Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 4, 2019

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Q.1) The UBI is neither an antidote to the vagaries of market forces nor a substitute for basic public services, However, there is a strong case for direct income transfers to some vulnerable groups. Comment.

Answer:

Limitations of UBI:

  1. It believes that all existing forms of social security transfers are inefficient. While there is certainly some exaggeration in such claims, it is not true that the system of cash transfers is efficient and therefore leakage proof.
  2. Several studies on cash transfers including one by J-PAL South Asia for NITI Aayog found that cash transfers are not greatly superior in terms of leakages compared to other schemes of in-kind transfer such as the public distribution system (PDS).
  3. The obsession with cash transfers also comes with an understanding that these will take care of all problems. It cannot solve the agrarian crisis, malnutrition, educational deficit and also the job crisis.

Need for Direct Income Transfers:

  1. While a proposal for UBI was rejected by a three-fourth majority in Switzerland, Finland which started a pilot has now discontinued it. But even in Finland, the pilot was not a strict UBI but a social protection scheme aimed at only the unemployed.
  2. While there have been some pilots by NGOs in developing countries in Asia and Africa, they have varied in content of transfer and coverage with only few being fully universal and only the Namibia pilot experiment provided income transfer to people in the poverty line.
  3. It helps the small and marginal farmers invest in their farm productivity.
  4. It reduces fall to extreme poverty for the families living on the border of poverty line.
  5. It enables spending on essentials life nutrition, health and education.
  6. For people not benefited from economic growth; Various welfare schemes have also failed to bring them out of penury
  7. In urban areas, contract workers and those in the informal sector face problems from rapid pace of automation of low-skill jobs and formalisation of the retail sector
  8. income receipts can come in handy as interest-free working capital for several categories of beneficiaries (fruit and vegetable vendors and small artisans), thereby promoting their business and employment in the process

 

Q.2) Development projects in tiger habitats and the fragmentation of migration corridors have caused increase in man-animal conflict and there is need for a rethink of conservation policies. Discuss.

Answer:

Impact of Linear Infrastructure on Wildlife:

  1. Habitat Loss:There is direct loss of habitat during establishment and maintenance of roads, highways and railway lines due to clearance of vegetation, dumping of excavated earth and materials, movement of heavyvehicles etc.
  2. Habitat Fragmentation: Road and railway lines dissect contiguous habitat patches, resulting in smaller patches and consequent decline in biodiversity due to increased outer disturbances.
  3. Degradation of Habitat quality: wildlife habitats adjacent to rail and roads often suffers from various detrimental impacts from invasion of exotic species, pollution due to liquid solid wastes and emissions.
  4. Noise Induced Psychological and Behavioural changes in animals: Traffic noise is often attributed to cause significant psychological and behavioural issues in animals especially birds. Traffic noise directly interferes with birds’ vocal communication and consequently their territorial behaviour and mating.
  5. Barrier to movement:Roads or other linear features restrict, or filter animal movement.The barrier effecton wildlife may arise from traffic noise, vehicle movement, pollution, human activity and physical hindrances.
  6. Increased human-wildlife conflict: Road and railways may disrupt normal habitats of animals forcing them to move out to human habitats thus increasing the risks of human-animal conflict.
  7. Injury and mortality:
  • Road and rail induced injury and mortality has been one of the prime concerns for wildlife conservationists with and expanding infrastructure.According to govt. sources 49 elephants were killed in Railway accidents between 2016 and 2018 in India; highest deaths occurring in Assam and West Bengal.
  • Overhead transmissions lines, electric fences pose significant threat of electrocution for birds, arboreal animals and even bigger mammals like elephants.

Steps to be taken:

  1. Policy: There is an urgent need for formulation ofa comprehensive and broadly applicable national policy to address the adverse effects of linear infrastructure on wildlife.
  2. Smart and Green infrastructure: It is important to adopt ecologically sound practices and alternatives to harmful linear intrusions in natural areas. Such measures could include natural crossings (e.g. Canopy bridges in Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary), underpass, overpasses etc.
  3. Technology: Technological applications can help prevent rail/ road accidents by providing alerts to drivers and forest officials. For e.g. the use of ELETRACK
  4. Prevention:
  • New linear infrastructure projects that disregard MoEFCC’s guidelines and do not incorporate wildlife-friendly designs and required crossingstructures should not be permitted in designated protected areas and critical habitats.
  • There needs to be a revaluation of the existing roads and railway lines in Protected Areasand realigning/closure of these detrimental structures after necessary studies.
  • Speed reduction of vehicles is an important measure to stop road kills and these are already being implemented. For e.g. speed breakers on the Mysore –Ooty road passing through Mudumalai TigerReserve

 

Q.3) Government’s December 20 order based on Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act of 2000, is an attempt to protect privacy of citizens. Critically evaluate.

Answer:

Government notified an order authorising 10 Central agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt information which is transmitted, generated, stored in or received by any computer. It was issued in pursuance of powers stipulated in Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which enables government agencies to intercept personal information of citizens under certain conditions.

Challenges

  1. Section 69 of the IT Act is so broadly worded that it could enable mass surveillance to achieve relatively far less serious aims such as preventing the incitement of the commission of a cognisable offence
  2. Under Section 69, the government can intercept personal information under any of the following conditions: when it is necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty or integrity; security of the state; friendly relations with foreign states; public order; and for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence related to these. While the first four feature in Article 19(2) of the Constitution, the last, namely preventing incitement to commission of cognisable offences, is not an enumerated restriction. A restriction in the form of authorised surveillance would not be justified unless it is in order to maintain public order, a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2). Etc

Why it is beneficial:

  1. It limits the surveillance powers to only the organisations mentioned in the order.
  2. Even within the order, permission has to be obtained before a citizen’s activities are monitored.
  3. It is to ensure that surveillance is done as per due process of law.
  4. Surveillance is necessary in the modern world where modern tools of information communication, including encryption, is used. Surveillance is done only in the defence of India, to maintain public order, etc.
  5. The law mandates the Centre and States to constitute a review committee with the Cabinet Secretary.

 

Q.4) Complexities of forest fires need to be understood, it is crucial part of some forest ecosystems. Comment.

Answer:

A group of scientists have submitted a paper that proves the importance of forest fires in protecting certain ecosystems. The benefits of forest fires are:

  1. fire helps revive dormant seeds of many species
  2. even young woody trees survive ground fires and have higher growth rates immediately post-fire, until they reach a certain height
  3. fires, along with seasonal droughts, are important drivers of dry deciduous tracts across Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  4. fires even suppressing invasive species
  5. tribal communities use of small “litter fires” just before the dry season to control invasive species
  6. Controlled fires in areas that have huge fuel loads around December can help prevent as well as reduce the impact of large fires later in the season
  7. If an area is continuously protected from fire, it could catch fire once in four years or so because of the high accumulation of grass, wood and twigs
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