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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 19 February 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Greenpeace Southeast Asia on Impact of Pollution
  2. Quad Ministers’ meeting: India on Myanmar
  3. Defamation case: SC Verdict builds on Vishaka ruling

GREENPEACE SOUTHEAST ASIA ON IMPACT OF POLLUTION

Context:

Air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in Delhi in 2020, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of cost to the economy due to air pollution.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the Greenpeace Analysis on Economic Cost of Air Pollution
  2. Other reports on Impact of Air Pollution
  3. About PM2.5 and other Particulates
  4. Highlights of State of Global Air 2020 concerning India

Highlights of the Greenpeace Analysis on Economic Cost of Air Pollution

  • Globally, approximately 1,60,000 deaths have been attributed to PM 2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities — Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo.
  • In 2020, Greenpeace had said that of the 28 global cities studied, Delhi bore the highest economic cost of air pollution with an estimated loss of 24,000 lives in the first half of 2020 despite a strict COVID-19 lockdown.
  • In 2020, air pollutant levels in Delhi remained almost six times above the prescribed WHO (World Health Organisation) limits of 10 μg/m3 annual mean.
  • The estimated air pollution-related economic losses were USD 8.1 billion, which amounts to 13% of Delhi’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution from PM 2.5 and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).
  • Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad estimated an approximate 12,000, 11,000, and 11,000 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air.
  • Despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the latest figures from the report underscore the need to act immediately.
  • The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems.

Other reports on Impact of Air Pollution

  • According to WHO, toxic air is now the biggest environmental risk of early death, responsible for one in nine of all fatalities. It kills 7 million people a year, far more than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
  • According to a 2016 World Bank report, the lost lives and ill health caused are also a colossal economic burden: USD 225bn is lost labour income in 2013, or USD 5.11tn per year (about $1m a minute), if welfare losses are also added.

About PM2.5 and other Particulates

  • Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air.
  • The term aerosol commonly refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone.
  • Sources of particulate matter can be natural or anthropogenic.
  • They have impacts on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health, in ways additional to direct inhalation.
  • Types of atmospheric particles include suspended particulate matter; thoracic and respirable particles; inhalable coarse particles, designated PM10, which are coarse particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers (μm) or less; fine particles, designated PM2.5, with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less; ultrafine particles; and soot.
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), tends to penetrate into the gas exchange regions of the lung (alveolus), and very small particles (ultrafine particulate matter, PM0.1) may pass through the lungs to affect other organs.
  • The smallest particles, less than 100 nanometers (nanoparticles), may be even more damaging to the cardiovascular system as they can pass through cell membranes and migrate into other organs, including the brain.

Highlights of State of Global Air 2020 concerning India

  • According to the report, India was followed by Nepal, Niger, Qatar and Nigeria in exposure to PM 2.5, which are fine, inhalable particulate matter with diameters that are generally 2.5 microns, or about 30 times smaller than a strand of human hair.
  • India has been recording an increase in PM 2.5 pollution since 2010, said the report.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s 2019 report indicates that the national average PM 2.5 concentrations has recorded a rising trend in the past three years owing to an increasing number of vehicles on the roads and re-suspension of natural dust.
  • Out of 20 most populous countries, 14 have recorded a gradual improvement in air quality but India, Bangladesh, Niger, Pakistan and Japan are among countries that have recorded at least a modest increase in air pollution levels measured by PM 2.5 content, said the report.
  • The report comes on top of others showing India to be one of the countries with the world’s worst air quality.
  • Two-thirds of the most polluted cities, or 21 out of 30, are in India, and Delhi has the worst air among all national capitals, according to the 2019 World Air Quality Report by IQAir AirVisual.

-Source: The Hindu


QUAD MINISTERS’ MEETING: INDIA ON MYANMAR

Context:

India joined Australia, Japan and the United States for a ministerial meeting under the quadrilateral (Quad) grouping.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Quad?
  2. Information Highlights regarding the “Quad”
  3. History of formation of Quad
  4. Significance of Quad
  5. How did China see this formation?
  6. Highlights of the Quad Meeting

What is Quad?

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) also known as Quad, is an Inter-governmental security forum. It comprises of 4 countries– India, the United States, Japan and Australia.
  • The member countries of the Quad organise summits, exchanges the information and military drills.

Information Highlights regarding the “Quad”

  • Australia’s request has been pending for four years, to join the annual Malabar exercises with India, the U.S. and Japan.
  • China’s poses fierce opposition to the militarisation of a coalition seen as a counter to its claims in the Pacific and inroads in the Indian Ocean.
  • At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Indian Prime Minister had said that India sees the Indo-Pacific as a “geographical concept”, not a “strategy or a club of limited members”.
  • India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land boundary with China, and the militarisation of the Quad will not help India deal with that threat.
  • Unlike the U.S., Japan and Australia, which are tied by military alliances, India is a member of other strategic forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China, Russia and Central Asia, BRICS and RIC, which appear to be at cross purposes with a Quad alliance.

History of formation of Quad

  • Quad was originally born in an instant: from the crisis that followed the tsunami in 2004.
  • Within days of the disaster, India had mobilised an impressive fleet, and demonstrated to the world that it would not just manage its own rescue effort in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but could also provide assistance to its maritime neighbours: Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.
  • The humanitarian and disaster relief efforts were coordinated in the next few weeks with three other naval powers engaged in the rescue effort: the U.S., Australia and Japan.

Significance of Quad

  1. Maritime security: Indo-Pacific region is important for navigation and international trade. For instance, around 40 percent of world trade passes through Indo pacific region. The cooperation between Quad countries will enhance the security of Indo pacific region e.g., Malabar exercise.
  2. Alternative to RCEP: The Quad also provides an alternative to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) because RCEP is a China-centric supply chain. The Resilient Supply Chain Initiative (RSCI) proposed by India, Japan and Australia for building resilient supply chains in the Indo-Pacific. It will focus on key sectors such as semi-conductors, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and telecommunications.
  3. Against Chinese Military’s expansion: It provides more space for USA, which cautioned China against risking military adventurism across the Taiwan Strait that would have otherwise derailed its economic ascendance, and kept the peace on the Korean Peninsula for over six decades.
  4. Countering Chinese Influence in IOR: The quad will help to reduce the role of China in the Indian Ocean e.g., China uses the cloak of anti-piracy deployments to maintain a quasi-permanent presence, with bases in Gwadar and Djibouti as beachheads for penetrating South Asia, the Gulf region and littoral Africa.
  5. Cyber security: The 21th century is data driven century therefore data security is crucial for socio economic development. The Quad countries can cooperate the enhance cyber security situation in their countries.
  6. Quality infrastructure: The Quad countries can focus on quality infrastructure which is crucial for economic activity.
  7. Healthcare: The Quad countries can cooperate to enhance health infrastructure to fight against pandemics.

How did China see this formation?

  • China’s Navy had not at the time undergone its massive modernisation drive towards a blue water navy and the effort by the Quad countries was clearly an impetus to hasten the process.
  • The exercises and the strategic coordination between these countries rattled Beijing and Moscow, who termed it an attempt to build “an Asian NATO”.

Highlights of the Quad Meeting

  • Indian External Affairs minister said that the military takeover in Myanmar featured in the talks and participants reiterated democratic values for the region.
  • The meeting expressed commitment to “upholding rules based international order” and “peaceful resolution of disputes”.
  • America’s statement highlighted the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma, and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region.
  • Significantly, the U.S. statement referred Myanmar as Burma, the name that Naypyitaw had stopped using since 1989 after a brutal crackdown against the democratic movement.
  • Japanese Foreign Minister and his Australian counterpart also participated in the discussion which focused on joint efforts to combat the pandemic.

Click Here to read in detail about Myanmar Military’s coup d’état

-Source: The Hindu


DEFAMATION CASE: SC VERDICT BUILDS ON VISHAKA RULING

Context:

By ruling that “the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman”, the Delhi trial court, acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by M J Akbar.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan case, 1997
  2. Guidelines set out by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka case
  3. About Defamation in India
  4. The Delhi trial court’s recent ruling on “Right of Reputation vs Right to Dignity”

Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan case, 1997

In the Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan case regarding sexual harassment of women at workplace, the Supreme Court passed a judgement that:

  1. acknowledged and relied to a great extent on international treaties that had not been transformed into municipal law;
  2. provided the first authoritative definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in India; and confronted with a statutory vacuum, it went creative and proposed the route of ‘judicial legislation’.

Since there was no legislation in India related to sexual harassment at the workplace, the court stated that it was free to rely on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW—signed by India in 1980) in interpreting Articles 14, 15, 19 and 215 of the Constitution.

  • To justify its decision the court referred to several sources including the Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, a decision of the High Court of Australia and its own earlier decisions.

Guidelines set out by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka case

  • The employer and/or other responsible people in a workplace are duty-bound to prevent or deter sexual harassment and set up processes to resolve, settle, or prosecute in such cases.
  • For the first time in India, ‘sexual harassment’ was defined authoritatively. The definition includes ‘such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) such as: physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature’.
  • All employers or persons in charge of workplaces must strive to prevent sexual harassment and, if any act amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or any other law, they must take appropriate action to punish the guilty.
  • Even if the act is not considered a legal offence or a breach of service rules, the employer should create appropriate mechanisms so that the complaint is addressed and redressed in a time-bound manner.
  • This complaint mechanism must, if necessary, provide a complaints committee, a special counsellor or other support service, such as assuring confidentiality. The complaints committee should be headed by a woman, and at least half its members must be women.
  • The employer must sensitize female employees to their rights and prominently notify the court’s guidelines.
  • Even if a third party is responsible for sexual harassment, the employer must take all steps necessary to support the victim.
  • The central and state governments should adopt suitable measures to ensure that private sector employers implement the guidelines.

About Defamation in India

  • Defamation is the action of damaging the good reputation of someone, and in India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence.
  • A civil wrong tends to provide for a redress of wrongs by awarding compensation and a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts.

Defamation laws:

  • In Indian laws, criminal defamation has been specifically defined as an offence under the section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) whereas the civil defamation is based on tort law (an area of law which does not rely on statutes to define wrongs but takes from ever-increasing body of case laws to define what would constitute a wrong).
  • Section 499 states defamation could be through words, spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations.
  • These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of damaging the reputation of that person, or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm his reputation.
  • Section 499 also cites exceptions. These include “imputation of truth” which is required for the “public good” and thus has to be published, on the public conduct of government officials, the conduct of any person touching any public question and merits of the public performance.
  • Section 500 of IPC, which is on punishment for defamation, reads, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Moreover, in a criminal case, defamation has to be established beyond reasonable doubt but in a civil defamation suit, damages can be awarded based on probabilities.
  • In the Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India case of 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the criminal defamation law.

The Delhi trial court’s recent ruling on “Right of Reputation vs Right to Dignity”

  • The Court took consideration of the systematic abuse at the workplace due to the lack of mechanism to redress the grievance of sexual harassment at the time of the incident of sexual harassment against the accused journalist took place.
  • It was prior to the issuance of the Vishaka Guidelines by the Supreme Court and enactment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
  • The Court rules that the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of women.
  • As per the SC, the right to reputation is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Further, existence of Section 499 (Criminal Defamation) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is not a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression because it ensures that the social interest is served by holding a reputation as a shared value of the public at large.
  • No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • It confers on every person the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
  • In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978, the SC gave a new dimension to Article 21 and held that the right to live is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.
  • Hence, the court rules that Woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.

-Source: The Hindu

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