Weekly Current Affairs Mains (16th to 22nd September, 2018)

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Weekly Current Affairs Mains (16th to 22nd September, 2018)

 

Topic : Status of Mental health in India

Topic in syllabus: GS II Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

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Why in news:

As per the Lancet study recently released, 37% of global suicide deaths among women and 24% among men occurred in India.  This highlights the growing mental health challenge India is currently battling with.

Mental health and mental Illness

  • WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her/his community.”
  • The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 defines “mental illness” as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
    • However, it does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by sub-normality of intelligence.

Status of Mental Health and Healthcare in India:

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Mental Health:

  • According to WHO Report “Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders – Global Health Estimates” (2017), the estimated prevalence of depressive disorders in India is 4.5% of the total population. Further, 38 million people suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • According to National Mental Health Survey (2015-16) nearly 13% suffer from minor to major mental disorders and the prevalence of depressive disorders in India is estimated to be 2.7% of the total population
  • According to 2011 Census, there were 15 lakh mentally retarded and 7.2 lakh mentally ill people in India.

Budgetary Allocation: Mental health expenditure is only 0.06% (compared to 0.44% of Bangladesh) of the total health budget.  

Infrastructure and Human Resource:

  • There are only 43 government-run mental hospitals across all of India to provide services to more than 70 million people living with mental disorders.
  • There are 0.30 psychiatrists (compared to China’s 1.7), 0.17 nurses, and 0.05 psychologists per 1, 00,000 mentally ill patients in the country.

Policy Approach:

  1. National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), 1982: The programme was launched for detection, management and treatment of mental illness. In 1996, District Mental Health Program (DMHP) was launched under NMHP. The major components of DMHP are counselling in schools and colleges, workplace stress management, life skills training, suicide prevention services and IEC activities for generation of awareness and removal of stigma associated with Mental Illness.

2.Mental Health Act, 1987- The Act was enforced in 1993, replacing the Lunacy Act of 1912. The Act largely aimed at the regulation and administration of mental health care in institutional settings. It also included provisions for treatment of persons with mental illness in general hospitals and provisions for discharge from institutions.

  1.  National Mental Health Policy, 2014: The policy aims to promote mental health, prevent mental illness, enable recovery from mental illness, promote destigmatization and desegregation, and ensure socio-economic inclusion of mentally ill people.
  2. Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017: The Act acknowledges mental illness as a disability and seeks to enhance the Rights and Entitlements of the Disabled and provide effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and inclusion in the society
  3. Mental Healthcare Act, 2017: The Act seeks to ensure rights of the person with mental illness to receive care and to live a life with dignity.

The key features of the Act are:

  1. a) Rights of Persons with Mental Illness:
  • Right to Access to Healthcare– Every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government. It also assures free treatment to those who are homeless or below the poverty line. The Act also requires insurance policies to place mental health treatment at par with physical health.
  • Right to live with dignity: Every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity
  • Right to Confidentiality: A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare
  1. b) Advance Directive:

The Act empowers person with mental illness to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be.

  1. c) Authorities:
  • The Act mandates the government to set up Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in every State.
  • Further, every mental health institute and mental health practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered with the Authority.
  1. d) Mental Health Treatment:
  • A mentally ill person shall not be subjected to electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Further, electroconvulsive therapy cannot be used on minors
  • Sterilisation will not be performed on such persons.
  • They shall not be chained in any manner or under any circumstances
  • They shall not be subjected to seclusion or solitary confinement.
  1. e) Decriminalization of Suicide:Until recently suicide was a punishable offence under IPC Section 309. The Act decriminalizes suicide stating whoever attempts suicide will be presumed to be under severe stress, and shall not be punished for it.

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Issues with Mental Healthcare Act, 2017:
  1. a) The Act neglects the prevention and promotion of mental well-being and recognizes mental illness as a clinical issue which can only be treated by medicines and clinical procedures.
  2. b) The Act does not provide a clear procedure for preparing the Advance Directive. Further, doctors are of the opinion that they are in the best position to take decisions on aspects of treatment since patients or their nominated representatives may have limited knowledge on mental health and mental illness.
  3. c) The Act provides a narrow and restricted definition of mental health professionals and does not include psychotherapists, counsellors and psychoanalysts.
  4. d) Further, given the infrastructural and human resource constraints, the implementation of the Act poses a huge challenge.
  5. Treatment Gap: According to estimates nearly 92% of the people who need mental health care and treatment do not have access to any form of mental health care.

Note: Treatment gap is the difference between those suffering from mental illnesses and those availing medical/psychiatric care

  1. Mental Healthcare Resources:
  • Mental healthcare resources in India are inadequate with poor infrastructure and abysmally low number of healthcare professionals.
  • Further, there is huge rural-urban disparity with most of the mental healthcare facilities being concentrated in urban areas.
  1. Social stigma: A potent mix of superstition, social stigma and discrimination and reliance on ‘faith healers’ is a major concern. Lack of awareness and illiteracy contributing to social stigma further aggravates the issues related to mental health and hinders treatment and social inclusion of patients.
  2.  Economic Burden: The economic burden of mental illness contributes significantly to the treatment gap in India. There are both direct (cost of long-term treatment) and indirect costs (,the inability of the patient and caregiver to work, social isolation, psychological stress) contribute significantly to the economic burden.
  3. Human Rights Violation: Violations of human rights have been reported in mental asylums and also at homes and places of traditional healing. In India, mental hospitals still practice certain obscure practices that violate human rights. Further poor infrastructure such as closed structures, a lack of maintenance, unclean toilets and sleeping areas etc clearly violate the basic human right to a life with dignity.

Example: Erwadi Tragedy

In 2001, 28 patients who were chained at a home for mentally-ill people died after a fire that engulfed the home in Erwadi village in the Ramanathapuram district (Tamil Nadu)

 

Civil society initiatives:

  1. Atmiyata Project:

It is a community led project which aims to improve community awareness and facilitate access to both mental health and social care. Community volunteers are trained to provide psychological counselling, social care and referral services to those with mental health problems

  1. The Live, Love, Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), started by actor Deepika Padukone:

The foundation has partnered with Association of People with Disability (APD) to enhance rural mental healthcare in Davangere district, Karnataka. It has also taken up different other projects such as ‘You are not Alone’ (a school awareness programme), ‘Together against Depression’ (a doctor’s awareness programme) and ‘Dobara Pucho’ (a public awareness programme on mental health)

  1. SAATHI: It is a South-Asian Mental Health Outreach Program of ASHA International which aims to promote awareness about mental health and emotional wellbeing, improve access to care and connect people to community supports and wellness resources

 

India’s International Commitments:

  1. Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 3: Good Health and wellbeing

  • Target 3.4 “By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from Non communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.”
  • Target 3.5 requests that countries: “Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.”
  1. UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention identifies mental illness as a disability and seeks commitment from ratifying countries to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and promote and respect their inherent dignity. India’s Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 has been formulated on the lines of the convention.

Best Practice

WHO recognizes mental healthcare system in Thiruvantathapuram, Kerala as a best practice. Since 1999, Thiruvananthapuram District has integrated mental health services into primary care. Trained medical officers diagnose and treat mental disorders as part of their general primary care functions. Further, a multidisciplinary district mental health team provides direct management of complex cases and in-service training and support of primary care workers. Free and timely and adequate availability of psychotropic medications in the clinics has reduced the economic burden of patients.

Way Forward:

  1. The government should make appropriate budgetary provisions to address the existing infrastructure gaps.
  2. Proper survey should be conducted to identify shortages in mental health professionals and operational barriers to effective implementation of mental health programs
  3. There is an urgent need of easily available diagnostic test and low cost treatment to provide better primary mental health care. Further, the government should ensure insurance covers for mental illness to reduce the economic burden
  4. Early Interventions:
  • There is a need to create living conditions and environment that support healthy mental health. It is important to develop a society that respects and protects basic, civil, political, and cultural rights
  • It is important to aim at child development by early childhood interventions like preschool psychosocial activities, nutritional and psycho-social help
  • To reduce the burden of mental disorders in women, there is need to ensure socio-economic empowerment and safety of women.  
  1. It is important to generate public awareness about the commonness of mental disorders, understanding of mental disorders as illnesses, treatment and the importance of acceptance by the family and the community.
  2. Coordinated efforts from all stakeholders (government, medical fraternity, civil society, educational institutions, family, peer group and community) are needed to address the growing concern of mental health in India.

 

Sample question:

Q. What is the status of mental health in India. Elucidate with examples the incidence and measures being taken to improve mental health.


 

Topic : India Nepal relations

Topic in syllabus: GS II -India and its neighbourhood- relations

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Why in news:

  • Nepal and China finalized the protocol of their Transit and Transport deal.
  • Nepal declined to attend BIMSTEC military exercise (MILEX 2018) hosted by India.

Background of India-Nepal relations

  • India and Nepal share a very special relationship with each other. They share a common culture and terrain south of the Himalaya. Bound by languages and religions, marriage and mythology, the links of their civilizational contacts run through both the countries.
  • At the people to people level, relations between India and Nepal are closer and more multifaceted than between India and any other country.
  • Republic of India and Nepal began their formal relationship with the 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty of Peace and Friendship. This treaty is the cornerstone of our current relation with Nepal.

Present status

  • Relation between India and Nepal was on a downward curve since 2015 when Nepal put out its draft constitution and alleged economic blockade by India
  • With PM Oli back in power in 2018, the India’s outreach to the new government in Nepal was quick — announcing new connectivity and development projects.
  • A series of bilateral visits have taken place by the Prime Ministers of both the countries.

Developments in 2018

High level political visits

  1. Visit of PM Oli to India:(April,2018)
  • A 12-point joint statement was issued, highlighting the resolve to take the bilateral relation to newer heights on the basis of equality and mutual trust, avoiding key contentious issues between two countries.
  • During the visit Nepal and India signed three new agreements on partnership in agriculture, Plan for connectivity through Inland waterways and Expanding linkages to connect Indian railway lines to Kathmandu

2)  Visit of PM Modi to Nepal (May,2018)

  • It was decided that urgent attention will be paid to the problems of river training, inundation and flood control on the common border.
  • PM Modi gave a new “5T” (“Tradition”, “Trade”, “Tourism”, “Technology and Transport”) formula

3) Visit of PM Modi for BIMSTEC Summit(August,2018)

  • PM Modi again visited Nepal to attend the 4th BIMSTEC summit.PMs of both the countries held a detailed review on all aspects of the bilateral relationship

Significance of Nepal

Strategic

  • Nepal’s geographical location is unique such that it is a natural buffer between India and China
  • Since Nepal is a landlocked country it greatly depends on India for its interaction with the outside world.

Political

  • Nepal shares a special relationship with India historically.
  • India has a Treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal since 1950.
  • This treaty is instrumental for close cooperation between the two countries.
  • India has always considered South Asia to be its sphere of influence.

Economic

  • India is Nepal’s largest trade partner
  • Nepal is endowed with fast flowing rivers with huge hydroelectric potential. Nepal’s installed hydel capacity is less than 700 MW while it sits on a hydel potential of over 80,000 MW.
  • Nepal is part of many international projects like BBIN etc

Cultural

  • India and Nepal share a common culture and have a long history of people to people relationship.
  • Nepali and Indian people visit each other’s country for religious pilgrimage. Pashupati and Janakpur are traditional centres in Nepal whereas Varanasi and the four Dhaams are important pilgrimage destination in India.
  • The Buddhist network is interlinked — Lumbini is in Nepal, while Kushinagar, Gaya and Sarnath are in India.
  • It is said that India and Nepal have ‘Roti-Beti ka Rishta’ (ties of food and family).

Areas of Cooperation

  1.     Trade and Economic
  • India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, besides providing transit for almost the entire trade which Nepal has with other countries.
  1.     Indian Investment in Nepal
  • Indian firms are the leading investors in Nepal, accounting for about 40% of the total approved foreign direct investments.
  1.     Water Resources and energy cooperation
  • A three–tier mechanism established in 2008, to discuss all bilateral issues relating to cooperation in water resources and hydropower.
  • Nepal has many fast flowing rivers and its terrain makes it ideal for hydroelectric power generation. Nepal’s installed capacity is less than 700 MW while it has a potential to generate over 80,000 MW.
  • A 900 megawatts hydropower project Arun III has been launched recently.
  • An Agreement on “Electric Power Trade, Cross-border Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity” was signed between India and Nepal in 2014.
  • A Joint Technical Team (JTT) has been formed for preparation of long-term integrated transmission plan covering projects up to 2035.
  1.     Defense Cooperation
  • The Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army are raised partly by recruitment from hill districts of Nepal.
  • Since 1950, India and Nepal have been awarding Army Chiefs of each other with the honorary rank of General.
  • Bilateral defense cooperation includes assistance to Nepal Army in its modernization through provision of equipment and training.
  • About 250 training slots are provided every year for training of Nepal Army personnel in various Indian Army Training institutions.
  • India and Nepal conducted a joint military exercise, Surya Kiran XIII from May 30 to  June 12 in Uttarakhand this year.
  1.     Infrastructure and connectivity
  • India provides development assistance to Nepal, focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-root level.
  • Recently a MoU was signed on Raxaul-Kathmandu railway line. A Postal highway project is also being undertaken.
  • Both the countries are also focused on inland waterways connectivity.
  1.     Culture and People to People cooperation
  • The Governments of India and Nepal have signed three sister-city agreements for twinning of Kathmandu-Varanasi, Lumbini-Bodhgayaand Janakpur-Ayodhya.
  • Direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya under Ramayan Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme was launched.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is involved in the renovation of the Pashupatinath Temple Complex in Kathmandu.
  • Nepal-Bharat Maitri Pashupati Dharmashala was inaugurated recently to meet the requirement of pilgrimage to Pashupatinath Temple.
  • Nepal and India share Hindu and Buddhist heritage. Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha is in Nepal while Bodh Gaya where he attained enlightenment is in India. Similarly the hindu pilgrimage places are also spread in both countries.
  • Historically Indian and Nepali people have shared family ties. In indian mythology Goddess Sita married Lord Ram. Indian and Nepali royal families too have matrimonial relations.

Challenges

  1.     Border issues:
  • Nepal and India must resolve contentious issues relating to the border, including the two major areas of dispute at Susta and Kalapani(India–China-Nepal tri-junction).
  • Countries agreed to start talks at the foreign secretary-level in order to resolve the problem however, only a single talk has taken place in 2015.
  • There is a need for construction, restoration, and repair of boundary pillars, and the clearance of no man’s land on both sides.
  1.   Internal Security
  • There is an open border between India and Nepal which leads to illegal migration and human trafficking.
  • Indo Nepal border is used as launch pad by maoist, terrorist and drug traffickers.
  1.     Nepal’s new constitution and its aftermath
  • A new constitution was promulgated in Nepal in 2015.
  • It gave extensive political privileges to the ruling hill tribes and discriminated against the people living in plains including Madhesis.
  • The constitution gave representation to Madhesis which was not in proportion to their population.
  • It also made obtaining citizenship by Madhesis very difficult and discriminating.
  • India has objected to these discriminatory provisions and requested Nepal to rectify them.
  1.     Big Brotherly attitude
  • There is a widespread perception in Nepal that India does not respect the country’s sovereignty and that it often intervenes in Nepal’s domestic affairs.
  • India has been perceived to be playing a role of big brother in the region.
  • Nepal accused India of imposing an economic blockade including blockade of gas supply, fuel etc on them to put pressure to make certain amendments in their constitution.
  • There was much outrage in Nepal of the way Indian media covered the 2015 Nepal Earthquake rescue and relief operations. Many Nepali trended hashtags like #gobackIndia on social media to express their outrage.
  1.     Trade
  • Nepal’s trade deficit with India has surged in recent years with continuously rising imports and sluggish exports.
  • The current deficit in trade with India is 689.85 billion in Nepali Rupee. The country earned Rs 42.46 billion from its exports to India while paying the import bills worth Rs 732.31 billion
  • Indo-Nepal trade continues to remain massively in India’s favor.
  1.     Peace and friendship treaty
  • The India-Nepal treaty of 1950 has been criticized by the Nepali political elite as an unequal one.
  • Treaty obliged Nepal to inform India and seek its consent for the purchases of military hardware from third countries. Nepal wants to change this provision.
  • The Nepal-India Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) is revisiting all bilateral agreements to submit a comprehensive report to both governments on how to reset bilateral relations.
  • PM Modi has expressed his readiness to revise and update the 1950 treaty to bring in line with the changing times while keeping in mind the interest of both  countries.
  1.    Nepal’s growing proximity to China
  • Nepal’s attempt to balance the overwhelming presence of India next door by reaching out to China is resented by India as such actions heighten India’s security concerns.
  • Chinese are building a number of highways from the Tibetan side into Nepal, all the way down to East-West highway that traverses Nepal.
  • China plans to extend the Tibet railway to Kathmandu across the border in the next few years.
  • Nepal signed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Framework agreement with China last year.
  • China is trying to contest Indian interests by cultivating local interest groups that could advance China’s interests in Nepal.
  1.   Demonetization:
  • Demonetization has badly affected Nepali nationals because those notes were legal tender in Nepal too.
  • Nepal has time and again requested that the Indian government make arrangements for the exchange of those notes held by Nepali nationals and its central bank.

 Recent developments

China proposed 2+1 format for India talks:

  • This is different from a trilateral mechanism.
  • Under the Chinese proposal, China and India can jointly conduct a dialogue with a third regional country and can be applied to any other country in South Asia.
  • India has been reluctant to directly take up any kind of trilateral cooperation in Nepal with China.
  • PM Oli on his visit to China quoted Panchsheel — the five principles of peaceful coexistence as the template for an independent foreign policy that would include a simultaneous engagement of India and China

Transit and Transport deal.

  • Nepal and China finalized the Protocol of Transit and Transport deal. As per the agreement Nepal can access four ports and three dry ports paving way for the use of Chinese ports for trade.
  • This will reduce Nepal’s dependency on India for its trade
  • One important impact of the Nepal-China Transit and Transport deal is that Nepal’s access to Chinese ports will be through sixcheckpoints.
  • These and other road and railway projects between China and Nepal will allow China to potentially project power against India on a different section of the Sino-Indian boundary.

Boycott of BIMSTEC Military exercise

  • Nepal declined to participate in the first BIMSTEC military exercise MILEX-18 organized by India, but at the same time Nepal plans to participate in a joint military exercise with China.

Why China cannot replace India vis-à-vis Nepal?

  • India has an advantage of geography on its side. Chinese rail and port connectivity projects are not very feasible owing to the difficult terrain.
  • The nearest Chinese ports will be over 3000 km away while Kolkata and Visakhapatnam ports which Nepal currently uses are relatively closer.
  • Funding is a major concern in Chinese infrastructure projects. Nepal is asking to build the Railway line as a grant but China is insisting on soft loan.
  • Nepal has signed BRI framework agreement with China last year, but Nepal is hesitant in choosing projects fearing debt trap.

 Way forward

  • India must respect Nepal’s sovereignty; mutual respect is a key in bilateral relations; and India should not meddle in the internal political affairs of Nepal
  • Our engagement with Nepal tends to be episodic and crisis-driven, and not backed by the human and material resources that our neighbor deserves.
  • India should counter Chinese hard power by projecting soft power. In contrast to China’s efforts to muscle its way into Nepal, India should emphasize on its historically close cultural, religious, and people-to-people relations with Nepal.

 

Sample question:

Q. Nepal recently declined to attend BIMSTEC military exercise (MILEX 2018) hosted by India. In the wake of this development, explain the dynamics of India Nepal relations in respect of China’s growing influence.


 

Topic – The Plight of Manual Scavengers in India

Topic in syllabus: GS-III (Under Social Justice)

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Why in news:

The recent incidents of sewer deaths in Delhi indicate that the practice of manual scavenging remains unabated in India despite being banned.

Who is a manual scavenger?

Manual scavenger is a person engaged in or employed for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling human excreta.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) distinguishes three forms of manual scavenging:

  • Removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines,
  • Cleaning septic tanks,
  • Cleaning gutters and sewers.

Statistics:

Manual Scavengers

  • The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 identified 1, 80,657 manual scavengers (does not include urban India) with highest number of them in rural Maharashtra
  • The 2011 Census identified the presence of 740,078 households (number does not include the septic tanks, public sewers and railway tracks which are also mostly cleaned by manual scavengers) where waste and excreta is cleared out by manual scavengers. Further, around 21 lakh households dispose of their wastes in dry latrines or drains, which also are cleaned by manual scavengers.
  • In 2013, the government recognised 12,742 manual scavengers in 13 states, with 82% of them in Uttar Pradesh. However, the data has been criticised as gross underestimation of the actual numbers.
  • The Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) estimates the number of manual scavengers to be around 1.2 million

Manual Scavengers Death:

  • According to National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), 123 people engaged in manual scavenging has died while at work since January 2017 (data has been reported only from 13 states and UTs). The number of casualties is high in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat.
  • According to SKA statistics, there has been nearly 1500 deaths in last 10 years

Issues faced by manual scavengers:

  1. Caste-based discrimination:  Manual scavengers are from the lowest of all caste groups in the Indian caste hierarchy. Their caste-designated occupation reinforces the social stigma that they are unclean or “untouchable” and perpetuates widespread discrimination and social exclusion.
  2. Human Right Violation: Manual scavenging is an extreme human rights violation in all spheres of life- equality, dignity, right against exploitation, health, education and right to have free choice of employment.
  3. Poor Knowledge of existing laws: As the level of education is poor, accurate information on existing laws and safeguards does not exist among the manual scavengers. Further, many workers fail to access rehabilitation schemes due to lack of knowledge about legal documents.
  4. Lack of occupational and safety measures: A common cause of exposure to health hazards and death at work is absence or inadequacy of safety gear (gloves, masks, safety belt, and safety shoes) and proper equipment.
  5. Health issues: Manual scavenging can have severe health consequences, including constant nausea and headaches, respiratory and skin diseases, diarrhoea, vomiting, jaundice, trachoma, and carbon monoxide poisoning due to exposure to human excreta and harmful gases such as H2S and methane.  The health issues are aggravated due to malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare.
  6. Low pay: The work tends to be the lowest paid and at instances no cash payment is paid. Low pay adds to their social stigma. Further, they also suffer from undernutrition and cannot avail of adequate preventive or curative health services.
  7. Status of women: Manual scavenging is also a gender-based occupation with 90 per cent of them being women. According to a Human Rights Watch report, on an average, women get paid as little as between Rs 10 and Rs 50 every month per household and are often forced to continue with the work due to social and economic pressure.

Constitutional Safeguards:

  • Article 14: Equality before law. (Right to Equality)
  • Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 16: (2): Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment,
  • Article 19: (1) (g): Right to Freedom – to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
  • Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty

Government efforts to end Manual Scavenging:

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  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993:
    • The main objectives of the law were to prohibit employment of manual scavengers, construction or continuance of dry latrine and for the regulation of maintenance of water-seal latrines.
  • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013
    • The law intends to eliminate insanitary latrines and prohibit employment as manual scavengers. It also prohibits hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
    • Act made the states responsible for identifying and rehabilitating manual scavengers by providing them training, giving assistance, loans and even houses.
    • It fixed responsibility on each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority to survey unsanitary (dry) latrines within its jurisdiction and to construct sanitary community latrines.
    • Offences under the act are cognizable and non-bailable
  • Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)

The scheme aims to rehabilitate manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time bound manner.

  1. National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK): It is a statutory body established under the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act 1993. The main aim of the commission is to promote and safeguard the rights of the Safai Karamcharis.
  2. National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation: It is a non-profit body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It aims at all round socio-economic upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers and their dependants throughout India, through various loan and non-loan based schemes.
  3. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: It has fourfold aim:
  • To eliminate open defecation
  • To eradicate manual scavenging
  • To bring in modern and scientific municipal solid waste management
  • Behavioural change regarding healthy sanitation practices

International Commitments and Efforts:

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): It aims to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights.
  2. International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD): The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recognized caste-based discrimination as a form of racial discrimination. India has ratified ICERD.
  3. India is also a party to other international conventions that reinforce obligations to end manual scavenging, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  4. International Labour Organization (ILO) focuses on ending manual scavenging by supporting implementation of relevant government policies in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat

Civil Society Initiatives:

  1. Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan: It is a coalition of 30 community-based organizations who campaigned to encourage manual scavengers to voluntarily leave the practice.
  2. Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA): It aims at total eradication of manual scavenging and socio-economic inclusion of manual scavengers.
  3. Sulabh International Social Service Organization: Emphasizes the construction of proper toilets and has pioneered the two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet, known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya that does not require manual cleaning.

Challenges:

  • Paucity of data: One of the biggest constraints in addressing the issue of manual scavengers is lack of data. Neither the central nor the state governments have a proper database on the number of manual scavengers or to record the increasing number of sanitation workers’ deaths
  • Issues with the anti Manual Scavenging Act, 2013:

Critics are of the opinion that the Act legitimizes manual scavenging by stating that it can be done by using protective gears and other devices.

The Act is also silent on the rehabilitation of workers who left manual scavenging before the enactment of the Act

  • Employment within government sector (Indian railways): Indian railways are the largest employer of manual scavengers. India’s rail coaches have toilets that drop excreta straightaway on the railway track. This waste is then cleaned by the manual scavengers who are employed by contractors.
  • Poor Implementation of law:According to SKA, between 1993 and 2013, no convictions were recorded for violation of the Manual Scavenging Act. Further, the 2015 National Crime Records Bureau data states that there has been no deaths caused due to manual scavenging. This shows the apathy of state governments and local authorities towards the practice.
  • Compensation: Often Basic compensation is not paid to the workers if they are injured during work. In case of death during work, victim’s family does not receive timely and adequate compensation.

Issues with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has predominantly focussed on building toilets without any strategy about how they are to be cleared. There has been inadequate investment on procuring mechanized sludge and pump machines for physical removal of excreta
  • Further, the campaign does not address a reworking of the underground sewerage system.
  • The campaign has made negligible attempts at critical areas of eradication of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of such workers

SKA Convenor Bezwada Wilson points out, “Swachh Bharat represents toilet users, not toilet cleaners”

  • Poor rehabilitation: Rehabilitation measures have been inadequate. Further, there is low occupational mobility due to educational and social deficiencies.

Best Practice:

Kerala-Bandicoot

Kerala Water Authority announced in 2018 that a fully equipped robot called “Bandicoot” would soon be used for cleaning the sewers in the state thus helping Kerala become manual scavengers- Free State

Way ahead:

  1. There should proper identification of those engaged/previously engaged in manual scavenging so that the magnitude of the problem can be assessed. Further, there should be a central database to keep track on number of deaths at work to effectively take punitive action against the violators of the law.
  2. The government must ensure alternative livelihood to the manual scavengers, skill-based training should be given to those who give up manual scavenging. Rehabilitation should include financial assistance, scholarships, housing, alternative livelihood support, and legal assistance.
  3. Immediate steps should be taken to ensure that officials effectively intervene to stop communities from being coerced to practice manual scavenging
  4. There should be proper implementation of Anti Manual Scavenging Act, 2013 . Legal actions should be initiated against those who recruit manual scavengers
  5. The need for manual scavenging should be eliminated by investing more on R&D to employ appropriate technological solutions depending on sewage volume, constituents, and geology. Further, the government must fasten the process of identification of insanitary toilets, their demolition and rebuilding.
  6. There is a need to educate and sensitize people about the inhumane practice of manual scavenging and perpetual caste and gender-based discrimination.

Sample question:

Q. What is the status of manual scavenging in India? What are the steps taken by the Government in eliminating the menace of manual scavenging? What more nneeds to be done at national and global level?


 

Topic: E-Waste Management in India- An Overview

Topic in syllabus:  GS-III (Under Technology)

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Why in news:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently directed the Uttar Pradesh government to resolve the issue of e-waste lying on the banks of river Ramganga in Moradabad.

What is e-waste?

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, obsolete, and have reached the end of their useful life. It refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use

E-Waste -The magnitude of the problem:

According to United Nations’ “Global E-waste Monitor”, 2017:

  • Globally, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2016 and only 20% was recycled through appropriate channels. China was the top e-waste producer in the world, generating 7.2 Mt.
  • India generated about 2Mt of electronic waste in 2016. According to the report, India’s electronics industry is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and plays an “important role” in the domestic generation of e-waste. The report also highlighted the issue of imports of electronic waste to India from developed countries.

According to the study ‘Electricals & Electronics Manufacturing in India’ conducted by ASSOCHAM-NEC

  • E-waste generation was 1.8 million metric tonnes (MT) per annum in 2016 and would reach 5.2 million metric tonnes per annum by 2020.
  • Maharashtra is the biggest contributor to e-waste generation followed by Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh

Environmental and health impact of E-waste

Impact on Human Health:

Pollutants, their sources and effects on human health (Table: 1)

Pollutant

Sources

Effect

ArsenicSemiconductors, diodes, microwaves, LEDs, solar cellsBlack-foot

disease

BariumElectron tubes, filler for plastic and rubber, lubricant additives 

Neurodegenerative

 diseases,

lung diseases

CadmiumBatteries, pigments, solder, alloys, circuit
boards, computer batteries
Contain

Carcinogens;

 causes Itai-Itai

 disease which

 affects

 kidneys and

softens

 bones

CobaltInsulators
LeadLead rechargeable batteries, solar,
transistors, lithium batteries, PVC
chronic kidney

disease,

neurological

problems

LithiumMobile telephones, batteries
MercuryComponents in copper machines and
steam irons; batteries in clocks and
pocket calculators, switches, LCDs
Affects the central

nervous system,

 kidneys and

 immune system;

 causes Minamata

disease

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)Transformers, capacitors, softening
agents for paint, glue, plastic
Cardiovascular diseases, neurobehavioral and immunological

changes in

children

SilverCapacitors, switches (contacts),
batteries, resistors
Inhalation of

silver dust can

cause

 respiratory

 problems

ZincSteel, brass, alloys, disposable and
rechargeable batteries, luminous
substances
Metal fume

fever, respiratory

 diseases

 

Environmental Impact:

Air:

  • E-waste when dismantled and shredded, release dust or large particulates into the immediate environment and affects the respiratory health of workers.
  • Further, unregulated burning of e-waste releases toxins, such as dioxins which are potent and damaging to both human (neurological disease and impact on immune system) and animal health.

Water:

  • Water is contaminated by e-waste via landfills that are not properly designed to contain e-waste and due to improper recycling and subsequent disposal of e-waste. Heavy metals from e-waste cause toxification of surface water.
  • Ground water is polluted by e-waste as heavy metals and other persistent chemicals leach from landfills and illegal dump sites into ground water tables.

Soil:

  • Soil is contaminated by e-waste through direct contact with contaminants from e-waste or the by products of e-waste recycling and disposal and indirectly through irrigation through contaminated water.
  • Contaminated soils have adverse impact on microbes and plants and the pollutants pass to higher animals and humans along the food chain.
Guiyu- China: Case study
Guiyu in China is major hub for the disposal of e-waste and

 is widely considered to be the largest e-waste

disposal site in the world. 
Guiyu receives shipments of e-waste, both from domestic

sources and from other countries

According to U.N. report “E-Waste in China,” Guiyu suffered an

“environmental calamity” as a result of the wide-scale e-waste

disposal industry in the area. Unregulated and improper

management of e-waste in the region has caused tremendous

damage to the environment

and pose a great threat to human health in the region

 

International Conventions:

  1. Basel Convention on the Control of the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, 1992 (entered into force)
  • Originally the Basel Convention did not mention e-waste but later it addressed the issues of e-waste in 2006 (COP8). The convention seeks to ensure environmentally sound management; prevention of illegal traffic to developing countries and; building capacity to better manage e-waste.
  • Nairobi Declaration was adopted at COP9 of the Basel Convention. It aimed at creating innovative solutions for the environmentally sound management of electronic wastes.
  1. Rotterdam Convention, 2004
  • The Convention seeks to promote exchange of information (through Prior Informed Consent) among Parties over a range of potentially hazardous chemicals (includes pesticides and industrial chemicals) that may be exported or imported.

Government Initiatives:

Legislation:

  • Prior to 2011, e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules.
  • In 2011, under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted
  • In 2016, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted which replaced the 2011 Rules. The Rules were amended in 2018

A) E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016- Key features

  • Applicability:
    • The rules extend to Producer, consumer, collection centre, dismantler and recycler manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO). However, micro and small industries are exempted.
    • The applicability of the rules extends to various electronic equipments/products, components, consumables, spares and parts of EEE. Further, Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamp brought under the purview of rules.
  • Collection:
    • The Rules adopt collection-based approach to include collection centre, collection point, take back system etc for collection of e – waste by Producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Note: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle.

  • Provision for Pan India EPR Authorization by CPCB has been introduced replacing the state wise EPR authorization as provided in 2011 rules.
  • Deposit Refund Scheme:
    • Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end – of – life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
  • Liability for damages:
    • Liability for damages caused to the environment or third party due to improper management of e – waste including has been introduced. The Rules also provide for provision of financial penalty in case of violation of rules
  • Role of State and Urban Local Bodies:
    • State should ensure effective implementation of the rules. Urban Local Bodies have been assigned the duty to collect and channelized the e-wastes to authorized dismantler or recycler.

B) Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management &Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016

The rules seek to ensure management, trans boundary movement, resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in environmentally sustainable manner. Under the rules Waste electrical and electronic assemblies scrap are prohibited for import.

C) The CPCB (Central pollution Control Board) has also issued guidelines Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste (on Collection, Storage, Dismantling & Segregation, Recycling, and Treatment & Disposal of E-Waste)

Programmes:

  1. Awareness Program on Environmental Hazards of Electronic Waste
  • The project initiated by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology aims to provide training, tools and films aimed at creating awareness and reducing the impact of e-waste on the environment and health.
  1. Creation of Management Structure for Hazardous Substances
  • The programme seeks to raise awareness among people about the 2016 Rules and its implementation.
  1. Swachh Digital Bharat:
  • The programme seeks to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganised sector, and to educate them about alternate methods of disposing of their e-waste.
  • The general public is encouraged to participate in the programme, by giving their e-waste to authorised recyclers only.
  1. Greene: 

It is a dedicated website which seeks to spread awareness about e-waste through social media

E-Waste Disposal and Recycling Practices in India:

Unorganized sector/ Informal:

  • Around 90% of the recycling of E-Waste in India is done by the non-formal/unorganized sector. Non-formal units of e-waste recyclers are distributed all over India.
  • Informal units generally follow the steps such as collection of the e-waste from the rag pickers, disassembly of the products for their useable parts, components, modules, which are having resell value. The rest of the material is chemically treated to recover precious metals and non-recoverable materials are disposed in landfills

Organized /Formal:

  • Organized recycling units are very few in India. Unlike the informal sector, the organized sector uses environmentally sound methods to recycle e-waste

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Lack of formal infrastructure: There is huge gap between present recycling and collection facilities and quantum of E-waste that is being generated. There is no proper collection and take back mechanism.  According to ASSOCHAM study only 5% of the e-waste is formally recycled.
  2. Imports: Cross-border flow of waste equipment into India is a major issue. India has been the destination of the hazardous and industrial wastes like mercury, electronic and plastic wastes from the United States; asbestos from Canada; defective steel and tin plates from the E.U., Australia and the U.S; zinc ash, residues, lead waste and scrap, used batteries etc. from European nations. Loopholes in legislations, porous ports and lack of checking facilities, are major reasons for uncontrolled e-waste imports

 

  1. Issues with informal sector:
  • Child Labour: According to ASSOCHAM report (2014), about 4.5 lakh child labourers are observed to be engaged in various E-waste activities and that too without adequate protection and safeguards.
  • Occupational Health Hazard: Unscientific method of recycling and lack of proper safety gear pose serious health hazard to those employed in the informal sector.
  1. Gaps in Legislation:
  • E-waste rules are also violated at a regular basis and the informal sector remains unregulated.
  • There is no mechanism to verify whether all companies have achieved their EPR targets; verification is only done through random checks by CPCB.  
  • Further, according to the law, the responsibility of producers is not confined to waste collection, but also to ensure that the waste reaches the authorised recycler. However, there is no mechanism to ensure that the waste collected by producers has gone to unauthorised recyclers.
  1. Lack of incentives:
  • There is a lack of incentive schemes to encourage people to adopt a formal path of recycling
  • The GST imposed a huge 12% tax on electronic recyclers which has further proven to be deterrent to formal recycling
  1. Poor awareness and sensitization: 

There is limited awareness regarding disposal, after determining end of useful life. Further, the lack of awareness leads to poor segregation of waste.

  1. Environmental concerns:

Informal recycling and dumping of e-waste in landfills or burning of e-waste pose a severe danger to the environment and has far-reaching on animal and human health

Best Practice:

‘Take-back’ and ‘Planet ke Rakwale’ campaign- Nokia:

Nokia began its e-waste management campaign in 2009. Nokia set up drop boxes across the country to take back used phones, chargers and accessories, irrespective of the brand, at Nokia Care Centres. The campaign was a great success and the total quantity of mobile phones and accessories collected from this campaign from 2009 to 2015 was 160 tonnes. In the second phase (2009), Nokia launched “Planet Ke Rakhwale” take-back and recycling campaign which extended to 28 cities across India.

Green Warriors -Telangana:

“Green Warriors” in Telangana have been a part of the recycling / refurbishing chain, and has contributed towards the successful implementation of measures to control e-pollution. Their efforts have also been recognized by the Telangana government in its Telangana e-waste management policy, 2017

Way Forward:

  1. There is a need to strengthen the domestic legal framework to address the issue of unregulated imports of e-waste
  2. Steps should be taken to formalize the informal sector by integrating it with the formal sector.  Government should introduce vocational training programs to rightly skill the current unorganized sector employees to ensure their smoother transition to working with organized sector
  3. Governments must encourage research into the development of better environmentally-sustainable e-waste recycling techniques
  4. There is urgent need for a detailed assessment of the E-waste including quantification, characteristics, existing disposal practices, environmental impacts.
  5. There is need of more recycling facilities and development of infrastructure to handle e-waste effectively. The government should encourage Public-Private Partnership for establishment of e-waste collection, exchange and recycling centres.
  6. There is need of an effective take-back program providing incentives to producers.
  7. Mass awareness programmes should be initiated to encourage consumers to reuse/ recycle electronic products and also educate them about the environmental and health hazards of e-waste

 

Sample question:

Q. Explain in detail the magnitude of e-waste in India and measures taken to handle it at national and global levels. Also explain the challenges being faced by India in dealing with this problem?


 

Topic: Ethanol Blending Programme and Sugar Industry

Topic in syllabus:  GS-III (Under Agriculture)

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About Ethanol

  • Ethanol/ anhydrous ethyl alcohol having chemical formula of C2H5OH, can be produced from crops like sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc which have high starch content.
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by fermentation process
  • Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.

Ethanol Blended Petrol programme

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  • Ethanol Blended Petrol programme was launched in 2003 on a pilot basis and has been subsequently extended to 21 states and 4 Union Territories.
  • The programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements.
  • The government has been notifying the administered price of ethanol since 2014.
  • India has set a target of 10 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2022. 

Procurement of Ethanol

  • The OMCs are to procure ethanol from domestic sources.
  • The Government fixes the price of ethanol which the OMCs have to pay to procure ethanol.
  •  Ethanol production in the country would increase threefold to 4.5 billion liters by 2022 from 1.41 billion liters now.
  • The procedure of procurement of ethanol under the EBP has been simplified to streamline the entire ethanol supply chain.

Government Initiatives

  • The government has reduced Goods and Services tax (GST) on ethanol targeted for blending from 18 percent to 5 percent in July 2018.
  • To ensure the clearance of dues of farmers the government brought  out a comprehensive package of about Rs.7000 crore which includes a plan of Rs.4400 crore for increasing the ethanol capacity in the country.
  • In September 2018, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has taken a decision to provide incentives for the production of ethanol from sugar cane.

CCEA Recommendations

Government has announced three progressive rates for ethanol procurement based on their purity.

  • Ethanol produced from 100 per cent sugarcane juice will be priced the highest.
  • Ethanol produced from B grade molasses: They are made from partial sugarcane juice and will be priced lower than those produced from 100 per cent sugarcane juice.
  • Ethanol produced from C grade molasses: Inferior than B heavy molasses will be priced the least
  • Advisory to Oil Market Companies (OMCs): They have been advised to prioritize ethanol procurement based on the purity and give preference to ethanol made from 100 per cent sugarcane juice.

National Policy on Biofuels 2018

national policy on biofuels 2018

  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.

Benefits of EBP

  • The move will encourage the production of ethanol and will thus reduce excess sugar in the country.
  • It will increase the liquidity with the sugar mills and will help them settle the arrears of the farmers.
  • It will incentivize ethanol output and will increase Investment in capacity addition of the sugar mills.
  • Being one of the biggest polluters in the world and a signatory of the Paris Climate deal India’s ethanol dependence can certainly help it reduce the pollution problem.
  • According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study ‘Next-Generation Ethanol: What’s in it for India?’, the increase in ethanol production has the potential to create over 700,000 jobs when targeting only the base potential.
  • India will save at least 120 billion through EBP, thus cutting down on its import bill.

Challenges of EBP

  • Sugar Mills will have to invest in distillery capacity and this will require investment which they might not afford.
  • They will also have to invest in pollution control, storage and logistics which will require additional investment.
  • Ethanol in India is derived from rectified spirit which in turn comes from cane molasses. Rectified spirit is also used for potable alcohol production.A higher ethanol production could have an impact on the manufacture and sale of potable alcohol which is a major source of state revenue.
  • The country’s targets for ethanol-blended petrol continue to be missed largely on account of inadequate ethanol production.

Problems with diverting cane to produce ethanol

The main challenge in ethanol business is its pricing: Since ethanol is a substitute for petrol from imported crude, its pricing should be linked to the import parity price of petrol (IMPP). IMPP represents the price that importers would pay in case of actual import of product at the respective Indian ports.

Criticism

  • The oil companies will want to pay lower for ethanol when the fuel prices in the market declines, thereby affecting Ethanol producers.
  • The decline in ethanol price will reduce the profit margin of sugar mills, as the sugarcane purchase price remain fixed.
  • If the government forces the oil companies to pay the same ethanol price even when the fuel prices fall, the oil companies will suffer losses.
  • Bad weather can damage cane resulting in decline in sugar output and market price of sugar will thus increase.
  • As per the estimates given in Auto Fuel Vision and Policy 2025 issued in May 2014, blended petrol is available only in 13 states and the average blend is 2%. During the sugar year 2014-15, OMCs have achieved a blending percentage of just 2.3%.

Why ethanol blending in petrol might not work for India

  • India might be able to save on oil import costs by going for a greater petrol-ethanol mix, but that could strain the country’s water resources and affect food availability
  • While India has become one of the top producers of ethanol in recent years, it lags top producers, the US and Brazil, by a huge margin and remains inefficient in terms of water usage.

Impact on Net Sown Area

  1. To raise the ethanol blend rate to 10% India will have to increase its net   sown area from present 3% to 7%.
  2. In order to achieve 20% blend rate, almost one-tenth of the existing net sown area will have to be diverted for sugarcane production which will put a stress on other crops and might increase food prices.

Way Forward

  • Biofuels offers a sustainable energy option and there is an urgent need to leverage its benefits to push the Indian economy forward.
  • Government should invest in R&D and incentivise the adoption of modern technologies like 2nd generation Ethanol plants etc to increase the efficiency of its Ethanol Blending Program.
  • India should adopt the recommendation of Rangarajan Committee and the National Policy on Biofuel 2018, to achieve ethanol blending target of 10 percent set for 2022.
  • Over all a robust ethanol ecosystem makes great sense for India in achieving  energy security and socio-economic benefits and India should make all efforts to become a world leader in this field.

 

Sample question:

Q. What is Ethanol blending programme? What are the benefits of the programmes and challenges in implementing it?


 

Topic: Saving rivers

Topic in syllabus: GS III- Environment , ecology

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Why in news:

  • Assessment by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):
  • Based on the recommendations of the National Green Tribunal, the CPCB last month apprised the States of the extent of pollution in their rivers.
  • The number of polluted stretches in India’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 two years ago.
  • The number of critically polluted stretches where water quality indicators are the poorest has gone up to 45 from 34, according to an assessment by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • The Rs. 20,000 crore clean-up of the Ganga may be the most visible of the government’s efforts to tackle pollution, the CPCB says several of the river’s stretches in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are actually far less polluted than many rivers in Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat.
  • These three States account for 117 of the 351 polluted river stretches.

Extent of Pollution:

The most significant stretches of pollution highlighted by the CPCB assessment include:

  • The Mithi river from Powai to Dharavi with a BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of 250 mg/l.
  • The Godavari — from Someshwar to Rahed — with a BOD of 5.0-80 mg/l.
  • The Sabarmati — Kheroj to Vautha — with a BOD from 4.0-147 mg/l and
  • The Hindon — Saharanpur to Ghaziabad — with a BOD of 48-120 mg/l
  • In its compilation of polluted stretches in Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga with a BOD range of 3.5-8.8 mg/l is indicated as a ‘priority 4’ river.

Bio-Chemical Oxygen Demand:

  • BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed (i.e. demanded) by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material.
  • BOD is a proxy for organic pollution. If BOD is higher, the worse is the river. The health of a river and the efficacy of water treatment measures by the States and municipal bodies are classified depending on BOD.
  • When BOD is greater than or equal to 30 mg/l, it is termed as ‘priority 1,’ while that between 3.1 & 6 mg/l is ‘priority 5.’ CPCB considers BOD less than 3 mg/l, an indicator of a healthy river.

Reasons behind the river being more polluted:

  • Rapid urbanisation is widening the gap, since infrastructure planning is not keeping pace with growth in housing.
  • There is poor infrastructure available in a large number of cities and towns located near rivers.
  • Managing sewage requires steady funding of treatment plants for all urban agglomerations that discharge their waste into rivers, and also a reliable power supply.
  • There is failure of several national programs run by the Centre for river conservation, wetland preservation and water quality monitoring.
  • The sewage and industrial effluents freely flow into the rivers in several cities.
  • Deficit between the sewage available and the volume generated along the polluted stretches is estimated at 13,196 million liters a day.
  • Low priority is accorded to the enforcement of laws by SPCBs and pollution control committees
  • River water at the barrage was diverted to treatment plants for water supply. Reports pointed out that 37 per cent of the sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Delhi were under-utilized as they did not receive sewage because of lack of drainage system in many areas.

Conclusion:

  • The cultural significance of the Ganga is such that there’s been greater focus on it but many more rivers are far more polluted.
  • A 2013 World Bank study estimated that environmental degradation is costing India at least $80 billion a year, of which losses to rivers form a significant part. This is indeed a problem of catastrophic dimensions.
  • Government should be to ensure that there was a limit to the amount of water that can be drawn from the river.

Way Forward:

  • The immediate plan should be to expand the supply of treatment plants.
  • Civil societies pressure on the Government is the vital aspect.
  • All liquid effluent discharge from the textile units and tanneries should be brought down to zero and it is to be pursued rigorously. Assistance to be given to industries to choose the best technologies for recovery of waste waters for reuse.
  • By adopting a zero-waste lifestyle that consists of “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost and Close the Loop (4R2C)”, we can limit our trash output and save tonnes of solid waste from ending up in landfills and rivers.
  • The adoption of a river can also be done as a part of corporate sustainability responsibility programmes organised together with the local communities with the support of local government agencies.
  • These measures are urgently needed to revive India’s many dying rivers, protect its agriculture, and prevent serious harm to public health from contaminated water.

 

Sample question:

Q. Describe the extent of river pollution in India and its causes. What steps have been taken to control river pollution? What are the problems faced and how they can be overcome?


 

Topic: Power games: on issues in the power sector

Topic in syllabus: GS III- Infrastructure -Energy

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Why in news:

  • The Supreme Court has ordered a stay on the Reserve Bank of India’s February circular asking banks to recognise loans as non-performing even if repayment was delayed by just one day, and resolve them within 180 days.
  • If banks failed to comply with the RBI’s new rules, these stressed assets had to be forced to undergo swift insolvency proceedings under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
  • Recently, the Allahabad High Court refused to grant relief to troubled power companies facing action from the RBI.
  • The extent of power sector stress at the systemic level is well known. But the concern lies in the dearth of possible solutions to resolve these stressed assets.
  • This, coupled with the urgency of lenders to find bidders, will lead to low realisation value and high haircuts for banks.
  • They classified 34 stressed thermal power plants identified by the ministry of power based on non-availability of fuel supply agreements, absence of long-term PPAs (power purchase agreements), cost overrun, contractual disputes and weak financial strength of distribution companies (DISCOMs).

Consequence of SC stay order on RBIs Circular:

The Supreme Court’s decision to intervene, however, will do very little good in the long run to either stressed power companies or their lenders.

  • According to the Association of Power Producers, the Supreme Court’s order will save stressed companies producing 13GW worth of power from being pushed to the doors of bankruptcy courts.
  • Banks, too, will be happy as the reprieve will help them delay the recognition of bad loan losses.
  • The apex court’s decision to overturn RBI rules and transfer all pleas seeking exception from them to itself is clearly the biggest challenge against the IBC.
  • It is likely to cause significant uncertainty in the resolution of stressed assets and undermine investor confidence in the bankruptcy process.
  • The postponement of the Supreme Court’s next hearing of the case to mid-November will send the signal that in contrast to hopes that asset resolution under the new bankruptcy regime would be done within a strict time frame, there are likely to be considerable delays in the resolution of stressed assets.
  • Distressed power companies, and a number of other firms in the shipping, sugar and textile sectors, however, will be relieved as they are spared from bankruptcy proceedings for now.

Policy and regulatory issues in the power sector:

  • Power systems across the world are witnessing significant changes on account of various external factors. Climate change is leading to increased power demand, which is putting pressure on generators as well as grid operators.
  • It is also increasing the demand for storage technology, demand response programs, and alternate pricing schemes.

The troubles of power companies can be traced to structural issues such as the  

  • Absence of meaningful price reforms,
  • Unreliable fuel supply and
  • The unsustainable finances of public sector power distribution companies.

Banks, on the other hand, are unlikely to make much money out of these stressed assets until these structural problems are sorted adequately to attract investors.

National Electricity Policy: Need to be Re-visited:

  • The Standing Committee on Energyobserved that development in the power sector has not been balanced. 
  • While delicensing generation helped increased generation activities, the other segments (transmission and distribution) have not been given much attention. 
  • The Electricity Policy does not look into the issues around clearances, land acquisition, continuance of old and inefficient plants, instability in FSA policies, and other regulatory challenges and delays. 
  • It recommended revisiting the Policy to address such issues being faced by the sector. The Committee also noted that banks have not observed due prudence while considering loans for power projects. It recommended that the process of grant of loan, supervisory mechanism and its subsequent monitoring should be revisited. 
  • Further, RBI should advise all commercial banks to follow the credit rating system proposed by the government to assess the credit risk of infrastructure companies and prescribe risk weight accordingly. 
  • The Committee noted that SDR is not always effective as it does not address the issues that may have caused the project to become an NPA. 
  • It recommended that a change in management (of the asset’s promoter) should be considered only after it has been established that the asset turned stressed due to the decisions of the management.

Way Forward:

  • The Parliamentary Committee recommended that an additional 180 days beyond the timelines prescribed under RBI’s 12 February circular may be allowed to commissioned power projects which have been commissioned before 12 February or have not been referred to NCLT.
  • Similar recommendations were made by Standing Committee on Energy earlier in March. During this additional period of 180 days, it said, banks should undertake more intensive monitoring of the said assets and its cash flow to save it from turning non-performing.
  • Policymakers, not courts, need to take charge and resolve these issues.
  • According to a report released by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India, lenders could realistically expect to recover less than a tenth of their dues if stressed assets are to be liquidated.
  • To serve the growing needs of the economy for debt, equity, payment systems, and innovations in financial products and services it is required that “regulatory reform is undertaken with much greater speed”.
  • This could be attributed to the IBC’s overemphasis on the speedy resolution of bad loans over the recovery of maximum value from stressed assets.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the need for reform of power sector in India. Suggest measures to reduce power sector stress and comment on the need to revisit National Electricity Policy.