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IAS library current affairs 24-04-2018

Pros and Cons of Hydraulic Fracking

Relevancy:

GS Prelims, GS Mains paper III

Sci-tech, Shale gas, Hydraulic Fracturing, Fracking

Introduction:

  • It is projected that fossil fuel energy will decline markedly by 2050.
  • Such conclusions have been challenged by others who say that the earth has enough resources to quench humankind’s thirst for development for many centuries to come.
  • Among other energy supplies, shale gas and oil are likely to be abundant and available.

Process of Shale Gas exploration: Hydraulic Fracturing:

  • Shale gas and oil are unconventional natural resources found at 2,500-5,000 m below the earth’s surface, as compared to conventional crude oil found at 1,500 m.
  • The process of extracting shale oil and gas requires deep vertical drilling followed by horizontal drilling.
  • The most common way to extract shale gas is ‘hydraulic fracturing’ (fracking).
  • In this process, high volumes of water mixed with certain chemicals are pushed down to break the rocks and release the trapped energy minerals.

Policy on Shale Gas, 2013:

  • Because of its benefits, shale gas is being perceived by some as a ‘saviour’ of humanity. Fracking seems an attractive tool, both politically and economically.
  • To gain such benefits, the government introduced a policy on shale gas and oil in 2013, permitting national oil companies to engage in fracking.
  • Under the first phase, shale gas blocks were identified in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
  • However, environmental groups have strongly criticised this move, which they say will have adverse environmental impacts.
  • Countries like Germany and France and subnational governments like Scotland have banned fracking.

Salient features of Shale Gas policy, 2013 are as under:

  • The identified blocks will be advertised for international competitive bidding. Participation of the state will not be mandatory.
  • All areas, which are already allotted and where operations have entered the development/production phase shall be excluded from the area to be offered for shale gas exploration.
  • If an offer for shale gas overlaps or falls within an existing oil and gas/CBM block, right of first refusal will be offered to the existing contractor to match the offer of the selected bidder.
  • Fiscal regime proposed for exploration to be based on royalty and production linked payments, similar to the regime adopted for CBM operations. Ad valorem royalty at the prevailing rate for natural gas would be applicable and accrue to the state governments. Production-linked payment on ad valorem basis will be made to the central government on different production slabs, which will be biddable items. Cost recovery will not be admissible.
  • The contract duration will be of 32 years and will be divided into two phases. Phase I will be for a period of 7 years and will be for exploration, appraisal, evaluation of the prospect, and feasibility. Phase II will be the development and production phase for the remaining duration of 25 years.
  • There will be freedom to market shale gas within India on an arm’s length basis within the framework of the government policies in marketing and pricing of the gas.

Positive impacts- Economic and Political mileage:

  • The process of Fracking has its own pros and cons. It is beneficial economically as well as politically.
  • Take the case of the USA. Shale gas has been commercially exploited since last two decades in the US.
  • This has led to the reduction of prices of fuel and electricity.
  • The US has also gained political mileage as has been exhibited by the recent negotiations between the US and the OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries)
  • India too can follow the suit and gain economic as well as potical advantage by commercially exploiting shale gas.
  • It can meet India’s ever increasing energy demands, decrease oil and gas imports and hence improve the Balance of Payments (BoP)

Negative impacts- Environmental:

  • The process of fracking is bound to have a detrimental impact on local communities and the environment.
  • As fracking consumes large amounts of water (average 15,000 m3/well) and relatively larger surface area, it is bound to impact irrigation and other local requirements.
  • In the U.S. experience, out of 260 chemical substances, 58 have been identified to pose a risk to human life and environment, eight are carcinogens and 17 are toxic to freshwater organisms.
  • Further, as 25-90% of the fluid is not retrieved and cracks in the shaft are possible, there is a high risk of pollution to nearby underground water.
  • Instances of groundwater pollution have been reported in the U.S. (Pennsylvania) and Canada. Fracking has other impacts such as increased air emissions (including greenhouse gases) and seismic activity.

Legal hurdles- Precautionary principle:

  • The Supreme Court of India has ruled that every person has the right to enjoy pollution-free water and air.
  • Another hurdle that fracking might face is the ‘precautionary principle’, which has been incorporated into law. It dictates that where there is a significant risk to the environment or human health, precautionary measures must be undertaken, irrespective of any scientific uncertainty.
  • Therefore, even though some scholars might contest the above-mentioned risks posed by fracking, the government would be obliged to adopt measures to reduce those risks.
  • The Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016, sets a priority for use of groundwater — right to water for life, and water to achieve “food security, supporting sustenance agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and eco-system needs”.
  • Only after satisfying these priorities can underground water be used for other purposes.
  • In the light of the risks involved, the government should impose a moratorium on fracking.

 

 

 

CPGRAMS: Effective Grievance Redressal System in India

Relevancy:

GS Mains paper II, IV

Polity and governance, Grievance redressal mechanism, CPGRAMS, Good governance (Sushasan)

Introduction:

  • Good Governance is the key to a Country’s progress.
  • Transparency and accountability in the public administration system fosters equitable growth.
  • The present government aims to ring in “Minimum government and Maximum governance”.
  • Thus Public grievance redressal system an essential component of a responsive government.

Government’s initiatives: CPGRAMS, UMANG and Citizen’s Charter:

  • For redressing the problems of the citizens, the government has established and internet based Centralised Public Grievances Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS).
  • The citizens can file their grievances through online platform called CPGRAMS.
  • Each complaint is given a unique registration number. It also requires various ministries and departments to take appropriate action and upload action taken report (ATR) on these complaints.
  • The Public Grievance Mechanism of the Prime Minister Office (PMO), Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) etc. have been integrated throughout the CPGRAMS.
  • The DARPG is the policy making, monitoring and coordinating department for Public Grievances.
  • A dashboard has also been created on CPGRAMS for all the Heads of the ministries / Departments for accessing the relevant information pertaining to pendency of grievances of their respective ministries/ departments.
  • The Prime Ministrer also monitors the pending grievances of one or more Ministry or Department every month under the Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) platform.
  • Newmobile apps have been integrated with the Unified Mobile Apllication for New-Age Governance (UMANG).
  • In order to encourage grievance redressal mechanism in various government departments and ministries, a quarterly award scheme has been launched.
  • The Citizen’s Charter is another tool of good governance.
  • A citizen’s charter is a written declaration by the government department/s that embodies the standards of service delivery that it subscribes to, the vaialablity of choice for consumers, avenues for grievance Redressal and other related information.

Conclusion:

  • Ultimately, the aim of these government initiatives is to build trust with the citizenry.
  • Citizens feel connected with the governance mechanisms when their grievances are addressed within a given time.
  • All these efforts pave the way for Good Governanace i.e. Sushashan.

 

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018

Relevancy

G.S. Paper 2

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018

About the ordinance, the need for the ordinance and who is a Fugitive Economic Offender

Offenses under the ordinance

Benefit and impact of the ordinance

Recently:

  • The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018 (‘Ordinance’) was yesterday given the green light by President of India, Ram Nath Kovind.
  • A bill in respect of the same was due to come up in the Lok Sabha last month.
  • However, frequent adjournments of the House before the session came to a close, saw to it that the bill did not materialise before the Lok Sabha.

What did the Govt introduce the ordinance?

  • The Government has introduced the Ordinance “to provide for measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, to preserve the sanctity of the rule of law in India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • This Ordinance has been brought to crack down on economic fugitives like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and others and to confiscate their properties.
  • The Ordinance is to have instantaneous effect and is prospectively applicable to offences across the country.

When can the Ordinance be invoked?

  • The Ordinance comes into play when a designated authority makes an application under Section 4 of the Ordinance (‘Section 4 application’) to declare a person a Fugitive Economic Offender.
  • The designated authority here is a Director or Deputy Director as defined under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.

Who is a fugitive economic offender?

As per Section 2 of the Ordinance, a “Fugitive economic offender” means any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a Scheduled Offence has been issued by any Court in India who-

  • has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution; or
  • being abroad refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution

What are the offences that fall under the ordinance?

The Schedule to the Ordinance lays down offences under various statutes as falling within the scope of the Ordinance including the following i.e.,

  1. Indian Penal Code (1872),
  2. Negotiable Instruments Act (1881),
  3. Reserve Bank of India Act (1934),
  4. Central Excise Act (1944),
  5. Customs Act (1962),
  6. Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act (1988),
  7. Prevention of Corruption Act (1988),
  8. Securities and Exchange Board of India Act (1992),
  9. Prevention of Money Laundering Act (2002),
  10. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Act (2008),
  11. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (2010),
  12. Companies Act (2013),
  13. Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act (2015),
  14. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (2016), and
  15. Central Goods and Services Tax Act (2017)

Declaration of a Fugitive Economic Offender

  • In order to declare an individual a Fugitive Economic Offender (FEO), the Director or a person authorised by the Director and not below the rank of Deputy Director should make an application under Section 4 of the Ordinance to the designated Special Court.

The benefit of the ordinance:

  • The ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law as the accused will be forced to return to India and face trial for his offences.
  • This would also help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, improving the financial health of such institutions.

The impact of the ordinance:

  • It is expected that the creation of a special forum for a speedy confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India or abroad, would force the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of courts in India to face the law in respect of scheduled offences.

Strategy for implementation and targets:

  • The ordinance makes provisions for a court (‘Special Court’ under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) to declare a person as a ‘Fugitive Economic Offender.’
  • A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
  • A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Ordinance. Further, in order to ensure that courts are not over-burdened with such cases, only those cases where the total value involved in such offences is 100 crore rupees or more, is within the purview of this ordinance.

Other provisions under the ordinance:

  • making an application before the special court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
  • attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender and proceeds of crime;
  • issue of a notice by the special court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
  • confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender or even the proceeds of crime;
  • disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
  • appointment of an administrator to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the act.
  • If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.
  • All necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal to the high court have been provided for.

The expenditure incurred:

  • Since the approved law would utilise the existing infrastructure of the special courts constituted under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) and the threshold of scheduled offence is high at Rs 100 crore or more, no additional expenditure is expected on the enactment of the ordinance.
  • The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha on March 12 during the Budget Session of the Parliament but could not be passed due to logjam over various issues.

 

How To Curb The Epidemic Proportions Of Rapes In India?

Relevancy

G.S. Paper 2

Rapes in India and how to curb it

Problems and what needs to be done?

Recently:

  • The government passed an ordinance mandating death penalty for those convicted of raping children below 12 years of age.
  • This is not a substantive step to address the large malice that is plaguing our justice system.
  • It is only a classical case of playing to the galleries.

What makes the current move just a political stunt?

  • After every major incident of sexual violence, there is a palpable societal outrage, and the politicians immediately initiate a populist action.
  • Thus, the current ordinance regarding rape is nothing more than a mere political recipe to satiate the sentiments of the masses.
  • The rationale for mandating “death penalty” is premised on the belief that stringent laws will reduce crime, but there is no evidence for the same.
  • Sadly, populist actions have largely diverted our attention from the systemic failures that has been plaguing our justice delivery system.
  • Sloppy police investigations, low conviction rates, the overall slowness of the judiciary only add to the woes of the victims.
  • Women organizations have argued timely justice and greater focus on victim rehabilitation through medical and psychological support.
  • But sadly, there is little that India seems to be doing in these domains.

What are the real problems that need to be addressed?      

  • Rapes and sexual assaults on women and children have reached epidemic proportions, which mandate a review of our police and judicial institutions.
  • At present insensitive methods of police investigation, tardy filing of charge sheets, insensitive counseling, disempower victims to a great extent.
  • Also, rape survivors are subjected to a traumatizing experience in police stations and hospitals where medical examinations are carried out.
  • Such harassment gets into spotlight only in extreme cases, and efforts for improving this prevalent malice is severely lacking.
  • Further, there is unwarranted delay by the police in filing missing person complaints and registering written complaints of sexual assault survivors.
  • While the reasons such delays are many, it is often connected to prevailing biases of – class, caste, religion and gender.
  • Such delays give perpetrators ample time to destroy crucial evidence and cover their tracks by influencing witnesses or even threaten victims.
  • Aggressive cross-examination of the survivor and her witnesses and cumbersome court proceedings scar and scare the victims further.
  • There seems to be little recognition for the psychological trauma and agony that the victim has undergone, while being subjected to a hostile trial.

What needs to be done?

  • Instead of harping on the quantum and severity of punishment, we have to highlight the issue of a low conviction rate for rape.
  • There is a mounting lack of trust in the judiciary as the preprators seem to be enjoying a virtual impunity by using the loopholes in our justice system.
  • Notably, “National Crime Records Bureau” (NCRB) data has shown that there is a high prevalence of repeat sexual offenders.
  • We hence need to enhance the judicial capacity and special fast-track courts for handling sexual offences could also be considered.
  • Additionally, we need to constitute structures for better care and rehabilitation for victims in order to ensure their good health and well being.

 

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