IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th June, 2020

DNA 27th June


Draft EIA Notification 2020

This editorial discusses the concerns associated with recently issued Draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020.

Understanding the EIA process

-The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process scrutinises the potential environmental impact and negative externalities of a proposed project.

-It also determines whether the project can be carried out in the form proposed, or whether it is to be abandoned or modified.

-The assessment is carried out by an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).

-EAC consists of scientists and project management experts.

-The EAC frames the scope of the EIA study and a preliminary report is prepared.

-That report is published and a public consultation process takes place.

-Objections can be heard including from project-affected people.

-The EAC can then make a final appraisal of the project and forward that to the regulatory authority: Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

-The regulatory authority is ordinarily obliged to accept the decision of the EAC.

Precautionary Principle and its importance

-The basis in global environmental law for the EIA is the “precautionary principle”.

-Environmental harm is often irreparable and it is cheaper to avoid damage to the environment than to remedy it.

-We are legally bound to the precautionary principle under international treaties and obligations, as well as by Supreme Court judgments.

What is the recent issue?

-Streamlining the EIA process and bringing it in line with recent judgments are the reasons given by the government for latest notification.

-The Draft EIA Notification disables it, shrinks its scope and removes what teeth it did have.

-The most devastating blow to the EIA regime is the creation of an ex-post-facto clearance route.

Ex-post-facto clearance route

-It applies to ongoing or completed project for which an EIA clearance was never sought or granted, and the construction of the project took place regardless. [Violating the norms]

-The project now can be slapped with minor fines for the violations and get cleared.

-Where such ex-post-facto clearances were being granted previously, the courts cracked down on them as illegal. Therefore, what could not be ratified will now find itself notified.

-The legality of sidestepping the courts is questionable and will have to be tested.

How it will affect?

-There is an argument that this route will be an “exception”. But it is difficult to believe in India. Our law has a long history of expanding the exception into the rule.

Time to furnish response shortened

-The draft notification also shortens the time for the public to furnish responses on the project.

-For project-affected people, who are frequently forest dwellers or otherwise do not have access to information and technology.

-This will make it harder to put forth representations.

Monitoring requirements are reduced

-Monitoring requirements have been slackened.

-The draft EIA notification halves the frequency of reporting requirements from every six months to once a year.

-It also extends the validity period for approvals in critical sectors such as mining.

Scope of EIA has been reduced

-Industries that previously required a full assessment have been downgraded.

-The construction industry will be one such beneficiary, where only the largest projects will be scrutinised fully.

-While defence and national security installations were always understandably exempt, a vague new category of projects “involving other strategic considerations” will also now be free from public consultation requirements.

Recent industrial mishaps in India

-Oil India Limited’s oil wells in the Tinsukia district, Assam went up in flames this month.

-It is situated only a few kilometres away from protected forest.

-Recent processes for expansion and modification apparently took place without fresh environmental clearance.

-There was a deadly gas leak at LG Polymers’ Visakhapatnam plant in May.

-The plant had been operating without a valid environmental clearance for decades.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ease-of-harming-environment-6478163/



The pandemic and a steep learning curve


-Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

-Most instruction has moved online.

-Higher education has gone digital where possible.

Efforts by Indian government:

Online higher education using MOOCs, or massive open online classrooms, has been encouraged by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for some time now via the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and SWAYAM platforms.

Why do educationists and policy makers advise caution on online education in India’s case?

-Because of contrast in rural versus urban infrastructure, the variable quality of staff, and the diverse types of subjects that are taught.

-Courses that traditionally need a laboratory or practical component are an obvious example where online classes cannot offer an alternative.

-The adoption or integration of technology in education also depends on the specific institution and its location: there is a huge digital divide in the country in terms of bandwidth and reliable connectivity, as well as very unequal access to funding.

-There is need for close personal interaction and discussion in research supervision.

-Not all students have equal access to the Internet, and more than half in any class in any institution are simply not able to attend lectures in real time for want of the required combination of hardware and electrical connectivity in their homes.

How to improve it?

-Digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) can be adapted to deliver personalised instruction based on the learning needs for each student.

-Pedagogic material must be made available in our other national languages; this will extend access, and can help overcome staff shortages that plague remote institutions.

-The state will have to bear much of the responsibility, both to improve digital infrastructure and to ensure that every needy student has access to a laptop or Smartphone.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-pandemic-imposes-a-steep-learning-curve/article31927570.ece

Getting out of the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis


-India is said to be going through the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis.

-The name is borrowed from the title of Jared Diamond’s classic book on the evolution of societies and nations, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

What it represents?

-Chinese “guns” on the borders.

-Coronavirus “germs” in our bodies.

-“Steel” makers and other businesses on the verge of bankruptcy.

Worrisome for India

-This is the gravest confluence of military, health and economic crises threatening our nation in more than a generation.

-Each of these would qualify as an independent, large crisis by itself, warranting a specific resolution.

-The Chinese military threat calls for immediate and strategic action by our defence and foreign affairs establishments.

-The COVID-19 health epidemic is here to stay and needs constant monitoring by the Health Ministry and local administration.

-The economic collapse is an enormous challenge that needs to be overcome with prudent policy.

What is needed to be done?

-The common thread across these is that its resolution requires significant financial resources.

-Standing up to a military threat by a superpower neighbour will pose an inevitable drain on the finances of the government (Kargil war has proven this).

-To face the COVID-19 epidemic, the central government will need additional funds of the equivalent of at least one percentage point of GDP to continue the fight against COVID-19.

-The lockdown has affected all the four major drivers of our economy- people’s spending on consumption, government spending, investment and external trade.

-The government needs to spend an additional eight percentage points of GDP while revenues will be lower by two percentage points of GDP, a combined gap of 10% of GDP.

-Potential new sources of revenue such as a wealth tax or a large capital gains tax are ideas worth exploring for the medium term but will not be of much immediate help.

Junk crisis:

-To fulfil its obligation, the government needs to borrow copiously.

-This will lead to a fourth dimension to the “guns, germs and steel crisis”; a “junk” crisis.

-With rising debt levels, international ratings agencies will likely downgrade India’s investment rating to “junk”, which will then trigger panic among foreign investors.

India thus faces a tough “Dasharatha” dilemma:

-Save the country’s borders, citizens and economy or prevent a “junk” rating.

The government’s choices are either to be bold and embark on a rescue mission, or do nothing and hope the situation resolves itself.

On balance, it seems that the best course of action is to borrow unabashedly to pull India out of the “guns, germs and steel” crisis and deal with the consequences of a potential “junk” nation label.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/getting-out-of-the-guns-germs-and-steel-crisis/article31927542.ece



U.N.-75 declaration delayed


Commemorative declaration marking the 75th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Charter has been delayed.

Reason behind delay:

-Member states could not reach an agreement on phraseology. They have objected to the use of a phrase “shared vision of a common future”.

-Because, the phrase, “community with a shared future for mankind” is closely associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and especially Chinese President Xi Jinping as an articulation of the country’s vision for the world.

Who are opposing?

-The Five Eyes — the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada — along with India, have objected.

-The current impasse comes at a time when China’s relationships with a number of democracies, including India, Australia and the U.S., are strained.

Silence process:

-With this objection, the ‘silence’ process (a procedure by which a resolution passes if no formal objections are raised within a stipulated time) has been broken.

-However, China, on behalf of itself, Russia, Syria and Pakistan raised objections to the silence being broken.

Demand of objecting countries:

The objecting countries wanted the resolution to read, “We will work together with partners to strengthen coordination and global governance for the common good of present and future generations and to realize our shared vision for a better future as envisaged in the preamble of the UN Charter.”

75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter:

-The Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 and came into force on October 24, 1945.

-It is the foundational treaty of the United Nations.


Conceived above all as a means to save future generations from the scourge of war, the Charter calls for the organization to maintain international peace and security; promote social progress and better standards of life; strengthen international law; and promote human rights.

As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles. Article 103 of the Charter states that obligations to the United Nations prevail over all other treaty obligations.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/un-75-declaration-delayed/article31927129.ece