02 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Slow Progress Page 06 - (International Relations)
  • In Karabakh, Putin plays Peacemaker Page 13 - (International Relations)
  • The last straw is being disabled Page 06 - (Social Issues)
  • Regional priorities Page 06 - (International Relations)
  • PMI shows manufacturing losing steam Page 14 - (Economy)
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Slow Progress | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Failure of global institutions | WHO | UPSC

    It is encouraging to learn that the G20 leaders have agreed to inject $5-trillion into the world economy to partially counter the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. This is indeed good news. But taking collective ownership to fight a global war against the virus will require a lot more than writing cheques.

    Good war, bad enemy

    What are the indications that global institutions failed?

    • World leaders are obviously overwhelmed with their own national challenges and do not appear inclined to view the pandemic as a common enemy against mankind, which it is.
    • China delayed reporting the virus to the World Health Organization (WHO), and perhaps, in the process, contributed to the exacerbation of the spread of the virus across the globe.
    • It was reported that the Trump administration did not even inform the European Union before it shut off flights from Europe.
    • The only exception
      • It must be acknowledged that the initiative taken by Mr. Modi in the early days to convene a meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries stands out in contrast to the pusillanimous leadership around the world.

    There is no evidence that, at the global level, the pandemic has abated yet and would be brought under control soon. To imagine that nations would be able to tame the virus soon with massive shutdowns might be just wishful thinking.

    And yet, the typical response by all affected nations, has been to impose ‘National distancing’ by closing borders. While this is no doubt, a most appropriate response, there is a much bigger and emergent need for leaders of nations to come together for collective global action.

    Why lockdowns are not effective?

    • National shutdowns and physical distancing have been a challenge not only in the Unied States and some European countries, it would be more so in populous countries such as India. At any rate, such lockouts come at enormous economic and social costs.
    • As long as the virus is alive in some corner of the world, it would resume its travel across the world the moment international travel restrictions are relaxed.
    • Is it realistic to imagine that international travel will remain suspended until the last virus alive on this planet is extinguished? Epidemiologists point out that unless herd immunity develops — which will take long and come at the cost of at least half the population being infected — the virus will remain alive and strike whenever there is a lowering of guard.

    This millennium has already suffered three pandemics and COVID-19 will certainly not be the last.

    This is a war. A good war against a bad enemy, and a common enemy, that respects no borders. If this global challenge is not a battle to be fought by a collective global leadership, nothing else is.

    Two developments in the global polity in the last few years have contributed to the indifference towards collective global action.

    • One, the swing towards right-wing nationalism, as a guiding political ideology, in large swathes of the world, particularly in the U.S.
      • This ideology posits ‘global good’ being in conflict with and inimical to national interests. The dramatic announcement by U.S. President Trump, in June 2017, that the U.S. will cease involvement from the Paris Accord on climate change, preparatory to full withdrawal after the mandatory period, on the ground that the accord will ‘undermine U.S. economic interest’ is a classic demonstration of narrow nationalism trumping global interests. There is no issue more global than climate change, and yet the U.S. Administration chose to look at it from the prism of national, short-term economic interest.
    • Two, the decline of multilateral institutions.
      • The United Nations was the outcome of the shared vision of the world leaders after World War II, that collective action is the only way forward to prevent the occurrence of another war.
      • That institution has notoriously failed to live up to its expectations to maintain peace among nations in the nearly 80 years since its formation.
      • Its affiliate organisations have, in several ways, failed to deliver on their lofty missions.
      • Role of WHO is under the scanner
        • In particular, WHO, which has as its objective ‘to be the directing and coordinating authority among member countries in health emergencies’, has proven to be too lethargic in reacting to pandemics in the past.
        • Its responses to COVID-19, has come under the scanner, not merely for incompetence, but also for lack of intellectual integrity.

    G20 offers hope

    • If the world leaders realise the relevance and critical importance of collective global action in the context of the present pandemic, it is not difficult to contrive an appropriate mechanism quickly to get into war. A nimble outfit, not burdened with bureaucracy, is required to manage a global crisis of the nature that we are confronted with, today. The G20, with co-option of other affected countries, itself might serve the purpose for the present. What is important is for the global leaders to acknowledge what every foot soldier knows: winning a war would require the right strategy, rapid mobilisation of relevant resources and, most importantly, timely action.

    In facing the present challenge, the following actions should come out of such a collective.

    • Global supply chain
      • The collective should ensure that shortages of drugs, medical equipment and protective gear do not come in the way of any nation’s capacity to contain or fight the pandemic. It is very likely that some nations that have succeeded in bringing the pandemic under control, such as China, Japan or South Korea, might have the capability to step up production at short notice to meet the increasing demand from other countries which are behind the curve. This would typically involve urgent development of an information exchange on global production capacity, present and potential, demand and supply. This is not to mean that there should be centralised management, which is not only infeasible, but counterproductive, as the attendant bureaucracy will impede quick action. A common information exchange could restrain the richer countries from predatory contracting of global capacities.
      • Protocols might need to be put in place among participating countries to ensure seamless logistics for the supply chain for essential goods and services to function efficiently. This might be particularly necessary in the context of controls on international traffic and national shutdowns. There would need to be concomitant accord to eliminate all kinds of tariff and non tariff barriers.
    • Global exchange of Information
      • There needs to be instantaneous exchange of authenticated information on what clinical solutions have succeeded and what has not. A classic example is the issue relating to hydroxychloroquine, which is being used experimentally, bypassing the rigours of randomised clinical trials. While there is no substitute to classic clinical proof, the more field-level information is shared within the medical community, the better will be the success rates of such experimentation.
    • Global
      • this is a time to have cross-country collaboration on laboratory trials and clinical validation for vaccines and anti-viral drugs. It must be acknowledged that WHO has already moved on this issue, although, perhaps, belatedly. The world can ill-afford delays, as the pandemic is predicted to stage a comeback once the shutdowns are gradually relaxed. The best way to ensure speedy research is to pool global resources. Any effort at reinventing the wheel will only delay the outcomes. This attempt to collaborate might also bring in its wake an acceptable commercial solution that adequately incentivises private research, while ensuring benefits being available to the entire world at affordable costs. Such a framework might be necessary for sustained collaborations for future challenges.
    • Movement of health professionals
      • There is a need to facilitate easy movement of trained health professionals across the world to train others and augment resources wherever there are shortages. In other words, nations should come together to organise a global army to fight the pandemic, equipped with the best weapons and tools.
    • Sixth, we must anticipate food shortages occurring sooner or later, in some part of the world, consequent to the national shutdowns. Ironically, while we might have saved lives from the assault of the novel coronavirus, we might run the risk of losing lives to starvation and malnutrition, somewhere in the world if we do not take adequate precautions. This requires not only coordinated global action; it would also turn out to be the test of global concern for mankind in general.

    An orderly reconstruction of the global economy, which is equitable and inclusive, will eventually involve renegotiating terms of trade among key trading blocs, concerted action among central bankers to stabilise currencies, and a responsible way to regulate and manage global commodity markets.

    Does India have the power to awaken the conscience of the Superpowers and catalyse collective global action? Remember, historically, it is always the weakling or the oppressed, who have caused transformational changes in the world order.

    THE DEEP VOID IN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP – SPECIALLY WITH REFERENCE TO WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) serves as a specialized agency of the United Nations, falling under the UN's Sustainable Development Group. It was brought to life in 1948, in conjunction with the UN's creation, and given the broad mandate as the international governing body monitoring public health risks and overseeing responses to emergencies. Headquartered out of Geneva, Switzerland, WHO has 194 member states.

    The WHO has played a leading role in several public health achievements, most notably the eradication of smallpox, the near-eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer; healthy diet, nutrition, and food security; occupational health; and substance abuse.

    The WHO relies on assessed and voluntary contributions from member states and private donors for funding.

    Criticisms of WHO for handling of nCovid-19 Pandemic

    (WHO) has been trying to be politically correct by underestimating the extent of the threat. They lost some credibility when they stated in late January that the global risk assessment was moderate,

    WHO's apparent great fear in moving from classifying from epidemic to pandemic, all the more so given all the evidence we had gathered from China's experience,

    Historically, a great strength of the WHO was its expertise in consensus building. Here, we needed leadership, not merely consensus building. It is hard for some organizations to act

    The WHO waited much too long to declare a 'Global Health Emergency,' a designation that importantly would have alerted public health officials in countries neighboring China to start preparing.

    Given this history, the willingness of the WHO to take China's statements at face value is shocking. WHO leadership is too susceptible to political pressure in its decisions on declaring a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC

    Critics have accused WHO of whitewashing Chinese misconduct in the onset of the disease, and have instead heaped praise on the state for its authoritarian clampdown in purporting to combat the already escaped contagion last month.

    Taiwan is not currently allowed to be a member of the WHO, due to the controversial Peoples Republic of China's One-China policy.

    After SARS, the International Health Regulations (IHR) were revised in 2005 to grant extraordinary powers to the World Health Organization.

    First, the IHR authorizes WHO to act upon nonstate sources of information and to question member states on their decision-making. This authority is meant to allow WHO to respond to potential disease outbreaks in a timelier manner, because affected nations have a tendency to cover up their outbreaks for political or economic reasons.

    Second, the IHR empowers the WHO director-general to declare an outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, even over the objections of the state or states most directly affected. The WHO director-general may also issue outbreak-specific guidance to inform and influence how other states use trade and travel restrictions, so as to ensure that those restrictions are science-based and do not interfere unnecessarily with public health responses in other nations. These authorities are rare among international organizations, enabling WHO to act on its own initiative to generate and guide the international diplomatic, economic, and political responses to extraordinary events that threaten states.

    Third, WHO has the authority to name and shame those nations that do not comply with the IHR requirements on outbreak detection, trade and travel bans, and enforcement of human rights. According to leading political scientists, WHO’s naming and shaming efforts send credible signals that affect member states’ behavior during a crisis situation.

    Yet the revised IHR did not stop the Chinese government from actively suppressing information that might have slowed or stopped the coronavirus outbreak

    WHO has also been slow to exercise its emergency authorities under the IHR. Amid reports of Chinese opposition, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not pronounce the coronavirus to be a public health emergency of international concern until Jan. 30, when the outbreak had already spread to 19 countries on four continents and infected nearly 8,000 people worldwide.

    WHO has advised against travel or trade restrictions on countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, deeming them ineffective, but has done little to criticize the dozens of countries, including the United States, that have nevertheless imposed bans. And instead of naming and shaming China for its cover-up, WHO has opted to focus on events after Jan. 20, lauding extraordinary measures that China took to slow further spread of the outbreak The “world owes China a great debt,” a WHO official recently said, suggesting that other countries should follow China’s lead in containing the virus’ spread.

    In fairness, many have defended WHO’s response as pragmatism based on the need to continue to work with China on the coronavirus and as a measure of solidarity amid a costly and tragic outbreak. Those defenders also rightly note that WHO has done much that deserves commendation. WHO has shared timely and science-based insights about this novel virus, warned against international overreaction, shared its technical expertise with affected countries, demonstrated transparency in its daily, livestreamed press briefings, and worked diligently to marshal resources to help prepare low- and middle-income nations for a potential pandemic.

    The problems of the multilateral systems for global health security are not specific to the coronavirus outbreak, China, or WHO’s current leadership, which is hardworking and well-intentioned. Critics have pointed to China’s role in funding WHO, but even with smaller and less influential countries there have been political issues. Similar delays in WHO exercising IHR authorities also occurred in the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the West Africa Ebola outbreak between 2013 and 2015. For example, the delay in the West Africa outbreak was reportedly the result of deference to pressure from the government of Guinea, which feared the consequences of prematurely declaring the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

    Member state-driven decision-making explains why WHO tends to defer to national governments’ wishes and agendas, even when they might contradict the organization’s primary mission. Yet, deference to the sovereignty of one member state does not work if it puts other nations and their people at risk.

    Like the Ebola virus outbreak, the coronavirus outbreak has exposed the deficiencies of a system built around a member state-driven institution like WHO, which, irrespective of the IHR, defers to the sovereignty and preferences of directly affected nations.

    The world has changed in ways, from expansions in global trade and travel to warming temperatures and fast-growing cities, that have increased our risk to the threat of emerging infections. The coronavirus is going to bring a reckoning in global health governance. Let’s make sure we heed its lessons.

     

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:In Karabakh, Putin plays Peacemaker | Page 13

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict | Russian influence in the Caucasus | UPSC

    Roots of the conflict (In Soviet Era)

    • The largely mountainous and forested Nagorno-Karabakh, home for some 150,000 people, is at the centre of the conflict.
    • Nagorno-Karabakh is located within Azerbaijan but is populated, mostly, by those of Armenian ethnicity. The conflict can be traced back to the pre-Soviet era when the region was at the meeting point of Ottoman, Russian and the Persian empires.
    • Once Azerbaijan and Armenia became Soviet Republics in 1921, Moscow gave Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan but offered autonomy to the contested region.

    Post-Soviet collapse

    • In the 1980s, when the Soviet power was receding, separatist currents picked up in Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1988, the national assembly voted to dissolve the region’s autonomous status and join Armenia. When Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the clashes led to an open war in which tens of thousands were killed. The war lasted till 1994 when both sides reached a ceasefire.

    Current status-> Independent but unrecognized

    • By that time, Armenia had taken control of Nagorno-Karabakh and handed it to Armenian rebels. The rebels have declared independence, but have not won recognition from any country.
    • The region is still treated as a part of Azerbaijan by the international community, and Baku wants to take it back.

    Current clashes

    • Despite the ceasefire, there were occasional flare-ups on the border. In July this year, at least 16 people were killed in clashes. After Sunday’s violence, Azerbaijan and Armenia blamed each other. Baku said it was forced to respond after Armenian attacks killed and wounded Azeris. Armenia, on the other side, blamed Azerbaijan for launching the “large-scale” attack targeting peaceful settlements.
    • The energy-rich Azerbaijan has built several gas and oil pipelines across the Caucasus to Turkey and Europe. This includes the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Western Route Export oil pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline and the South Caucasus gas pipeline. Some of these pipelines pass close to the conflict zone. In an open war between the two countries, the pipelines could be targeted, which would impact energy supplies.

    Turkey’s role

    • Turkey has historically supported Azerbaijan and has had a troublesome relationship with Armenia. In the 1990s, during the war, Turkey closed its border with Armenia and it has no diplomatic relations with the country.
    • On the other end, the Azeris and Turks share strong cultural and historical links. Azerbaijanis are a Turkic ethnic group and their language is from the Turkic family. After Azerbaijan became independent, Turkey established strong relations with the country, which has been ruled by a dynastic dictatorship. In July, after the border clashes, Turkey held a joint military exercise with Azerbaijan. On September 28, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Armenia for the most recent clashes and offered support to Azerbaijan. There were reports that Turkey was recruiting mercenaries from West Asia to fight for Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. This fits well into Ankara’s aggressive foreign policy, which seeks to expand Turkish interests to the former Ottoman territories.

    Russia’s stand

    • Moscow sees the Caucasus and Central Asian region as its backyard. But the current clashes put President Vladimir Putin in a difficult spot. Russia enjoys good ties with both Azerbaijan and Armenia and supplies weapons to both. But Armenia is more dependent on Russia than the energy-rich, ambitious Azerbaijan. Russia also has a military base in Armenia. But Moscow, at least publicly, is trying to strike a balance between the two. Like in the 1990s, its best interest would be in mediating a ceasefire between the warring sides.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:The last straw is being disabled | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice

    Sub Theme: Persons with Disabilities| Challenges faced by Disabled | How to improve opportunities for disabled | UPSC

    First, what is a disability?

    • Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016
    • Defines "Person with disability" means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.

    Let us look at the disabled population in our country

    • Disabled Population in India as per census 2011 (2016 updated) – In India out of the 121 Cr population, 2.68 Cr persons are disabled which is 2.21% of the total population.
    • Among the disabled population 56% (1.5 Cr) are males and 44% (1.18 Cr ) are females. In the total population, the male and female population are 51% and 49% respectively.
    • Majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas (1.86 Cr disabled persons in rural areas and 0.81 Cr in urban areas). In the case of total population also, 69% are from rural areas while the remaining 31% resided in urban areas.

    Issues  

    Let us begin the discussion with a very good quote: which summarises the overall issues faced by the disabled:

    • Unavailability of data and statistics:
      • And the reason for that is:
        • Difficult to define disability
        • Coverage: Different purposes require different disability data
        • Reluctance in reporting disability as disability is considered to be a stigma in many places/societies
      • Health
        • There is lack of affordable access to proper health care, aids and appliances
        • Healthcare facilities and poorly trained health-workers in rehabilitation centres is another concern
      • Education:
        • The education system is not inclusive.
        • Inclusion of children with mild to moderate disabilities in regular schools has remained a major challenge.
        • There are various issues such as availability special schools, access to schools, trained teachers, and availability of educational materials for the disabled.
        • Further, reservations for the disabled in higher educational institutions has not been fulfilled in many instances
      • Employment:
        • Even though many disabled adults are capable of productive work, disabled adults have far lower employment rates than the general population.
        • The situation is even worse in the private sector, where much less disabled are employed
      • Accessibility:

    o Physical accessibility in buildings, transportation, access to services etc still remain a major challenge.

    • Discrimination/Social Exclusion:
      • Negative attitudes held by the families of the disabled, and often the disabled themselves, hinder disabled persons from taking an active part in the family, community or workforce.
      • Differently-abled people face discrimination in everyday life. People suffering from mental illness or mental retardation face the worst stigma and are subject to severe social exclusion.

     

    Hence these issues create a vicious cycle:

     

    • Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016
      • Defines "Person with disability" means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.
    • Accessible India Campaign : Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs:
      • A nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility that will enable persons with disabilities to gain access for equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
    • DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme:
      • Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities, like special schools, vocational training centres, community based rehabilitation, pre-school and early intervention etc
    • Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase / fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP):
      • The Scheme aims at helping the disabled persons by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically-manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach.

     

    But Poor implementation of policies and schemes hinders the inclusion of disabled persons. Though various acts and schemes have been laid down with an aim to empower the disabled, their enforcement face many challenges.

    So in essence we can say that the disabled people have to go through everyday pain of being excluded from a whole host of normal life activities. 

    Not only that, they have to constantly find ways of living with equal productivity and dignity as others which the able-bodied often simply do not have to think about. 

    Because of which there exists a massive gap between what people with disabilities, when provided appropriate tools and resources, are capable of achieving and what they are allowed to achieve, on account of the multiple impediments placed in their path.

    Way Forward

    • Prevention
      • A lot of disabilities are preventable: (Example wasting of muscles due to Polio)
        • large number of disabilities are preventable, including those arising from medical issues during birth, maternal conditions, malnutrition, as well as accidents and injuries.
        • However, the health sector especially in rural India has failed to react proactively to disability
      • Preventive health programs need to be strengthened and all children need to be screened at a young age.
      • Case Study: Kerala has already started an early prevention programme. Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme seeks early identification of deficits in infants and reduce the state's burden of disability.
    • Awareness:
      • People with disabilities need to be better integrated into society by overcoming stigma
      • There should be awareness campaigns to educate and aware people about different kinds of disability
      • Success stories of people with disabilities can be showcased to inculcate positive attitude among people
    • Employment:
      • Disabled adults need to be empowered with employable skills o The private sector needs to be encouraged to employ them.
    • Better measurement:
      • The scale of disability in India needs to be better understood by improving the measurement of disability.
    • Education:
      • State-wise strategies on education for children with special needs need to be devised.
      • There should be proper teacher training to address the needs of differently abled children and facilitate their inclusion in regular schools
      • Further there should be more special schools and ensure educational material for differently-abled children
    • Access:
      • Safety measures like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport system etc, should be taken up Further, it should be made legally binding to make buildings disabled-friendly
    • Policy Interventions:
      • More budgetary allocation for welfare of the disabled. There should be a disability budgeting on line of gender budget.
      • Proper implementation of schemes should be ensured. There should be proper monitoring mechanisms and accountability of public funds.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Regional priorities| Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: | SCO | Regional Geopolitics | UPSC

    What is SCO?

    • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the Eurasian region
    • Prior to creation of SCO in 2001 , there was Shanghai Five - Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
    • Currently has 8 members – Kazakhstan , China , Kyrgyzstan , Russia ,Tajikistan , Uzbekistan , India and Pakistan

    Objectives

    • Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states.
    • Promoting effective cooperation in -politics, trade & economy, research & technology and culture.
    • Enhancing ties in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, etc.
    • Maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political & economic order.

    Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

    • Heads of State Council – The supreme SCO body which decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations, and considers international issues.
    • Heads of Government Council – Approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
    • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
    • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – Established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism. Based in Tashkent.
    • SCO Secretariat – Based in Beijing to provide informational, analytical & organisational support.

    Operations and mandate

    • Initially, the SCO focused on mutual intraregional efforts to curb terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia.
    • In 2006, SCO’s agenda widened to include combatting international drug trafficking as a source of financing global.
    • In 2008, SCO actively participated in bringing back stability in Afghanistan.

    Importance for India - India’s membership of SCO can help in achieving regional integration, promote connectivity and stability across borders.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: PMI shows manufacturing losing steam | Page - 14

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II - Polity & Governance + GS Paper III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: PMI | Manufacturing Index | UPSC

    Pollution is a big menace. As per WHO data 14 out of world's 20 most polluted cities are in India. Although in newspapers we mostly read about worsening pollution level in Delhi NCR region. But such is not the case as is presented here….. Various cities are highly polluted in India other than delhi.

    NGT has expanded the ambit of cases pertaining to pollution due to firecrackers beyond the NCR and has issued notice to 18 cities and UTs.

    Now let us see Why NGT from where does NGT derive such powers -

    About NGT- The NGT was established in, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, passed by the Central Government. It was established as a specialized forum for -

    • effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection and conservation of forests.
    • seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions

    Structure

    • Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi.
    • Regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench).
    • Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.

    Members

    The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court.

    The tribunal is to have at least 10 judicial and 10 technical members;

    Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member (other than chairperson all other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts) and one Expert Member (should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.)

    Powers

    The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

    1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
    2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
    3. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
    4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
    5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
    6. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
    7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

    This means that any violations pertaining only to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.

    Principles of Justice adopted by NGT

    The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

    Further, NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, it will be relatively easier (as opposed to approaching a court) for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.

    While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles.

    Review and Appeal

    Under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules, there is a provision for seeking a Review of a decision or Order of the NGT. If this fails, an NGT Order can be challenged before the Supreme Court within ninety days.

    Pro’s

    The NGT is undertaking a paradigm shift to change the way that it is perceived as the environmental watchdog of the country. Of late, the Tribunal has shown a heavy preference towards taking suo-motu cognizance of issues originating from newspapers, letters and emails and admitting them as ‘petitions’.

    ISSUES

    • .Not competent to address all environmental matters Importantly, the NGT has not been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc. Therefore, specific and substantial issues related to these laws cannot be raised before the NGT.
    • Administrative issues - roadblocks, mostly relating to the appointment of members which has led to a subsequent lack of quorum to hear cases. While today regular hearings take place in the Principal Bench of the NGT at Delhi, there are still several posts vacant across the four zonal benches.
    • Dismissal of cases curbing the right to access environmental justice - current Chairperson had declared that no notices would be issued, and only cases which have an “important question relating to environment and ecology” shall be dealt with by the Tribunal. The method of dismissing cases in the first instance without providing due reasons seems to be a new stand taken by the NGT, curbing the right to access environmental justice.

    Way forward

    NGT has done well so far but many improvements are still required to make accessible, speedy and effective resolution of environmental disputes a practical reality. The Central and State government should work in collaboration with NGT to secure the environment with better, faster enforcement of NGT orders. The government should make it more autonomous and efficient in a view to the growing concern regarding the environment and climate change.

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