NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
General Studies – 1
Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues.
Reference: Hindustan Times
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an Indian social reformer and freedom activist. He was one of the prime architects of modern India and probably the strongest advocates of Swaraj or Self-Rule for India. His famous declaration “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it” served as an inspiration for future revolutionaries during India’s struggle for freedom. The British Government termed him as the “Father of Indian Unrest” and his followers bequeathed upon him the title of ‘Lokmanya’ meaning he who is revered by the people.
Tilak’s contribution towards India’s freedom struggle:
- Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. He soon started vocalizing his strong opposition to the moderate views of the party on self-rule.
- He maintained that simple constitutional agitation in itself was futile against the British. This subsequently made him stand against the prominent Congress leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
- He wanted an armed revolt to broom-away the British. Following the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, Tilak wholeheartedly supported the Swadeshi (Indigenous) movement and Boycott of British goods.
- Due to this fundamental difference in outlook, Tilak and his supporters came to be known as the extremist wing of INC.
- Tilak’s endeavours were supported by fellow nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab.
- Protests and Imprisonment:
- Under directives from Pune Commissioner W. C. Rand, the police and the army invaded private residences, violated personal sanctity of individuals, burned personal possessions and prevented individuals to move in and out of the city.
- Tilak protested against the oppressive nature of the British efforts and wrote provocative articles on it in his newspapers on the epidemic of Plague in Pune and adjacent regions
- His article inspired the Chapekar brothers and they carried out assassination of Commissioner Rand and Lt. Ayerst on June 22, 1897. As a result of this, Tilak was imprisoned for 18 months on Sedition charges for inciting murder.
- During 1908-1914, Bal Gangadhar Tilak spent had to undergo six years of rigorous imprisonment in Mandalay Jail, Burma.
- He openly supported the revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki’s efforts to assassinate Chief Presidency Magistrate in 1908. He continued to write during his years of imprisonment and the most prominent of which is Gita Rahasya.
- Tilak and All India Home Rule League:
- Tilak returned to India in 1915 when the political situation was fast changing under the shadow of the World War I.
- He then returned to politics with a mellowed down outlook. Deciding to re-unite with his fellow nationalists, Tilak founded the All India Home Rule League in 1916 with Joseph Baptista, Annie Besant and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
- By April 1916, the league had 1400 members that increased to 32,000 by 1917.
- He rejoined the INC but could not bring about reconciliation between the two opposite-minded factions.
- Towards his nationalistic goals, Bal Gangadhar Tilak published two newspapers –‘Mahratta’ (English) and ‘Kesari’ (Marathi).
- Both the newspapers stressed on making the Indians aware of the glorious past and encouraged the masses to be self-reliant. The newspaper actively propagated the cause of national freedom.
- Tilak fearlessly published reports about the havoc caused by famine and plague and the government’s utter irresponsibility and indifference about ‘Famine Relief fund’.
- Social Reforms:
- After completing his education, Tilak spurned the lucrative offers of government service and decided to devote himself to the larger cause of national awakening.
- He was a great reformer and throughout his life he advocated the cause of women education and women empowerment.
- Tilak proposed Grand celebrations on ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and ‘Shivaji Jayanti’. He envisioned these celebrations inciting a sense of unity and inspiring nationalist sentiment among Indians.
Tilak had a long political career agitating for Indian autonomy from the British rule. Before Gandhi, he was the most widely known Indian political leader. Unlike his fellow Maharashtrian contemporary, Gokhale, Tilak was considered a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative.
Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues.
2. ‘Shaheed-E-Azam’ Udham Singh, who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, was not only a martyr but also as a universalist radical who championed cosmopolitan ideals of religious and class solidarity. Evaluate. (250 words)
Reference: The Wire
Udham Singh was a political activist and an Indian revolutionary belonging to the Ghadar Party, best known for his assassination in London of Michael O’Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India, on 13 March 1940. He got associated with the Ghadar Party while in the USA. He is a well-known figure of the Indian independence movement. He is also referred to as “Shaheed-i-Azam” Sardar Udham Singh meaning “The Great Martyr”.
Contributions of Udham Singh:
- To avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, Singh – the “patient assassin” – plotted for over twenty years and on March 13, 1940, he shot dead the former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, at Caxton Hall.
- Udham Singh’s political outlook was a long-term consequence of his engagement with the revolutionary politics of the Ghadar movement: a militant anti-colonial socialist organisation, operating predominantly from the Indian diaspora in the US.
- In July 1939, the Metropolitan Police became aware that Singh had written to an Indian political organisation in London requesting an “Indian National Badge”. The missive was inscribed in Urdu with “Inquilab” (Revolution) and the name “Azad Singh”.
- Singh’s reputation as a dissident was further polished in August 1939 when, during his stay in Bournemouth, the Hampshire Police Constabulary described him as having “strong Communistic views”.
- Whilst notorious for his act of militancy, it is pertinent that Singh also participated in Indian community organising, including for a nascent trade union known as the Indian Workers Association.
- It was Bhagat Singh whom Udham Singh most idealised – unsurprisingly so, given their extended friendship and imprisonment together during the 1920s. Indeed, much like his idol, Udham Singh was radically committed to the solidarity of the international working class.
- The clearest expression of Singh’s anti-imperial principles may be found in his final declaration at trial at London’s Old Bailey, on June 5, 1940.
- Singh’s prison notes also reveal his creative dynamism. His papers are littered with poetic Urdu refrains, bemoaning God for the hardships which had befallen India, and expressing shame at the oppression of the British.
- In a stanza of a Gurmukhi poem dedicated to India’s martyrs, moreover, Singh wrote the names of various luminary freedom fighters, including Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai. We may infer that Singh saw himself as belonging to this revolutionary fold.
India has produced many such Bravehearts who have martyred themselves for the independence of the country. It is time that we recognize the contributions of many such unsung heroes and pay them their due respect as citizens of this Free and Independent India.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Reference: Indian Express
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister recently approved the new National Education Policy 2020, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the 34-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student. A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.
Key highlights of the NEP 2020 are:
- Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education:
- NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- pre-school to secondary.
- About 2 crores out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.
- Early Childhood Care & Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure:
- With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
- This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child.
- The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.
- Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy:
- Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD.
- Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy:
- The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning.
- Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects.
- There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
- Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.
- Multilingualism and the power of language:
- The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond.
- Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula.
- Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options.
- No language will be imposed on any student.
- Equitable and Inclusive Education:
- NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background.
- Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities.
- Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path:
- Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes.
- Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators.
- A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.
- School Governance:
- Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.
- Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education:
- NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters.
- States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA).
- Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability.
- The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.
- Increase GER to 50 % by 2035:
- NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.
- Holistic Multidisciplinary Education:
- The policy envisages broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
- UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
- For example, Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.
- Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
- HECI to have four independent verticals – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation.
- HECI will function through faceless intervention through technology, & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards.
- Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
- Rationalised Institutional Architecture:
- Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions providing high quality teaching, research, and community engagement.
- The definition of university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.
- Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty:
- NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of faculty through clearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment, freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership.
- Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable
- Teacher Education:
- A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.
- By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.
- Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).
- Mentoring Mission:
- A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.
- Financial support for students:
- Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
- The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
- Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.
- Professional Education:
- All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system.
- Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
- Adult Education:
- Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
- Financing Education:
- The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
- Open and Distance Learning:
- This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER.
- Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.
- There is a persistent mismatch between the knowledge & skills imparted and the jobs available. This has been one of the main challenges that have affected the Indian education system since Independence.
- NEP 2020 failed to check this, as it is silent on education related to emerging technological fields like artificial intelligence, cyberspace, nanotech, etc.
- An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set. Mobilising financial resources will be a big challenge, given the low tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors.
- The policy has also been criticised due to the legal complexities surrounding the applicability of two operative policies namely The Right to Education Act, 2009 and the New Education Policy, 2020. Certain provisions such as the age of starting schooling will need to be deliberated upon, in order to resolve any conundrum between the statute and the recently introduced policy in the longer run.
- it is pertinent to note that past attempts at parliamentary legislations under the erstwhile regulatory set up have not been successful. The failure can be attributed to the role of regulators and the intended legislative changes being out of alignment, as in the case of Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, which lapsed; and the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018 which remained did not reach the Parliament.
- While the Universities Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education have played a major role, questions pertaining to the role of the UGC and AICTE remain unanswered under the new policy.
- Doubling the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education by 2035 which is one of the stated goals of the policy will mean that we must open one new university every week, for the next 15 years.
- In higher education, the National Education Policy 2020’s focus on inter-disciplinary learning is a very welcome step. Universities, especially in India, have for decades been very silo-ed and departmentalized.
- The New Education Policy 2020 aims to facilitate an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach, which takes into consideration field experiences, empirical research, stakeholder feedback, as well as lessons learned from best practices.
- It is a progressive shift towards a more scientific approach to education.
- The prescribed structure will help to cater the ability of the child – stages of cognitive development as well as social and physical awareness.
- If implemented in its true vision, the new structure can bring India at par with the leading countries of the world.
- The education policy should maintain a symbiotic relationship between the different regions of the country through the study of different languages.
- The quality of education provided in the country shall be such that it not only delivers basic literacy and numeracy but also creates an analytical environment in the country.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Reference: Hindustan Times
The World Trade Organization remains an indispensable organisation but it requires urgent modernisation. WTO appellate body has become dysfunctional as two of the three remaining judges has retired. The US has stalled appointments of members in the appellate body of WTO’s dispute settlement system. Presently, there was only one active Appellate Body member left. This makes the appeals process of the WTO dysfunctional, given that a minimum of three Appellate Body members are needed to consider an appeal of a panel report.
WTO Appellate Body:
- The Appellate Body was set up in 1995 as a “safety valve” against erroneous panel reports in return for the membership agreeing to adopt reports using the “reverse consensus” rule in lieu of the “positive consensus” rule.
- This Appellate body was established under Article 17 of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU). The Appellate Body has its seat in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Under the erstwhile positive consensus rule, reports issued by panels composed to hear disputes under GATT, could be adopted only if each of the contracting states favoured its adoption. This effectively handed a veto to the losing state.
- It is a standing body of seven persons that hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by WTO Members.
- The Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel.
- Appellate Body Reports once adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), must be accepted by the parties to the dispute.
Challenges faced by WTO:
- Dispute settlement cases continue to be filed for the time being and are being litigated. A civil dialogue over trade issues persists.
- Technical functioning is now wholly inadequate to meet the major challenges to the strategic relevance of the WTO in the 21st century. In critical areas, the organisation has neither responded, nor adapted, nor delivered.
- Dimensions of its structures and functions are fragile, creaking, and failing in parts.
- Functioning of state enterprises engaging in commercial activities is interfering with and distorting the operative assumption of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO that international trade is to be conducted, principally, by private sector operators in response to conditions of supply and demand through price in a market economy.
- Many WTO members bear responsibility for the use of trade-distorting domestic subsidies. Agricultural and industrial subsidies have caused blockages in the system and prompted protectionist reactions in a number of WTO members.
- Blockage and deadlock in the Appellate Body stage of the WTO dispute settlement system triggered the present crisis.
- The WTO lost the critical balance between the organisation as an institution established to support, consolidate, and bind economic reform to counter damaging protectionism, on the one hand, and the organisation as an institution for litigation-based dispute settlement, on the other hand.
- For years now, the multilateral system for the settlement of trade dispute has been under intense scrutiny and constant criticism. The U.S. has systematically blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (“judges”) and de facto impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism.
Consequences of fall of Appellate Body:
- The fall of the Appellate Body effectively marks a return to the previous system as it hands states an opportunity to appeal an adverse panel ruling and effectively indefinitely delay its adoption.
- The majority of the disputes at the WTO concern trade remedy matters.
- In such matters, if a state violates the rules, for example those concerning dumping of goods or grant of subsidies, affected states can without recourse to the WTO, adopt countermeasures such as imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
- The dispute resolution mechanism primarily aims to police the adoption of such countermeasures, namely whether they were warranted and otherwise imposed consistently with the rules.
- While the fall of the Appellate Body may see the adoption of more unilateral sanctions by states, possibly leading to increased trade wars, it will not render the WTO rules unenforceable.
- The threat of reciprocal sanctions may in fact serve to encourage states to remain compliant with the rules even in the absence of a functional Appellate Body at the helm of the dispute mechanism.
Measures to revive WTO:
- A vibrant WTO cannot accommodate conflicting economic models of market versus state. All WTO members will have to accept the operative assumption of a rules-based order steered by a market economy, the private sector, and competition.
- Launch negotiations to address the intertwined issues of agricultural subsidies and market access, while recognising that food security concerns will not disappear.
- A credible trading system requires a dispute settlement system that is accepted by all.
- Launch serious negotiations to restore the balance, and we must do so in an open-ended plurilateral manner that cannot be blocked by those who do not want to move ahead.
- GATT/WTO rules in a number of areas are outdated. New rules are required to keep pace with changes in the market and technology. Rules and disciplines on topics ranging from trade-distorting industrial subsidies to digital trade require updates.
Members have to face the reality that the organisation requires non-cosmetic, serious root-and-branch reform for a WTO adapted to 21st century economic and political realities. A reformed WTO will have to be constructed on the foundation of liberal multilateralism, resting on open, non-discriminatory plurilateral pillars, an improved Appellate Body, explicit accommodation of regional trade agreements, and appropriate safety valves for rules-based sovereign action. A reaffirmed commitment to the rules-based liberal market order with a development dimension must be the foundational starting point
Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Reference: The Wire
Integrated farming system (IFS) refers to agricultural system that integrates livestock and crop production to deliver more sustainable agriculture. IFS utilizes the crop- livestock interaction as shown below in the cyclic diagram, according to Economic Survey 2018-19.
IFS and sustaining agricultural production:
- Higher food production to equate the demand of the exploding population of our nation
- Increased farm income through proper residue recycling and allied components
- Sustainable soil fertility and productivity through organic waste recycling
- Integration of allied activities will result in the availability of nutritious food enriched with protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins
- Integrated farming will help in environmental protection through effective recycling of waste from animal activities like piggery, poultry and pigeon rearing
- Reduced production cost of components through input recycling from the byproducts of allied enterprises
- IFS components are known to control the weed and regarded as an important element of integrated pest management and thus minimize the use of weed killers as well as pesticides and thereby protect the environment.
- Regular stable income through the products like egg, milk, mushroom, vegetables, honey and silkworm cocoons from the linked activities in integrated farming
- Inclusion of biogas & agro forestry in integrated farming system will solve the prognosticated energy crisis
- Cultivation of fodder crops as intercropping and as border cropping will result in the availability of adequate nutritious fodder for animal components like milch cow, goat / sheep, pig and rabbit
- Firewood and construction wood requirements could be met from the agroforestry system without affecting the natural forest
- Avoidance of soil loss through erosion by agro-forestry and proper cultivation of each part of land by integrated farming
- Generation of regular employment for the farm family members of small and marginal farmers.
- IFS promote the efficient management of resources. This enhances the productivity of the farming.
- The IFS promotes for rejuvenation of systems productivity and to achieve agroecological equilibrium.
IFS in Indian perspective:
- Some IFS features like Organic farming, and developing a judicious mix of income-generating activities such as dairy, poultry, fishery, goat-rearing, vermicomposting and others, and community-led local systems for water conservation etc help in reducing farmers’ distress.
- Integrated Farming Systems suitable particularly for hilly regions of the North Eastern Region can be adopted.
- Some are as – Integrated Fish cum Pig farming, Integrated Fish cum Duck Farming, Integrated Fish Farming-Chicken, Integrated Fish farming-cum-Cattle farming, Integrated Fish farming-cum-Rabbit farming, Integrated Fish farming-cum-Agriculture.
- Sikkim being an organic state is a good example.
- Integrated Fish Cum Pig farming in North east- Pig sites are constructed on pond embankment. Pig manure (feaces and urine) are directly drained into the pond which acts as pond fertilizer and increases the biological productivity of [pond water, thus increasing the fish production. Also, fish feed directly on pig excreta, which cuts down the cost of feed as well. This system has helped to improve the status of weaker rural communities, especially tribals in North eastern states.
- Integrated fish farming cum Horticulture – Embankments of fish ponds provide area for planting fruits and vegetable. When Banana and Coconut is cultivated in rows in wetlands, the ditches made between such rows act as supply canal. These canals serve as fish culture system due to regular supply of water rand rich insect populations. In turn it naturally boosts the productivity of soil and yield of fruits and vegetables.
Keeping in mind the benefits of crop- livestock interaction, Economic Survey (2018-19) has suggested to improve Resource Efficiency for Small holder agriculture (as 85 % of agriculture is dominated by small and marginal farmers), where organic farming (ZBNF, Cow Farming, Vedic Farming, Homa farming) and increasing water productivity should be given a thrust. Economic survey (2018-19) has also suggested to capitalise Small ruminants (Sheep and Goats), especially in water stressed regions for additional source income for farmers.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Reference: The Hindu
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. It covers developmental sectors such as industries, thermal power projects, mining schemes etc. EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986) for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
Recent amendments to EIA:
- The EIA 2020, which is open to public comments until June 30, is a proposed update to the existing EIA 2006 that prescribes the procedure for industries to assess the ecological and environmental impact of their proposed activity and the mechanism whereby these would be assessed by expert committees appointed by the Ministry.
- The key points of dispute with the proposed draft are that it shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days, and reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
- Crucially, the draft also institutionalises “violation” projects. Under a provision issued in 2017, it allows projects that have come up flouting environmental norms to be reviewed by a committee of experts and, if they so decreed, legalise the project after paying a fine.
- The proposed norms also allow the declaration of some areas as “economically sensitive areas” without a public hearing or environmental clearance, and several “red” and “orange”-classified toxic industries could now operate as close as 0-5 km from a Protected Area in “callous disregard” for forests.
- Finally, the increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects (50 years versus 30 years currently) and river valley projects (15 years versus 10 years currently) raises the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.
Objectives of EIA:
- To identify, predict and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impact of development activities.
- To provide information on the environmental consequences for decision making.
- To promote environmentally sound and sustainable development through the identification of appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures.
- To identify and quantify emission sources and determine the significance of impacts on sensitive receivers and potential affected uses.
- To identify and quantify any potential losses or damage to flora, fauna and natural habitats.
Significance of EIA:
- EIA reports are a critical component of India’s environmental decision-making process.
- It acts as a detailed study of the potential impacts of proposed projects.
- It helps in predicting environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design.
- Based on these reports, the Environment Ministry or other relevant regulatory bodies may or may not grant approval to a project.
- The EIA reports are also important to define measures that the project could take in order to contain or offset project impacts.
- EIA-based approvals for most projects also involve the process of conducting public hearings, so that who are likely to be affected can be taken on board before approving the project.
- EIA links environment with development. The goal is to ensure environmentally safe and sustainable development.
Apprehensions related to EIA:
- Environmental decision-making processes for development projects are supposed to use the best available scientific knowledge to ensure that development does not lead to negative impacts.
- But there are compromised decision-making on development and infrastructure projects.
- Sometimes the EIA reports lack the expected degrees of honesty, owing to bias, corruption, exaggeration and wrong claims.
- There are several projects with significant environmental impacts that are exempted from the notification either because they are not listed in schedule I, or their investments are less than what is provided for in the notification.
- Public comments are not considered at an early stage, which often leads to conflict at a later stage of project clearance. Many projects with significant environmental and social impacts are approved without mandatory public consultation.
- One of the biggest concerns with the environmental clearance process is related to the quality of EIA report that are being carried out.
- There are so many cases of fraudulent EIA studies where erroneous data has been used, same facts used for two totally different places etc.
- There are many instances of missing or misleading information which understate the potential impact of the projects.
- It has been found that the team formed for conducting EIA studies is lacking the expertise in various fields such as environmentalists, wildlife experts, Anthropologists and Social Scientists.
- Lack of awareness among the local people about the process of EIA, its significance for them, their own rights and responsibilities.
- Most of the time EIA reports are unavailable in local languages, thus local people are unable to decipher the reports, and are misled by the proponents
- Independent EIA Authority and Sector wide EIAs needed.
- Creation of a centralized baseline data bank.
- Dissemination of all information related to projects from notification to clearance to local communities and general public.
- All those projects where there is likely to be a significant alternation of ecosystems need to go through the process of environmental clearance, without exception.
- No industrial developmental activity should be permitted in ecologically sensitive areas.
- Public hearings should be applicable to all hitherto exempt categories of projects which have environmental impacts.
- The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.
- The present executive committees should be replaced by expert’s people from various stakeholder groups, who are reputed in environmental and other relevant fields.
- The EIA notification needs to build within it an automatic withdrawal of clearance if the conditions of clearance are being violated and introduce more stringent punishment for noncompliance. At present the EIA notification limits itself to the stage when environmental clearance is granted.
- The composition of the NGT needs to be changed to include more judicial authorities from the field of environment.
- Citizen should be able to access the authority for redressal of all violation of the EIA notification as well as issues relating to non-compliance.
- NGOs, civil society groups and local communities need to build their capacities to use the EIA notification towards better decision making on projects.
An EIA should not be used just as a means for obtaining an environmental clearance; rather, project proponents should use it as a management tool to assess the soundness of a project plan. The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
7. Air pollution in the national capital has been an issue of concern for quite some time as Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently since 2014. Examine the threats posed by air pollution and to what are the measures undertaken to tackle air pollution challenges. (250 words)
Reference: Indian Express
According to WHO, of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, the top 14 are Indian cities. The problem of air pollution disrupts not only the NCR area but many other prominent urban areas like Allahabad and Ludhiana which figure above Delhi in the pollution ranking across the world. In India, air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking.
Impact of air pollution on the economy:
- Beyond health costs, air pollution can also hurt the economy in other ways.
- According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income from labour), of about $220 billion (about ₹1.4 trillion), in South and South-East Asia of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution.
- In addition to human lives lost, there’s an estimated global cost of $225 billion in lost labour, and trillions in medical costs, Greenpeace report says.
- Government is keen to ascend the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” chart, but images of people walking around Delhi in safety masks do little to attract investment.
- In a 2018 study, Jamie Hansen-Lewis of Brown University finds that air pollution hurts productivity in India’s labour-intensive industries.
- She estimates that bringing the country’s air to global standards would lead to a small increase in profits of 0.3% across manufacturing companies with more pronounced effects in labour-intensive firms. Similarly, pollution is also hurting agriculture by stifling crop productivity.
- A 2014 study estimated that air pollutants were responsible for 19% of the loss in yields in wheat production in India in 2010.
Government efforts in dealing with air pollution:
- The government acknowledged air pollution as a pan–India problem with the drafting of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which was intended to build and strengthen the institutional capacity to monitor air quality across India, carry out indigenous studies to understand the health impacts of air pollution and create a national emission inventory.
- Banning the use of private vehicles from November 1 onwards in Delhi, although drastic, will definitely not be enough to curb pollution.
- Odd-even schemes and, recently, the allowance by the Supreme Court (SC) for only green or zero-emission firecrackers, are the episodic measures that have been used, and still continue to be, to combat this methodical pollution.
- There have also been instances of ban on construction activities.
- States have got nearly Rs.650 crores to help farmers buy subsidised equipment such as Happy Seeder, Paddy Straw Choppers and Zero Till Drill.
- There is a 50% subsidy to farmers, and a 75% waiver to cooperative societies, agencies that rent out equipment, farmers’ interest groups or gram panchayats to buy such machines.
- Short term measures should be accompanied by measures that increase the forest cover of the land and provide farmers with an alternative to burning the remains of their crops.
- An innovative approach could be to use climate change funds to turn farm residues into a resource, using technological options such as converting them into biofuels and biofertilizers.
- Proactive engagements are necessary to persuade and reassure farmers.
- It is important to find other uses for stubble such as biomass, which may encourage farmers to look for alternative sources of income.
- India should at least now give high importance to the WHO warning about air pollution being the new tobacco. Sharply escalated, deterrent parking fees can be implemented.
- From an urban development perspective, large cities should reorient their investments to prioritise public transport, favouring electric mobility.
- Incentives for adoption of alternate mobility technologies should be promoted.
- The World Bank has said it is keen to enhance its lending portfolio to tackle air pollution, opening a new avenue for this.
- Governments should make the use of personal vehicles in cities less attractive through strict road pricing mechanisms like Congestion tax, Green-house Gas tax
- Need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves.
- Addressing vehicular emissions is within India’s grasp but requires a multi-pronged approach. It needs to combine the already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI), with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies.
- NCAP should take precedence from emerging practices in the country—pollution cess in Delhi on truck entry, big diesel cars, and diesel fuel sales and the coal cess—to generate dedicated funds to finance clean air action plan.
- Tackle road dust by mechanised sweeping and water-sprinkling but what would be more beneficial is if the sides of the roads could be paved or covered with grass that holds the soil together and stops the production of the dust in the first place.
- Attention to non-technological aspects such as urban planning, to reduce driving, and to increase cycling, walking, and use of public transport are needed.