Mitras Analysis of News : 21-04-2017

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1.Overarching judiciary vis-a-vis separation of powers (Indian Express)

2.National action plan on antimicrobial resistance (Down to Earth, PIB)

3.Privatisation of water (The Hindu)

4.Beacon is off (The Hindu, Indian Express)

 

1.Overarching judiciary vis-a-vis separation of powers (Indian Express)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of unwarranted invoking of Article 142 in the name of public interest. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • In order to be the upholder of democratic and welfare values, Supreme court was vested far-reaching powers including the power of judicial review.
  • Even the court has used its powers for emancipation of poor and vulnerable but many a times excessive resort to Article 142 diminishes the spirit of democracy. The twin tools of Judicial review and article 142 has become a double-edged sword at many instances.

What Article 142 states?

  • Article 142 of Constitution of India deals with Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court.
  • It states that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
  • For instance, Supreme Court of India appointed the new Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh, by exercising powers granted by Article 142of the Constitution.

Judicial review

  • Due to the power of judicial review, the expanse of our Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is unmatched compared to other judicial courts around the world.
  • The Supreme Court has, over the years, created milestones in judicial pronouncements resulting in historic shifts, positively impacting the nation in its onward march for justice.
  • The genesis of Public Interest Litigation in listening to the voice of the voiceless and giving access to the poor, the marginalised and the weak is a unique experiment to be lauded. It has also effectively, on occasion, dealt with the corroding effect of corruption.
  • Moreover, Supreme Court’s rulings dealing with bonded labour, neglected children, the non-payment of minimum wages to workers, violations of labour laws, sexual harassment at the work place, harassment while in police custody, are a few examples where the court has constructively intervened.

Critical Analysis

  • Instances such as above, have earned great reputation to the apex court. But in some areas, the Supreme Court is ill-equipped to make judicial pronouncements. The recent decision invoking Article 142 of the Constitution of India, prohibiting the sale of liquor in establishments, restaurants, vends, etc., within 500 metres of national and state highways makes one question the role of the Supreme Court.
  • Recognising the desire of the court to save lives lost due to drunken driving, such judicial diktats are not the outcome of a legal suit between parties. The location of hotels, restaurants or vends, selling liquor is a pure policy decision, best left to governments to take.
  • Moreover, it can also be questioned as whether the Supreme Court, given the fact that the subject matter of liquor is within the exclusive domain of state legislatures, through judicial diktat, impose a decision on state governments?
  • There will be huge consequences of such an order such as, the hotels would lose their five-star ranking is one such consequence. That millions associated with the liquor business would lose their jobs is another consequence.
  • While judiciary should be praised for its constructive role in emancipating the plight of sufferers but the freewheeling use of Article 142 of the Constitution is a matter of concern.

Economic consequences of overarching judiciary

  • The cancellation of all telecom licenses to serve the cause of public interest without individual liability endangered the survival of entities.
  • Moreover, cancellation of all allocations of coal mines have adversely impacted the balance-sheets of public sector banks.
  • The telecom sector is, till today, reeling under the after-effects of the Supreme Court judgment. One of the consequences of such cancellations is defaults on bank loans. Hence, rising non-performing assets (NPAs) are, to some extent, the result of judicial decisions.

Way ahead

  • Though Supreme Court regards the welfare and well-being of the people as the utmost priority but the habit of Judicial adventurism and judicial overreach should be avoided at all costs. Democracy can best survive if the all three arms of state respect its red lines.
  • Moreover, Judges are not exceptional entities. They, too, are mortals and that’s why they have to be exceptionally careful in rendering decisions, which cause unintended consequences.

Question: What should be the red lines for judiciary. On what principles judiciary should operate to strike a balance between all the organs of state ?

 

2.National action plan on antimicrobial resistance (Down to Earth, PIB)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on The National Action Plan on anti-microbial resistance (AMR).(GS paper III)

Overview

  • Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society and is driven by many interconnected factors. Single, isolated interventions have limited impact, so coordinated action is required to minimize the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
  • A joint declaration “Delhi Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance–an inter-ministerial consensus” was endorsed by the Indian ministries to adopt a collaborative approach for prevention and containment of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the country. It calls on all stakeholders including UN, WHO, FAO and other UN agencies, civil society organizations etc. to support the development and implementation of the national and state action plans on AMR.

What is AMR?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

How it works

Global plan for AMR

  • A Global Action Plan (GAP) on AMR was developed by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health in 2015.
  • The goal of the draft global action plan is to ensure for as long as possible continuity of successful treatment and prevention of infectious diseases with effective and safe medicines that are quality assured and used in a responsible way and accessible to all who need them.

To achieve this goal, the global action plan sets out five strategic objectives:

  • To improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  • To strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research;
  • To reduce the incidence of infection;
  • To optimize the use of antimicrobial agents; and
  • Develop the economic case for sustainable investment that takes account of the needs of all countries, and increase investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

The National Action Plan on AMR

  • With high load of infectious diseases and poor state of sanitation, hygiene and waste management, India cannot afford any more delay and an approach which is short of being aggressive, so a draft national action plan prepared by the National Centre for Disease Control, under MoHFW was released in March 2017.

 Key highlights

 It called for surveillance of antibiotic use in humans, animals and surveillance of antibiotic resistance in humans, animals and environment.

  • The declaration calls for engagement from various stakeholders, including inter-governmental organizations and civil society to support the development and implementation of the plan at national and state levels.
  • It recommends the establishment of a National Authority for Containment of AMR as a nodal agency to monitor the implementation and sustainability of the action plan on AMR.
  • The ambitious and comprehensive plan highlights the need for tackling AMR across multiple sectors such as human health, animal husbandry, agriculture and environment in consideration of the “One-Health” approach.
  • Reduction of environmental contamination with resistant pathogens and antimicrobial residues through strengthening of necessary laws and regulations, environment risk assessment; extended producer responsibility for expired or unused antibiotics.

The Indian NAP focuses on six strategic priority areas-

  • Awareness and understanding through education,
  • Communication and training,
  • Strengthening knowledge and evidence through surveillance,
  • Infection prevention and control,
  • Optimised antimicrobial use in health, animals and food,
  • AMR -related research and innovation and strengthened leadership and commitment at international, national and sub-national levels.

Way ahead

  • The demand for antibiotics continues to rise in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Over the counter sale, high dosage of antibiotics is the biggest threat for antibiotic resistance. In India the cost of healthcare is driving millions into poverty, many people end up buying medicines without prescription, an awareness plan to change people’s behaviour is needed.
  • Effective implementation of the plan would require sustained political will, multi-ministerial involvement, funding support from government and suitable state-level action plans. Recognizing the challenges of implementing this ambitious plan across multiple sectors will be welcome step.

Question: Anti-microbial resistance is a new-age health menace. How far govt.’s efforts has yielded results in this regard?

 

3.Privatisation of water (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the prospects of the privatisation of water in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has published a discussion paper on the need for wholesale and long-term finance (WLTF) banks.
  • These banks will have implications for investment regime and infrastructure development in India.

Water should not be privatised

  • The private sector works on the notion of profit maximisation. But the management of water supply is an issue of rights and a basic need, as acknowledged by the judiciary.
  • When privatisation is mooted as a solution, it comes with a promise that it will create competition and that the consumer will benefit. A look at the power sector shows that this promise has not been delivered.
  • Moreover, water is embedded in the ecosystem. Any attempt to see water only as a commodity is bound to have multiple disruptive consequences.
  • Even water is not merely a commodity, and the urban water sector is not just about supplying fresh potable water to people in urban dwellings. The urban water sector also involves multiple layers, including sourcing of water, only creating infrastructure at so many different levels and managing such created infrastructure along with natural sources, but also aims to achieve a sustainable and optimum system.
  • There are gaps in the urban water sector which are being used as a justification for pushing water privatisation. Gaps include losses, inefficiency, unreliability, corruption, issues of quality, and mismanagement.
  • If we look at the experiences anywhere in the world with privatisation of water, nowhere has it sustained over a long period of time in a comprehensive manner. Even where some piecemeal water privatisation has been implemented, re-municipalisation is the trend.
  • All of these are symptoms; the root cause is lack of democratic governance.

Arguments for privatization

  • The government is the custodian of water on behalf of the people it represents. Having said that, let us ask the question, has the government been able to perform its role of trustee efficiently and responsibly? The answer is a resounding ‘No’

Flaws in present water regime

  • In India, there is over 50% non-revenue water (water put into the distribution network after being treated is untraceable).
  • We have 60% pipe coverage and hardly 4% metering, leading to large wastage of water with no accountability. In sewage, 38,000 million litres per day (mld) of untreated sewage is discharged in lakes and rivers. The Ganga receives 12,000 mld of sewage per day.
  • The result is that 21% of diseases are water-borne; we lose over 10 crore person-days every year due to water-borne diseases.

Case for privatisation

  • As a society, we should not just wait and watch for the government to improve and redeem its promise to deliver drinking water, rather we should try out models like public-private partnerships (PPP) where private sector efficiency can be harnessed with structures ensuring accountability, leading to sustainable development.
  • The PPP model too needs to add another P — to stand for people who have to come on board as the largest stakeholder in the water sector. The involvement of the private operator, who will bring in the investment, would ensure long-term commitment to the cause.

Nagpur Model

  • The Nagpur municipal Corporation has involved the private players and it follows a telescopic tariff structure. The private partner gets paid a fee for every unit (metre cube) of water supplied, billed and collected. So tariff and fees are separated.
  • The PPP model ensures that every bungalow, flat, and slum gets tapped water that is metered and for 24 hours. The largest beneficiaries are the people in the slums who no longer have to wait in queues for six to eight hours to collect their bucket of water.

Centre views

  • India’s most important water resource is groundwater. Groundwater in India is governed by 19th century British Common Law, which states that whoever owns the land has the right to draw unlimited quantities of water from below that land.
  • Consequently, water table across the states is declining. It is not adequately recognised that nearly two-thirds of India’s land mass is underlain by hard rock formations. The natural rate of recharge of these rock formations is very low. Thus, once you extract water from these rocks, rainwater takes a long time to percolate below the ground and restore the water table to its original level.
  • The problem of declining water table is so intense that today we speak of “mining” of groundwater.

Water in Public trust

  • According to National Water Framework Law (NWFL), water is the common heritage of the people of India; an inseparable part of a people’s landscape, society, history and culture; and in many cultures, a sacred substance, being venerated in some as a divinity. Hence, such a resource must never be privatised.
  • Thus, the Public Trust Doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court, rather than privatisation or nationalisation, is the answer to India’s water problems.

Question: Water is provided in most abundance, yet it is scarce. On what lines, the governance of water can be reformed?

 

4.Beacon is off (The Hindu, Indian Express)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of abolishing beacon usage in a bid to end VIP culture. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Government has decided to shake up India’s privileged VIP culture, most notably symbolised by flashing red beacon lights on top of vehicles, by scrapping a rule that allowed the Central and State governments to nominate dignitaries who could use such lights.

The decision

  • The government has decided to do away with beacons of all kinds atop all categories of vehicles in the country as it is of the considered opinion that beacons on vehicles are perceived symbols of VIP culture, and have no place in a democratic country.
  • Moreover, States are also being stripped of their power to specify persons whose vehicles can use blue flashing lights. Effective May 1, only emergency services vehicles such as ambulances, fire engine trucks, and police vehicles will be allowed to use blue lights.
  • Red lights will not be permitted on any vehicle. Private vehicles will not be allowed to use either red or blue lights.
  • For this, the Central Motor Vehicles Rules of 1989 are to be amended, so that the Central and State governments lose the power to nominate categories of persons for the red-beacon distinction.

Critical analysis

  • As a symbol of an assault on India’s over-reaching VIP culture, this is a good beginning. The flashing red beacon has become so closely associated with unchecked official power that in popular culture it is often all that is depicted to establish a character’s place in the hierarchy.
  • But to meaningfully begin to dismantle India’s VIP culture, doing away with status symbols such as red beacons is not enough. For one, this accessory is just one category among privileges that maintain a colonial-era overhang on the country’s democracy.
  • Privileges such as a freer pass at the toll-gate on a highway is one among numerous ways in which the culture of entitlement is asserted.

Way ahead

  • If an equal society is India’s declared objective, politicians and administrators should travel like ordinary people. A number of small privileges will also have to be stripped to bring equity to a deeply classist society.
  • For instance, terrorism had provided the excuse for gifting VIPs with massive security details, whose size and armaments had become expressions of personal status and power, rather like expensive jewellery. It took a public outcry for that aberration to be rationalised. Now, the abolition of car beacons takes us another step closer to egalitarianism. And yet, a long road lies ahead.

Question: With removal of beacons, India is ushering towards abolishing the VIP culture. What more steps should be taken in this regard?

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