning can be traced to the advent of the Green revolution.
- Mechanised harvesting, a feature of the Green Revolution, utilised the combined harvesting technique which left behind substantial plant debris after harvest. The combined harvesting technique left behind one-foot-tall stalks. This prompted stubble burning as a low-cost and speedy solution to get rid of the plant debris just in time for the next crop sowing.
- The Green Revolution increased greatly rice and wheat production, which simultaneously increased stubble post-harvest.
WHY FARMERS OPT FOR THIS PRACTICE ?
- They do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
- The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
- With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
ADVANTAGES OF STUBBLE BURNING :
- It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
- Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
- Kills slugs and other pests.
- Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.
How have governments tried to solve the issue?
- Union Government: Under a 100% centrally-funded scheme, machines that help farmers in in-situ management—by tilling the stubble back into the soil—were to be provided to individual farmers at 50% subsidy and to custom hiring centres (CHCs) at 80% subsidy.
- While Haryana has set up 2,879 CHCs so far and has provided nearly 16,000 straw-management machines, it has to set up 1,500 more and has to cover nearly as many panchayats it has reached so far.
- Similarly, Punjab, which has provided 50,815 machines so far, will need to set up 5,000 more CHCs—against 7,378 set up already—and reach 41% of its panchayats by October 2020.
- There is also an awareness programme by the government.
WAY FORWARD :
- Short term Solution: Giving farmers easy and affordable access to the machines which allow them to do smart straw management is the short term solution to the problem
- Dual Strategy: Both in-situ (in the field) and ex-situ (elsewhere) solutions need to be considered, apart from tackling the fundamental factors prompting the practice.
- Affordability of Government Measures: A key factor will be ensuring affordability of service for those hiring the machines; Haryana has reserved 70% of the machines at panchayat-run CHCs for small and marginal farmers, while Punjab has prioritised service to them.
- Utilizing Crop Stubble: Instead of burning of the stubble, it can be used in different ways like cattle feed, compost manure, roofing in rural areas, biomass energy, mushroom cultivation, packing materials, fuel, paper, bio-ethanol and industrial production, etc.
- The long-term solution has to be crop diversification, away from paddy
- Thus, stubble burning is not a new and surprising phenomenon and has been occurring since decades now. Considering the predictability of occurrence of problem and available initiatives in place, tackling the issue is the urgent need of the day given its severe consequences and associated problems. Proactive government intervention, aggressive media campaign and private industries should come together to the rescue of the farmer and the environment and solve the stubble burning issue in a time bound manner.