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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 04 April 2023

Contents:

  1. Recurring instances of attack by cow vigilants
  2. Bio-CNG: The future fuel

Recurring Instances Of Attack By Cow Vigilants


Context:

A 39-year-old assistant driver of a van transporting cattle was allegedly tortured and killed by a right-wing activist and his associates in Karnataka.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. Cattle slaughter in India
  3. What is in the Constitution Regarding Cow-Slaughter
  4. The 2005 judgment by the Supreme Court
  5. Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India
  6. The 2017 Ban by Central Government and Suspension of that ban by SC
  7. Conclusion

Key points:

  • The murder of the cattle traders or transporters is one among recurring murderous acts across States. This is found to be more predominant in north of India.
  • There are scores of such incidents recently seen in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh on the suspicion of storing meat, transporting cattle and lynching of tribal men needs to be condemned.
  • The recurrence of these acts is also a consequence of the emboldening of these right-wing activists, who show little regard for human lives as opposed to their perceived religious beliefs on cow slaughter.

Cattle slaughter in India

  • Cattle slaughter, especially cow slaughter is a controversial topic in India because of the cattle’s traditional status as an endeared and respected living being to some sects of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism while being considered an acceptable source of meat by Muslims as well as adherents of other non-Dharmic Religions in India, such as Zoroastrianism (although some Zoroastrians do not eat beef), and the Animistic and Abrahamic religions etc.
  • More specifically, the cow’s slaughter has been shunned because of a number of reasons such as being associated with god Krishna in Hinduism, cattle being respected as an integral part of rural livelihoods and an economic necessity.
  • Legislation against cattle slaughter is in place throughout most states of India except Kerala, Goa, West Bengal, and states of Northeast India.

What is in the Constitution Regarding Cow-Slaughter

  • States can make laws on the matters regarding “Preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice” which is in the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution – meaning that State legislatures have exclusive powers to legislate the prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle.
  • The prohibition of cow slaughter is also one of the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution. It reads, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

The 2005 judgment by the Supreme Court:

  • Following such repeated incidents, the Supreme Court banned cattle slaughter in 2005.
  • The Judgement was based on an expansive interpretation of the Directive Principles of state policy, besides Articles 48, 48A, and 51(A) of the Constitution.
  • This judgment had overturned an earlier ruling in 1958, which had limited the ban only to “useful” cattle engaged in agriculture and husbandry.
  • The judgment’s interpretation resulted in States, to come up with stringent laws on cow slaughter, and the stigmatisation of Dalits, Muslims and tribals for their dietary habits and dependence on cattle products for a livelihood, besides allowing for impudent behaviour by so-called “vigilantes”.

Legislations against Cow-Slaughter in India

  • The laws governing cattle slaughter in India vary greatly from state to state.
  • Some States allow the slaughter of cattle with restrictions like a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate which may be issued depending on factors like age and sex of cattle, continued economic viability etc.
  • Others completely ban cattle slaughter, while there is no restriction in a few states.

The 2017 Ban by Central Government and Suspension of that ban by SC

  • In 2017, the Ministry of Environment of the Government of India led by Bharatiya Janata Party imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes.
  • The Supreme Court of India suspended the ban on sale of cattle in its judgement in July 2017, giving relief to beef and leather industries.
  • In several cases, such as Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. State of Bihar (AIR 1959 SCR 629), Hashumatullah v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Abdul Hakim and others v. State of Bihar (AIR 1961 SC 448) and Mohd. Faruk v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court has held that, “A total ban [on cattle slaughter] was not permissible if, under economic conditions, keeping useless bull or bullock be a burden on the society and therefore not in the public interest.”

Conclusion:

  • Such incidents could foster communal disharmony and the any delay by the police in bringing the guilty to book will be a signal that this is a repetition of the injustices that were committed against other victims.
  • Hence, it is not enough to condemn these acts; It is time for a judicial rethink on legislation over cow slaughter.

-Source: The Hindu


Bio-CNG: The Future Fuel


Context:

Bio-CNG is an advanced version of biogas produced from organic sources. With rising cost of fuel, Bio-CNG can be a promising alternative for fossil-based petroleum fuel.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fuel crisis in India
  2. Bio-CNG
  3. Bio-CNG in India
  4. India’s efforts to promote Bio-CNG
  5. National Policy on Biofuels
  6. What are the drawbacks?
  7. Way Forward:

Fuel crisis in India:

  • India is currently reeling under a severe fuel crisis as the price of fossil fuel is increasing and is adversely impacting the country’s inflation rate.
  • The country is importing more than 35 per cent of its fuel needs from Russia.
  • Also the internal production is just a trickle compared to the total demand.
  • Need for a reliable alternative for the future?
  • It is in the light of this grim situation that the need for a reliable energy source of organic origin unlike fossil-based petroleum, assumes importance.
  • And that is “compressed natural gas,” or bio-CNG.
  • Bio-CNG is also a decentralised clean energy form that can be produced at the point of consumption right through the year and at all times of the day.
    • It sets it apart from other renewable sources such as solar or wind energy, which are subject to climatic fluctuations.

Bio-CNG:

  • It is an advanced version of biogas produced from organic sources such as animal manure (farm yard manure) and food waste.
  • It have been traditionally used in India’s rural landscape.
  • Its calorific value is similar to that of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is used sparingly in India.
  • Production:
    • Bio-CNG production involves the commercial refining of biogas to enhance its methane content to above 90 per cent.
    • Waste products are decomposed to produce biogas, which is purified to enhance its methane content.
    • The raw material is at least 90 per cent segregated biodegradable waste or crop residues.
    • Remaining solids are used as bio-fertilisers in agriculture.
    • Removing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide from the raw gas converts it to purified methane containing 95 per cent methane, which is compressed and filled into cylinders and sent to CNG plants for fuelling vehicles.


Bio-CNG in India:

  • India has a huge agricultural waste – primary crop stubble that is currently burned, causing severe air pollution as in Punjab.
  • Agriculture Stubble along with municipal waste, the best raw material for bio-CNG production.
  • Bio-CNG produced only from municipal solid waste and wastewater can generate enough energy to reduce India’s daily diesel consumption by 4,054 tonnes.

India’s efforts to promote Bio-CNG:

  • Gobardhan scheme: The proposed bio-CNG plants, 75 of which will be in urban areas, are part of the Gobardhan (Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme under the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • National Policy on Bio-Fuels: India launched a serious exploration of the possibilities of producing clean fuel in June 2018 with the announcement of the National Policy on Bio-Fuels.
  • SATAT Project:
    • Last October, the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas rolled out its ambitious project, ‘Sustainable Alternatives Towards Affordable Transportation’ (SATAT).
    • The project aims to establish 5,000 bio-CNG plants by 2023–24, of which only 40 currently operate, as per data collected by the Gobardhan scheme, with a pathetic production of just 311 tonnes as against the potential of 62 million tonnes.
    • SATAT targets a 15-million-tonne production by 2023.

National Policy on Biofuels

  • In order to promote biofuels in the country, first National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.
  • National Policy on Biofuels -2018 builds on the achievements of the earlier National Policy on Biofuels setting new agenda consistent with the redefined role of emerging developments in the renewable sector aiming to bring in renewed focus taking into context the international perspectives and National scenario.
  • The policy envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of bio-diesel in diesel by 2030.
  • The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee – so that farmers get appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

What are the drawbacks?

  • India lacks a robust ecosystem for fuel uptake, leading to only a few takers operating comfortably.
  • Sourcing of raw materials: Plant owners complain that SATAT only guarantees a buyer for the fuel, does not support plant establishment or the procurement of quality feedstock, and makes fuel manufacture the exclusive responsibility of owners.
  • Cost involved:
    • It costs Rs 25–30 crore to set up a plant, of which the central finance from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy under the “Waste-to-Energy Programme” is just Rs 4 crore, with a cap of Rs 10 crore per 4.8 tonnes of bio-CNG produced, while budget provision is just Rs 600 crore, which is insufficient to set up 5,000 plants.

Way Forward:

  • The industry recommends a production-linked incentive scheme along with attractive interest rates on bank loans.
  • Despite the technical difficulties like sourcing good raw materials and efficient segregation, the bio-CNG is not only environmentally sound but can save the country foreign exchange.  

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