April 18, 2024

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Why is the Adoption of Agroforestry Remains Slow in India?

Why in News? Despite the launch of the National Agroforestry Policy (2014), the uptake of agroforestry remains restricted to farmers with medium or large landholdings in India.

What is Agroforestry? A diversified land-use practice integrating crops, trees and livestock is broadly known as agroforestry. It can enhance farmer livelihoods and the environment and is slowly gaining in popularity after decades of monocropping inspired by the Green Revolution.

What are the Initiatives to Promote Agroforestry in India?

  1. Trees Outside of Forests India’ (TOFI) initiative: It’s a joint initiative of the USAID and India’s MoEFCC. It seeks to enhance tree cover in 7 Indian states by identifying promising expansion opportunities
  2. Jaltol: It is an open-source water-accounting tool developed by the Bengaluru-based WELL Labs to assess which trees don’t compete with the crops for water. For example, mango plantations don’t compete with kharif crops in the central Karnataka plateau.
  3. Diversity for Restoration: It is a decision support tool that provides a tailored list of climate-resilient species that reverse land degradation while diversifying livelihood opportunities through agroforestry.
  4. Payment for ecosystem services (PES): In PES, an ecosystem service user, e.g. a food processing company, volunteers to pay a service provider, such as a small farmer, for trees promoting a service like pollination.

Why is Agroforestry Remains Restricted to Medium or Large Farmers? Small farmers seldom grow trees because of their long gestation, a lack of incentive or investment-based capital, and weak market linkages. Water availability and government policies and schemes have been recurrent concerns for small farmers across states. For example, the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme 2023 has an exhaustive list of eligibility criteria for farmers and industries.

How can Agroforestry be Widely Adopted by Engaging Small Farmers? Although secure land tenure is a prerequisite for agroforestry uptake, ensuring economic viability through market linkages while meeting the criteria of sustainable agroforestry is crucial to empower these farmers.

 

Geography

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Supreme Court Has Just Put the Delhi Metro on Track and Given a Roadmap

Context

  • The case involving the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd (DAMEPL) has reached a conclusion with the Supreme Court's verdict on April 10.
  • This judgment marks a rare and momentous occasion in the legal realm and serves as a significant precedent for arbitration tribunals and courts.
  • It also has profound implications for public service delivery through partnership models and showcases how to effectively litigate around infrastructure projects while building resilience for India's future.

Background of the Dispute between DMRC and DAMPEL

  • Development of the Airport Metro Express Line
    • The dispute between the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd (DAMEPL) originates from the development and operation of the Airport Metro Express Line, a critical infrastructure project in India's capital city.
    • The line, which began operations in 2011, was established under a public-private partnership (PPP) model between DMRC and DAMEPL.
    • The partnership divided responsibilities: DMRC constructed the civil structures, such as tunnels, viaducts, and station buildings, while DAMEPL was responsible for laying tracks, overhead equipment, signalling, and procuring rolling stock.
  • Suspension of Airport Express Line Operations by DAMPEL
    • Shortly after the line became operational, problems began to surface.
    • In 2012, DAMEPL suspended operations on the line, citing defects in the civil engineering works executed by DMRC.
    • DAMEPL claimed that these defects compromised safety and functionality, demanding that DMRC rectify the issues within 90 days.
    • If the defects were not addressed within this period, DAMEPL threatened to treat the situation as a material breach of the agreement, allowing them to terminate the contract.
  • Failed Resolution and Legal Battles
    • DMRC attempted to resolve the issues through conciliation proceedings, but these efforts were unsuccessful.
    • Subsequently, DAMEPL issued a notice of termination, asserting that DMRC had failed to remedy the defects.
    • This led to a breakdown in the relationship between the two parties and prompted legal battles.
  • Temporary Resumption of Operations
    • Despite the challenges, DMRC and DAMEPL submitted a joint application in November 2012 to the commissioner of metro rail safety for inspection and permission to restart operations.
    • Train services were eventually restored on the line by DAMEPL in 2013. By March 2013, train speeds on the line increased to 80 km/h.
    • However, in June of the same year, DAMEPL announced its unwillingness to continue operating the line and ceased operations almost immediately.
  • DMRC's Intervention and Continuity
    • Recognising the importance of the metro line for the public, DMRC stepped in to operate the nearly abandoned Airport Metro Express Line.
    • DMRC resumed train operations and provided other ancillary services to maintain public transportation on the line.
    • This intervention prevented a complete suspension of services and ensured continuity for commuters.

Arbitration Tribunal's Findings

  • The tribunal found DAMEPL's termination notice valid and awarded it Rs 2,782 crore along with interest.
  • DMRC challenged the award, but the single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court upheld the award in 2018.
  • DMRC's appeal led the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court to take issue with the arbitral tribunal's approach, citing flaws such as overlooking safety aspects and lack of interpretation of contractual clauses and as a result the arbitration award was set aside.

Supreme Court's Role and the Final Judgement

  • DMRC and DAMEPL filed special leave petitions in the Supreme Court, which initially set aside the High Court's decision and restored the arbitral award in 2021.
  • However, upon DMRC's curative petition, the Supreme Court reconsidered its stance.
  • The Court analysed the case, considering the factual background, DMRC's claims, the tribunal's findings, and the decisions of the High Court and Supreme Court in appeal.
  • The Supreme Court concluded that the arbitral award contained vital errors and failed to reconcile inconsistencies, resulting in grave miscarriage of justice.
  • The Court upheld the Division Bench's decision, which had found the award perverse and patently illegal.
  • By reversing its earlier stance, the Supreme Court restored the parties to the status quo at the time of the Division Bench's judgment.

Significance of the Supreme Court Verdict

  • Precedent for Arbitration Tribunals and Courts
    • The case establishes a precedent in how arbitration tribunals and courts should handle disputes and interpret arbitral awards.
    • The Supreme Court's decision emphasises the need for careful consideration and thorough examination of evidence, ensuring that any award is free of inconsistencies and based on sound reasoning.
  • Upheld Fairness and Justice
    • By reversing the earlier decision and restoring the parties to the status quo at the time of the Delhi High Court Division Bench's judgment, the Supreme Court underscored the importance of fairness and justice in PPP projects.
    • The judgment protects public utilities from excessive financial burdens due to unwarranted arbitral awards and safeguards the interests of all parties involved in contractual disputes.
  • Accountability and Due Diligence
    • The ruling promotes accountability among stakeholders in infrastructure projects by highlighting the importance of due diligence and adherence to contractual obligations.
    • It underscores the need for all parties involved in PPPs to take responsibility for their roles and act in good faith, especially when managing critical public infrastructure.
  • Impact on Future Infrastructure Projects
    • The judgment serves as a guiding light for similar pending cases, especially in the infrastructure sector.
    • It provides clear direction on how courts should handle disputes arising from PPP agreements, ensuring that future projects benefit from fair and transparent dispute resolution processes.
  • Confidence in Public-Private Partnerships
    • The ruling reassures both public and private entities of the judiciary's commitment to upholding legal integrity and fairness in PPP projects.
    • This, in turn, fosters confidence in future collaborations and encourages investment in infrastructure development, which is essential for India's economic growth and modernisation.

Conclusion

  • The dispute between DMRC and DAMEPL resulted in a decade-long legal battle that saw numerous claims and counterclaims from both parties.
  • The DMRC-DAMEPL case exemplifies the judiciary's role in ensuring justice and maintaining fairness in PPP projects, which are vital for the development of the nation's infrastructure.
  • Moreover, it underscores the importance of upholding the principles of justice in contractual disputes and the impact of legal precedents in shaping the future of public-private partnerships.

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Who is Wangchuk and Why is he Protesting?

Why in News? Two days after he announced “Pashmina March 2”, climate activist Sonam Wangchuk has announced to suspended it again.

Who is Sonam Wangchuk? He is an Indian engineer, innovator, environmentalist and education reformist from Ladakh. He was instrumental in the launch of Operation New Hope in 1994 to bring reforms in the government school system. He invented the Ice Stupa technique, used for storing winter water in the form of a cone-shaped ice heap. He has been the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2018.

What is the Pashmina March that Wangchuk Wants to Hold? The Pashmina March is intended to spotlight the loss of grazing pastures for shepherds (who have traditionally reared the famed Pashmina goats known for its expensive and highly sought-after wool) in the Leh region. According to Wangchuk, there are two main reasons for the loss - the loss of land to corporations and the activities of the Chinese along the LAC.

Why is Sonam Wangchuk Protesting? He is demanding the inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution (an election promise that the BJP made in 2019). According to Wangchuk, this will protect the fragile environment and culture of the UT of Ladakh.

What are the Other Reasons for the Ladakhis’ Protests? After the constitutional changes of August 2019, Ladakhis began to feel the loss of significant powers of the autonomous hill development councils, and the shortage of jobs after being declined from the J&K recruitment boards. Ladakhis sought protections for their land, jobs, and culture, and sought to elect their own representatives as a full state.

How the Central Govt Responded to these Protests? A High-Powered Committee (HPC) was constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The HPC was supposed to discuss measures to protect Ladakh’s unique culture and language, considering its geographical location and strategic importance. Its mandate also included ensuring the protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh.

 

Polity & Governance

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

China’s Economic Growth and its Challenges

Why in News? China recently reported a stronger-than-projected economic growth of 5.3% in January-March 2024 quarter despite facing challenges.

Drivers of China’s Economic Growth- As per China’s National Bureau of Statistics, growth was propelled by an expansion in services sector, as well as upbeat external demand boosting export growth, especially in industrial sector. Indicating government support, China’s fixed-asset investment grew by 4.5% in first three months of 2024 despite weakness in February when Chinese Lunar New Year holidays disrupted industrial production.

Challenges Faced-Trade friction with the US (higher tariffs on Chinese exports); Slowdown in some economies of Western Europe, especially Germany; slowdown in consumption as investable surplus stuck in real estate is impacting citizens spending power; Troubled property market with declining investment; High debt levels; Population ageing, Slower productivity growth; Weaker global demand and increased geo-economic tensions; Climate change and extreme weather events.

Concerns Raised-The World Bank forecasted China’s GDP growth at 5.2% in 2023 slowing to 4.5% in 2024. Economists are attributing the latest growth trends to an ongoing reallocation of investment from troubled real estate to manufacturing and questioning if government has the resolve and resources to continue driving up this growth momentum in coming quarters.

Impact of China’s Economic Growth-Any uptick in China’s growth figures would have its impact on global growth. An above 5% growth for an $18.6 trillion economy is remarkable given the context that its growth averaged 10% a year in 3 decades after 1978 economic reforms. If the property sector downturn were to extend beyond initial expectations, it would impact consumer sentiment and spending and could have a cascading impact, putting pressure on suppliers, creditors, and local government revenues, and lead to a slide in public investment (which supported growth during latest quarter).

International Relations

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Voluntary Code of Ethics for Social Media Platforms

Why in News? X recently announced that it withheld four posts by various political parties until Lok Sabha elections on the orders of Election Commission of India (ECI) as it had agreed to ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics’ for Social Media Platforms (SMP).

Rules for Post Removal-EC cited provisions of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) against criticism of political parties and private lives of candidates based on unverified allegations and its March 1 advisory that warned political parties to follow MCC during campaigning period.

Emergence of Voluntary Ethics Code-As political parties increasingly took to social media, EC, in 2019, set up a committee under Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha for this purpose, which suggested changes to the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 (deals with conduct of Lok Sabha and state assembly elections) to cover social media posts in the 48-hour period before polling, when conventional campaigning is banned. Therefore, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and SMPs presented a “Voluntary Code of Ethics for General Election 2019” which was adopted immediately and extended to all future elections.

About the Code- It directs social media platforms to-

  • Voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to spread awareness about elections and electoral laws;
  • Create a high-priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for acting on cases reported by EC;
  • Acknowledge and process valid legal orders by EC within three hours for violations reported under section 126 of RPA, 1951 (curbs campaigning in the 48 hours preceding polling) and expeditiously upon other valid legal requests.

X’s Reaction-It disagreed with takedown requests stating that freedom of expression should extend to these posts and political speech .It therefore made emails by EC public requesting EC to publish all future takedown orders.

 

Polity & Governance

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

India’s heat action plans

Context:

Every summer, we're used to getting heat alerts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for different parts of India. But this year, the alerts started as early as February.

Some areas in the northeast and western India have already experienced much warmer temperatures (3.1-5 degrees Celsius above normal) even before summer officially began.

The IMD also says that the maximum temperature will increase, and heatwave conditions will happen more often in the coming days over eastern and southern India. This raises concerns about whether India is ready to deal with this danger.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Heatwave
  • Steps to tackle heatwaves
  • Recommendations by Heat action plans (HAPs)
  • What makes it hard for HAPs to solve the problem effectively?
  • Conclusion

Heat waves

  • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature.
    • In India, Heat waves typically occur from March to June, and in some rare cases, even extend till July.
    • On an average, five-six heat wave events occur every year over the northern parts of the country.
  • Heat wave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.
    • Based on Departure from Normal Heat Wave: Heat wave: Departure from normal is 4.50°C to 6.40°C; Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.40degree C
    • Based on Actual Maximum Temperature Heat Wave: Heat wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C; Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47
  • Rapid rises in heat gain compromises the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
    • It can result in a cascade of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia.

How are we tackling heatwaves?

  • Heat action plans (HAPs)
    • Governments at various levels — State, district, and city — have prepared heat action plans (HAPs).
    • HAPs aim to increase preparedness and lower the adverse impacts of extreme heat by outlining strategies and measures to prepare for, address, and recover from heatwaves.
    • There is no centralised database on HAPs, but at least 23 HAPs exist at the State and city level, with a few States, such as Odisha and Maharashtra, laying out district-level HAPs.
  • How does HAPs work?
    • HAPs in India follow a general pattern.
    • HAPs provide a snapshot of regions’ heat profile, including information on the number of past heatwave events.
    • It also provides yearly trends in the summer maximum temperature, land surface temperature, and so on, followed by a vulnerability assessment.
      • vulnerability assessment maps out regions that require immediate attention and a response plan.
    • This plan presents recommendations for mitigating and addressing heatwave impacts before, during, and after a heatwave.
    • It also outlines the roles and responsibilities of various line departments, such as the disaster management authority, labour department, and police.

What do the HAPs recommend?

  • HAPs typically suggest a combination of measures such as using forecasts and early warning systems to:
    • alert the public and relevant authorities about heatwaves,
    • educating the public through campaigns that provide information on risks associated with heatwaves,
    • building heat shelters and cooling centres, and
    • providing clean drinking water to avoid dehydration.
  • HAPs provide directives for hospitals to be well equipped with supplies and an adequate number of trained healthcare workers to recognise and treat a large influx of patients with heat-related illnesses.
  • HAPs also suggest long-term measures such as:
    • adopting urban planning strategies that promote tree planting,
    • using heat-resistant building materials to reduce urban heat island effect, and
    • using cool roofing technologies to reduce solar absorption, thereby decreasing indoor temperatures.

What makes it hard for HAPs to solve the problem effectively?

  • The local context
    • A national threshold is what determines a heatwave today.
    • However, heatwaves will have to be determined at disaggregated scales such as States, districts, and cities.
    • Many cities have been reeling under extreme temperatures, although no heatwave has been declared.
  • Inconsistent methods
    • While most HAPs have conducted vulnerability assessments during the development of the plans, the methods adopted are inconsistent.
  • Vulnerable populations
    • All HAPs prioritise the protection of vulnerable populations such as low-income communities, children, and the elderly.
    • But what is missing are targeted interventions that account for the varying needs of populations based on local social and demographic factors.
  • Resource allocation
    • The implementation of HAPs can vary significantly depending on the priorities of local governments and the capacities available.
    • Hence, there is a need to allocate dedicated budgets for HAPs.
  • Breaking down silos
    • HAPs currently are stand-alone plans with limited finance.
    • Pooling in resources would be possible if they are integrated with broader action plans promoting urban resilience and climate adaptation.

Conclusion

While HAPs mention long-term measures, they are limited to building infrastructure (especially cool roofs), with a cursory mention of green and blue spaces. For HAPs to be effective, focused planning on including nature-based solutions to address extreme heat in hotspots is a must.

Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

2023 GLOF event in Sikkim

Why in news?

The Sikkim government has informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that more than usual heavy rainfall — possibly a cloudburst — had preceded the glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) event in the South Lhonak lake. The state government has based its conclusion on a report by the North East Space Application Centre (NESAC).

At least 40 people were killed 76 went missing in Sikkim in October 2023 after the South Lhonak Lake - a glacial lake situated in the state’s northwest at 17,000 ft - burst due to incessant rains.

What’s in today’s article?

  • National Green Tribunal (NGT)
  • Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF)
  • North East Space Application Centre (NESAC)

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • It was established in October 2010 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.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
    • India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand.

Structure & Members of NGT

  • The Principal Bench of NGT has been established in New Delhi, with regional benches in
    • Pune (Western Zone Bench); Bhopal (Central Zone Bench); Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench).
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court.
    • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
    • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.

Powers of NGT

  • The Tribunal is not bounded by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It is guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act.
    • It should be noted that the NGT has not been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to
      • the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,
      • the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and
      • various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs)

  • Glacial lakes
    • Glacial lakes are large bodies of water that sit in front of, on top of, or beneath a melting glacier.
    • Glacial lakes are formed when a glacier erodes and then melts, filling the depression created by the glacier.
      • They are typically found in high-altitude or polar regions.
      • The more the glacier recedes, the bigger and more dangerous the lake becomes.
    • Glacial lakes are generally divided into two main groups:
      • Ice-contact lakes: These lakes have glacier ice that terminates in the lake water.
      • Distal lakes: These lakes are distant from glaciers or ice sheets, but are still influenced by their presence.
  • About GLOFs
    • Glacial lakes are mostly dammed by unstable ice or sediment composed of loose rock and debris.
    • In case the boundary around them breaks, huge amounts of water rush down the side of the mountains, which could cause flooding in the downstream areas — this is referred to as a GLOF event.
  • Factors triggering GLOFs
    • GLOFs can be triggered by various reasons, including glacial calving, where sizable ice chunks detach from the glacier into the lake, inducing sudden water displacement.
    • Incidents such as avalanches or landslides can also impact the stability of the boundary around a glacial lake, leading to its failure, and the rapid discharge of water.

How did South Lhonak Lake Become Susceptible to GLOF?

  • With the rising global temperatures, glaciers in Sikkim Himalayan have been melting rapidly, giving rise to many glacier lakes and expanding the already existing ones in the region.
  • According to the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), there are currently more than 300 glacial lakes in Sikkim Himalayan, and 10 (including South Lhonak Lake) have been identified as vulnerable to outburst floods.
  • An earthquake of magnitude 4.9 in 1991 near the parent glacier feeding the South Lhonak Lake and the recent earthquake (6.9) in 2011 may have weakened the boundaries of the lake.
    • The recent incessant rains caused the lake to burst.

North East Space Application Centre (NESAC)

  • NESAC is a regional space center in Umiam, Meghalaya that was established in 2000.
  • It is a joint initiative between the Department of Space (DOS) and the North Eastern Council (NEC).
  • It provides developmental support to the North Eastern Region (NER) using space science and technology.

 

Geography

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Ahead of Elon Musk’s Visit, Ministry of Finance Changes Rules in FDI

Why in News?

The Ministry of Finance has changed rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act to allow up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) for the space sector through three categories of liberalised entry routes.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About FDI (Meaning, Working, Sectors in which FDI is not allowed)
  • News Summary

What is FDI?

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) is an investment from a party in one country into a business or corporation in another country with the intention of establishing a lasting interest.
  • With FDI, foreign companies are directly involved with day-to-day operations in the other country.

How does FDI Enter in India?

  • Foreign Investment in India is governed by the FDI policy announced by the Government of India and the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.
  • FDI enters in India through either of the two routes:
    • Automatic route
    • Government-approval route
  • Automatic route:
    • The non-resident or Indian company does not require prior nod of the RBI or government of India for FDI.
  • Government route:
    • The government's approval is mandatory.
    • The company will have to file an application through Foreign Investment Facilitation Portal, which facilitates single-window clearance.
    • The application is then forwarded to the respective ministry, which will approve/reject the application in consultation with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce.
    • DPIIT will issue the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for processing of applications under the existing FDI policy.

Sectors in which FDI is Prohibited:

  • There are a few industries where FDI is strictly prohibited under any route. These industries are:
    • Atomic Energy Generation
    • Any Gambling or Betting businesses
    • Lotteries (online, private, government, etc.)
    • Investment in Chit Funds
    • Nidhi Company
    • Agricultural or Plantation Activities (although there are many exceptions like horticulture, fisheries, tea plantations, Pisciculture, animal husbandry, etc.)
    • Housing and Real Estate (except townships, commercial projects, etc.)
    • Trading in TDR's
    • Cigars, Cigarettes, or any related tobacco industry

FDI in Space Sector:

  • The Finance Ministry has notified amended rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act to operationalise its earlier decision to allow up to 100 per cent FDI for the space sector through three categories of liberalised entry routes.
  • The notification comes ahead of Tesla chief Elon Musk’s visit to India early next week.
  • During this visit, he is expected to meet space startups, make a push for his space venture Starlink’s plans and announce his electric vehicle (EV) investment plans.
  • Earlier in February, the Union Cabinet had approved the amendment to the FDI policy for the space sector, allowing up to 100 per cent investment in certain categories.

100% FDI for Manufacturing, Operation of Satellites:

  • As per the latest Finance Ministry notification, 100 per cent FDI has been allowed for the space sector category of manufacturing and operation of satellites, satellite data products, and ground segment and user segment.
    • Out of this, up to 74 per cent would be through the automatic route and government nod would be required for investment beyond 74 per cent. 
    • Under the earlier policy, any foreign investment in manufacturing and operating satellites is allowed only with government approval.
  • Automatic FDI has also been permitted up to 49 per cent for launch vehicles and associated systems or subsystems, and creation of spaceports for launching and receiving spacecraft. Government approval would be required for investments beyond 49 per cent.
  • Manufacturing of components and systems or sub-systems for satellites, ground segment and user segment will be fully under the 100 per cent automatic route.

 

Economics

Mains Article
18 Apr 2024

Green Credit Programme (GCP)

Why in News?

  • Amid concerns that the GCP may encourage tree planting for financial gains, the Union Environment Ministry (MoEFCC) has issued guidelines that States must rely on to calculate what it would cost to restore a degraded forest landscape.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the Green Credit Programme (GCP)?
  • What are the Green Credit Rules, 2023?
  • Implementation of the GCP
  • Concerns Regarding the GCP and Changes Made by the Latest Guidelines

What is the Green Credit Programme (GCP)?

  • Green Credit Initiative was launched by the Indian PM on the side-lines of COP 28 (held in 2023 at Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates).
  • It is an initiative within the government's Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) movement.
    • The concept of LiFE was introduced by the Indian PM at COP26 (Glasgow) in 2021, to drive an international mass movement towards “mindful and deliberate utilisation” to protect and preserve the environment.
  • The GCP introduces a market-based approach to incentivise 8 identified environmental activities.
  • The main objective was to establish a mechanism where participants could earn incentives in the form of ‘Green Credits’.
  • The proposed GCP will be implemented in phases, with the initial phase focusing on water management and afforestation.
  • Subsequent phases will cover activities such as
    • Sustainable agriculture,
    • Waste management,
    • Air pollution reduction,
    • Mangrove conservation and restoration,
    • Eco mark label development, and
    • Sustainable building and infrastructure.

What are the Green Credit Rules, 2023?

  • These rules were notified on 12th October 2023 under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • These rules put in place a mechanism to encourage voluntary environmental positive actions resulting in issuance of green credits.
  • In its initial phase, voluntary tree plantation is envisaged on degraded land, waste land, watershed area, etc., under the control and management of Forest departments.

Implementation of the GCP:

  • So far, forest departments of 13 States have offered 387 land parcels of degraded forest land - worth nearly 10,983 hectares.
  • Individuals and companies can apply to the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) - an autonomous body of the MoEFCC, to pay to restore these forests.
    • The actual afforestation will be carried out by State Forest departments.
  • Two years after planting and following an evaluation by the ICFRE, each such planted tree could be worth one ‘green credit.’
  • These credits can be claimed by the financing organisation and used in two ways:
    • Either using it to comply with existing forest laws that require organisations, which divert forest land for non-forestry purposes, to recompense by providing an equivalent amount of land elsewhere.
    • Or be used for reporting under environmental, social and governance leadership norms or to meet corporate social responsibility requirements.

Concerns Regarding the GCP and Changes Made by the Latest Guidelines:

  • According to sources, the green credits were not tradeable.
    • However, the notified 2023 rules of the GCP says that the programme aims to incentivise environmental positive actions through market-based mechanisms.
    • The green credit shall be tradable and made available for trading on a domestic market platform.
    • It adds that if generating green credits led to measurably reducing or removing carbon emissions, it could also be used to get carbon credits, which are currently traded via several other independent markets.
  • According to the latest guidelines, States must rely on to calculate what it would cost to restore a degraded forest landscape.
    • The Ministry has changed the earlier requirement that there be a minimum of 1,100 trees per hectare to qualify as reforested landscape and left it to States to specify them.

 

Environment & Ecology

April 17, 2024

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

What’s Behind Heavy Rainfall in Dubai?

Why in News? The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recorded the heaviest rain ever - “a historic weather event” that surpassed anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949.

What Exactly Happened in the UAE? The thunderstorms had dumped more than 142 mm of rain onto the desert city of Dubai in a day. Usually, the city witnesses this much rain in a year and a half. Across Dubai, homes and popular shopping centres(like Dubai Mall) were flooded and vehicles were abandoned on roadways. The heavy rains led to disruption of air travel as flights were either diverted or delayed.

Why is it an Unusual Weather Event? An average year sees 94.7 mm of rain at Dubai International Airport - the world’s 2nd busiest airport, which recorded more than 80 million visitors in 2023. Heavy rains are unusual in the UAE, which is an arid, Arabian Peninsula country. However, they occasionally occur in the region during cooler winter months.

What Led to the Heavy Rains in the UAE? The primary reason for these heavy rains was a storm system, which was passing from the Arabian Peninsula to the Gulf of Oman. According to a report, rains could have been exacerbated by cloud seeding, a process of spraying salt mixtures in clouds that would result in condensation of the cloud and eventually cause rainfall.

Is Climate Change Responsible for the Event? The soaring global temperatures could also be behind the event. Studies have found that for every 1-degree Celsius rise in average temperature, the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture, making storms more dangerous. However, it is extremely difficult to attribute any particular extreme weather event to climate change. It is because there are multiple factors (like El Niño and La Niña) that contribute to such events.

Geography

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

What is iCET?

Why in News? As tensions between Israel and Iran grew, U.S. NSA cancelled his plan to travel to Delhi for an annual review of the India-U.S. initiative for Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET). 

What is iCET? It is a framework agreed upon by India and the U.S. for cooperation on critical and emerging technologies in areas including AI, quantum computing, semiconductors and wireless telecommunication. It was first announced by the PM of India and the US President on the sidelines of the Quad meeting in Tokyo in 2022. It was launched in 2023 to strengthen the strategic partnership and drive technology and defence cooperation between India and US.

What are the Focus Areas of the Initiative? Primarily, the iCET seeks to position New Delhi and Washington D.C. as trusted technology partners to build supply chains and support the co-production and co-development of items. Areas that iCET intends to explore include -

  • Developing common standards in AI,
  • Developing ‘innovation bridge’ to connect defence startups;
  • Supporting the development of a semiconductor ecosystem;
  • Strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight;
  • Advancing cooperation on development in 5G and 6G; and
  • Adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.

What has been the Progress so Far? The two countries have already put in place the Quantum Coordination Mechanism and launched a public-private dialogue (PDD) on telecommunication to drive collaboration in OpenRAN, 5G and 6G. Both signed an MoU on establishing a semiconductor supply chain. On the defence front, the two countries are close to concluding a mega jet engine deal and a new initiative known as the India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X).

 

International Relations

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

Why Goans who took Portuguese nationality are facing issues in surrendering their Indian passport?

Why in News? A November2022 memorandum issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has led to the revocation of passports of more than 100Goans in the past few months.

About the Memorandum-It is related to the “surrender of Indian passport on account of acquisition of foreign nationality by an erstwhile Indian citizen” and divides the cases of issuing passport surrender certificates into various categories.

What is the Issue? Authorities under section 10(3)(b) of the Passport Act, 1967 are revoking passports of some Goans alleging that they got their Indian passports issued/reissued by suppressing material information about his/her having obtained foreign nationality irrespective of the fact that the passport was used for travel or not. As a result, these individuals are unable to apply for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI- an immigration status authorizing a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India)and compelled to apply for visas to stay in their ‘land of origin’.

What is the Portuguese Law? Portugal offers those born in Goa before December 19, 1961 (when Goa liberated) and two future generations the option of registering as Portuguese citizens.

Why are People Opting for Portuguese Citizenship? A Portuguese passport holder gets visa-free entry to several countries, including the UK and the EU, therefore many Goans have been registering their births in Lisbon and acquiring Portuguese citizenship to avail employment and educational opportunities available overseas.

How has the State Government responded to the issue? It is urging the MEA to reconsider the decision of revoking Indian passports of these individuals based on birth registration in Portugal and to grant amnesty to Goans to cancel their Portuguese identity cards, so they can retain their Indian citizenship.

 

Polity & Governance

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

The Hush Money Payment Case

Why in News? Donald Trump became the first former US President to face a criminal trial over hush money payments to suppress accounts of his alleged extramarital affairs.

What is the Hush Money Payment Case? It is related to a payment made to Daniels in2016, during the final weeks of the presidential campaign by Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange to silence Ms. Daniels about her encounter with Trump in 2006. The payment was funded through a home equity line of credit and was reimbursed later by Trump’s company. Cohen had testified that Trump and his company falsely classified the payments by labelling them as legal expenses.

What is Trump accused of doing? He is charged with 34 felony counts for falsifying business records related to a “catch-and-kill” scheme to suppress negative news stories about him ahead of the 2016 election.

What laws has Trump broken? Making a false entry in a company’s records is against New York state law. Falsifying business records on its own is a misdemeanour, but it can be elevated to a felony if prosecutors prove that records were falsified to conceal another crime. In this case, the other crimes include violation of election law as the payout to Ms. Daniels initially served as a donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

What is the maximum sentence if Trump is convicted? All the charges against Trump are Class E felonies- the lowest category in New York. Each of the 34 felony counts carries a maximum prison sentence of 4years. But it isn’t necessary that Trump would be imprisoned even if he is convicted by a jury. As per a NYT report, there is nothing in the law that provides for imprisonment, Trump could be sentenced to probation.

 

International Relations

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

Navigating Life as a Consumer with Disability

Context

  • World Consumer Rights Day, celebrated annually on March 15, serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding consumers' rights globally.
  • However, the day often overlooks a significant group of consumers who face unique challenges - consumers with disabilities.
  • These individuals encounter various forms of inaccessibility in their everyday lives, from using mobile apps and shopping in supermarkets to dealing with customer support services.

The Everyday Struggles of Consumers with Disabilities

  • Transportation Difficulties
    • Booking a cab ride through a mobile app can be an arduous task for someone with a visual impairment.
    • If the app lacks accessible features such as screen reader compatibility, the user must rely on external help to book a ride.
    • This not only reduces their independence but can also lead to frustration and inconvenience.
  • Navigating Public Spaces
    • At the supermarket, tactile pavements and clear signage are essential for individuals with visual impairments or mobility issues.
    • Inaccessible buildings require them to seek assistance to navigate to specific sections, such as the electronic appliance area.
    • This dependency on others can diminish their sense of autonomy and slow down their shopping experience.
  • Accessibility of Information
    • When a visually impaired consumer purchases a product, the packaging may lack braille or other accessible formats to provide essential information such as usage instructions, warnings, or contact details for customer support.
    • Inaccessible information forces consumers to seek help from others, which can be both time-consuming and infringe on their privacy.
  • Dealing with Defective Products
    • If a consumer with a disability encounters a defective product, the process of seeking a replacement or refund can be particularly challenging.
    • Inaccessible customer support channels, such as hotlines without voice recognition software or online forms that are not screen reader-friendly, can complicate the process.
  • Navigating Customer Support
    • Companies may require complaints to be submitted in written form or via postal mail, which can be a barrier for those with physical disabilities or visual impairments.
    • This reliance on traditional, inaccessible methods often leaves consumers dependent on others to submit complaints on their behalf, leading to a loss of agency and potential delays in resolution.
  • Limited Choices and Options
    • In many instances, the inaccessibility of products and services leaves consumers with disabilities with limited options.
    • For example, they may be unable to access certain brands or models due to a lack of inclusive design features such as audio descriptions, closed captioning, or tactile buttons.

Potential Changemakers to Address the Challenges Faced by Consumers with Disabilities

  • Businesses
    • Designing Inclusive Products and Services
      • Businesses can start by recognising consumerswith disabilities as an integral part of their target market.
      • By incorporating inclusive design principles into their products and services, such as providing tactile buttons, audio descriptions, and screen reader compatibility, they can ensure accessibility for all consumers.
    • Accessibility Training
      • Companies can invest in training their employees on accessibility and inclusivity to create a more welcoming environment for all customers.
      • This includes training customer service representatives to better assist consumers with disabilities.
    • Collaboration with Advocacy Groups: Businesses can partner with disability advocacy groups to better understand the needs of consumers with disabilities and implement improvements based on their feedback.
  • Government Entities
    • Legislative Frameworks
      • Governments have the authority to enact and enforce comprehensive accessibility laws that mandate inclusive practices across industries.
      • These laws can set minimum standards for accessibility in public spaces, transportation, and goods and services.
    • Incentivising Accessibility
      • By offering tax credits or other financial incentives to businesses that implement accessible design, governments can encourage widespread adoption of inclusive practices.
    • Monitoring and Enforcement
      • Governments can establish agencies to monitor compliance with accessibility laws and issue penalties for non-compliance.
      • This oversight ensures that businesses are held accountable for providing accessible options.
  • Advocacy Groups
    • Raising Awareness
      • Advocacy groups play a crucial role in raising awareness about the needs and rights of consumers with disabilities.
      • Through public campaigns and educational initiatives, they can encourage businesses and policymakers to prioritise accessibility.
    • Providing Support
      • Advocacy groups can offer support and resources to consumers with disabilities, helping them navigate legal and bureaucratic challenges.
      • They can also provide feedback to businesses and governments on areas needing improvement.
    • Legal Advocacy
      • Advocacy groups can take legal action to hold businesses and governments accountable for failing to meet accessibility standards.
      • By pursuing lawsuits and formal complaints, they can drive change and set precedents for future cases.

Legal Reforms to Effectively Address the Challenges Faced by Consumers with Disabilities

  • Enhance Complaint Mechanism of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWDA), 2016
    • The RPWDA is a cornerstone law that grants a variety of rights to persons with disabilities, including equality, accessibility, and reasonable accommodation.
    • Sections 43 and 46 of the Act specifically address universally designed consumer goods and accessible services.
    • Individuals can file complaints with Disability Commissions established under the Act.
    • While these commissions can issue recommendations for businesses and services to improve accessibility, their directives are often only advisory in nature, which may limit their effectiveness in providing redress.
  • Alignment of Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 2019 with RPWDA, 2016
    • Although the CPA offers robust enforcement and compliance mechanisms, it lacks dedicated rights for consumers with disabilities that align with the provisions of the RPWDA.
    • This absence may discourage some consumers from filing complaints with Consumer Commissions.
    • Aligning the CPA with the RPWDA would help streamline and strengthen protections for consumers with disabilities.
  • Strengthening Accessibility Laws
    • Governments should consider implementing comprehensive accessibility guidelines across all sectors, from retail to transportation and digital services.
    • This would help standardise accessibility measures and ensure consistency in offerings.
    • Also, effective enforcement of accessibility laws is essential which includes establishing clear penalties for non-compliance and ensuring that businesses face consequences for failing to meet accessibility standards.

Conclusion

  • To create a more inclusive consumer experience for individuals with disabilities, it is essential to align the CPA with the RPWDA and raise awareness about the rights and resources available under these legal frameworks.
  • By encouraging businesses and governments to take a proactive approach in addressing accessibility issues, society can move toward a future where consumers with disabilities enjoy equal participation and independence in all aspects of life.

 

Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

EC rules on search of choppers

Why in news?

Recently, some Opposition leaders’ helicopters have been in the news as they have been searched by authorities in the last few days. Helicopters are often used by politicians to hop from one place to another during their poll campaigning.

The Opposition has alleged that these searches were conducted at the behest of the Centre to harass them.

However, officials in the Election Commission (EC) say they have been carried out in accordance with the poll panel’s standard instructions. It was aimed at preventing the transport of cash and freebies via airfields and helipads since the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has been in force.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
  • EC guidelines

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • About
    • The MCC is a set of guidelines by the Election Commission of India that spells out how political parties and candidates must conduct themselves during the election campaign and polling.
      • It is a set of norms which has evolved with the consensus of political parties.
      • Though the MCC has no statutory backing, it has grown in strength as a result of the ECI’s strict enforcement since its implementation in the 1990s.
    • It aims to ensure free and fair elections by promoting a level playing field and preventing unfair practices.
    • The MCC includes rules regarding campaigning, speeches, polling booths, and general behavior to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Applicability
    • The code comes into force immediately when the election dates are declared and remains till the results are announced.
    • The MCC applies to all elections from the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies to local bodies.

EC guidelines

  • For commercial helipads and airports
    • Chartered aircraft and helicopters don't need permission before landing or taking off from commercial airports according to the EC.
    • But, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) must tell the state's chief electoral officer (CEO) and district electoral officer (DEO) about these flights as soon as possible, ideally half an hour before.
    • The ATC must also keep a record of all chartered flights, noting the take-off/landing time, passenger list, and flight route.
    • According to EC guidelines, baggage on these flights must be screened by CISF or police personnel without any exceptions.
    • If they find cash over Rs 10 lakh or bullion weighing more than a kilogram, they must inform the I-T department.
  • For non-commercial helipads and airports
    • The flying squads appointed by the EC or the police, along with the pilot, are responsible for inspecting or physically examining all luggage on the aircraft, except for women passengers' hand-held purses, at non-commercial helipads and airports.
    • The commission requires candidates or political parties to submit an application to the District Election Officer (DEO) at least 24 hours before the aircraft/helicopter's scheduled arrival to arrange for proper security measures.
    • According to Election Commission rules, if any candidate or party members are found with more than Rs 50,000 in cash on a flight, it may be investigated and confiscated.
    • However, passengers will not be searched upon disembarking at remote airports/helipads unless there's specific information about unauthorized items like weapons or illegal goods.

Have leaders’ aircraft been searched during past polls?

  • Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mohammed Mohsin, a Karnataka-cadre IAS officer, in the capacity of an election observer, had ordered the search of PM Modi’s helicopter in Odisha.
  • The EC subsequently suspended Mohsin and argued that as the PM’s security was handled by the Special Protection Group (SPG), he was exempted from such checks.
  • However, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) stayed his suspension.
    • The tribunal observed that it cannot be said that SPG protectees are eligible for anything and everything.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

29 Maoists killed in Bastar encounter

Why in news?

At least 29 Maoists were killed and three security personnel were injured in a gunbattle in a forest in Kanker district of Bastar division in Chhattisgarh.

This was the highest number of Maoist casualties in a single operation in the Bastar region. This operation was carried out by a joint team of DRG (District Reserve Guards) and BSF (Border Security Force).

What’s in today’s article?

  • Left wing extremism
  • Current situation of LWE in India
  • Maoism
  • Recent Bastar encounter

Left Wing Extremism (LWE)

  • Left-wing extremism is the single internal security threat that affects the largest number of States in India.
  • LWE aims to overthrow the existing democratic state structure with violence as their primary weapon, and mass mobilization and strategic united fronts as complementary components.
    • They plan to usher in So-called ‘New Democratic Revolution’ in India.
  • Left-wing extremists are popularly known as Maoists worldwide and as Naxalites in India.

Current situation of LWE in India

  • Maoist violence came down
    • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs:
      • Maoist violence in the country has gone down by 77% since 2010;
      • The number of resultant deaths (security forces + civilians) has come down by 90 % from the all-time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 98 in 2022.
  • Number of districts declared to be Naxal-affected
    • The government has cut the number of districts declared to be Naxal-affected from over 200 in the early 2000s to just 90 now.
    • It claims that the geographical spread of violence is actually restricted to just 45 districts.
      • According to the MHA, the arc of violence has been considerably restricted with just 25 districts accounting for 90% of the LWE violence.
    • The presence of Naxals is said to be minimal to zero in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar, which were at one time their strongholds.

Maoism

  • Maoism is a form of communism developed by Mao Tse Tung.
  • It is a doctrine to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances.
  • The Maoists also use propaganda and disinformation against State institutions as other components of their insurgency doctrine.
    • Mao called this process, the ‘Protracted Peoples War’, where the emphasis is on ‘military line’ to capture power.

Central theme of Maoist ideology

  • The central theme of Maoist ideology is the use of violence and armed insurrection as a means to capture State power.
    • ‘Bearing of arms is non-negotiable’ as per the Maoist insurgency doctrine.
  • The maoist ideology glorifies violence and the ‘Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army’ (PLGA) cadres are trained specifically in the worst forms of violence to evoke terror among the population under their domination.

Indian Maoists

  • The largest and the most violent Maoist formation in India is the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
  • The CPI (Maoist) is an amalgamation of many splinter groups, which culminated in the merger of two largest Maoist groups in 2004;
    • the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist),
    • People War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.
  • The CPI (Maoist) and all its front organizations formations have been included in the list of banned terrorist organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

Maoism and Naxalism

  • Maoism’ and ‘Naxalism’ are one and same. Naxalism does not have a separate ideology. Its ideology is Maoist ideology.
  • The Maoists’ three Magic weapons are
    • Party (leadership),
    • Armed cadre (operating from jungles) and
    • United front (a network of mass organisations in Urban areas).

Recent Bastar encounter

  • Twenty-nine Maoists were killed in a fierce encounter with security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district.
  • This operation was carried out by a joint team of DRG (District Reserve Guards) and BSF (Border Security Force).
    • DRG is a special unit of the police force in some Indian states, mainly Chhattisgarh, that is equipped and trained to fight the Naxalite and Maoist insurgency.
    • It is made up of local tribal personnel familiar with the local terrain. They are trained in guerrilla warfare, jungle warfare, and the use of modern weapons.

 

Defence & Security

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

How can the Process of Voting be Made More Robust

Why in News?

The Supreme Court has decided to hear petitions seeking 100% cross-verification of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with the vote count as per Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the History of the Voting Process?
  • What are the International Voting Practices?
  • What are the Features of EVMs?
  • Way Forward to Make Process of Voting More Robust

What is the History of the Voting Process?

  • First two general elections of 1952 and 1957: A separate box was placed for each candidate with their election symbol. Voters had to drop a blank ballot paper into the box of the candidate whom they wanted to vote for.
  • Third general elections: From the third election, the ballot paper with names of candidates and their symbols was introduced with voters putting a stamp on the candidate of their choice.
  • Introduction of the EVM: It was introduced on a trial basis in 1982 in the Assembly constituency of Paravur in Kerala.
    • They were deployed in all booths during the Assembly elections of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal in 2001.
    • In the 2004 general elections to the Lok Sabha, EVMs were used in all 543 constituencies.
  • Introduction of the VVPAT: In Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India (2013), the SC ruled that a paper trail is an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections.
    • The 2019 general elections had EVMs backed with 100% VVPAT in all constituencies.

What are the International Voting Practices?

  • Many western democracies continue to have paper ballots for their elections.
  • Countries like England, France, The Netherlands and the U.S. have discontinued the use of EVMs, for national or federal elections, after trials in the last two decades.
  • In Germany, the Supreme Court of the country declared the use of EVMs in elections as unconstitutional in 2009.
  • Some countries like Brazil, however, use EVMs for their elections. Among India’s neighbours,
    • Pakistan does not use EVMs.
    • Bangladesh experimented in a few constituencies in 2018 but reverted to paper ballots for the general elections in 2024.

What are the Features of EVMs?

  • Benefits:
    • The EVM has virtually eradicated booth capturing by limiting the rate of vote casting to four votes a minute and thus significantly increasing the time required for stuffing false votes.
    • Invalid votes that were a bane of paper ballots and also a bone of contention during the counting process have been eliminated through EVMs.
    • Considering the size of the electorate in India which is close to one billion, the use of EVMs is eco-friendly as it reduces the consumption of paper.
    • It provides administrative convenience for the polling officers on the day of the poll and has made the counting process faster and error-free.
  • Mechanisms to uphold the integrity of EVM and VVPAT process: These include -
    • Random allocation of EVMs to booths before polls;
    • Conduct of a mock poll to display the correctness of EVMs and VVPAT before commencement of the actual poll; and
    • The serial number of EVMs along with total votes polled was shared with agents of candidates to verify the same at the time of counting of votes.
  • Doubts raised about the functioning of EVMs:
    • The most repeated allegation is that EVMs are susceptible to hacking as it is an electronic device.
    • The sample size for matching of the EVM count with VVPAT slips at present is 5 per assembly constituency/segment. This is not based on any scientific criteria and may fail to detect defective EVMs during counting.
    • The present process also allows for booth-wise polling behaviour to be identified by various parties that can result in profiling and intimidation.
  • Clarification given by the ECI: EVMs are standalone devices like a calculator with no connectivity to any external device and hence free from any kind of external hack.

 

Way Forward to Make Process of Voting More Robust:

  • The sample for matching of EVM count and VVPAT slips should be decided in a scientific manner. 100% match of EVM count with VVPAT slips would be unscientific and cumbersome.
    • In case of even a single error, the VVPAT slips should be counted fully for the concerned region and form the basis for results.
    • This would instil a statistically significant confidence in the counting process.
  • In order to provide a degree of cover for voters at the booth level, ‘totaliser’ machines can be introduced that would aggregate votes in 15-20 EVMs before revealing the candidate-wise count.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
17 Apr 2024

Why has India Allowed FIIs to Invest in Green Bonds?

Why in the News?

On April 5 the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) green lighted investments in the country’s Sovereign Green Bonds (SGrBs) by Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIS).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About FIIs (Meaning, Categories, Use)
  • About Green Bonds (Meaning, Examples, Data, etc.)
  • About SGBF (Aim, Eligibility, Proceeds, Implementing agency, etc.)
  • FIIs to Invest in Green Bonds

What are Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs)?

  • Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) are organizations or entities that invest money in the financial markets of a country other than their own.
  • These investors can include pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, banks, and other large financial institutions from foreign countries.
  • FIIs play a significant role in the financial markets of a country by providing liquidity, increasing trading volumes, and influencing stock prices.
  • They invest in a range of financial instruments, including stocks, bonds, and derivatives, based on their investment strategies and market outlook.
  • The inflow of funds from FIIs can have both positive and negative impacts on the local economy, depending on various factors such as market conditions, government policies, and global economic trends.
  • Investments by FIIs in India are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) while the ceilings on such investments are maintained by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

What are Green Bonds?

  • Green bonds are issued by companies, countries and multilateral organisations to exclusively fund projects that have positive environmental or climate benefits and provide investors with fixed income payments.
  • The projects can include renewable energy, clean transportation and green buildings, among others.

Example of Green Bonds:

  • The World Bank is a major issuer of green bonds and issued $14.4 billion of green bonds between 2008 and 2020.
  • These funds have been used to support 111 projects around the world, largely in renewable energy and efficiency (33%), clean transportation (27%), and agriculture and land use (15%).
  • By the end of 2020, 24 national governments had issued Sovereign Green, Social and Sustainability bonds totalling a cumulative $111 billion.

India’s Sovereign Green Bonds Framework:

  • First announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, the proceeds of these green bonds will be issued for mobilising resources for green infrastructure.
  • Aim
    • To mobilise Rs 16,000 crore through the issuance of green bonds in the current fiscal ending March 2023.
  • Under the framework, the Finance Ministry will, every year, inform the RBI about spending on green projects for which the funds raised through these bonds will be used.

Features of the SGrBs:

  • Issuance Method –
    • SGrBs will be issued through Uniform Price Auction.
  • Eligibility for Repurchase Transactions (Repo) –
    • SGrBs will be eligible for Repurchase Transactions (Repo).
    • SGrBs will also be reckoned as eligible investment for Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) purpose.
  • Tradability –
    • SGrBs will be eligible for trading in the secondary market.
  • Investment by Non-residents –
    • SGrBs will be designated as specified securities under the ‘Fully Accessible Route’ for investment in Government Securities by non-residents.

Eligible Projects:

  • All eligible green expenditures will include public expenditure undertaken by the government in the form of investment, subsidies, grants-in-aid, or tax foregone (or a combination of all or some of these) or select operational expenditures.
  • R&D expenditures in public sector projects that help in reducing the carbon intensity of the economy and enable country to meet its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also included in the framework.
  • The eligible expenditures will be limited to government expenditures that occurred maximum 12 months prior to issuance of the green bonds.
  • Sectors not included –
    • Nuclear power generation, landfill projects, alcohol/weapons/tobacco/gaming/palm oil industries and hydropower plants larger than 25 MW have been excluded from the framework.

FIIs to Invest in Green Bonds:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has approved investments in the country’s Sovereign Green Bonds (SGrBs) by Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIS).
  • The RBI had issued SGrBs worth ₹16,000 crore in two tranches in January and February last year with maturities in 2028 and 2033.
  • While in both instances the bonds were oversubscribed, the main participants were domestic financial institutions and banks, narrowing the avenues from where the government could borrow.
  • SGrBs yield lower interest than conventional G-Secs, and the amount foregone by a bank by investing in them is called a ‘greenium’.
  • But central banks and governments the world over are encouraging financial institutions to embrace greeniums to hasten the transition to a greener future.

Significance of the RBI’s Decision:

  • Allowing FIIs to invest in India’s green projects widens the pool of capital available to fund the country’s following ambitious goals pledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 in Glasgow 2021:
    • 2070 net zero goals,
    • Ensuring 50% of India’s energy comes from non-fossil fuel based sources and
    • To reduce the carbon intensity of the nation’s economy by 45%.
Economics

April 16, 2024

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

What is the Scope of Right to Sleep under the Indian Constitution?

Why in News? According to the Bombay HC, the ‘right to sleep’ / ‘right to blink’ is a basic human requirement, in as much as, non-providing of the same, violates a person’s human rights. 

What are the Observations Made by the Bombay HC? While dismissing a plea by a 64-year-old businessman claiming ‘illegal’ arrest by ED, the HC criticised the manner in which his statement was recorded in the ED office overnight. This deprived him of ‘right to sleep’ under Article 21 (Right to life with dignity) of the Constitution. Deprivation of sleep may affect a person’s health, impair his mental faculties, cognitive skills, etc.

What is the Scope of Right to Sleep under the Indian Constitution? The right to sleep is encompassed as a fundamental right under Article 21. This means, nobody can infringe on others’ right to sleep in a peaceful atmosphere at night. However, the right to sleep is an implied right, it has some restrictions like place of sleep, time of sleep, and manner of sleep. Nobody can do any unreasonable acts, like sleeping during the day, sleeping naked, sleeping in public places, etc.

What are the Landmark Cases that Led to the Introduction of Right to Sleep as a Fundamental Right?

  1. Sayeed Maqsood Ali vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (2001): The Madhya Pradesh HC ruled that every citizen is entitled under Article 21 of the Constitution to live in a decent environment and has the right to sleep peacefully at night.
  2. Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident vs. Home Secretary (2012): The SC ruled that sound sleep is associated with sound health, which is an inseparable facet of Article 21. It is an unavoidable right of the Indian Constitution.

 

Polity & Governance

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Tamil Nadu’s Decentralized Industrialization Model

Why in News? Tamil Nadu (TN) is India’s No.1 state in terms of economic complexity, measured by the diversity of its gross domestic product (GDP) and employment profile.

The Data- TNs lower dependence on agriculture is matched by the higher shares of industry, services and construction in its economy relative to all-India. About 45.3% of TN’s farm GVA comes from livestock subsector (the highest) which surpasses all-India average of 30.2%. It is home to India’s largest private dairy company (Hatsun Agro Product), broiler enterprise (Suguna Foods), egg processor (SKM Group) and “egg capital” (Namakkal).

Factors Contributing to TNs Economic Transformation-

Cluster-based Industrialization: Medium-scale businesses (with Rs 100 crore to Rs 5,000 crore turnover) are driving TN’s economic transformation. Industrialization here has been more spread out and decentralized, via development of clusters. Some of the clusters- agglomerations of firms specializing in particular industries are well known like Tirupur for cotton knitwear; Coimbatore for spinning mills and engineering goods. Most of these are in small urban/peri-urban centres, providing employment to people from surrounding villages, creating diversification options outside agriculture, reducing the proportion of TN’s workforce dependent on farming. For example, Tirupur’s knitwear industry alone today employs some 800,000 people, including migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam and other states.

Entrepreneurship from below: The decentralized industrialization is being driven by entrepreneurs from more ordinary peasant stock and provincial mercantile castes. Many of which have created successful brands like Hatsun (‘Arun’ ice-cream and ‘Arokya’ milk). TN’s entrepreneurial culture consists of diverse communities like Christians (MRF, Johnson Lifts and Aachi Masala Foods) and Muslims (Farida Group). “Entrepreneurship from below” combined with TNs high social progress indices from public health and education investments probably explains TN’s relative success in achieving industrialization and diversification beyond agriculture.

 

 

Economics

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Who was Thiruvalluvar?

Why in News? The BJP’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha election declares to establish Thiruvalluvar Cultural Centres across the globe to showcase Bharat’s rich culture.

Who was Thiruvalluvar? Thiruvalluvar (referred to as Valluvar by Tamils) was an ancient Indian saint, poet and philosopher. He is best known as the author of the Tirukkural, a collection of couplets on ethics, which is considered an exceptional and widely cherished work of Tamil literature. He has been identified as both a Hindu and a Jain sage, while Dravidian groups consider him as a saint with no religious identifiers except his Dravidian roots.

Why does Thiruvalluvar Matter? Thiruvalluvar has long been regarded as a Tamil cultural and moral icon, who is revered by Tamils cutting across lines of caste and religion. The ‘Thirukkural’, a collection of 1,330 couplets (‘kurals’ in Tamil), is an essential part of every Tamil household.

What is Exactly Known About the Thiruvalluvar? From whatever little evidence is left on Thiruvalluvar’s life, several scholars have concluded that most likely he was a Jain sage (neither a Hindu nor a Dravidian).

Why Political Parties Claiming the Legacy of Thiruvalluvar? Both national and regional parties have been making political endeavors for a number of years to seize Thiruvalluvar. For example, BJP’s comparatively thin presence at the grassroots has been their handicap in Tamil Nadu, and attempts to appropriate or co-opt Tamil saints and icons have been part of their efforts to make up.

 

History & Culture

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

New Data Law, A Barrier to Journalistic Free Speech

Context

  • In August 2023, the Indian government passed India’s first comprehensive data protection law, the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023.
  • While this law is a significant step towards ensuring the protection of personal data, its potential implications on journalistic free speech raise concerns.
  • Therefore, it is crucial to examine why the absence of exemptions for journalistic activities may threaten the foundational principles of a free press.

The Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023

  • It is an act that was passed to regulate the collection, processing, storage, and use of personal data by individuals, organisations, and government entities in India.
  • The act aims to protect the privacy and data rights of individuals and establish a framework for the lawful and transparent handling of personal data.

Key Features of DPDP Act, 2023

  • The act defines personal data as any data that can directly or indirectly identify an individual.
  • The act outlines principles for data protection, including lawfulness, fairness, transparency, purpose limitation, data minimisation, accuracy, storage limitation, integrity, confidentiality, and accountability.
  • The act distinguishes between data fiduciaries (entities that determine the purpose and means of processing personal data) and data processors (entities that process personal data on behalf of data fiduciaries).
  • The act emphasises the importance of obtaining explicit consent from individuals before processing their personal data. It also provides provisions for the withdrawal of consent.
  • Individuals are granted rights regarding their personal data, including the right to access, correct, erase, and transfer their data.
  • The act may require certain types of data to be stored and processed within India, depending on the nature and sensitivity of the data.
  • A Data Protection Board is established to oversee compliance with the act and handle data protection grievances.
  • The act specifies penalties and sanctions for non-compliance, including fines and other legal consequences for violations of data protection principles.
  • The act regulates the transfer of personal data across borders to ensure that data is protected to a similar standard as within India.
  • The act sets out obligations for data fiduciaries and processors, including requirements for security measures, data breach notifications, and data impact assessments.

Exemptions for Journalistic Activities

  • Data protection laws traditionally provide exemptions for journalistic activities, allowing journalists to operate without constraints related to privacy obligations.
  • These exemptions enable journalists to freely access and report on personal data for their investigative stories without the need for consent from the individuals involved.
  • Unfortunately, the DPDP Act, 2023, lacks such exemptions. While previous drafts of the Act did contain provisions for journalistic activities, these were removed in the final law without clear explanations.
  • This departure from earlier versions could have a detrimental impact on journalistic practices and the ability to uphold accountability.
  • Three previous drafts of the DPDP Act, one released by an expert committee on data protection (2018), the other by the government (2019), and the third released by a Joint Parliamentary Committee in 2021, contained clear exemptions for journalistic activities.
  • In two subsequent drafts of the DPDP Act (2022 and 2023), the exemption given to journalistic activities was withdrawn without reasons being given.

Challenges for Journalists under the DPDP Act

  • Consent Requirements
    • Journalists must now obtain consent from individuals before using their personal data in their stories.
    • This process may hinder investigative reporting, as subjects could refuse consent, thereby restricting access to critical information.
  • Right to Erasure
    • The right to erasure allows individuals to request the deletion of published stories that contain their personal data.
    • This provision could lead to the removal of valuable investigative work and hinder transparency.
    • For example, if a journalist writing about a Member of Parliament (MP) and his performance.
    • For their story, they use information from MP’s lives such as the meetings they held, where, and with whom, the towns, villages, and cities they travelled to etc and the investments made by their close family members.
    • Most of this information is not available in the public domain and needs a lot of research.
    • All this information about an MP is their ‘personal data’, which is data protected under the DPDP Act.
    • Consequently, any journalist who wishes to use this data will have to get their consent before publishing the story.
    • Even after publication, the MP can exercise their right to erasure and request journalists to delete such stories.
  • Government Oversight
    • The Act empowers the government to request information from data processors, which may compromise the confidentiality of journalists' sources and research documents.
    • This could limit the press's ability to hold the state accountable.

Potential Solutions

  • Need for Transparent Consultation
    • The lack of clear explanations for the removal of exemptions for journalistic activities points to the need for more robust and transparent public consultation
    • Although the Indian government released drafts of the DPDP Act for public consultation, it did not make the comments received publicly available.
    • This lack of transparency impedes citizens' understanding of the different stakeholders' perspectives and the reasons behind the final formulation of the law.
  • Exemptions for Journalists
    • The central government should use its rule-making powers under the DPDP Act to exempt journalistic entities, including citizen journalists, from the law's obligations.
    • This will protect the freedom of the press and ensure that journalism can thrive in an open and transparent manner.
  • Public Consultation
    • Implementing an open and transparent public consultation process can facilitate better understanding and consideration of different viewpoints.
    • This approach would lead to a more balanced and effective data protection law.

Conclusion

  • While the DPDP Act, 2023, is a crucial step in protecting personal data in India, its impact on journalistic free speech is concerning.
  • By ensuring exemptions for journalists and promoting transparent consultation processes, the government can strike a balance between protecting individual privacy and upholding the fundamental principles of a free press.

 

Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement’s & Intellectual Property Rights

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background (Context of the Article)
  • Change in IP Policy (Key Factors, Comparison with China, Economic Drain from India)
  • Conclusion

Background:

  • India has a new free trade agreement (FTA) with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
  • This agreement, called the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), includes rules about intellectual property (IP) and protecting and promoting investments.
  • Before this, India usually discussed IP rules at global meetings like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and didn't make special IP agreements with other trade groups.

Change in India’s IP Policy:

  • This change in IP policy isn't just about the EFTA. India might make similar changes when negotiating with the EU and the UK.
  • The idea to change IP and investment rules has been discussed for a while.
  • A paper from August 2022 by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India suggested speeding up the patent granting process, taking ideas from the U.S.
  • However, this paper didn't address the real reasons holding back innovation in India.
  • The suggestions seemed more focused on protecting private interests and making money rather than benefiting the public.
  • The advisors think that giving IP benefits will attract foreign investment and help India compete with the U.S. and China in technology.
  • The paper also compared the number of patents filed by China, the U.S., and India to support its pro-patent stance.
  • But it ignored how countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. succeeded in technology through state investment and independent innovation.
  • Speeding up patents could result in lower quality products.

Difference Between India and China w.r.t. IP Rights:

  • In China, the policy space for indigenous innovation was achieved through programs that run in parallel to maximizing knowledge spill overs from FDI.
  • This is absent in India and explains why India lags China considerably in independent innovations.
  • China could realize its long-term ambitions of self-reliance in technological innovation and scientific research because the state invested in science, technology and innovation (STI).
  • STI investments were not coordinated with the creation of IP markets.

Economic Drain from India:

  • Most of the patents filed in India after the TRIPS agreement were by foreign companies, showing that India isn't focusing enough on its own research and innovation.
  • In fact, 80% of tech patents involving Indian inventors are filed by foreign research centres.
  • Compared to other top economies, India has one of the lowest numbers of R&D employees in its business sector.
  • A large number of Indians, around 40% of the country's total R&D workforce, work for American companies in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and the National Capital Region.
  • Growing Technology Imports: India is spending more money on importing technology, while spending on domestic innovation is going down. For instance, the percentage of spending on domestic innovation dropped from 13.63% in 2000 to 2.18% in 2018.
  • Foreign Companies' Influence: Companies like Syngenta and Bayer, based in Europe or EFTA countries, are increasing their control over Indian markets through intellectual property. These foreign companies, along with those based in Europe and the U.S., control the rights and royalties from patents developed with Indian inventors in fields like chemicals and computers.
  • Double Cost for India: Indian society is essentially paying twice. First, for educating and training STEM talent and then for paying for imports, royalties, and fees to foreign companies that employ this talent.

Conclusion:

The new IP and investment rules in trade agreements are leaning towards the U.S.'s strict IP rules. This could disrupt the balance between public and private interests in India.

This approach might hinder India's own innovations and instead channel its science and tech talent towards Silicon Valley's innovation systems.

Economics

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Space Tourism

Why in News? Gopi Thotakura is set to become the first Indian to become a space tourist on the NS-25 mission of Blue Origin, a company founded by Jeff Bezos.

What is Space Tourism? It seeks to provide tourists with the opportunity to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes and is of two types: sub-orbital and orbital. The sub-orbital spacecraft takes passengers just beyond the Kármán line (boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space (~100 kilometers)) for a few minutes and then comes back to Earth. The NS-25 mission is a sub-orbital mission. The orbital space craft takes passengers much further than the Kármán line where they can spend from a couple of days to more than a week at an altitude of nearly 1.3 million feet. Space X’s Falcon 9 in 2021 took four passengers to an altitude of 160 km for three days.

What are the Challenges Involved? It is expensive and requires a passenger to spend at least a million dollars to reach outer space which is not feasible for everyone wishing to do space travel. As per several studies, it may lead to environmental damage as rockets emit gaseous and solid chemicals directly into the upper atmosphere. According to a 2022 study by University College London (UCL), the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the soot emissions from rocket launches are far more effective at warming the atmosphere compared to other sources. Safety is another concern, despite having high safety standards, out of the total 676 people who flew into space, 19 died, as per a 2023 report by Astronomy Magazine i.e. approximately 3% of astronauts died during their space flight which is quite a high fatality rate.

 

Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

The Strategic Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Why in News?

The recent thrust on developing strategic infrastructure, both civilian and military, on the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands is welcome and decades overdue.

The way this important group of islands has been neglected during the decades following Independence indicates a lack of strategic maritime vision. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Strategic Location of the A&N Islands:
  • What is the Strategic Significance of the A&N Islands?
  • Why has the Pace of Developing Strategic Infrastructure in A&N Been Slow?
  • What Should Strategic Infrastructure Development in these Islands Focus On?
  • What Kind of Infrastructure should be Prioritised on the Islands?

Strategic Location of the A&N Islands:

  • The islands are located 700 nautical miles (1,300 km) southeast of the Indian mainland.
  • The Malacca Strait, the main waterway that connects the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, is less than a day’s steaming from Port Blair.
  • Sabang in Indonesia is 90 nautical miles southeast of Indira Point (on Great Nicobar island), and Coco Island (Myanmar) is barely 18 nautical miles from the northernmost tip of the Andamans.
  • The mouth of the Kra Canal (to be built by Thailand to connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea) would be located roughly 350 nautical miles east of Port Blair.
  • The islands share four of India’s international maritime zonedelimitations with Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
  • They also give India substantial ocean space under the United Nations Conference on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) in terms of exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

What is the Strategic Significance of the A&N Islands?

  • The following has brought a degree of seriousness to the imperative of developing the A&N group of Islands -
    • The transformation of India’s Look East policy into a robust Act East policy,
    • A realisation of the critical importance of ocean power, and
    • The rapid enhancement in the capabilities of the Chinese PLA Navy.
  • In the foreseeable future, a serious challenge could emanate from a build-up of Chinese maritime forces at the eastern choke points of the Indo-Pacific, namely
    • The Malacca (between Sumatra and the Malay peninsula),
    • Sunda (between Java and Sumatra),
    • Lombok (between Bali and Lombok), and
    • Ombai-Wetar (off East Timor) straits.
  • The A&N Islands should be the first line of offence against any attempt from the East to undermine India’s maritime security.
  • While some effort was made to leverage this locational advantage with the A&N Command (ANC) being constituted as a tri-services command in 2001, subsequent efforts have been grossly inadequate.

Why has the Pace of Developing Strategic Infrastructure in A&N Been Slow?

  • Non-realisation of strategic importance for India’s security: Political decision-makers have very recently realised how vitally important the islands are. This is because of the PLA Navy's unprecedented expansion.
  • The distance from the mainland: It has been used as an excuse to delay and stall various projects.
  • Complex procedures for obtaining environmental clearances: Regulations on the conservation of forests and native tribes have complicated issues of land acquisition.
  • Coordination challenges: The development of islands and strategic infrastructure is a multi-dimensional project involving several ministries, departments, and agencies.
  • Not a political issue: The conflict between a long-term strategic vision and immediate political gains has often tilted in favour of the latter.

What Should Strategic Infrastructure Development in these Islands Focus On?

  • Maritime security: The security of all 836 islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, must be ensured against attempts at their occupation or use by entities engaged in unlawful activities.
  • A strong element of deterrence: It must be ensured against any naval misadventure from the East.
  • Bolster India’s maritime economy: Infrastructure must be built on the southern group of islands that is strategically located vis-à-vis the main shipping lane from the Indian Ocean to South East Asia.
  • Ease of travel to and between the islands: Improved transportation will help to create and sustain the tourism potential of the islands.
  • Islands’ dependence on mainland support must be reduced: In respect of foodstuffs or relevant local industries that support maintenance, repair, and other services.

What Kind of Infrastructure should be Prioritised on the Islands?

  • This sea area needs to be monitored and patrolled by aircraft and surface platforms.
  • Separate airfields with long runways that can operate Boeing 737-sized aircraft are essential.
  • Ports and fuel storages must be built in both the northern and southern groups of the islands for ships’ operational turnaround without the need to return to Port Blair.
  • The Army, Navy, and Air Force must not only commit more forces, but station the right mix of assets at the ANC. There is a need to base surveillance and fighter aircraft there.
  • Work on the Galathea Bay (Great Nicobar Island) transhipment port must be expedited.
  • India could also explore the possibility of leveraging international arrangements in the Indo-Pacific such as the Quad and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) to catalyse development efforts on the islands.

 

Defence & Security

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Monsoon to be above normal, predicts IMD

Why in news?

India is likely to experience an “above normal” monsoon rainfall between June and September this year. This was predicted by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its long-range forecast.

This is the first time in a decade that the IMD has predicted “above normal” rainfall at the first stage itself, nearly 45 days ahead of the beginning of the four-month monsoon season.

What’s in today’s article?

  • El Nino and La Nina
  • Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
  • Prediction by IMD
  • Factors indicating above normal rainfall

El Nino and La Nina

  • El Nino:
    • A warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures (SST), in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
    • It is associated with lower than normal monsoon rainfall in India.
  • La Nina:
    • A cooling of the ocean surface, or below-average SSTs, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
    • It is associated with a comparatively better monsoon rainfall in India.
  • Neutral:
    • Neither El Nino nor La Nina.
    • Often tropical Pacific SSTs are generally close to average.

Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

  • The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between two areas (or poles, hence a dipole) – a western pole in the Arabian Sea (western Indian Ocean) and an eastern pole in the eastern Indian Ocean south of Indonesia.
  • In scientific terms, the IOD is a coupled ocean and atmosphere phenomenon, similar to ENSO but in the equatorial Indian Ocean.
  • A ‘positive IOD’ — or simply ‘IOD’ — is associated with cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean and warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures in the western tropical Indian Ocean.
  • The opposite phenomenon is called a ‘negative IOD’, and is characterised by warmer than normal SSTs in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean and cooler than normal SSTs in the western tropical Indian Ocean.
  • The IOD was identified as an independent system only in 1999.

Prediction by IMD

  • Above normal rainfall in 2024
    • The country as a whole is expected to get 106% of long period average (LPA) rainfall.
      • All forecasts are percentages of LPA. LPA is the average rainfall received in the past 50 years (currently, the average of 1971-2020 period).
      • The rainfall between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of this 50-year average is considered normal; less than 90 per cent is considered deficient; 90-95 per cent is below normal; and 105-110 per cent is above normal.
    • Nearly the entire country, except some pockets in the northwest, east and northeast, was likely to get good rainfall.
  • India’s normal rainfall
    • India, as a whole, normally receives 870 mm of rainfall during the monsoon season.

Factors indicating above normal rainfall

  • Forecast of ‘good rainfall’ is attributed to weakening of El Nino, eventual development of the La Nina conditions during the second half of the season (Aug-Sep) and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).
Geography

Mains Article
16 Apr 2024

Swiss women win landmark climate change case

Why in news?

Recently, Europe’s highest human rights court sided with a group of 2,000 Swiss women. These women had sued their government for violating their human rights by failing to do enough to combat the adverse effects of climate change.

The landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) might change how courts in Europe and other places handle cases where people say climate change hurts their rights.

This is significant as the verdict has come just days after the Supreme Court of India expanded the scope of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty). SC said that people have a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change.

What’s in today’s article?

  • European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
  • About the case
  • Verdict given by ECHR
  • Rise in climate litigation across the globe

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

  • About
    • ECHR is an international court that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights.
    • It was established in 1959 and is based in Strasbourg, France.
    • It consists of a number of judges equal to the number of member States of the Council of Europe that have rati­fied the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – currently 46.
  • Functions
    • The ECHR rules on applications from individuals, groups of individuals, or other contracting states that allege violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.
      • The Convention primarily concerns civil and political rights.
    • The court can issue judgments and advisory opinions.

About the case

  • The case was brought against Switzerland by Klima Seniorinnen Schweiz (Association of Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland) in November 2016.
    • It is a group of women climate activists all above the age of 64.
  • The women claimed that the Swiss government’s inadequate climate policies violate their right to life and other guarantees under the European Convention on Human Rights.
    • The convention is an international agreement to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe.
  • They built their case by partly relying on their medical vulnerability as senior citizens to extreme heat caused by climate change.
    • They cited the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a United Nations body which assesses the science related to climate change.

Verdict given by ECHR

  • Highlighted Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
    • The ECHR noted that Article 8 of the convention, encompasses a right for individuals to effective protection by the state authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on their lives, health, well-being and quality of life.
  • Failure of Swiss government
    • The Swiss government violated the law as it did not enact adequate laws to combat climate change impacts.
    • It also failed to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals.
    • Hence, it is clear that future generations are likely to bear an increasingly severe burden of the consequences of present failures and omissions to combat climate change.

Significance of this ruling

  • Obligations of Swiss Government
    • The Swiss government is now obliged to update its climate change policies but the ECHR cannot tell authorities what kind of policies to implement.
  • Verdict is applicable in member states
    • The ECHR’s verdict is applicable in 46 member states, including all the European Union (EU), plus the United Kingdom (UK) and various other non-EU countries.
    • This means that any climate and human rights case brought before a judge in Europe’s national courts will now have to consider ECHR’s judgment.
  • Empowers citizens and communities
    • To file similar cases in countries that are party to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Rise in climate litigation across the globe

  • Recently, there has been an increase in climate litigation — a form of legal action that is being used to hold countries and companies accountable for their climate mitigation efforts and historical contributions to climate change.
  • As per a report, as of December 2022, there have been 2,180 climate-related cases filed in 65 jurisdictions.
  • Children and youth, women’s groups, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples, among others, are taking a prominent role in bringing these cases.
International Relations

April 15, 2024

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

What Is Doxxing and What Can You Do If It Happens to You?

Why in News? A woman recently reached out to the Police through X to report a man who had shared and reposted a video of her dancing at an event and compared her performance to sex work.

What is Doxxing? It is an act of digitally publicizing a person’s private or semi-public content that an individual did not intend to share for public consumption. For example, an ordinary person smoking at a house party might consent to their video being shared on their friend’s Instagram account, but not to be publicly re-posted on X or YouTube. Doxxing generally publicizes highly personal data like addresses, phone numbers, private email IDs, social security numbers etc. usually obtained through illegal methods such as hacking or theft.

What is its effect on the Victim? Doxxing is a direct attack on a person’s physical, digital, and emotional security. It can affect women, children and LGBTQIA+ people, and can result in emotional distress, loss of employment, physical harm or death.

Actions to be Taken Against Doxxing-An incident log can be maintained including details of relevant platforms and the ones involved. All passwords should be changed, and two-factor authentication should be turned on to ensure security. The crime should be reported through the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal online.

Steps taken by Social Media Platforms- Google (also YouTube) allows internet users to submit removal requests that it then reviews for further action. X has an in-app reporting mechanism for private information, and a grievance officer to act on such reports. Reddit provides a complaint forum as well. Recently, messaging platform Discord updated its community policies by separating the doxxing and harassment guidelines.

Defence & Security

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

What is Net-zero, and What are India’s Objections?

Why in News? John Kerry, the US’s Special Envoy on Climate, is currently on a three-day visit to India to explore if India can be nudged to drop its hard opposition to 2050 net-zero goal and pledge itself to it.

What is Net-Zero Goal and How to achieve it? It demands a country to compensate its emissions by absorption and removal of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG). Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal requires futuristic technologies like carbon capture and storage. No emission reduction targets have been assigned to any country under this goal. If any country exceeds the absorption and removal from actual emissions, it is known to have negative emissions like Bhutan.

Need for Net-Zero Goal- It is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times as current policies and actions to reduce emissions will not be able to prevent a 3-4°C rise by the turn of the century.

What are India’s Objections? This policy will impact India the most because its emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world in the coming decades, as it presses for higher growth. This can't be compensated by any amount of afforestation or reforestation and available carbon removal technologies are either unreliable or very expensive. Instead of opting for net-zero targets outside the Paris Agreement, India wants countries to focus on delivering on what they have already promised. It wants to lead by example as being the only G-20 country compliant to the Paris Agreement goal. It does not rule out the possibility of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050/2060but does not want to make any advance commitment.

Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

How Fast is the Universe Expanding?

Why in News? A big open problem in cosmology is the Hubble tension, that is, there are two equally valid ways to measure how fast the universe is expanding, but they have yielded two very different estimates.

How is the Expansion of the Universe Claimed to be Happening? The universe started to expand after the Big Bang event around 14 billion years ago. If it continues to expand unabated forever, it will be an open universe. But if at some point the expansion stops, because of the gravitational forces exerted by the galaxies, the universe could collapse and become closed. If the universe continues to expand, and the rate of expansion (which is currently increasing) eventually starts decreasing (due to the gravitational forces), this leads to a flat universe.

What are the Ways to Study the Universe’s Expansion?

  1. Cosmic microwave background (CMB): This is a sea of photons, that are left over from the Big Bang/ its afterglow. The WMAP, BOOMERanG and ’Planck’ are 3 telescopes in space that study the CMB. According to their data, the observable universe is flat with a 0.4% margin of error.
  2. Cosmic distance ladder: This is a set of techniques used to measure the distance to objects that are close, further away, and very far away from the earth. One object in particular is the Cepheid variable star. The best way to follow these stars is using the near-infrared radiation they emit. Fortunately, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can track near-infrared radiation.

What Gave Rise to the Hubble Tension? Researchers found significant differences in the data collected by the Hubble telescope (previously the best space telescope) and JWST. Thus, the Hubble tension is real and its origins remain a mystery.

 

Science & Tech

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

Why Iran's Unprecedented Attack Failed Against Israel's Arrow Defence?

Why in News? According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), its Aerial Defense Array successfully intercepted the majority of the surface-to-surface missile launches from Iran using the Arrow Aerial Defense System.

What is the Arrow Aerial Defense System? It is a surface-to-surface missile system forming an upper tier in Israel's multi-layered air defence system (consisting of Iron Dome, David's Sling, and the Arrow). It was developed by Israel's Aerospace Industries, in collaboration with the US Missile Defence Agency. The Arrow 3 defence system is the latest addition (inducted in 2023) to Israel’s air defence capabilities to intercept and neutralise long-range threats in the exo-atmosphere.

How Does the Arrow Defence System Work? The (Green Pine) radar constantly detects incoming threats towards the territory. Once a target is detected, real-time information is relayed to the control centre. The missile is vertically launched, and the two-stage booster powers the rocket to Mach 9. The finned kill vehicle in the rocket can steer its explosion in the direction specified by the missile seeker. If it fails to strike the target, the fragmentation warhead can explode within 40 metres of the target.

What is the Significance of the Arrow Aerial Defense System? It gave Israel the capability to intercept short, medium and long-range missiles with its hit-and-kill approach in the upper atmosphere. The objective is to neutralise the incoming missile before its descent stage.

International Relations

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

Urbanisation, No Liberating Force for Dalits

Context

  • The role of caste in Indian society has long shaped the social and spatial organisation of communities across the country and this impact is evident in the way Indian cities are structured, with caste often serving as the primary language of spatiality in urban areas.
  • Despite such challenges, prominent Indian figures like R. Ambedkar and Jyotirao Phule saw urbanisation as an opportunity for Dalit liberation.
  • Therefore, it is important to understand Ambedkar's vision of urbanisation, the persistence of caste-based discrimination in urban spaces, and the continued challenges faced by Dalits and Muslims in terms of housing and public services in cities.

Ambedkar’s Views on Urbanisation

  • A Pathway to Liberation
    • B. R. Ambedkar, a prominent social reformer and champion for the rights of Dalits, held a vision of urbanisation as a pathway to liberation for marginalised communities in India.
    • He believed that the traditional social structures of Indian villages were inherently oppressive due to the entrenched caste system, which dictated individuals' social status and access to opportunities based on their birth.
    • Ambedkar argued that the Indian village was the "working plant of the Hindu social order," where caste-based hierarchies thrived, resulting in the subjugation and marginalisation of Dalits.
  • A Means of Dismantling Caste-Based Order
    • Ambedkar saw urbanisation as a means of dismantling the rigid caste-based order found in rural areas.
    • He envisioned cities as spaces where individuals could become anonymous among a sea of strangers, transitioning from a caste-based society to a more class-based one.
    • This shift from a system defined by genealogy to one based on the accumulation of resources or capital would, in theory, weaken the systems of caste oppression that were pervasive in villages.
  • Better Economic and Social Opportunities in Urban Areas
    • In urban environments, Ambedkar believed, Dalits would have access to new economic opportunities and the ability to engage in various forms of skilled labour, enabling them to improve their social and economic standing.
    • Cities offered the chance to break free from the constraints of village life, where caste often dictated one's occupation and social interactions.
  • Potential for Greater Political and Social Awareness
    • Moreover, Ambedkar saw the potential for greater political and social awareness in cities.
    • Urban areas were more likely to have educational institutions and opportunities for civic engagement, which could empower Dalits and other marginalised groups to advocate for their rights and participate in the democratic process.

Challenges in Urbanisation and Ambedkar's Optimism

  • Despite being a supporter of urbanisation for marginalised communities, Ambedkar was not naive about the challenges of urbanisation.
  • He recognised that caste-based discrimination could still persist in cities, as evidenced by his own experiences.
  • He struggled to find housing in Baroda and faced restrictions on entering certain sections of textile mills due to his caste.
  • Nonetheless, he remained optimistic about the liberating potential of cities, viewing them as spaces where individuals could navigate life with greater freedom and autonomy.

Persistence of Caste-Based Discrimination in Urban Spaces

  • Language of Purity-Pollution
    • One of the primary ways caste discrimination manifests in cities is through the language of purity-pollution.
    • This concept, deeply embedded in Hindu social practices, categorises certain foods, behaviours, and individuals as either pure or impure based on their caste.
    • For instance, a consumer survey in 2021 found that eating non-vegetarian food is a significant barrier to finding rental housing in India, reflecting a broader prejudice against certain castes who are more likely to consume meat.
  • Caste Segregation in Housing
    • The language of purity-pollution also extends to housing practices and as a result dalits and other lower castes often face discrimination when trying to rent or purchase homes in urban areas.
    • Landlords and housing societies may refuse to rent to them based on their dietary habits or perceived cleanliness, leading to segregation and the formation of ghettos.
  • State-Sanctioned Policies
    • State-sanctioned policies have played a role in perpetuating caste-based discrimination in cities.
    • For example, the Uttar Pradesh government issued regulations in March 2017 that banned the sale of meat near religious places and required meat shops to hide their products from pedestrians.
    • Similar policies in other states, such as Gujarat, have targeted meat-based street food, citing religious sentiments.
    • These measures implicitly reinforce caste divisions by labelling meat as impure and associating it with certain castes.

Ongoing Relevance of Ambedkar's Vision, Implications of Discrimination, and Its Impact on Public Spaces

  • Ongoing Relevance of Ambedkar's Vision
    • Ambedkar's vision of urbanisation as a path to Dalit liberation continues to resonate today, serving as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality in Indian cities.
    • His work underscores the importance of addressing both historical and contemporary forms of caste-based discrimination to create inclusive and equitable urban spaces.
  • Spatial Implications of Discrimination
    • These forms of discrimination have significant spatial implications, as they lead to the segregation of Dalits and other marginalised groups into specific neighbourhoods or areas.
    • Ghettos often lack access to basic services and infrastructure, further exacerbating the social and economic disparities faced by these communities.
  • Impact on Public Spaces
    • The influence of caste-based discrimination extends to public spaces as well.
    • Restrictions on where certain foods can be sold, for example, limit the ability of lower castes to participate fully in the economic and social life of the city.
    • Such policies contribute to a broader environment of exclusion and marginalisation.

Conclusion

  • Despite Ambedkar's vision of urbanisation as a path to Dalit liberation, Indian cities have fallen short of fulfilling this promise.
  • While transitioning to city life may have weakened some structures of caste oppression, these have morphed through language, state sanction, and policy, allowing caste to thrive in urban spaces.
  • This ongoing struggle underscores the need for continued efforts to address caste-based discrimination and promote inclusivity and equality in Indian cities.

 

Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

Residency and Voter Status for Contesting Elections

Why in news?

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani recently became an elector from her Lok Sabha constituency, Amethi.  It should be noted that a candidate is not required to be a voter or a resident of a constituency from where he or she is contesting under election rules.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Requirements for a parliamentary candidate
  • Domicile of the constituency as a condition for candidates
  • Domicile criteria in Rajya Sabha
  • SC on Domicile criteria

What are the requirements for a parliamentary candidate?

  • Constitutional provisions
    • As per Article 84 of the Constitution, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha candidates must be citizens of India.
    • While for the Lok Sabha, they need to be at least 25 years of age, the minimum age limit for the Upper House is 30.
      • For election to state Assemblies too, the candidates must be citizens, aged at least 25 years and be enrolled as electors.
    • The Article also says that the candidates should possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • Legal provisions
    • The Representation of the People Act, 1951, lays down that candidates for the Lok Sabha should be enrolled as electors, from any constituency.
      • The nomination papers that candidates fill out require them to attach the extract of the electoral roll where they are enrolled.

Was being a domicile of the constituency ever considered a condition for candidates?

  • Constituent assembly left the matter for Parliament to deliberate on in the future
    • The Constituent Assembly discussed the issue of age and educational qualifications for MPs.
    • However, it eventually left the matter for Parliament to deliberate on in the future.
  • Candidates can contest from two seats
    • Given that candidates can contest from two seats, and cannot be residents of both constituencies, a domicile condition was not on the table.

Domicile criteria in Rajya Sabha

  • Originally, Rajya Sabha candidates from a state or Union territory had to ordinarily reside there.
  • In 2003, the then government brought in an amendment to the RP Act, 1951, removing the domicile requirement for Rajya Sabha candidates.
    • Some reasons for this change were that residency rules could make the Rajya Sabha:
      • less focused on national issues,
      • restrict the number of candidates, which might leave out people with useful skills, and
      • promote politics that only focuses on local concerns.
    • Some people who opposed removing the residency requirements said it would weaken India's federal structure.
      • They also argued that it might lead to defections, buying and selling of votes, and voting across party lines in Rajya Sabha elections.
  • The 2003 amendment also changed the system of voting for the Rajya Sabha elections from secret to open ballot.

Removal of domicile requirement – challenged in Supreme Court

  • 2003 amendment challenged
    • The 2003 amendment was challenged by journalist and former Rajya Sabha MP Kuldeep Nayar, among others.
    • They argued that the domicile requirement was an intrinsic part and removal of it would affect the federal structure, one of the basic features of the Constitution.
    • As per them, the amendment had destroyed the essential characteristic of the Council of States.
      • This is because someone who lives in any constituency in India could be chosen to represent a state in the Rajya Sabha only by virtue of being elected by the MLAs of the state.
    • The need for a Second Chamber, that is, the Council of States had become redundant due to this amendment, as it now merely duplicated the House of the People.
  • SC Verdict
    • In 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments regarding both the removal of domicile requirement and open ballot.
      • The court decided that the changes didn't break any rules in the Constitution.
      • They pointed out that Article 80(4) states that state representatives should be chosen by the MLAs using a method called proportional representation with a single transferable vote.
      • Besides this, the Constitution doesn't say Parliament can't make its own rules about this.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

Fixing India’s VVPAT-based Audit of EVMs

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background (Context of the Article)
  • About VVPAT (Meaning, Utility, Working, etc.)
  • Auditing of EVMs (Need, VVPAT for Auditing, Criticism of ECI)
  • Way Ahead

Background:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has attracted criticism for reducing the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) based audit of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)to an exercise in tokenism.
  • Currently, the sample size for auditing the VVPAT accuracy is five polling stations per Assembly Constituency.
  • The critics argue that this sample size does not conform to the fundamental principles of statistical sampling and leads to high margins of error.

What is a VVPAT Machine? How does it Work?

  • The VVPAT machine is attached to the ballot unit of the EVM, and provides visual verification for the vote cast by a voter by printing a slip of paper with the voter’s choice on it.
  • This slip of paper, containing the candidate’s serial number, name, and party symbol, is displayed in the machine behind a glass window. The voter is given seven seconds to verify her vote.
  • Following this, the slip falls into a compartment underneath.
  • No voter can take the VVPAT slip back home, as it is later used to verify votes cast in five randomly selected polling booths.
  • The idea is that by allowing for a physical verification of the electronically cast vote, both voters and political parties have greater faith in the process — that their vote is being recorded correctly.

Need for Auditing of EVMs:

  • A defective EVM is defined as one with a mismatch between the EVM count and the VVPAT’s manual count of voter slips due to EVM malfunction or EVM manipulation.
  • Unlike industry and trade where a few defectives in the sample may be tolerated, in the context of elections, the acceptance number will have to be ‘zero defective EVM’.
  • In other words, even if there is a single instance of mismatch between the EVM count and VVPAT manual count in the randomly drawn sample of EVMs, the ‘population’ of EVMs from which the sample was drawn should be rejected.
  • In this case, rejection means non-acceptance of the EVM counts for that population and doing manual counting of VVPAT slips for all the remaining EVMs of that population.
  • In such a scenario, the election result should be declared only on the basis of the VVPAT count.

VVPAT-based Audit of EVMs:

  • VVPAT-based audit of EVMs involves three essential elements:
    • clear definition of the ‘population’ of EVMs from which the statistical sample would be drawn.
      • It could be all the EVMs deployed in an Assembly constituency, a Parliamentary constituency, a State as a whole, India as a whole, a region (or group of districts) within a State, or any other.
      • The population size (N) could vary widely depending on how we define the ‘population’;
    • Determination of a statistically correct and administratively viable sample size (n) of EVMs whose VVPAT slips will be hand counted;
    • Application of the ‘decision rule’.
      • In the event of a mismatch between the EVM count and the VVPAT count in the chosen sample of ‘n’ EVMs, the manual counting of VVPAT slips will have to be done for all the remaining (N-n) EVMs forming part of that ‘population’.

Criticism of the ECI:

  • The ECI has not specified the ‘population’ to which its sample size relates.
  • It has not explained how it arrived at its sample size.
  • It has also not explained the ‘next steps’ in the event of a mismatch between the EVM count and the VVPAT count in the chosen sample.
  • Hence, these 3 key issues have been left vague or unaddressed.

Way Ahead:

  • ‘Plateau Effect’ of sample size can be used to divide the bigger States into ‘regions’ (an integral number of districts) with EVM population sizes of about 5,000 each.
  • In this case, “EVMs deployed in the region” can be treated as the ‘population’.
  • On average, there would be about 20 Assembly constituencies in a region.
  • For example, U.P with 1,50,000 EVMs can be divided into 30 regions with roughly 5,000 EVMs each.
  • In the event of a defective EVM turning up, the hand counting of VVPAT slips of the remaining EVMs will be confined to the region.
  • This option is statistically robust and administratively viable.
  • Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week said that petitions seeking 100% verification of VVPAT slips would be taken up soon.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

What is 'Dragon's Egg' Nebula?

Why in News?

The nebula NGC 6164/6165, also known as the Dragon’s Egg, a cloud of gas and dust surrounding a pair of stars called HD 148937, have presented a puzzle to astronomers.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is a Nebula?
  • What is the Dragon’s Egg Nebula?
  • Unique Features of the NGC 6164/6165
  • Significance of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula - A Window to Our Universe

What is a Nebula?

  • A nebula is a huge, expansive cloud of gas and dust that is found throughout the universe.
  • This celestial formation comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours, each with its own unique characteristics and story to tell.
  • At its core, a nebula consists primarily of hydrogen and helium, the two most abundant elements in the universe.
    • These gases intermingle with traces of heavier elements, such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which were forged in the hearts of ancient stars.
  • A nebula serves as the birthplace of stars.
    • Within this cosmic cloud, gravity works tirelessly to pull the gas and dust together, slowly compressing the material into increasingly dense clumps.
    • As these clumps grow in mass and density, their cores begin to heat up, eventually reaching temperatures high enough to ignite nuclear fusion.
    • At this point, a new star is born, illuminating the surrounding nebula with its intense radiation.
  • A nebula plays a crucial role in the life cycle of stars and galaxies.
    • As stars form within this cosmic cloud, they gradually deplete the surrounding gas and dust, using it as fuel for their nuclear reactions.
    • Over millions or billions of years, the most massive stars explode as supernovae.

What is the Dragon’s Egg Nebula?

  • The Dragon’s Egg Nebula formed as a result of the intense stellar winds emanating from a massive, hot central star.
  • NGC 6164/6165 consists of two distinct regions: NGC 6164, which represents the brighter, more compact area surrounding the central star, and NGC 6165, which extends outward in a series of complex filaments and bubbles.
  • These two regions work together to create the nebula’s overall shape, which resembles a dragon’s egg - hence its popular name.
  • The best views of NGC 6164/6165 come from powerful telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope or the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

Unique Features of the NGC 6164/6165:

  • These two stars - gravitationally bound to each other in what is called a binary system - are located in our Milky Way galaxy about 3,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Norma.
    • A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
  • One of them has a magnetic field (as does our sun), while its companion does not.
  • The magnetic star is about 30 times more massive than the sun. Its remaining companion is about 26.5 times more massive than the sun.
  • They orbit at a distance from each other varying from seven to 60 times the distance between Earth and the sun.

Significance of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula - A Window to Our Universe:

  • The Dragon’s Egg Nebula serves as a reminder of the vastness and wonder of the universe. It represents just one of countless cosmic marvels waiting to be discovered and understood.
  • As astronomers continue to study NGC 6164/6165 and other celestial objects, they unlock the secrets of the cosmos and expand our understanding of the fundamental processes that shape the universe.
  • Through the lens of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula, one can catch a glimpse of the intricate dance between stars, gas, and dust that plays out on a grand scale.
Science & Tech

Mains Article
15 Apr 2024

Iran-Israel tensions

Why in news?

On April 14, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel. This attack was in retaliation for an Israeli attack on its consulate that occurred in Damascus, Syria, two weeks ago. Several senior Iranian generals were killed and Iran had vowed to respond.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Iran’s attack on Israel
  • India’s stand in Iran-Israel tension
  • What does India’s approach on recent Iran-Israel tension signify?

Iran’s attack on Israel

  • While Israel is not believed to have suffered any major damage early on, Iran warned that a military move from Israel would be met with a much larger response.

India’s stand in Iran-Israel tension

  • India called for de-escalation in the aftermath of Iran’s retaliatory strike against Israel.
  • This approach is in contrast to India’s instant expression of solidarity with Israel at the highest political level immediately after the October 7 terror attack by Hamas.

What does India’s approach on recent Iran-Israel tension signify?

  • Difference between terrorism perpetrated by non-state actors and direct confrontation between two states
    • India’s call to show restraint in the region highlights the contrast between dealing with terrorism from a non-government group and managing a conflict between two big countries with a history of rivalry.
    • Delhi has a lot at stake in its relationships with both Tehran and Tel Aviv, and it's never been about picking one over the other.
    • If India was seen as taking Israel’s side on October 7 (Hamas attack), its position today urging restraint will be viewed as balanced and in favour of regional peace.
  • Complexity of the region’s politics
    • India’s call for de-escalation between Israel and Iran is about recognising the complexity of the region’s politics.
    • Inter-state and intra-state conflicts in the Middle East are deep and pervasive.
    • India will have to forever balance its engagement with key regional actors — Egypt, Iran, Israel, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
    • Orientation and interests of these countries are different and often in conflict.
  • Shift in India’s approach towards this region
    • In the past, India’s regional policy was framed in terms of contradictions between the West and the Middle East.
      • E.g., India’s steps to manage the fallout of US-Iran tensions.
    • Today, Delhi pays attention to the region’s internal contradictions.
      • E.g., India’s stand on Iran – Israel issue, Israel-Palestine issue etc.
  • Religion can’t be the dominant factor in dealing with the Middle East
    • India’s call for de-escalation also underlines that religion and associated vote-bank politics can’t be the dominant factor in dealing with the Middle East.
    • India’s response must be based on the merits of the issue at hand.
  • India’s expanding footprints in the Middle East
    • India’s interests in the region are no longer limited to oil imports and labour exports.
    • The Gulf Arab states — especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE— have emerged as major economic and political partners for India.
    • Partnerships with Gulf Arab countries go beyond just two-way relationships and now have a broader impact across the Indian Ocean region.
    • These partnerships are crucial for making the India Middle East Europe Corridor (IMEC) a reality, which is currently a top priority for India's trans-regional agenda.

Conclusion

The Middle East is a demanding region and dealing with it is not for the simple-minded or the faint-hearted. As a large neighbour with growing stakes in the Middle East, Delhi is fast learning to navigate the region’s unending conflict.

International Relations

April 14, 2024

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’

Why in News? Iran recently launched an attack on Israel, in retaliation for an Israeli attack on its consulate in Damascus, Syria.

What is Iran’s Axis of Resistance? It is a group built up over decades of Iranian support to resist Israel and U.S. influence in the Middle East. It consists of-

  1. Hamas- a Sunni Islamist militant group operating in Gaza since 2007. It opposes Zionism, the 19th-century political project that advocates for an ethnic homeland for the Jewish people.
  2. Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)- Aims to establish an Islamic state in Palestine.
  3. Lebanon’s Hezbollah- Hezbollah, meaning “Party of God”, is a Shiite militant organization set up by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982 to fight Israeli forces that invaded Lebanon.
  4. Yemen’s Houthis- a militant group that has been fighting the civil war in Yemen for a decade. They control northern Yemen, including Sana’a. They have been attacking ships going through the Red Sea.
  5. Syria-Supports Iran and Iran-backed forces have been deployed across much of Syria.
  6. Shi'ite groups of Iraq- with ties to Iran emerged as powerful players after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Why is Iran Backing Them? Iran has long been critical of Israel’s creation in 1948, seeing it as a means for the US to influence the region for its strategic interests. Further, as a Shia-majority nation in a region where most powers such as US ally Saudi Arabia are Sunni-majority, Iran has attempted to assert itself with the help of these non-state actors forming the ‘axis of resistance’ as they provide the Islamic Republic with strategic depth, wide regional influence and access while insulating its leadership from the risk of their actions.

International Relations

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

Gaza on the Verge of a Famine

Why in News? Six months into the Israel-Hamas war, the people of the Gaza Strip are facing a hunger crisis that the United Nations says borders on famine.

How is a Famine Declared? The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an initiative of U.N. bodies and major relief agencies declares a famine when- at least 20% of households face an extreme shortage of food, at least 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die each day from starvation or disease linked to malnutrition. Since its inception in 2004, IPC has declared two famines-first, in Somalia in 2011 due to decades of conflict, drought and collapsed economy. Another in South Sudan due to years of drought, civil war destroying the country’s economy, and aid blocked by rebel forces.

Factors Responsible for Famine in Gaza-Gaza was already subjected to Israeli blockade, backed by Egypt before the ongoing war. Under which, humanitarian aid, including food and commercial imports, was tightly restricted. But after the Hamas attack, Israel imposed a siege and imposed stricter restrictions by stopping anything it believes could potentially benefit Hamas from entering. It also blocked commercial imports of food that had filled Gaza’s shops and markets, bombed Gaza’s port and territorial farms and restricted fishing. Displacement due to airstrikes and fighting plus the destruction of businesses and a surge in prices, has made it hard for families to feed themselves.

 

International Relations

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

What is the Significance of the Mahad Satyagraha?

Why in News? As the nation celebrates the 133rd birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, one of his most significant contributions - the Mahad Satyagraha of 1927, is worth recalling.

What is the Background of the Satyagraha? The Bombay Legislative Council passed a resolution (in 1923), which allowed Untouchables to use all public places maintained out of public funds. However, the situation on the ground remained unchanged. A Mahad political leader - Ramchandra Babaji More, approached Ambedkar to preside over a conference of the Untouchables in Mahad town (Raigad district) on 20 March 1927.

What Happened at the Mahad Satyagraha? Labelled as a conference (not Satyagraha) at the time, it was attended by around 2,500 delegates from almost all the districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. At the conference, it was decided that Ambedkar and other organisers would march to the nearby Chavadar tank, to implement the resolution of 1923. Dr Ambedkar entered the Chavadar Tank and picked up its water with his cupped hands.

How the Upper Caste Hindus Reacted and its Impact? Upper caste Hindus conducted a purification ritual of the tank. Ambedkar announced another conference on a much bigger scale (at the same venue in Dec 1927), to showcase the resolve of the Dalit community. This time, he consciously called it a Satyagraha.

What is the Significance of Mahad Satyagraha? It is considered to be the “foundational event” of the Dalit movement. As a result, the day (20 March) is observed as Social Empowerment Day in India. This was the first time that the community collectively displayed its resolve to reject the caste system and assert their human rights under the organisation and leadership of Dr Ambedkar. The Satyagraha was to become the blueprint for organising future movements against the caste system and its practices. It marked an important point in Ambedkar’s political journey, catapulting him to the leadership of the downtrodden and oppressed classes in the country.

 

History & Culture

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

How the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Changed the Course of India’s Freedom Struggle?

Why in News? The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (on April 13, 1919) was a pivotal moment in the course of India’s struggle for independence, as it marked a turning point in Indians’ relationship with their British colonisers.

What is the Background of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre? After the passage of the draconian Rowlatt Act in (March) 1919, Punjab (like the rest of India) was on the boil. To protest peacefully against the Rowlatt Act and the arrest of pro-independence activists Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal, a large crowd gathered (during the annual Baishakhi fair) at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.

What Happened at the Jallianwala Bagh? Michael O’Dwyer, then the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, feared a large-scale resurrection - just like in 1857. It is in this context that Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered firing in Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919.

What was the British Response to the Jallianwala Bagh? The immediate reaction of the British administration in Punjab was to condone Dyer’s actions. However, for many Britons in India and back at home, he was still a hero who saved British rule in India. The Hunter Commission (constituted in 1919 to investigate the events surrounding the Jallianwala Bagh massacre) justified Dyer's decision to fire at the mob, with the exception that he ought to have issued a warning first.

How the Massacre Changed the Course of India’s Freedom Struggle? The brutality at Jallianwala Bagh stunned the entire nation. It was the final nail in the coffin for the moral legitimacy of the British empire in India. Even the most moderate of Indian nationalists effectively lost faith in the Empire. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood in protest. Within months Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation - Khilafat Movement - the first pan-India movement for India’s independence.

 

History & Culture

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

Rising Tensions Between Iran and Israel

Why in News?

Indian government sources confirmed that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had seized a Nhava Sheva-bound ship with 17 Indian nationals on board for its links with Israel.

New Delhi was in touch with Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels to ensure the security, welfare and early release of the Indian nationals.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • How Iran and Israel Became Arch-Rivals?
  • Are Israel and Iran Headed for a War?
  • Seize of Israeli Container by Iran

How Iran and Israel Became Arch-Rivals?

  • 1979 was a pivotal year:
    • While Iran was ruled by the Pahlavi dynasty for more than a half-century, Iranian-Israeli bilateral relations remained cordial. Iran was one of the first Muslim countries to recognise the new state of Israel.
    • However, ties between the two countries collapsed after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.
    • Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was ousted, and the new supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pursued a policy of standing up to "arrogant" world powers.
    • Still, limited cooperation between Israel and Iran continued into the 1980s. But later a hostile rivalry emerged as Iran built up and funded proxy militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
    • As a result, a shadow war between Iran and Israel grew over the years.
  • Iran's nuclear program is a main target:
    • Iran's nuclear program (which it has always insisted is entirely peaceful) has been a primary focus of Israeli attacks.
    • Tehran believes Israel and the U.S. introduced the Stuxnet computer virus in the early 2000s to target the centrifuges enriching uranium for Iran's nuclear program.
    • A series of sabotage attacks continued into the 2020s, as Israel sought to damage Iranian nuclear facilities.
  • War by proxy
    • Iran has long backed armed groups around the region that target Israel as well as the U.S. military.
    • The main one is Hezbollah in Lebanon, formed in the 1980s to fight the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon.
    • Hezbollah has been firing rockets into northern Israel since the Gaza war began in October 2023.

Are Israel and Iran Headed for a War?

  • The Israeli war on Hamas is on the edge of exploding into a wider conflict with a likely Iranian retaliation over a suspected Israeli strike earlier this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria.
  • The conflict has spread across the Middle East since the eruption of the Gaza war, with Iran-backed groups declaring support for the Palestinians, waging attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.
  • Iran has so far avoided direct confrontation with Israel or the United States, while declaring support for its allies. However, the strike on the Iranian consular building in Syria changes that.

Seize of Israeli Container by Iran:

 

International Relations

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

India – Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement

Why in News?

India has signed a protocol amending its tax treaty with Mauritius with an aim to fill the loopholes in the treaty which were being abused for tax evasion and avoidance.

However, the text of the amended treaty has raised concerns of greater scrutiny on investments. This has led to a sell-off in stock markets by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About DTAA (Meaning, Utility, India-Mauritius DTAA, Key Features of DTAA, etc.)
  • News Summary (Amendment to DTAA, Impact)

What is a Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA)?

  • The Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) is a treaty signed between two countries so that non-residents can avoid paying double taxes.
  • For example, if an Indian works in a company situated in Mauritius, they might have to double taxes twice in both countries, which is something that the DTAA wants to prevent.
  • India has signed DTAA with 85 nations in total to safeguard non-resident Indians from double taxation.
  • This agreement ensures that countries involved have agreed upon tax rates on income arising from their country.

Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) Between India and Mauritius:

  • Governments of India and Mauritius came to a unanimous decision in 1983 regarding the avoidance of double taxation.
    • This is the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement or DTAA between India and Mauritius.
  • The conventions of DTAA signed between India and Mauritius will be applicable to residents of one or both contracting states.
  • Objective: To promote bilateral economic relations and investment between India and Mauritius by providing tax certainty and reducing tax barriers.

Key Features of the DTAA Between India and Mauritius:

  • Residency Based Taxation:
    • Under this agreement, a resident of Mauritius is not subject to tax in India on income from sources in India.
    • Similarly, a resident of India is not subject to tax in Mauritius on income from sources in Mauritius.
  • Capital Gains Tax:
    • One of the significant benefits of the DTAA is the exemption or reduction of capital gains tax on investments made by residents of one country in the other country.
    • For instance, capital gains arising from the sale of shares of an Indian company by a Mauritian resident may be taxed only in Mauritius, subject to certain conditions.
  • Interest, Royalties, and Fees for Technical Services:
    • The DTAA provides for reduced withholding tax rates on interest, royalties, and fees for technical services paid by residents of one country to residents of the other country.
  • Permanent Establishment:
    • The agreement contains provisions to determine the existence of a permanent establishment, which is a fixed place of business through which the business of an enterprise is wholly or partly carried on.
    • This is important for determining the tax liability of a foreign enterprise in the source country.
  • Exchange of Information:
    • The DTAA includes provisions for the exchange of information between the tax authorities of India and Mauritius to prevent tax evasion and ensure compliance with the tax laws of both countries.

Amended tax treaty between India and Mauritius

  • The Income Tax department has issued clarifications regarding the recent amendments to the India – Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) that have sparked concerns among stakeholders.
    • The department said that the Protocol pertaining to the amendment is yet to be ratified and notified under Section 90 of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
    • The department said that until this Protocol comes into force, any queries or concerns regarding the amendments will be addressed as and when necessary.
  • India and Mauritius in March 2024 had signed an amendment to the DTAA.
  • The amendment included a principal purpose test (PPT) in the pact.
    • The PPT aims to curtail tax avoidance by ensuring that treaty benefits are only granted for transactions with a bona fide purpose.
  • The two nations have also amended the preamble of the treaty to incorporate the thrust on tax avoidance and evasion.

Impact of the Amendment:

  • Following the amendment, there were concerns that foreign portfolio investments coming via Mauritius would face increased scrutiny by tax authorities.
  • Also, there were apprehensions that past investments could be covered by the amended protocol.
  • This led to India's benchmark equity indices Sensex and Nifty falling by 1 per cent on April 12, 2024.
Economics

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

New Army division with a focus on eastern Ladakh

Why in news?

A plan that has been waiting for a long time to create a new Army division for possible deployment of troops to eastern Ladakh might happen this year. This is part of some changes being made for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the Ladakh area.

This is significant as India is commemorating the 40th year of Operation Meghdoot, under which it took control of the Siachen Glacier.

What’s in today’s article?

  • New army division
  • Situation around LAC after Galwan incident
  • Operation Meghdoot

News army division

  • Creation of 72 Division
    • The Army is considering raising the 72 Division for possible deployment in eastern Ladakh under the Northern Command.
      • The 72 Division was to originally function under the 17 Mountain Strike Corps (MSC) based in Panagarh (West Bengal).
    • A division has approximately 14,000 to 15,000 troops.
  • Restructuring of Army corps in the backdrop of the military standoff with China
    • Currently, the Army has four strike corps — the Mathura-based 1 Corps, Ambala-based 2 Corps, Bhopal-based 21 Corps, and 17 MSC in Panagarh.
    • However, till 2021, only the 17 MSC was focused on China. The other three were focussed on Pakistan.
    • But in the backdrop of the military standoff with China which began in 2020, a restructuring was carried out in 2021 to keep two of the strike corps for the mountains facing China.
    • The 1 Corps and 17 Corps were restructured to focus on the northern and eastern borders to tackle Chinese threats.
  • Role of the 1 Corps and 17 Corps
    • The role of the 1 Corps was reoriented to focus on the northern borders with China with two infantry divisions.
    • The 17 Corps was given an additional division from an existing corps to focus on the eastern theatre.
    • Some elements of the 17 Corps were deployed in eastern Ladakh in the backdrop of the military standoff with China.
  • Part of 2-pronged strategy
    • This decision is part of overall redeployment changes being planned in the Northern Command, with a two-pronged strategy focused on:
      • eastern Ladakh amid the standoff along the LAC with China, and
      • on ensuring no gap in training of strike corps elements.

Situation around LAC after Galwan incident

  • India and China pushed in nearly 50,000-60,000 troops each along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) following the deadly clashes in the Galwan Valley in June 2020.
  • Friction points such as Galwan Valley, north and south banks of Pangong Tso and the Gogra-Hot Springs area have seen some resolution in the last three years with the creation of buffer zones.
  • Legacy friction points such as Depsang Plains and Demchok are yet to see any disengagement.

Operation Meghdoot

  • Operation Meghdoot was the code name for a military operation conducted by the Indian Armed Forces on 13 April 1984.
  • Its objective was to secure control over the strategically important Siachen Glacier in the eastern Karakoram Range of the Himalayas, located in Kashmir.
  • The operation involved Indian troops airlifting to key positions along the glacier and establishing military posts to prevent Pakistan from gaining control over the area.
    • On April 13, 1984, a fleet of Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters flew an Indian Army platoon, one soldier at a time, to the Bilafondla Pass on the Saltoro Ridge, towering over the Siachen Glacier at an altitude of 5,450 metres (17,880 ft).
    • Simultaneously, a platoon of Ladakh Scouts was airlifted to Sia La, in the northern glacier, at an altitude of 5,589 metres (18,336 ft).
    • Soon, about 300-odd Indian troops were positioned on the strategically important peaks and passes of the Saltoro Ridge.
  • The operation was successful in achieving its objectives, and India has since maintained a military presence in the Siachen Glacier region.
    • This is seen as India’s bold military response to what New Delhi calls Pakistan’s aggression in the uncharted territory of Ladakh, north of map reference NJ9842.
      • Both New Delhi and Islamabad had agreed that the Line of Control (LoC) stopped at point NJ9842 on the map.
      • Beyond this was an unchartered territory and Pakistan wanted to occupy this region to gain strategic advantage which was thwarted by India.
International Relations

Mains Article
14 Apr 2024

The trend in climate change jurisprudence

Why in new?

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a right against the adverse effects of climate change. The court was deciding on a case about how solar power lines were causing many Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) to die.

This raised worries because India promised to cut down on harmful emissions and use more clean energy, like solar power.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Context of the present case
  • Recent judgment on human rights and climate change
  • Implications of such judgements
  • International precedents

Context of the present case

  • Declining population of GIBs
    • In recent years, one of the factors linked to the decline in the population of the GIB, are power lines in Rajasthan and Gujarat, which host several, large solar parks.
      • GIB is an endangered species.
    • The concern was that the birds collided against the overhead transmission lines.
  • Petition filed in SC in 2019
    • Environmentalists petitioned the Supreme Court in 2019, pleading that all overhead lines, existing and prospective, be shifted underground.
  • 2021 order of Supreme Court
    • In April 2021, SC had ordered restrictions on the setting-up of overhead transmission lines in an area covering about 99,000 square kilometres.
    • The Court had constituted a committee of experts to determine which transmission lines ought to go underground and which ones could remain overground.
  • Government sought modification in the order
    • later approached the SC, seeking modification of its directions.
    • The govt claimed this direction will harm India’s global commitments to reduce the carbon footprint by increasing dependence on renewable energy sources.
  • March 2024 order
    • In its March 2024 order, the Court has continued to task an expert committee with overseeing the electrification.
    • It also stressed that underground electrification would hinder India’s road to solar electrification.

Recent judgment on human rights and climate change

  • Highlighted multiple steps taken by the govt to address climate change
    • The Court notes that the Indian government has taken multiple steps through legislation as well mission-led programmes to address climate change.
    • The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, were among those referenced in the judgment.
    • The National Solar Mission, the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency and, the National Mission for a Green India were also mentioned.
  • Lamented the absence of single or umbrella legislation related to climate change
    • The government has rules and regulations that acknowledge the bad effects of climate change and try to fight it.
    • However, there is no single or umbrella legislation to specifically deal with climate change and its associated problems.
  • Right of people against the adverse effects of climate change
    • Article 21 recognises the right to life and personal liberty while Article 14 indicates that all persons shall have equality before law and the equal protection of laws.
    • These Articles are important sources of the right to a clean environment and the right against the adverse effects of climate change.
      • The Court believes it is important to specifically connect climate change with these rights.
    • It also mentioned that if vulnerable communities, like those living near the coast or experiencing land damage, or if lose crops because of climate-related issues, then it would violate their rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the constitution.

Implications of such judgements

  • Supreme Court judgments on environmental matters have often significantly altered public discourse and governmental action.
  • For instance, decisions in the C. Mehta verus Union of India, the Godavarman Thirumulpad cases have been the foundation of subsequent environmental action.
    • In M C Mehta case, court had directed to relocate dangerous and polluting factories to less populated areas so that they would not pose a threat to human life.
    • In T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India case, court ruled that prior approval is necessary to carry out any non-forest activity within the area of any forest.
  • In the current case of the Great Indian Bustard too, the ruling has come with the Court underlining the necessity for expanding electricity production for solar energy sources. At the same time, it has expanded the fundamental rights chapter to include various facets of a dignified existence.
    • This is because, for the first time, the right against the adverse effects of climate change has been included in the fundamental rights.

International precedents

  • Paris Agreement of 2015
    • The link between climate change and human rights has grown stronger since the Paris Agreement of 2015.
    • The preamble of the Agreement had references to human rights.
  • Various international reports and stand of UN Bodies
    • Various reports have highlighted that there was a growing convergence between the fields of International human rights law (IHRL) and climate change.
    • Several reports of UN human rights bodies and Human Rights Council resolutions are now drawing a link between rights and climate change.
    • Scholars also argue that the framing of climate change as affecting future generations and endangering their right to a liveable planet follows from the link to human rights.

 

Environment & Ecology
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