1.Time to reclaim the forgotten darkness in our lives (Down to Earth)

2.Office of profit (Indian Express)

 

1.Time to reclaim the forgotten darkness in our lives (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how light pollution is playing havoc with age-old rhythms of life of sleep, procreation, metabolism, migration and foraging. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Light pollution, unlike other forms of contamination and waste, remains largely overlooked and unregulated in many countries. It is important to learn the cause, types, and effects of light pollution, and how adjusting your outdoor lighting habits can reduce this form of waste.

What is light pollution

  • Light pollution, also known as photopollution or luminous pollution, is the excessive, misdirected or invasive use of artificial outdoor lighting. Mismanaged lighting alters the color and contrast of the nighttime sky, eclipses natural starlight, and disrupts circadian rhythms (the 24-hour processes of most organisms), which affects the environment, energy resources, wildlife, humans and astronomy research. The threat of light pollution continues to grow as the demand for artificial light increases each year.
  • Photopollution is not a new phenomenon. Over the last 50 years, as countries became affluent and urbanized, demand for outdoor lighting increased and light pollution sprawled beyond the city limits and into suburban and rural areas. This form pollution is now prevalent in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Intensity of light pollution

  • Light pollution is captured most tellingly in satellite images of Earth. According to a recent study published in Science Advances, satellite shots taken every October between 2012 and 2016 show that the world is not only getting warmer but also brighter. The US especially is so flushed in this artificial glow that children growing up there now may never see the Milky Way. The story in western Europe is not much different either.
  • Lighting is colonising the rest of the world too at a brisk pace. Indeed, according to the study, most of the growth in lighting came from developing countries Africa still has large patches of darkness while India and China appear flood-lit. This is in line with earlier studies that suggest that lighting grows with rising GDP. So, the world is set to get even brighter in the times to come.
  • Curiously, while satellite images show that developed countries like the US have reached a saturation point, authors of the study point out that the brightness might well be increasing as the satellite used in the study cannot pick up the blue light of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are rapidly replacing the old sodium lamps because they consume less energy and last longer, and hence contribute less to the carbon budget.
  • One can see them sprouting almost everywhere in big cities now—in parks, at homes, on streets and across stadia and malls, among other spaces. This is yet another illustration of Jevon’s paradox, which states that, contrary to common sense, doing more with less does not necessarily lead to parsimony.

Impacts of light pollution

  • On the face of it, light pollution may not seem as hazardous as air pollution, but it can play havoc with age-old rhythms of life for instance, of sleep, procreation, metabolism, migration and foraging that have evolved over millions of years in harmony with natural cycles of light and darkness.
  • For instance, a recent study published in the journal Nature reveals that artificial light drove nocturnal pollinators away from plants. Another British study found that trees bathed in artificial light burst their buds earlier. Likewise, many studies have documented how artificial light acts as false beacon or deadly siren for many species of insects, migratory birds, nocturnal creatures like bats and owls, as well as for a host of marine life. As for its impact on plants, we haven’t even scratched the surface. Forget about other forms of life, for they are convenient scapegoats for modern civilisation’s crimes agai nst ecology.
  • We are not even willing to come to terms with how light pollution might be disrupting the lives of our own species. It’s common lore now that our wanton flirtation with the day-night cycle is behind the epidemic of insomnia afflicting the world. Besides, a growing body of evidence suggests that light pollution may be linked to cancer, obesity, depression and dementia.
  • And yet we continue to transgress the natural line between light and darkness through artificial lighting, not just through electric lights but now through our addiction to laptops and smartphones. Indeed, last year’s Nobel Prize in physiology was conferred on three US scientists for unravelling the complex links between circadian rhythm (in other words, inner biological clock) and the external environment. Many believe this should be a wake-up call to reclaim and revive the forgotten darkness in our lives.
  • Fascination with darkness, especially its connection with sleep, has a much older vintage. The ancient Indian text called the Mandukya Upanishad talks about a state of consciousness called turiya (fourth state) that occurs only in deep darkness of the midnight hour, and transcends the other three—waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. Other cultures too refer to something similar—Tahajjud or the Night Prayer in Islam, and Tikkun Chatzot or the Midnight Repair in Judaism, which, however, has become very rare, thanks to the encroachment of darkness by the ubiquitous electric lamp.
  • But darkness also inspired fear, so humans learnt to pierce it with fire long before (about 250,000 years ago) Edison’s famous invention. In fact, in his book Catching Fire, Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham argues that gathering and feasting around fire with others is what made us human. As time went on, human ingenuity devised ever-more efficient ways to encroach upon darkness, from wax candles, oil lamps and gaslights to eventually the electric bulbs, which have colonised almost all parts of the globe today. More than 60 per cent of the world, and close to 99 per cent of the US and Europe, now lives under a sepia sky tainted with light.

Way ahead

  • How does one resist this mass illumination so that we can experience not only the cosmic experience of the night sky but also the primeval pleasure of deep sleep? It would be foolish to go around smashing electric lamps, as the Parisians did with the lanterns in the 18th century mourn as we may the loss of darkness, the truth is we cannot do without lighting.
  • Nevertheless, we can at least take the edge off it by making it less harsh and less pervasive. For a start, as the world switches to energy-efficient LEDs, we should opt for the much softer red or orange glow instead of the blue, which stymies melatonin, the sleep-inducing chemical. Second, go dark for several hours at night, as some cities like Chicago and Paris have been doing over the past few years. Third, go for shaded lamps instead of the open or sky-facing ones that pollute more. Lastly, as much as you can, avoid using laptops or smartphones a couple of hours before going to sleep.

Question: It is high-time to give up a wake-up call to reclaim the forgotten darkness in our lives. Comment.

 

2.Office of profit (Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the concept of office of profit and its related aspects. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • One of the earliest cases on the issue of office of profit was in 1953. Recently, in a case involving the issue of office of profit, EC had to decide whether MLAs of the Vindhya Pradesh Assembly should be disqualified for appointment as members of the district advisory council.

Basic criteria to disqualify an MP or MLA?

  • Basic disqualification criteria for an MP are laid down in Article 102 of the Constitution, and for an MLA in Article 191. They can be disqualified for: a) Holding an office of profit under government of India or state government; b) Being of unsound mind; c) Being an undischarged insolvent; d) Not being an Indian citizen or for acquiring citizenship of another country.

What is ‘office of profit’?

  • The word ‘office’ has not been defined in the Constitution or the Representation of the People Act of 1951. But different courts have interpreted it to mean a position with certain duties that are more or less of public character.
  • However, a legislator cannot be disqualified from either the Parliament or state Assembly for holding any office. It can be done for holding: a) An office; b) An office of profit; c) An office under the union or state government; d) An office exempt by law from purview of disqualificatory provisions. All four conditions have to be satisfied before an MP and MLA can be disqualified.

How do courts or EC decide whether an MP or MLA has profited from an office?

  • The Supreme Court, while upholding the disqualification of Jaya Bachchan from Rajya Sabha in 2006, had said, “For deciding the question as to whether one is holding an office of profit or not, what is relevant is whether the office is capable of yielding a profit or pecuniary gain and not whether the person actually obtained a monetary gain.
  • If the office carries with it, or entitles the holder to, any pecuniary gain other than reimbursement of out of pocket/actual expenses, then the office will be an office of profit for the purpose of Article 102 (1)(a).
  • However, a person who acquires a contract or licence from a government to perform functions, which the government would have itself discharged, will not be held guilty of holding an office of profit. So, acquiring a gas agency from the government or holding a permit to ply do not amount to holding office of profit.

Why ‘office of profit’ has been kept as a criterion for disqualification?

  • Makers of the Constitution wanted that legislators should not feel obligated to the Executive in any way, which could influence them while discharging legislative functions. In other words, an MP or MLA should be free to carry out her duties without any kind of governmental pressure.

What was the first office of profit case referred to the EC?

  • One of the earliest cases was in 1953. The EC had to decide whether MLAs of the Vindhya Pradesh Assembly should be disqualified for appointment as members of the district advisory council. As members, they were paid an allowance of Rs 5 for each day they stayed at the place where the meeting of the advisory council was held.
  • The EC was of the opinion that reimbursement of mere out-of-pocket expenses should not be held as profit. So, only members living in the district headquarters (where the meetings were being held) and still receiving allowance were deemed to hold office of profit, and 12 of 60 were disqualified.

What are the recent instances of disqualification of legislators for holding office of profit?

  • In March 2006, President APJ Abdul Kalam disqualified Jaya Bachchan of the SP from Rajya Sabha with retrospective effect from July 14, 2004, for holding an office of profit as chairperson of the UP Film Development Council. In January 2015, UP MLAs Bajrang Bahadur Singh (BJP) and Uma Shankar Singh (BSP) were disqualified from the assembly after they were indicted by the Lokayukta for bagging government construction contracts by misusing their position.

Question: What are the significant take away from the concept of office of profit on the issue of neutrality of legislators.