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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 21st March 2018

  • IASbaba
  • March 21, 2018
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 21st March 2018

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


Karnataka modifies the criterion for an educational institution to be termed minority

Part of: Mains GS Paper II-

Key pointers:

  • Making it easier for educational institutions to get the minority tag, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education has tweaked the eligibility criterion to set up minority education institutions.
  • The older rules required a school to have 25% of the total number of students in an academic year belonging to a specific religious or linguistic minority community.
    But, the draft rules issued recently state that the institution can have 25% students belonging to any number of religious or linguistic minority communities.
  • The other criterion of two-thirds of the management members having to be of a particular minority community remains unchanged.

Article link: Click here


Diluting AFSPA:

Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Internal security

Key pointers:

  • The Centre has recently announced its plan to water down the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958. A proposal is under consideration to make the Act more operationally effective and humane.
  • The AFSPA is in force in several northeastern States.

The decision came after the Home Ministry decided to reduce the number of Central Armed Police Force personnel deployed in the northeastern States.

Jeevan Reddy committee:

Another official said there was no final decision to repeal the AFSPA as of now, but the Jeevan Reddy Committee report, which recommended so, was taken into account.

  • The Centre appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy in November 2004 to review the AFSPA.
  • The committee recommended repealing of the AFSPA.
  • It recommended that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, should be modified to specify the powers of the armed forces and the Central forces.

Article link: Click here


Prevention of Atrocities Act being misused: Supreme Court

Part of: Mains GS Paper I- Social empowerment

Key pointers:

  • The anti-atrocities law, which protects Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from casteist slurs and discrimination, has become an instrument to “blackmail” innocent citizens and public servants, the Supreme Court observed in a judgment recently.
  • The past three decades have seen complainants — who belong to the marginalised sections of society — use the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 to exact “vengeance” and satisfy vested interests.
  • Instead of blurring caste lines, the Act has been misused to file false complaints to promote caste hatred, the apex court said.
  • The current working of Atrocities Act may even “perpetuate casteism” if it is not brought in line and the court needs to intervene to check the “false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines.”
  • The 1989 Act penalises casteist insults and even denies anticipatory bail to the suspected offenders.
    The law is therefore used to rob a person of his personal liberty merely on the unilateral word of the complainant, the court said.

Guidelines issued by the SC:

  • The SC has directed that public servants can only be arrested with the written permission of their appointing authority.
  • In the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it.
  • Besides this precaution, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 1:

  • Poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Transforming Cities

Introduction:

The quality of life the cities are offering is either worsening or improving painfully slowly.
The first step to fixing our cities is to acknowledge their current state as a fact, and then think about what needs to be done by whom and how.

Steps taken:

In the last three years, we have seen historically unprecedented amounts of money being set aside for municipalities through 14th Finance Commission grants and the five central schemes of AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), Smart Cities Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission, HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) and Housing For All.

Slow progress:

Reasons behind slow progress includes-

  • Our cities do not have proper spatial plans; public utilities in our cities do not have design standards.
  • Cities do not have adequate funds to invest in capital expenditure; they do not possess financial management systems that measure financial accountability.
  • Human resources policies and practices of municipalities are outdated; mayors and municipal councils (of all sizes) are largely toothless.
  • Citizens do not have avenues to participate systematically in their neighbourhoods.

As a country we need to invest significantly in strengthening the municipality as an institution, and in the institutional systems and processes of city governance.
We cannot afford to focus on short-term projects alone (such as bridges and flyovers), but need to undertake a twin-track approach of projects plus institutional reforms.

Engaging stakeholders:

India’s journey of transforming our cities will need to be uniquely collaborative with leadership from governments but ownership across stakeholder groups.
The capacities of our governments to govern our cities will not grow fast enough for us to surmount the challenges and opportunities of urbanization in India in a timely manner, given the pace and scale at which it is occurring. Therefore, a wide variety of stakeholders will need to be engaged.

Way ahead:

City governance reforms:

  • Institutional reforms in spatial planning (by overhauling town and country planning acts).
  • Fiscal decentralization.
  • Overhauling cadre and recruitment rules for municipalities.
  • Empowering mayors and municipal councils.
  • Instituting decentralized platforms for citizen participation (ward committees and area sabhas).

Putting in place city blueprints:

The blueprint must have following component-

  • Quantitative goals for a five-year period, e.g. number of kilometres of walkable footpaths in the city or number of households for whom piped water supply would be extended.
  • Detailed activity road maps with quarterly milestones (comprising both reforms and projects), on how the quantitative goals are proposed to be achieved and how simultaneously institutional strengthening would happen.
  • Single owners at the city level to be appointed in whom accountability can be vested for various sectors rather than having multiple agencies handle parts of the same quality of life area.
  • Performance dashboards which are published quarterly and show progress against quantitative goals and activity milestones.
  • An institutional structure that overcomes the significant challenge of fragmentation of governance in a city across the municipality, agencies such as the transport corporation, the development authority, the water board, state departments such as traffic police, etc.

Countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines have accomplished much in their cities through city blueprints, led by state- and city-level political leaders.

Conclusion:

Thus, we need a broad coalition of stakeholders to adopt a positive narrative on institution-building and better city systems along with the narrative on outcomes. Rome was not built in a day. Neither will our cities.

Connecting the dots:

  • While various central government schemes are steps in right direction to transform Cities in India, there is need to ensure various stakeholders’ engagement along with having a blueprint for each city.

ENVIRONMENT

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  • Water Pollution, Wastewater management.

Nature-based solutions for water related issues

Background:

This year’s World Water Development Report makes it clear that nature-based solutions — which are also aligned with the principles and aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — can offer answers to our most pressing water-related challenges.
Business-as-usual approaches to water security are no longer viable.
The water-related challenges we face today are immense.

The issue of water scarcity:

  • The world’s population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion (2017) to between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people (2050), with two-thirds of them living in cities.
  • UN estimates are that more than half of this anticipated growth will be in Africa (1.3 billion) and Asia (0.75 billion). Therefore, those most in need of water will be in developing or emerging economies.
  • Climate change is also impacting the global water cycle with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions drier.
    An estimated 3.6 billion people now live in areas that could face water scarcity for at least a month in a year, with that number increasing to 4.8 and 5.7 billion by 2050.
  • The International Water Management Institute estimates that total demand could increase from 680 billion cubic metres (BCM) to 833 BCM by 2025, and to 900 BCM by 2050.
  • By 2050, countries already facing water scarcity challenges may also be forced to cope with the decreased availability of surface water resources.

India faces major threats to its water security, with most water bodies near urban centres heavily polluted.
Inter-State disputes over river resources are also becoming more intense and widespread.

Deteriorating water quality:

Along with water scarcity, there is the issue of water quality.

  • Since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in most rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • An estimated 80% of industrial and municipal wastewater is released without any prior treatment, with detrimental impacts on human health and ecosystems.
  • A Central Pollution Control Board report indicates that almost half of India’s inter-State rivers are polluted.
    Sewage from 650 cities and towns along 302 polluted river stretches in the country increased from 38,000 million litres per day (MLD) in 2009 to 62,000 MLD in 2015. It found that the untreated sewage and industrial waste was a major cause of pollution in 16 of 40 inter-State rivers in the country.

Way ahead:

  • Given the transboundary nature of most river basins, regional cooperation will be critical to addressing projected water quality challenges.
  • Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through “supply-side management,” and are recognised as the main solution to achieving sustainable water for agriculture.
  • Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control work as well as intensive, high-input systems.
    The environmental co-benefits of nature-based solutions to increasing sustainable agricultural production are substantial as there are decreased pressures on land conversion and reduced pollution, erosion and water requirements.
  • Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can also be a cost-effective, nature-based solution that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production.  
    Natural and constructed wetlands also biodegrade or immobilise a range of emerging pollutants.
  • Watershed management is another nature-based solution that can also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience.
  • Nature-based solutions are closely aligned with traditional and local knowledge including those held by indigenous and tribal peoples in the context of water variability and change.

Case of Chennai:

Chennai in Tamil Nadu is a textbook example of how nature is being ignored in urban development-posed challenges.
Unplanned urban development and unwieldy growth with no hydrological plan are causing many problems.
Earlier, when there was heavy rain in catchment areas in the Chennai region, lakes, ponds, tanks, rivers and inter-linked drainage systems helped replenish groundwater, hold back some water and release the excess to the ocean.
With development, a number of tanks and lakes in and around Chennai have been encroached upon by various stakeholders. The Pallikaranai marsh which acted as a sponge to soak up excess rainwater is now an over-run.

Conclusion:

Overall it can be concluded that, nature-based solutions are crucial to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals. Adopting them will not only improve water management but also achieve water security.

Connecting the dots:

  • Discuss the water related issues in India. Suggest how nature-based solutions like watershed management, wetlands etc. can help solve the dual challenge of water scarcity and deteriorating quality.

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