1.Should euthanasia be allowed? (The Hindu)

2.The arc to Southeast Asia (The Hindu)

3.Environmental Performance Index (The Hindu, Live Mint, First Post)

 

1.Should euthanasia be allowed? (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issues Euthanasia debate, whether it should be permitted or not? (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Constitution of India under Article 21 guarantees the right to every individual to live with dignity. This is as a Fundamental Right bestowed upon every Indian by the Constitution of India.
  • Euthanasia is such a controversial and subjective concept, all countries treat it differently. The main question contemplate is “Does the right to live with dignity include the right to die with dignity?” or “Does the right to life give us the right to determine our own death?”

Euthanasia in India

  • Euthanasia is also known as assisted suicide, mercy killing or happy release or quietus. Euthanasia being a mode of taking one’s own life is seen under the same legal lens as suicide.
  • Under criminal law in India, Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code actually classifies the act of attempted suicide as a crime punishable by law with imprisonment for a term of up to one year or a fine or both.
  • On March 2011 the Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia by means of the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state. The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug. However, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court of India had termed the judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be ‘inconsistent in itself’ and has referred the issue of euthanasia to its five-judge Constitution bench.
  • On 25th February, 2014, a law was passed by a five-judge bench constituted for the purpose of providing a new set of guidelines on euthanasia. The court acted on a petition filed by an NGO named Common Cause, which argued in favour of the right to die with dignity. It was stated that the procedure set in the Shanbaug verdict did not comply with Article 21 of the Constitution, as the right to life guaranteed by the Article did not include the right to die with dignity under the supreme law of the land. Despite this, the Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia under certain circumstances.
  • At present only passive euthanasia is legal in India and that too only under certain conditions, when the procedure prescribed by law is followed.

VARIOUS VIEWS

In favour

  • Leftist argue that when Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives me the right to life, then it also gave the right to take away my life. The right to life includes the right to live with dignity. When you are in pain, that dignity is lost and you are forced to rely on your kith and kin for support.
  • Narayan Lavate and Iravati Lavate from Maharashtra say that they do not wish to be a burden on society in their old age. They don’t have children and their siblings are no more. They argue that spending the country’s scarce resources on keeping them alive, the old and ailing alive, is a criminal waste.
  • The couple sees the aversion to euthanasia in India as a sign of the country’s “cultural backwardness”. According to Iravati, their desire to die is driven by logic, not spirituality. There is no point in living only because a legal system demands it, she says. At the same time, they are averse to the idea of committing suicide, which is an offence in India.
  • The 2011 judgment helped to push the debate to the extent of permitting passive euthanasia for terminally ill patients under the strict supervision of the High Court, in consultation with a team of doctors treating the terminally ill patient.
  • Passive euthanasia means withdrawing life support to induce death in a natural way. In contrast, active euthanasia means injecting legal drugs to induce death. This is not permitted in India and so the Lavates’ request is unlikely to be heeded.

Against

  • Though Euthanasia is allowed in some countries of the European Union like Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium. But euthanasia is not for everybody. This is a complex issue in every society and the chances of its misuse are high. That’s why it is not accepted as a way of ending the lives of mentally alert and reasonably healthy persons.
  • There is high probability of its misuse, whether it is demanded for property, money, or because of animosity among family members is very high. Usually such killings are classified as homicide, and if the perpetrators are caught, they are punished. Imagine the consequences of legalising this. There will be no limits to its abuse in India and elsewhere.
  • Passive euthanasia is partly permitted and implies withdrawing life support when a person is not mentally alert. The Lavates are physically fit. Nobody should or can allow them to die. They can help society in many ways.

Neutral

  • The right to life is an old debate. When the Supreme Court heard the challenge to the imposition of Emergency, it rejected the argument that in India, the right to life available to a citizen flows from Article 21 of the Constitution, and that if such an Article were to be deleted or suspended; the citizen would have no right to his life under law.
  • To terminate life, even one’s own life, were it to be done without the authority of law, would amount to an unlawful act. In certain cases, it may even be a criminal act. The absence of any law governing the subject results in people taking recourse to courts to seek ‘permission’ to end their own lives, or the lives of others over whom they have some control. These would include petitions for euthanasia filed by persons who do not wish to live, or by relatives on behalf of those who suffer extreme pain or incurable affliction.

Way ahead

  • There is also debate for ‘right to choice’; taking away life is often related to the inability of the affected or concerned individual to live with dignity. The right to life under Article 21 has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as the right to live with dignity.
  • When a person chooses to end her life because she can no longer live with dignity, the question to be asked is not whether she can waive her constitutional right to life, but whether she has a right to choice. The debate extends to whether the fundamental right to life extends to the right to choice, because, after all, there is no overt act required to be performed to live life

QuestionEuthanasia is such a controversial and subjective concept, all countries treat it differently. In your opinion democratic country like India, should make Euthanasia legal or not? Analyse.

 

2.The arc to Southeast Asia (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the need t focus on functional cooperation for making India-ASEAN partnership more exciting. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India is hosting heads of state or government of all 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the Republic Day celebrations in a dramatic declaration of intent by New Delhi to boost India’s ties with Southeast Asia.
  • The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership. The challenge now is to map out next steps in the India-ASEAN partnership at this time of unprecedented geopolitical flux in the wider Indo-Pacific.

Issues  

  • The ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India continues to punch below its weight in the region, New Delhi’s expectations regarding a more robust support for its regional outreach too have not been met.
  • India’s capacity to provide development assistance, market access and security guarantees remains limited and ASEAN’s inclination to harness New Delhi for regional stability remains circumscribed by its sensitivities to other powers. The interests and expectations of the two sides remain far from aligned, preventing them from having candid conversations and realistic assessments.
  • Though the government’s ‘Act East’ policy is aimed at enhancing India’s strategic profile in East and Southeast Asia, but India’s main focus remains on South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. There has been a shift in emphasis, of course, with India moving away from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and asserting its centrality in the evolving geography of the Indo-Pacific.
  • India’s economic focus too is not in tune with other regional powers which view ASEAN as an important market for exports and investments. India’s export sector remains weak and the government’s focus has shifted to boosting manufacturing domestically.
  • India’s interest in ASEAN as a multilateral forum remains lacklustre as it continues to privilege bilateral partnerships to further its own interests. As New Delhi’s gaze shifts to the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar and Thailand have emerged as key players in its south-eastern outreach. The hope is to use these nations as a bridge to ASEAN.

Need of an hour

  • India and ASEAN need to chart out a more operational, though modest, agenda for future cooperation. The three Cs of commerce, connectivity and culture have been highlighted but a more granular perspective is needed in terms of a forging a forward-looking approach.
  • Both the sides need to enhance trade and economic linkages; they can focus on areas such as digital technologies. India, as a fast emerging major player, has significant comparative advantages. India as a facilitator of the ASEAN-wide digital economy would not only challenge China but also emerge as an economic guarantor of its own.

Way ahead

  • Both sides need to focus on more effective delivery of projects it is already committed to. In this context, prompt completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is the key. The plan is to extend this highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in an attempt to project India’s role in the emerging transportation architecture,
  • Improving air connectivity between India and ASEAN countries should also be high on the agenda. Besides, the Bay of Bengal can be used as an exploratory ground for the development of an India-ASEAN maritime framework.
  • Finally, the cultural connect between the two needs strengthening. While India offers scholarships to students from ASEAN states to study at Nalanda University, this initiative should be extended to the IITs and the IIMs. Tourism too can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides.

Question – India and the ASEAN have been very ambitious in articulating the potential of their partnership, but they have been much less effective in operationalising their ideas. Comment.

 

3.Environmental Performance Index (The Hindu, Live Mint, First Post)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recently released Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India is among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, plummeting 36 points from 141 in 2016, according to a biennial report by Yale and Columbia Universities along with the World Economic Forum (WEF).

About the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

  • The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a method of quantifying and numerically marking the environmental performance of a state’s policies. This index was developed from the Pilot Environmental Performance Index, first published in 2002, and designed to supplement the environmental targets set forth in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
  • The report is developed by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The EPI was preceded by the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), the ESI was developed to evaluate environmental sustainability relative to the paths of other countries.

Assessment of the index

  • The top five countries in terms of green rankings are Switzerland, France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden. Switzerland stands out in the categories of climate and energy, and air pollution. Denmark, Malta and Sweden stand out for high scores in air quality within environmental health. Malta scores the highest in water and sanitation.
  • India is the fourth worst country in the world when it comes to handling environmental issues, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) the green rankings released on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meet in Davos.
  • Out of 180 countries, India ranked 177, only better in environmental performance than the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh and Burundi. This is especially worrying because two years ago, India’s rank was 141.
  • The EPI report said that a low rank meant that a nation needed to step up its efforts in cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also said that countries like India, China and Pakistan faced a public health crisis.
  • As countries develop, increased population growth in large cities, as well as increased industrial production and automotive transportation, continue to expose people to high levels of air pollution. Despite government action, pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning, and emissions from motor vehicles continue to severely degrade the air quality for millions of Indians.

Way ahead

  • Though the Centre has formulated the National Clear Air Programme (NCAP). It is long term time-bound national level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner.
  • However, there is need for the objective to augment and evolve an effective ambient air quality monitoring network across the country, besides ensuring a comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

Question – India’s overall low ranking in Environmental Performance Index 2018 was linked to poor performance in the environment health policy. Analyse and suggest some measures.