IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th September, 2016
General Studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
General Studies 2
Important international institutions, agencies and fora-their structure, mandate
International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated on September 16 to commemorate signing of the Montreal Protocol, one of the most successful environmental treaties. The Protocol was signed by 197 parties in 1987 to control the use of ozone-depleting substances, mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Twenty-nine years after the Montreal Protocol was adopted, CFCs have been phased out. US space agency NASA has reported that the size of the ozone hole in the atmosphere has decreased. While it may seem that the purpose of Montreal Protocol has been achieved, using HFCs as an alternative will contribute to another problem: global warming.
HFCs do not deplete ozone but have high global warming potential. If the use of HFCs continues to increase, they may account for 9-19% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The course of Montreal Protocol has changed from ozone protection to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Parties will meet in Rwanda in October 2016 to finalize an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on HFC phase down.
Finance, intellectual property rights of newchemicals and flexibility in choosing alternatives are crucial issues for developing countries. Support to small-scale industry and servicing will also hold significance for countries heavily dependent of small and medium enterprises or having low consumption.
Ozone Day has been celebrated for preserving the ozone layer. Addressing climate change and global warming—problems that alternative chemicals are partially responsible for—need to the clubbed with safeguarding ozone. Ozone day cannot be about Ozone alone anymore.
Since 2004, developed countries have started substituting HCFCs with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are again patented fluorinated gases pushed by multinational companies. Though they do not deplete the ozone layer, they have high GWP (Global Warming Potential), comparable to HCFCs’ and in some cases higher. Most developed countries have moved to HFCs. Now it is the turn of the developing countries.
Chlorodifluoromethane (HCFC-22) that is part of hydrochlorofluorocarbon group of chemicals (HCFCs) was the main replacement for CFCs and is used as a common refrigerant in India.
India has put in place a law to curb the use of HCFCs in a phased manner. But there is no law to curb the emission of trifluoromethane (HFC-23), released during its production. Though HFC-23 does not harm the ozone layer, its global warming potential is 14,800 times more than that of CO2.
India did not impose tax on fluorochemical companies when CDM was in place and allowed them to make huge profits
But there is an urgent need to introduce legislation so that the emission of this super greenhouse gas can be prevented.
India has the option to move to HFCs but it will not pay in the long run. HFCs are one of the gases whose emissions are regulated under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. India has no mandatory obligations to reduce emissions under this convention. In the near future, however, India will have to take obligations to reduce emissions. It will then have to phase out HFCs
It is detriment for India, both economically and energy-wise, to make a one-time transition from HCFCs to non-HFC options like hydrocarbons and not to keep protecting the interests of a few companies.
The world today is at crossroads just like in 1990. That year, countries agreed to phase out the use of gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that deplete the ozone layer of the atmosphere. But in 1990, countries had the option to move to a completely different type of gases called hydrocarbons to replace CFCs in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sectors. What lies ahead?
It is important to prioritize environment-friendly, energy efficient, non-patented and low GWP (Global Warming Potential) refrigerants.
Many developed countries are pushing patented low-GWP refrigerants as a substitute for HFCs. US companies are pushing for hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). DuPont is promoting HFOs as the “fourth generation” refrigerants. Japanese companies are pushing for HFC-32, a medium-GWPHFC, as the most energy-efficient substitute for HCFC.
Hydrocarbons, such as butane and propane, are excellent refrigerants which do not deplete ozone and have very low GWP( Global Warming Potential)
Hydrocarbons are the most appropriate substitute for fluorinated refrigerants. Their GWP is below 20 and they do not harm ozone. They are non-toxic (other than ammonia), non-patented, less expensive than fluorinated refrigerants and meet most of the specifications required for refrigerants. In fact, most hydrocarbons are more energy-efficient than fluorinated refrigerants.
It would be rewarding, both economically and energy-wise, for India to make a one-time transition from HCFCs to non-HFC options like hydrocarbons.
Does it make sense for India to remain on the chemical treadmill—CFCs to HCFCs to HFCs and then to chemicals like HFOs in the near future? Or should India leapfrog to natural refrigerants like hydrocarbons?
General Studies 1
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
General Studies 2
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Dalit caste- will the society accept its upliftment?
In news: The Maratha community is persistently but non-violently protesting against the Dalits after a Maratha girl was raped and killed by Dalits (accused) in Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra. Though dominant and subordinate caste relationship is fragile, there is a constitution and the state which is expected to take care of its vulnerable sections of society. But, does it actually?
Caste in constitution
The constitution of any nation presents ‘what it would like to be’ rather than ‘what it actually is’. Thus, it regards aspirations as achievements and uncertain journeys as assured arrivals.
When the Preamble of constitution of India says ‘We, the people’, it desires to reflect the unification and collectivity, however, this is what the constitution does—reflect the republic in best possible light.
However, when it comes to provision of caste in the ‘highest law of land’, the constitution does not directly deals with caste, rather it is more inferential.
Article 15 indirectly mentions caste as one among sources of discrimination. Sections 2(a) and 2(b) of Article 15 compensate this by explicitly prohibiting discriminatory restriction of access to (respectively) ‘shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment’ and ‘wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort…’.
The question is why it has to be explicitly declared that there should be no discrimination on the above mentioned areas, when it is already declared to be for the public.
In article 17, untouchability is abruptly announced where it is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden.
The constitution does not explain the meaning of ‘untouchability’ which is another example of caste being an absent presence in constitution where it is addressed only as an exceptional or special circumstance.
The state is an outcome of law as well as society and also a mediating link between the two.
The idealistic orientation has made the constitution external to society with largely exhortatory (encourage to do something) relationship with it.
Though the state depends on the Constitution for its legitimacy, but the Constitution also depends on the state for the actualisation of its ideals.
State regulated by politicsà politics is rooted in societyà personnel are members of society who embody prevalent social prejudicesà state is strongly influenced by society.
But, the state is institutionally bound by constitution and hence it cannot be always guided by the existing social prejudices. Rather, it has to occasionally rise above the prejudices to perform its constitutional duty.
Thus, the caste-state relationship is ambiguous as the state is itself a differentiated and plural (rather than homogenous or monolithic) entity, capable of acting in a wide variety of ways with respect to caste.
Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoAA), 1989
The PoAA, 1989 and earlier law, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, are ‘special laws’ which determine the situation previously ignored in constitution but need to address the reality of substantive inequality.
All citizens are not equally at risk of being subjected to the acts specified in the sub-sections of Section 3(1) of the PoAA:-
Being forced to ‘drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance’
Have ‘excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance’ dumped in their premises or neighbourhood
Being paraded ‘naked or with painted face or body’ and so on
If there exist specific groups of citizens who have repeatedly suffered such gross violations of the fundamental right to dignity, then surely there is necessity to have special laws like the PoAA which protect the interest of such groups.
The more important question arises “why still such groups exist?” They exist because of the social relations promoted by caste. The intervention done by PoAA due to atrocities done is because of society’s ability to sustain specific types of relationships, or mutually oriented attitudes and conditions.
On one hand, the Dalit caste is considered socially vulnerable vis-à-vis higher castes, especially those dominant within a region. And on the other hand, higher caste is allowed to acquire the socially approved sense of freedom with respect to the Dalit caste.
However, when the dominant class feels it has little prospect of economic and social mobility, its self-esteem and identity become increasingly dependent on the unequal relationships it maintains with subordinated castes.
Thus, the Dalit-dominant relationship turns into a zero-sum game where any real or imagined improvement in the lives of Dalits is seen as a reduction in the social distance separating the two groups, thereby implying a decline in the status of the dominant castes.
Demand to remove PoAA, 1989
Both in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra there is a rising demand to remove PoAA, which is coming from the political parties representing regionally dominant castes.
Both States have seen the emergence (or re-emergence) of Dalit assertion following some upward mobility. This has enraged the dominant castes, leading them to argue that the PoAA is being ‘misused’.
According to them, the act has been ‘misused’ against them in every special scheme or law intended to empower vulnerable groups, including reservations, laws against dowry, sexual harassment and rape, and even the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
In each case it is alleged that the ‘genuinely deserving’ never benefit and that the ‘vast majority’ of cases are fake.
However, activist groups show that it is hard for ordinary Dalits to get cases registered, and extremely difficult to get them placed under the PoAA.
The interesting part comes hereà the misuse part is not to be taken literally. It also acts a proxy for a more general perception that Dalits are no longer underdogs and may be turning into predators.
It is not to incite any negative views on Dalits but Dalits, like any other caste group, could become efficient oppressors if given the chance. But the better placed question is if they are in fact getting the chance.
At present, there has been nationwide uproar amongst Dalits due to frequency of atrocities on them- cow slaughter allegation (Gujarat), alleged temple entry (Singhrauly), couple killed over petty sum (UP) and the dadri lynching case will complete a year soon.
The time has to be used efficiently to determine how the vulnerable groups (Dalit, women) can be uplifted so that India becomes socially empowered along with economic growth. The moto of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ should not be contained only in the letter.
Along with it, there is a need to focus more on more vulnerable groups (orphan children, disabled) who do not have, and will probably never have, the constitutional protection of special laws.
Connecting the dots:
Dalits have been victim of social hierarchy since the dawn of varna system. In the 21st century, should caste system be determinant of social status? Analyse.
Dalit upliftment is not their ticket to become the oppressors instead to set an example for following Ambedkar’s path. Discuss.