Weekly Current Affairs Mains (19th to 25th August 2018)

criminalization of politics

Weekly Current Affairs Mains (19th to 25th August 2018)

 

TOPIC : Health policies to cover mental illness

Topic in syllabus: Government policies and issues related to health. 

 

Health policies to cover mental illnes

Why in news:

Insurance regulator IRDAI has issued a circular directing insurers to cover mental illness, which has reached serious proportions in the country.

Introduction:

The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 — which came into force from May 29 — has made it mandatory to provide “for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness”.

But to date, none of India’s 33 insurers has introduced a product that covers ailments such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, even though such covers are commonplace in many countries.

 Significance:

The change has been long overdue. This is being seen as a progressive step. This will ensure a life of dignity to those who have mental health issues. It will create awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of mental illness as any other physical ailment. It will ‘normalise’ diagnoses, by reducing associated myths and stigma.

 Present scenario:

Mental health conditions have always been in the list of exclusions of health insurance policies. The only exceptions to this have been the coverage of development conditions such as autism and Down’s syndrome by the National Health Insurance Scheme, and a few private schemes like Star Health Insurance’s cover for autistic children.

What is mental illness?

As per the Mental Healthcare Act, mental illness means a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgement, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. It also includes mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person. The Act further states that every person with mental illness will be treated as equal to persons with physical illness when it comes to healthcare, including health insurance.

 

Sample Question:

Q. It is high time that mental illness be treated at par with physical illness. Comment with regard to recent initiatives taken by the Government in this direction.

 


TOPIC : Interlinking of Rivers

Topic in syllabus:GS II-  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation 

 

indian rivers

Why in news:

15th Meeting of Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers was recently Held.

Outcomes of the meeting:

  • During the meeting, it was stressed on the need for developing consensus amongst the concerned states on interlinking of rivers so that the water draining unutilized into the sea could be utilized for the needy areas.
  • States were called upon to discuss and sort out issues through active consultation so that the projects can be implemented on priority.

 Developments so far:

  • Steps have been taken for early implementation of five interlinking projects and Memorandum of Agreement for implementation of these projects is being finalised in consultation with the concerned state governments.
  • These five projects include Ken-Betwa link project, Damanganga-Pinjal link project, Par-Tapi-Narmada link project, Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link project and Parvati-Kali Sindhu-Chambal link.

Need for interlinking of rivers:

The interlinking project aims to link India’s rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals that will allow for their water capacities to be shared and redistributed. According to some experts, this is an engineered panacea that will reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts besides facilitating the generation of hydroelectricity for an increasingly power hungry country.

Benefits and significance of interlinking:

Enhances water and food security of the country and it is essential for providing water to drought prone and water deficit areas.

Proper utilization: River interlinking projects envisage that the surplus water available in Himalayan Rivers is transferred to the areas where water supply is not adequate in the Peninsular India. Also, huge quantities of water from several Peninsular rivers drain unutilized into the sea, and river interlinking projects help transfer this water to water deficit areas of Peninsular India.

Boost to agriculture: The main occupation of rural India is agriculture and if monsoon fails in a year, then agricultural activities come to a standstill and this will aggravate rural poverty. Interlinking of rivers will be a practical solution for this problem, because the water can be stored or water can be transferred from water surplus area to deficit.

Disaster mitigation: The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.

Transportation: Interlinking of rivers will also have commercial importance on a longer run. This can be used as inland waterways and which helps in faster movement of goods from one place to other.

Employment generation: Interlinking also creates a new occupation for people living in and around these canals and it can be the main areas of fishing in India.

Concerns associated:

Interlinking of rivers will cause huge amount of distortion in the existing environment. In order to create canals and reservoirs, there will be mass deforestation. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life.

Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.

Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster.

Due to the creation of Canals and Reservoirs, huge amount of area which is occupied by the people will be submerged leading to displacement of people and government will have to spend more to rehabilitate these people.

The amount required for these projects is so huge that government will have to take loans from the foreign sources which would increase the burden on the government and country will fall in a debt trap.

Way ahead:

National Water Development Agency (NWDA) so far has received more than 40 proposals of intra-state links from 9 States viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The successful completion of these projects will lead to reduction in disaster during floods, improved irrigation facilities, employment generation in rural agriculture, and increase in exports and decrease in migration from villages.

 

 Sample Question:

Q. Discuss the need for river interlinking in India and the challenges associated with it. Give suitable examples.

 


TOPIC : Criminalization of Politics

Topic in syllabus: GS II : Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

 

criminalization of politics

Why in news:

The Supreme Court has proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalising politics by welcoming in “crooks” who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power. The court is hearing a batch of petitions to ban persons charged with heinous criminal charges from contesting elections.

Suggestion made by the court:

  • The Court may direct the Election Commission to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them so that the “entire country knows how many criminals there are in a party.”
  • The court said the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.
  • The suggestion was made by the court in a bid to prevent criminals from entering politics or later contesting elections to become parliamentarians, legislators and Ministers.

However, the Centre has opposed this move suggesting the following reasons:

A political party has a right to field its candidate. Mere charges of having committed a crime cannot be used to prevent a person from contesting elections. The suggestion made by the court amounts to prematurely disqualifying a candidate. Besides, the court is taking on itself a matter of the legislature.

Provisions in this regard:

The court based its proposal on the following:

Article 324 and Section 29A of RPA: The power of the Election Commission to conduct an election and register/de-register political parties under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, respectively.

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968. Section 29A requires a party to swear to uphold the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.

Criminals in Politics:

Protecting the parliamentary system from criminalisation has been the intention of the law from the beginning.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections. The Lily Thomas case (2013), however, ended this unfair advantage.

Efforts by SC in this regard:

The SC has repeatedly expressed concern about the purity of legislatures.

  • In 2002, it made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.
  • The famous order to introduce NOTA was intended to make political parties think before giving tickets to the tainted.
  • In its landmark judgment of March 2014, the SC accepted the urgent need for cleansing politics of criminalisation and directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.

The trend:

According to the ADR’s analysis of EC data, 187 MPs in the current Lok Sabha face criminal charges (that is, 34.4 per cent). Of them, 113 face serious criminal charges. The number has gone up from 162 (76 serious) charges in 2009 and 128 (58 serious) in 2004.

Main reasons for Criminalization:

  • Corruption
  • Vote bank.
  • Lack of governance.

What is the way out?

There are three possible options.

  • One, political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
  • Two, the RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
  • Three, fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.

Opposition to the proposal made by the Supreme Court:

Far from denying tickets to criminals, all political parties seem to have been in competition to give them more and more tickets. They have been unitedly opposing the proposal to debar perpetrators of even heinous offences during pendency of trial on the grounds that false criminal cases may be filed by opponents. This concern is partly valid.

Is this concern justified?

To counter the concern expressed, the proposal has three safeguards.

  • First, all criminal cases would not invite the ban — only heinous offences like murder, dacoity, rape, kidnapping or moral turpitude.
  • Second, the case should have been registered at least a year before the elections.
  • Third, the court must have framed the charges.

Suggested measure to curb criminalization of politics:

  • Bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters.
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law.
  • Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.
  • Fast-track courts are necessary because politicians are able to delay the judicial process and serve for decades before prosecution.
  • The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
  • The forms prescribed by the Election Commission for candidates disclosing their convictions, cases pending in courts and so on in their nomination papers is a step in the right direction if it applied properly.

 

 Sample Question:

Q. Discuss criminalization of politics in India in the wake of Supreme Court judgements. Suggest measures to curb it.

 


TOPIC : Article 35A

Topic in syllabus: GS II: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

 

Article 35A

Why in news:

Article 35A of the Constitution is now being vigorously contested with its constitutional validity being challenged before the Supreme Court. It has managed to create widespread legal and political controversy, despite it not even finding a mention in the regular sequential text of the Constitution.

What is Article 35A?

Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.

The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

How did it come about?

Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.

  • The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • So Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

Need for review:

The ‘classification’ created by Article 35A has to be tested on the principle of equality as it treats non-permanent residents of J&K as ‘second-class’ citizens. Such persons are not eligible for employment under the State government and are also debarred from contesting elections. Meritorious students are denied scholarships and they cannot even seek redress in any court of law.

The major sufferers are women who marry outside J&K. Though they retain their Permanent Resident Certificate, their children cannot be permanent residents. This restricts their basic right of inheritance. Further, the issues of refugees who migrated to J&K during Partition are still not treated as ‘State subjects’ under the J&K Constitution.

Way ahead:

This matter requires the active participation of all stakeholders. It is necessary to give confidence to the residents of J&K that any alteration in status quo will not take away their rights but will boost J&K’s prosperity as it will open doors for more investment, resulting in new opportunities. Article 35A, which was incorporated about six decades ago, now requires a relook, especially given that J&K is now a well-established democratic State.

 

Sample Question:

Q. Discuss in detail the provisions of Article 35A of Indian Constitution. Recently there has been debate on the need for review of Article 35A. Analyse with respect to recent developments related to the issue.

 


TOPIC: RCEP

Topic in syllabus: GS II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

 

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Why in news:

Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), among 16 Asian and Pacific Ocean countries, have entered a decisive phase. And it would like to see a “substantive agreement” on the trade deal by the end of this year.

Background:

Countries in East Asia region have thriving trade and economic relations with each other through free trade agreements.

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has free trade agreements with six partners namely People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, India as well as Australia and New Zealand.
  • In order to broaden and deepen the engagement among parties and to enhance parties’ participation in economic development of the region, the leaders of 16 participating countries established the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP was built upon the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs with the spirit to strengthen economic linkages and to enhance trade and investment related activities as well as to contribute to minimising development gap among the parties.

 Present Situation:

  • Countries of the grouping comprises the 10 ASEAN members and their Free Trade Agreement partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea.
  • At a meeting in Singapore, countries which still have issues with the outline of the agreements reached so far may be told politely to step aside and allow a smaller group to go ahead with finalising the RCEP, with the option to join it at a later date.
  • India is among the countries that will have to take a call at this point considering the seriousness of the situation.

India’s Concerns with member countries:

  • Greater access to Chinese goods may have impact on the Indian manufacturing sector.
  • India has got massive trade deficit with China.
  • Under these circumstances, India proposed differential market access strategy for China.
  • There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.

More developed countries such as Australia and Singapore are unwilling to accommodate India’s demands to liberalise their services regime and allow freer mobility of Indian workers.

Some of the RCEP countries, including India, are headed for elections next year, a point where governments traditionally turn protectionist.

The grouping envisages regional economic integration, leading to the creation of the largest regional trading bloc in the world, accounting for nearly 45% of the world’s population with a combined gross domestic product of $21.3 trillion.

Conclusion:

  • Government must take into account the deeper strategic pitfalls of either slowing down India’s RCEP engagement or walking out of the talks at this stage resulted in the power to cut India out of the rules-making process for the RCEP and give China further space in the regional trade and security architecture.
  • RCEP recognises the importance of being inclusive, especially to enable SMEs leverage on the agreement and cope with challenges arising from globalisation and trade liberalisation.
  • SMEs (including micro-enterprises) make up more than 90% of business establishments across all RCEP participating countries and are important to every country’s endogenous development of their respective economy.
  • At the same time, RCEP is committed to provide fair regional economic policies that mutually benefit both ASEAN and its FTA partners.

Way Forward:

  • At a time when the U.S. has broken from the global concord on multilateral trade agreements, an Indian walkout would endanger the united message that RCEP countries, which represent 40% of the global GDP, would wish to send out.
  • It would also be a sharp departure from India’s “Act East” slogan and its extended outreach to ASEAN.
  • RCEP has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for businesses in the East Asia region, given the fact that the 16 RCEP participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population; contribute about 40 per cent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.
  • RCEP will provide a framework aimed at lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region

 

Sample Question:

Q. Discuss the significance of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and India’s concerns associated with the grouping.

 


TOPIC: Strengthening the federal link

Topic in syllabus: GS II

  • Indian Constitution
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States,
  • Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,
  • Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein 

 

Strengthening the federal link

Introduction:

  • State finance commission has been created to rationalise and systematise State/sub-State-level fiscal relations in India. But, there has been inadequate appreciation of the significance of this institution by the Union, States as well as the professional community

State Finance Commissions (SFC):

  • The State Finance Commission (SFC) is an institution created by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments. Its primary task is to rectify growing horizontal imbalances in the delivery of essential public services to citizens.
  • At a regular interval of 5 years, under Article 243 I of the Constitution, State Finance Commissions are to be constituted.
  • The purpose is to assign it the task of reviewing the financial position of the Panchayats and making recommendations on the sharing and the assignment of various taxes, duties etc.
  • It is also to look at grants-in-aid to be given to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of the State.
  • The Conformity Acts of the Constitution Amendment Act are required to provide for the composition of the Commission, the qualification for its Members and the manner of their selection.

Importance of State Finance Commissions SFCs:

  • The task of the SFC to correct horizontal imbalances is extremely onerous as it has to consider nearly 2.5 lakh local governments to promote minimum essential services in rural and urban areas.
  • An SFC is the institutional agency to implement the golden rule of cooperative federalism that every citizen should be assured minimum public goods irrespective of her choice of residence.
  • Article 280(3) has been amended to add clauses (b) and (c) in order to take measures to augment the resources of Panchayats and Municipalities on the basis of the recommendations “made by the finance commission of the state”.
  • These sub-clauses affirm the organic link between local governments and SFCs to fiscal federalism.
  • Articles 243G and 243W give mandate of planning “for economic development and social justice”.
  • The Constitution treats a local government on a par with a State government, especially when it comes to sharing of financial resources.

Causes of financial inefficiencies at Local level

  1. Constitution of finance commission and irregularities
  • Article 243I of the Constitution mandated the State Governor to constitute a Finance Commission within one year of the Constitutional Amendment came to force.
  • That means, this is to be constituted before April 24, 1994 and thereafter every five years.
  • Till date, only Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have submitted their fifth SFC reports. Many States are yet to cross the third SFC stage.
  • The seriousness, regularity, acceptance of recommendations and their implementation are conspicuously absent and moreover the composition of SFCs reveals the overwhelming presence of serving and / or retired bureaucrats rather than academics.
  1. Problems being faced by SFCs:
  • It is important to disabuse the notion among several politicians, policymakers and even experts that SFCs and the local governments they deal with have an inferior constitutional status when compared to the UFC.
  • The SFC is undoubtedly modelled on the UFC created under Article 280 and exemplified in Articles 243I and 243Y.
  • SFCs face a crucial problem of reliable data: Unlike the financial reporting system of the Union and States, local governments with no proper budgetary system are in deep disarray.
  1. Constitutional Provisions Ignored by the States:
  • Articles 243G and 243W talks about planning for economic development and social justice, Article 243ZD mandates that every State constitute a District Planning Committee for spatial panning and environmental conservation at the sub-State level.
  • The Constitutional Amendment left the task of adequately empowering the local Govts. to discharge constitutional obligations to the States.
  1. Failure of Union Finance Commissions (UFCs):
  • UFCs have failed to play a hand-holding role in placing decentralised governance properly in the cooperative federal map of India.
  • The hard truth is that no UFC has done its homework in reading and analysing SFC reports.
  • Without presenting a consolidated account of the reality at the sub-State level or highlighting which report went wrong, where and how, no UFC can legitimately guide States or contribute to improving the goals of constitutional amendments.

Way Forward:

  • All the terms of reference of UFCs (since the 11th) iterate the need for suggesting measures to augment the resources of Panchayats and Municipalities as a core task.
  • Both centre and state must sit together to make a concrete approach to redeem the situation and work towards a good local governance system.
  • Their well-designed grant scheme to incentivise States was not given a fair trial.
  • Till now, SFCs have not been provided with the necessary environment to play their rightful role in Indian fiscal federalism. A great opportunity to build regional equity in India should not be undermined but to enhance the opportunity towards the Fiscal and Cooperative Federalism.

 

Sample Question:

  • State finance commission has been created to rationalise and systematise State/sub-State-level fiscal relations in India. But, there has been inadequate appreciation of the significance of this institution at Central, state as well as at the level of professional community. Discuss.

 


TOPIC: Blasphemy law in India

Topic in syllabus: GS-II: Indian Polity

 

Blasphemy law in India

Why in news:

Punjab government proposed to add Section 295AA in IPC to expand and tighten law on Sacrilege

Sacrilege: violation or misuse of what is regarded as sacred.
Blasphemy Law
: Deals with the matter pertaining to lack of respect toward God, religion, a religious icon, or something else considered sacred.

Laws related to blasphemy in India

Section 295A of the IPC:

  • It penalizes any deliberate intention of insulting the religion or religious beliefs of any class of citizen
  • Section 295A is a cognizable offence, which means that the police are authorised to arrest accused persons without the need of a judicially sanctioned warrant.
  • This law was added only in 1927. Earlier India never had blasphemy law
  • It is often argued that Section 295A is not a section for blasphemy but a section against Hate Speech

Other laws

  • Sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 292, and 293 of IPC also related to blasphemy
  • These sections prohibit any words or representations that insult any individual’s or group’s religious beliefs, or that are meant to incite enmity against a particular religion.

Reason for blasphemy law

  1. To value and respect for sanctity of the God, Religion and Religious belief.
  2. Religion affects the actions of human beings. Legal protection provided by state to protect religious belief and sentiments leads to stable society and governance.
  3. Most of the countries implement Blasphemy laws as a reasonable restriction for the maintenance of communal harmony.
    • Section 295A was also introduced to control series of communal violence
  4. Blasphemy law is required by the states that have an official religion like Pakistan

Argument against blasphemy law

  1. Blasphemy has been described as irreverence towards God or Religion, however the term “Religion‟ itself lacks a proper definition for itself.
  2. Against the spirit of Fundamental right of Speech and Expressions. USA has no blasphemy law to protect freedom of speech and expressions.
  3. Blasphemy laws are incompatible with the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  4. Blasphemy law is often be used as a tool for the majority to oppress the minority.
  5. The allegations of blasphemy have been used by vigilante groups and non-state actors to justify and instigate incidents of interreligious violence

Supreme Court Judgment

Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh

  • The case challenges the constitutional validity of law.
  • Case argue that Art. 19(2) only put reasonable restrictions but section 295 A casts its net much wider by criminalizing all speech that was intended to outrage religious feeling
  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 295 A
  • Supreme court observe that section 295A did not cover all type of Insult but only intentional insults

The Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh v Ram Manohar Lohia

  • Under this case supreme court observes that speech which is prohibited should have a direct connection to disrupt public order and it should not be just a remote connection
  • This is contrary to previous judgment (Ram ji Lal Modi case) which gave the order that a slight connection of freedom of speech with public disorder fall under Section 295 A

New Punjab law

  • Under new proposed law any “injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people” a crime punishable with life imprisonment

Need for Law

  • Several incident took place in various part of Punjab related to sacrilege of Holy book of Sikhs.
  • Existing provisions of the said Act in Section 295, 295A and 296 though deal with these matters but do not provide deterrent punishment for incidents

Issues with the law

  • Protecting Holy book of one religion is anti-secular and discriminatory against other religion.
  • Most importantly, section 295-A of IPC deals with religion and religious beliefs, punishment under section 295-AA explicitly for religious text would be disproportionate.
  • Misuse of law in guise of protecting religion sentiments may inflict violence.

Way ahead

  • If the speech or statement or art of work have an element of incitement of hate, it should be treated as a hate speech under section 153(a) of IPC and not as a Blasphemy.
  • Spirit of tolerance among the people of difference sects needs to be promoted.
  • To decide whether the blasphemous act have element of hate or violence should be left at the level of tolerance of the society.
  • It is believed that the stricter the Blasphemy law, graver the human right violation.

 

Sample Question:

Q. Discuss need for blasphemy law in India and concerns associated with it.

 


TOPIC: Climate Change in India

Topic in syllabus: GS III- Environment

 

hothouse earth

Why in news?

According to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences   earth might move into a high temperature “hothouse earth” pathway from where it would not be able to stabilize climate

Note: Hothouse Earth – Is a period with no continental glaciers, the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are high, with high sea surface temperatures and uncontrollable warning.

Climate Change – a reality

  1. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. According to climate scientists, this change has largely been driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere
  2. There has been warming of oceans by 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. Further, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent
  3. According to data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Greenland lost 281 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016 and Antarctica lost about 119 billion tons during the same time period.
  4. Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century and rate of rise has increased significantly in last 20 years
  5. There has been a rise in number and intensity of extreme events. For example, scientists attribute the rise in number of high intensity hurricanes in USA to climate change
  6. With rising global temperatures, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks have become more frequent. For example: In 2016-17, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia suffered extreme coral bleaching which killed around 50% of its corals.
  7. Wildlife extinction: Australian rodent, Bramble Cay Melomys has been declared extinct due to human-induced climate change

Impact of Climate Change on India:

  1. Impact on water Resources: Change in climate is expected to have long-term implications on the quality and quantity of water. According to NATCOM there will be decline in runoff in all river basins in India except Narmada and Tapi
  2. Impact on agriculture and Food resources: According to Indian Agricultural Research Institute, climate change will have adverse impact on Rabi crop- for every 1°C rise in temperature, the estimated loss of wheat is 4-5 million tonnes
  3. Rise in extreme weather events: Climate change has increased India’s vulnerability of extreme events. The 2017 high intensity Ockhi cyclone and 2018 dust storms in north India was attributed to climate change
  4. Impact on Human Health: Changes in climate may alter distribution of vector species (malaria mosquitoes) and may increase vulnerability to diseases. Further rising heat waves and cold waves have adversely affected human health.
  5. Impact on Forest Cover: According to studies, large areas of forest in India are likely to experience shift in forest types due to climate change. For example: xeric scrublands will increase
  6. Impact on Coastal Areas: A sea-level rise of 46-59cm in India by 21000 is estimated by NATCOM. Rising sea level and increasing tropical cyclone events pose great threat to coastal areas in India

Initiatives taken by India to combat climate change:

Commitment to Paris Agreement on Climate Change, 2015

Under the Paris Agreement, —India stated its proposed commitments to address climate change as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which was submitted for 2015–30-

  1. Reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels;
  2. Increase the share of non-fossil fuel-based electricity to 40% by 2030;
  3. Increase renewable energy generation to 175 GW by 2022;
  4. Enhance its forest cover which will absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.

National Action Plan for Climate Change

  1. National Solar Mission: Aims to promote the use of solar energy in India. 
    • India along with France launched the International Solar Alliance at the UN climate Change Conference in Paris
  2. National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency: Aims to improve energy efficiency of domestic, commercial and industrial sectors in India. 
    • Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme, Energy Conservation Building Code, India’s Zero Defect, Zero Effect policy aims to enhance energy and resource efficiency.
  3. National Mission for Sustainable Habitat: Aims at encouraging sustainable urban planning in India
  4. National Water Mission: Aims to ensure sustainable water supply by conserving water, minimizing waste and ensuring equitable distribution of water resources
  5. National Mission for Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change: Aims to create a comprehensive knowledge system that informs and supports climate change action in India
  6. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: Aims at improving sustainability, productivity, remuneration and climate resilience of agriculture in India.
  7. National Mission for Green India: Aims to protect enhance and restore forests and respond to climate change
  8. National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem: Aims to enhance understanding of climate change impacts and adaptations required in the Himalayas

Draft National Forest Policy, 2017:

The draft National Forest Policy calls for integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in forest management through the mechanism of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus) so that the impacts of the climate change is minimised.

Promotion of Bio fuels

The Indian government has been promoting Biofuel through various policy interventions. Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the National policy on Biofuel, 2018. The policy aims at contributing to energy security and climate change mitigation by achieving a target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030.

Clean Air Initiatives- Reducing Vehicular Emissions:

  • The Indian government has decided to skip BS-V and directly move to BS-VI from 2020. It has further agreed to advance the proposed date for Euro-VI from 2026 to 2020
  • FAME (Faster Adoption & Manufacturing go Hybrid and Electric Vehicles) India Scheme: The scheme aims at in creating infrastructure and promoting the use of environment-friendly electric vehicles.
  • The National Urban Transport Policy has implemented measures to increase public transport. For example: Expansion of Metro Rail Transportation System in Delhi, Metro Bus Project in Bangalore

Issues and challenges

  1. Poverty: According to multidimensional poverty index, 53% of Indians are multidimensional poor. Lack of inclusive policies and unresolved debate between environment and development would make poor and tribal people more vulnerable to climate change related activities.
  2. Funding: Absence of well established green equity and debt markets in India along with USA pulling out of Paris Agreement has further complicated the funding mechanisms.
  3. Technology: India lacks poorly in power efficient technologies like solar technologies and efficient thermal power plants. Low budgetary allocations towards research and development especially in the field of climate change makes India dependent on developed nations for technology transfer.
  4. Data: India has inadequate mechanisms to collect data on climate change in India. Example: the changing flowering pattern of plants, breeding seasons of migratory birds, etc.
  5. Lack of awareness: Despite numerous government initiatives, the solution to climate change lies with the people themselves. However, the lack of awareness among people hinders the success of various initiatives aiming at combating climate change.

Way Forward

  1. It is important to build resilience among rural and urban communities to deal with natural disasters, adapt to environmental changes, and manage potential risk arising out of climate change
  2. A public policy for corporate social responsibility should be formulated at national level considering disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation
  3. Research and development backed with adequate funding should be encouraged to develop and promote green technologies.
  4. There should be adequate focus on educating people about climate change. Behavioural change among the masses is important to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change
  5. Climate Change is one of the most alarming issues of 21st century, all the countries should address the issue with a shared perspective

 

Sample Question:

Q. Analyse the impact of climate change on India. Discuss the steps taken by Government to deal with climate change. Suggest holistic measures to address the issue of climate change .