The HINDU Notes – 23rd May 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 23rd May 2019

πŸ“° Election Commission rejects Opposition parties’ demand on VVPAT verification

On Tuesday, Opposition demanded that there should be 100% verification of the entire Assembly segment if a mismatch is found during the random check.

•A day ahead of the counting of votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the Election Commission (EC) rejected the demand of Opposition parties for tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling booths in each Assembly segment with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), prior to the vote count.

•In a statement on Wednesday, the EC said the VVPAT counting sequence would remain as per the Supreme Court-approved guidelines.

•A delegation of 22 Opposition parties had met the full Election Commission on Tuesday. Among other things, they requested the EC to count the VVPAT slips before the start of counting of votes polled in EVMs.

‘In-depth’ discussions
•Subsequently, the EC deliberated on the issue with senior officials concerned, and after two rounds of “in-depth” discussions, it arrived at the decision.

•“It has neither been found possible nor feasible to accede to this demand in the overall context and especially in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in writ petition (C) No.273 of 2019 delivered on April 8,” it said.

•According to the EC, the judgment directs that the random selection of VVPATs be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines 16.6 of the EVM manual in force.

Procedural issues

•“There were some other procedural issues like allowing counting agents of candidates along with all Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers, on which necessary instructions have already been reiterated and, wherever required, made more candidate-friendly,” the EC said.

•The EC assured the political parties of strict adherence to the set procedures for the entire counting process, especially the security of the strong rooms and the counting centres.

•The parties had also demanded that in case of any discrepancy in the EVM-VVPAT verification, 100% counting of the slips at all polling booths be done in that particular segment.

•According to sources, during the meeting on Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had cited the Supreme Court order and also told the Opposition leaders that a discussion on the issue was a waste of time, which triggered sharp reactions from them.

•During the elections, there were a series of controversies surrounding the Election Commission’s decisions.

•Its alleged delay in deciding the Model Code of Conduct violation allegations against several speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah led the Congress to approach the Supreme Court.

•It was after the Supreme Court set a deadline of May 6 that the complaints were disposed of. Mr. Modi was not found to have violated the Code in all the matters, but Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa gave dissenting opinions in some cases.

•It triggered another round of controversy, as Mr. Lavasa objected to his views not being incorporated in the final orders. He recused himself from MCC proceedings.

•On Tuesday, the full Commission took up the issue raised by Mr. Lavasa and, by a majority of 2:1, decided that minority views would only be recorded in internal files. They will not be made part of the final orders, as per previous practice.

•It is learnt that Mr. Lavasa then decided that he would continue to skip MCC meetings. As a result, several matters still remain pending.

πŸ“° Four judges elevated to Supreme Court

Apex court will now reach its full sanctioned judicial strength of 31 judges

•The Centre has cleared four names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for elevation as judges of the apex court.

•With their appointment, the Supreme Court will reach its full sanctioned judicial strength of 31 judges.

•The Centre has cleared the names of Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna. On May 8, the Collegium refused the government’s request to reconsider its April 12 recommendation to elevate the two judges.

•The government also gave its nod to the Collegium’s May 8 recommendation of Justice B.R. Gavai, a judge of the Bombay High Court, and Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Surya Kant for elevation.

•The Collegium had reiterated its recommendation of Justices Bose and Bopanna in the face of the government’s initial reluctance. It re-sent the files of the two judges to the government saying there was nothing adverse found in their conduct, competence or integrity. This had made it binding on the government to clear their appointments.

•The Collegium had explained its recommendation of Justices Gavai and Kant as an attempt to provide “due representation”, as far as possible, to all High Courts and to all sections of society including those belonging to the SC/ST/OBC categories, women and minorities.

•Justice Gavai superseded three judges in the Bombay High Court. The Collegium reasoned that though seniority ought to be given due weightage, merit is the “predominant consideration”. Representation for the SC/ST category seems to have played in the mind of the Collegium while recommending his elevation.

•Justice Kant had been the subject of controversy over a letter written by Justice (now retired) A.K. Goel to then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Justice Goel, then an apex court judge, had disagreed with the proposal to elevate Justice Kant as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. However, the Misra Collegium, in a notification dated October 3, went ahead with his elevation.

πŸ“° Want President’s Rule to end soon in J&K, says Governor

‘Final call on holding elections will be taken by the EC’

•Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday said his administration wants the President’s Rule to end in the State at the earliest but the final call on the timing of Assembly elections will be taken by the Election Commission.

‘No opposition’

•Asked if some officials within his administration were not keen on transfer of power to an elected government in the State, the Governor said there was nothing like that in his notice.

•“We want this (President’s Rule) to end as soon as possible. The final call on holding Assembly elections in the State will be taken by the Election Commission,” Mr. Malik told reporters after inaugurating the second phase of the Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover.

•Recently, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also said a decision on holding Assembly elections in the State was the prerogative of the Election Commission but indicated a decision could be announced after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.

•Jammu and Kashmir was placed under Governor’s Rule on June 19, 2018, after the PDP-BJP coalition government fell as the BJP decided to pull out of the alliance.

•The Governor decided to dissolve the Assembly on the grounds that he wanted to prevent horse-trading.

πŸ“° Jaipur Foot signs pact for bionic arms and mobility solutions

Deal with S. Korea will bring advanced technologies: founder

•The world-famous Jaipur Foot has signed an agreement with India Business Forum, Korea, for promoting research and development and transfer of technology on prosthetic limbs, bionic arms, 3-D printing-based flat foot solution and mobility solutions, including wheelchair safety, between India and South Korea.

Students participation

•The agreement will open up access for the South Korean medical technology students to join on-the-spot prosthetic fitment camps of Jaipur Foot in various countries and participate in the certificate programmes offered by Jaipur Foot.

•Jaipur Foot is the manufacturing arm of the parent body, Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS).

Grants and donations

•The new arrangement would also create opportunities for overseas development assistance and grants from the South Korean government and donations from private institutions and corporations to India, BMVSS secretary (technical) Deependra Mehta said here on Wednesday.

πŸ“° OBC categories commission receives 2-month extension

It will examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation

•A commission appointed in 2017 to examine the sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) has been given a two-month extension by President Ram Nath Kovind, according to an order of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Tuesday.

•The tenure of the commission was to end on May 31 but had now been extended till July 31, the order said. The commission had been constituted to “examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of Other Backward Classes with reference to such classes included in the Central List”, the October 2, 2017 order notifying its creation said.

•The commission was meant to “work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs and to take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories”, the order had said.

•The commission, whose chairperson was former Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini, was supposed to present its report to the President in 12 weeks from the time the chairperson assumed charge.

•“Since considerable time was taken up in obtaining the data and thereafter in analysing of the data, the tenure of the Commission has been extended from time to time and last till 31.05.2019,” Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Krishan Pal Gurjar told the Lok Sabha in a reply. 

πŸ“° Status of tenant not obviated by landlord’s death: Supreme Court

The owner of the property can pursue eviction proceedings only under the rent laws, says the apex court

•Protection offered to a statutory tenant by rent control law can only be overcome by following the procedure laid out in the statute. Owner cannot demand re-possession of property without following statutory procedure, the Supreme Court has held.

•The status of tenant does not stand obviated by the death of the person who created the tenancy. The only remedy available to the owner of the property is to pursue eviction proceedings under the rent laws.

•Only upon the satisfaction of the competent authority that sufficient grounds exist for eviction of the tenant can an order be passed directing the tenant to vacate the premises, a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed in a recent judgment.

•“A statutory protection granted for the benefit of the tenants under specific tenancy laws is to be viewed from a standpoint of protecting the interests of a particular class. Restrictions on recovery of possession of the premises let out to the tenants have been imposed for the benefit of the tenants as a matter of legislative policy,” the Supreme Court said.

•“The protection which is conferred upon the tenant against eviction, except on specified grounds, arises as a consequence of statutory prescription under rent control legislation. The reason why the tenant is entitled to occupy the premises beyond the life time of the landlord who created the tenancy is simply as a result of a statutory enactment,” Justice Chandrachud wrote in the judgment.

•The verdict came in a case dealing with the provisions of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 which are available to the tenant. Under the Act, the tenant has a protected status. That status cannot be disrupted or brought to an end except on grounds specified in the enactment, the apex court held.

•The East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act 1949 aims at regulating conditions of tenancy, controlling rents and preventing unreasonable eviction of tenants. For the advancement of these objects, tenants are invested with rights and landlords are subjected to obligations.

•The facts of the case pertain to the creation of tenancy by Shiv Dev Kaur in favour of Chander Parkash Soni. The life estate granted to Ms. Kaur had also empowered her to create tenancy on the property. After Ms. Kaur’s death, the heirs to the property filed a suit against Mr. Soni, who was even termed a trespasser. The appeal came to the Supreme Court after the high court dismissed the suit.

πŸ“° Water experts warn of ‘desertification’ of Marathwada

Say policymakers induce farmers to adopt incongruent crop pattern, causing water crisis

•The water crisis in Maharashtra is a “policy-induced failure”, according to economists and water academics who have specifically warned of the ‘desertification’ of the parched Marathwada region in the near future.

•“It is the ecological illiteracy of policy-makers and the selfishness of the power elite in inducing farmers across Marathwada to adopt a crop pattern that is not congruent with the agro-climatic characteristics of this region,” said Prof. H.M. Desarda, economist and former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board. Mismanagement of water resources by successive governments, coupled with four decades of incessant ‘water mining’, had led the groundwater table across the Marathwada region to decline precipitously to the point where rejuvenating it had become impossible, he said.

•“Of the 76 talukas in eight districts that comprise Marathwada, 50 received around 300 mm rainfall last year. This translates to three million litres of water per hectare. Given that the average population density in Marathwada is 300 per sq. km., this is more than enough to meet the basic drinking water and household needs of the populace besides leaving enough water for one crop. So, while there is a rainfall deficit in this region, it certainly does not warrant a grave water scarcity situation currently prevalent,” he said.

•According to data by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, the water table had dropped alarmingly in 70 of the 76 talukas, with more than 25 reporting a drop of more than two metres.

Arid climate

•Prof. Desarda said the crop pattern in the region had drastically changed over the past decades. “Earlier, the main crops cultivated here used to be cereal and oilseeds. These crops were not only conducive to Marathwada’s arid climate, but were drought-resistant and led to moisture harvesting,” he said. But now, the predominant crops here are soybean and Bt Cotton, which dominate more than 80% of Marathwada’s 50 lakh hectares of cultivable land.

•“These crops, coupled with the lure of easy profits from sugarcane, have led the farmers and the citizens to the edge of the current hydrological disaster. Sugarcane, which is only grown in 4% of the total cultivable land, guzzles 80% of the water resources. As a result, today, a slight change in the meteorological cycle is enough to cause a full-blown water crisis here,” he said.

•Water expert Pradeep Purandare painted a grim scenario for Marathwada in the near future, stating the process of desertification had already begun here. “The only way out of this ecological mess is to prohibit the cultivation of sugarcane,” said Mr. Purandare, a former associate professor at the Aurangabad-based Water and Land Management Institute. He said there are provisions within the Maharashtra Irrigation Act of 1976 wherein the government can notify people in the command area not to go in for water-intensive crops like sugarcane in the case of acute water scarcity.

•“However, there is no effort on the government’s part to wean farmers away from cultivating sugarcane and switching to drought-resistant ones like oilseeds and pulses. Despite the water position being clear in October, the powers-that-be made no move to curtail water supply to industries,” he said.

•In October 2014, Mr. Puranadare filed a public interest litigation before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court about the integrated State water plan and operationalisation of the legal framework of the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority Act, in an attempt to make the government accountable to the people over water resources. “Yet, the authorities have not taken any concrete steps to strengthen the law. Moreover, there has been no significant effort at harvesting water nor any thought of replenishment of the groundwater table,” he said.

Political crop

•According to Prof. Desarda, sugarcane was a ‘political crop’ and was a tried-and-tested method of becoming a politician in Maharashtra. “The political elite, from Yashwantrao Chavan to Sharad Pawar, has used the crop as a powerful instrument for building and retaining its voter base. Of the 200-odd sugar factories in the State, nearly 50 are located in Marathwada,” he said.

•Mr. Purandare said the 46 sugar factories in Marathwada were operational despite the mounting water crisis. “To produce 1 kg of sugar, 2,500 litres of water are required. This is tantamount to diverting water for human beings and livestock to maintain the sugar factories of the political elite. These mills have sucked the dams dry,” said Mr. Purandare.

•An acute water scarcity had drained several parts of Latur district in January itself. Today, this has snowballed into a catastrophe with Latur receiving water supply once in 12 days. “To slake Latur’s thirst, you [authorities and government] bring water from other areas while diverting resources from the Manjara dam — the district’s chief water source — to the district’s sugar mills. What kind of a cruel joke is this?” asked Mr. Purandare. While there was seething discontent among the people in the region, it was only a matter of time before the anger was organised, he said.

πŸ“° Semi-high-speed rail line gets a push

Govt. approaches JICA for ₹34,000-cr. loan for the project to be executed by State and Railways

•The government has expedited steps for the 531.45-km semi-high-speed rail line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, found ‘feasible and economically viable’, by seeking aid from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the ₹56,443-crore project.

•With the feasibility report, alignment, and revenue model from the Paris-based consulting firm Systra reaching the government for approval, Kerala Railway Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) has commenced steps to go forward with the project.

•The government has approached the country office of the JICA through the Union Department of Economic Affairs to secure ₹34,000 crore as loan for the project to be executed on cost-sharing basis by the State and Railways.

•Systra, general consultant for the KRDCL, has suggested in the feasibility report that the State and Railways mobilise ₹10,000 crore each. The State, in addition, will have to bear the cost of acquiring 1,226 hectares in 11 districts.

•The aim is to secure assistance from the JICA, the governmental agency that coordinates official development assistance for the government of Japan, through the DEA at least during 2021.

•The feasibility report needs the approval of the KRDCL board, State government, and Railways. Official sources told The Hindu that steps had been taken to convene the KRDCL board next month so that the report could be forwarded to the government and the Railway Board.

DPR by October

•The KRDCL may be ready with the DPR by October as the government announced in the budget that the work on the rail lines will begin in 2020. A fresh traffic study, field survey, soil investigation, and environment impact assessment will have to be carried out.

•Tenders have been floated for carrying out the field survey by LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), a remote sensing survey method used to examine the earth surface to know terrain using helicopters. The bids for carrying out soil investigation will be floated soon.

•As per the feasibility report, the internal rate of return (IRR) is 5.6% and 8.1% for 30 and 50 years respectively.

πŸ“° ISRO launches radar imaging satellite RISAT-2B

The new satellite "will enhance India's all-weather (space-based) capabilities in agriculture, forestry and disaster management"

•In a pre-dawn launch on May 22, RISAT-2B, the country's newest microwave Earth observation satellite, rode to its orbit 557 km above the ground.

•Data that will come from the all-weather day-and-night satellite are considered to be vital for the Armed Forces as also agriculture forecasters and disaster relief agencies.

•In a post-launch address from the Sriharikota launch port, K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO), hailed the event as a textbook launch of a very important and complex satellite.

•Dr. Sivan said ISRO has included two important secondary or "piggyback" trial "payloads that would revolutionise ISRO's future missions."

•The mission carried a complex 3.6-metre unfurlable radial antenna.

•It also tested a new low-cost light Vikram processor developed at the Semiconductor Complex Chandigarh. The processor will control future ISRO launch vehicles.

•Dr. Sivan, who is Secretary, Department of Space, also announced that the Chandrayaan-2 lander-rover mission would take place during the period July 9-16.

Small satellite launch vehicle

•The high-resolution Cartosat-3, the first small satellite launch vehicle and the second test of a future reusable launch vehicle would follow from Sriharikota in the coming months.

•The 615-kg RISAT-2B took off at 5.30 a.m. on the PSLV-C46 launcher. About 15 minutes later, it reached and started orbiting in the planned position in space, with an inclination of 37°.

•The new satellite "will enhance India's all-weather (space-based) capabilities in agriculture, forestry and disaster management," according to ISRO.

•Realised on a fast track in 15 months at the U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) in Bengaluru, RISAT-2B is built to work for at least five years.

•Its X-band synthetic aperture radar can give added details such as size of objects on Earth, structures, movement and change. The information will complement data from the normal optical remote-sensing satellites. Such data are useful for agencies that need ground imageries during cloud, rain and in the dark.

•This is the third Indian RISAT in ten years, coming up after the Israeli-built RISAT-2 in 2009 and later ISRO-built RISAT-1 in 2012. The older two have reached the end of their lives.

•ISRO has planned a series of radar imagers in the coming months to enhance its space-based observation of Earth and the Indian region.

•The current PSLV-C46 was designed in its core-alone version minus the strap-on motors. The space port, located in coastal Andhra Pradesh, about 100 km from Chennai, has handled a total of 72 missions before this, including the GSLV and the GSLV Mark III.

πŸ“° Groundwater reserves estimate to be updated soon

Survey samples a sliver of blocks in each State and counts how many blocks have critically low levels of water

•The Union Water Ministry is finalising an updated estimate on the state of groundwater reserves in India.

•The groundwater assessment, last done in 2013, is a survey that samples a sliver of blocks in each State and counts how many blocks have critically low levels of water and how many are well-stocked.

•“We have received reports from most States and have passed it on to the Water Resources Ministry for approval. I expect that this will only be made public after the new government comes in,” a senior official from the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) told The Hindu.

•The person said “some States” showed a precipitous decline whereas some blocks showed an “improvement.”

•An assessment from Punjab, the official said, pointed to “extreme” overexploitation of groundwater.


•In 2013, the CGWB assessed 6,584 units across the country and found 4,520 to be “safe,” 681 to be “semi-critical” 253 to be “critical” and 1,034 to be “overexploited.” About 96 blocks were “saline”.

•In a CGWB report of April 2015, the agency noted that the water resource potential or annual water availability of the country in terms of natural runoff (flow) in rivers is about 1,869 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM)/year. However, the usable water resources of the country is about 1,123 BCM/year. This is due to geographical limitation and water being unequally distributed in various river basins, making it difficult to extract all the available 1,869 BCM/year. Out of the 1,123 BCM/year, the shares of surface water and groundwater are 690 BCM/year and 433 BCM/year respectively. Setting aside 35 BCM for natural discharge, the net annual ground water availability for the entire country is 398 BCM.

•The overall contribution of rainfall to the country’s annual ground water resource is 68%.

•The share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures taken together is 32%.

•The national per capita annual availability of water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metres in 2011 — a reduction of 15%.

Cause of concern

•That India’s groundwater has been depleting at a worrying rate since 1995, the CGWB has shown.

•In 1995, only 3% of districts had overexploited their groundwater reserves whereas by 2011, that had increased to 15%.

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