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2nd & 3rd August – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Key changes in EIA 2020 Explained
  2. Contempt of Court Explained
  3. Education, NEP and challenges Explained
  4. Questions being raised about Governor’s actions
  5. Parents, the first and natural tutors
  6. The Govt, and RBI face a trilemma regarding PSBs

KEY CHANGES IN EIA 2020 EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, with the intention of replacing the existing EIA Notification, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The government wants to incorporate modifications made to the regulations through amendments in the interim period.

Introduction

  • An EIA makes a scientific estimate of the likely impacts of a project, such as a mine, irrigation dam, industrial unit or waste treatment plant.
  • There is also a provision for public consultation in the rules, including a public hearing at which the local community and interested persons can give opinions and raise objections, based on the draft EIA report prepared by experts for the project.

How does the draft EIA Notification differ from the one now in force?

  • Among the major departures from existing regulations is the removal of several activities from the purview of public consultation.
  • A list of projects has been included under Category B2, expressly exempted from the requirement of an EIA.
  • The projects under this category include offshore and onshore oil, gas and shale exploration, hydroelectric projects up to 25 MW, irrigation projects between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares of command area, micro-small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in dye and dye intermediates, all inland waterway projects etc.
  • The projects in this list are, under existing norms, identified on the basis of screening by Expert Appraisal Committees, rather than being exempted through listing in the Schedule.
  • Also, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance or permission in the new scheme.

What are the apprehensions?

  • There is apprehension that the exemption from EIA and public consultation for listed B2 category activity and expansion and modernisation projects will seriously affect the environment, since these will be carried out without oversight.
  • Combined with a new provision for post-facto environmental clearance (of projects executed without prior clearance), this would further weaken protections.
  • Moreover, the notice period for public hearing has been cut and this will make it difficult to study the draft EIA report.
  • Similarly, for project modernisation and expansion, the norms in Notification 2020 are liberal, with only those involving more than 25% increase requiring EIA, and over 50% attracting public consultation.
  • Under the proposed changes, project proponents need to submit only one annual report on compliance with conditions, compared to the existing two – and this is concerning because the CAG found in 2016 that the deficiency in semi-annual compliance reporting was very high.

How would the new rules enable post-facto approval of violations?

  • The EIA Notification 2020 excludes reporting by the public of violations and non-compliance.
  • Instead, the government will take cognisance of reports only from the violator-promoter, government authority, Appraisal Committee or Regulatory Authority.
  • Such projects can then be approved with conditions, including remediation of ecological damage, which, again, will be assessed and reported by the violator (and not an unconnected agency), although Central Pollution Control Board guidelines must be used.

-Source: The Hindu


CONTEMPT OF COURT EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-II Governance, Polity

Introduction

Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority, is back in the news in India.

How did the concept of contempt come into being?

  • The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old.
  • In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by himself, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name.
  • Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself.

What is the statutory basis for contempt of court?

  • There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India.
  • When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
  • Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself.
  • Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the idea.

What are the kinds of contempt of court?

The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal.

  • Civil Contempt – when someone wilfully disobeys a court order, or wilfully breaches an undertaking given to court.
  • Criminal Contempt – consists of three forms:
    • words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court
    • prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and
    • interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.

Making allegations against the judiciary or individual judges, attributing motives to judgments and judicial functioning and any scurrilous attack on the conduct of judges are normally considered matters that scandalise the judiciary.

The rationale for this provision is that courts must be protected from tendentious attacks that lower its authority, defame its public image and make the public lose faith in its impartiality.

The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to RS. 2,000.

What is not contempt of court?

  • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court.
  • Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.

Is truth a defence against a contempt charge?

  • For many years, truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt.
  • There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution.
  • The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence, if it was in public interest and was invoked in a bona fide manner.

-Source: The Hindu


EDUCATION, NEP AND CHALLENGES EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

The Union Cabinet approved a new National Education Policy 2020 – meant to provide an overarching vision and comprehensive framework for both school and higher education across the country.

Click here to read more about the key proposals

What is the timeline for implementation?

  • The policy is meant to transform the education system by 2040.
  • Some proposals will be implemented immediately, starting with the change in the name of the Ministry of Human Resource Development into the Ministry of Education.
  • The National Testing Agency will introduce a pilot version of the common entrance test by 2020, which will be used for admission to all IoEs and central universities in 2021.
  • The National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission which is to be implemented by 2025 will be launched in 2020.

Where do the difficulties lie?

  • The draft Higher Education Commission of India Bill has been languishing in the Ministry.
  • The proposal for a Board of Governors for universities may also require amendments of the Central and State Universities Acts.
  • A Cabinet note has already been moved to set up the National Research Foundation as a trust under the government, but in order to make it a fully autonomous body, an Act may be required.
  • Centre will have to provide financial assistance as other changes require funding and times.
  • The Ministry feels that an increase in government funding of education to 6% of GDP will be sufficient to cover the financial implications of the NEP, however, such an increase in funding has been proposed but not achieved for the last half-century.

-Source: The Hindu


QUESTIONS BEING RAISED ABOUT GOVERNOR’S ACTIONS

Focus: GS-II Governance, Polity

Introduction

The Rajasthan Governor repeatedly turned down the advice of the Council of Ministers to convene a session of the Rajasthan Assembly.

What are the related powers of a Governor?

  • The Supreme Court reiterated that “the functions, duties and powers of the Governor by or under the Constitution are ‘cabined, cribbed, confined’.” The Bench explored the Governor’s powers vis-à-vis the executive and the legislature.
  • It’s in his power to prorogue the state legislature and dissolve the state legislative assemblies
  • He addresses the state legislature at the first session of every year
  • If any bill is pending in the state legislature, Governor may/may not send a bill to the state legislature concerning the same
  • If the speaker of the legislative assembly is absent and same is Deputy Speaker, then Governor appoints a person to preside over the session.

Who summons an Assembly session?

  • The Supreme Court held that the Governor’s power under Article 174 to summon, prorogue and dissolve the house(s) must be exercised in consonance with the aid and advice of the chief minister and his council of ministers.
  • In the above situation, the governor is precluded from taking an individual call on the issue at his/her own will, or in his/her own discretion.
  • The discretion given to the Governor in respect of his relations with the Legislative Assembly is not only limited and circumscribed by the Constitution but also by the Rules framed by the Legislative Assembly under Article 208 of the Constitution.

Can the Governor direct the agenda or procedure of the legislature?

The proceedings of the legislature are guided by rules made by it, and the Governor cannot have any say in it.

When can the Governor act without the advice of the Council of Ministers?

In some States, the Governor has special powers to advance tribal welfare – it becomes his responsibility to appoint Tribal Welfare Minister in the states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

With respect to the bill introduced in the state legislature, he can:

  1. Give his assent
  2. Withhold his assent
  3. Return the bill
  4. Reserve the bill for the President’s consideration (In instances where the bill introduced in the state legislature endangers the position of state High Court.)

If the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers lose their majority, or they refuse to recommend a session in six months, or there is a reasonable doubt about their majority, the Governor could demand a session.

  • The Governor invites a person who he thinks has the legislative majority to form a government, but the use of this power cannot be arbitrary.
  • If there is a Council of Ministers with a majority, the Governor has to go by its recommendation to dissolve the legislature.
  • In the event of a Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers losing the majority, the Governor can use his or her discretion to either explore the formation of a new government or dissolve the House.

Is the Governor bound by people’s representatives?

  • The Constituent Assembly very consciously limited the Governor’s discretionary powers.
  • The misuse of the Governor’s office by parties in power at the Centre to disturb State governments in control of the Opposition has remained a scourge.
  • A 2016 Supreme Court judgment that a Governor “cannot have an overriding authority, over the representatives of the people, who constitute the state legislature and/or even the executive government functioning under the council of ministers with the Chief Minister as the head”.

-Source: The Hindu


PARENTS, THE FIRST AND NATURAL TUTORS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • The National Education Policy (NEP) emphatically makes the case for early childhood care and education (ECCE).
  • The NEP 2020 says that Schools providing quality ECCE reap the greatest dividends for children who come from families that are economically disadvantaged.

Details

  • Over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs before the age of six.
  • Yet, over 5 crore children are estimated to not have attained foundational literacy and numeracy in India.
  • At present, says the policy, children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds do not have access to ECCE.

What the NEP 2020 says?

  • The NEP lays out a detailed paradigm for educators to provide high-quality ECCE through preschools and anganwadis.
  • It also talks of how parents can be active stakeholders in their children’s education.
  • Parents are their children’s first and natural tutors at that age. Involving them is necessary to ensure that children learn the foundational skills they need to succeed in school.

Building aspiration

  • At present, 30% of low-income parents don’t send their children to any ECCE institutions. Instead, many opt to send their children to primary school too early, when they are still cognitively and emotionally unprepared for Class 1 studies.
  • Evidence suggests that low-income parents do value education from primary school onwards, spending a disproportionate amount of their monthly income on it. However, awareness of the importance of education at the preschool age is missing.
  • Building aspiration through role modeling, mass media and social media involving examples of celebrities and influencers is the crucial first step.

Providing information

  • Once awareness and aspiration have been built, we must provide low-income parents with educational tools to support their children that they can themselves confidently administer.
  • Now that 70% of mothers and even more fathers are educated up to Class 5 themselves, parents are usually equipped to understand the foundational skills that their children are learning at this age.
  • We need to assist them in combing through the vast wealth of print and online content.

Measuring progress

  • Behavioural research on nudges, social incentives, and the power of creating habits demonstrates some possible ways to provide continuous feedback and encouragement.
  • Measurement also acts as a powerful motivation mechanism.

-Source: The Hindu


THE GOVT, AND RBI FACE A TRILEMMA REGARDING PSBS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

What is the trilemma?

The sovereign (government) and the regulator (RBI) face a trilemma: It is clear that it is not possible to:

  1. have dominance of government banks (public sector banks) in the banking sector;
  2. retain independent regulation; and
  3. adhere to public debt-gross domestic product (GDP) targets.

The government along with RBI cannot hope to achieve all three points at the same time.

Let’s say the government wants the public sector banks (PSBs) to dominate the banking system and at the same time ensure that the public debt doesn’t go up.

What will happen in such a circumstance?

  • To dominate the banking system, PSBs will have to increase lending at a fast pace, which will lead to accumulation of bad loans.
  • Given that the recoveries of bad loans are minimal, the government, as the owner, will have to invest more money into the PSBs to keep them going.
  • If the government puts more money into the PSBs, its expenditure will go up.
  • It will have to borrow more money and the public debt to GDP ratio will substantially rise.

How can public debt to GDP ratio be saved from rising?

  • The central bank will have to dilute some regulations to help the PSBs in not recognizing bad loans.
  • In such a case, the government need not invest in the PSBs immediately.
  • However, the central bank will have to dilute banking regulations.

What is the issue with RBI diluting norms?

  • When RBI dilutes regulations, banks end up kicking the bad loans can down the road.
  • The government then has to recapitalize the banks in the years to come as the postponement leads to bigger problems.
  • In the process, it pushes the public debt to GDP ratio up, which is one situation that the government has been trying hard to avoid.

-Source: Livemint, Indian Express

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