Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation
- Front Page / NATIONAL (The Hindu)
- Editorial/OPINION (The Hindu)
- ECONOMY (The Hindu)
- Indian Express
- Live Mint
Page / NATIONAL
 Centre moots registry to vet geospatial data
Article talks about the National Data Registry (NDR) proposed to be set up in India
Earlier this year in 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs incurred the ire (anger) of private mapmakers and civil society after it posted a Geospatial Information Regulation Bill on its website, proposing draconian fines and jail terms for those who “wrongly depict” India’s borders.
- This came amid reports that terrorists had entered the Pathankot air base with the help of information from Google Maps.
- Withdrawn: The Bill, which was withdrawn and now in “cold storage,” according to an official privy to its development, also contravened the National Geospatial Policy (NGP), 2016, spearheaded by the DST
What is geospatial data?
The word geospatial is used to indicate that data that has a geographic component to it. This means that the records in a dataset have locational information tied to them such as geographic data in the form of coordinates, address, city, or ZIP code. GIS data is a form of geospatial data. Other geospatial data can originate from GPS data, satellite imagery, and geotagging.
What is Geospatial Technology?
Geospatial technology refers to all of the technology used to acquire, manipulate, and store geographic information. GIS is one form of geospatial technology. GPS, remote sensing etcare other examples of geospatial technology.
National Data Registry (NDR)
The government is developing a National Data Registry (NDR) that will require all agencies – state, private and academic that collect and store geospatial data to provide details of the data they store.
- The registry will serve as a source of “authenticated” information — meaning officials at the Survey of India would vet it for accuracy and see whether it contains information that contravenes national security.
- The purpose of such a registry was to create a “catalogue” that would “prevent duplication” of data sets and to help users locate the right agencies to source information.
- The registry will be a ‘meta-data’ repository: it will not actually be a source of geospatial data but will only inform about the nature of the data a service provider has.
- The Survey of India is the foremost authority on different kinds of maps. NDR would serve as a check on the quality of data
- Everyone from restaurant-location-services providers to hospital-location aggregators will have to comply with the directive, and the government may consider bringing in legislation.
Coordinating agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST)
 Fishermen talks end in stalemate
Sri Lankan fishermen rejected a demand from their Indian counterparts for a three year ‘phasing out period’ from Sri Lankan waters.
Twelve fishermen’s association members from Tamil Nadu and ten of their counterparts from northern Sri Lanka met at the Ministry of External Affairs after a gap of nearly one and a half years, with all previous rounds of negotiations proving futile. However, this is the first meeting at which high-level government officials from both sides were also present.
Sri Lankan fishermen reject the demand
Sri Lankan fishermen rejected a demand from their Indian counterparts for a three year ‘phasing out period’ from Sri Lankan waters.
Stance: We will not tolerate any illegal poaching in our waters, not even for three minutes, forget about three years
The Foreign Ministers of India and Sri Lanka, along with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, will now meet in New Delhi on 5th November 2016 for the first time to develop a joint strategy to tackle the conflict.
 Avoid interference: Nepal to India
Article elaborates on President of India’s visit to Nepal
The visit comes in the backdrop of the recent visit of Nepalese PM to India. Indo-Nepal ties have worsened over the Madhesi issue & these visits by both the countries signal a desire to revamp the bilateral engagement.
For a detailed info on Madhesi issue, kindly refer to this article here
Nepal has asserted that India should avoid interfering in the internal issues of the country
- No interference: Nepal was on his way to complete a series of amendments to the year-old Constitution in the next three or four months, but said they would prefer to do so without interference from major powers, including India
- Internal matter: As far as the constitutional amendments for accommodating aspirations of the Madhesi people are concerned it is an internal matter because Madhesis are Nepalis and their aspirations are internal matters of Nepal
Stance of Madhesi leaders
Leaders from the Madhesi parties made it clear that they would take up the issue of continued denial of rights to the Madhesi people with President Mukherjee
India urged Nepal to bridge internal differences and acknowledged that the constitution amendment process had moved ahead in the last few months but India has asked Nepal to embrace a broad-based approach in writing the constitution.
Editorial / OPINION
 Green farms and clean air
Author points out at the pollution caused by burning of paddy straw in various states of India & steps government could take to curb it.
Problems due to burning of Agri waste
- Burning of agricultural waste in the northern States significantly contributes to the poor air quality in large parts of the Indo-Gangetic Basin, with local and cascading impacts felt from Punjab all the way to West Bengal
- National capital and several other cities suffer crippling pollution in the post-monsoon and winter months partly due to biomass burning
- Burning crop residues add greenhouse gases that cause global warming, besides pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ammonia, nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide that severely affect human health.
How Punjab responded?
Punjab responded to the issue with a prohibition on the burning of paddy straw, and the launch of initiatives aimed at better utilisation of biomass, including as a fuel to produce power but there is a lack of a dedicated programme to mitigate this annual crisis
Problem with the current approach
- The efforts do not match the scale of agricultural residues produced
- The efforts fail to address farmers’ anxiety to remove the surplus from the fields quickly to make way for the next crop
How much crop waste we produce?
The national production of crop waste is of the order of 500 million tonnes a year, with Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and West Bengal topping the list.
Author suggests following solutions,
- Pilot projects to produce power using biomass demonstrated in Rajasthan, and mechanized composting and biogas production units of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute could be scaled up
- Farmers should be given liberal support to deploy such solutions
- Popularization of conservation agriculture which would encourage farmers to use newer low-till seeding technologies that allow much of the crop residues to remain on site, and curb the release of a variety of pollutants
What is conservation agriculture (CA)?
CA is a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment.
- CA is based on enhancing natural biological processes above and below the ground. Interventions such as mechanical soil tillage are reduced to an absolute minimum, and the use of external inputs such as agrochemicals and nutrients of mineral or organic origin are applied at an optimum level and in a way and quantity that does not interfere with, or disrupt, the biological processes.
CA is characterized by three principles which are linked to each other, namely:
- Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance
- Permanent organic soil cover
- Diversified crop rotations in the case of annual crops or plant associations in case of perennial crops.
For detailed info on conservation agriculture: https://www.researchgate.net/file.PostFileLoader.html?id=56b58d2060614be0df8b4567&assetKey=AS%3A326011976732674%401454738720449
On parallel tracks
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court last week ruled that contract workers should get the same pay as permanent workers. It held that denial of equal pay for equal work to daily wagers, temporary, casual and contractual employees amounted to “exploitative enslavement, emerging out of a domineering position”
You can find the Hindu article related to the judgement here
Author states that though the verdict came in the context of workers employed by the government, it strikes at the inequity that classifies workers in both the public and private sector as regular and contract
Elucidating his point further, author says, that in establishments across the country, an elite minority of permanent workers enjoy relative job security and higher wages, while the vast majority, comprising casual or contract workers, toil under terms where they can be terminated any time without reason, and get paid a fraction of what the regular workers get.
Impact of the decision – Unlikely
Author points out that it is unlikely that there SC’s decision will have any effect on the condition of the contract workers in the country because of a major reason i.e. access to collective bargaining
Union is not for contract workers
As per the Trade Unions Act, 1926, any workman who works in a factory can join a union of that factory. But trade unions typically have only permanent workers as members.
Reason: The reason cited is that contract workers are not employees of the employer in question (the manufacturing unit), and so should not find representation in a union body formed for the purpose of negotiating with the said employer. Contract workers are hired by contractor who is enlisted with the employer as a supplier of contract labour, and who pays their salaries.
Reason cited above is fallacious because as per section 2 (g) of the Trade Union Act, which defines “workmen”, for the purposes of a trade union, as “all persons employed in trade or industry whether or not in the employment of the employer with whom the trade dispute arises”.
ChanderBhan, etc versus Sunbeam Autoworkers Union in the Gurgaon District Court
Courts’ ruling: Court ruled that any workman employed by a factory — irrespective of whether he was a permanent worker or not, fulfilled the Industrial Dispute (ID) Act’s definition of workman or not — was eligible to participate in union activities.
Why no union anywhere gives voting rights and membership to contract workers?
- Evoke greater hostility: In an industrial climate extremely hostile to any union activity, workers believe that forming a union that also includes contract workers is bound to provoke the management into even greater hostility.
- Refusal by Management: Managements refuse straightaway to discuss with unionists any issues concerning contract workers.
- Dismissal by the management: Contract workers are far more insecure compared to regular workers. In an era where companies frequently terminate even a permanent worker for engaging in union mobilisation, the stakes are too high for contract workers, who could be dismissed, without any consequences, by the management.
- Marginalization of permanent workers: Permanent workers themselves don’t want to extend union membership to contract workers. In a factory, say, that employs 300 permanent workers and 1,200 contract workers, any union that gives voting rights to contract workers would instantly marginalize permanent workers.
Result: Due to above factors, India’s contract workers, with the exception of some PSUs in select sectors such as steel and coal, remain both heavily exploited and largely un-unionized
How Contract Labor Act 1970 meant to abolish contract labor, encouraged contract labor instead?
- The act provided a legal operating framework to labor contractors
- Sham contracts: Contract labour was initially employed only for non-core work such as gardening, cleaning, and maintenance. Soon, they began to be increasingly employed in production as well. Workers protested. In response, the CL Act was enacted. It expressly prohibited the employment of contract labour for perennial work, that is, in core production.
- Labour contractors easily circumvent this requirement through what have come to be known as ‘sham contracts’. It is a contract that may show a worker as having been hired for a cleaning job. But once he enters the factory premises, he is engaged in production work. There is no documentation to show that a contract worker who, on paper, is engaged for cleaning work, is actually in production
 States yet to come up with options for cess on GST
Multiple slabs, ranging from zero to 26 per cent, with a cess on ultra-luxury and demerit goods in the top-most slab, is the only rate structure for consideration in the GST (Goods & Services Tax) Council.
States’ opposition to cess on GST
The States’ main grouse (complain) was the Centre’s proposal that the revenues generated by the imposition of a cess on the GSTwould be used to fund the states’ losses. States say that it would be tantamount to using GST revenues for compensating GST losses
No cess means a high tax burden for taxpayer
The option of fixing the top-most slab higher than 26 per cent as an alternative to cess is not feasible.
- Government said that not all of the revenues raised from the GST will come to the Centre as it will have to devolve 42 per cent of the collections to all states, including those not suffering losses, in accordance with the Finance Commission’s award so there is a need to raise revenues in excess of the sum required to fund the compensations, the burden of which shall fall upon taxpayers if cess is not imposed
The revenues from the cess would go into a separate escrow account from where direct disbursements will be made to those states eligible for compensations from the Centre in line with pre-determined formulae
What is escrow?
Escrow generally refers to money held by a third-party on behalf of transacting parties. So, in this case, 3rd party is the government itself.
Why not impose a single GST rate and eliminate the problem once and for all?
A single GST rate throughout country would be too regressive. A country like India cannot overnight raise the incidence of indirect taxes on goods and services consumed by the poor to 12 or 15 or 15.5 per cent and at the same time we can also not slash taxation rates falling on the rich to these levels from 40 per cent or more currently.
Faster security clearances on anvil for foreign investors, to help FDI flow
 Encounter vs rule of law
Article brings forth questions that are being raised after an encounter of under-trial SIMI terrorists by MP police.
Encounter raises questions
The first principle that must be recognised is that the killing of any person in an encounter can never be considered to be part of the normal criminal justice process. It may only be justified in a case where the armed forces are compelled to fire in self-defence, and even then, it cannot be considered an outcome of the justice system.
- Unarmed: Firing and killing of escaped detainees who had not retaliated, and by several accounts appear to have been unarmed, should not be an action which is legally open to the police force and cannot be justified
- Innocent until proven guilty: They were under-trials and not convicts which further. Hence, justifying encounter by labelling them as terrorists is unfair. All accused under criminal law are considered innocent until proven guilty, and it is clear that these men were, at the time of their deaths, not proven so
- Outside the law: Even if the accused were guilty, police were not justified in killing them as no such punishment is specified within the law
- Lynch mob mentality: A criminal justice system based on collective hunch and gut feeling where punishment is delivered in an instant goes against the principle of due process of law.
- Killing of police officer: Author states that even if these escaped under-trials killed a police officer, the right way would have been to arrest them and bring them to justice in a legal manner wherein they would have been proved commensurately to their deeds.
- Supreme Court’s verdict:Supreme Court delivered a far-sighted verdict in 2015 which dealt with fake encounters conducted in Manipur under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It recognised that under the guise of national security, several such illegal encounters had taken place, where citizens were murdered in cold blood. Similar cases can be found in several other parts of the country as well
- Membership of radical organisation: Author points out that a mere membership of an outlawed organisation like SIMI or fitting into the public image of a terrorist cannot be justification for eliminating the rights which were available to them under the law as Indian citizens. Doing so is a direct challenge to the rule of law and constitutional protection available to all of us
Author hopes that the circumstances of this encounter, and the carrying out of the same, shall be investigated fully, impartially and thoroughly, and the results will be brought to the notice of the judicial system in the country
 The vulnerability of the Chinese Corridor
Author resorts to Game theory and suggests India’s concern over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might be unfounded
What is CPEC?
It is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $51 billion,intended to rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China.
- The corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative,and the importance of CPEC to China is reflected by its inclusion as part of China’s 13th five year development plan
CPEC’s importance to China: This corridor—which includes road, rail and port infrastructure—is expected to allow China to avoid the vulnerable Indian Ocean route currently used to transport oil from the Gulf.
CPEC’s importance to Pakistan: It will also enable Pakistan to create an alternative to the US for patronage while bringing economic development in desperately poor regions including Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
CPEC as a hostage
Thinking on the lines of disarmament dilemma author suggests that, CPEC, being a valuable asset within easy striking distance of the Line of Control, will be a hostage in India’s control that will deter cross-border militancy as such activity would put the billions of dollars of investment at risk from retaliatory strikes
- On the other hand, with the Indian side of the border being poorly developed, Pakistan and China will not have any such option
Author, however, goes on to state few conditions to which the above hostage model will be subjected to,
- First, the “hostage”, i.e. the economic corridor, is valuable not just to Pakistan but also to China. Given the formidable threat posed by China, India will be constrained in its ability to effect harm, thereby limiting the value of the asset.
- Second, the militants in the areas where CPEC has been proposed will see economic development as a threat to their long-term sustainability and oppose it, or attempt to extract economic rents from the new infrastructure. This tendency would be heightened by the general trend of such projects displacing large numbers of people with hardly any recompense.
- Third, while the relationship with China would provide Pakistan an alternative to funds from the US, it could sabotage the strategy of using foreign money to fight terrorism in one part of the country, while simultaneously encouraging militancy in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot afford to alienate itself from Kashmir without causing an internal strife and a destabilized neighbor would pose a threat to India. Moreover, youth from Kashmir could get embroiled in this war.
Author concludes by saying that the development of CPEC must be seen not just in isolation but in the light of China’s One Belt One Road project that includes the development of another road, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor that will stretch from Kolkata to Kunming in the Yunnan province. The development of this road, when seen in the light of the roadblocks likely to accompany CPEC, provides an avenue of opportunity that India must use to navigate the difficult geopolitical scenario.
 A domestic climate action strategy
India needs to strengthen climate cooperation at domestic level, with better centre-state and inter-state coordination.
India ratified the Paris agreement recently and will now negotiate the mechanisms and provisions under the agreement.
It should be noted that for Paris agreement to come into force, following conditions were to be satisfied,
- ratification by at least 55 countries which account for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Author is concerned that, while India did well by signing the Paris agreement but it may have did so without realizing its entire gamut of implications
Questions raised by the author
Q1: Does India have a domestic implementation strategy?
Q2: Have there been sufficient consultations with state governments and others to take stock of our climate preparedness?
Q3: Do we have sufficient information about sub-national contexts, to keep in mind domestic concerns while we negotiate?
Built in Caveats in India’s ratification instrument
India has stated that climate action will be in the context of India’s developmental goals, existing national laws and available means of implementation. This caveat is important but this also means that India has its work cut out in the pre-2020 scenario to ensure that legislation and provisions required to implement the agreement domestically, are in place.
Failed to involve state governments
Author states that one integral factor that we have missed is to realize the roles and responsibilities of state governments, who are the ultimate implementing authorities of climate policies.
- There have not been any detailed discussions with the states on the implications of the Paris Agreement for them, either before or after the ratification
Renewable energy target
India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) goals include a 175GW renewable energy target, and an overall emissions-intensity reduction of 33-35% over 2005 levels.
- Author points out that the first step towards this target would be the allocation of mitigation burden among states and also prioritize adaptation efforts
- A transparent GHG emissions accounting and monitoring, review and verification framework, and a detailed implementation plan
- To ensure that we are on track, both national and state plans need to be reassessed and reviewed to build the necessary capabilities for states to implement climate plans in the context of both, their developmental and NDC goals.
- State-level profiles: We need to build state-level profiles of GHG emissions from different sectors, which can inform us about priority areas for each state, since the funds for climate action are limited and must be utilized in a cost-effective manner.
Present situation: At present, different states have submitted their climate action plans having different priority areas and most state action plans lack clearly defined targets and timelines
- Transparency regime: India needs to enable a transparency regime with the cooperation of state governments with data being generated at the state level
- Common But Differentiated Responsibilites: India can extend the principle of CBDR and state level capabilities to allocate climate mitigation targets based on equity meaning more polluting states should have higher targets. Similarly, states equipped with high end technology can take up higher targets or help other states in meeting theirs.
Funding requirements: Mitigation costs
To implement its NDCs, India would need $2.5 trillion up to 2030
Present situation: This fiscal i.e. 1st April 2016 till 31st March 2017, $1.27 billion was transferred to the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) through collection of coal cess, with $750 million allocated to renewable energy, $380 million to the ministry of water resources, and $150 million to environment and forests
Author suggests: In the view of the author, external finance will be the key if India is to achieve its INDC targets.
- External sources of finance: He says that while multilateral organizations such as the World Bank have committed to raise $1 billion in 2017 for promoting India’s solar mission, India must strategically seek other sources such as the Green Climate Fund and leverage the International Solar Alliance, if India is to meet itsINDC targets.
- India would also need to look into inter-state financial and technology transfers to assist the socio-economically backward states
Recent studies by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) estimate that India has already faced about Rs1 trillion worth of direct damage costs due to extreme climate events such as floods, cyclones and temperature changes, over the last five years.
- Cost of adaptation: CEEW research further estimates that the costs of adaptation for India may increase to about $360 billion by 2030.
Difference between mitigation and adaptation
As per Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main difference between adaptation and mitigation lies in the objective that each option pursues.
- Mitigation focuses on the causes of climate change by decreasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or enhancing the sinks of greenhouse gases
- Adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change through an ‘adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities’
Example: Climate change can cause flooding of low lying areas. Now, adaptation strategy would involve building protection mechanisms to prevent the flooding of such low lying areas while mitigation efforts would involve limiting the greenhouse gases to prevent the rise in sea level.
INTERNATIONAL SOLAR ALLIANCE
What is ISA?
The International Solar Alliance is a group of countries within the tropics (Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) which receive sunshine for more than 300 days. Hence, these countries can tap a lot of solar energy. The idea is to bring together all such countries and have a common programme and development.
In January 2016 the Indian & French PM laid the founding stone for the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in Gwalpahari, Gurgaon.
Formal Name: International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA)
There are three objectives behind the International Solar Alliance,
- To force down prices by driving demand
- To bring standardization in solar technologies
- To foster research and development
GREEN CLIMATE FUND
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. The GCF is based in the new Songdo district of Incheon, South Korea.
Author concludes by saying that while India continues to strengthen international cooperation, the same needs to be done at the domestic level, with better centre-state and inter-state coordination, to turn what may seem to some, a distant dream, into reality.
Note: A detailed treatment to Paris agreement has already been given in the brief dated 9th September 2016