IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 28th March 2018
SC verdict on honor killing
Part of: Mains GS Paper I- Social issues
- Coming down heavily on crimes committed in the name of honour, the Supreme Court recently upheld the choice of consenting adults to love and marry as a part of their fundamental rights.
- The apex court said, “Honour killing guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one’s own perception of choice.”
- The court held that the consent of the family, community or clan is not necessary.
- It issued a set of guidelines for authorities to safeguard young couples under threat for marrying outside their caste or religion.
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COMCASA: 2nd defence foundational agreement with US to be signed soon
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations
- India may soon sign the second defence foundational pact with the US — the Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA).
- The pact will enable Indian military to obtain critical, secure and encrypted defence technologies from the other country.
- Being a ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US, it is imperative for India to sign the mandatory three foundational pacts which allows greater interoperability between critical technologies and smooth facilitation of classified information.
- So far, India has signed only one out of the three foundational agreements, called the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). It enables access to each other’s military facilities for purposes of refuelling and replenishment.
- The three foundational agreements are- LEMOA, COMCASA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
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TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
The Namami Gange Project: An assessment
Rapid population growth, urbanisation, and industrial development have raised the levels of domestic as well as industrial pollutants in Ganga waters.
According to July 2013 estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), fecal coliform levels, biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, and a range of carcinogenic chemicals remain well-above acceptable drinking and bathing quality levels in all stretches of the river after it descends from the mountains.
- The government launched the Namami Gange Programme, an integrated conservation mission with a budget of Rs. 20,000 crore to accomplish the objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of the Ganga.
The project covers eight states and seeks to fully connect all 1,632 Gram Panchayats along the Ganga to a sanitation system by 2022.
- There have been many well-funded programs to combat pollution in past too.
In 1985, the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was launched to fund the establishment of sewage treatment plants and other large-scale pollution mitigation technologies. The plan was ultimately extended to other rivers through the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP).
Poor progress of the Namami Gange Project: CAG’s findings
According to a new report from the CAG, the new push to clean the Ganga is not delivering results.
The audit team sampled 87 projects (73 ongoing, 13 completed, and one abandoned). The auditors’ findings are quite startling.
- The Government had only used $260 million of the $1.05 billion earmarked for the flagship programme between April 2015 and March 2017.
- All of the projects studied had a consistent list of problems: unused funds, an absence of a long-term plan, and delays in taking concrete action.
None of the efforts made have been particularly effective.
Each round of evaluations provides a standard list of issues emerges:
- Delays in reviewing projects.
- Poor inter-agency cooperation.
- Funding imbalances across sites.
- An inability to keep pace with growing pollution loads.
As a result, none of the policies has had any visible impact on water quality.
Governance system exists:
- India has strong environmental laws: the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977; and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- There is also a large enforcement apparatus.
Water quality is monitored and regulated by the environment ministry, the CPCB, and the associated State Pollution Control Boards.
Where do India’s water policies go wrong?
- In India’s electoral democracy, there is little space for environmental policy. Pollution has rarely been an electoral issue. Employment, economic growth, and poverty alleviation are more urgent.
Elected leaders have few incentives to take on either the big polluters (which include the government’s own companies and power stations) or the small-scale firms in industrial clusters that serve as vote-banks.
- High levels of regulation have created an elaborate system of rent-seeking.
There are efforts to build sewage treatment plants (STPs), even though vast segments of the population along the Ganga does not yet have access to sanitation.
- The way India’s environmental programmes are designed and implemented.
The system is currently extraordinarily top-heavy.
In 2014 “Ganga Manthan” was held where stakeholders from all levels of society were invited to submit suggestions on how the Ganga could be restored. In the subsequent years, however, there has been little follow-up.
There is almost no mention of civil society or citizen participation, particularly for monitoring and sustainability of the operations.
- Real solutions require shared responsibility between the state and the people.
We need to prioritise citizen engagement.
- To encourage above we need more publicly available data, and more local analysis of this data.
There is also a need for more education and awareness on the health effects of pollution, as well as the causes of pollution.
- Efforts need to me made catch agricultural and industrial waste before they run into the river.
- The government should take a comprehensive look at the interconnection between policies such as subsidies, electricity consumption, power use patterns, industrial development, and urbanisation plans.
A comprehensive policy for cleaning Ganga requires creativity, innovation, discipline, transparency and strong leadership. The cleanup of the Thames in London and the Rhine flowing through Europe suggest this is possible.
Connecting the dots:
- Various initiatives have been taken by the governments to clean river Ganga. An analysis of these initiatives shows poor progress. Discuss in light of present report by the CAG on the Namami Gange project.
- For the Namami Gange project to succeed it is required that the government takes a comprehensive look at the issues involved and stakeholder participation is ensured. Discuss.
General Studies 1:
- Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
General Studies 2:
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Indian cities failing to becomes engines of growth: Reasons behind
The decline in the quality of life in leading Indian cities is the result of two linked factors. While the cities (result of in-migration) are getting bigger by the day, in the last three years (2015-17) 20-odd leading Indian cities have progressed at a snail’s pace in improving their level of governance.
Because of this they remain far behind not just leading global cities like London and New York but also a city in a developing country, such as Johannesburg.
The above is takeaway from Janaagraha’s fifth and latest Annual Survey of Indian City Systems (ASICS), 2017.
The ASICS score:
On a scale of 0 to 10, it gives a measure of the health of a city’s governance and ability to deliver on quality of life.
The scores for Indian cities come in the 3.0 to 5.1 range, whereas both London and New York score 8.8, and Johannesburg 7.6.
In the last three years, the average score of Indian cities has barely moved from 3.4 to 3.9.
The survey notes that-
- A large part of the missing policy initiative to set things right must come from State governments. Unfortunately, the Centre has not been able to make much of an impact. According the survey, the “smart cities” initiative has made hardly any impact and the AMRUT programme just about a little.
- Many of the urban reforms envisaged in AMRUT have not been carried out.
- Mumbai’s average per capita capital expenditure for the last three years has gone down despite its robust revenue stream.
- Despite carrying a gargantuan commuter load, it has no comprehensive mobility plan.
- Its mayor is still indirectly elected and for a 2.5-year term, when the norm is five.
Declined from rank 12 in 2015 to 23 in 2017.
- It is growing rapidly but (deficiency one) does not have a resilience strategy.
- It lacks a sanitation and mobility plan.
- The Town Hall lacks autonomy for approval of its budgetary process.
- The mayor is indirectly elected and that too for only a year.
Occupies the second lowest rank of 22 (one down from 21 in 2015).
- It has hardly any urban local government worth the name.
- The share of its own revenue in its total expenditure is next to zero.
- Only nine of the 18 functions listed in the 74th amendment to the Constitution empowering urban local government have been devolved to the municipal body.
Pune: On the other hand
It has gone from fourth to first position in the last three years.
- One, it has undertaken some AMRUT reforms.
- Two, it has improved the share of its own revenue in total expenditure and raised the average per capita capital expenditure for the last three years.
- Three, it has made available online municipal staff data and a roadmap for digital governance.
Successive ASICS surveys have highlighted what needs doing for India to have a sustainable urban growth engine.
Urban local government has to be empowered, professionally run and have a mechanism whereby an involved citizenry can claim ownership and demand answers.
The rest will follow, with or without smart solutions.
Connecting the dots:
- Indian cities have failed to become growth engines. Discuss reasons behind and suggest measures moving forward.
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