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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (28th August)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Indus water panel to discuss Pakistan’s objection to Indian projects

  1. India and Pakistan are expected to discuss two under-construction hydroelectric projects, initiated by India on the Chenab basin, at the 115th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission
  2. Pakistan feels that design of two under-construction Indian hydroelectric projects in Chenab basin — Pakal Dul (1,000 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) — violate the Treaty provisions
  3. The Indian side affirms its right to build these projects and holds that their (projects’) design is fully in compliance of the Treaty

About the treaty

  1. The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, brokered by the World Bank and signed by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s president Ayub Khan, administers how the water of the Indus river and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised
  2. Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan, except for certain non-consumptive uses for India

Image result for indus waters treaty

2. India’s first biofuel powered flight undertakes maiden voyage

  1. A historic flight powered by indigenously produced aviation biofuel based on the patented technology of CSIR-IIP Dehradun was flagged off from Dehradun airport
  2. The Spicejet flight, featuring a latest generation Q400 aircraft powered by biofuel was received at Delhi airport
  3. With this maiden flight, India joins the exclusive club of nations using biofuel in aviation

About the project

  1. The genesis of this development goes back several years to an Indo-Canadian consortium project from 2010 to 2013 involving CSIR-IIP, Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore
  2. In this project, research was directed towards the production of Bio-aviation fuel by CSIR-IIP from jatropha oil and its evaluation under various conditions, culminating in a detailed engine test by Pratt and Whitney in Canada that showed fitness for purpose

Benefits of biofuel

  1. The use of bio jet fuel will help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 percent and sulfur oxides (SOx) emissions by over 99 percent
  2. It is expected to provide:
  • indigenous jet fuel supply security
  • possible cost savings as feedstock availability at farm level scales up
  • superior engine performance
  • reduced maintenance cost for the airline operators

3. Government announces Regulations for Drones

  1. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) commonly known as drones
  2. Drone Regulations 1.0 will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018
  3. These are intended to enable visual line-of-sight daytime-only and a maximum of 400 ft altitude operations
  4. Airspace has been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission)

Digital Sky Platform

  1. The Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT)
  2. The UTM operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths
  3. Users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners
  4. For every flight (exempted for the nano category), users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process permits or denies the request instantly
  5. To prevent unauthorized flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off

Key features of Drone Regulations 1.0

  1. As per the regulation, there are 5 categories of RPAS categorized by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large
  2. All RPAS except nano and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies are to be registered and issued with Unique Identification Number (UIN)
  3. Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required for RPA operators except for nano RPAS operating below 50 ft., micro RPAS operating below 200 ft., and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies
  4. The regulation defines “No Drone Zones” around airports; near the international border, Vijay Chowk in Delhi; State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations/vital and military installations; etc

4. Restoring dignity: on stigma attached to leprosy

Though it has been a while that complete cure for Leprosy is discovered, the social stigma attached to it still remains.

Leprosy:

  • Leprosy is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
  • Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years.
  • Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.
  • This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Details:

  • Leprosy is one of the World’s oldest diseases with India accounting to 60% of the annual new cases.
  • In 2005, it was officially declared eliminated as a public health concern in India. This was when the new cases fell to less than 1 per 10,000. Yet India accounts for the largest number of leprosy affected people in the world.

Current Situation:

  • Problems like lack of awareness, social stigma, myths and socio-cultural problems in the society.
  • The colonial laws that predate leprosy eradication programmes and medical advancements remain on the statute book.
  • These were unconscionably discriminatory from the beginning, but even in independent India, where the law has been an instrument for social change, the process of removing them has been bafflingly slow.
  • The Lepers Act of 1898 was repealed two years ago.
  • The time has come to end the stigma and discrimination against the leprosy-affected.

What actions have been taken so far?

  • Two recent developments hold out hope.
  1. The introduction of a Bill in Parliament to remove leprosy as a ground for seeking divorce or legal separation from one’s spouse.
  2. The Supreme Court asking the Centre whether it would bring in a positive law conferring rights and benefits on persons with leprosy and deeming as repealed all Acts and rules that perpetuated the stigma associated with it.
  • The Supreme Court has been hearing a writ petition by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy seeking to uphold the fundamental rights of people with leprosy and the repeal of discriminatory laws against them.
  • The court is seeking to find legal means to ensure a life of dignity for them.
  • The 256th Report of the Law Commission
    • The report came up with a number of suggestions, including the repeal of discriminatory legal provisions.
    • It listed for abolition personal laws and Acts on beggary.
    • The report cited the UN General Assembly resolution of 2010 on the elimination of discrimination against persons with leprosy.
    • The resolution sought the abolition of laws, rules, regulations, customs and practices that amounted to discrimination, and wanted countries to promote the understanding that leprosy is not easily communicable and is curable.

Way forward:

  • It is time for concerted action to end the firmly established discrimination in law and society against those afflicted by it.
  • The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, is only a small step. An affirmative action law that recognises the rights of those affected and promotes their social inclusion will serve a larger purpose.
  • The culture of exclusion that most of them face has to be ended.
  • Misconceptions about the disease need to be removed and the belief that physical segregation of patients is necessary has to be dispelled.

The campaign to end discrimination against those afflicted, and combating the stigma associated with it, is decades old. While governments may have to handle the legislative part, society has an even larger role to play. It is possible to end discrimination by law, but stigma requires more than legal efforts to eliminate.

5. How dams can control floods

In the aftermath of any Kerala tragedy, people are struggling to comprehend what happened and how to cope. A number of experts and politicians have stated various possible reasons for the tragedy.

  • Some have cited ill-thought-out development plans that have affected the sustainability of the Western Ghats, arguing that without thoughtful conservation, this was a tragedy waiting to happen.
  • Some have said that the rainfall was unprecedented.
  • Some others have said that Kochi airport was bound to flood given that it has been built on fields and wetlands adjacent to the Periyar river which swelled to dangerous levels during the floods.
  • Some have blamed dams, which were all opened when they were nearly full, causing heavy floods downstream and greatly affecting the lives of the people there.
  • While criticism and suggestions are natural after a tragedy of this magnitude, we should learn lessons from the experience. The question is, how do we avoid or minimise destruction after such an event?

The purpose of dams

  • The world over, dams are constructed mainly for the purposes of irrigation, power generation, and flood control.
  • While the first two roles are acknowledged, the role of dams in flood control has always been underestimated.
  • It is unfortunate that in both irrigation and hydel projects, flood control is completely ignored.
  • Authorities always look to store the maximum amount of water in reservoirs during the monsoon season, which is then used for irrigation and generation of electricity during the summer months.
  • It is an internationally accepted practice that the water level of a reservoir should be kept below a certain level before the onset of the monsoon season. This is so that when the monsoon rains come, there is space to store the excess rainwater and also so that water can be released in a regulated manner, thus preventing floods downstream when there is heavy inflow to the dams.
  • For instance, in May, Thailand wisely brought down the water level in the dams in the country to below 60% of the storing capacity before the rainy season.

Space in reservoirs:

  • In view of all these problems and to ensure that the flood control purpose of dams is met, it is important that at least 30% of the storage capacity of dams be kept free before the monsoon.
  • While simultaneously allowing discharge of water, it is possible to increase storage slowly as the monsoon progresses.
  • If the monsoons fail and dams fall short of water and there is a shortfall in electricity generation, this is not a loss compared to the possible loss of lives in the event of a flood of this magnitude.

Kerala’s situation:

  • In Kerala too, the dams were not managed well.
  • While earlier too there was no practice of keeping space for greater storage of water, rainfall has never been as torrential as it was this year. Hence, there were no floods.
  • It is difficult to predict what will happen during the ensuing northeast monsoon in Kerala in case of heavy inflow.
  • Whatever is the extra quantity of electricity produced and area of land irrigated because of the risky storage of water the dams, that cannot compensate for the loss of human lives, infrastructure and agricultural land.
  • The estimated loss to the State runs into thousands of crores. It will take years to rebuild Kerala.
  • Kerala receives rainfall mainly during the southwest monsoon and northeast monsoon.
  • These rains are controlled by winds that carry clouds from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Atmospheric depression that controls wind movement cannot be predicted months in advance.
  • The meteorological department can predict rains or cyclones only a few days in advance. Therefore, keeping space in reservoirs before the monsoon begins must be done whether or not there are heavy rains, as no State can afford to take risks in the manner that Kerala did.

Ensuring thoughtful policies:

  • It is time for the government and the public to formulate water management policies for reservoirs in such a manner that dams are used to control floods, not cause them.
  • There should be space for greater storage of water in reservoirs before the onset of monsoon.
  • There is over-dependence on hydel projects to produce electricity. It is time to think of non-conventional sources for electricity generation such as solar, wind and tidal power.
  • The practice of solar power generation in Kochi airport can be copied in similar large-scale projects by other government agencies.
  • The public too should be encouraged to adopt the practice of solar power generation. This will greatly reduce our dependence on dams for power generation.
  • The State Dam Security Authority, if competent, should be entrusted with the task of water management in reservoirs and with taking decisions in emergency situations.
  • The State government, the State Dam Security Authority and the National Water Commission should all be prepared to take bold decisions together on water management so that there are no such devastating floods in the future.

6. Ways to read the Constitution

The arguments with respect to the Sabarimala case in the Supreme Court case have triggered interesting thoughts on the Constitutional Interpretation. The argument that prohibition of entry of women into the temple is violation of Article 17 was resisted on the contention that the prohibition of untouchability was historically intended only to protect the interests of the backward classes. The claim is that the makers of the Constitution never envisioned including women within the ambit of untouchability.

 

Details:

  • ‘Sabarimala’ is a test case for freedom of religion, women’s rights and also constitutional interpretation
  • It raises issues about religious freedom, gender equality and the right of women to worship.
  • The petitioners have argued that discrimination based on biological reasons is not permissible going by the constitutional scheme. They maintain that due to the current exclusion, the right of women to worship the deity is violated.
  • It was also argued that the exclusion is a form of ‘untouchability’ – which is against Article 17, since the exclusion is solely based on notions of purity and impurity.
  • The Temple Board in support of the ban have cited it as an age-old custom. It forms a part of ‘essential religious practice’ of worshippers under Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • It was also urged that matters such as who can or cannot enter the temple are covered under the rights to administer and manage religious institutions, under Article 26.

 

A specific acknowledgment:

Certain observations about the abolition clause are important.

  • Article 17 is emphatic in its wording: “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
  • It is peculiar since it abolishes a social practice in any form. All the other provisions in the same chapter lay down substantive fundamental rights.
  • In spite of the specific equality and anti-discrimination guarantees in the Constitution, Article 17 is inserted to specifically acknowledge and remove the social stigma associated with certain castes. It was enacted in an attempt to eradicate historical inequality.
  • I. Muniswamy Pillai said in the Constituent Assembly that “the great thing that this Constitution brings to notice, not only to this country but to the whole world is the abolition of untouchability.”

Two approaches:

The two arguments reflect the two approaches to reading the Constitution.

  1. The original intent approach: Based on the intent of the framers of the Constitution when they drafted the text.

For example, an originalist will adopt a certain understanding of a constitutional right — say, the right to same-sex relationships under the right to liberty promised under Article 21 only if she is convinced that the drafters intended that. She may argue that the framers never thought of such a situation and, therefore, a same-sex couple cannot have a constitutional right under Article 21. In fact, a similar argument has been made in the debates in India on homosexuality. Article 15 urges the state from discriminating on grounds such as religion, caste and sex. By relying on the originalist approach, it was asserted that the makers of the Constitution meant the word ‘sex’ under Article 15 only in the binary sense of ‘male and female’.

  1. The Living Tree Doctrine: It involves understanding the Constitution to be an evolving and organic instrument. For the living tree theorists, it matters little what the intentions were at the time of Constitution making. What matters the most is how the Constitution can be interpreted to contain rights in their broadest realm.

 

  • Over time, originalism (original intent approach) as a method of constitutional interpretation has been subject to serious criticism for being too rigid and inflexible.
  • In B.C Motor Vehicle Reference (1985), the Canadian Supreme Court, while rejecting originalism, said that such a method would mean that “…the rights, freedoms and values embodied in the Charter in effect become frozen in time to the moment of adoption with little or no possibility of growth, development and adjustment to changing societal needs.”
  • The Living Tree Doctrine is very prominent in Canadian jurisprudence. The moral reading of the Constitution, propounded by Ronald Dworkin, also complements the living tree approach.
  • Dworkin says in Freedom’s Law that “according to the moral reading, these clauses must be understood in the way their language most naturally suggests: they refer to abstract moral principles and incorporate these by reference, as limits on government’s power.”

 Following the living tree approach:

  • The ‘living tree’ approach being an alternative and a finer reading of the Constitution supports a broader interpretation of Article 17.
  • It is opined that, even if the framers of the Constitution intended this provision to address a specific category of discrimination, the constitutional court must adopt an interpretation to include women under Article 17.
  • Women have been kept out of Sabarimala because of menstruation. As a distinct class, they are being discriminated against.
  • If certain castes are considered ‘impure’ because of their social status, menstruating women are considered to be so because of their gender.
  • The criteria are different but the effect of exclusion is common. It seems that such an interpretation does not do any violence to the language and content of Article 17, but only liberates it.
  • In Living Originalism in India: Our Law and Comparative Constitutional Law (2013), Sujit Choudhry argues that untouchability and the exclusion of the homosexuals are comparable.
  • He says that “the treatment which homosexuals experience today is similar in kind to that which ‘untouchables’ experienced and which prompted the adoption of Article 17, in that the treatment of homosexuals likewise flows from their social status.” This is a case where discrimination is based solely on sexual orientation.

Therefore, in essence, the Sabarimala case is a test case not only for freedom of religion and women’s rights but also for constitutional interpretation. It presents to the court an exemplary opportunity for an alternative reading of the Constitution. If the court indeed reads Article 17 to have a wider meaning, it will signal a new era of transformative constitutionalism in Indian jurisprudence.

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