1.Making judiciary more efficient (Live Mint)

2.Need of Inclusive growth for India (Live Mint)

3.Desalination as a way to meet water crisis (Down to Earth)

1.Making judiciary more efficient (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light as how better case management and procedural reforms can go a long way in reducing case pendency. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Indian judicial system has a pendency problem. In this context, lower courts in Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Chandigarh have disposed of almost all cases that had been pending for a decade or more as welcome as it is surprising.
  • Today, there are only a total of 11,000 cases pending for over 10 years in these four states and the Union territory of Chandigarh.

Better reforms

  • This is impressive given that the national pendency count is pegged at around 2.3 million cases. Delhi, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka are also close to clearing out long-pending cases.
  • These figures are only for the lower courts but there are still valuable lessons to be learnt especially since the lower courts are where most cases get stuck. Take, for example, the high court of Punjab and Haryana which has jurisdiction over the lower courts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
  • Almost a decade ago, it set up a case management system—i.e. a mechanism to monitor every case from filing to disposal. It also began to categorize writ petitions based on their urgency. In addition, it set annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases, and began a quarterly performance review to ensure that cases were not disposed of with undue haste.
  • All these measures ushered in a degree of transparency and accountability in the system, the results of which are now apparent.
  • There is also a less obvious lesson to be learnt when it comes to reducing pendency—one that seems counter-intuitive. The accepted wisdom is that courts struggle to keep up because there aren’t enough judges. But this might not be entirely true given that some courts are clearly managing to perform better in the same conditions.
  • A study by data journalism website IndiaSpendhas found no strong direct correlation between judicial vacancies and the performance of a court. The study looked at the lower courts in Tamil Nadu and found that while all courts had missing judges, there was still significant variation in their performances. For example, while a civil case anywhere in the state takes on an average about 2.95 years to be resolved, in the district of Ariyalur, it takes an average of 4.65 years. Similarly, while Chennai’s lower courts dispose criminal cases the quickest, Coimbatore’s lower courts are the slowest.

Judicial case management

  • Judicial case management is one important measure. Here, the court sets a timetable for the case and the judge actively monitors progress. This marks a fundamental shift in the management of cases the responsibility for which moves from the litigants and their lawyers to the court.
  • While some legal experts, such as the former chief justice of Australia, Sir Gerard Brennan, have argued that judges should stick to judicial matters and leave administrative issues to other court officials and staff, others such as Lord Woolf of the UK who worked extensively on reforming the civil justice system in England and Wales believe that the two functions cannot be viewed separately.

Way ahead

  • The Law Commission of India in its 230th report has also offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases. These include providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments, curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary, reducing the time for oral arguments unless the case involves a complicated question of law, and framing clear and decisive judgements to avoid further litigation.
  • In addition, the courts should also seriously consider incorporating technology into the system; digitizing courts records has been a good start in this context but a lot more can be done. For example, just like automation powered by Artificial Intelligence is already helping doctors, it can also be leveraged to assist judges and lawyers.

Question– Critically analyse the problems being face by Indian judiciary to dispose the pendency of cases. What type of reforms can be initiated in this regard?

2.Need of Inclusive growth for India (Live Mint) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on why it is inclusive growth is indispensable for India. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India’s economic performance in recent years has been outstanding in relation to both its own historical record and the global economy. Between 2010 and 2016, for example, annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in India averaged 6.7% despite a relatively weak post-crisis global economy that averaged only 2.7% annual gains.
  • Yet the economic optimism in recent years is now tempered by a growing recognition that many deficiencies in the economy remain deep-seated and if not effectively addressed could undermine future growth.

Employment growth

  • Despite strong economic growth in the last decade, job growth averaged only approximately 2% a year in the formal sector. Such growth is basically flat when adjusted for the growing population. In the coming decades, some 12-15 million Indians will enter the labour force each year, and if the current job growth trends persist, fewer than half of them will be able to secure formal employment of any kind.
  • For those who fail to find formal employment, their only option is to work in the informal economy. It is estimated that about 80% of India’s labour forceworks in the informal economy. Jobs in the informal economy are typically insecure, with neither employment contracts nor regular pay, and very often workers are engaged on a day-to-day basis.
  • The working conditions in the informal economy therefore resemble a low-productivity trap.

Why Inclusive growth is needed

  • Employers have no incentives to invest in training workers who are seen as transient and interchangeable or to invest in better tools and equipment for them. Without some assurance of future income, workers find it difficult to plan for the long term, let alone find the means to invest in learning new skills.
  • The informal economy thus embodies the exact opposite of inclusive growth: workers are effectively excluded from accessing many of the resources they need to make themselves more productive and thereby improve their life chances.
  • This is why advancing inclusive growth is so important in India today.

How to go for Inclusive growth

  • At the most basic level, economic growth results from labour force growth and productivity growth of workers. With 80% of the labour force stuck in low-productivity activities in informal employment, it is not surprising that the Indian economy is performing far below its true potential.
  • For the Indian economy to reach its growth potential, ways and means must be found to move workers from informal to formal employment. Ultimately, the economy can reach its full potential only when the hundreds of millions of Indian workers can escape the trap of low productivity.
  • The good news is that recent reform initiatives are preparing the ground for greater inclusion. The biometric-based unique identification system, Aadhaar, now ensures that the poor are no longer invisible and, therefore, more empowered. A bank account for every adult now ensures universal access to financial services, at least in principle.
  • When combined with Aadhaar, such access will accelerate financial inclusion. The shock of demonetisation and the introduction of the new national goods and services tax will gradually expand India’s tax base and eliminate incentives for businesses to operate in the shadow of the formal economy.

Way ahead

  • Reducing the size of the informal economy is pivotal to inclusive growth. It allows India to reach its growth potential and deliver broadly shared prosperity for the vast majority. Sustaining a real GDP growth rate of 7% each year until 2040 will quintuple per capita GDP to $28,000 on a purchasing power parity basis.
  • By 2040, India will also reach its maximum share of the working-age population. This is a glittering prize endowing its youth bulge with meaningful, well-compensated and rewarding formal employment in a society where prosperity is broadly shared and absolute poverty has become a thing of the past.

Question– What do you mean by inclusive growth? How India can move forward on the path of inclusive growth?

3.Desalination as a way to meet water crisis (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the much-needed desalination approach to meet water security. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India has been witnessing severe erosion of its water table. Increasing extraction of groundwater has also affected its quality.
  • We are fortunate that India is endowed with vast seawater resources spanning over a dozen states and union territories. Ensuring supply of purified sea water through dedicated network in the region would help people immensely.

Lack of focus on sea water as a resource

  • There is no mention of harnessing sea water resources in the draft National Water Policy framework bill, 2016. It is a common perception that conversion of sea water is costly, but this is changing with advancement of technology in the field.
  • Thrust on research and technology up gradation has helped in reducing cost. Water from the desalination process is suitable for most domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. Seawater desalination is increasingly becoming a vital option for alleviating severe water shortage around the world.

Desalinization as a way

  • Israel now gets 55 per cent of its domestic water from desalination and that has helped turn one of the driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants. Australia, North Africa, Caribbean Islands, Middle East, South Africa and USA are some of the other countries that have established desalination plans for domestic use.
  • According to UN World Water Development Report, 2014 more than 17,000 desalination plants are now operating in 150 countries worldwide, and capacity can double by 2020. International Desalination Association claims that desalination produces 21 billion gallons of water per day supplying water in arid regions.
  • In India, a number of desalination plants have been established in states like Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh. The largest seawater desalination plant through reverse osmosis (RO) process supplying 100 million litres of fresh water to Chennai has been established.

Reverse osmosis technology

  • Desalination technologies are advancing rapidly and sea water can now be reclaimed by passing it through RO membranes. In reverse osmonsis, water is singled from a saline solution with dissolved salts by flowing it through a water permeable membrane.
  • The permeate (liquid flowing through water-permeable membrane) is encouraged to flow through the membrane by the pressure differential created between pressurised feed water and the product water. The major energy requirement is for the initial pressurisation of the feed water.
  • Nanotechnology based solutions, especially nano-metal catalysts, are gaining prominence in providing solutions to alleviate water quality problems. Israel has come out with several state-of-the-art technologies. In the US, the largest plant in the Western Hemisphere with state-of-the-art RO facility has been built near San Diego.
  • India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has developed indigenous desalination and water purification technologies. The country’s RO desalination plants primarily intend to meet industrial and potable drinking water requirements

Economic viability

  • The costs for desalination have decreased over the years. Water produced by desalination cost just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Israel’s Sorek plant, which is the largest in the world, can produce a thousand litres of drinking water for 58 cents.
  • According to Desalination Association of India’s estimate, production cost for sea water desalination plant varies between Rs 40 to 50 per cubic metre and the production cost of desalted water from effluent varies from Rs 15 to 50 per cubic metre.
  • According to DAE, on an average, the cost of conversion of sea water into desalinated water is about 10 paise per litre water produce. The energy cost which is a major component could be brought down further if solar, wind or tidal wave are utilised.

Way ahead

  • National water policy should include utilisation of sea water resources for holistic development of country’s water resources. The cost of sea water conversion plants may be shared by Centre, states, local bodies and private companies.
  • Under the government’s Sagarmala project where setting up of major development projects have been contemplated in coastal states, groundwater based development should be discouraged. Instead, treated sea water should be used.
  • Ministry of Urban Development plans to develop 100 smart cities in the country. Desalination plants can be crucial for ensuring regular water supply. Thane Municipal Corporation, which has been selected for the smart city project, has proposed to desalinate creek water and use it for drinking purposes.
  • The desalination plant is reported to be established during the year 2017 and on public private partnership mode. This will ensure water security to the people on a long term basis.

Question– Write a note on water conservation strategies? What is the role of desalinization in this regard?