Big issues, Environment, GS-3

Coastal Regulation Zone & Sailesh Nayak Committee

About Coastal Regulation Zone

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, notification was issued in 1991 for regulation of activities in the coastal area by Ministry of Environment and Forests. These notification known as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification defined the Coastal Regulation Zone or CRZ as coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line and a range of 100m along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwaters and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations is CRZ. According to Coastal Regulation Zone notifications, it is divided into 4 zones

coastal-regulation-zone-sailesh-nayak-committee
CRZ I
– It refers to the ecologically sensitive areas, essential in maintaining ecosystem of the coast. These lie between the HTL and LTL. Only exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt is permitted 

  • CRZ II – These areas form up to the shoreline of the coast.  Authorized structures are not allowed to be constructed in this zone
  • CRZ III – This includes rural and urban localities. Only certain activities relating to agriculture and public utilities allowed here
  • CRZ IV – This includes the aquatic area up to the territorial limit (12 nautical miles). Fishing and allied activities permitted in this zone. Solid waste can be let off in this zone.

 

The CRZ notification,1991 saw a series of reviews and amendments and was eventually replaced with a new notification in 2011. One of the critiques of the 1991 notification was that it did not account for the concerns of coastal communities. The 2011 notification tried to address (in how much ever limited manner) this lacuna by creating the District Level Coastal Committees (DLCC), a space for coastal communities to participate in some aspects of regulatory decision-making on the coasts. While the exact role of these committees was not specified, and in many states the committees are yet to be fully functional, it was still a start.

 

About Sailesh Nayak Committee:

The Sailesh Nayak Committee was formed with an objective to review the issues relating to Coastal regulation zone 2011. The CRZ Regulations amended in 2011 had dissatisfied a lot of States. The CRZ notification 2011 enshrined the concept of a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP). It was to be prepared with the fullest involvement and participation of local communities. The amendment had mandated all states to submit coastal development plans for Centre’s approval which were pending since 1991, the date of CRZ notification.

Its other objectives were

  • Protection of livelihoods of traditional fisher folk communities
  • Preservation of coastal ecology
  • Promotion of economic activity that are necessarily  located in coastal regions

 

Recommendations of Sailesh Nayak Committee:

 

  1. The committee acknowledged the discrepancy in baseline data demarcating the High Tide Line, the Low Tide Line and the coastal zone boundary which has created difficulties in preparing Coastal Zone Management Plan. The Committee observed that such plans are essential for the proper implementation of any CRZ notification
  2. The Committee proposed changing the definition of No Development Zone. It is reduced from 200 metres from the high tide line to 100 meters only. This has been done to meet increased demands of housing of fishing and other traditional coastal communities.
  3. Weaken regulation – It recommends that except for activities covered under environmental clearances, the state governments along with the local authorities should be left in charge of managing coasts in towns, rural areas as well as the waters up to 12 nautical miles. These relaxations are only for activities not covered under Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006.
  4. The Committee has recommended that local town regulations be preferred over existing Coastal Regulation Zone.
  5. States to determine the Floor Area ratio rather than centre under Coastal regulation Zone.
  6. Opening of seas for reclamation of lands for array of activities allowed. Calling for ‘larger public interest’ the panel has said that land can be reclaimed for “ports and harbour, fisheries-related activities and other infrastructure required in the larger public interest such as bridges, sea-links on stilts, roads, important national installations related to coastal security, tourism etc.
  7. States are permitted, if they want to redevelop and rehabilitate slums in coastal zone.
  8. Construction and other activities could be taken up in CRZIII (rural areas) zone just 50m from the HTL in densely populated rural areas under state norms with the responsibility to rescue and rehabilitate during disasters left to local authorities
  9. The Committee proposed new, lightly regulated tourism in the No Development Zone
  10. Determining the list of restrictive activities has been recommended to be left to the states and Centre will involve itself with matters that come under Environmental regulations.

 

Importance of the CRZ Notification:

 

  • India has a long coastline of 7516 km, ranging from Gujarat to West Bengal, and two island archipelagos (Andaman Island and Lakshadweep).
  • Our coastal ecosystems provide protection from natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis to the 250 million people who live in our coastal areas.
  • Coastal waters provide a source of primary livelihood to 7 million households.
  • Our marine ecosystems are a treasure trove of biodiversity, which we are only beginning to discover and catalogue.

 

Thus, our coastline is both a precious natural resource and an important economic asset, and we need a robust progressive framework to regulate our coast.

 

Status of the Report:

The committee was formed in 2014 and its report was made available to the public only in June 2016 after intervention by CIC. While the ministry has has not publically approved the findings of the report, the recommendations have been a source of several piecemeal but substantive amendments. For instance, upon request by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to amend the CRZ regulation to allow for construction of a road, the notification was amended to allow “land reclamation for construction of coastal road”. So far the ministry has implemented 8 amendments on the basis of findings of the report.

 

Assessment of the Recommendations

 

  • Environmental Impact

 

      • Opening of seas for reclamation for projects in “public interest” can open a pandora’s box with respect to sustainable management of coasts. Overexploitation in the name of development can affect marine life and coastal ecosystem. For instance, while constructing road by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the local population complained extensively of pollution
      • With the environmental clearance regime also relaxed especially for construction activity recently,  if implemented, the Nayak committee recommendations could lead to a construction boom along the coast line.
      • Allowing construction activities so near to the coast will put the local population at greater risk from tsunamis etc. Allowing construction activities can also lead to depletion of mangroves, forests near coasts which act as the first line of defence in case of tsunamis, cyclones etc
      • Proposing new, lightly regulated tourism in “no development zones” is also an extraordinary measure. The proper course would be to identify specific areas for such activity, assess its environmental impact, demarcate the area under the State’s management plans, and fix responsibility for enforcement, particularly for pollution control.

 

  • Economic Impact

 

      • According to International Collective in Support of fisheries, any change in 2011 notification will directly impact 3200 marine fishing villages and 1.5 million people whose livelihood is dependent on fishing and allied activities
      • For instance, post construction of road by MCGM, the local fishermen complained that the ferry route to the proposed route pass through their fishing ground and adversely impact their livelihood

 

  • Governance Impact

 

      • Transferring control of development in CRZII zone (built up cities and towns) from the environment department to state town planning authorities raises question over uniformity, efficacy and capacity of state town planning authorities.
      • The amendment to allow for same floor to surface area in coastal zone like in non coastal zone has not been accompanied by an the capacity of civic bodies, infrastructure and resources for sewage and waste disposal – demands for which will swell with taller buildings and more floors

 

  • Secrecy Issues

 

    • The report itself has been shrouded in secrecy. The amendments to the CRZ notification are being done without consulting all stakeholders which belies the principles of democracy
    • The report was made public only post the intervention by CIC, which should have been done in normal course
Editorials, GS-3

Time for a National Water Commission’

The committee on restructuring the Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board in its final report has recommended a new National Water Commission (NWC) be established as the nation’s apex facilitation organisation dealing with water policy, data and governance.

Other recommendations made by the committee:

  • Urgent overhaul of the current water management systems.
  • Change in both surface and groundwater management policies to face new national challenges.
  • Restructuring of Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board.

Why reforms are necessary in this regard?
water1

  • India faces unprecedented challenges of water management in the 21st century. As the water crisis deepens by the day, the old 20th century solutions appear to be distinctly running out of steam. These solutions were devised in an era when India had yet to create its irrigation potential.
  • While big dams played a big role in creating a huge irrigation potential, today the challenge is to effectively utilise this potential, as the water that lies stored in our dams is not reaching the farmers for whom it is meant.
  • At the same time, groundwater, which truly powered the Green Revolution, faces a crisis of sustainability. Water levels and water quality have both fallen creating a new kind of crisis, where the solution to a problem has become part of the problem itself. The new challenge is to manage our aquifers sustainably.
  • Recent instances of droughts and farmers’ suicides underscored the gravity of the situation. Climate change poses fresh challenges as more extreme rates of precipitation and evapo-transpiration exacerbate impacts of floods and droughts.

What’s the main concern now?

Water tables are getting depleted in most parts of India. If the current pattern of water usage continues, about half of the demand for water will be unmet by 2030. Besides, contamination by fluoride, arsenic, mercury, and even uranium is another major challenge.
water2
To tackle these challenges, Mihir Shah Committee set up by the Ministry of Water Resources has recommended setting up a National Water Commission.How to tackle these challenges?

Proposed NWC:

The commission report recommended that NWC be headed by a chief national water commissioner and should have full time commissioners representing hydrology, hydrogeology, hydrometeorology, river ecology, ecological economics, agronomy (with focus on soil and water) and participatory resource planning and management.

  • It will be an autonomous body & will to have a countrywide base and mandate, and greater human-power.
  • It will subsume Central Water Commission & the Central Ground Water Board.
  • The commission aims at reducing inter-state water disputes, bring greater efficiency, better planning and increased emphasis on conservation of water.
  • It also ensures that all water resources in the country are managed in a holistic manner and not separately as surface water, groundwater or river water.

About Central Water Commission:

It is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.

  • The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
  • Central Water Commission CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India.
    water3

Why restructuring of CWC is necessary?

  • To optimally develop water resources in India so that all river basins and resources can be managed keeping in mind the increasing unpredictability of the monsoon and other climate factors.
  • Decreasing per capita availability of water and the huge projected demand of this natural resources by 2050 are also triggers for such a move.
  • The mandate of CWC belongs to an old era when dam construction and tube well drilling was the prime need of the hour. The CWC now lacks expertise in water utilisation, environmental and socio-economic issues and in efficient irrigation management to deal with present-day challenges of droughts, floods, climate change and food and water security.
  • Also, at present, the CWC, which develops surface water projects, and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), which monitors ground water use and contamination, carry out functions independent of each other. For integrated water management, development, planning, water-use efficiency and for budgeting the adoption of a river basin approach, restructuring is necessary.

Conclusion:

It is time to take a multidisciplinary view of water and this requires professionals from disciplines other than just engineering and hydrogeology. Participatory approach to water management that has been successfully tried all over the world, as also in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, needs to be adopted. Groundwater and surface water must also be viewed in an integrated, holistic manner.

GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

N.K. Singh to head panel to review FRBM Act

The Hindu

What happened?

  • The government has announced the constitution of a panel under Former Revenue Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP N.K. Singh to review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act of 2003.

Considerations before the Panel

  • It will  consider the possibility of replacing absolute fiscal deficit targets with a target range that may be adjusted in line with the overall credit trends in the economy.
  • The Committee is also tasked with examining the need and feasibility of aligning the fiscal expansion or contraction with credit contraction or expansion respectively in the economy.

What is a counter-cyclical policy?

  • Procyclical and countercyclical are terms used to describe how an economic quantity is related to economic fluctuations.
  • The terms are often used loosely to describe a government’s approach to spending and taxation. A ‘procyclical fiscal policy’ can be summarised simply as governments choosing to increase public spending and reduce taxes during an economic boom, but reduce spending and increase taxes during a recession.
  • A ‘countercyclical’ fiscal policy refers to the opposite approach: reducing spending and raising taxes during a boom period, and increasing spending/cutting taxes during a recession.

Challenges before the economy

  • The challenge for the committee would be not just to define a counter-cyclical policy but also to build it into law considering that few countries have such provisions in their fiscal legislation.
  • The other potential danger lies in providing a wide range that could provide leeway to governments closer to re-election to abandon prudent fiscal practices.
  • But the true test of compliance with a legislation like the FRBM is when the economy is gripped by a slowdown, and governments are tempted to spend to sustain jobs and growth.

Conclusion

  • Considering some of the hard won gains over the last few years and India’s record on fiscal prudence, hopefully, the N.K. Singh Committee would work on a set of recommendations that would lead to a conducive fiscal environment, which would help foster growth.
GS-3, Internal security, Uncategorized

National insecurity

Indian Express

Issue

  • Accountability needs to be set for lapses in the National Security.

Context

  • Something is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment,” Parliament’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs has reported regarding attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.
  • It said that something is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment,
  • Its calls for more effective police action against cross-border trafficking, to “effectively seal the border” and for “better intelligence and operational coordination”

Moment of Truth

  • The truth is that the resources to do what the committee knows needs doing just do not exist.
  • Funds are not available even for fuel and maintenance needs for Punjab Police patrol vehicles.
  • BSF is desperately short of officer-rank personnel.
  • IB and R&AW are over a third short of staff allocations.
  • Throughout the security sector, training standards are being diluted, and specialist skills are in short supply.

Problem

Accountability can’t be demanded unless security forces are given functional autonomy, and credible resources to go with it.

Editorials, GS-2, Uncategorized

Bitter medicine for the Centre

The Hindu

The Supreme Court has set up a three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha to perform the statutory functions of the Medical Council of India.

Issues which needs reform on urgent basis are:

  • Need to reduce the cost of medical education and increase access in different parts of the country.
  • Need to improve the doctor-to-population ratio, which is one for every 1,674 persons, as per the parliamentary panel report, against the WHO-recommended one to 1,000.
  • Need to remove bottlenecks to start medical colleges, such as conditions stipulating the possession of a vast extent of land and needlessly extensive infrastructure, and to considerably rectify the imbalance, especially in underserved States.
    • The primary criterion to set up a college should only be the availability of suitable facilities to impart quality medical education.
  • The development of health facilities has long been affected by a sharp asymmetry between undergraduate and postgraduate seats in medicine.
    • There are only about 25,000 PG seats, against a capacity of 55,000 graduate seats. The Lodha committee will review this gap.
  • National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, some States
    • Will addresses issues such as the urban-rural divide and language barriers.

The single most important issue that the Lodha committee would have to address is corruption in medical education, in which the MCI is mired.

  • Appointing prominent persons from various fields to a restructured council would shine the light of transparency, and save it from reverting to its image as an “exclusive club” of socially disconnected doctors.
Editorials, GS-1, Uncategorized

Time to put an end to film censorship

  • Recently, a committee headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal had submitted its report recommending a number of amendments to the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

Central Board of Film Certification

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • It is tasked with “regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952”.
  • It assigns certifications to films, television shows, television ads, and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in India.
  • Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television.

Films are certified into four categories

  • ‘U’ (Unrestricted)
  • ‘UA’ (Unrestricted, but with caution that parental discretion is required for children under age 12)
  • ‘A’ (Adult)
  • ‘S’ (Only for a special class of persons).

Films with S certification should not be viewed by the public. Only people associated with science (Engineers, Doctors, Scientists etc.) have permission to watch those films.

Key recommendations of the Committee:-

  1. An emphasis on certification over censorship (or so it claims)
  • CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity except in the following instances to refuse certification –
    • When a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
    • When content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.
  1.  More categories of certification, more leeway
  • Regarding the categorisation of films, the committee recommends that it should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories — UA12+ & UA15+. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.
  1. Curbing potential ‘reigns of terror’
  • The committee has also made certain recommendations regarding the functioning of the board and has stated that the Board, including Chairman, should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.
  1. The government will have no (direct) hand in appointing Examining Committee members.
  • Regarding the Regional Advisory Panel the committee has laid down the criteria for appointment. All nine regions will have advisory panels comprising persons who are acquainted with the languages being certified by that regional office.
  1. The board will, once again, have the power of re-certifying films for TV
  • Recertification of a film for purposes of telecast on television or for any other purpose should be permitted.
  1. The CBFC-certified version of a film will not be valid for posterity
  • “In order to preserve Indian Cinema, the committee recommends that every applicant be asked to deposit the Director’s Cut in the NFAI [National Film Archive of India] for preservation of Indian Cinema, instead of the certified version, in order to truly reflect the cinematic history of Indian cinema.”
GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Two committees to ensure consistency in tax policies

The Union Government has constituted two new committees:

  1. Tax Policy Research Unit (TPRU)
  2. Tax Policy Council (TPC)
  • Aim: To streamline the taxation policy and administration
  • These committees have been constituted based on the recommendation of the Tax Administration Reform Commission (TARC)

Tax Policy Research Unit

  • The TPRU will be headed by Revenue Secretary
  • It will carry out studies on various topics of fiscal and tax policies
  • It will assist the TPC in taking appropriate policy decisions and shall prepare tax proposal and analysis of legislative intent
  • It will also take decisions on expected increase or decrease in tax collection and economic impact
  • It will comprise of officers from CBEC, CBDT as well as economists, researchers, statisticians and legal experts

Tax Policy Council

  • The TPC will help the government in identifying key policy decisions for taxation
  • It shall aim to have a consistent and coherent approach to the issue of tax policy
  • It will look at all the research findings coming from TPRU and suggest broad policy measures for taxation
  • The council will be headed by Union Finance Minister
  • It shall have 9 members – Minister of State for Finance, Commerce Minister, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman, Chief Economic Advisor and Finance Secretary
  • It would also have secretaries from the department of Revenue, DEA, DIPP and Ministry of Commerce

Background:

  • Presently, taxation policy and administration is handled in the CBDT and the CBEC
  • But there are also two independent boards Tax Research Unit (TRU) and Tax Policy and Legislation (TPL) wings which are also sending proposals to the Union Finance Minister
  • TARC in its First Report had identified handling of tax policy and related legislation as one of the areas in need of structural modifications
  • In order to bring consistency, multidisciplinary inputs and coherence in taxation policy making, it had recommended establishment of Tax Council supported by a common Tax Policy and Analysis (TPA) unit to cater to needs of both direct and indirect taxes
GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Arvind Subramanian Panel on GST Tax Rates

  • The Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian led panel submitted its report on Possible Tax rates under Goods and Services Tax (GST) to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
  • Union government had set up the committee under chairmanship of CEA Dr. Subramanian in June 2015 to arrive at GST rates by factoring in the economic growth rate,  taxpayer base and tax compliance levels

Recommendations:

  • Standard GST rate of 17-18%- It is the rate at which most products would likely be taxed
  • Not to specify GST rate in Constitutional Amendment Bill
  • Revenue-neutral rate of 15-15.5%- It is a single rate at which there will be no revenue loss to the centre and states in the GST regime
  • Eliminate all taxes on inter-state trade including one per cent inter-state tax on transfer of goods
  • Two options for states: Single rate of 1% or a range of 17-18%
  • Allocation to states will depend on revenues raised by Centre and states
  • Three-tier GST rate structure:
  1. Essential goods will be taxed at a lower rate of 12%
  2. Demerit goods such as luxury cars, aerated beverages, pan masala and tobacco products will be taxed at 40%
  3. Remaining all goods will be taxed at a standard rate of 17-18%
  • Excluded real estate, electricity and alcohol and petroleum products while calculating tax rates but suggests bringing them under the ambit of GST soon
GS-3, Uncategorized

NITI Aayog panel on Innovation

  • A NITI Aayog panel on Innovation headed by Prof. Tarun Khanna submitted its report recommending that the private sector should help fund research and development,including in research labs at universities and startups
  • It was constituted following the 2015 budget speech of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, where he allocated 150 crore rupees for Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)
  • The committee was asked to suggest ways to promote innovation and build an entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem to drive job growth

Recommendations:

  • It recommended improved tax benefits for investments equivalent to a percentage of corporate profits in research labs in universities and startups
  • It recommended that all contracts with foreign defence companies above 5 billion dollars should include a clause for five percent of contract value to be directed to establish research-centric universities with strong emphasis on its core product areas
  • It suggested a Make in universities program which would involve setting up 500 tinkering labs, where aspiring entrepreneurs can experiment to create products that address local problems, with one 3D printer per institute
  • For these labs, the panel recommends utilisation of half of the 1000 crore rupees fund that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had set aside for the Self Employed and Talent Utilization (SETU) scheme
  • It also recommends Grand Prizes approach to find ultra-low-cost solutions to India’s most intractable problems, on the lines of what is followed in some developed countries
  • It recommends that the AIM budget of 150 crore rupees be used entirely to award up to 12 grand prizes annually. Each challenge should carry a prize of between 10 crore and 30 crore rupees
  • The panel also pitched for an increase in investment in business incubators with up to 200 crore rupees public spending per year and roping in the private sector for the purpose
  • Establishing a fund-of-funds (FOF) by the Union Government to seed other early stage venture funds with a corpus of 5000 crore rupees
GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Deepak Mohanty Committee on Financial Inclusion

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released the Report on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion submitted by 14-member committee headed by RBI Executive Director Deepak Mohanty
  • RBI had constituted the committee in July 2015 to examine the existing policy regarding financial inclusion and a five-year (medium term) action plan
  • It was tasked to suggest plan on several components with regard to payments, deposits, credit, social security transfers, pension and insurance

Key recommendations:

  • Augment the government social cash transfer in order to increase the personal disposable income of the poor- It would put the economy on a medium-term sustainable inclusion path
  • Sukanya Shiksha Scheme: Banks should make special efforts to step up account opening for females belonging to lower income group under this scheme for social cash transfer as a welfare measure
  • Aadhaar linked credit account: Aadhaar should be linked to each individual credit account as a unique biometric identifier which can be shared with Credit information bureau to enhance the stability of the credit system and improve access
  • Mobile Technology: Bank’s traditional business model should be changed with greater reliance on mobile technology to improve ‘last mile’ service delivery
  • Digitisation of land records: It should be implemented in order to increase formal credit supply to all agrarian segments through Aadhaar-linked mechanism for Credit Eligibility Certificates (CEC)
  • Nurturing self-help groups (SHGs): Corporates should be encouraged to nurture SHGs as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative
  • Subsidies: Government should replace current agricultural input subsidies on fertilizers, irrigation and power by a direct income transfer scheme as a part of second generation reforms
  • Agricultural interest subvention Scheme: It should be phased out
  • Crop Insurance: Government should introduce universal crop insurance scheme covering all crops starting with small and marginal farmers with monetary ceiling of Rs. 2 lakhs
  • Multiple Guarantee Agencies: Should be encouraged to provide credit guarantees in niche areas for micro and small enterprises (MSEs). It would also explore possibilities for counter guarantee and re-insurance
  • Unique identification of MSME: It should be introduced for all MSME borrowers and information from it should be shared with credit bureaus