9 PM Daily Brief – August 1st,2020

Daily current affairs summaries

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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9 PM for Main examination

GS-1

  1. Tilak’s contribution

GS-2

  1. National education policy 2020
  2. Reforming Urban Governance

GS-3

  1. Ecological restoration
  2. Dilution in EIA

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Tilak’s contribution

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-1- History

Context: on Tilak’s hundredth death anniversary, our government can learn useful lessons in dealing with public protests from his two trials on sedition.

The first trial

  • In the famine of 1896Tilak’s first trial for sedition had begun.
  • A series of articles were printed in the weekly newspaper Kesari which was started by Tilak. Officials who insisted on collecting land tax even during a famine, and for not implementing the Famine Relief Code were criticised in his newspaper.
  • To control the spread of the Bubonic plague struck Pune in 1897, the special duty officer Walter Charles Rand adopted repressive measures under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
  • Damodar Chaphekar murdered officer Rand and was convicted and hanged. Tilak had written strong articles condemning the brutality of the measures adopted even before this murder.
  • Tilak also justified the killing of Afzal Khan by Shivaji in his article.The Anglo-Indian press bitterly criticised the British government for not taking action against Tilak.
  • On July 27, 1897, Tilak was arrested and tried for sedition before the Bombay High Court.Dinshaw Davar, his lawyer who got him bail was the same judge who gave the order against him 10 years later.
  • W C Bonnerjee, a Congress leader, Moti Lal Ghosh, the founder of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, and Rabindranath Tagore collected almost Rs 20,000 from donors and this was used to send two leading English barristers from Calcutta as none of the lawyers from Bombay High court were willing to appear for Tilak.
  • Tilak was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonmentby Strachey because of his “disaffection” which constitutes the offence of sedition, under section 124A of the IPC, was simply “the absence of affection”. Tilak’s article on the killing of Afzal Khan by Shivaji was the part of the foundation of a case of sedition.
  • The British press noted that Strachey’s interpretation of “disaffection” would be unacceptable in England whereas the decision was hailed by the Anglo-Indian press.

The second trial

  • The partition of Bengal and the killing of two English women by a bomb hurled by Khudiram Bose led to large-scale repression. The Anglo-Indian press held Tilak responsible for provoking the youth.
  • Tilak in his articles suggested that the best way to stop violence and bombs was to grant self-rule to the people of India and also criticised the ExplosivesAct. He also asked the government to stop repressing freedom.
  • Tilak was arrested in June 1908 and charged with sedition.M A Jinnah appeared for Tilak and applied for bail, but this was rejected by Justice Davar, who had appeared for Tilak in 1897.
  • Tilak argued his own case and stated that the English translation of his articles had serious errors and asked for a correct version, but this plea was rejected.
  • A card was found from Tilak’s Pune residence on which he had written the names of two books on explosives.Tilak explained that when he was writing an article on the Explosives Act, he came across the names of these two books, but this card was the basis of an allegation that Tilak was manufacturing bombs.
  • Davar accepted the majority verdict of the jury which consisted of seven Englishmen/Anglo-Indians and two Indians and sentenced Tilak to six years imprisonment.
  • The verdict was criticised by several newspapers. However, Tilak was sent to Mandalay jail in Burma and returned in 1914.

Conclusion

Tilak’s imprisonment by invoking the law of sedition failed to suppress the freedom struggle. Our government can learn useful lessons in dealing with public protests from his two trials on sedition. Suppressing widespread dissent or criticism has always proved counterproductive and so government should work out the opposite viewpoint and have the grace to correct its path wherever necessary.

2.National education policy 2020

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context: Analysis on National education policy 2020

Challenges to education:

  • Lack of political will to prioritise quality education.
  • Resistance to institutional changes by the educational institutions has failed to meet the rising aspiration and demand for education.

Analysis on New Education Policy

  • It emphasises on critical thinking and free inquiry: which is possible only when universities restraint themselves from political and cultural conformity in the era of identity politics.
  • Objective of creating a new regulator, a new research foundationis appreciable but lot depends on the norms these institutions adhere to and its implementation.
  • On the issue of language, the policy prefers the long-standing recommendation of primary education in the mother tongue without making it compulsory.
  • It emphasises on engagement with Indian civilisational history: this can be realised only with a fair and unbiased curriculum.
  • It primarily focuses on early child development, learning outcomes, different forms of assessment, holistic education, recognising the centrality of teacher and teacher education. All these measures will render meaningless unless achieving universal foundational numeracy and literacy is prioritised.
  • Its recommendation on multiple Exit options is unclearwhether exit options will be made available within a single institution, or from different institutions that offer different kinds of degrees.
  • Its recommendation to make all higher education institutions multidisciplinarybetrays the principle that different institutions have different identities, different comparative advantages, different pedagogical philosophies and a different mission.
  • A healthy education system should incorporate diversity of institutions that caters to the student’s choice for different kinds of institutions
  • It emphasises to shift the focus from exams to learningbut it contradicts itself by recommending a national aptitude test

Conclusion: The New Education Policy is a forward-looking framework for transforming Indian education. Proper implementation of its recommendation with a priority on empowering school children, appropriate government expenditure will ensure the success of public education and India’s future.

3.Reforming Urban Governance

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.

Context: Much needed reforms in our  urban governance model.

Inadequate planning owing to non-functional Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs):

  • The formation of Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs) is mandated by the constitution in all areas with a million-plus population.
  • They are responsible for the preparation of draft development plans, integrate priorities of local authorities, State and Central governments and to ensure integrated planning for the entire metropolitan area.
  • In practical, MPCs are either not constituted or defunct.
  • Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 report found that only nine out of 18 cities assessed had constituted MPCs even if on paper.
  • Impact: The absence of comprehensive integrated planning has resulted in Poor housing, sanitation, and a lack of access to meaningful social security for the urban poor.

Inadequate municipal capacities in finance and staffing:

  • For Major metropolitan cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai expenditure is more than the revenue generated due to less capacity in financing.
  • Also, Strength of human resources is abysmally low compared to global cities such as Johannesburg and New York.
  • Impact:  Leading to poor capacity of municipalities in delivering infrastructure and services, and managing disasters which was very visible during the pandemic.

Disenfranchised Mayors

  • India’s metropolitan cities are headed by Mayors who are powerless and possess less authority owing to the practice of Indirect election of mayors in almost all big metropolitan cities with 10 million-plus population and short tenure of service.
  • Further, Mayors do not have full decision-making authority over critical functions of planning, housing, water, environment etc. in most cases.
  • Also, public agencies for planning, water and public transport report directly to State governments neglecting the role of Mayors.
  • Impact:Citizens are unable to hold one political authority accountable in the city, as it is practically difficult to hold the Chief Minister or the State government accountable.

Lack of Transparency, accountability and citizen participation:

  • Metropolitan cities do not have a functional ward committees and area sabhas that encourages citizen participation.
  • The absence of citizen participation is compounded by the problem of poor transparency in finance and operations.
  • As per ASICS 2017, India’s big metropolitan cities on average score 3.04/10 in transparency, accountability and participation.

Neglect of Smaller towns

  • India’s urbanisation is characterised by the emergence of smaller towns, that is emerging around existing large cities.
  • According to the Centre for Policy Research, the growth of small towns in India is beyond the economics of large agglomerations.
  • Going forward, the 69 metropolitan cities, combined with their hinterlands, will generate over half of India’s incremental GDP between 2012 and 2025 – McKinsey report
  • Yet, India Doesn’t have an active discourse on cohesive metropolitan governance frameworks.

Inequitable public health system:

  • According to the World Bank, India’s out-of-pocket health expenditure is more than three times compared to the world average (62.4% in 2017, world average 18.2%).
  • Public health system characterised by low manpower in the health sector for example, India’s doctor-population ratio is 1:1,457 is lower than the World Health Organisation norm of 1:1,000.
  • Impact:Governance has a bearing cost on our preparedness for natural and man-made disasters and contingencies.

Way forward

  • The fundamental change should include empowered Mayors with five-year tenure.
  • Imbibing lessons on direct election for mayors from global examples:for example, the Tokyo metropolitan government, and recent experimental models such as combined authorities in the United Kingdom and Australia
  • To avoid the repeat of disasterswe need a medium to long-term spatial planning that focuses on equal access to opportunities and services.
  • Need to bolster the capability of municipalitiesto self-govern with a sense of urgency.
  • Decentralise ward level governance, and inter-agency coordinationthat ensure citizen participation platforms which can be helpful from identifying beneficiaries to recruiting volunteers, and collaborating with civil society organisations during any emergency.
  • To reap the benefit of scale, India’s urban vision should also focus on smaller towns while focusing on its metropolitan cities.

Conclusion: To build a comprehensive and integrated urban planning we need to introspect and reform the way India’s metropolises are governed. The Central and State governments should lead efforts towards a metropolitan governance paradigm.

4.Ecological restoration

Source: DownToEarth

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: Our natural ecosystems need restoration beyond conservation and significant steps have been made in both the science and practice of restoration over the last three decades.

Ecosystem degradation

  • It is one of the biggest environmental threatsas  almost all our ecosystems, terrestrial or otherwise, stand degraded to varying degrees due to a mix of factors such as developmental pressures, population growth, over-exploitation, etc.
  • Other factors such as invasive alien species and climate change also impact many ecosystems.
  • Degradation has serious implicationsfor human well-being and economic sustainability.  Degradation of natural ecosystems in the Western Ghats poses a direct threat to water security, and in turn, to livelihoods of millions of people in the plains.
  • We are in a situation where conservation is not enough as Mangroves along our coastline are severely impaired and need intervention and many protected areas like national parks stand ecologically unprotected due to invasion by species such as Lantana camara.

Ecological restoration

  • Ecological restoration is defined as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed”.
  • Objective of restoration: Itis done through a scientific process of benchmarking with reference models from the same native ecosystem in order to achieve an ecosystem to recover to its pre-degradation trajectory.
  • Ecosystem integrity: It forms the foundation of ecological restoration and covers both biotic and abiotic aspects.
  • All elements of an ecosystem such as soil, hydrology, flora, fauna, etc are given importance in restoration. This makes restoration different from other rehabilitationapproaches such as afforestation and reforestation, which mainly focus on planting of saplings of a few tree species.

Growth of the restoration discipline

  • Restoration methodologieshave been developed worldwide for different degradation scenarios including for extreme ones like landslides, mining, forest fires, etc.
  • The publication of the standards for the practice of ecological restoration by the Society for Ecological Restoration, the leading global body for the discipline has been important for the discipline.
  • Itincludes leading-edge monitoring methods to measure the ecological as well as social outcomes of restoration initiatives.
  • These standards provide the core principles and framework for restoration.
  • Ecological restoration has been placed at the forefront of the world’s biodiversity and climate change agendas by The Bonn Challenge declaration and the United Nations declaration of 2021-30 as the ‘Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’.
  • Climate change programmes should embrace restoration principles so that biodiversity goals are achieved simultaneously.

The Indian context and way forward

  • The need for restoration is considerable and urgent in India where most initiatives are small and site-specific. It is still a developing discipline in the country.
  • For example, most forests lying outside protected areas have been degraded due to high human pressure. Our protected areas, in turn, are affected by factors like invasive alien species.
  • India has a target of restoring 26 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030.
  • A large number of well-trained restoration practitioners would be required to achieve this goal and there is a need for separate mechanisms to train field-level personnel who will be handling implementation and monitoring of programmes.
  • Projects should adhere to the core principles of restoration. The international standards can help in this regard, with suitable adaptation for Indian conditions.
  • Sustained funding and focus is required as the restoration project lasts well over five-six years.

5.Dilution in EIA

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment- Environmental impact assessment

Context: Climate action group Fridays for Future India was recently charged under the UAPA and the IT Act for protesting against the new draft Environment Impact Assessment notification.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • EIA is a process which studies all aspects of the environment and seeks to anticipate the impact (positive and/or negative) of a proposed project or development on the environment.
  • EIA is mandatory under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
  • India for the first time in 1994 notified its first set of assessment norms, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. It mandated that projects beyond a certain size from certain sectors (e.g. mining, thermal power plants, ports, airports and atomic energy) get an environmental clearance as a precondition to their commencement.

EIA 2006

It increased the number of projects that required an environmental clearance. It also created appraisal committees at the level of both the Centre and States.

The EIA Cycle comprises of four stages:

EIA 2006 categorized development projects in two categories:

  • Category A: These projects require mandatory environmental clearance and do not go through screening process. They are appraised at the national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
  • Category B: They are apprised at the state level. State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to these projects. Category B projects are further categorised into two:

A) Category B1 projects: They require mandatory EIA

B) Category B2 projects: They do not require EIA

Issues with EIA 2006

  • The final EIA report is often not made available to the public
  • The procedure for securing clearances for certain kinds of projects has been accelerated
  • There is often little scope available for independent judicial review.

Draft EIA Notification 2020

Changes proposed Concern
It allows for post facto approval for projects. It has provisions to award clearances for projects even if they have started construction or have been running without securing environmental clearances. It is in violation of the “precautionary principle”-a principle of environmental sustainability.

Further, any environmental damage caused by the project is likely to be waived off by only as the violations get legitimised.

It has omitted prior screening requirements for Category B projects and expanded the list of projects categorised under B2 It has eased process for many industries which might have socio-environmental consequences. Compromising appraisal in such cases will result in further environmental damage.
It proposes to classify inland waterways as Category B2 projects and will not require public consultations irrespective of whether these projects are located in notified ecologically sensitive areas. It might have significant impact on the marine ecosystem and long-term survival of India’s rivers
It proposes to expand the list of projects that do not require public consultation before receiving Prior-EC.

It confers absolute power to the central government to categorise projects as “strategic” and information related to these projects will not be put in public domain.

The provision has completely diluted public consultation process and there is a risk of states taking up development initiatives at the risk of environmental degradation
New construction projects up to 1,50,000 square metres (instead of the existing 20,000 square metres) will not require detailed scrutiny by the Expert Committee, EIA studies and public consultation. The building and construction sector is among the largest greenhouse gas emitters however, the proposed notification gives leeway to the sector
It proposes an eased monitoring mechanism Under the draft, project owners are to submit environmental compliance reports (after getting clearance) every year in contrast to present 6 months. It dilutes the backbone of environment clearance rules i.e. monitoring the conditions on which projects are cleared and ensuring compliance.

Way Forward: Mere strengthening of the existing EIA norms will not by itself be sufficient to address environmental issues. Government to address the increasing socio-economic and environmental challenges in a comprehensive manner by striking a balance between ecological and developmental projects.


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