Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 2nd November 2021

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1.  India will achieve net zero emissions by 2070, says PM 

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III- Environment
Sub Theme:  Net Zero Emissions | UPSC
India has announced its five commitments that it strives to meet as it continues to work to tackle climate change related issues.

  1. By 2030, India will increase its non-fossil capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW).
  2. India will fulfil 50 percent of its energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030.
  3. India will reduce one billion ton of the total projected carbon emission between 2021 and 2030.
  4. By 2030, India will reduce its economy’s carbon intensity to less than 45 percent.
  5. India will achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2070.

The action might mean that India’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases could peak by 2030.

Emissions intensity is the level of GHG emissions per unit of economic activity, usually measured at the national level as GDP

Considered a milestone in climate action pledges, “net zero” refers to a balance where emissions of greenhouse gases that raise the globe’s temperature continue but are offset by the absorption of an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

The United States, Britain and the European Union have set a target date of 2050 to reach net zero, by which point they will only emit an amount of greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by forests, crops, soils and nascent “carbon capture technology”.

China and Saudi Arabia have both set targets of 2060, but critics say these are largely meaningless without tangible action now. Scientists say we must halve global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050, in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

COP President Alok Sharma said: “The science is clear that the window of time we have to keep the goal of 1.5℃ alive , and to avoid the worst effects of climate change, is closing fast. But with political will and commitment, we can, and must, deliver an outcome in Glasgow the world can be proud of.”

poet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s specially commissioned poem Earth has the lines: “Anything less than your best is too much to pay. Anything later than now, too little, too late. Nothing will change without you.”

The COP26 follows the assessment report on Earth’s climate published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

STRATEGY FORMULATED BY INDIA

Adaptation: We must make adaptation a core part of our development policies and projects. Various projects in India such as ‘Nal se Jal’, Clean Ujjawala, and Clean India Mission have not only offered adaptation benefits to our citizens in need but have also enhanced their quality of life.

Traditional practices should be given significant importance in our adaptation policies as the traditional communities are bestowed with wisdom to live in harmony with nature.

The difference between climate change mitigation strategies and climate change adaptation is that mitigation is aimed at tackling the causes and minimising the possible impacts of climate change, whereas adaptation looks at how to reduce the negative effects it has and how to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. Where mitigation strategies fail to reach emissions containment targets, climate resilience will be key to lessen the impacts of climate change and pave the way for our survival, along with the rest of the Earth’s inhabitants.

Climate resilient infrastructure: From sources of drinking water to affordable housing, all need to be made resilient against climate change. Infrastructure is developed for the long-term. If we make it resilient, we will prevent disasters not only for ourselves but many future generations. When a bridge is lost, a telecom tower falls, power systems fail, or when a school is damaged, the loss is not just the direct damage. We should look at losses holistically. Indirect losses due to disruptions to small businesses and interrupted schooling of children may be several times higher. We need the right accounting perspective for a holistic evaluation of the situation. If we make our infrastructure resilient, we will reduce both direct and indirect losses and protect the livelihoods of millions.

Need for development

    • 12th five-year plan calls for faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth.
    • India’s per capita GDP – $1965 (world average ~ $10,000)
  • HDI – 0.64 (130/189)
  • Per capita energy consumption ~ 1/5th of global average.
    • ~300 million people do not have electricity
  •  55% households live in mud or semi-concrete household (2011 census)
  • Employment need increasing the industrial base
  • Doubling the farmer’s income require high energy consumption.

Global financing: the spirit of climate justice, rich developed countries ought to be providing at least $1 trillion in climate finance to assist developing countries and those most vulnerable.

Global cooperation: India has requested all the countries to join one of India’s initiatives known as the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

Paris Rulebook: India has demanded that the Paris Agreement Rulebook be concluded at COP26. The Rulebook will set Paris Agreement in motion by laying out the tools and processes to enable it is implemented fairly and properly. Countries had agreed to develop and finalise the Paris Rulebook at COP24 in Poland in 2018.

India wants the Rulebook to prepared by giving effect to the principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) and, recognition of the very different national circumstances of Parties.

Cognitive change: the topic of Climate change should be taught in schools. There is a need to include climate change adaptation policies in the school syllabus to make next-generation aware of issues.

What is the Conference of Parties (COP)?

The COP comes under the UNFCCC, which was established in 1994, to work towards the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The UNFCCC has 198 member states, including India, USA, and China. The first COP was held in 1995, and since then 25 such conferences have been held.

At COP3 in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted where significant decisions were made regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by member states. COP21, which was held in 2015 in Paris, France, was another milestone conference where the Paris Accord was signed to set a target for limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius – preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius – compared to pre-industrial levels.

2.  Cannot impose blanket ban on all firecrackers, says SC 

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity
Sub Theme:  Firecrackers ban| UPSC

Context: Supreme Court has set aside the blanket ban on firecrackers which was imposed by the Calcutta High Court in its order. Supreme Court said it had taken a consistent view in the matter since 2018, and this was also reflected in its latest order on October 29, 2021.

Judgment of Calcutta High Court

  • Calcutta High Court had prohibited the sale, purchase, use, display or bursting of firecrackers of any type at all during the upcoming Kali Puja, Diwali celebration as well as the following Chatt Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Guru Nanak’s Birthday and/or Christmas/New Year’s Eve this year in the State of West Bengal.
  • Because of this blanket ban on sale of firecrackers, firecracker industry filed a review petition in the Supreme Court.

Judgment of Supreme Court – 2018

  • In October 2018, the court had said that Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution applies to both segments of people (firecracker manufacturers and the general public) and it needs to maintain a balance while considering a countrywide ban on firecrackers.
  • The court dismissed arguments that bursting crackers was a fundamental right and an essential practice during religious festivals like Diwali.
    • The court held that the Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25) is subject to Right to life (Article 21).
    • If a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not entitled to protection under Article 25.
  • right to business is not absolute (Article 19 (1) (g))
  • The SC had banned production and sale of all crackers, except ‘green crackers’ and those with reduced emissions.
  • The Court held that there is no total ban on use of firecrackers and only those firecrackers are banned which are found to be injurious to health and affecting the health of citizens, more particularly senior citizens and children.
  • It had also banned manufacture and sale of ‘joined crackers’, prohibited the use of barium salts in fireworks, and said their noise levels should be within permissible limits.
  • The court also banned their online sales and directed that they can be sold only through licensed traders and laid down the time schedule for bursting on various occasions.

Green Crackers

  • “Green crackers” are so named because they do not contain harmful chemicals that would cause air pollution. Components in firecrackers are replaced with others that are “less dangerous” and “less harmful” to the atmosphere.
  • Scientists at Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI), Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, National Botanical Research Institute and National Chemical Laboratory have developed few “Green Crackers” such as Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL).
  • They have the unique property of releasing water vapor and/or air as the dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and have matching performance in sound with conventional crackers.

Highlights of SC Judgment – 2021

  • The Court held that a blanket ban on firecrackers may not be possible, but measures should be in place to prevent the use of toxic chemicals in firecrackers.
  • Accordingly, the Court has allowed the use of green crackers in areas where air quality is ‘good’ or ‘moderate’.

Relationship between Ecology and Article 21 as highlighted by SUPREME COURT

  • On the question of relationship between ecology and Article 21, the thinking of the Court is that right to life is a fundamental right under Article 21 and since right to life also connotes “quality of life”, a person has a right to the enjoyment of pollution free water and air to enjoy life fully.
  • Dehradun quarrying case (1998) recognised right to live in healthy environment as part of art 21.
  • MC Mehta case – right to live in pollution free environment is par to life.
    • The principle of strict liability imposes legal responsibility for damages or injuries caused by hazardous substances in his premises even if the person did not act with fault or negligence.
    • Supreme Court has accepted the doctrine of public trust which rests on the premise that certain natural resources like air, sea, waters are means for general use and cannot be restricted to private ownership.
    • These resources are a gift of nature and the state as a trustee is duty bound to protect them. The state is the trustee and general public the beneficiary of such natural resources as sea, running waters, air, forests, ecologically fragile lands.
    • Precautionary Principle means that the state governments and the concerned authorities must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation.
    • The Polluter Pays Principle imposes liability on a person who pollutes the environment to compensate for the damage caused and return the environment to its original state regardless of the intent. Absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation.
    • According to the absolute liability rule, no exceptions of strict liability shall apply in certain cases. Therefore, the people who cause damage will have unlimited liability to compensate victims adequately. Courts in India have applied this rule in many cases to create deterrence
    • That liability standard has been laid down by the Indian Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (Oleum Gas Leak Case). The principle of absolute liability is part of Article 21 (right to life).
  • Vellore citizens welfare forum case – polluters pay principle are essential for sustainable development. The onus of proof is on the actor or developer or industrialist to show that his action is environmentally benign.
  • Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action vs. Union of India – Court held that once the activity carried on is hazardous or inherently dangerous, the person carrying on such activity is liable to make good the loss caused to any other person by his activity irrespective of the fact whether he took reasonable care while carrying on his activity.
  • A.P. Pollution Control Board v M.V. Nayudu – Supreme Court has explained the relation between ecological issues and fundamental rights as – environmental concerns arising in Courts under Article 32/226/136 are of equal importance as human rights concerns. In fact both are to be traced to Article 21 which deals with fundamental right to life and liberty. While environmental aspects concerns “life”, human rights aspects concerns liberty.

 

3.  Vanniyar quota law unconstitutional: HC

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity
Sub Theme:  SC sub division| UPSC

E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh

Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission recommended sub-dividing the Scheduled Castes into four groups and apportioning reservations separately for each.

Andhra Pradesh government passed a law based on the report.

[This was to ensure that all communities within the Scheduled Castes, particularly those that have been oppressed and marginalised the most historically and have been deprived of the opportunities of education and formal employment, receive adequate and equitable representation in educational institutions and state services.]

In 2004, in the case of E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh Supreme Court held that –

  • The Scheduled Castes are constitutionally ‘homogenous’ group.
  • States do not have the power to further sub-classify the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, for grant of quotas in jobs and admissions to educational institutions.
  • Any inter-se classification within the Scheduled Castes would be a violation of Article 14.
  • The court held that the declaration of a caste as a Scheduled Caste in the presidential list issued under Article 341 meant that it became subsumed in the broad monolith and was to be treated at par with the other Scheduled Castes for all purposes.
  • Only the President has the power to notify the inclusion or exclusion of a caste as a Scheduled Caste, and states cannot tinker with the list.

[The Central List of Scheduled Castes and Tribes is notified by the President un­ der Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution. The con­ sent of the Parliament is re­ quired to exclude or include castes in the List. In short, States cannot unilaterally add or pull out castes from the List.]

In 2010 the Punjab and Haryana high court had struck down a state law empowering the government to sub-classify SC/STs for grant of quotas.

The high court had relied on the 2004 verdict of the apex court and held that the Punjab government was not empowered to undertake the exercise of sub classifying SC/STs. The high court had struck down Section 4 (5) of the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 and termed it unconstitutional. This Act gave first preference to Mazbhi Sikhs and Balmikis castes for SC quota in public services.

Davinder Singh v. State of Punjab

The bench said in its view the 2004 verdict was not correctly decided and states can make laws to give preferential treatment by subclassifying caste within SC/STs.

  • The Constitution Bench said reservation has created inequalities within the reserved castes itself. The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative difference between different classes to take ameliorative measures.
  • “Citizens cannot be treated to be socially and educationally backward till perpetuity; those who have come up must be excluded like the creamy layer,” the judgment said.
  • sub-classifications within the Presidential/Central List does not amount to “tinkering” with it. No caste is excluded from the list.

Reasons to reconsider the Chinnaiah judgement 

Social argument

Dr B.R. Ambedkar described the Indian society as a gradation of castes forming an ascending scale of reverence (which he later amended to an ascending scale of “hatred”) and a descending scale of contempt.

As is the nature of any hierarchical structure, no two castes are equal and while the Scheduled Castes form one group owing their commonality to their shared experience of untouchability, there is a large gradation within the Scheduled Castes. The ones at the bottom of the ladder, those who have been most severely ostracised and subjugated, have not yet received the benefits of reservations as a tool to ensure their representation in society and government.

Legal arguments

The nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India was cognisant of differential backwardness in Indian society and held that it would be perfectly legal for the state to categorise backward classes as backward and more backward.

Justice Sawant judgement said not only it is advisable but also imperative to make the sub-classification if all the backward classes are to gain equitable benefit of the special provisions under the Constitution.” However the judgement was in the context of OBC.

The Supreme Court has held in Subhash Chandra case (2009) that the term “backward classes” in Article 16(4) includes Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for all intent and purport.

Therefore, the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney paved the way for sub-classification not only among the other backward classes (OBCs), which it was primarily dealing with, but also within the Scheduled Castes for the purpose of apportioning reservations.

Supreme Court in Chinnaiah (mis)understood that the Indra Sawhney judgment applied only to OBCs and not to the Scheduled Castes. This it did by reading out of context a line from Justice Reddy’s majority judgment recommending exclusion of the creamy layer within the OBCs:

“…we feel that exclusion of such socially advanced members will make the ‘class’ a truly backward class and would more appropriately serve the purpose and object of clause (4). (This discussion is confined to Other Backward Classes only and has no relevance in the case of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.)”

The last part of the above paragraph, that “This discussion is confined to Other Backward Classes only” was intended only with regard to the exclusion of creamy layer. This concept, Justice Reddy warned, was not to be extended to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

Chinnaiah judgement misunderstood that Indra Sawhney judgement was not applicable to SC/STs. Hence their subclassification was not allowed.

The current case of Davinder Singh v. State of Punjab is thus likely to be referred to a larger bench, which would be called upon to decide the correctness of the court’s judgment in Chinnaiah in terms of Article 341 and the judgment of the court in Indra Sawhney.

Statistical argument 

The case of the Arunthathiyars

An example of state legislations earmarking quotas for certain communities within the Scheduled Castes is the 2009 Tamil Nadu law that reserves 3% of the total seats in educational institutions and state services for the Arunthathiyar community. While the Arunthathiyars constitute nearly 16% of the total Scheduled Caste population in the state, a report of the Justice Janarthanam Commission observed that their representation in most government departments, corporations and education institutions was anywhere between 5% to 0% within the Scheduled Caste communities. For this reason the Tamil Nadu government found it necessary for the state to ensure that the Arunthathiyars obtain representation corresponding to their proportion in the total population of the state.

Reasons to not subclassify schedules caste based on economic conditions

Inter-se classification is wrought with danger, if it is done with the assumption that  “affluent and socially and economically advanced”, no more deserve reservations and that reservations need to be rethought and provided on the basis of economic conditions so that benefits can “trickle down to the needy”.

Reservations is not a mean for poverty alleviation or to substitute for quality public education, which has its subscribers inside and outside the court, and which was given a parliamentary stamp of approval with the passing of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment reserving 10% seats for “economically weaker” savarna candidates.

To argue that reservations should trickle down to the ‘needy’ within the Scheduled Castes, ‘needy’ being defined on the basis of economic conditions, refuses to accept caste as a social problem, one which does not go away with some degree of educational or economic mobility.

In a 1976 case, State of Kerala v N M Thomas, the Supreme Court laid down that “Scheduled Castes are not castes, they are class.”

The decision to change the proportion of reservation may be based on the perception that such decisions will be made to appease one vote-bank or the other. A watertight President’s list was envisaged to protect from such potential arbitrary change.

The legal course is moving in the direction of making socio-political status as the basis reservation – 

  • Justice Krishna Iyer observed in N.M. Thomas (1975) that a “tiny elite gobbling up the benefits” of reservations.
  • The Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh Case observed that certain caste groups or sub-groups have “come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer”.
  • 103rd Constitutional Amendment reserving 10% seats for “economically weaker” savarna candidates reinforces the idea that reservation is the tool for economic development.
  • During the recent hearings in Davinder Singh case, the bench asked whether it is not unfair for some castes within the Scheduled Castes to ‘usurp’ all the benefits of reservation.

This assumption will be denial of the atrocities, humiliation and violence faced by members of the Scheduled Castes across classes, in rural as well as urban spaces. Take the recent example of a minister in the Himachal Pradesh government, with admittedly considerable social standing, who was disallowed from entering a temple in the state in January 2020. This is only one of the several thousand instances of caste atrocities committed across the country every year.

Even with considerable education, economic or social mobility, the humiliation and violence of untouchability does not cease. Reservations thus become necessary to ensure representation in government and society to counter the deep-rooted structures of caste hierarchy, domination and oppression.

Therefore the court ought to steer clear from allowing inter-se classification among Scheduled Castes on the flawed ground that some Scheduled Castes who have gained representation through reservation have “usurped” or “gobbled up” the benefits and therefore, potentially, now should be excluded. The rationale for inter-se classification is simply that it is imperative and a fundamental requirement for our democracy that all communities within the Scheduled Castes are adequately represented in society, polity and government.

Supreme Court has observed that “the constitutional goal of social transformation cannot be achieved without taking into account changing social realities”.

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