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1.Expanding good green cover (The Hindu)

2.India’s aerospace vision 2020 (Live Mint)

3.Explained : Controversy on Exit polls

1.Expanding good green cover (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the judicious usage of funds under the CAF act. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently, centre disclosed that it is not ready with the rules to implement the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 . It demonstrates that the government’s resolve to meet a variety of environmental objectives, including major commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals, remains woefully weak.

What is Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016

  • In 2015, Lok Sabha has passed the much talked about Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill, 2015 that seeks to establish setting up of a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and also a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
  • The bill paves the way for unlocking of nearly Rs.41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent.
  • It seeks to establish the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.
  • The payments into the funds include compensatory afforestation, NPV, and any project specific payments. The National Fund will get 10% of funds collected and the remaining 90% will go to respective State Fund.
  • The collected funds will be utilised for afforestation, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wild life protection and infrastructure development.
  • The act also seeks to establish National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities to manage the funds.
  • The determination of NPV will be delegated to an expert committee constituted by the central government.
  • NPV quantifies the services provided by the forest. It includes goods and services (tourism and timber); regulating services (climate change); and none-material benefits (recreation).
  • It seeks to provide safety, security and transparency in utilization of CAMPA funds which are currently kept in Nationalized Banks and managed by an ad-hoc body. These funds would be brought under the focus of Parliament and State Legislatures by transferring them to non-lapsable interest bearing funds.

As per the act, the CAMPA funds can be used for the following purposes:

  • Artificial regeneration (plantation)
  • Assisted natural regeneration
  • Forest management
  • Forest protection
  • Infrastructure development
  • Wildlife protection and management
  • Supply of wood
  • Other forest produces saving devices.

India’s inactivity

  • It is debatable whether the Act, with the disbursal mechanism through national and State funds that it mandates, is a sound remedy for loss of rich forests that continues to occur because of developmental and biotic pressures. The evidence on compensatory afforestation in a big project such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, for instance, is not encouraging.
  • About 13,000 hectares were compensated there, but only with patchy outcomes: healthy monoculture plantations having low biodiversity value came up in some places, while others resulted in unhealthy plantations with few trees. Be that as it may, diversion of forests for non-forest use seems inevitable to some degree, and the accumulation of about ₹40,000 crore in compensatory funds clearly points to significant annexation of important habitats.
  • The task is to make an assessment of suitable lands, preferably contiguous with protected areas that can be turned over for management to a joint apparatus consisting of forest department staff and scientific experts. 

Need of a scientific plan

  • Putting in place a scientific national plan to expand good green cover is essential, since the sequestration of carbon through sustainably managed forests is a key component of the commitment made under the Paris Agreement. There is already a Green India Mission, which is distinct from the framework envisaged for compensatory afforestation.
  • What the Centre needs to do is to enable independent audit of all connected programmes, in order to sensibly deploy the financial resources now available. It must be emphasised, however, that replacing a natural forest with a plantation does not really serve the cause of nature, wildlife, or the forest-dwelling communities who depend on it, because of the sheer loss of biodiversity.
  • Yet, there is immense potential to augment the services of forests through a careful choice of plants and trees under the afforestation programme.

Way ahead

  • All this can make a beginning only with the actualisation of the law passed in 2016. It is worth pointing out that the method used to calculate the net present value of forests, taking into account all ecosystem services they provide, is far from perfect, as many scientists point out. Some of the momentum for compensatory afforestation has come from judicial directives, but now that there is a new law in place, it should be given a foundation of rules that rest on scientific credibility.

Question: What are the urgent actions that are needed on the part of govt. to tackle the loss of biodiversity via the way of afforestation methods?

2.India’s aerospace vision 2020 (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the potential prospects of aerospace sector. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Over the last two decades, several areas of the economy have been deemed sunrise sectors. This billing meant broad recognition of the sector’s potential to generate vast amounts of jobs and revenue. Policymakers put in place measures such as tax breaks to encourage these sectors. In the past, information technology (IT) and biotechnology (BT) were the two most prominent holders of the sunrise-sector tag. Today, if there is a sector that truly merits that billing, it is aerospace and defence manufacturing.

Potential of aerospace sector

  • At upwards of $50 billion, India has one of the largest defence budgets in the world. By 2018, it is expected to be in the vicinity of $56 billion. In the commercial aviation sector, India remains one of the highest traffic growth markets. It is estimated to become the third-largest aviation market in the world by 2025, and will likely need nearly 1,500 new commercial aircraft by 2030.
  • The government is well aware that timely execution of the modernization plan hinges on creating a large base of domestic manufacturing. It has introduced the long-awaited strategic partnership model that will allow partnerships with overseas companies to manufacture everything from submarines to fighter jets in India.
  • It also opens the doors for Indian companies to form joint ventures with multinational original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for defence production. This model has the potential to create a high-tech defence manufacturing ecosystem. That, in turn, will help in the emergence of cutting-edge mid-sized ancillary companies, along the lines of German mittelstand firms that are relatively small but best-in-class. Indian manufacturers that offer high-quality and innovative solutions at a low cost could become the preferred suppliers for global firms. A handful of midsized Indian companies are already doing that.

A complex task

  • Manufacturing for the aerospace sector is a complex exercise for a number of reasons. It is capital-intensive, has high technological requirements and a prolonged gestation period. Apart from these, there are also the systemic challenges manufacturers face in terms of the supply chain itself. While the industry has come a long way, it is still evolving to overcome the challenges it has traditionally faced: costly raw materials, skilled labour, technological requirements, and the procurement of parts from multiple manufacturers.
  • Manufacturers in Europe and North America have multiple decades of head start over the Indian aerospace industry. India cannot close that gap overnight. But strong collaboration between the government, which would be the biggest customer, and the private sector, can help close the gap faster.
  • A drive towards globalization of the aerospace supply chain has been fuelled by the lowering of trade barriers, decreasing communication and transport costs, the emergence of global service firms and shortage of skilled labour in home markets. This is good news for private companies.

Key challenges

  • There are three key challenges companies face in the aerospace and defence (A&D) sector: access to technology and talent, building scale in a business that is extremely capital-intensive, and the enabling infrastructure and policy environment which can be clubbed together as what is known as the ease-of-doing-business basket.
  • Infrastructure plays a critical role in building an A&D manufacturing base. It requires all stakeholders to think in terms of creating the right ecosystem. The automobile manufacturing sector benefited from having ancillary hubs around large car plants located in Gurugram, Chennai and Pune. The government would do well to encourage the creation of A&D hubs too. Creating clusters helps micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that supply components and sub-assemblies to large manufacturers. The long gestation period and capital intensity often create entry barriers for SMEs in this sector. Vibrant clusters would make it easy for companies to have access to talent and create synergies on logistics.
  • There is already some visible success on this front. Telangana is home to the country’s first public aerospace and precision engineering special economic zone (SEZ). Karnataka too is setting up similar facilities. Boeing continues to expand its footprint in the country in the form of the Boeing India Engineering and Technology Center (BIETC) which is the Indian counterpart to its research and technology organization in the US.
  • What is required in an ideal ecosystem is the setting up of facilities which cater to multiple stages of the supply chain, all in one location. Such manufacturing hubs should ideally allow companies to carry out fabrication, machining, forging, warehousing and a whole lot more in one place. The target is to create an integrated aerospace ecosystem which enables customers to source all their requirements from one place to hasten the time-to-market.
  • Additionally, since the industry needs a skilled talent pool for this highly specialized industry, the creation of educational institutions and universities by the government that are tailor-made for the A&D sector, will go a long way in making India a preferred manufacturing destination

Way ahead

  • While there has been a sea change in the government’s attitude towards private companies in the A&D sector, the defence public sector undertakings, which hitherto held a monopoly, view the private sector as competition. If seen as partners and collaborators instead, the benefits for the nation could be transformative.

Question: Strong collaboration between the government and the private sector can help close the gap between Indian and Western manufacturers faster. Comment.

Explained : Controversy on Exit polls

What is an exit poll? And how is it different from an opinion poll?

  • An opinion poll is a pre-election survey to gather voters’ views on a range of election-related issues. An exit poll, on the other hand, is conducted immediately after people have voted, and assesses the support for political parties and their candidates. 

why is the Election Commission (EC) opposed to media coverage of opinion polls and exit polls during a multi-phase election? 

  • Both kinds of polls can be controversial if the agency conducting them is perceived to be biased. Critics say the projections of these surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn.
  • Political parties often allege that many opinion and exit polls are motivated and sponsored by their rivals, and could have a distorting effect on the choices voters make in a protracted election, rather than simply reflecting public sentiment or views.

When did the EC first attempt to place curbs on such surveys? 

  • The EC held its first consultation with political parties on exit and opinion polls in 1997.
  • In 1998, with Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura around the corner, the Election Commission issued guidelines under Article 324 of the Constitution, prohibiting newspapers and news channels from publishing results of pre-election surveys and exit polls between 5 pm on February 14 and 5 pm on March 7.
  • The first votes in the elections were scheduled to be cast on February 16, 1998, and the last votes on March 7.
  • The EC also mandated that while carrying the results of exit and opinion polls, newspapers and channels should disclose the sample size of the electorate, the details of polling methodology, the margin of error and the background of the polling agency. 

How did the media react to the Election Commission’s guidelines? 

  • There were strong protests from both the print and electronic media, who contended that the guidelines violated their fundamental right of free speech and expression. The EC order was challenged in the Supreme Court and the High Courts of Delhi and Rajasthan.
  • The Supreme Court heard the matter urgently, but did not stay the Commission’s guidelines, making the 1998 Lok Sabha elections the only elections in the country in which both opinion and exit polls were banned for close to a month.
  • After the success of 1998, the EC tried to invoke these guidelines again ahead of the Lok Sabha polls of 1999. But sections of the media refused to follow it, forcing the EC to move court. The matter was referred to a Constitution Bench of the apex court, which expressed concern over the constitutional validity of the guidelines.
  • After the Bench observed that the EC cannot enforce such guidelines in the absence of statutory sanction, the Commission withdrew its plans.
  • In 2004, the EC approached the Law Ministry along with the endorsement of six national parties and 18 state parties, seeking an amendment to the Representation of the People Act to provide for a ban on both exit and opinion polls during a period specified by the Commission. The recommendation was accepted in part, and in February 2010, restrictions were imposed only on exit polls through the introduction of Section 126(A) in the Act.
  • In November 2013, the EC held consultations with political parties to revive its demand to restrict pre-election opinion polls as well. The suggestion was sent to the Law Ministry, but no action has been taken on it so far.
  • Exit polls are banned in India during the course of any elections. Exit polls are banned in India during the course of the actual voting happening and if it is phased elections, then the ban is till the voting in ALL phases are completed.
  • But once the elections are completed, news papers and news channels can show an analysis of various exit polls. This is done to ensure that the voters are not influenced by the results of an exit poll when an election is on.

How do other countries deal with pre-election and exit polls? 

  • Sixteen European Union countries ban reporting of opinion polls, with ban timeframes ranging from a full month to just 24 hours before polling day. Only Italy, Slovakia and Luxembourg have a ban of more than 7 days. A 7-day blackout imposed by France in 1977 was overturned by a court order that deemed it to be violative of the freedom of expression. The French ban has been reduced to 24 hours ahead of voting day.
  • In the UK, there are no restrictions on publishing results of opinion polls however, results of exit polls can’t be published until the voting is over.
  • In the United States, media coverage of opinion polls is regarded as an integral part of free speech in elections, and publication is allowed at any time. The only restriction that exists not reporting likely outcomes from exit polls before voting is over on election day is one that news organisations commissioning the polls voluntarily impose upon themselves. 
  • There is rise of right-wing politics in several countries of the world. Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US demonstrate the popularity of right-wing politics in various parts of the world. Also, right-wing politics is gaining traction in countries like France and Germany.
  • Backed by populism, right-wing politics is becoming more and more popular and widespread in several countries.