Friday, 25 December 2015

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DECEMBER 25th 2015- Editorial Page Of THE HINDU

Prepared by Nithin Raj

1. Judicial overreaction

               The initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Booker Prize-winning writer Arundhati Roy by the Bombay High Court appears to be an excessive reaction to adverse comment. Judges are expected to be uninfluenced by occasional criticism relating to their judicial orders, especially by journalists and writers who are not parties before them. It behoves the superior judiciary to ignore remarks on court proceedings and orders made out of activist zeal. In times when both mainstream and social media are full of observers, critics, commentators and detractors, courts ought not to be unduly sensitive to outspoken critics, subject of course to the rule that the criticism is fair and does not attribute motives to judges or malice to judicial functioning. Ms. Roy is no stranger to the long arm of the court’s contempt jurisdiction. The Supreme Court sentenced her to one day in prison for criminal contempt for ‘scandalising the judiciary’ through some remarks in 2002. A few years earlier, in 1999, the Supreme Court decided to be lenient towards her and her associates in the Narmada Bachao Andolan for their comments on court orders. “The court’s shoulders are broad enough to shrug of their comments,” the Bench had remarked then, in a measure of how the court’s dignity is better served if it takes routine criticism in its stride and moves only against vicious and tendentious remarks or actions that bring the judiciary into disrepute or ridicule. Ms. Roy’s article in a magazine relating to the arrest and denial of bail to G.N. Saibaba of Delhi University does not appear entirely to fall under such a category. The political sympathies reflected in the article for the wheelchair-bound lecturer are quite obvious, but it is not possible to discern any wilful contempt for judicial processes in its expression of concern for his freedom, health and well-being. Unfortunately, Justice A.B. Chaudhari sees in the piece a “gameplan” to obtain an order of bail “knowing fully well that the plea was turned down by the Sessions Court as well as a Single Judge of this Court.” While initiating action against Ms. Roy for criminal contempt, he seems to have read too much into an article sharply critical of the government and the police that relates only indirectly to the judiciary in its comparison of instances of those who got bail (Babulal Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani and Amit Shah) and those who did not. The majesty of the court ought to be any judge’s concern, but it is inconceivable why an author’s “nasty” language against the government and the police should be. The conclusion that her article, prima facie, tends to interfere in the administration of justice merely because it appears to argue that Mr. Saibaba is entitled to release is unfortunate. While safeguarding the judiciary’s reputation and dignity, courts of law should not be seen as stifling free comment and suppressing political dissent. The power of contempt should be used sparingly and that too, only against those wilfully subverting justice, and not against critics of the state.

VOCABULARY FROM EDITORIAL

1.Behove  = it is a duty or responsibility for someone to do something.
2.Detractor = person who disparages someone or something
3. Lenient = more merciful or tolerant than expected.
4.Stride = walk with long, decisive steps in a specified direction.
5.Vicious = deliberately cruel or violent.
6.Tendentious = expressing or intending to promote a particular cause or point of view, especially a controversial one.
7.Discern = recognize or find out.
8.Inconceivable = not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally; unbelievable.
9. Stifling = making one feel constrained or oppressed.
10.Dissent = the holding or expression of opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held.
11.Subvert = undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution).

  
2.Cess proceeds in a black hole

                The National Democratic Alliance government has just introduced a cess of 0.5 per cent on all taxable services for the Swachh Bharat campaign. In February 2016, it will introduce a 2 per cent cess on airfares for all domestic flyers except those flying to remote locations, and international travellers. This cess is meant to fund losses that airlines may incur in connecting to hinterland locations. The Central government loves cesses, partly because it doesn’t have to share the proceeds with State governments. It has been levying them for several important causes including primary education, secondary education, road development, the welfare of construction workers and beedi workers, clean energy, research and development and universalisation of telecom coverage, among several others. But good intentions often pave the road to hell, as is evident from the fact that over Rs.1.4 lakh crore of cess proceeds lie unutilised and inadequately accounted for in the government’s books. Take, for example, the case of the Secondary and Higher Education Cess paid by all income tax payers that has yielded over Rs.64,000 crore between 2006 and 2015. Not a rupee of that has been spent, while hundreds of students now fork out more for higher education since the government has discontinued the non-National Eligibility Test fellowship. That the government has failed to even set up a fund to pool the proceeds shows the lack of planning that precludes and follows the levy of a cess. So is the case with the proposed airfare cess. The government is yet to identify routes that the cess would subsidise, or spruce up the many defunct civil airports. The point of a cess is that the money it generates can only be used for the designated purpose so it can be an effective policy tool in theory. But if the money isn’t spent for the designated purpose, as the audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India tabled in Parliament has shown, it just stagnates and distorts the economy further: the additional tax brings down real incomes without any accompanying gain in socio-economic indicators as targeted. Then there is the question of whether a given cess is needed at all. Most reasons cited for levying a cess, such as purposes of education, are important enough for direct budgetary allocations — as happens in the developed world. So the government can simply raise the tax rate rather than impose multiple cess levies. But with the Fourteenth Finance Commission increasing States’ share of the common pool of resources, cesses are tempting for the Centre to shore up its own finances. If it wants to keep complicating the taxation system for good intentions, the government should start disclosing a deployment plan to achieve the intended outcomes from cess collections before imposing the next such levy on citizens.

VOCABULARY FROM EDITORIAL

1.Incur = become subject to (something unwelcome or unpleasant) as a result of one's own behaviour or actions.
2.Fork = the point where something, especially a road or  river, divides into two parts.
3.Stagnates = cease developing; become inactive or dull.

3.After Paris, promises to keep

                                    India has welcomed the Paris Agreement on climate change, an important pact concluded by 196 countries to put the world on the track to sustainable development. Will it now leave the “fake horse race”, as many see it, in which climate responsibility and development are treated as separate competing entities, and move to a green growth trajectory away from fossil fuels? That is the central question for national policy posed by the agreement, one of the most anticipated international pacts in decades, and one that could bring about a fundamental shift in the development paradigm. Important answers will naturally depend on how willing the West is to pay for clean development in India and around the world, since everyone, not just the poor, stands to lose from global warming.
Shrinking space for emissions The national imperative is to adopt policies that can speedily remove carbon from the energy mix, stop the degradation and destruction of forests, conserve water resources, improve resilience in agriculture, and help communities adapt to the destructive impacts of climate-related events that will be unavoidable in the coming years. At the conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in the French capital, India’s argument rested primarily on the principles of equity and common but diferentiated responsibilities which are enshrined in the convention: historical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industrialised countries have already occupied two-thirds of the carbon space in the atmosphere, continually warming the atmosphere and leaving little room for India and other emerging nations to grow with some level of unavoidable emissions, especially from coal-fired power plants. The space for emissions that remains is of the order of 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide until the end of the century. It is now the turn of the developed economies, New Delhi argued, to give this space to those who were deprived of the benefits of the Industrial Revolution. In parallel, rich countries should aid the transition of the developing world to a green economy, providing funds,
encouraging innovation and transferring technology. What emerged in the Paris Agreement is a regime for all countries to voluntarily reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. They would do this through quantified, measurable actions forming “nationally determined contributions” (NDC). On two counts, though, India found itself in diicult situations in the Paris negotiations — first, its demand for a decadal review of NDC compliance did not succeed (the UNFCCC will scrutinise them every five years), and second, it was sometimes in the company of oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, rather than those nations facing severe climate threats that demanded a tighter goal of pegging temperature rise at 1.5°C.
But the agreement is now a reality and there is little time to lose. The process launched in Paris will get underway soonupon its being ratified or accepted by 55 parties. Transparency, which is not the strongest virtue in India’s governance, is a specific requirement under Article 13 of the pact. Countries are required to, with only some exceptions, ensure that it forms part of their national communications to the UNFCCC. The same will apply to developed countries that have been dragging their feet to come up with at least $100 billion a year in special climate funding to help developing countries, mainly towards adaptation needs. “A facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 [will be convened] to take stock of the collective eforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal [for peaking
of GHGs],” says paragraph 20 of the Paris text, adding that it should inform the preparation of NDCs. Clearly, between now and 2020, India will need to flesh out the promises that it has made in the Intended NDC submitted to the UNFCCC, including the actions to be taken to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The IPCC report on this, sought by many vulnerable countries, particularly island nations, is certain to lead to a fresh wave of citizen action worldwide against fossil fuel companies
and their financial investors, with implications for India. In efect, the National Democratic Alliance government has to work overtime to meet the requirements that it has signed on to, and prepare for an impending spike in public pressure.
Scaling up solar power Carbon emissions from economic activity continue to rise and India is the third-largest emitter among individual countries. While it should pursue the legitimate question of historical responsibility of rich nations led by the United States to compensate victims of climate change, the domestic agenda announced in the NDC cannot wait. Arguably, the most prominent is the scaling up of renewable energy capacity to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, of which solar power
will form 100 GW (up from the current level of about 4 GW). Impressive as this goal is, fabrication of solar cells and production of modules need a dramatic “Make in India” plan in which the entire citizenry feels invested. This can lead to mass proliferation of solar photovoltaic rooftop installations on the lines of the mobile phone revolution that swept the country and, in addition, boost employment. In 2014, China and Taiwan produced 69 per cent of the solar photovoltaic modules, while Europe was in the lead with a 48 per cent share of cumulative solar installations. By contrast the two major producing countries had only 17 per cent of the installations, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany. Moreover, among the portfolio of renewable energy technologies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) report titled “Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015” says solar photovoltaics is the only technology that is on track to meet the power generation target for a 2°C temperature rise scenario. Considering that India’s NDC talks of unlocking domestic funds along with new and additional resources from developed countries to meet its objectives, State electricity grids should be required by law to introduce transparent, well-functioning, feed-in tarifs for rooftop solar installations (which Japan has done in recent years), and to amend building codes to make it mandatory for all new constructions. The IEA points out that policy uncertainty for renewables during 2014 afected their growth in India and China, impacting ambitious targets. India, as the prime mover of the International Solar Alliance that was launched in Paris, needs to demonstrate that it has a result-oriented policy that is worthy of replication.
Decarbonising travel Asecond “easy piece” in the energy puzzle is the transport sector which accounts for about 14 per cent of national emissions. Road transport policy including urban transport is mainly made by the States and has remained neglected. Decarbonising this sector and increasing its eiciency needs strong mandates for State governments, requiring them to comply with standards of minimum performance. This would raise standards of bus and urban rail travel, encouraging suitable investments, both public and private, and fast-track sustainable urban development. Providing a cross-subsidy for capital expenditure and operations through a dedicated fee on fossil fuels would be the way forward. Without such measures, carbon emissions from passenger transport are bound to rise steadily. During the rest of the current decade until 2021 (the year India’s NDC should begin), the share of private cars and two-wheelers in the mobility mix is expected to rise, with a marked decline for public modes. Carbon emissions from passenger transport are likely to rise at the rate of six per cent a year. It would defeat the objective if the NDC goes the way of the National Urban Transport Policy, with little action to back up ambitious goals. There are other elements to the national climate pledge that present tremendous economic opportunity. The plan to trap carbon through expansion of forests and massive tree-planting could transform rural communities if it can combine livelihood opportunity in the form of social forestry produce. On the corporate side, all financial investments and lending should conform to a sustainability code, to ensure that they do not end up adding to carbon emissions. This is one area that civil society will influence in the coming years. The ultimate objective is to ensure that all carbon emissions are turned into “net zero” at some point beyond 2050, upon which no man-made greenhouse gas emissions will be a net addition to the atmosphere — they will be captured in some manner. That transition, with its promise of innovation, will be the great story of the 21st century. 



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