Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 20th June-2021

Topics

  • Children and Digital Dumpsites | WHO
  • Recusal of Judge
  • Movie Censorship
  • World Competitiveness Index,2021
  • HT Cotton

 

 

  1. Children and Digital Dumpsites | WHO

#GS2 #International organizations #GS3 #Environment pollution and degradation

Context: The new report, titled Children and Digital Dumpsites, was recently released by the WHO.

Highlights of the report:

  • There are as many as 18 million children (as young as five years) and about 12.9 million women work at these e-waste dumpsites every year.
  • People working at e-waste dumpsites in low- and middle-income countries are potentially at the risk of severe health hazards.
  • They face risk due to discarded electronic devices or e-waste being dumped from high-income countries.

What are the Concerns?

  • The e-waste processing is done in low-income countries, which do not have proper safeguarding regulation and which makes the process even more dangerous.
  • Children are especially preferred at these dumpsites because of their small and dexterous hands.
  • Several women, including expectant mothers, also work there. Processing e-waste exposes them as well as their children to these toxins, which can lead to premature births and stillbirth.
  • The hazardous impact of working at such sites is also experienced by families and communities that reside in the vicinity of these e-waste dumpsites.

Volume of water generated across the world:

  • Global Scenario: According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, the volume of e-waste generated is surging rapidly across the globe.
  • About 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019.
  • Only 17.4 per cent of this e-waste was processed in formal recycling facilities. The rest of it was dumped in low- or middle-income countries for illegal processing by informal workers.
  • This is likely to increase in the coming years because of the rise in the number of smartphones and computers.

Impact of Working at Digital Dumpsites:

  • On Children: The children working at these ‘digital dumpsites’ are more prone to improper lung function, deoxyribonucleic acid damage and increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
    • They are less likely to metabolise or eradicate pollutants absorbed.
  • On Women: Several women, including expectant mothers, also work there. Processing e-waste exposes them as well as their children to these toxins, which can lead to premature births and stillbirth.
  • On Others: The hazardous impact of working at such sites is also experienced by families and communities that reside in the vicinity of these e-waste dumpsites.

What actually constitutes e-waste?

  • E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
  • e-waste contains over 1,000 precious metals and other substances like gold, copper, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • It majorly includes electronic equipment, completely or in part discarded as waste by the consumer or bulk consumer as well as rejects from manufacturing, refurbishment and repair processes.

Management of e- waste in India:

  • Laws to manage e-waste have been in place in India since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was enacted in 2017.

E-waste Generation in India:

  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 7.82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.
  • In 2018, the Ministry of Environment had told the tribunal that 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose of it by burning or dissolving it in acids.

E-waste Management:

  • The Basel Convention addressed the issues of e-waste in its 8th COP in 2006.
    • The convention seeks to ensure environmentally sound management; prevention of illegal traffic to developing countries and; building capacity to better manage e-waste.
  • The Nairobi Declaration was adopted at COP9 of the Basel Convention. It aimed at creating innovative solutions for the environmentally sound management of electronic wastes.
  • The Government of India has implemented the E-waste (Management) Rules (2016) which enforces the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
    • Under EPR principle the producers have been made responsible to collect a certain percentage of E-waste generated from their goods once they have reached their “end-of-life”.

 

 

  1. Recusal of Judge

#GS2 #Judiciary #Judicial Conduct

Context: Justice Indira Banerjee has recused herself from hearing a petition filed by the families of two BJP activists killed allegedly in the post poll violence in West Bengal.

Background:

  • The petition alleged that there was “indiscriminate” killing of innocent people in West Bengal following the election results by the “vengeful” ruling party in the State.

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

  • Judicial disqualification, referred as Recusal, is the removal of oneself as a judge or policymaker in a particular matter, especially because of a conflict of interest.
  • A recusal inevitably leads to delay. The case goes back to the Chief Justice, who has to constitute a fresh Bench.
  • Recusal usually takes place when a judge has a conflict of interest or has a prior association with the parties in the case.

Grounds for Recusal:

  • Most judges recuse themselves if they feel a reasonable apprehension of bias. The classic example is that of Lord Cottenham in 1852 to hear a matter in which he had a few shares in the Grand Junction Canal.
  • Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  • Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  • Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  • Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  • Rulings, comments or conduct.

Rules on Recusals:

  • There are no written rules on the recusal of judges from hearing cases listed before them in constitutional courts. It is left to the discretion of a judge.
  • The reasons for recusal are not disclosed in an order of the court. Some judges orally convey to the lawyers involved in the case their reasons for recusal, many do not. Some explain the reasons in their order.
  • The decision rests on the conscience of the judge. At times, parties involved raise apprehensions about a possible conflict of interest.

Issues with recusal:

  • Recusal is also regarded as the abdication of duty. Maintaining institutional civilities are distinct from the fiercely independent role of the judge as an adjudicator.
  • In his separate opinion in the NJAC judgment in 2015, Justice Kurian Joseph highlighted the need for judges to give reasons for recusal as a measure to build transparency.
  • It is the constitutional duty, as reflected in one’s oath, to be transparent and accountable, and hence, a judge is required to indicate reasons for his recusal from a particular case, he ruled.

Supreme Court’s view on this:

  • Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”
  • In his separate opinion in the National Judicial Appointments Commission judgment in 2015, Justice (now retired) Kurian Joseph, who was a member of the Constitution Bench, highlighted the need for judges to give reasons for recusal as a measure to build transparency. “It is the constitutional duty, as reflected in one’s oath, to be transparent and accountable, and hence, a judge is required to indicate reasons for his recusal from a particular case,”

 

  1. Movie Censorship

#GS2 #Government policies

Context: The Centre on Friday sought public comments on its draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to bring back its “revisionary powers” over the Central Board of Film Certification.

  • This would empower the Centre to order “re-examination” of an already certified film, following receipt of complaints.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court of India (SC) in November 2000, had upheld a Karnataka High Court order which struck down the Centre’s “revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified by the Board”.
  • However, the SC had opined that the Legislature may, in certain cases, overrule or nullify the judicial or executive decision by enacting an appropriate legislation”.

Provision of Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

  • The government on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 can order for “re-examination” by the certification board of an already certified film, following receipt of complaints.
    • Section 5B(1) deals with the principles for guidance in certifying films. It is derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution and is non-negotiable.
    • Under Section 6 of the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Centre is already empowered to call for the record of proceedings in relation to certification of a film and pass any order thereon.
    • The Central Government, if the situation warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board.
  • Among the proposed changes, the ministry said the provisions relating to certification of films under ‘unrestricted public exhibition’ category are proposed to be amended so as to further sub-divide the existing UA category into age-based categories such as U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.
  • In most cases, illegal duplication in cinema halls is the originating point of piracy. At present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • The draft Bill proposes to insert Section 6AA which prohibits unauthorised recording.
  • Section 6AA of the draft legislation makes piracy a punishable offence.
    • The punishment of imprisonment for a term upto three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5% of the audited gross production cost or with both.
  • An expert committee under the chairmanship of Justice (retired) Mukul Mudgal was constituted in 2013 to examine the issues of certification under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • Another committee of experts was set up under the chairmanship of Shyam Benegal in 2016 to evolve broad guidelines for certification within the ambit of the Cinematograph Act and Rules.
  • The recommendations made by both the committees have been examined in the ministry and efforts have been made to consider all the relevant issues through internal reviews of the Act in consultation with various stakeholders

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC):

  • The CBFC handles film certification in India.
  • It is a statutory body under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
  • It regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
  • Films can be exhibited to the public only after they have been certified by the CBFC.
  • The Board consists of non-official members and a Chairman (all of whom are appointed by Central Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai.

Provisions for Censorship:

  • The ministry cites the “reasonable restrictions” placed by the constitution in Article 19 of the constitution to justify exercising its powers to act as a super-censor for films about which it receives complaints – even if the CBFC, which is the official body empowered to implement the Act, finds those film do not trigger those restrictions.
  • Article 19(2) of the Constitution authorises the government to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
  • The Cinematograph Act, 1952 also provides for similar provisions as stated under Article 19(2).
  • While governments over the years have cited law and order considerations in order to play super censor – effectively banning the public release of a film that has been duly certified – the Supreme Court and various high courts have tended to frown on this official intolerance.

 

  1. World Competitiveness Index, 2021

#GS3 #InclusiveGrowth #GS2 #Internationalorganisation

Context:  According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY), India maintained 43rd rank on the annual World Competitiveness Index.

  • The World Competitiveness Index is a comprehensive annual report on the competitiveness of countries.

Key Details:

  • WCY was first published in 1989 and is compiled by the Institute for Management Development (IMD).
  • Compiled by: Institute for Management Development (IMD).
  • It examined the impact of COVID-19 on economies around the world this year.
  • It measures the prosperity and competitiveness of countries by examining four factors (334 competitiveness criteria):
    • Economic performance
    • Government efficiency
    • Business efficiency
    • Infrastructure

Key analysis by the report:

  • Many Countries succeeded in transitioning to a remote work routine while also allowing remote learning.
  • Addressing unemployment has been fundamental.

Top Global Performers:

  • The European countries display regional strength in world competitiveness ranking with Switzerland (1st), Sweden (2nd), Denmark (3rd), the Netherlands (4th).
  • The top-performing Asian economies are, in order, Singapore (5th), Hong Kong (7th), Taiwan (8th) and China (16th).
  • Singapore was 1st in the 2020 World Competitiveness Index.
  • The UAE and the USA remain in their same spots as last year (9th and 10th, respectively).

India’s Performance:

  • In Comparison to BRICS Nations: Among the BRICS nations, India ranked second (43rd) after China (16th), followed by Russia (45th), Brazil (57th) and South Africa (62nd).
  • Performance on Four Factors: Among the four indices used, India’s ranking in government efficiency increased to 46 from 50 a year ago, while its ranking in other parameters such as economic performance (37th), business efficiency (32th) and infrastructure (49) remained the same.
  • Improvements in Government Efficiency: Mostly due to relatively stable public finances. Despite difficulties brought by the pandemic, in 2020, the government deficit stayed at 7%. The Government also provided support and subsidies to the private companies.

India’s Strengths:

  • India’s strengths lie in investments in telecoms (1st), mobile telephone costs (1st), ICT services exports (3rd), remuneration in services professions (4th) and terms of trade index (5th).

India’s Weaknesses:

  • India’s performance is the worst in sub-indices such as broadband subscribers (64th), exposure to particulate pollution (64th), human development index (64th), GDP per capita (63rd) and foreign currency reserves per capita (62nd) among others.

Recent Steps Taken by India to Increase its Competitiveness:

  • Introduction of various Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemes
  • The five pillars of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan are – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography and Demand.

 

  1. HT Cotton

#GS3 #technology #agriculture

Context: The illegal cultivation of herbicide-tolerant (HT) Bt cotton has seen a huge jump in 2021.

Key points:

What is Bt Cotton?

  • Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop that has been approved by the Centre for commercial cultivation in India.
  • It has been genetically modified (GM) to produce an insecticide to combat the cotton bollworm, a common pest.
  • Developed by US giant Bayer-Monsanto, it involves insertion of two genes viz ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into cotton seeds.
  • This modification codes the plant to produce protein toxic to Heliothis bollworm (pink bollworm) thus making it resistant to their attack. The commercial release of this hybrid was sanctioned by the government in 2002.
  • Besides Bt cotton, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has cleared two other genetically modified crops — brinjal and mustard — but these have not received the consent of the Environment Minister.

What is Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton:

  • This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It is not cleared by GEAC.
  • Fears include glyphosate having a carcinogenic effect, as well as the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance to nearby plants through pollination, creating a variety of superweeds.

Need for Using HTBt Cotton:

  • Saves Cost: There is a shortage of the labour needed to do at least two rounds of weeding for Bt cotton.
    • With HTBt, simply one round of glyphosate spraying is needed with no weeding. It saves Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 8,000 per acre for farmers.
  • Support of Scientists: Scientists are also in favour of this crop, and even the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it does not cause cancer.
    • But the government has still withheld approval for HTBt.

Issues Emanating from Illegal Sale of HTBt Cotton:

  • As it is not approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), illegal sale takes place in Indian markets.
  • Firstly, the HT Bt cotton variant has serious environmental and economic consequences. This is because there are fears that glyphosate has a carcinogenic effect.
  • Further, the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance is creating a variety of superweeds.
  • Farmers are at risk with such illegal cotton seed sale as there is no accountability of the quality of seed, it pollutes the environment, the industry is losing legitimate seed sale and the government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection.
  • It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in India.

Government of India’s Response on illegal cultivation of HT Bt Cotton:

  • According to a report by the Department of Biotechnology, around 15% of the cotton area was sown with unapproved HTBt cotton. Especially in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.
  • However, the Government of India has said that it has made the policy to ban this variant. But it is the State governments to enforce the ban and take action.

What the law says?

  • Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1989. Also, sale of unapproved seeds can attract action under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957. The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee:

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • It is responsible for the appraisal of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
  • The committee is also responsible for the appraisal of proposals relating to the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
  • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Way Forward:

  • Genetic modification could bring about changes that can be harmful to humans in the long run. GM crops must be released commercially only after their long-lasting effects are studied.
  • In India, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body that allows for the commercial release of GM crops.
  • Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of 5 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh under the Environmental Protection Act, 1989.
  • The Centre has made the policy to ban this variant. The State governments must take action.
  • HT seed sales are carried mostly by unorganised and fly by night operators. Action must be taken to stop such sales and punish offenders.

 

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