Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 12th January 2022

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1.  Treating the planet well can aid progress

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice | GS Paper III: Environment and conservation
Sub Theme: SDG | HDI |Anthropocene | UPSC

Context- The 2020 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled “The Next Frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene” proposed a planetary pressureadjusted Human Development Index (HDI)
PHDI-

  • The Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI) is an experimental index that adjusts the Human Development Index (HDI) for planetary pressures in the Anthropocene. The PHDI discounts the HDI for pressures on the planet to reflect a concern for intergenerational inequality.
  • The PHDI is the level of human development adjusted by carbon dioxide emissions per person (production-based) and material footprint per capita to account for the excessive human pressure on the planet. It should be seen as an incentive for transformation. In an ideal scenario where there are no pressures on the planet, the PHDI equals the HDI. However, as pressures increase, the PHDI falls below the HDI. In this sense, the PHDI measures the level of human development when planetary pressures are considered.

Concept of “Planetary Boundaries”- Planetary boundaries, put simply, are thresholds within which humanity can survive, develop and thrive for generations to come. These nine boundaries created a safe operating limit for survival. The idea was to define what humans could and couldn’t cross while keeping the resilience and stability of Earth systems foremost in mind. If these boundaries are crossed, the scientists said, it would lead to abrupt or irreversible planetary changes that would have a large-scale impact.

The nine planetary boundaries explained:

  1. Climate change:
    • Paris Agreement urge the world to contain climate change to a maximum of 2 degrees above the pre-industrial level.
  2. Biodiversity integrity loss
    • Humanity needs to enhance habitats and improve the connectivity between ecosystems to ensure the survival of the next generations. To achieve this target, we must develop policies that promote reforestation so that natural habitats are replenished.
  3. Altered biogeochemical cycles
    • Although nitrogen and phosphorus increase the yield, a significant portion of these reaches the oceans and threatens marine life. Therefore, a planetary boundary of 25% of the current value of nitrogen has been set to ensure we stay within limits.
  4. Land system change
    • The absolute quantity of land, as well as its function, quality, and geographical distribution, must all be considered when establishing a limit for human modifications to land systems.
  5. Freshwater use
    • Research shows that by 2050 almost half a billion people will experience water scarcity.
    • To preserve the overall resilience of the Earth system, scientists recommend a water boundary connected to consumptive freshwater use and environmental flow needs.
  6. Ocean acidification
    • Did you know that almost a quarter of CO2 in the atmosphere makes its way into oceans? When it reaches the water, it forms carbonic acid. This, in turn, decreases the pH of surface water.
    • The increased acidity has ramifications on global marine environments — it mitigates the carbonate ions necessary for corals, shellfish, and many other species to grow. Transgressing these boundaries and losing these species would mean a drastic change in ocean ecosystems and shortages in fish stocks.
  7. Chemical pollution and novel entities
    • Novel entities are defined as new chemicals, new forms of existing substances, and changed life forms that can have undesirable geophysical and biological consequences. Many of these have been introduced into the environment due to fundamental human-driven changes. The effects of these entities are long-term: they reduce fertility and increase the potential of permanent genetic damage in the generations to come. They’ve already been linked to the decrease in bird populations and hampered development in marine animals.
    • Although we don’t have a single significant chemical pollution boundary right now, scientists still think it’s enough cause for concern to prioritize action and research.
  8. Ozone layer
    • The ozone layer is responsible for filtering out the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. In the 1980s, the increased concentration of chemicals created a hole in the layer.
    • But there’s some good news here. The actions taken in the wake of the 1987 Montreal Protocol of 1987 have set us on the right path towards honoring this boundary!
  9. Atmospheric aerosol loading
    • Atmospheric aerosols affect global atmospheric circulation systems. The aerosols can formulate clouds that can cool and warm the Earth outside of standard natural cycles.
    • This, along with the other red flags, has necessitated a planetary boundary dedicated exclusively to regulating aerosol use.

The purpose of the planetary pressure adjusted HDI, or PHDI, is to communicate to the larger society the risk involved in continuing with existing practices in our resource use and environmental management, and the retarding effect that environmental stress can perpetuate on development.

    • Global Steps:
      Since the Stockholm conference was held, there have been several summits and initiatives by the United Nations, the latest being the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with a specific target to meet by 2030. The SDGs have acquired high priority in the context of the issue of climate change and its impact on society. Human-induced climate change has emerged as an important issue of global deliberations. The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 laid stress on limiting global temperature rise at the 1.5° C level and strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. This was reaffirmed in the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 at Glasgow in 2021.‘No poverty’ and ‘Zero hunger’ are the first and second SDGs.

 

  • Indian Context

 

In the case of India, the PHDI is 0.626 against an HDI of 0.645 with an average per capita CO2 emission (production) and material footprints of 2.0 tonnes and 4.6 tonnes, respectively. India gained in global rankings by eight points (131st rank under HDI and 123rd rank under PHDI), and its per capita carbon emission (production) and material footprint are well below the global average.

  • Nevertheless, India’s natural resource use is far from efficient, environmental problems are growing, and the onslaught on nature goes on unabated with little concern about its fallout — as evident from a number of ongoing and proposed projects. At the same time, India has 27.9% people under the Multidimensional Poverty Index ranging from 1.10% in Kerala to 52.50% in Bihar, and a sizable section of them directly depend on natural resources for their sustenance. Kerala has an exemplary achievement in human development with an HDI value of 0.775, well above the all-India average. However, on the environmental front there are several challenges which warrant concrete actions; otherwise, the gains of human development may not be sustained.
  • According to NITI Aayog (2020-21), out of 100 points set for the grade of Achiever, India scored 60 (Performer grade, score 50-64) for no poverty and 47 (Aspirant grade, score 0-49) for zero hunger, with wide State-level variations. India’s score in the SDGs of 8, 9, and 12 (‘Decent work and economic growth’; ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’ and ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’, respectively) — considered for working out planetary pressure — are 61 (performer), 55 (performer) and 74 (front runner), respectively.

Conclusion- It is now essential to consider people and the planet as being a part of an interconnected social-ecological system. Social and environmental problems cannot be addressed in isolation anymore; an integrated perspective is necessary.

2.  Straws in the wind (Anti defection law)

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance|
Sub Theme: Anti defection |10th schedule | UPSC

Context: Defection means floor-crossing or switching sides by a member of one political party to another party. To control increasing instances of political defection in India, government through Constitution 52nd Amendment, added Tenth Schedule in the Indian Constitution. However, considering the partisan role of Speaker and instances of delay in deciding cases of defection by the Speaker, the Supreme Court has asked the Parliament to re-think on role of Speaker to decide cases of Defection.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 102(2) – A person shall be disqualified for being a member of either House of Parliament if he is so disqualified under the Tenth Schedule.
  • Article 191(2) – A person shall be disqualified for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State if he is so disqualified under the Tenth Schedule.

 

Defection under Tenth Schedule

  • A member of a House belonging to any political party shall be disqualified for being a member of the House –
  1. if he has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party; or
  2. if he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs – and such voting or abstention has not been condoned by such political party, person or authority within fifteen days from the date of such voting or abstention.
  • Disqualification of Independent Member – An elected member of a House who has been elected as such otherwise than as a candidate set up by any political party shall be disqualified for being a member of the House if he joins any political party after the election.
  • Disqualification of Nominated Member – A nominated member of a House shall be disqualified for being a member of the House if he joins any political party after the expiry of six months from the date on which he takes his seat.
  • Disqualification on ground of defection does not apply in case of merger – the merger of the original political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if – not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger.
  • Para 5 – Exemption – A special provision has been included in the 52nd Constitution Amendment to enable a person who has been elected as the presiding officer of a House to sever his connections with his political party.
  • As per Paragraph 5 of Tenth Schedule – A person who has been elected to the office of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker of the House of the People or the Deputy Chairman of the Council of States or the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council of a State or the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a State, shall not be disqualified under this Schedule –
  1. if he, by reason of his election to such office, voluntarily gives up the membership of the political party to which he belonged immediately before such election and does not, so long as he continues to hold such office thereafter, rejoin that political party or become a member of another political party; or
  2. if he, having given up by reason of his election to such office his membership of the political party to which he belonged immediately before such election, rejoins such political party after he ceases to hold such office.
  • Paragraph 6 – The question as to whether a member of a House of Parliament or State Legislature has become subject to the proposed disqualification will be determined by the presiding officer (Chairman or the Speaker of such House) of the House. However, where the question is with reference to the presiding officer himself, it will be decided by a member of the House elected by the House in that behalf.

Decision of Speaker under 10th Schedule

  • Paragraph 6 of Tenth Schedule refers to decision on questions as to disqualification on ground of defection.
  • If any question arises as to whether a member of a House has become subject to disqualification under this Schedule, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Chairman or the Speaker of such House and his decision shall be final.
  • The Supreme Court in Kihota Hollohon v Zachilhu and others upheld the constitutional validity of Tenth Schedule. The Court also held that the decision of the Speaker of Lok Sabha or State Assembly on matters of disqualification will be open to judicial review.

Kihoto Hollohan v Zachilhu and others – Important Highlights

A constitutional challenge to the Tenth Schedule was settled by the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan. The principal question before the Supreme Court in the case was whether the powerful role given to the Speaker violated the doctrine of Basic Structure namely the judicial principle that certain basic features of the Constitution cannot be altered by amendments by Parliament, laid down in the landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala (1973).

  • The constitutionality of the Anti-Defection Law was upheld by the Supreme Court by 3:2 majority.
  • The Court ruled that Speaker/Chairman while deciding cases of anti-defection acts as a Tribunal and accordingly the decision of Speaker/Chairman is subject to judicial review.
  • However, judicial review would not cover any stage prior to the making of decision by Speaker/Chairman.
  • Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House.
  • Tenth Schedule’s provisions were remedial and intended to strengthen the fabric of Indian Parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.

Questions raised on the Role of Speaker to decide cases of Anti-Defection

  • As per Article 93, Lok Sabha shall choose two members of the House to be respectively Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The Speaker is a constitutional authority and his tenure is dependent on the will of the majority. So, likelihood of suspicion of bias could not be ruled out as mostly Speaker belongs to the ruling majority.
  • Further, there can be an instance where disqualification of some members of Parliament from the ruling party may lead to dissolution of Lok Sabha/State Assemblies due fall in number of MP or MLA from the ruling majority.
  • It is time for Parliament to rethink on whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority when such Speaker continues to belong to a particular political party either de jure or de facto.

Important Recommendations of NCRWC, Dinesh Goswami Committee    

    • Amending Tenth Schedule – to ban all kinds of Defections – individual or group defections ad protection granted to members in case of split should be scrapped.
    • Contesting Fresh Elections by Defectors as defecting by members would result in loss of membership of the House concerned.
    • Defectors should be debarred from holding Public Office or any other remunerative political post for remaining term.
    • Vote to topple government as Invalid – The vote cast by a defector to topple a government should be treated as invalid unless supported by confidence vote (eg: Germany)

 

  • Speaker not to decide matters on Defection – questions as to disqualification on ground of defection should vest in the Election Commission – also supported by Dinesh Goswami Committee and 170th Law Commission Report. 

 

The Anti-Defection Law has created a democracy of parties and numbers in India, rather than a democracy of debate and discussion. Hence a change is long overdue.

 

Adverse Impact of Defection Politics on Indian Democracy 

  • Undermining Electoral Democracy by shifting political allegiance mid-term
  • Defectors Betray Electoral Mandate
  • Promotes Horse Trading through bribery and corruption
  • Impacts stability of government
  • Greed overtakes Constitutional Morality
  • Restricts individual political freedom and right to vote due to party whips
  • Speaker acts in a partisan manner in cases of anti-defection and delay the process.
  • Has not restricted or prohibited post poll alliance – impacts government’s stability

Recent SC Judgment – Keisham Meghachandra Singh v. Union of India   

  • Decision on Anti-defection of the Speaker operates independently of other decisions of the House and is not subject to approval of the House.
  • Immunity only from parliamentary procedure – The term “proceedings in Parliament” attracts immunity from mere irregularities of procedures and not on the final decision of Speaker or Chairman. Thus, decision of Speaker on anti-defection can be judicially reviewed and only the procedure followed cannot be judicially reviewed.
  • Judicial Review – Judicial Review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman as per Kihoto Hollohan judgment.
  • Grounds of Judicial Review – Judicial Review to High Court and Supreme Court is allowed on Speaker’s Decision of disqualification under tenth schedule on grounds of infirmities based on violations of constitutional mandates, mala fides, non-compliance with Rules of Natural Justice and perversity.
  • Speaker/Chairman Quasi-Judicial Authority – Speaker or the Chairman, acting under Paragraph 6(1) of the Tenth Schedule is a Tribunal. Speaker is a quasi-judicial authority who is required to take a decision within a reasonable time.
  • Judicial Power of Speaker/Chairman – The power to resolve such disputes vested in the Speaker or Chairman is a judicial power.
  • Speaker to decide the case in reasonable time – Supreme Court quoted Kihoto Hollohan where it held that Speaker while deciding case of anti-defection must decide within reasonable time and should not take more than three months. The Court said that period of 3 months has been kept in mind considering life of Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies which is 5 years.
  • Observation in Rajendra Singh Rana case – The person who has incurred disqualification does not deserve to be MPs/MLAs even for a single day.

 

3.  Solar power all set to brighten lives of farmers (PM-KUSUM)

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims – PM KUSUM|
Sub Theme: Renewable Energy | PM KUSUM | UPSC

Context- Solar power generation is set to make rapid strides in Rajasthan with public sector banks acceding to the State government’s request togrant loans without collateral security to farmers for installing solar plants at their infertile or semi barren land.

Features:

  • The Scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • It is a scheme for farmers for installation of solar pumps and grid connected solar and other renewable power plants in the country.
  • As per provisions of the PM-KUSUM Scheme, the grid connected agriculture pumps can be solarised with central and state subsidy of 30% each and farmer’s contribution of 40%.
  • It will also include feeder level solarisation.

 

4.  Gangasagar Mela

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Art and Culture
Sub Theme:  Gangasagar mela | UPSC

Context: Amid COVID-19 crises and rise in cases, government and High court of Kolkata has imposed restrictions on the Ganga Sagar Mela.

Ganga Sagar Mela:

Where: Gangasagar is a village and a gram panchayat within the jurisdiction of the Sagar police station in Indian state of West Bengal.

Relevance: This is known as the place of penance by Kapil Muni.

Cultural aspects:

  • Gangasagar is a place of Hindu pilgrimage.
  • Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti (14/15 January), hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer prayers (puja) in the Kapil Muni Temple.
  • The Gangasagar fair and pilgrimage is held annually on Sagar Island’s southern tip, where the Ganges enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • This confluence is also called Gangasagar or Gangasagara. Near the confluence is the Kapil Muni Temple.
  • The Gangasagar pilgrimage and fair is the second largest congregation of mankind after the triennial ritual bathing of Kumbha Mela.

5.  Lone wolf attacks

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Security
Sub Theme: Internal Security | | UPSC

The lone wolf threat

Meaning:

The term “lone wolf” refers to individuals undertaking violent acts of terrorism outside a command structure.

A lone actor, lone-actor terrorist, or lone wolf is someone who prepares and commits violent acts alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group. They may be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group and may act in support of such a group.

Why its hard to prevent such attacks?

Terrorist organisations embrace this tactic to spread violence in countries where coordinated big attacks are impossible.

In coordinated terror attacks, the chances of competent intelligence agencies detecting the perpetrators are much higher. But, in Lone wolf attacks, extremist individuals translate their beliefs into violent actions, and therefore are hard to detect and prevent.

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