- Campaigning on a budget (The Hindu)
- Pet coke conundrum (Down to earth)
- The right to choice (The Hindu)
- The currency swap initiative’s GDP surprise (LiveMint)
1. Campaigning on a budget (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It provides the ways and issues associated with electoral democracy and menace of underground funding of elections. (GS paper II)
- Democracy was the first and last choice among freedom fighters to be adopted post Independence. However, declining electoral transparency poses some serious questions on the realization of democracy.
- There is unanimous thinking in India that evolution of corruption in India starts from the opaqueness adopted in political funding. It is said to be a most crucial entry point for corruption due to which entire hierarchy of corruption is made.
- Political funding need not be limited to party funding, and may encompass election expenditure of candidates at various tiers, federal, state and local.
- The loop of political Corruption hence created involves various organs of state such as:
|bureaucracy||public sector||Statutory bodies||Media||Even Judiciary|
- Such a scenario reflects the failure of agricultural practices and public policy among others.
Emerging Key trends
- According to Association for Democratic Reforms, 69%, of the income of political parties came from unknown sources, and this segment has been steadily on the rise during this period. (Till recently political parties were required to disclose donations only for amounts higher than ₹20,000. However now this limit has been reduced to ₹2000)
- For some regional parties, more than three-fourths of income came from unknown sources. While the income of national parties increased by 313% from such sources during this period, that of regional parties increased by 652%.
- Important considerations before political parties in selecting their candidates today is whether they can foot the expenditure of their election. Often other considerations, such as the background of the candidate or his or her ideological commitment, become secondary. Once a candidate is so elected, he has to make returns for this patronage.
- Corporate sector in India that contributes huge amount of funds to political parties usually do not disclose their identity for obvious reasons. A large number of multinational companies that have entered India following liberalisation tend to be anonymous donors to favour a party prominent in the area while not annoying its national counterparts. (it may lead to crony capitalism and reimbursement of returns at a later stage)
- Political corruption involves an unfair, and most often unlawful, use of public office to secure a private gain. In the process common good, which a public office is supposed to serve, is appropriated for partisan ends.
- Decline of public morale in the electoral processes and subsequently in the Democracy
- A system of patronage and expectation to reap benefits post elections via misallocation of public fund and unworthy favors.
Way out :
- The legal spending limit of ₹28 lakh for MLA and ₹70 lakh for MP(s) is way off the mark as empirical studies have shown that an average contender of MLA spends nowhere less than ₹5 crore whereas an aspiring MP spends about ₹15 crore. Thus legal spending limit needs to be revised
- The govt. should strive to bring down election expenditure and ensuring that it provides an opportunity to get the best public men and women to participate in the institutional life of Indian democracy. One of the ways suggested for the purpose is holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the State Assemblies.
- Better and close monitoring of the election process by the Election Commission to ensure that explicit modes of violation at the hustings are checked.
- Informed and active citizenry can contribute immensely to clean the electoral scenario in India by making intelligent and rational choices devoid of considerations based on caste and religion.
- State funding of election should be explored in which government gives funds to political parties or candidates for contesting elections. Its main purpose is to make it unnecessary for contestants to take money from dominant wealthy interests so that they can remain spotless. For this to happen, state funding needs to be accompanied by strict accounting and transparency.
2. Pet coke conundrum (Down to earth)
Synoptic line: It throws light on menace of pet coke as an environmental hazard and trends in India. (GS paper III, ecology and environmental issues)
- Petroleum coke (petcoke) is one of many valued consumer products produced during the oil refining process. Crude oil is processed into diesel, jet fuel, lubricating oils and waxes, leaving some residual crude that usually undergoes additional processing.
- The crude residue may be further refined by a process known as coking to produce petcoke, which has a variety of uses as an alternative, cost-effective fuel. Currently, petcoke is produced at more than 140 refineries around the world.
Uses of Petroleum Coke
- Petroleum coke is typically used as a source of energy, or as a source of carbon for industrial application.
- Calcined petcoke (CPC) has the highest carbon purity and is used to manufacture energy, as well as in aluminium, graphite electrode, steel, titanium dioxide and other carbon consuming industries.
Environmental Implications Of Pet Coke
- Pet coke is extremely polluting because of its high sulphur content as well as emissions of heavy metals and mercury.
- Its sulphur levels are between 65,000 ppm and 75,000 ppm.This, when burnt, will greatly add to air pollution.
- Evidences of heavy metals have been found in pet coke which poses significant threat of respiratory and neural diseases when inhaled.
- Will defeat our Commitments taken at Paris COP 2015.
Trends in India
- On one hand India have progressively improved the quality of fuel for automobiles. To do this, the sulphur content in petrol and diesel has been reduced from 10,000 ppm in the mid-1990s to 50 ppm today by introducing BS complaint emission norms. While on the other hand Pet coke which contains sulphur levels between 65,000 ppm and 75,000 ppm remains unregulated.
- It is just that India is shifting the sources from one to another instead of plugging them.
- India needs to develop a proper policy to convert this polluting substance as an efficient resource but such an effective policy does not exist.
- Currently, India generates about 12-13 million tonnes of pet coke. But what is most disturbing is that our imports are climbing substantially. We are just about to rival china’s peak usage of 2014. However, china has clanked down its policy on pollution and hence moving slow.
Trends in China and USA
- In 2014, China declared a war on pollution. China set targets for the reduction of coal power plants and now has also come down on the use of pet coke. China has been the larges consumer of pet coke but now China is determined to give away the tag by regularising and minimizing the usage of petcoke.
- USA is the world’s largest and cheapest producer of petcoke owing to its huge refinery infrastructure. Moreover, USA’s reliance on shale and renewable will further increase the inventory of petcoke.
- The US is moving to cleaner natural or shale gas. And it needs to dump this dirty fuel on the world. With the Chinese getting smarter about their air, we should not be the takers of this fuel.
- We should use the domestic pet coke only in the industries where emissions can be controlled. For instance, in the cement industry’s clinker plants. But all other uses should be stopped.
- Smart solutions such as arrestors and scrubbers should be used in industrial set ups to control the outgoing emissions
- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change should be hyper active to track down policy related intervention to control the menace of hazardous substances such as petcoke.
- It should be ensured that we utilise our domestic pet coke and do not end up dumping it on others like the US does. But this also means we should stop the import of cheap pet coke.
3.The right to choice (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It provides issues associated with abortions in India.(GS paper I and paper II, issues related to women)
- Abortions in India and the world have been a sticky issue which involves considerable ethical and legal dilemmas as on one hand right of expecting mother are weighed on other hand with the rights of unborn foetus. (It is a dilemma of pro life vs. pro choice)
- However, India is guided more by a pro choice approach as it gives rights to expecting mother to terminate her pregnancy within 20 weeks in it entails certain complications and mother is not able to raise the child.
Medical Termination of pregnancy Act 1971
- Indian laws enacted during colonial era did not allowed abortions. Moreover wilful miscarriage was deemed to be a punishable offence under Indian Penal Code (Section 312)
- However, During the last thirty years many countries have liberalized their abortion laws. The worldwide process of liberalization continued after 1980. Today only 8% of the world’s population lives in countries where the law prevents abortion. Although the majority of countries have very restricted abortion laws, 41% of women live in countries where abortion is available on request of women. In India, Shantilal Shah Committee (1964) recommended liberalization of abortion law in 1966 to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality associated with illegal abortion. On these bases MTP Act was passed in 1971.
- MTP act allows termination of Pregnancy till 12 weeks by a registered medical practitioner( on his opinion tendered in good faith.
- If pregnancy is between 12 to 20 weeks then opinion of two medical practitioners had to be sought and the pregnancy can be terminated only if it poses certain grave threat to health of mother, if women is rape survivor, possibility of a deformed child etc.
- However, pregnancy beyond 20 weeks were not allowed to be terminated.
Certain Grey Areas
- The particular clause which forbids to terminate post 20 weeks pregnancy has attracted huge complicacies as many foetal diseases and birth defects are detected after the 20 week period, which puts into question the rationality behind the 20 week limit. ( The 20-week line is drawn on the understanding that there is a possibility of the foetus to survive and be viable outside the womb after this period. But this line places women in trouble, as it is not widely publicised. )
- Recently, Supreme Court declined a woman’s plea to abort her 26-week-old foetus detected with Down’s Syndrome. It was contended that the congenital abnormality found in her foetus and the woman’s anguish about the future were the reasons for her decision. It was contended that the congenital abnormality found in her foetus and the woman’s anguish about the future were the reasons for her decision.
- However in similar case Supreme Court axed the 20-week cap to permit another woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy. The foetus in that case was diagnosed with anencephaly a congenital defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
Way out :
- The govt. should move forward with MTP Amendment bill 2014, The Bill amends Section 3 of the principle Act of 1971 to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed”. Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider.
- This grey area should be filled with appropriate legal and ethical reasoning to avoid any injustice to women and child.
|Fact for Prelims :
· Down syndrome is a set of physical and mental traits caused by a gene problem that happens before birth. Children who have Down syndrome tend to have certain features, such as a flat face and a short neck. They also have some degree of intellectual disability. This varies from person to person. But in most cases it is mild to moderate.
· Down syndrome is caused by a problem with a baby’s chromosomes. Normally, a person has 46 chromosomes. But most people with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes. In rare cases, other chromosome problems cause Down syndrome. Having extra or abnormal chromosomes changes the way the brain and body develop.
4.The currency swap initiative’s GDP surprise (LiveMint)
Synoptic line: It presents the impact of demonetization on Indian economic growth and possible reasons for such a trend. (GS paper III, Indian Economy and issues)
- A great furore was seen owing to demonetization decision as it was expected that it will lead to slump in Economic growth.
- However, a rosier picture has been portrayed by recent data released by Central Statistics Organisation(CSO)
- Second advance estimate of national income for 2016-17 and data for the December quarter has been released.
- CSO stuck with its January advance estimate for gross domestic Product to post a healthy 7.1% growth, it projected GDP to have expanded 7% in the fiscal third quarter, reflecting only a marginal slowdown from the 7.3% registered in the preceding three-month period.
- However, the estimate for gross value added (GVA) the preferred indicator among economists has been revised from 7% to 6.7% in the second advance estimate.
- Notably, the data has shown the resilience of Indian Economy despite of Demonetization exercise carried in November last year
Possible reasons for Unchanged numbers:
- The informal sector which is highly cash dependent was suffered the most ( for example unorganised bidi workers in Jharkhand and Bengal) but such sector would not have been factored as quarterly GDP statistics rely on organized sector data as a proxy for the unorganized sector.
- Moreover, as the organised sector was either unharmed or benefited from the shift in demand from the cash-intensive organized sector. Hence, the headline growth significantly masks the underlying slowdown
- Even the timing of Demonetization was suited as it was announce post festive season thus it did not significantly impacted the consumption demand.
- Government also bounced up the public expenditure in aftermath of exercise which significantly absorbed the negative growth
- Growth has also been supported by a sharp recovery in the agriculture sector after two years of drought.
- Indian developmental story hugely depends on growth attributed by consumption expenditure rather than revival in investment demand . Hence, govt. should work to revive the investment expenditure in country. Moreover, Private investments should be focused more in key areas such as infrastructure.
- Even stressed balance sheets of corporates and public sector banks are hampering the investment to a large extent. Solutions to tackle twin-balance sheet problem (corporates + public sector banks) should be implemented immediately.
- However things will become more clear with data collected post forth quarter but govt. should consistently work in areas concerning economy such as the increase in tax revenue and compliance , tackling black money, improving business climate etc.