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19th November – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Writing on the water
  2. Reinventing cities
  3. Analysis of the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (Human Development)

WRITING ON THE WATER

Context:

A slew of bills on water awaits Parliament’s approval. Two of them, passed by the Lok Sabha, were listed for clearing by Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session — The Interstate River Water Disputes Amendment Bill 2019 and the Dam Safety Bill 2019.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Functions & responsibilities of the Union and the States; issues and challenges of federal structure;

Mains Questions:

  1. The Interstate River Water Disputes Amendment Bill 2019 seeks to improve the inter-state water disputes resolution by setting up a permanent tribunal supported by a deliberative mechanism, the dispute resolution committee. Discuss. 15 marks
  2. The Centre can work with the states in building a credible institutional architecture for gathering data and producing knowledge about water resources — a foundational necessity to address most federal water governance challenges. Explain. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • Constitutional and legal provisions related to water
  • Issues with the present Inter State River Water Dispute Act, 1956
  • Important provisions in new bill
  • Significance of the new bill
  • Way forward

Constitutional and legal provisions related to water

  • Article 262(1) provides that Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter State river or river valley.
  • Article 262(2) empowers Parliament with the power to provide by law that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
  • Under Article 262, two acts were enacted:
    • River Boards Act 1956: It was enacted with a declaration that centre should take control of regulation and development of Inter-state rivers and river valleys in public interest. However, not a single river board has been constituted so far.
    • The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) confers a power upon union government to constitute tribunals to resolve such disputes. It also excludes jurisdiction of Supreme Court over such disputes.
  • Despite Article 262, the Supreme Court does have jurisdiction to adjudicate water disputes, provided that the parties first go to water tribunal and then if they feel that the order is not satisfactory only then they can approach supreme Court under article 136.
  • The article 136 gives discretion to allow leave to appeal against order, decree, judgment passed by any Court or tribunal in India.

Issues with the present Inter State River Water Dispute Act, 1956

  • A separate Tribunal has to be established for each Inter State River Water Dispute.
  • Inordinate delay in securing settlement of such disputes. Tribunals like Cauvery and Ravi Beas have been in existence for over 26 and 30 years respectively without any award.
  • There is no time limit for adjudication. In fact, delay happens at the stage of constitution of tribunals as well.
  • No provision for an adequate machinery to enforce the award of the Tribunal.
  • Lack of uniform standards- which could be applied in resolving such disputes.
  • Lack of adequate resources- both physical and human, to objectively assess the facts of the case.
  • Lack of retirement or term- mentioned for the chairman of the tribunals.
  • Issue of finality- In the event the Tribunal holding against any Party, that Party is quick to seek redressal in the Supreme Court. Only three out of eight Tribunals have given awards accepted by the States.

Important provisions in new bill

  • Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC)– to be established by the Central Government before referring dispute to the tribunal, to resolve the dispute amicably by negotiations within one year (extendable by six months), and submit its report to the central government. If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • Establishment of a Single Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal– by the Central Government, which can have multiple benches. All existing Tribunals will be dissolved, and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing Tribunals will be transferred to the new Tribunal.
  • Composition of Tribunal- will include a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members, and three expert members.
    • They will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
    • The term of office of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson shall be five years or till they attain the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
    • The central government may also appoint two experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service as assessors to advise the Bench in its proceedings.
    • The assessor should not be from the state, which is a party to the dispute.
  • Timeline: the proposed Tribunal must give its decision on the dispute within two years, which may be extended by another year.
  • Finality – The decision of the Tribunal shall be final and binding. The bill also removes the requirement of publication of decision in the official gazette in the original Act. It also makes mandatory for the Central Government to make a scheme to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal.
  • Data Collection and maintenance of a databank- at national level for each river basin by an agency to be appointed and authorized by central government.
A Bill, fixing time limit to resolve inter-state river water disputes,  passed in Lok Sabha | India News - Times of India

Significance of the new bill

  • Speed up the Process- as there will be less work on appointment of judges, assessors and other experts, which used to delay the process at setting up the tribunal itself earlier. Further, with concrete timelines, resolution will be complete.
  • Continuous evaluation- of the river basins could be possible owing to the maintenance of databank. It can not only provide insights on the rivers associated with a particular dispute, rather they can be used in all other basins.

Issues in the new bill

  • Fear of Centralisation– Some states like Tamil Nadu and Odisha, have raised serious concerns about the appropriation of more powers by the central government to decide water disputes between states.
  • Instead of the Chief Justice of India nominating persons for appointments, it would now be the central government making such appointments through a selection committee.
  • Benches of Permanent Tribunals are proposed to be created as and when need arise. Thus it is not clear how these temporary benches will be different from present system.
  • Decision still not final- as the Supreme Court had said that it can hear appeals against water tribunal set up under ISWDA.
  • Institutional mechanism to implement tribunal’s award is still mired in ambiguities.

Way forward

  • Inter-State Council (ISC) can play a useful role in facilitating dialogue and discussion towards resolving conflicts.
  • Bringing water into concurrent list: as recommended by Mihir shah report where central water authority can be constituted to manage rivers. It was also supported by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources.
  • Declaration of Rivers as National Property: which may reduce the tendency of states, which consider controlling of river waters as their right. Water disputes need to be depoliticized and not be made into emotional issues linked with regional pride. Further, there is a need for scientific management of crop patterns by bringing out policy measures that promote water efficient crops and varieties.
  • Interlinking of rivers– can help in adequate distribution of river water in the basin areas

REINVENTING CITIES

Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a reimagining of urban planning and development to make cities and towns healthy and liveable after COVID-19 reflects the reality of decrepit infrastructure aiding the virus’s spread.

Relevance:

GS Paper 1: Urbanization: problems and remedies

Mains Questions:

  1. Discussion the various social problems which originated out of the speedy process of urbanization in India. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • What is Urbanization?
  • Pandemic and Urbanization
  • Issues related to Urbanization
  • Way forward

What is urbanization?

Urbanization, the process by which large numbers of people become permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities. Urbanization began in ancient Mesopotamia in the Uruk Period (4300-3100 BCE).

  • Between the year 1 CE and the start of the Industrial Revolution (around the early 1800s), the decadal growth of the global population was around 0.8 per cent.
  • With the advent of concentrated production centres, improved medicine and the era of fossil fuels, the global population has shot up by seven times in the last 180 years, clocking a decadal growth rate of over 11 per cent.
  • London became the first modern city to cross the one million population mark around 1800.
  • By 1960, our planet had 111 cities with over a million inhabitants. In China and India, the number rose from 371 in 2000 to 548 in 2018, with 61 of these cities in India.
  • Recently, the UN projected that by 2030, 28 per cent of the world population will live in dense, congested spaces, jostling for ever-dwindling space and choked infrastructure.
How many people will live in cities in 2045? - LifeGate

Pandemic and Urbanization

  • In the first hundred days of the pandemic, the top 10 cities affected worldwide accounted for 15% of the total cases, and data for populous Indian cities later showed large spikes that radiated into smaller towns.
  • Rapid transmission in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai was the inevitable outcome of densification and an inability to practise distancing norms.
  • The low-income areas of cities, where anything from drinking water to sanitation can be a shared facility, are the most vulnerable to any disease outbreak.
  • Congested low-income urban spaces not only bear an inordinately high disease burden, they also bear the brunt of air pollution, water contamination and crime infestation.
  • In the face of any disaster like a flood, earthquake or, worse still, a pandemic, migrant workers, who throng these megacities, rush to go back to their villages. India, with its approximately 72 million migrant workers (including their families), is vulnerable to such disruptions as amply demonstrated in recent weeks.

Challenges associated with growing urbanization of pandemic

  • A larger population to be managed; ease of disease spread between humans in congested areas; difficulties in contact tracing, especially causal contact in public areas; inequalities resulting in poor housing environments that might hinder outbreak prevention and control efforts; closer encounters with wildlife via food markets or because of expansion into previously untouched ecosystems.
  • Areas of poor sanitation with rodents and other animal vectors; live domestic and wild animal markets; animals raised in backyard farms or industrial agricultural facilities in close proximity to humans.
  • Competing interests within a finite local budget; insufficient authority to institute response measures promptly; insufficient epidemic preparedness capabilities or capacities at a subnational and local level; difficulties in accessing national capacities.
  • A wide range of cultural factors, including modes of social interactions and acceptable control measures; some subpopulations might be difficult to reach.
  • Greater disruption to economic activity, stability, and growth.
  • Multiple information sources leading to misinformation; false information might spread quickly.

Measures to improve the urban governance

Basic aspects of City Planning needed to combat future pandemics are discussed below:

  • Urban Design: Generating and using structured data of Indian cities for planning and research. Wider footpaths and walkable streets to maintain social distancing. An upgrade to health facilities Sanitation facilities and safety information at public spaces.
  • Housing: Locations should be earmarked in master plans to improve area advantages, transport connectivity of affordable housing and self-constructed settlements. This will reduce economic and social costs of living. Professional architects and planners have come together to provide design support and training to the self-constructed settlements of Dharavi and Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai, and Mangolpuri in New Delhi. This initiative must be taken forward in other cities.
  • Re-imagining the allocation of street space to promote sustainable mobility that is resilient to future shocks and equitable. For example, cities like Chennai and Pune have created over 100 km of pedestrian-friendly streets since 2014.
  • Spatial Planning: Building spaces that are non-segregated mixed-class, mixed-use neighbourhoods that allow people to support each other. Such mixing would ensure that neglect and poverty is not locked into pockets and that vulnerable populations have access to the city centre and its resources, and they’re not neglected during a crisis.

Way forward

With this major transformation and with the onset of COVID-19, it is surely the time to reconsider our habitation model. Gandhiji’s model of gram swaraj, APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision of providing urban amenities in rural areas and Nanaji Deshmukh’s idea of self-reliant village development clearly deserve of fresh and focused attention. We have vast swathes of land, people and resources located in our over 6,00,000 villages. These offer another chance for us to pursue an alternative model of development where agriculture, industry and service sectors move in sync for sustainable development, which is in harmony with nature. This will minimise our carbon footprint. At the same time, it will also minimise social disruption with jobs coming to people rather than the other way round. New technology, the carbon constraint and diseconomies of congestion and density must force us to review our urbanisation landscape.


ANALYSIS OF THE AATMA NIRBHAR BHARAT ABHIYAAN (HUMAN DEVELOPMENT)

Context:

Emphasising that the special economic package would focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws, PM Modi said it would benefit labourers, farmers, honest tax payers, MSMEs and cottage industry.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Social Sector & Social Services (health, education, human resources – issues in development, management);

Mains Questions:

  1. Appropriate local community-level healthcare intervention is a prerequisite to achieve ‘Health for All ‘ in India. Explain. 15 marks
  2. Professor Amartya Sen has advocated important reforms in the realms of primary education and primary health care. What are your suggestions to improve their status and performance? 15 marks

Dimensions of the topic:

  • What is Human Development?
  • Human Development under THE AATMA NIRBHAR BHARAT ABHIYAAN.
  • Way forward

What is Human Development?

Human development – or the human development approach – is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices.

About Human Development — Measure of America: A Program of the Social  Science Research Council

 Health under THE AATMA NIRBHAR BHARAT ABHIYAAN

  • Increase investment in public health and grass root health institutions: A Rs 15,000 crore package for expenditure on healthcare was declared in April, 2020. The package focuses on the following:
    • Diagnostics and COVID-19 dedicated treatment facilities,
    • Procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs,
    • Strengthening national and state health systems,
    • Setting up laboratories,
    • Encouraging research,
    • Bolstering surveillance and risk communication.
  • Strengthen lab networks at the district and block levels for efficient management of the pandemic: In March, 2020, 79 labs had been identified and approved by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for COVID-19 testing.
  • Implement the National Digital Health Blueprint, to create an ecosystem to support universal health coverage using digital technology: The National Digital Health Blueprint was released in 2019 and provided for:
    • The creation of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), an autonomous government body,
    • Building of a system of personal health records and health data analytics, and
    • Improvement of access and delivery of healthcare services through digital interventions.
  • Draft rules for implementation of the Health Data Management Policy were released in August, 2020.  It seeks to ensure maintenance of data privacy once NDHM is implemented and has the following features:
    • Applicable to all entities involved in the NDHM,
    • Establishes a framework for secure processing of personal data,
    • Gives complete control and decision making power to data principals, and
    • Allows persons to create a new health ID to hold data at no additional cost.
  • Enable self-assessment and contact tracing of COVID-19: A mobile application, Aarogya Setu was launched on April 2.  The application allows people to assess their exposure and risk from COVID-19 based on their proximity with those who have the application installed.
  • Insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per health worker: The insurance provided will be above any other insurance cover being availed by the beneficiary and does not require any additional registration.  The premium for it will be borne by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Education Under THE AATMA NIRBHAR BHARAT ABHIYAAN

Improve access and quality of digital and online education:

  • National Education Policy: The National Education Policy, 2020, released on July 30, 2020, included the following recommendations towards inclusive digital education: 
    • Development of interface for online classes,
    • Creation of digital repository for coursework,
    • Use of channels like radio and TV in multiple languages where digital infrastructure lacking, (iv) creation of virtual labs, and
    • Training of teachers to become high quality online content creators.  It also proposed the formation of the National Education Technology Forum to facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology through evidence-based advice.
  • Guidelines for digital education: Guidelines for digital education in schools were released by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, prescribing steps that could be taken by schools towards digital learning.  Its key features include:
    • Provision for categorisation of households based on availability of digital infrastructure through a survey,
    • Teachers to device comprehensive plans based on factors including availability of digital devices and special needs, and
    • Cap on the screen time and total online activities of teachers per day.
  • PM eVidya: PM eVidya scheme will be launched to unify all efforts towards access to online education.

Way Forward

Epidemics such as COVID-19 starkly remind us that public health systems and education are core social institutions in any society. No amount of strategic purchasing or outsourcing to private actors can replace their irreducible role. At the end of the day, it is public health services which will stand by our side in times of epidemics, and we must give highest priority to strengthening them. We dare to ignore this message only at our collective peril.

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