Mitras Analysis of News : 27-03-2017

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1.The river as being (The Hindu)

2.Revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine (The Hindu)

3.Building a legal ecosystem for Aadhaar (Live mint)

 

1.The river as being(The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent court judgement which declared Ganga and Yamuna as living beings.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Ganga is often called as India’s lifeline. it has significant economic, environmental and cultural value attached to it. Originating in the Himalayas and flowing into the Bay of Bengal, it travels for more than 2,500km through the plains of northern and eastern India, passing through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns.
  • The Uttarakhand high court has acknowledged the Ganga and the Yamuna as living beings, enjoying all the legal rights along with duties. It tries to give the rivers, a legal voice.

The case

  1. The issues before the High Court were: removal of illegal constructions on the banks of a canal in Dehradun, and the division of water resources between Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  1. The High Court guided to remove the constructions along with the constitution of the Ganga Management Board and prohibited mining of the Ganga riverbed and its highest flood plain area.
  1. No action taken up even after months have been elapsed.
  1. Next, the court recorded how the rivers provide ‘physical and spiritual sustenance’ to half the Indian population. It found the constitution of the board to be necessary for various purposes including irrigation, water supply, and power generation.
  1. Hence, eventually the court found it pragmatic to give legal status to the rivers as living persons.

Parens patriae jurisdiction

  • Parens patriae, literally ‘parent of the country’, is an inherent power of the sovereign, and not the courts, to provide protection to persons unable to take care of themselves.
  • It was (in)famously deployed by the Indian government in the Bhopal Gas tragedy case to represent the claims of the victims.
  • The Director, Namami Gange, the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand have been appointed as the persons in loco parentis i.e. persons who will act ‘in the place of parents’ for the two rivers.
  • These officers are now expected to act on behalf of the rivers for their protection and conservation. They are ‘bound to uphold the status’ of the rivers and also to promote their health and well-being.

Implications of the decision

  • Recognizing the rivers as a living entity grants them new found legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India.
  • The two rivers thus have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed/destroyed. They can also be parties to disputes.
  • This could be an extremely useful tool in fighting actions like dumping of waste in the river, instead of having to show that a given person or persons is harmed because of the consequences of dumping waste in the water. The dumping of waste will now directly constitute harm.
  • The decision is likely to boost the Namami Gange (Clean Ganga) Mission, a pet project to clean and revive the river. The centre approved an outlay of Rs20,000 crore for five years for the centrally financed mission and created a ministry to focus on it. To reach out to people along the river, the government has been working on developing villages as part of its programme. In the first phase, 400 villages are being developed.

International Examples

  • While the idea of a river being recognised as a ‘living entity’ might be new to India. However, nature having legal rights is an idea already classified in the countries like Ecuador and New Zealand.
  • Ecuador actually became the first country to recognise the ‘Rights of Nature’ in its Constitution. Rather than treating it as a property, and hence right-less, the constitution treats nature as having the “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.”
  • Recently, New Zealand’s Whanganui River also won personhood rights.
  • But unlike the comprehensive Bill passed by the New Zealand Parliament recognising the rights and settling claims, in India the direction is provided by the court and can lead to judicial activism.

Way ahead

  • More than 1500 million litres of raw sewage is being discharged into the Ganga river every day. This joins 500 million litres of industrial waste discarded by more than 700 highly polluting industries located along it. Hence, a more concrete plan for solid waste management is also required on the priority basis.
  • It is an extension of the philosophy of allowing a river to flow freely as was intended in its nature. Any interference with the river as a whole, including construction of dams, takes away from its essential and basic character. Such a move by court would involve a re-look into construction activities across the river such as sand mining and construction of dams.

Question: Starting from recognising rivers as legal persons, what else innovative methods can be devised to preserve the ecology?

2.Revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the need to recalibrate India’s nuclear doctrine.(GS paper III)

Overview

  • Though India upholds the “No first Use” nuclear policy but India’s stand in event of Chemical weapon attack remains unclear.
  • A more deliberation is required on the fate of India’s response in an event of Chemical attack and the regularization of nuclear weapons.

India’s nuclear doctrine

  • India’s nuclear policy is underpinned by a categorical and unambiguous commitment to “no first use” of nuclear weapons against nuclear armed adversaries and the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states.
  • This is rooted in a deep-rooted cultural belief that the use of force to resolve inter-state disputes is a repugnant concept. Even though India was subjected to numerous invasions throughout the second millennium, particularly through the Khyber Pass in the northwest, India’s strategic approach continued to be rooted in a philosophy of defensive-defence.
  • This policy is not only consistent with its strategic culture, but also extremely responsible and mindful of the horrendous destruction that nuclear weapons can cause. India also opted to develop only a credible “minimum” nuclear deterrent due to the widespread recognition that nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of warfighting and their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
  • There is a broad national consensus on the development of a credible minimum nuclear deterrent capability and the doctrine of no first use. Minimum deterrence may be defined as a small force of survivable nuclear weapons (that) would deter an adversary from initiating military action that would threaten a nation’s vital interests.

Need of recalibrating nuclear doctrine with chemical attacks

  • Chemical weapons and attacks are infiltrating the nations with much more catastrophe than traditional weapons, hence a need arises to make them accountable.
  • Recent assassination of North Korean Kim Jong-nam by the chemical agent VX, which was almost certainly organised by elements within the North Korean state, adds another layer to questions about making sponsors of chemical attacks accountable.
  • Though 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention has succeeded in only partly making their use utterly inacceptable but an umbrella regime for their regularisation and proliferation has been lacking. They have been used frequently in Syria and Iraq, where their recent use has been attributed to the Islamic State.
  • India also adopted the intent of nuclear retaliation even against attacks with chemical and biological weapons (CBW) in 2003.
  • The implications of India’s declaration of resorting to nuclear retaliation against a ‘major attack’ with chemical and biological weapons on NFU and non-use against nonnuclear weapon states require more deliberation. Nuclear retaliation would be a response ‘option’ in case of a ‘major’ CBW attack. In effect, CBW attacks not amounting to a ‘major’ level would not draw a nuclear response.

Way ahead

  • Nuclear weapons are more than just a military tool. They are a full fledged deterrent in themselves. To require them to do more is to infuse these weapons with even more political meaning than they now carry.
  • Government should outline a detailed policy as what will amount to the “major attack” in which government will retaliate.
  • Moreover, chemical weapons like VX are no less than most fatal weapons in terms of harm that can be inflicted by these. Hence, chemical attacks as happened in Syria should be treated no less than nuclear attacks.

Question: Does India’s nuclear policy creates sufficient deterrence in order to achieve regional peace? What more can be done by govt. to make it more responsive?

 

3.Building a legal ecosystem for Aadhaar (Live mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recent move by Government to make Aadhaar mandatory.  (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Aadhaar had been a landmark move at ensuring the documentation of millions of citizens living in remote corners. Government sees it as an essential tool that can be used at nearly any point of contact between state and citizen.
  • The government passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act and has since made Aadhaar mandatory for a number of schemes.

Benefits of Aadhaar

  1. It presents a unique opportunity to improve governance processes and outcomes. Bridging the many gaps in existing benefits systems helps citizens on multiple levels. It ensures delivery of benefits to those who need them.
  1. It prevents leakages and siphoning of funds, it saves taxpayer money. With direct benefits transfers, it reduces the points of contact between state and citizens, thus reducing retail corruption, the most persistent and intrusive form of corruption.
  1. An Aadhaar number will now be mandatory for ex-gratia payments to Bhopal gas leak victims, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme, National Action Plan for Skill Training of Persons with Disabilities and National Health Mission.

Recent issue

  • The Supreme Court in two separate judgments in 2015, allowed the government to use Aadhaar for distributing LPGs, for Public Distribution System, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, while clarifying that such use could not be made mandatory until further orders.
  • However, the government recently made Aadhaar mandatory for filing tax returns, and for several other schemes.
  • But there is lack of consensus between judiciary and executive, regarding voluntary or mandatory nature of the Aadhaar card for all welfare schemes of govt.
  • However, the court said that the purely voluntary nature of the use of Aadhaar card to access public service will continue till the court takes a final decision as whether the Aadhaar scheme is an invasion on the right to privacy of a citizen.
  • However, until such there is legal clarity, the government cannot simply ignore court directives. Doing so leaves the scheme open to potentially disruptive litigation; it sets an undesirable precedent; and it entrenches the idea that citizens’ rights are an acceptable price to pay for efficient governance.
  • The second issue pertains to Aadhaar’s growth beyond subsidies and benefits in a legal environment that lacks an essential component for such an expansion. Given the particularly sensitive context, what will be the regulations on database sharing? Such questions and issues should be dealt in great detail.

Way ahead

  • There is an obligation upon the Government to make sure that Aadhaar is statutorily foolproof, before making it mandatory.  A legal ecosystem for Aadhaar that is supported by constitutionality is essential.
  • Moreover, the issues related with privacy should also be considered as it is a huge grey area in the Aadhar legislation. Citizen’s privacy cannot be entirely overlooked just for the sake of efficiency and governance.

Question: How far aadhar can achieve the dream of efficiency in governance. What should be the government’s strategy to deal with the concerns of privacy in Aadhar?

Ugadi – The Kannada New Year

·         The people of Karnataka consider Ugadi to be an auspicious time for commencing new ventures. This is the time when New Year’s Day is also celebrated in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

·         While it is called Ugadi in A.P. and Karnataka, in Maharashtra it is known as Gudipadawa.

 Origin of Ugadi

·         The term “Ugadi” has its origin in the Sanskrit word “Yugadi”, that means ‘starting of a new Yuga or period’. This traditional festival is usually celebrated in the second half of March or in early April. People from all over Karnataka celebrate this festival with much enthusiasm and gaiety.

Significance of Ugadi

·         Ugadi marks a change in the lunar orbit as well as the beginning of the new Hindu lunar calendar. It also heralds the advent of spring. Mother Nature awakes from her deep slumber to give birth to new plants and cover earth in a blanket of green.

·         As spring accompanies new life on earth, this festival of New Year accompanies a feeling of joy, growth and prosperity. The nine-day long spring festival of Vasanta Navratri begins on this day and concludes on Ramnavami.

·         Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar. It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the new year. The most important thing in the festival is Panchanga Shravanam – hearing of the Panchanga.

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