(Polity and constitution)
- Rajasthan government’s Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which has been tabled in the state assembly, is in the eye of the storm.
- The bill seeks to replace the September 7 ordinance, which had drawn widespread criticism from several quarters.
What is the bill about?
- The bill seeks to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants from being investigated for on-duty action, without its prior sanction.
- The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, seeks to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the State from being investigated for on-duty action, without government sanction.
- It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction to proceed with the probe is given by the government.
- The amendment doesn’t mean that no case can be registered against public servants in police stations.
- For Within 180 days, an accepting official would have to ensure whether the case is tenable or not. If the allegations are found to be true, then the case would be allowed and action would be taken as per law
What are the criticisms regarding the bill?
- The move has been severely criticised by the Congress and the National People’s Party (NPP)
- The Editors Guild of India too opposed the “harmful ordinance” and demanded its withdrawal.
- The Editors Guild of India has asked the Rajasthan government to “withdraw the harmful ordinance” that bars the media from reporting on accusations against public servants, judges and magistrates without its sanction.
What Rajasthan government says about the controversial bill
- The state government said there is no provision in the bill to dilute the state government’s “zero tolerance” towards terror.
- The bill doesn’t talk about giving protection to corrupt public officials.
- The Supreme Court has refused to stay a plea filed by animal rights activists challenging the annual buffalo race known as Kambala.
What is Kambala?
- Kambala is a traditional bull sport similar to Jallikattu
- Kambala is a contest where two pairs of buffaloes tied ploughs are made to race on slush-filled tracks
- with a jockey guiding them while they run.
- The buffaloes are made to run at a speed that they time close to 12 to 13 seconds while covering a distance of 140 to 160 metres.
- The farmers use a whip to nudge the buffalo ahead and try and make them a medal winner.
- The Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts till March l the following year.
What is the issue?
- Animal rights activists have opposed the sport saying that tying the noses of the buffaloes with a rope and using a whip amounts to cruelty.
- Supreme Court in 2014 had banned Kambala and Jallikattu based on a petition filed by various animal rights organisations.
- Kambala supporters have been protesting since the ordinance on jallikattu was moved by the Tamil Nadu government lifting the ban.
- Massive protests and processions are being taken around with buffaloes to put pressure on the Karnataka government to move a similar ordinance.
What is the court’s finding?
- The court issued notice to Tamil Nadu government on a separate plea by the same NGO, challenging a similar Ordinance passed for allowing Jallikattu.
- The animal rights group claimed the move was to circumvent the apex court’s judgement of 2014, declaring Jallikattu, Kambala and other such sports as illegal, in view of cruelty involved to the bull and buffalo.
- Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra orally observed that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) cannot differ with each and any administrative decision of the Delhi government.
What were the other observations?
- Acknowledging the LG ‘S authority to differ, his disagreement with the Delhi government should not be “trivial or contrived, but substantive,” the court observed.
- Aid and advice of the Delhi government should be accepted and respected unless there is an abuse of authority.
- The intervention of the LG does not mean he will have confrontation. It should be fact and issue oriented on objective parameters.
Role of LG
- The LG should conduct his constitutional duties as intended by Parliament in the 69th Constitutional Amendment.
- The LG should not act in a way to defeat the objective of the Constitutional provision of Article 239AA of harmonious governance and, most importantly, citizenry’s trust. The LG cannot replace the administration.
- LG can intervene and disagree if policies of the Delhi government amount to manifest transgression.
What were the arguments?
- As per the observation, LG is bound to pass the difference of opinions between the LG and the Delhi Council of Ministers to the President for early resolution.
- The Kejriwal government wants the Supreme Court to lay down the law on whether the LG can unilaterally administer the National Capital without being bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government.
- The Delhi High Court had originally said that LG has special powers greater than the President, greater than other Governors of States.
What are constitutional provisions?
- The 69th Amendment of the Constitution in 1992 gave the National Capital of Delhi special status with its own democratically elected government and legislative assembly.
- Sub-section (4) of Article 239AA mandates that a Council of Ministers shall aid and advice the LG in his functions regarding laws made by the Legislative Assembly.
What is the current controversy?
- The focus of the current controversy is a proviso to Article 239AA (4), which mandates that in case of a difference of opinion between the LG and the Council of Ministers, the former has to refer the issue to the President.
- As the decision is pending before the President, the LG, if the matter is urgent, can use his discretion to take immediate action.
- The Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, prima facie said that the Delhi government’s ability to “aid and advice” the LG is limited to subjects other than public order, police and land in the National Capital.
- It said that the proviso to Article 239AA (4), on plain reading, seems to give primacy to the LG.
- The LG is entitled to take a different view and is not bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi Cabinet.
- The allegation is that the LG has misused the discretion in this proviso to block governance.
Is LG a supreme law?
There are total six grounds that determine LG as a suprema lex (supreme law).
- Firstly, that Delhi is still a Union Territory.
- Secondly, Parliament makes the law for Delhi under Article 246 (4) of the Constitution.
- Thirdly, Article 239AA has brought in no change to Delhi’s status as a Union Territory simpliciter.
- Fourthly, the proviso gives him the power of defiance.
- Fifthly, LG has to concur to every decision made by the Delhi government.
- Sixthly, LG can take independent decisions.
What are the allegations?
- In his day-long submissions before the Bench, Mr. Subramanium said situation of governance in Delhi has come to such a turn that department Ministers are unable to get an opinion from their secretaries and civil servants on issues of governance.
- Mr. Subramanium argued that the “extraordinary discretion” of the LG is confined to special circumstances and not in everything.
- Mr. Subramanium said the Delhi High Court was in error when it bought the Centre’s argument that Delhi was like any other Union Territory governed by parliamentary laws under Article 246 (4) and there was no need to give the Delhi government any elbow room.
- Mr. Subramanium evoked Article 73 of the Constitution to note that Article 246 (4) was subject to the provisions of Article 239AA.
Functions of Lieutenant Governor
- Like Governor, Lt. Governor acts as the titular head of the UT whereas the real power is exercised by the chief minister (CM) and his council of ministers.
- In the Articles 239 and 239AA of the Constitution of India, the functions, powers and duties of the Lt. Governor are defined clearly. He is a representative of the President and acts on the aid and recommendation of the council of ministers.
- The provisions of Article 239B apply in relation to the National Capital Territory of Delhi, as they apply in relation to the UTs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry.
Role of Lt. Governor in Delhi
- The Sec. 41 of the GNCT (Government of National Capital Territory) of Delhi Act, 1991 clarifies that the Lieutenant Governor shall act in his discretion during a matter that falls outside the range of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly.
- If the Lt. Governor is under any law required to act in his discretion, his decision on that case will be final. In respect of matters regarding Police, Public Order and Land, the Lt. Governor exercises his authority to the extent delegated to him by the President. He exercises his authority with the help of Policei Commissioner of Delhi and Vice Chairperson, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) who have their independent administrative setups.
- Lt. Governor is Ex-officio Chairman of DDA, however he exercises his executive functions through Appellate Authority under various Acts/Rules/Regulations as applicable in Delhi.
- In the case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and his Ministers on any matter, the Lt. Governor can refer it to the President for decision and act according to decision given on that by the President.
- The post of Lt. Governor was first established in September 1966 after the Delhi Administration Act, 1966 came into effect. At the commencement of the primary session after each election to the Assembly and at the commencement of the first session of every year, the Lt. Governor addresses the House.
Discretionary Powers of Lt. Governor
- The Lt. Governor uses his discretionary powers in certain situations. In the legislative assembly elections if no party secures a majority, the Lt. Governor has the authority to act on his own and ask the leader of the single largest party or the chosen leader of two or more parties to form the government.
- In such case, Lt. Governor appoints that leader as the Chief Minister. If due to improper administration, the state machinery breaks down, the Lt. Governor can send a report to the President, recommending imposition of President’s Rule in the state.
- Under President’s Rule, the Lt. Governor becomes full-fledged executive head of the government and has the power to appoint a group of advisors who act as council of ministers. The duration of President’s rule is also subject to discretion of the Lt. Governor.
Highlighting India’s serious burden of undernutrition, a global report released recently said that more than half of the women of reproductive age in the country suffer from anaemia.
- The recently released family health survey (NFHS 4) results show that over 58% of children below five years of age are anaemic.
- Findings of the new Global Nutrition Report 2017 place India at the bottom of the table.
- China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia occupy the following places in the list
- In India, more than half (51%) of all women of reproductive age have anaemia, whereas more than one in five (22%) of adult women are overweight.
- However, in 2016, the report showed that nearly 48% of women in India were anaemic.
Highlights of the survey:
- The total number of children under five in India in 2015 is projected at 12.4 crore.
- Around 7.2 crore children are anaemic, nearly 5 crore are stunted, around 2.6 crore are wasted and 4.4 crore are underweight.
- The survey also found that just over half of all pregnant women were anaemic.
- Patients suffer from insufficient haemoglobin in the blood, leaving them exhausted, vulnerable to infections, and possibly affecting their brain development.
- The survey, which was carried out in 2015-16 also showed that around 38% of children in the same age group were stunted, 21% were wasted and 36% underweight.
- Based on the 2011 Census data, the total number of children under five in India in 2015 is projected at 12.4 crore. So, around 7.2 crore children are anaemic, nearly 5 crore are stunted, around 2.6 crore are wasted and 4.4 crore are underweight.
- The World Health Organisation says high levels of these markers are clear indications of “poor socioeconomic conditions” and “suboptimal health and/or nutritional conditions”. In short, lack of food, unhealthy living conditions and poor health delivery systems.
- The WHO defines wasting as low weight for height, stunting as low height for age, and underweight as low weight for age
- The survey also found that just over half of all pregnant women were anaemic. This would automatically translate into their newborn being weak. Overall, 53% of women and 23% of men in the 15-49 age group were anaemic.
- In India, latest figures show that 38% of children under five are affected by stunting – children too short for their age due to lack of nutrients, suffering irreversible damage to brain capacity – and about 21% of kids under five are defined as ‘wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ – meaning they do not weigh enough for their height
- The global data also revealed that more than 22% percent of adult women are overweight, a rising concern as women are disproportionately affected by the global obesity epidemic. About 16% of adult Indian men are overweight.
Childhood stunting in India:
- The report that looked at 140 countries also found ‘significant burden’ of childhood stunting in India
- Stunting refers to the condition when children are too short for their age due to lack of nutrients and suffer irreversible damage to brain capacity.
- In India, 38 per cent of children under five are affected by stunting.
- About 21 per cent of children under 5 have been categorised as ‘wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ — meaning they do not weigh enough for their height. These figures are at par with the National Family Health Survey 4 data.
Causes of child stunting:
- Poor sanitation spreads diseases that sap children energy and stunts their growth.
- Poor health of a child’s mother and Women’s undernourishment.
- Poverty also plays a key role
- Non-exclusive breast feeding
- Reduced appetite due to infection
Causes of malnutrition:
- India is facing a serious problem of malnutrition, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2017.
- Widespread discrimination against women in their homes leads to low food intake.
- The causes for malnutrition are various and are multidimensional. To sum up, they include
- illiteracy specially in women
- Poor access to health services
- Lack of availability of safe drinking water
- Poor sanitation and environmental conditions and low purchasing power etc.
- Early marriages of girl
- Teenage pregnancies resulting in low birth weight of the newborns
- Poor breastfeeding practice
- Poor complementary feeding practices
- Ignorance about nutritional needs of infants and young children and repeated infections further aggravate the situation.
- Number of other factors such as environmental, geographical, agricultural, and cultural including various other factors have contributive effects resulting in malnutrition.
- Therefore it is widely recognized that a multi sectoral approach is necessary to tackle the problem of malnutrition.
State wise picture:
- There is wide variation among states.
- Poorer states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have higher than national average rates on all markers.
- More advanced states like those in the south, Haryana and Gujarat have slightly better numbers but are still at unacceptable levels.
- In Tamil Nadu, 51% children are anaemic while in Kerala it is over one-third.
- In many states, stunting has declined but the share of severely wasted children has increased.
- For undernutrition, especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap.
- The report also found that 88% of countries studied face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition. It highlights the damaging impact this burden is having on broader global development efforts.
- The report found that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with two billion of the world’s seven billion people now overweight or obese, and a less than one percent chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025.
- The Global Nutrition Report 2017 calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change.
- The global report, which looked at 140 countries including India, found ‘significant burdens’ of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends. These include childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age, and overweight adult women.
- Anemia is a decrease in the total amount of red blood cells(RBCs) or hemoglobin in the blood, or a lowered ability of the blood to carry oxygen.
- When anemia comes on slowly, the symptoms include feeling tired, weakness, shortness of breath or a poor ability to exercise.
- Anemia that comes on quickly often has greater symptoms, which may include confusion, feeling like one is going to pass out, loss of consciousness, or increase thirst.
Economy and development
- The post-Diwali smog never receded as the city registered “severe” on the Air Quality Index (AQI). “Everyone may experience serious health effects”, comments the AQI website.
Emergency measures taken
- The Environment Pollution and Prevention Control Authority (EPCA), which enforced Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) two days before Diwali, has asked the Delhi government to put more emergency measures in place.
- The SC-mandated body has suggested that parking fees be quadrupled.
- A request to Delhi Metro to lower fares during non-peak hours for at least 10 days and introduce more coaches.
- The EPCA, though, wanted to enforce the odd-even policy if the city’s pollution levels aggravate. The SC-mandated body’s other proposals will require at least 16 authorities to work together. The EPCA and the Delhi government have not devised a coordination mechanism between these bodies. It remains to be seen if the city’s latest pollution crisis spurs them into action.
What possibly makes the air of the capital so polluted?
- At least four major government studies over the past decade have reached varying conclusions on what makes Delhi’s air so foul.
- 2007 report concluded that control on emissions of pollutants from vehicular traffic necessitates the control on the new registration of commercial diesel vehicles in Delhi.
- 2008 report identified road dust as the biggest contributor (52.5%) to particulate matter in Delhi’s air, followed by industries (22.1%). It attributed only 6.6% of particulate emissions to vehicles.
- 2011 report conclusion that road dust from paved and unpaved roads contributed the largest share to air pollution (55%), followed by residential sources (15%), transport and vehicular pollution (13%), industrial sources (12%), and power (5%).
- 2016 report says that while underlining the role of road dust, also stressed on vehicular emissions moving vehicles, in fact, contributed to over half of Delhi’s air pollution.
How is air pollution measured in India?
- Air pollution is measured by many parameters, like CO and PM2.5
- India has come up with an Air Quality Index (AQI) to give an aggregate sense of the quality of air.
- The formulation of the index was a continuation of the initiatives under Swachh Bharat Mission envisioned by the present Prime Minister of India.
- There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.
- The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
What are the prime sources of air pollution in India?
Agricultural waste burning
- The burning of agricultural waste in three neighbouring states is responsible for the rise in Air Pollution levels in Delhi.
- Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are claiming to have taken several measures to discourage straw and stubble burning, but farmers say they have not received any assistance from their respective governments on an alternate method to clear the fields after the harvest
Industrial chimney wastes:
- There are a number of industries which are source of pollution.
- The chief gases are SO2and NO2.
- There are many food and fertilizers industries which emit acid vapors in air.
Thermal power stations:
- There are number of power stations and super thermal power stations in the country.
- The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is setting up four mammoth coal- powered power stations to augment the energy generation.
- The chief pollutants are fly ash, SO2 and other gases and hydrocarbons.
- The Toxic vehicular exhausts are a source of considerable air pollution
- In all the major cities of the country about 800 to 1000 tonnes of pollutants are being emitted into the air daily, of which 50% come from automobile exhausts.
- The exhaust produces many air pollutants including un-burnt hydrocarbons, CO, NOx and lead oxides.
What are the laws relating to air pollution in India?
- The Government of India under Article 253 of the Constitution of India enacted the Air Act, 1981 (“Air Act”) for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and further to implement the provisions of the Air Act
- The Air Act consists of fifty four (54) Sections divided into seven (7) chapters.
- Air pollution, according to the Air Act means the presence of any “air pollutant” in the atmosphere.
- The Air Act confers the regulatory power to the Central Pollution Control Board (“CPCB”) and the State Pollution Control Board (“SPCB”) to prevent and control the air pollution.
What are the various roles and functions of CPCB and SPCBs?
Section 18 (1) of the Air Act
- The CPCB is bound by the direction of the Central Government and SPCB is bound by directions of the CPCB and the State Government
- The various functions and powers of the CPCB and the SPCB are respectively provided under Section 16 and Section 17 of the Air Act.
Functions and Power of CPCB:
- Advice the Central Government on improvement of air quality and prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and to provide training to persons engaged in such programs
- Prescribe the standards for air quality
- Execute nation-wide programs for prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and training to persons engaged in such programs
- Give direction to SPCBs, co-ordinate between SPCBs and provide any technical assistance, guidance and resolve the disputes among SPCBs
Functions and Power of SPCB:
- Plan comprehensive program for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution
- Advice the State Government on any matter concerning the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution
- Prescribe the standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere in consultation with CPCB
- Collaborate with CPCB in providing training to persons engaged in the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and also to organize mass education programs.
Power of State Governments
Section 19 (1) of the Air Act
- The State Governments has the power to declare any area as air pollution control area after consultation with the SPCB
Section 20 of the Air Act
- The State Government also has the power to instruct the authority in charge of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 to adhere to the standards for emission of air pollutants from automobiles which are stipulated by the SBCB
The 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change under way in Bonn faces the challenge of raising the ambition of the world’s leaders, and giving practical form to the provisions of the Paris Agreement.
- Although 169 countries have ratified the accord, and there is tremendous support for greener, low-risk pathways to growth worldwide, the Trump administration in the U.S., one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), has announced it will withdraw from the pact.
- With no clear roadmap yet on the mobilization of a promised $100 billion every year in climate finance, India recently asked the developed nations to reveal how much of this money they would contribute.
Highlights of the conference:
- The climate change conference held recently, urged the world to commit itself to a 1.5 degree celsius limit on global warming, rather than a two-degree target, as it moves towards finalising the rule-book for the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.
- The two-week conference is being held under the shadow of the decision of the Donald Trump administration to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
- The US. is participating in the conference, since its withdrawal cannot become effective until 2020.
- Developed nations have promised to “mobilize” $100 billion annually from 2020 to help deal with the impacts of climate change.
- The money is supposed to come from public as well as private sources.
- The developed countries have been arguing that they were not in a position to reveal the extent of public finance since that would amount to guessing their government’s budgetary outlays every year.
- India made an intervention in a fresh bid to force the developed countries to deliver on their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
- China, which has achieved rapid economic growth and leads in GHG emissions, is firmly behind this pact to reduce the risk of climate change.
- All major countries, especially those that have depleted the global carbon budget by releasing massive amounts of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution, have to respond with stronger caps in their updated pledges under the Paris Agreement.
- India’s emissions have been rising overall, but it has committed itself to lowering the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level.
What is climate change?
- Climate change is a long-term shift in the statistics of the weather (including its averages).
- For example, it could show up as a change in climate normals (expected average values for temperature and precipitation) for a given place and time of year, from one decade to the next.
Risks from climate change:
- Extreme weather phenomena, loss of agriculture, water stress and harm to human health, pose a threat to millions around the world.
- For some countries, such as Fiji, which holds the presidency of the Bonn conference, and other small island-states, the future is deeply worrying because of the fear that sea levels may rise sharply due to climate change.
- The recent Emissions Gap Report from the UN underscores the terrible mismatch between the voluntary pledges made by countries for the Paris Agreement and what is necessary to keep a rise in global average temperature below 2º C, preferably 1.5º C.
What is a greenhouse gases?
A greenhouse gas is any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. By increasing the heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.
Many of these gases occur naturally, but human activity is increasing the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, in particular:
- carbon dioxide (CO2)
- nitrous oxide
- fluorinated gases
- Amendments made to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in Doha in 2013 extended the mandate of developed countries to take targeted cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions till 2020.
- The earlier mandate was to make emission cuts between 2005 and 2012.
- The Doha amendments are yet to become operational because they haven’t been ratified by enough countries.
- Ratification of the Doha amendments was not included in the agenda of the current conference, which India and some other countries objected during the conference.
- The Paris Agreement wants the world to prevent the rise in global temperature beyond 2 degree celsius from pre-industrial levels, though it acknowledges that the effort to contain the temperature rise to within 1.5 degree celsius must not be abandoned.
- It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
- The Paris Accord is considered as a turning point for global climate policy.
Objectives of Paris agreement:
- The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- It further aims at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- The agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
- It also aims at making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
Securing funds for mitigation and adaptation is a high priority for India, but it must ensure that States acquire the capacity to absorb such assistance efficiently. While the emphasis on a giant renewable energy programme has won global acclaim, the focus is equally on India’s readiness to embrace green technologies across the spectrum of activity, including buildings and transport.
- Botanists in the Andaman and Nicobar Island which is hosting seven different species of wild banana.
What is the discovery?
- The latest discovery published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, is of a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
- The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, 6 kilometres from any human habitation.
Description of the plant
- The plant grows to a height of nine metres and bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds.
- It is ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump.
The conservation status
- Such drastic disappearance of its mixed forest habitat indicates that the species should be considered Critically Endangered, based on IUCN Red List categories and criteria.
- The fruits and seeds have ethno-medicinal importance.
- Pseudo-stem and leaves of these species are also used during religious and cultural ceremonies
- These discoveries present a great opportunity for plant breeders and horticulture experts to improve the existing banana crop.
- The germplasm of all the wild banana species needs to be conserved on an urgent basis, since most of these are found in very small habitats and at risk of extinction