Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 20 June 2022
- The EPI may rankle but India can recast policies
- Revisiting social justice under the Dravidian model
The EPI May Rankle But India Can Recast Policies
Environmental Performance Index (EPI) placing India last among all 180 assessed countries has naturally touched a raw nerve. The assessment, carried out by Yale and Columbia Universities with an emphasis on climate change mitigation, has become controversial for prioritizing the flow of greenhouse gases from countries while reducing the emphasis on the stock of carbon dioxide from industrialized countries. Less controversially, the EPI dwells on performance on air quality, waste management and ecological conservation measures.
GS-III: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment
Dimensions of the Article
- Government’s response
- Claims and low PARI score
- Biome protection, air quality
- Green goals
- Way Forward
- The EPI ranking and scores have been rejected by the Union Government as based on “unfounded assumptions”, “surmises” and “unscientific methods.”
- The national rank of 165 on Climate Policy and score of 21.7 in this category — which overall has a 38% weightage in the calculations along with 42% for Ecosystem Vitality and 20% for Environmental Health — has particular significance.
- India is under pressure to raise its ambition and commitment towards the more ambitious 1.5° Centigrade goal for temperature rise under the Paris Agreement, going beyond the less rigorous target of well below 2°C.
- Within the overall climate score, India does better in submetrics such as growth rates for black carbon, methane and fluorinated gases, and greenhouse gas emissions based on their intensity and per capita volumes.
- The Index rates the country low on projected green house gas (GHG) emissions for mid-century, a target for Net Zero emissions.
- The EPI report estimates that China, India, the United States, and Russia are expected to account for over 50% of global residual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- This projection has met with strong protest from India, which has faulted the EPI for introducing a new metric on climate with increased weight in the calculation compared to the 2020 assessment.
- It stands accused of ignoring the important tenet of equity in global climate policy within the United Nations framework: that India has low per capita GHG emissions, reduced intensity of GHG emissions in its economy, made big stride achieving 40% renewable power generation, supported electric vehicles, launched a major carbon sink initiative, and done a lot for wetland conservation.
Claims and low PARI score
- The country has protested that the new India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 was not factored in as part of the biodiversity metric.
- India scores abysmally low on some of the Ecosystem Vitality variables, such as Marine Protected Areas (0.3 of a possible 100) and Protected Areas Representativeness Index, or PARI (0.5), Terrestrial Biome Protection (TBM) – National (1.2) and TBM – Global (2.1).
- Wetland loss prevention is among the best scores for India, at 62. Given the many biomes that exist in the country, the low PARI score puts pressure on the Government to defend its claim that the EPI scores for biodiversity health are faulty due to weaknesses in collecting species and habitat data.
- The ISFR, on which the Union government relies, ran into trouble for making spectacular claims, because of perceived methodological weaknesses.
- It is faulted for relying on a relaxed definition of forest and claiming expansion of forests when satellite imagery of the same areas showed a decline.
- Ecologist and cofounder of the Nature Conservation Foundation M.D. Madhusudan pointed out that palm trees in private plantations in Tamil Nadu, tea estates in several States and even urban tree agglomerations were found added as forest.
- Researchers have been demanding that the actual maps used for the ISFR estimates be released publicly, not just the report making claims of expansion.
Biome protection, air quality
- The Index assigns a ‘laggard’ rank on tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf and coniferous forests, montane grasslands and shrublands and the worst performance on deserts and xeric shrublands. The Government’s defense is that national and legal boundaries for protected areas may not match geographical boundaries of biomes, and international classifications may not be optimal to measure conservation.
- With a score of 7.8 and a rank of 179, the familiar dispute over data and reliability of several parameters has reopened. The Government faults the dataset on pollutant concentration data — covering mainly Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Oxides of Nitrogen, Sulphur Dioxide and Volatile Organic Compounds, because of “higher uncertainty in regions with less extensive monitoring networks and emissions inventories”.
- Data for 2019, when economic activity was unfettered by COVID19, attribute 1.67 million deaths during the year from air pollution.
- The Lancet Planetary Health points out that “India has developed instruments and regulatory powers to mitigate pollution sources but there is no centralised system to drive pollution efforts and achieve substantial improvements. In 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above WHO [World Health Organization] guidelines.”
- Some aspects of the EPI has been rejected, blaming the ranking agencies for not “engaging” with India on the climate change mitigation programme, and for not providing a handicap under the United Nations principle of Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDRRC), which forms the basis of the Paris Agreement.
- India’s defence has always been that its current emissions profile may be high, but it has to raise living standards of hundreds of millions with cheap energy. It seeks a significant share of the remaining global carbon budget and climate funds for mitigation actions.
- The national case would be stronger if policies on luxury urban emissions are aimed at helping poorer Indians.
- On transport (about 13% of emissions), prevailing high fuel and vehicular taxes could exclusively drive change and raise a green commons such as clean public transport, cycling and pedestrianisation.
- The national policy of achieving Net Zero emissions by 2070 provides a longer timeline for a coal phaseout, but other areas can benefit from policies that prevent a carbon lockin effect.
- Emissions from buildings, including embedded carbon in construction materials such as cement and steel, provide scope for reduction.
- India has also not expanded disaggregated rooftop solar power across residential deployments and commercial structures.
- There cannot also be excessive reliance on carbon sinks in the short term, since tree cover of the right kind takes time to store carbon.
- Stronger protection for biomes (protected areas represent about 5% of the land) can generate wide ranging benefits and biodiversity can recover.
What India needs to adopt is a rigorous dashboard approach to indicators, assigning high weight to the environment, modelled on the proposal made by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean Paul Fitoussi in their exploration of development beyond GDP. This can generate good data, identify the real beneficiaries of policies, avoid serious environmental deficits and ensure intergenerational equity in the use of natural resources.
Source – The Hindu
Revisiting Social Justice Under the Dravidian Model
Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu has played a significant role in democratizing the public space for wider participation. As emphasized by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin recently, social justice has been the integral part of the Dravidian development model. Social justice principles in Tamil Nadu were initially emphasized and propagated by Periyar, who fought for community based representation while fighting the evils of the caste system. Even though the Dravidian social justice model was able to democratize the public sphere by opening the space in education and employment, there is a need to revisit many aspects of social justice to reach out and benefit more people.
GS-II: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes
Dimensions of the Article
- First BC commission report
- Data from second commission
- Political moves
- Neoliberal state, social justice
- Way Forward
First BC commission report
- The report of the first Backward Classes (BC) Commission, headed by A.N. Sattanathan, in its report submitted in 1970 highlighted the unequal distribution of reservation benefits in favour of certain communities within backward castes.
- It further stated that around nine castes (that accounted for 11.3% of the total backward castes) held 48% of gazetted posts and 37% of nongazetted posts. In the education sector, it was 47% of medical seats, 44% of engineering seats and 34% of scholarships denying an opportunity for the remaining 88.7% of backward castes in Tamil Nadu.
- Even though the Sattanathan commission had recommended economic criteria and taking out certain castes out of reservation benefits, due to political and electoral reasons, the government increased the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) from 25% to 31% and for Scheduled Castes (SC)/ Scheduled Tribes (ST) from 16% to 18%.
Data from second commission
- In 1979, based on the Sattanathan Commission report, the creamy layer concept (ceiling limit of ₹9,000 per annum to be eligible for reservation benefits), was introduced which was politically resisted.
- The AIADMK government increased the Other Backward Classes quota from 31% to 50%, which made the Supreme Court of India direct the Tamil Nadu government to set up a second Backward Classes’ Commission in the year 1982 to assess the ground reality.
- The commission, under J.A. Ambasankar, reiterated the unequal distribution of benefits among backward classes as stated by Sattanathan in the first Backward Classes Commission.
- The Ambasankar report stated that around 11 castes, which is around 34.8% of backward castes, held 50.7% of posts in the public service commission, 62.7% of seats in professional courses and 53.4% of government scholarships.
- The remaining 211 backward castes, which is around 65.2%, was poorly represented in government services and the educational system.
- The government added another 29 communities to backward classes without addressing the skewed representation.
- In 1989, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government under M., Karunanidhi divided the 50% OBC reservation into 30% for backward classes and 20% for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and denotified communities (DNC).
- Later, the AIADMK government under then Chief Minister Jayalalitha enacted the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993, and got it under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to protect it against judicial scrutiny.
- In 2000, then Chief Minister Karunanidhi released a white paper on the ‘Reservation in Government Employment for the Adi Dravidars, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and DeNotified Communities.
- In 96 government departments, the SC representation in Group A, B and C was par below their constitutionally mandated quota. The MBCs, who were allocated 20%, had only around 8% in the group ‘A’ category. The BC had more than majority representation. It was only in the Group D category that SC/STs and MBC/DNCs had noticeable representation.
- In public sector undertakings, apex cooperative institutions, universities, corporations and statutory bodies, SC representation was only around 3% and for MBC/DNCs, only around 7% in the Group ‘A’ category. BCs had more than a majority in this category also.
Neoliberal state, social justice
- The neoliberal phase after the 1990s has expanded the scope of the private sector in key sectors of the Tamil Nadu economy which included social sectors such as education and health.
- According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 report, 86% of colleges and 44% of universities in Tamil Nadu are owned by the private sector.
- With reservation not being applicable in the private sector, there is only 11% of the faculty from the SC community in Tamil Nadu according to this report. Even though OBC (no data for MBCs are available in the AISHE report) represent more than 70% of teaching positions in Tamil Nadu, SC/STs and the minorities are underrepresented.
- Only 2.9% of faculty belong to Muslim community.
- It is imperative for the Tamil Nadu government to release a white paper on reservations in Tamil Nadu to take stock of changes that have happened in the social composition of employees in the government sector after the year 2000.
- Apart from filling the SC/ST backlog vacancies, the government should increase the SC/ST reservations as their population according to the 2011 census is 21.1%.
- Further, the State government should pursue the policy of reservations in the private sector, which the DMK principally supported in its election manifesto.
- Reservation in private educational institutions has a constitutional mandate in Article 15(5), which came through 93rd Constitution Amendment Act in 2005.
- Such proactive measures are needed to add meaning to social justice principles under the Dravidian model.
Source – The Hindu