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10th July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Owning up to criminalisation in politics
  2. Dreams and doubts of a green revival
  3. How to resolve individual data privacy complaints?

OWNING UP TO CRIMINALISATION IN POLITICS

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

A February 2020 Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politics may have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy, as it will first be implemented in the coming Bihar elections in October 2020.

Court’s directives

Earlier Orders

Earlier orders state that

  1. Each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;
  2. Each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her; and
  3. The party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates.

New Order

  • The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
  • The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles. 
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • The Court has asked the political parties to state “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.”
  • The Court has said that “winnability” cannot be cited as a reason.

An ever-present crisis

  • There is a steady deterioration in politics over decades, with the decline accelerating in the past 16 years, given the increasing number of MPs and MLAs with Criminal cases against them.
  • Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, as the data show, and one of reasons is lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
  • Even for the current Supreme Court order it is not clear what penalty would be imposed if the orders are not followed.

Way Forward: Being Vigilant

  • There needs to be an increased and sincere monitoring the affidavits of candidates.
  • Working with the Election Commission in monitoring compliance with the Supreme Court judgment to see if details of tainted candidates are promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles, along with proper reasons for giving them ticket.
  • Voters also need to be vigilant about misuse of money, gifts and other inducements during elections.
  • Voters also need to be wary of fake news, trolling, and fanciful claims.

-Source: The Hindu


DREAMS AND DOUBTS OF A GREEN REVIVAL

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Introduction

Teeming wildlife; cities breathing fresh air; and clearer rivers, were all small signs of hope amid a dire, once-in-a-century pandemic.

There is now a term to describe this unique moment in human history: the anthropause.

What is the ‘Anthropause’ period?

  • Researchers in the UK are set to study the “anthropause”, a term they have coined to refer to the coronavirus-induced lockdown period and its impact on other species.
  • ‘Anthropo-’ (for ‘human’) and pause – to signify the pause in Human Activities.

Anthropause: The Positive effects

  • In the Himalayas, wild grasses sprung back healthier due to the near absence of cattle grazing in the eclipsing summer.
  • Migratory birds and animals stepped into urban areas in many parts of the world.
  • The ongoing lockdown has pushed pollution levels in Delhi to a 5-year low.
  • Nagpur, for instance, recorded a sharp drop in Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels.
  • Mumbai, too, showed a drop in particulate matter and other pollutants.
  • Stories of better visibility of wildlife in the forests abounded during the first phase of the lockdown from all over the country as a result of reduced human interference.
  • The state of a number of rivers in India—including the Yamuna, the Ganga, and the Cauvery—improved in this lockdown due to reduced human activity.
  • The Gangetic dolphins—the endangered freshwater mammals—were spotted from the Kolkata ghats after many decades.

Reasons for Rivers becoming cleaner

  1. Closure of Industries,
  2. Good winter rainfall,
  3. High snowfall now melting with summer,
  4. Reduction of irrigation water demand,
  5. Stoppage of sand mining and
  6. Reduction of cultural activities, including puja, bathing and cremations.

Being vary of the Temporary Nature of the Positive Effects

  • However, globally, daily carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are already roaring back to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent study.
  • Rivers are cleaner but their water quality is nowhere near good; skies are bluer but the particulate matter is still largely above the World Health Organization’s prescribed standards.

Are there any Animals that could be adversely affected?

  • There are some animals for whom the lockdown may have made things more challenging, considering their on humans for food.
  • For instance, for various urban-dwelling animals, such as rats, gulls and monkeys who depend on food provided or discarded by humans, the lockdown would have made life more difficult.
  • Reports of poaching incidences for consumption and local trade more than doubled, although there was no evidence of stockpiling of wildlife products for future trade

Concerns over Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020

  • According to most experts, the EIA 2020 seeks to further dilute whatever little environmental protection exists in the country, in an effort to accelerate development projects.
  • New research indicates that forest land the size of Nagaland has been diverted for mining and power projects since 2014 alone.
  • In the new draft, the two most significant changes are provisions for a post facto clearance of projects, even if they had commenced illegally, and an abandoning of the public trust doctrine.
  • The 2020 draft offers no remedy for the political and bureaucratic stronghold on the EIA process, and thereby on industries.
  • It proposes to bolster the government’s discretionary power while limiting public engagement in safeguarding the environment.
  • While projects concerning national defence and security are naturally considered strategic, the government gets to decide on the “strategic” tag for other projects.
  • The new draft exempts a long list of projects from public consultation.

What’s exempt?

  • All inland waterways projects and expansion/widening of national highways will be exempt from prior clearance. These include roads that cut through forests and dredging of major rivers.
  • The 2020 draft also exempts most building construction projects of built-up area up to 1,50,000 sq m.

The big shift

  • The two most significant changes in the new draft are the provisions for post-facto project clearance and abandoning the public trust doctrine.
  • Projects operating in violation of the Environment Act will now be able to apply for clearance.
  • In an order on the Supreme Court held “ex post facto environmental clearances” contrary to law saying Environment law cannot countenance the notion of an ex post facto clearance.
  • The 2020 draft also spells out how the government will take cognisance of such violations.
  • There is no scope for any public complaint about violations. Instead, the reliance is on the violators to disclose, suo motu, that they broke the law.

Old way vs new path

  • The e-auction of 41 coal blocks—almost all of them in pristine and protected forests – in a bid to become self-reliant in energy and restart the economy, the fears of negating the small gains that have been made on the environmental front have returned.
  • The ministry of environment, forests and climate change accelerated environmental clearances during the lockdown for 30 projects that would cut through forests, snap wildlife habitats, and pollute rivers and air, drawing condemnation from environmentalists.

-Source: Livemint


HOW TO RESOLVE INDIVIDUAL DATA PRIVACY COMPLAINTS?

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The current version of the draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is being reviewed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Personal Data Protection Bill 2019

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 (PDP Bill 2019) is being analyzed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in consultation with experts and stakeholders.
  • The Bill covers mechanisms for protection of personal data and proposes the setting up of a Data Protection Authority (DPA) of India for the same.
  • Some key provisions the 2019 Bill provides for which the 2018 draft Bill did not, such as that the central government can exempt any government agency from the Bill and the Right to Be Forgotten, have been included.
  • The Bill proposes “Purpose limitation” and “Collection limitation” clause, which limit the collection of data to what is needed for “clear, specific, and lawful” purposes.
  • It also grants individuals the right to data portability and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data. It also grants individuals the right to data portability, and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data.
  • Finally, it legislates on the right to be forgotten. With historical roots in European Union law, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this right allows an individual to remove consent for data collection and disclosure.

The Bill trifurcates data as follows:

  1. Personal data: Data from which an individual can be identified like name, address etc.
  2. Sensitive personal data (SPD): Some types of personal data like as financial, health, sexual orientation, biometric, genetic, transgender status, caste, religious belief, and more.
  3. Critical personal data: Anything that the government at any time can deem critical, such as military or national security data.

Issues with the bill

  • The current draft requires the DPA to maintain a cadre of adjudicating officers and specifies their desired areas of expertise.
  • All other important details, like the terms of appointment, jurisdictional scope, and procedure for hearings, are, however, left to be decided by the central government.
  • The Bill doesn’t even specify whether the adjudication process can, or should, be preceded by mediation, which could help in the amicable settlement of many complaints.

Data Protection Authority (DPA): The solution?

  • One of the many important duties cast on the Data Protection Authority (DPA) that is to be created under the Bill is to adjudicate complaints received from data principals — individuals whose personal data is processed by others.
  • The DPA is set to function as what the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) termed as a “mini-state”. This refers to an agency that is entrusted with a mix of quasi-legislative (regulation-making), executive (supervision and enforcement), and quasi-judicial (adjudication) functions.
  • It comes with the risk that, absent structural safeguards, the agency might end up abusing or, conversely, neglecting some of its functions. A carefully-crafted regulatory design and robust accountability mechanisms are, therefore, essential.

Broad Mandate of the DPA, a problem

  • Unlike other sectoral regulators that oversee specific businesses, the DPA’s authority will extend to anyone who deals with personal data.
  • This may include individuals, private entities or any department or agency of the state.
  • Further, since each data principal is party to multiple online and offline relationships, the universe of regulated transactions becomes even larger.
  • Even a miniscule 0.5% rate of complaints out of the total shares of personal data will result in more than 10 million cases in a year. A caseload of this sort would be daunting for any agency.
  • As a consequence, the DPA may either be overwhelmed by the volume of complaints or may grossly under-prioritise this aspect, resulting in delays, erosion of trust and poorer outcomes.

Way Forward to help out the DPA

  • As a consequence, the DPA may either be overwhelmed by the volume of complaints or may grossly under-prioritise this aspect, resulting in delays, erosion of trust and poorer outcomes.
  • The DPA’s grievance redress function can be moved to a stand-alone Data Protection Ombudsman (DPO).
  • The law should also target making redress more accessible, affordable and efficient, including through the use of technology.

-Source: Indian Express

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