27TH FEBRUARY CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Sustainable Development in Coal Mining

News: Government has put major thrust on sustainable development in coal mining and is taking multi-pronged action on both environmental & social fronts. Ministry of Coal has moved forward with a comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan and has initiated its speedy implementation.

  • Primary focus is on making immediate social impact through Out of Box (OoB) measures besides regular environmental monitoring and mitigation during mining operation.
  • These OoB measures include use of surplus Mine Water for irrigation & drinking purpose in and around mining areas, extraction & use of Sand from Overburden (OB), promoting Eco-Mine Tourism, encouraging Bamboo Plantation, etc.

Utlization of Mine Water

  • Top most priority is being given to gainful utilization of Mine Water for irrigation &providing treated water for drinking to rural population in & around command area of mining subsidiaries of CIL, SCCL & NLCIL.
  • Huge volume of mine water released during mining operation is partially utilized for internal consumption by coalmines for providing drinking water in their colonies, dust suppression, industrial use, plantation etc.
  • The internal consumption constitutes about 45 % of total mine water leaving a substantial volume for community use. Some of the subsidiaries of CIL are already providing mine water for irrigation purpose & drinking water to nearby villages.
  • A detailed mine wise plan has been prepared for all the coal/lignite companies for maximizing supply of mine water to nearby villages in their command areas.

Eco Parks

  • 10 new Eco-Parks in different mining areas are under different stages of development in various subsidiaries of CIL, SCCL & NLCIL and will be completed in next 2 years.
  • Coal companies have already developed 15 eco-parks in various coalfields. The Saoner Eco Park of WCL near Nagpur is running Eco-Mine Tourism Circuit, a first of its kind in India, in collaboration with MTDC where people can visit and see mining operation of both Opencast &Underground Mines.
  • There is a likely plan to start Eco-Mine Tourism Circuit in different coal companies to showcase efforts made by coal companies in environmental protection.
  • Bamboo Plantation along coal transport roads and on the edges of mines will help in minimizing dust pollution.

Extraction and use of Sand from Over Burden (OB)

  • Extraction of sand from Over Burden (OB) for use as construction & stowing material is another unique initiative promoting sustainable development through gainful utilization of wastes generated during mining.
  • This will not only help in availability of cheaper sand for house & other construction but will also minimize the land required for OB dump in future projects. This initiative also lowers the adverse footprint of riverbed mining of sand.
  • Such effort has already started in WCL, where sand produced through large Sand Processing Plant is being used for low cost housing scheme under Pradhan Mantri Aavas Yojana (PMAY) & also for construction by other Govt. & Private Agencies.

First Mile Connectivity

  • First Mile Connectivity (FMC) is another major sustainable initiative by coal companies, where coal is being transported through conveyor belt from Coal Handling Plants to Silo for loading.
  • This process eliminates movement of coal through road and thus not only minimizes the environmental pollution, but also reduces the carbon footprint.
  • Taking a big step, 35 such projects have been planned to be commissioned by 2023-24 handling more than 400 million tonnes of coal with an investment of Rs. 12500 Crore.

Renewable Energy

  • Towards use of renewable energy, CIL has set a target to establish 3 GW of Solar PV projects by FY24 to become self-reliant in electricity. In addition, 1 mega SPV Project with 1000 MW capacity will be set up in joint collaboration of CIL & NLCIL with an investment of Rs. 4000 Cr.

Bio Reclamation and Tree Plantation

  • Bio-Reclamation and massive tree plantation has been one of the key thrust areas of coal companies in promoting environmental sustainability. New techniques like seed ball plantation have been adopted in many mines for providing green cover on OB Dumps.
  • Till 2020, coal companies have brought about 56000 Ha of land under green cover by planting 135 million trees in and around mining areas.
  • Target of 2021-22 is to have more than 2000 hectares of affected land converted into green cover. Monitoring of such efforts is being done through remote sensing.
  • Similarly, systematic mine closure plan with land reclamation & restoration is also vigorously monitored to reuse the reclaimed land for agriculture purpose in future.
  • A massive capital expenditure investment plan on activities related to Sustainable Development in next five years has been made. The investment includes expenditure on Mining Equipment, Setting up of Solar Plants, Surface Coal Gasification, First-Mile Connectivity Projects & on all other out of box activities for environmental protection.
  • All these activities will pave way in next 5 years for benchmarking a much better Sustainable Development effort by Coal Industry on Economic, Environmental & Social front.

2. Indian Economy exits Technical Recession

News: Real GDP growth of 0.4 percent in Q3 of 2020-21 has returned the economy to the pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates. It is also a reflection of a further strengthening of V-shaped recovery that began in Q2 of 2020-21, after a large GDP contraction in Q1followed one of the most stringent lockdown imposed by Government relative to other countries. The 2nd advance estimates the contraction of GDP at8.0 per cent in 2020-21.

V-Shaped Recovery:

  • The initial policy choice of “lives over livelihoods” succeeded by “lives as well as livelihoods” is now bearing positive results converging with the foresight Government had about an imminent V-shaped recovery when it entered the war with the Pandemic on health and economic fronts.
  • The sharp V- shaped recovery has been driven by rebounds in both Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE) and Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) as a combination of astute handling of the lockdown and a calibrated fiscal stimulus has allowed strong economic fundamentals to trigger quick resumption of high activity levels in the economy.
  • While GFCF has improved from a contraction of 46.4 per cent in Q1 to a positive growth of 2.6 per cent in Q3, PFCE has recovered from a contraction of 26.2 per cent in Q1 to a much smaller contraction of 2.4 per cent in Q3.

State of Capex:

  • Besides the overall uptick in the economy, the resurgence of GFCFin Q3 was also triggered by Capex in Central Government that increased year-on-year by 129 per cent in October, 249 per cent in November and 62 per cent in December, 2020.
  • The fiscal multipliers associated with Capex are at least 3-4 times larger than Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) as Capex induces much higher consumption spending than normal income transfers.
  • However, GFCE has played a critical role since April, 2020 as apart from supporting lives and livelihoods it provided the initial stimulus to the economy.

Manufacturing Sector:

  • Significant recovery in manufacturing and construction augurs well for the support these sectors are expected to provide to growth in FY 2021-22.
  • Real GVA in manufacturing has improved from a contraction of 35.9 per cent in Q1 to a positive growth of 1.6 per cent in Q3 while in construction the recovery has been from a contraction of 49.4 per cent in Q1 to a positive growth of 6.2 per cent in Q3.
  • These sectors are vital to the economy to achieve a growth of 11 per cent or more in 2021-22 as they will be impacted most by the counter cyclical fiscal policy that budgets fiscal deficit at 6.8 per cent of GDP.

Services Sector:

  • Real GVA in Services has also improved from a contraction of 21.4 in Q1 to a negligible contraction of 1.0 percent in Q3 of 2020-21.
  • The much lower contraction of GVA in Services sector is welcome as activity levels in contact-based services appears to have risen with the decline in the pandemic curve.
  • A continuous decline in the pandemic curve and a step-up in vaccination drive, as recently announced will support further revival of contact-based services.
  • Given that services constitute more than 50 per cent of total GVA in the country, it becomes the most important source for increasing consumption in the economy.

Agriculture Sector:

  • Real GVA in Agriculture continues to provide vital support to the economy having grown from 3.3 per cent in Q1 to 3.9 per cent in Q3.

 

3. Vijayanagar king Krishnadevaraya

 

News: The first-ever epigraphical reference to the date of death of Vijayanagar king Krishnadevaraya has been discovered at Honnenahalli in Tumakuru district in Karnataka. The inscription is written in Kannada.

Details:

  • Krishnadevaraya, one of the greatest emperors of India who ruled from the South, died on October 17, 1529, Sunday, and incidentally this day was marked by a lunar eclipse. A village named Honnenahalli in Tumakuru was gifted for conducting worship to the god Veeraprasanna Hanumantha of Tumakuru.

Krishnadevaraya:

  • He was the ruler of the Tuluva dynasty of Vijayanagar empire (1509-29 AD). His rule was characterised by expansion and consolidation. He is credited with building some fine temples and adding impressive gopurams to many important south Indian temples.
  • He also foundeda suburban township near Vijayanagar called Nagalapuram after his mother. He composed a work on statecraft in Telugu known as the

Vijayanagara Empire:

  • Vijayanagara or “city of victory” was the name of both a city and an empire. The empire was founded in the fourteenth century(1336 AD) by Harihara and Bukka of the Sangama dynasty.
  • They made Hampi the capital city. In 1986, Hampi was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It stretched from the river Krishna in the north to the extreme south of the peninsula.
  • Vijayanagar Empire was ruled by four important dynasties and they are:
  • Sangama
  • Saluva
  • Tuluva
  • Aravidu

 

4. Defects in Anti-Defection Law

 

Background:

  • The anti-defection law was included in the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule in 1985. The main purpose was to preserve the stability of governments and insulate them from defections of legislators from the treasury benches.
  • The law stated that any Member of Parliament (MP) or that of a State legislature (MLA) would be disqualified from their office if they voted on any motion contrary to the directions issued by their party.

Issues with the anti-defection law

Representative democracy

  • The provisions of the anti-defection law are not limited to confidence motions or money bills.
  • It applies to all votes in the House, on every Bill and every other issue.
  • It even applies to the Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils, which have no say in the stability of the government. Therefore, an MP (or MLA) has absolutely no freedom to vote their judgement on any issue.
  • They have to blindly follow the direction of the party. This provision goes against the concept of representative democracy.
  • There are two broadly accepted roles of a representative such as an MP. One is that they are agents of the voters and are expected to vote according to the wishes and for the benefits of their constituents.
  • The other is that their duty to their constituents is to exercise their judgement on various issues towards the broader public interest. In this, they deliberate with other MPs and find a reasonable way through complex issues. The anti-defection law makes the MP neither a delegate of the constituency nor a national legislator but converts them to be just an agent of the party.

Broken chain

  • The legislator is accountable to voters, and the government is accountable to legislators. In India, this chain of accountability has been broken by making legislators accountable primarily to the party.
  • This means that anyone from the party having a majority in the legislature is unable to hold the government to account. This negates the concept of them having to justify their positions on various issues to the people who elected them to the post.
  • If an MP has no freedom to take decisions on policy and legislative proposals, there would be no incentive to put in the effort to understand the different policy choices and their outcomes.
  • The MP becomes just another number to be tallied by the party on any vote that it supports or opposes.

Accountability v/s Stability

  • While introducing the draft Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that the presidential form (such as in the United States) had higher stability but lower accountability. This is because the President is elected for four years, and cannot be removed except for proven misdemeanour.
  • In the parliamentary form, the government is accountable on a daily basis through questions and motions and can be removed any time it loses the support of the majority of members of the Lok Sabha. The drafting committee believed that India needed a government that was accountable, even at the cost of stability.
  • The anti-defection bill weakens the accountability mechanism.
  • The political system has found ways to topple governments by reducing the total membership through resignations. In other instances, the Speaker — usually from the ruling party — has delayed taking a decision on the disqualification. The Supreme Court has tried to plug this by ruling that the Speaker has to take the decision in three months, but it is not clear what would happen if a Speaker does not do so.
  • The premise that the anti-defection law is needed to punish legislators who betray the mandate given by the voters also seems to be flawed.
  • We have seen many of the defectors in States such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh being re-elected in the by-polls, which were held due to their disqualification.

Way forward

  • The problem arises from the attempt to find a legal solution to what is essentially a political problem.
  • If stability of government is an issue due to people defecting from their parties, the answer is for parties to strengthen their internal systems.
  • If parties attract members on the basis of ideology, and they have systems for people to rise within the party hierarchy on their capabilities rather than in heritance, there would be a greater exit barrier.
  • The anti-defection law has been detrimental to the functioning of our legislatures as deliberative bodies which hold the executive to account on behalf of citizens. It has turned them into for a to endorse the decision of the government on Bills and budgets. And it has not even done the job of preserving the stability of governments. The Tenth Schedule to the Constitution must be repealed.