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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th February 2022

  • IASbaba
  • February 17, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Solar waste handling policy

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Renewable energy

Context: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has estimated that the global photovoltaic waste will touch 78 million tonnes by 2050.

  • India is expected to be one of the top five generators of such waste.

Key takeaways 

  • While India is increasing its solar power capacity, it does not yet have a firm policy on managing waste that results from used solar panels or from the manufacturing process.
    • India currently considers solar waste a part of electronic waste and does not account for it separately.
  • Also, There is no commercial raw material recovery facility for solar e-waste operational in India.
  • But a pilot facility for solar panel recycling and material recovery had been set up by a private company in Gummidipoondi in Tamil Nadu.

Solar Energy in India

Do you know?

  • The cumulative capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) installations is around 40 GW.
  • The capacity of about 35.6 GW is generated from ground-mounted plants and 4.4 GW from rooftop solar. 
    • A gigawatt is a 1,000 megawatt.
  • Solar Photovoltaic: Solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells convert solar radiation (sunlight) into electricity.  A solar cell is a semi-conducting device made of silicon and/or other materials, which, when exposed to sunlight, generates electricity.

News Source: TH


One Rank One Pension (OROP)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Policies and interventions

Context: The Supreme Court recently pointed out that the Centre’s exaggeration on the One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy presented a much better condition than what is actually given to the pensioners of the armed forces.

What is One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy?

  • OROP means the payment of the same pension to military officers for the same rank for the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement.
  • Before OROP, ex-servicemen used to get pensions as per the Pay Commission’s recommendations of the time when they had retired.
  • Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have the highest number of OROP beneficiaries.
  • Armed Forces Personnel who had retired till 30th june 2014 are covered under it.
  • The implementation of the scheme was based on recommendation of the Koshiyari committee, a 10 member all-party parliamentary panel formed under the chairmanship of Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.

News Source: TH


Report on depression

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Health 

Context: A Lancet and World Psychiatric Association Commission on depression has stated that the world is failing to tackle the persisting and increasingly serious global crisis of depression it is facing.

Key takeaways 

  • It has estimated that 5% of adults worldwide suffer from depression each year, and yet it remains a neglected global health crisis. 
  • Poor understanding of this condition and lack of psychosocial and financial resources are already impacting on prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the economic prosperity of nations.
  • There is abundant evidence that much can be done to prevent depression and aid recovery even in resource-limited settings. Yet, many people continue to suffer.
  • While in high-income countries, about half of people suffering from depression come under this category, this rises to 80-90% in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges,
  • Recommendation: Investing in reducing the burden of depression will give millions of people the chance to become healthier, happier and more productive members of society, help to strengthen national economies, and advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


LIFE – LIfestyle for Environment

Part of: Prelims 

  • LIFE is about making lifestyle choices to improve our planet. 
  • LIFE will be a coalition of like-minded people across the world who will promote sustainable lifestyles – 3Ps – Pro Planet People
  • This global movement of Pro Planet People (3-Ps) is the Coalition for LIFE. These three global coalitions will form the trinity of our environment efforts for improving the global commons.

Government approves ‘ New India Literacy Programme

Part of: Prelims 

In News: Government approved a new scheme “New India Literacy Programme for the period FYs 2022-2027 to cover all the aspects of Adult Education to align with National Education Policy 2020 and Budget Announcements 2021-22. 

  • The National Education Policy 2020 has recommendations for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning.
  • Term “Adult Education” to be replaced with “Education For All”

Objectives of the scheme is to impart not only foundational literacy and numeracy but also to cover other components which are necessary for a citizen of 21st century such as  

  • Critical life skills (including financial literacy, digital literacy, commercial skills, health care and awareness, child care and education, and family welfare)
  • Vocational skills development (with a view towards obtaining local employment)
  • Basic education (including preparatory, middle, and secondary stage equivalency)
  • Continuing education (including engaging holistic adult education courses in arts, sciences, technology, culture, sports, and recreation, as well as other topics of interest or use to local learners, such as more advanced material on critical life skills).

News Source: PIB


MISCELLANEOUS

Atmospheric pressure on surface of Pluto: More than 80,000 times less than Earth

Shri Chennaveera Kanavi: Veteran Kannada poet passed away; his collections include

  • Kavyakshi
  • Jeevadhwani
  • Nadoja

Ujjwala Yojana: More than 90 million households have been provided access to clean cooking fuel.

LED bulbs distribution scheme has been running for over seven years. It has helped save more than 220 billion units of electricity and 180 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. 

PM-KUSUM Scheme: Taken renewable energy to the farmers

  • Encouraging farmers to set up solar panels, use it and sell surplus power to the grid.  
  • Standalone solar pumps as well as efforts for solarising existing pumps are being scaled up. 

Objectives of the Rooftop Solar Programme

  • To promote the grid-connected SPV rooftop and small SPV power generating plants among the residential, community, institutional, industrial and commercial establishments.
  • To mitigate the dependence on fossil fuel based electricity generation and encourage environment-friendly Solar electricity generation.
  • To create an enabling environment for investment in the solar energy sector by the private sector, state government and the individuals.
  • To create an enabling environment for the supply of solar power from rooftop and small plants to the grid.

National Hydrogen Mission: It aims to tap into Green Hydrogen, an exciting technology to power our future. 

  • Aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources
  • Hydrogen Fuel
    • Hydrogen does not occur freely in nature in useful quantities.
    • It can be made from natural gas or it can be made by passing electric current through water.
    • When hydrogen is burned, it only emits water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced. 
    • It is more efficient than internal combustion engine. 
    • Although hydrogen is a clean molecule, the process of extracting it is energy-intensive. Also, manufacturing hydrogen fuel based vehicle is expensive.

The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (C.D.R.I.), aims to build strong infrastructure in areas prone to frequent natural disasters. 

Infrastructure for Resilient Island States: The Island Developing States are the most vulnerable and hence need urgent protection. 

  • Small Island Developing States –SIDS- will mobilize technology, finance, and necessary information rapidly. Promotion of quality infrastructure in Small Island States will benefit both lives and livelihoods there.
  • Significance: The biggest threat from climate change is to the ‘Small Island Developing States- SIDS’. In such countries, climate change is a major challenge not only for the security of their lives, but also for their economies. Such countries depend a lot on tourism, but due to natural calamities, even tourists are afraid to come there.

Background: 

Sensing the threat of Climate Change looming over small island countries, India made special arrangements for cooperation with Pacific islands and CARICOM nations.

  • Trained their citizens in solar technologies, and contributed continuously to the development of infrastructure there.
  • India’s space agency, ISRO will build a special data window for SIDS. With this, SIDS will continue to receive timely information about cyclones, coral-reef monitoring, coast-line monitoring, etc. through satellite.
  • The IRIS initiative is a part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure that would focus on building capacity, having pilot projects, especially in small island developing states.
  • The new initiative is the result of cooperation between India, the UK and Australia and included the participation of leaders of small island nations Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius.

(Mains Focus)


GOVERNANCE / POLITY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.

A case for a more federal judiciary

Context: Nearly 150 years ago, A.V. Dicey, the foremost constitutional lawyer of his day, wrote, “The essential characteristic of federalism is the distribution of limited executive, legislative and judicial authority among bodies which are coordinate with and independent of each other”.

  • It is now time to examine the Indian judiciary and the need to strengthen the federal nature of our judiciary. 

About the characteristic of Indian Judiciary

  • Federalism is a midpoint between unitarism which has a supreme centre, to which the States are subordinate, and confederalism wherein the States are supreme, and are merely coordinated by a weak centre.
  • An integral requirement of a federal state is that there be a robust federal judicial system which interprets this constitution, and therefore adjudicates upon the rights of the federal units and the central unit, and between the citizen and these units. 
  • The federal judicial system comprises the Supreme Court and the High Court in the sense that it is only these two courts which can adjudicate the above rights. 
  • Integrated Judiciary: The Indian Federation though a dual polity has no dual judiciary at all. The High Courts and the Supreme Court form one single integrated judiciary having jurisdiction in all cases arising under the constitutional law, the civil law or the criminal law.
  • Equality of Judges: The Indian Constitution envisaged the equality of power of High Court judges and Supreme Court judges, with a High Court judge not being a subordinate of a Supreme Court judge. 
  • The Supreme Court has, on many occasions, reiterated the position that the Supreme Court is superior to the High Court only in the appellate sense. 

Centralisation of Indian Judiciary

  • The theoretical position has always been that High Court judges and Supreme Court judges are equals. This balance is required in order for the constitutional structure dreamt of by B.R. Ambedkar to work. 
  • The need for this balance was underscored during the Emergency, when certain High Courts stood out as beacons of freedom, even as the Supreme Court failed in this duty. 
  • This balance existed from Independence onwards, until the 1990s. Since then, however, it has been tilting in favour of the central court
    • First, the Supreme Court (or rather, a section of its judges, called “the Collegium”) has the power to appoint judges and chief justices to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
    • Second, successive governments have passed laws that create parallel judicial systems of courts and tribunals which provide for direct appeals to the Supreme Court, bypassing the High Courts. 
    • Third, the Supreme Court has been liberal in entertaining cases pertaining to trifling matters. 

What are the impacts of Centralisation of Judiciary?

  1. Weakening of Federalism
    • In the United States, empirical research by scholars shows that the U.S. Supreme Court is far more likely to strike down a state law as unconstitutional than a federal law. This research leads to the conclusion that judicial review by a centralised judiciary tends toward unitarism (the opposite of federalism)
    • In Nigeria, a similar federal country, in case of litigations over mineral rights and subsoil rights, the Supreme Court has favoured interpretations which support the rights of the centre over the State
    • Supreme Court of India today, by playing the role of a collegium, effectively wields the power to appoint (or delay the appointment) of a person as a judge to a High Court or to transfer to another High Court.
  2. Non-constitutional frivolous matters reaching Supreme Court 
    • An aggressively interventionist Supreme Court leads many to approach it directly as a panacea for all ills befalling the nation
    • In 2018, Supreme Court promptly entertained the writ petition to curtail Deepavali celebrations. In another example, the Supreme Court spent days deciding the height of the dahi handi during Gokulashtami celebrations.
    • Frivolous matters are making the institution dysfunctional. These matters waste important time of the court, which could have been spent on serious matters, pan-India matters
  3. Creation of parallel hierarchies of courts and tribunals
    • Successive governments have passed laws that create parallel judicial systems of courts and tribunals which provide for direct appeals to the Supreme Court, bypassing the High Courts.
    • This leads to weakening of the authority of the High Courts or the possibility of a tendency towards subservience or apathy of the judges of the High Courts. 

Conclusion

Supreme Court itself must recognises the importance of Judicial Federalism and restores the federal balance by re-empowering the High Courts. This will be in the best interest of the nation.

Connecting the dots:


POLITY/ ETHICS

  • GS-2: Political Theories

Negative and Positive Liberty

Everyone defends freedom: the freedom to speak, to move, to act, to eat, to practice the religion they want. But what does freedom — a concept that has been redefined and revisited innumerable times by scholars — really mean? 

Isaiah Berlin, in his seminal essay published in 1958 titled “Two Concepts of Liberty’, speaks of two senses of freedom. 

  • The first is what he calls “negative liberty”. This revolves around the existence of a private sphere where an individual can do as he or she pleases, free from interference of any kind, whether from other individuals, communities, the State, or by oppressive social forces. The individual is free of any external barriers or constraints. 
  • The second is what he calls “positive liberty“, which refers to the act of taking control over one’s life and realising its fundamental purposes. 

Example

  • Let us suppose that a woman, Devi, works in Chennai and wants to visit her family which lives in a village in Bihar. 
  • Under a negative conception of liberty, Devi could travel from Chennai to her village in Bihar without anyone stopping her for any reason. If someone — Devi’s relatives or neighbours or the Government — prevented her from travelling, that would amount to a violation of her negative liberty. 
  • But if Devi is poor and cannot afford an airplane ticket or a train ticket, her capacity to travel is hindered by her poverty. It is not a violation of negative liberty but from the standpoint of positive liberty, which is the ability to take control of one’s own life and realise its fundamental purposes, Devi is not free. Devi is lacking capabilities to realize her freedoms.

How the conception of Liberty impacts government functioning?

  • While the political left has supported positive liberty for some time, the political right and libertarians support the idea of negative liberty. 
  • The notions of negative and positive liberty broadly determine how governments function. 
  • For instance, some governments may cut spending on government programmes, while others may increase spending so that the poor and marginalised can have better access to food and resources at the cost of taxation. 
  • If a Government increases spending by taxing one section of people, it means that it is cutting down on the economic freedoms of some classes in order for others to access certain goods and services. And this is where some people have a problem with positive liberty in its practical sense. 
  • Berlin also explains in his essay how positive liberty has been abused by tyrannies, especially by the Soviet Union. The regime portrayed its brutal governance as the empowerment of the people.
  • On the other hand, in a society with negative freedom, everyone is freer because no one’s freedom is compromised. But negative freedom, early English philosophers believed, could lead to social chaos. 
    • Because there could be no limit to what human beings may want. And if they are allowed to achieve anything they want, the strong suppress the weak. 
    • For instance, some would argue that banks are allowed to wreck the economy in the name of freedom from regulation. This is why the area for men’s action is restricted by law. 
  • This is not to say that negative liberty is not important. Rajeev Bhargava “In conditions where powerful churches, caste organisations or the State is hell bent on controlling every aspect of a person’s life — who to marry, what kind of a family to lead, what opinions to hold and what to eat — negative freedom is a precious good….”. 

What are the criticisms of Berlin’s idea of liberty?

  • Berlin’s ideas have been critiqued by other scholars who say he never made clear the distinction between positive and negative liberty. 
  • Also, he lived and wrote during a period of history which saw the ideas of positive freedom exploited to justify horrific atrocities, such as the Holocaust. This, they argue, is no justification for associating positive liberty with totalitarian regimes. 
  • They argue that far from being forced to adopt their ideas, proponents of positive liberty simply aspire to help others attain self-mastery. 

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth: Governance)


Feb 10: Consolidate clearances: 4 steps for effective green governance – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/forests/consolidate-clearances-4-steps-for-effective-green-governance-81476 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Climate Change & Conservation, Environmental impact assessment

Consolidate clearances: 4 steps for effective green governance 

Context: The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has announced that it will rank the state environmental impact assessment authorities based on seven different criteria, which would exhibit their efficiency/on the speed at which environmental approvals are given. This received criticisms from all sides, leading the Ministry to state some clarifications – 

  • The move is aimed at encouraging the efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of SEIAAs without diluting any regulatory safeguards. 
  • No SEIAA will be penalised for taking more time in granting permission. The SEIAAs are responsible for providing permissions and environmental clearance for more than 90 per cent infrastructure, developmental and industrial projects in the country, once they assess that these projects have little environmental impact.
  • The ministry has taken several initiatives for streamlining the EC (environmental clearance) process and reduce the undue time taken in grant of clearances. As a step further new rating of SEIAAs has been introduced for encouraging the efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of SEIAAs.

Why did it face backlash?

  • Undermines the role of regulatory oversight in environmental protection — recognised in several Supreme Court verdicts as one of the key instruments to ensure the right to life.
  • The ranking exercise will compromise the SEIAAs’ mandate to assess the impact of industrial, real estate and mining schemes on the environment and lead to an unhealthy competition amongst these agencies to swiftly clear projects without due diligence.

Urgent need for an effective system

There is a need for a robust, credible system of environmental scrutiny, to find the balance between environment and development, and to mitigate harm. An effective system, working for environmental integrity, would ensure these happen, both in design and in implementation.

  1. First, we need to accept that the system has become unnecessarily convoluted and must be streamlined. 
    • There is a need to consolidate all clearances — environment, forests, wildlife and coastal — so that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is comprehensive.
    • In the Union Budget 2022-23, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a single-window clearance system. But because it is aimed solely towards the ease of doing business, it will further dilute this broken system. Therefore, the clearance system needs to be part of a package that simultaneously strengthens systems of public participation and monitoring.
  2. Second, the process of public assessment must be deepened. 
    • The task of listening to the community and its objections to the project can become as corrupt and compromised as the other parts of the system.
    • Today, public hearings are held, not heard. We need to see this as a critical process; risks from projects get mitigated when community concerns are heeded and efforts are made to remediate and mitigate fallouts. So, going forward, the mandatory videography of the public hearing should be livestreamed.
    • The committee assessing the project must be held to account that it has taken these concerns on board. To enable this, the monitoring and compliance conditions must be put in the public domain, and relayed back to the community.
  3. Third, it is necessary to review the role of the environmental assessment committees — at the Centre and at the state. 
    • These committees are the weakest link in this process, as they are faceless and are not responsible for the compliance or monitoring of the project.
    • It is a farce to say that the experts are independent. In fact, these committees make the government less accountable for the decisions that are taken during the scrutiny of the project.
    • It is time these committees were disbanded and the process of assessment and monitoring be done by the central and state environment departments, which in turn needs to be strengthened in terms of expertise. But with this, the list of projects cleared or rejected and their conditions should be made public.
  4. The fourth and most critical agenda is to greatly strengthen the process of monitoring the project, post clearance. 
    • For this, there is a need to integrate the functioning of all agencies — from state pollution control boards to the coastal- and forest-related institutions. Currently, there are many agencies and yet enforcement is weak.
    • The focus must be on monitoring for compliance. Otherwise, there is no point in this entire effort of assessing the impacts of projects.
    • But all this will not work unless baseline data about the project is credible and, again, publicly available. For this, the process of collecting updated information on different environmental parameters and on the ecological importance of the project site must be strengthened. 
    • This data needs to be publicly accessible so that when it is used in the EIA report, its credibility and scientific rigour can be gauged.

Conclusion

This is only possible, if we believe that the process of project scrutiny has a value. Otherwise, these clearances will remain an exercise in futility, and government after government will take it down bit by bit to maintain the charade of environmental protection.

Note:

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • UNEP defines EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
  • It aims to 
    • Predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design,
    • Find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, 
    • Shape projects to suit the local environment and
    • Present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
  • EIA in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process
  • The assessment is carried out by an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), which consists of scientists and project management experts.

What is the philosophy behind EIA?

  • The basis in global environmental law for the EIA is the “precautionary principle”. Environmental harm is often irreparable — one cannot reverse an oil spill.
  • It is cheaper to avoid damage to the environment than to remedy it. 
  • Also, we are legally bound to the precautionary principle under international treaties and obligations, as well as by Supreme Court judgments.

History of EIA in India

  • The Indian experience with EIA began in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle. 
  • Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support.
  • In 1994, the Union Environment ministry under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for activity listed in Schedule 1 of the notification
  • Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994 the latest one being in 2006 which has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.
  • Additionally, donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Are we witnessing more and more cases of environment versus development, or just wilfully bad development? Critically examine.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Q.1 Consider the following statements 

  1. Ministry of New and Renewable energy is the nodal agency to tackle India’s renewable energy issues.
  2. National Solar Mission aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its deployment across the country.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Hydrogen Fuel:

  1. Hydrogen occurs freely in nature in useful quantities.
  2. It is more efficient than internal combustion engine. 

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 New India Literacy Programme shall focus on Which of the following category of population? 

  1. Tribals
  2. Children below 14 years of age
  3. Adults
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 17th Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 B
3 C

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