November 6, 2019
GS Paper II, Paper III
Indian lungs under extreme stress
According to the recent report which was recently released by the Union Health Ministry under the National Health Profile-2019, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal reported a large number of patients and fatalities due to Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI).
Indian statistics say that ARI accounted for 69.47% of morbidity last year which was the highest in the communicable disease category, leading to 27.21% mortality.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), acute respiratory infection is a serious ailment that prevents normal breathing function and kills an estimated 2.6 million children annually every year worldwide.
Indians face the double burden of heavy air pollution in addition to the high rate of ARI which hits children the hardest.
- When the polluted air is breathed in, particles and pollutants penetrate and inflame the linings of your bronchial tubes and lungs.
- This leads to respiratory illness such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, asthma, wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing.
- Children seem to be most vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution as they breathe through their mouths, bypassing the filtering effects of the nasal passages and allowing pollutants to travel deeper into the lungs.
Prevention is better than cure
- With the air quality deteriorating, parents should ensure their kids get minimum exposure to pollutants and are well protected to prevent respiratory issues.
- The current level of air pollution poses a high risk to pregnant women and the baby; the foetus receives oxygen from the mother, and if she is breathing polluted air, it can increase the health risk of unborn babies. It becomes paramount to be extra careful in the first trimester as risk increases and pollution can cause a medical condition called intrauterine inflammation.
- Especially Indian states like Delhi and Delhi-NCR must ensure to use the maximum of its government programmes and social welfare schemes to ensure a healthy safe environment to its locals.
Prenatal exposure to pollutants increases risk of pre-term delivery and low birth weight, factors that can lead to developmental disabilities later on.
Early symptoms of air pollution effects such as asthma exacerbation, leading to attacks of increased severity must not be casually ignored.
Though India is shifting to the non-conventional sources of energy- there is a rise in the renewable natural sources like solar energy that rose by 30%, hydro energy by 22% and the wind energy by 17% in the first 6 months 2019 in comparison with last year. Carbon-dioxide emissions are estimated not to spike above 3% which is the slowest in the country since 2001 due to a fall in the demand growth for coal and coke in power and manufacturing sectors according to the study of data from various Ministries responsible for electricity, coal, oil, gas and foreign trade- only 2% rise in the emissions till August 2019.
With India promising at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce emission intensity of its economy by 2030 and to commit to a shift to 40% consumption of energy from the renewables by 2030.
GS paper II, Paper III
Gujarat anti-terror Bill gets President’s nod
Controversial Bill on accepting the intercepted voice/ telephonic conversations as legitimate evidence under the purview of anti-terror legislation passed by the then Gujarat government, with a new name receives President’s assent.
What is the bill about?
Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (GCTOC) Bill was reintroduced in the in 2015 by renaming it from the previous ‘Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Bill’ that had failed thrice to get the nod from the Head of State. It finally received the President’s assent.
It would prove crucial in in dealing with terrorism and organised crimes such as contract killing, ponzi schemes, narcotics trade and extortion rackets. Gujarat state government tabled the bill over concerns regarding such organized criminal syndicates operating in the states whose activities may perpetuate into macro-terrorism.
What does the bill contest?
- Section 14 of this bill says that evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication under the provisions of any other law shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the Court.
- Section 3 of this bill talks about various punishments for organized crime and terrorist activities. The punishment for any terrorist activity which may result in the death of any person is death or life imprisonment and a fine of 10 lakh.
- The various amounts of penalties/ punishments on an accused is provisioned in the Bill if the established person is related to or an associate of a crime syndicate.
- Section 4 provides for provisions to attach and forfeit properties acquired through organized crimes. There can also be a cancellation of the transfer of properties.
- Section 5 provides for the creation of a special court as well as the appointment of special public prosecutors for the accused terrorists.
- Section 16 provides the admissibility of a confession made before a police officer as evidence in court. This is the most contentious section.
- Section 15 provides that any unaccounted property confiscated or derived from the accused person is deemed to have been derived from illegal activities; also any person that the accused has abducted is deemed to be for ransom.
- Section 18 provides for any movable and immovable property-related to organized crime or terrorism is subject to forfeiture.
- This bill provides immunity to the Police Officers from legal action that is purported to be done in “good faith”. However, it is alleged to be draconian in nature.
- The bill hails ‘No bail’. The probe period is extended from 90 days to 180 days.
Why President’s assent?
Any bill (other than the money bill) passed by the Legislative Assembly of a State can be reserved by the Governor of State for Presidential assent on his discretion. However, since this Bill has legislative provisions that overlap with the existent national laws such as the Indian Evidence Act (1872), it becomes required to obtain the President’s assent.
In comparison with the Central laws on Anti-terrorism
- The central acts – Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA). The intercept provisions are the same in GCTOC as is in UAPA, for which the state government can seek permission for the interception 10 days before the trial.
Why a controversy over the bill?
- Ever since its inception, the intervention of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights has been a boon or bane to the persons involved.
- Those who oppose the bill vouch for the draconian provisions that would dilute or suppress any dissent.
- Any evidence of his fingerprints, arms or explosives found at the site of operation or incident, unless corroborated with enough evidence to prove otherwise, the person will be prosecuted under the provisions of the Bill.
- Since there is no option of bail to the accused, the person can be detailed/ kept in custody for 180 days on the basis of phone records, this bill is susceptible to misuse by the government and the bureaucrats.
GS Paper II, Paper III
Safe for now; A victory for the dairy sector (Editorial insights- on RCEP)
With the recent decision of India to stay out of the world’s largest trade bloc in the regionally strategic boundaries, the Commerce Minister provides confirmation that for the present India does not want to rush into a dead-end in a desperate idea to be part in the biggest global supply chains, unless the remaining 15 nations that signed the RCEP Bloc pact in Bangkok make a sincere contribution to resolve the trade inequalities in the interest of the domestic market of India, it would not reconsider its decision to avoid the agreement.
What are the previous negotiations that India made, but in vain?
- India’s request to make country-specific tariff schedules early in the negotiations.
- Implementation of an auto-trigger mechanism to check a sudden upsurge in imports from a country from the RCEP bloc.
- India’s interests in stricter rules of origin by making mandatory ‘Rules of Origin’ (Made in (country)) sticker to provide a fillip to the local manufacturers by circumventing the sub-standard import goods.
- Movement of professionals stood as another impasse.
- Updating the base duty rates that were prevalent in 2019 rather than those imposed in 2014.
However, India is maintaining a firm stance in all the demands that could prove detrimental if overlooked.
In terms of the effects of RCEP on the dairy sector, it must be hailed glory as India signed out of the pact.
Currently, India’s average bound tariff for dairy products is about 63.8% while its average applied tariff is about 34.8%.
- If India chose to sign the RCEP deal, then the local dairy farmers/ industry would have been hit drastically as the bound tariff for the commodity line (dairy products) would have fallen to zero if RCEP had come to effect. Hence, it would be more beneficial for the MNCs to import from New Zealand or Australia than buy from Indian farmers.
- That even 5% of the dairy imports from New Zealand to India would be enough to flood the domestic market, and would account for steep rise in the Indian dairy prices as it would account to 30% milk powders, 40% for cheese and 21% for butter oil in the Indian market.
- According to the report estimations made by Amul, if free imports of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) from New Zealand are permitted, then the average price for milk received by an Indian dairy farmer would drop to a worrisome Rs 19/L.
- The socio-economic costs of signing the RCEP would impact the 70 million households dependent on the Dairy industry.
India must show prudence in choosing to be free trade partners in the future keeping into account the acute and long-term effects it has on various sectors of the Indian economy.
India must now punctually focus on the rationale of the local market and must make efficient export bounty without missing the next opportunity of having the membership card in massive global supply chains such as RCEP.
Indian economist and the advisory board must note that the high tariff wall cannot long stand and better implementations to promote exports to balance the surge in imports. India is a huge market of 1.6 billion people and the nation must open the gates eventually to a part of the global trade.