Meeting India’s electricity needs
Protecting our data
Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of the recent Supreme Court verdict on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
(GS paper II)
- Supreme Court of India recently issued directions to prevent the misuse of provisions of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act). It laid down procedural safeguards to curb false accusations work against the interest of protecting the oppressed from discrimination and caste-based atrocities.
About the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
- The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
- Article 17 of Indian Constitution seeks to abolish ‘untouchability’ and to forbid all such practices. It is basically a “statement of principle” that needs to be made operational with the ostensible objective to remove humiliation and multifaceted harassments meted to the Dalits and to ensure their fundamental and socio-economic, political, and cultural rights.
- The provisions of SC/ST Act and Rules can be divided into three different categories, covering a variety of issues related to atrocities against SC/ST people and their position in society.
- The first category contains provisions of criminal law. It establishes criminal liability for a number of specifically defined atrocities, and extends the scope of certain categories of penalizations given in the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- The second category contains provisions for relief and compensation for victims of atrocities.
- The third category contains provisions that establish special authorities for the implementation and monitoring of the Act
- The SC has ruled that Section 18, which bars grant of anticipatory bail to anyone accused of violating its provisions, is not an absolute bar on giving advance bail to those against whom, prima facie, there is no case. In addition, the Bench has prohibited the arrest of anyone merely because of a complaint that they had committed an atrocity against a Dalit or a tribal person.
- In respect of public servants, no arrest should be made without the written permission of the official’s appointing authority; and for private citizens, the Senior Superintendent of Police in the district should approve the arrest.
- Besides this precaution, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated.
- In doing this, the Supreme Court has sought to strike a balance between protecting individual liberty and preserving the spirit of a law in favour of oppressed sections. Without any doubt, atrocities against Dalits are a grim social reality, necessitating a stringent law to combat it. The Act was amended in 2015 to cover newer forms of discrimination and crimes against Dalits and tribals to add teeth to it. It is true that conviction rates under the Act remain low
- Due to the lackadaisical approach of investigators and prosecutors to bring home charges against perpetrators of such crimes among the dominant castes is reflected in statistics, but in an ideal system, as long as every charge is judicially scrutinised and every investigation or prosecution is fair and honest, one need not worry about misuse and its adverse effects.
Question –Data on SC/ST Atrocities Act Points to Weak Implementation, Not ‘Misuse’, analyse in the context of recent Supreme Court ruling for the SC/ST act.
Meeting India’s electricity needs
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of solar and wind powered microgrid to light up remote areas.
(GS paper III)
- Electricity grid is a very complex system. It involves long-distance transmission of electricity at high voltage, step-up and step-down transformers, and a distribution network at load centres. Various electricity generators and consumers are connected to it.
The concept of grid parity
- Grid parity occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) that is less than or equal to the price of purchasing power from the electricity grid. The term is most commonly used when discussing renewable energy sources, notably solar power and wind power.
- Grid parity can be seen in two different ways-Generator-end grid parity and Consumer-end grid parity.
- Generator-end grid parity is limited to the plant boundary and does not include the cost of the grid system. To ensure that electricity is always available to consumers on a reliable basis, a grid manager has to contract enough electric supply from generators available on demand at all times. In India, the peak demand occurs in the evening, when solar is not available and wind may or may not be blowing. Therefore, the capacity of generators capable of despatching electricity on demand, i.e. despatchable sources, connected to the grid should be more than the peak load.
- The cost of the grid system is often more than the cost of towers, wires, and transformers. It also includes capital and operating cost of storage capacity when provided for and capacity charge paid by the grid manager to meet the peak load. When a grid manager is not able to pay adequate capacity charge, the result is load shedding.
- To analyse consumer-end grid parity, one will have to add system costs to the plant-level costs, and when so examined, solar and wind are far from achieving grid parity. Therefore, a factually correct statement is that ‘solar and wind have reached generator-end grid parity and more research and development is needed before they achieve consumer-end grid parity.’ Such an articulation provides a correct picture to the policymakers.
The cost factor
- As the penetration of solar and wind is increasing, it is desirable to replace the concept of plant-level levelized cost with system-level levelized costs. The ways to deploy solar and wind can be decided by recognising their three characteristics -zero Fuelling Cost, Low Capacity Factors and Intermittency.
- Solar and wind are eminently suitable for isolated deployment such as for powering irrigation pumps. An irrigation pump directly connected to a solar panel can be useful for a farmer as he doesn’t have to depend on the grid. In this application, intermittency of solar is of no consequence.
- In India, as many of the communities still have no access to the central electricity grid, or the supply from the central grid is unreliable. A microgrid getting electricity supply from solar and wind, and connected to consumers in an isolated remote community, is helpful in providing electricity for lighting, in charging mobile phones, and small livelihood applications.
- A storage battery is an integral part of such an isolated microgrid and this increases the cost of electricity. Experience from such installations indicates that consumers are willing to pay for it in return for reliable electric supply. Consumers connected to a community managed microgrid can meet their minimum needs. Until the reliability of the central grid can be assured, solar- and wind-powered microgrid is the way forward for rural and remote communities.
- To compensate for intermittency of solar and wind, despatchable generators have to ramp up generation or back down, and the frequent change in generation level causes wear and tear of machines and increases maintenance costs. All costs are ultimately paid by the consumers or as subsidy by the government, that is, tax payers.
- There is ongoing research in battery technologies, to bring down the cost of electricity storage and improve safety of storage, thereby paving the way for a large deployment of solar and wind. One can expect the International Solar Alliance to direct technology development towards the needs of all developing countries. Another option for large-scale penetration of solar and wind is to install gas-based power plants which can be ramped up and down fast.
- Until electricity generation from hydro and nuclear picks up, coal has to continue to meet India’s electricity requirements. Along with investment in solar and wind, the government must plan for increased investment in both hydro and nuclear.
Question – Solar and wind cannot meet even a quarter of India’s projected electricity requirements, a major share has to come from large hydro, nuclear and coal. Examine the statement.
Protecting our data
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that why India need a strong data protection law.
(GS paper III)
- Statistics from an online data portal, estimates that India had 281.81 million mobile phone Internet users in 2016 and would have an estimated 492.68 million mobile phone Internet users by 2022. In 2019, there would be around 258.27 million social network users in India, up from 168.1 million in 2016. Facebook is projected to reach close to 319 million users in India by 2021.
- This proliferation of digital networking has provided an incredible platform for people to communicate, but its flip side is that individual users are increasingly viewed as legitimate targets for mining personal and metadata. After the Cambridge Analytica crisis exploded, Union Law Minister of India warned Facebook against the misuse of Indians’ data and any attempt to influence the electoral processes of this country.
- Data mined from Indian users of social media may prima facie be used for relatively innocuous purposes such as targeted cross-platform advertising, but analysed in bulk, such data can provide an intimate psychological profile including ideological preferences that together help campaign managers target communications and forecast voter behaviour.
- Apart from this certain risks involved to the very health of democracy stem from the dominance of social media platforms, which not only deliver personalised content to users, but in many cases privilege content based on engagement rather than quality. This limits users’ access to information, which in turn leads to political polarisation and the spread of fake news. And fake news, which has had a considerable impact on electoral politics to the point where it is being investigated by authorities in the U.S.
- The above raises a red flag on the question of data protection laws, which are virtually non-existent in India. It was only in 2017 that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released a White Paper by a committee of experts led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.N. Srikrishna, on a data protection framework for India.
- Until that consultative process agrees upon basic principles to guide data protection laws, India will continue to suffer the existing regulatory framework under the Information Technology Act, 2000, which only identifies six types of “sensitive personal data” and requires entities handling such data to have “reasonable security practices and procedures” in place before collecting the information.
- There is need to know about the strength of data protection in the country. Data protection law is necessary to provide protection to the privacy rights of people and to hold cyber criminals responsible for their wrongful acts. Data protection law is not about keeping personal information secret. It is about creating a trusted framework for collection, exchange and use of personal data in commercial and governmental contexts. It is to permit and facilitate the commercial and governmental use of personal data.
Question – In the wake of Cambridge Analytica crisis, explain the need for stronger data protection law in India.