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Q.1) Justify the view that amending the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 in the light of Right to information Act is inappropriate and would prevent genuine whistle-blowing in several scenarios. (GS-2)

Introduction:

  • Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 is an Act in the Parliament of India.
  • It provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices.
  • The act covers only central government employees; it does not include state government/private bodies.

Amending the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 in the light of Right to information Act:

  • The act covers only central government employees; it does not include state government / private bodies.
  • Whistleblowers commonly face retribution in different ways like, harassment, termination, blacklisting, threats and even physical violence. For instance:
  • Many Right to Information Act (RTI) activists, including policemen, have been harassed and even murdered for seeking information to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority in India.
  • The law lacks specific criminal penalties for these types of physical attacks on whistleblowers—and given the number of violent attacks on complainants in the past, this is not a minor concern.
  • Most notably, there is penalty of up to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to 20,000 rupees for individuals that bring false or frivolous complaints.
  • There is also a 7-year time limit to bring complaints, dating from the time the alleged corrupt practices occurred.
  • India’s law does not define “victimization” and has a relatively narrow definition for “disclosure.” This again limits the effectiveness of any complainant safeguards.

Measures to be taken:

The measures to be taken are as follows:

  • Effective protection of whistle blowers will support an open enterprise culture where employees not only have confidence in reporting but are also aware of the reporting procedures.
  • An effective Whistle Blowing Policy will facilitate a transparency among employees.
  • Educating people is necessary so that they can understand the benefits of disclosing the wrongdoings.
  • Incorporating state government / private bodies will widen the scope of anti-corruption.
  • Individual’s identity shall not be disclosed at any cost until unless they give their consent on it or it is required in the public interest. Such a mechanism will help to ensure robust protection to whistle blowers identity.

Q.2) Despite forcing an act to eradicate manual scavenging, what reasons can be assigned to its existence in India? Give suggestive measures for your answer. (GS-1)

Introduction:

  • Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.

Practice of manual scavenging in India:

There are many reasons behind prevalence of manual scavenging. Some of them are as follows:

  • Presence of insanitary latrines: Majority of this type of latrines require cleaning by hand.
  • Disinterest of state governments: Despite legal obligations, state governments are not keen to demolish or rebuild old facilities lacking sanitation.
  • State governments have not conducted a full census of both the latrines and the people engaged in clearing such waste.
  • Budget crunch: Central government has reduced fund allocation for rehabilitation of manual scavengers from 448 crore in the 2014-15 budget to Rs. 5 crore this year.
  • Social norms: Many communities still regard the inclusion of a sanitary toilet as ritual and physical pollution of the house.
  • Denial to change by manual scavengers: Some official data shows that manual scavengers are reluctant to leave their present occupation and take up the self-employment because of illiteracy and lack of confidence in running self-employment projects.
  • No administrative accountability: 2013 act does not outline administrative measures beyond conduct rules, that can be imposed if officials do not implement the Act.
  • Presence of informal ways: Contractors that are being provided with the sanitary projects are employing manual scavengers off the official record.

Measures to be taken:

The immediate measures to be taken are as follows:

  • Without community participation and awareness this dehumanizing practice cannot be abolished.
  • Government must try to create a favorable environment through community awareness and sensitization of local administration.
  • Strict enforcement of criminal penalties of 2013 act must be undertaken.
  • As long as open defecation and dry latrines continue, manual scavenging is not likely to die, thus government must fasten the process of identification of insanitary toilets, their demolition and rebuilding.
  • It is essential to build the capacity of the community to promote rehabilitation efforts and self-reliance and also build leadership in the community with a particular focus on Dalit women
  • Alternate means of employment should be generated for the impoverished people who are forced to become manual scavengers due to lack of alternatives means of livelihood.
  • Caste barriers should be broken through education and economic uplift.

Q.3) Explain how is human population and climate change a looming threat for the Sundarbans. (GS-3)

Introduction:

  • The Sundarbans is a cluster of low-lying islands in the Bay of Bengal, spread across India and Bangladesh which is famous for its unique mangrove forests.
  • The Sundarbans forest is about 10,000 sq km across India and Bangladesh.

Threats to the Sundarbans

Growing human population comes along with excessive exploitation of the mangrove forest. Some of the major threats are as follows:

  • Exploitation of living resources: With increase of population, people are increasingly exploiting the living resources of the ecosystem and this puts a question on the sustainability of the region.
  • Encroachment and Reclamation: Conversion of mangrove tracts for aquaculture, agriculture and other non-forestry land use.
  • Overfishing: The stock of the fish is decreasing continuously due to the overexploitation.
  • The density of the fish in shallow waters has reduced tremendously.
  • Shrimp Culture: Uncontrolled collection of prawn seedlings has emerged as a major problem.
  • There has been continuous trampling of river or creek banks by fishermen and prawn seed collectors.
  • Deforestation: Due to deforestation and illegal poaching the Sundarbans is losing its biodiversity rapidly.

Climate Change and its Impact on Sundarbans:

A recent Jadavpur University study has pointed out that climate change appears to be an emerging threat to the Sundarbans.

  • Unpredictable Rainfall Patterns: Rainfall patterns are changing over the Sundarbans.
  • Rainfall has decreased during a certain phase of the season, and the pattern of rainfall has
  • changed, making conventional cultivation of crops difficult for farmers.
  • Rising sea level: Rising seas are said to have flooded 7,500 ha of mangroves in the Sundarbans (WWF 2007).
  • The rise in sea level has deprived the people of their main sources of livelihood – agriculture and fishing.
  • Changes in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events: The months of July to October are always the season for storms in Sundarbans; however, the storms have increased in frequency and are more intense.
  • Coastal erosion: Another factor which contributes to loss of land in Sundarbans is coastal erosion.
  • The constant erosion of embankments built to stop the seas from invading islands is continuously decreasing landmass in Sundarbans
  • Many islands, once capable of supporting hundreds of people, at present lie uninhabited due unprecedented coastal erosion.

 

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