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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 27 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Almost 40% of RTI rejections had no valid reason
  2. Japan to fund A&N, metro expansion
  3. NITI Aayog CEO on Net zero emission energy transition

ALMOST 40% OF RTI REJECTION HAD NO VALID REASON

Context:

The (CIC) Central Information Commission’s annual report said that in 2019-20 the Centre’s rejection of all Right to Information (RTI) requests was the lowest rate ever.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights, Government Policies and Interventions, Right to Information Act)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Central Information Commission (CIC)
  2. Functions of CIC
  3. Right to Information (RTI) Act
  4. Is RTI a Fundamental Right?
  5. Enforcement of RTI
  6. Highlights of the CIC’s report on RTI Rejections in 2019-2020

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  • The Central Information Commission has been constituted with effect from 12-10-2005 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Hence, CIC is a Statutory Body.
  • The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities.
  • It was constituted to act upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not have been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information under the Right to Information Act.

Functions of CIC

  1. Order enquiry into any matter on reasonable grounds only.
  2. Secure compliance of its decisions from any public authority.
  3. Receive and inquire into a complaint from any person:
    1. Who has not received any response to his request for information within a specified time.
    2. Who deems the information given to him/her incomplete, false or misleading, and any other matter related to securing the information.
    3. Who has been unable to submit a request for information due to the non-appointment of an officer.
    4. Who considers the fees so charged unreasonable.
    5. Who was refused the information requested.
  4. The commission has the power to examine any record under the control of the public authority. All such records have to be given to the Commission during examination and nothing shall be withheld.
  5. During inquiries, the CIC has the powers of a civil court, such as the powers to:
    1. Summon and enforce the attendance of persons, and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and produce documents or things
    2. Require the discovery and inspection of documents
    3. Receive evidence on affidavit
    4. Requisition public records or copies from any office or court
    5. Issue summons for the examination of documents or witnesses
    6. Any other matter that may be prescribed
  6. The CIC also submits an annual report to the GOI on the implementations of the provisions of the Act. This report is then placed before both the Houses of Parliament.

Right to Information (RTI) Act

  • Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
  • Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.

This includes:

  1. disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
  2. powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
  3. financial information.

Note: “Public Authorities” here includes bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.  E.g.: Ministries, public sector undertakings, and regulators.  It also includes any entities owned, controlled or substantially financed and non-government organizations substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government.

  • The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information.
  • If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities.
  • This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.
  • The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities. 

Is RTI a Fundamental Right?

  • RTI is a fundamental right for every citizen of India.
  • The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called quasi-judicial authorities.
  • This act was enacted in order to consolidate the fundamental right in the Indian constitution ‘freedom of speech’.
  • Since RTI is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of Indian Constitution, it is an implied fundamental right.

Enforcement of RTI

The Act has established a three-tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act.

  1. The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities. These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
  2. Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority.
  3. Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission.  These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners. 

Highlights of the CIC’s report on RTI Rejections in 2019-2020

  • The Centre has only rejected only a little more than 4% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate, according to the Central Information Commission’s annual report.
  • However, almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the RTI Act, according to an analysis of report data.
  • The 40% rejections without valid reasons includes 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • Public authorities under the Central government received almost 14 lakh RTI requests in 2019-20.
  • Rejection rates have fallen since the 14% rate in 2005-06, and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8+% spike in 2014-15. In 2019-20, they hit their lowest level so far.

-Source: The Hindu


JAPAN TO FUND A&N, METRO EXPANSION

Context:

In the first-ever official development assistance (ODA) project in Andaman & Nicobar (A&N), Japan has approved grant aid to improve the power supply in the A&N islands along with loans for executing four projects, including Delhi Metro’s Phase 4 and Bengaluru Metro’s Phase 2.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International Agreements and treaties of Importance to India)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India – Japan Relations
  2. Highlights of Japan’s Assistance to India
  3. Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

India – Japan Relations

  • Exchange between Japan and India is said to have begun in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea.
  • India and Japan, two of the largest and oldest democracies in Asia, having a high degree of congruence of political, economic and strategic interests, view each other as partners that have responsibility for, and are capable of, responding to global and regional challenges.
  • Post Japan’s defeat in World War-II, a relatively well-known result of the two nations was in 1949, when India sent the Tokyo Zoo two elephants to cheer the spirits of the defeated Japanese empire.
  • Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations in 1950s.
  • The British occupiers of India and Japan were enemies during World War II, but political relations between the two nations have remained warm since India’s independence.
  • Japanese companies, such as Yamaha, Sony, Toyota, and Honda have manufacturing facilities in India, and with the growth of the Indian economy, India is a big market for Japanese firms.
  • In 2006, India culminated in the signing of the “Joint Statement Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership”.
  • Japan has helped finance many infrastructure projects in India, most notably the Delhi Metro system.
  • In 2016, India and Japan signed the “Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy”, a landmark civil nuclear agreement, under which Japan will supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology to India. (India is the only non-signatory of NPT to receive an exemption from Japan.)
  • India and Japan have shared interests in maintaining the security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and in co-operation for fighting international crime, terrorism, piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The two nations have frequently held joint military exercises and co-operate on technology.

Highlights of Japan’s Assistance to India

  • This is the first-ever ODA project in the strategic islands of Andaman & Nicobar (apart from humanitarian emergency assistance) to improve the power supply in the islands, stressing the strategic geopolitical location of the islands for an open Indo-Pacific.
  • The grant would be used to procure batteries as well as power system stabilisers to allow better utilisation of solar power generated in South Andaman.

Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
  • The A&N Islands spans 450 nautical miles in a roughly north-south configuration adjacent to the western entrance to the Malacca Strait, which is itself a major Indian Ocean chokepoint and straddles some of the busiest trade routes in the world.
  • Geopolitically, the A&N Islands connects South Asia with South-East Asia. While the northernmost point of the archipelago is only 22 nautical miles from Myanmar, the southernmost point, Indira Point, is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.
  • The islands dominate the Bay of Bengal, the Six Degree and the Ten Degree Channels that more than sixty thousand commercial vessels traverse each year.
  • The A&N islands also provide near 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone even with just 0.2% of India’s landmass.
Geological map of the Andaman Islands (after Pal et al. 9 ) showing... |  Download Scientific Diagram

-Source: The Hindu


NITI AAYOG CEO ON NET ZERO EMISSION ENERGY TRANSITION

Context:

Niti Aayog CEO reiterated the government’s commitment to achieving ‘Net Zero Emission’ targets in energy by 2050, even though it calls for a concerted strategy and massive investments.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Shell have released a report titled “India: Transforming to a Net-Zero Emissions Energy System”, recently.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Sources of Energy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
  2. Highlights of TERI’s recommendations to achieve Net-Zero emmissions
  3. What is Net zero emissions?
  4. Adoption of Net zero emission targets

About The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)

  • The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a non-profit research institution in New Delhi that conducts research work in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development.
  • TERI aims to focus on formulating local and national level strategies for shaping global solutions to critical issues.
  • It conducts research work in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development.
  • Its key focus lies in promoting clean energy, water management, pollution management, sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.
  • TERI was established in 1974 as Tata Energy Research Institute and was renamed The Energy and Resources Institute in 2003.

Highlights of TERI’s recommendations to achieve Net-Zero emmissions

  • India needs a suitable policy and innovation-driven context to deploy clean energy technologies on a massive scale.
  • The share of renewables in the power mix needs to increase to 90% for India to meet its net-zero goal. This is around 11% in 2019-2020.
  • India must phase out its coal-fired power plants and remove it altogether by 2050.
  • The availability, or absence, of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would define the shape of India’s energy systems.
  • Will need energy efficient buildings, lighting, appliances and industrial practices to meet the net-zero goal.
  • In aviation, the only practical solution for reducing emissions is greater use of biofuels, until hydrogen technology gains scale.
  • India will have to rely on natural and man-made carbon sinks to soak up those emissions. Trees can capture almost 1 billion tons, the country will need carbon capture technologies to sequester the rest.
  • India, which already taxes coal and petroleum fuels, should consider putting a tax on emissions to drive change.

What is Net zero emissions?

  • ‘Net zero emissions’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.
  • To achieve this:
  • Human-caused emissions (like those from fossil-fueled vehicles and factories) should be reduced as close to zero as possible.
  • Any remaining Greenhouse gasses GHGs should be balanced with an equivalent amount of carbon removal, for example by restoring forests.
  • In scenarios that limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon dioxide (CO2) reaches net-zero on average by 2050. Total GHG emissions reach net-zero between 2063 and 2068.

Adoption of Net zero emission targets

  • As of June 2020, twenty countries and regions have adopted net-zero targets. This list only includes countries that adopted a net-zero target in law or another policy document.
  • The Kingdom of Bhutan is already carbon-negative, i.e., absorbs more CO2 than it emits.
  • India’s per capita CO2 emissions – at 1.8 tonnes per person in 2015 – are around a ninth of those in the USA and around a third of the global average of almost 5 tonnes per person.
  • India is also now the planet’s third-largest emitter of CO2, behind China and the USA.
  • Energy sector contributes the most to emissions followed by the Industrial sector and then Forestry followed by Transport, Agriculture and Building Construction sector.
Global timeline to reach net-zero emissions 
NET 
ZERO 
LIMITING GLOBAL 
coz 
WARMING TO 1.50C ENTAILS 
NET 
ZERO 
GHG 
2020 
2030 
LIMITING GLOBAL 
WARMING TO 2.00C ENTAILS 
2080 
NET 
ZERO 
C02 
2090 
NET 
ZERO 
GHG

-Source: The Hindu, Business Line

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