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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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9 PM for Main examination
- Addressing Urban Heat Island
- Rule of law and police encounters
- Cooperative Federalism in India – Reality or rhetoric
- Fiscal council – Another bureaucratic structure
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Addressing Urban Heat Island
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-1- Urbanization
Context: The Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened need to make right choices for sustainable urban growth.
Urbanization in India- a brief overview
- In 2018, nearly 34% of India’s population lived in the cities. This is expected to increase to 40% by 2030 contributing 75% of the GDP.
- Driven by growing urbanization, the real estate sector (the second-largest employer after agriculture) contributed 6-7% of the GDP in 2017. It is expected to increase to 13% by 2025.
Urbanization and the problem of Urban Heat Island
- Due to increased urbanization most of the open spaces in urban and semi-urban areas are being used up to create more of paved surface cover, heat-trapping roofs, buildings and roads.
- More than 60% of the roofs are made of concrete, metal and asbestos, all of which tend to trap heat. Over time, these hot surfaces lead to formation of urban heat island and thus soaring up temperatures. An urban heat island occurs when a city experiences much warmer temperatures than nearby rural areas.
Urbanization and Electricity Consumption: Buildings account for more than 30% of India’s electricity consumption and a significant share of annual carbon dioxide emissions.
Making Buildings Smart- Lessons from Telangana
- Telangana has taken steps to ensure energy efficiency in its buildings by incorporating the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).
- It has included mandatory ECBC and green building codes, under section 176(4) in the newly promulgated Telangana Municipality Act 2019.
- Interventions taken for cool-roofing:
- Telangana has tested cool roof technologies through pilots undertaken in 2017. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) implemented a cool roofs pilot in low-income neighborhoods to showcase the benefits and impact of cool roofs in the city.
- Learning from the pilot projects, the government has designed Telangana Cool Roofs Programme. It is a target-based initiative to increase the percentage of cool roofs in the state. The programme will aim to install cool roofs in low-income housing and slum communities.
· A cool roof is one that has been designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof.
· Depending on the setting, they can help lower indoor temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius as compared to traditional roofs. These roofs also potentially lead to less air pollution since they save energy, especially on cooling appliances.
- Short-term: It’s crucial to ascertain how to respond to extreme heat and urbanization challenges during a major pandemic.
- Long term:
- proactive pre-disaster actions to reduce risk
- investment in forward-looking plans, policies and programmes to ensure right choices to balance urban growth and sustainable development
2.Rule of law and police encounters
Syllabus: GS-2 Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures
Context: The chain of events leading up to the killing of Kanpur gangster Vikas Dubey throws a spotlight on governance and police reform.
- Vikas Dubey, a hardened criminal with 62 cases against him, along with his gang allegedly shot dead eight policemen.
- Official narrative:He was killed in an ‘exchange of fire’ while he was ‘trying to flee’ after the police vehicle in which he was being taken ‘met with an accident’.
- Revenge: There is possibility that his death is officially sanctioned retribution for the murder of eight policemen.
Three important things to remember:
- Extrajudicial killings have no place in a liberal democracy.
- Excuse: The usual excuses given in such contexts, even if they had a bit of truth to them, do not apply. Judicial infirmity as an excuse should not be used because behind judicial infirmity is usually a political hand.
- Strong arm tactics: It must be questioned for law and order. Too much strong hand is not the creation of law and order and will not diminish violence in UP.
Need of Police reform:
- Protect police from political interference
- Invest in police training
- Shore up the judicial system.
Reasons for not wanting Police reforms:
- Trust issue:
- Distrusted institution: The police is one of the most distrusted institutions of the Indian state.
- Fear: There is a fear that empowering the police more or reforming it is simply giving them more powers of repression.
- Little margin of negotiation: It may reduce for disempowered groups who already suffer most at the hands of the police with increasing effectiveness of police force.
- Position of police:
- It has a strange position in a democracy as it is an instrument of political power to channelize patronage. There is no incentive to reform as no incumbent wants to give up its position.
- Even opposition not expressing demand: It is because an ad hoc rule of law structure, open to negotiation by community identity, money, violence and connections, actually fragments power in a democracy.
- Not giving up the monopoly over violence: Many criminals, like Dubey, subvert the rule of law but people see them as nodes of power which are often deployed in resistance to the state.
- The peculiar status of the police as “expendables”at one level central to the order but triply marginalized.
- Most of the police deaths were not at the hands of criminals but a result of neglect and poor working conditions.
- They are visibly expected by society to publicly stage violence or be implicated in its structures by politicians.
- Marginalized morally: They are roundly morally condemned for enacting the norm. They are asked to sacrifice, morally and legally condemned, both central to the political order and marginal to it, in terms of their own needs.
- The police cannot demand their own well-being so it is little wonder that with no real constituency of police reform, the line between the criminal and the state will remain blurred.
- The state must get tough on crime but the police should not be allowed to break the law.
- Mob justice:Goading the police on to deliver instant justice or even tolerating such behaviour creates an atmosphere of impunity that could lead to murder of innocent people as happened with the custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu. Mob justice is no justice at all.
- The courts and the National Human Rights Commission must show a tough approach in such cases.
- When law enforcers short-circuit due process then the damage to state institutions is severe and long-lasting.
3.Cooperative Federalism in India – Reality or rhetoric
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein
Context – The principal tool with Centre for combating State governments is no longer Article 356 and it is replaced by delayed payments to states.
Sources of revenue for State governments
- Tax and Non-tax revenue collected by States including GST collection.
- Devolution by centre as recommended by 14thFinance Commission.
- Borrowings under State Development loans
Restrictions on State Financing under FRBM
- Fiscal Deficit– As per provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) can actually accommodate a fiscal deficit of 3%.
- Escape clause– The FRBM has an “escape clause” that allows for a one-time relaxation of the fiscal deficit threshold upto 0.5% in a time of exigency. However, it has proven woefully insufficient in addressing the current crisis.
Violation of principle of Cooperative Federalism by Centre
- Lower tax devolution– According to a study by the Centre for Policy Research, there is a ₹6.84 lakh crore gap between what the 14th Finance Commission promised to States and what they have received. The reason for this has been the economic slowdown, caused primarily by the Central government, and lower-than-expected GST collections.
- For example, Centre owed States about ₹35,000 crore as GST compensation for December 2019 and January 2020
- Negligible support in crises– According to a State Bank of India report, the collective loss to GSDP due to the pandemic is ₹30.3 lakh crore or 13.5% of GSDP. The Centre is providing almost negligible support to help states.
- For instance – In West Bengal, the State government had spent ₹1,200 crore in fighting COVID-19. Whereas, Centre has not given any support specifically for pandemic.
- Cut in expenditures– Following the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance has asked all Union Ministries to cut expenditure. The immediate impact is being felt by States, and grants-in-aid are drying up. Crucial rural development programmes have come to a standstill.
- Rhetoric under FRBM– In theory, the Centre has raised the fiscal deficit limit for States, from 3% to 5%. But only 0.5% of this rise is unconditional. The remaining 1.5% is dependent on fulfilling certain unrealistic and impractical measures like including privatisation of power distribution.
Way Forward – In Cooperative federalism the Centre and states share a horizontal relationship, where they “cooperate” in the larger public interest. It is an important tool to enable states’ participation in the formulation and implementation of national policies. Centre needs to reflect on the steps taken to go against the spirit of principle.
4.Fiscal council – Another bureaucratic structure
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
Context – Fiscal council was first recommended by the Thirteenth Finance Commission and was subsequently endorsed by the Fourteenth Finance Commission and then by the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) Review Committee headed by N.K. Singh.
Fiscal Council – It is a permanent agency with a mandate to independently assess the government’s fiscal plans and projections against parameters of macroeconomic sustainability, and put out its findings in the public domain.
Reasons for need of a Fiscal Council
- To maintain government’s credibility in the market– Government needs to borrow to create demand in economy which may not be appreciated by rating agencies. The government can signal its virtue to market in post-corona world, by establishing fiscal council as a n institutional mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline.
- To aid Parliament – Fiscal council will give an independent and expert assessment of the government’s fiscal stance, and thereby aid an informed debate in Parliament.
- To act as a watchdog– It will prevent the government from gambling with the fiscal rules through creative accounting.
Arguments against the need of Fiscal Council
- Failure of FRBM –The FRBM enjoins the government to conform to pre-set fiscal targets, and in the event of failure to do so, to explain the reasons for deviation under ‘Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement’ (FPSS). Despite of this, there is in-depth discussion in Parliament on the government’s fiscal stance.
- Blame game and shifting of accountability- The fiscal council will give macroeconomic forecasts which the Finance Ministry is expected to use for the budget. Forcing the Finance Ministry to use someone else’s estimates will dilute its accountability. If the estimates go awry, it will simply shift the blame to the fiscal council.
- Strengthen existing watchdogs– There is already an institutional mechanism by way of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit to check government’s fiscal expenditure. If that mechanism has lost its teeth, then fixing it that rather than creating another costly bureaucratic structure is the prudent solution.
Way Forward – The way forward for establishing fiscal council is to start small and scale it up if it proves to be a positive experience for all the stakeholders.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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