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Source –The Hindu
Syllabus – GS Paper 2 – Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.
Context – NGT, in Vishakhapatnam Gas leak disaster, directed LG Polymers to deposit Rs 50 crores
What –It is a quasi-judicial body established under National Green Tribunal Act,2010.
While deciding a case, it applies the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter-pays principle.
It is not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, nor the principles of evidence in the Indian Evidence Act, thus it is easier for petitioners to approach it.
Objective –Speedy disposal of cases related to environment and forest conservation.
Significance of NGT
- Comprises of experts who resolves the complex environmental issues
- Reduce burden on Indian courts
- Compared to courts, less expensive and less formal
- Mandate to dispose cases in 5 months
- Conflict of interest – Administered by parent ministry (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change), thus creates conflict of interest.
- Oversteps its jurisdiction as takes suo-motu cases.
- All environmental laws don’t come under its jurisdiction– For instance, matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation are not under its jurisdiction.
- Lack of institutional mechanism – There is no institutional mechanism to ensure that the environmental regulatory authorities comply with the orders of the tribunal– For Instance- landmark orders of the NGT related to Ganga water pollution, Delhi air pollution, illegal mining, and solid waste management remain unenforced.
- Issue associated with Visakhapatnam case – use of term ‘strict liability’ in its direction to LG polymers, which is outlawed and now term ‘absolute liability’ is promoted since Bhopal gas tragedy.
Strict liability Principle – companies could claim exemption from liability in case of disaster
Absolute liability Principle – Even if companies took reasonable measures to prevent disaster, in case disaster occurs company is liable for the payments.
Way Forward – NGT, as a quasi-judicial body, is an important cogwheel in the environmental governance of India. As the world is bound to experience the effects of climate change in the near future, addressing the challenges faced by NGT would be crucial in tackling the challenges of climate change for India.
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS Paper 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Context –States have granted exemption to Industries from legal provisions associated with Labour rights.
Important Labour Laws
- Industrial Dispute Act, 1947
- Factories Act, 1948
- Contract Labour Act, 1970
- According to ILO, nearly 81% of India’s employed population is in informal sector
- According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, lockdown due to COVID forced 122 million people into joblessness
Steps taken by States:
States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has taken following steps:
- Working hours for labourer’s increased from 8 to 12 hours
- Exempted Industries from Right of worker’s section of Factory Act, 1948 – thus employer not bound to provide light, first aid, canteen, rest time, ventilation to workers.
- Industries not bound to maintain register of adult and child worker
Section 5 of Factories Act grants industries exemption from provisions of Act for 3 months in case of public emergency.
- Impetus to domestic industries –This step will boost thedomestic industries to promote production of goods and services when economy is reeling under effects of slowdown of 2019 and COVID lockdown.
- To enhance ease of doing business– This will attract countries shifting their manufacturing base from China due to supply chain disruptions originating from China owing to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Ethical concerns– Basic human rights like first aid, rest time are not provided to labours, which goes against universal humanistic values.
- Against Socialistic principle of Preamble– Erodes gains made since Independence to secure minimum rights for labourers by several trade unions and social movements.
- Marxian notion of Have (industrialist) and have nots (labourers) strengthened– This increases the exploitation of have nots in absence of legal provisions.
Way Forward – Unprecedented times of COVID has called for unprecedented measures, which however requires avoidance of extreme steps directed against vulnerable sections. Balancing the economic interests and the human rights of the vulnerable sections must be managed well by the governments.
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2-Issues related to India’s foreign relations and its interests.
Context: The Asia-Pacific region has become the new economic and political center with the rise of China, India and other countries like Indonesia, South Korea, Iran, Vietnam. It led to change in the Balance of Power (BoP) especially with the unpredictable “America First” attitude of United States and seeking of primacy by China in a world dominated by the U.S.
What should be India’s response to the changing conditions?
1. Attaining Strategic autonomy:
- By pursuing its national interest: Pursuing the national interests should be a priority for India in an uncertain world where the priorities of other countries are being shaped by domestic interests.
- No credible results with Alliances: We cannot rely on alliances as seen in the case of Doklam crisis where no other country was ready to deal with India’s greatest strategic challenge — China.
- By bringing flexibility in Approach: With fast-changing BoP and relations of countries around India like that of Pakistan-China, China-Nepal, there is a need of creative diplomacy and flexibility to achieve strategic autonomy.
2. Handling China:
- Handling the teething issues bilaterally: New mechanisms should be evolved bilaterally by the two sides keeping in view the core interests, problem areas and areas of cooperation of both the countries.
- Working with other Powers: India-China relations are of balancing cooperation and competition. To protect its interests in the region and the world, India need to work with other powers to handle China.
- Supporting Multi-polar World: With the withdrawal of U.S. from the world, it’s not clear as how it will deal with China. Thus, it would be beneficial for India to ensure Multi-Polar region.
- Utilizing space: Conflicts between China and U.S are bound to bring opportunities for other countries. India could utilize the situation to grab opportunities like increasing its trade footprint with US under categories on which US has imposed tariffs on China and thus invite manufacturing firms seeking alternate destinations from China.
- Reduce import dependence: Currently India is dependent heavily on particular countries for energy, technology, essential goods etc. With utilizing the opportunities, India could diversify its trade and reduce its dependence.
- By coming out of strategic confusion: India need clarity on finalizing goals of India’s foreign policy as well as the means to achieve them.
To become developed country, India needs to adapt and manage its internal social and political stir-up. India needs more flexibility in its thinking and structures.
Source – Livemint
Syllabus – GS Paper 2 – E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
Context – Rising transaction failure in AePS (Aadhaar Enabled Payment System) amidst COVID lockdown.
What is AePS
AePS is a bank led model which allows online interoperable financial inclusion transaction at Point of Sale (MicroATM) through the Business correspondent of any bank using the Aadhaar authentication.
The only inputs required for a customer to do a transaction under this scenario are:-
- IIN (Identifying the Bank to which the customer is associated)
- Aadhaar Number
- Fingerprint captured during their enrollment
Data – From 172 million transactions in March, 2020 steep rise in AePS use in April, 2020 – 403 Million transactions
Significance of increased transactions:
- Widespread use of digital payment methods across nation.
- Successful cash transfer by government amid lockdown.
- Promotes financial inclusion by harnessing digital technology.
Challenge associated with AePS transactions– Average rate of failure of transactions is 39% which has following implications-
- Citizens, especially, poor sections are deprived of cash and thusreduced demandin rural India.
- Accounts still debited without cash being disbursed– finance institutions take 14-15 days to return the money or in some cases are not even returned.
- Trust- Deficit among citizens-Repeated failures and loss of money if not returned, causes trust deficit among citizens thus promote informal financial systems.
Causes of Failure in AePS transactions:
- In many cases, bank accounts are not directly linked to Aadhaar
- Insufficient or frozen funds in account
- Poor connectivity due to lack of infrastructure needed
- Authentication issues due to mismatches
- Timeout of transaction due to no response from NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India)switch
- Financial institutions need to upgrade their server capacity.
- Banking Correspondents–
- Can provide account balance details to customer before transaction is made.
- Facilitate simplified redressal in case of failure of transaction.
- Forbiometric authentication– Consumer to be given option of re-recoding fingerprint after conducting a thorough, transparent and account audit of failed biometric.
Way Forward – Nandan Nilekani and Rattan Watal Committees on digital payment has promoted use of AePS for financial inclusion by bringing necessary reforms.
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 3- Issues related to the Public Distribution System (PDS)
Context: Though 60 crore people are covered under the Centre’s ration card portability scheme, inter- state usage has remained very low. It could provide migrants a lifeline during COVID-19 lockdown by providing them free food grains in any part of India.
What is the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme?
- Objective: to introduce nation-wide portability of ration card holders under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) which will enable them to lift their entitlement food grains from any Fair Price Shop in the country without the need to obtain a new ration card.
- It achieves this by integrating the existing PDS systems/portals of States/UTs with the Central systems/portals, etc.
Difference in inter-state and intra-state usage:
Inter-state usage: From 60 crore people covered under the scheme, only about 200 inter-state migrants are making transactions per month since the lockdown began.
Intra-state usage: It is somewhat higher. In April 2020, 1.05 crore people used their ration cards at a different ration shop within their own district while almost 6.5 lakh used their cards in a different district within their own state.
Why the inter-state usage of the scheme has been “very low”?
- Lack of awareness: Migrants don’t have the correct information about the scheme.
- Most States suspended biometric authentication at ration shops due to fear of Corona: The scheme works with biometric authentication using electronic point of sale machines.
- Scheme still not fully ready for Seamless interstate transactions: The Inter-state portability is being tried on select “clusters” of 12 “contiguous” states. With integration of more states with One Nation-One Ration Card System, the reach of the scheme has increased but still it lacks an all India reach.
- Lack of Ration card: Many migrants ration cards are with their families back in the village.
- Lack of information on internal migration: The scheme should use better updated ways to calculate internal migrations. For instance, the Economic Survey 2016-17 used a new metrics based on data from railways.
Role of PDS in handling corona crisis:
- To ensure food for everyone: Through one nation one ration card scheme, the PDS could ensure that the poor do not go hungry.
- Ensuring Nutrition for children and Women: Women and children bear burnt of corona crisis. The PDS system could provide the necessary food with required nutrition for their growth.
- Controlling food prices: As lockdown has stopped the movement of transport and people, the prices of food grains are expected to rise. With no work, rising prices of food will be disastrous for the poor. The PDS system could utilize the buffer stocks to provide them with free food grains and by providing grains in market, the prices could be stabilized.
- Ensuring self-sustainability for the Migrants: With lockdown, all the economic activities are affected. The migrants are without work which is one of the important reasons for their movement. The PDS could provide food security to them so they don’t have to rely on others.
With economic distress due to COVID 19, the role of PDS will be of paramount importance. Seamless integration of PDS with One Nation One Ration Card scheme would ensure food security for the vulnerable sections.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 3- Issues related to Indian Economy
Context: The Covid crisis has remained serious for the health situation as well as the economy. Almost all the countries are living under the lockdown. The next important step will be of exit plans from lockdown in which the task of reviving economy will be of paramount importance.
Problems in the Indian economy before CoVID-19:
- From 2014, the banking sector and infrastructure firms are under financial stress defined in terms of Twin Balance Sheet (TBS) challenge.
- By 2019, it raised the number of stressed balance sheets to four including NBFC and real estate sectors.
Effects of Covid Lockdown on economy:
- Unsold Goods: The goods of firms of all sizes and sectors remained unsold.
- No earning: As many families remains unemployed as firms are closed.
- Low Recovery of Loans: The Financial institutions are unable to collect their loans.
- Reduction in tax revenues: The government tax revenue has reduced as most sectors remains closed.
As per Reports, around 1/3rd of industrial and service firms have applied for moratoria on their bank loans and if only a quarter of these deferred loans eventually go bad, then the non-performing assets (NPAs) would increase by Rs 5 lakh crore.
Difference in government situation in Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 and economic crisis due to Corona:
- Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09: The government had a relatively strong balance sheet: Deficits and the consolidated debt-GDP ratio were low. So, the government could recapitalize the PSU banks because of such fiscal space.
- Corona crisis: The Central and state government deficits and debts will increase dramatically as revenues will be reduced and expenditures will increase. As a result, the government will put higher taxes and more arrears on the corporate and household sectors.
How to minimize losses for sectors during Corona crisis?
- From perspective of Firms:
- Preventing them from bankruptcies: The government might need to create a guarantee fund to support lending to help firms.
- To resolve defaults: Quick resolution of default by firms is important as stressed firm condition will worsen over time. They have poor cash flows and can’t take loans from banks. So, they don’t have enough money to fund their operations and with time the firms’ market value deteriorates.
- From perspective of Banks:
- Recovery rate: It is the degree to which the banks can recover on NPA loans and the only way to maximize the recovery rate is to sort out the bad loans speedily.
- Urgent Actions: As no sector is in a strong position to rescue the banks, the costs cannot be spread, they must be reduced and any delays in handling NPAs will erode the value of assets.
A new decisive and quick approach is needed for immediate addressing of problems created by the crisis.
1. Explained: What are the safeguards against chemical disasters in India?
News: According to the National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA), over 130 significant chemical accidents have been reported in the country.
Chemical Disaster:It is the unintentional release of one or more hazardous substances which could harm human health and the environment.The most dangerous chemical accident was 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in which more than 3,000 people died after a highly toxic vapour (methyl isocyanate) was released at a Union Carbide Pesticides factory.
Laws to Protect Against Chemical Disasters in India:
- The Environment Protection Act,1986: It gives powers to the central government to undertake measures for improving the environment and set standards and inspect industrial units.
- The Public Liability Insurance Act,1991:It is an insurance meant to provide relief to persons affected by accidents that occur while handling hazardous substances.
- National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997:Under this Act, the National Environment Appellate Authority can hear appeals regarding restriction of areas in which any industries operations shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- National Green Tribunal Act, 2010: It provided for the establishment of the National Green Tribunal for effective and expeditious disposal of cases related to environmental protection and conservation of forests.
2.Prime Minister Research Fellowship 2020 admission criteria changed to allow more scholars: HRD
News: Union HRD Ministry has carried out various amendments in the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Scheme to boost research in the country.
- A dedicated Division is being created in the ministry with the name of Research and Innovation Division to coordinate the research work of various institutions coming under MHRD.
- Students from any recognised institute/ university (other than IISc/ IITs/NITs/IISERs/IIEST/CF IIITs) can also now apply with a GATE Score of 650.
- There will be two channels of entries, one direct entry and lateral entry.In lateral entry, the students who are pursuing PhD in PMRF granting institutions can apply to become fellow under the scheme.
Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Scheme:
- Launched Year: Budget 2018-19
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD)
- Aim: To attract the best talent into research thereby realizing the vision of development through innovation
- The institutes which can offer PMRF include all the IITs, all the IISERs, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and some of the top Central Universities/NITs that offer science and/or technology degrees.
3.A new concern: locusts
News: Scientists at the Locust Warning Organisation(LWO) have observed groups of Desert Locusts in districts of Rajasthan.
- Locusts:They are a group of short-horned grasshoppers that multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms.
- Types: Four species of locusts are found in India: Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.).Desert locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India.
- Hotspots:The Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) has identified three hotspots of threatening locust activity: Horn of Africa, the Red Sea area and southwest Asia.
- Threat: Locusts are polyphagous, i.e. they can feed on a wide variety of crops. Secondly, they have an ability to multiply rapidly as a single female desert locust lays 60-80 eggs thrice during its roughly 90-day life cycle.
- Regulation: Locust Warning Organisation(LWO), Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is responsible for monitoring, survey and control of Desert Locust mainly in the States of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
- Locust Control and Research scheme: It is implemented by Locust Warning Organisation(LWO) with the aim of protection of standing crops and other green vegetation from Desert locust.
4.Project CARD to push local production of testing kits
News:Project Consortium for Affordable & Rapid Diagnostics(CARD) has been
launched by Niti Aayog and the Department of Biotechnology.
- Aim: To scale up India’s capacity to make coronavirus testing kits by rolling out at least 10 million rapid antibody tests by July,2020 and additionally other tests for Covid-19.
- It is a speedy test conducted to determine whether there has been any kind of recent viral infection in a person’s body.
- When a pathogen enters a human body, specific antibodies are released as a response to the virus.A rapid test can detect the presence of such antibodies in blood, serum or plasma samples quickly indicating a viral infection.