1. Specific date will be given for pleas on Article 370, says SC
The removal of special status deprived Jammu and Kashmir of privileges; the petitions have challenged a Presidential Order of August 5, 2019
Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Wednesday said a specific date will be given for hearing a series of petitions challenging the removal of special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
“I will examine and give a date,” the Chief Justice said in response to an oral mentioning for the early listing of the case.
The last time the case was mentioned for early listing was on September 23 before the current CJI’s predecessor, Justice U.U. Lalit, who had promised that it would come up after October 10.
The Article 370 case has been pending in the Supreme Court for over two years. The case had not come up after a five-judge Bench refused to refer the petitions to a larger Bench in March 2020. The case had since been mentioned several times for early hearing.
The petitions have challenged a Presidential Order of August 5, 2019 which blunted Article 370.
The various petitions have challenged the Centre’s “unilateral” move to impose curfew and unravel the unique federal structure of India by dividing Jammu and Kashmir “without taking consent from the people”.
Separate petitions have contended that the August 5 Order and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 were arbitrary.
They have also challenged the proclamation of President’s Rule in the State in December 2018.
The petitions have said what happened to Jammu and Kashmir “goes to the heart of Indian federalism”.
Article 370 resulted from the Instrument of Accession, signed by the erstwhile ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, in 1947. Article 370 of the Indian constitution was enacted on 17 October 1949 as a ‘temporary clause’ that exempted Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitution, allowing it to establish its constitution and limiting the Indian Parliament’s legislative powers in the state. Sir Narasimha Gopalaswami Ayyangar proposed it as Article 306A in the draft constitution.
- After drafting the state constitution, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly was dissolved.
- On 25 January 1957, the State’s constituent assembly disbanded itself without recommending either Abrogation of Article 370 or its revision, leaving the provision’s existence in limbo.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was able to suggest which provisions of the Indian Constitution should apply to the state under Article 370. By declarations of the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, the clause was eventually declared to have gained permanent existence.
This meant that all that was necessary to apply a central provision to the state on matters covered by the Instrument of Accession was “consultation” with the state government.
The state government’s “consent” was required to apply a central law to subjects other than defense, foreign affairs, and communications.
According to Indian Constitution, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gives autonomous status to the state of J&K. It is listed in the temporary provision of Part 21 (Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions).
Abrogation of Article 370
The Constitution (Implementation to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 was issued on 5 August 2019 by the President of India in the exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir was repealed, through the Abrogation of Article 370.
- After the abrogation of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own constitution, flag, or anthem, and their residents no longer have dual citizenship.
- All changes to the law made by the parliament, including the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act, are now in effect in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Indian Constitution and all 890 Central provisions are completely applicable to Jammu and Kashmir now that Article 370 has been repealed. Once Article 370 was revoked, Jammu and Kashmir were considered a part of India in both text and spirit.
- Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was considered a transitory and ineffective measure that had to be repealed.
Article 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution
Article 35A stems from Article 370, and is unique in that it doesn’t appear in the main body of the Constitution but comes up in Appendix I. Both these articles conjointly gave special status and privileges to the state of J&K and its people until it was repealed in August, 2019.
- The Provision of Article 370 was drafted by Sheikh Abdullah, appointed by then PM of J&K Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- On 5th August, 2019 the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 2019 was published in the Official Gazette of India and presented by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
- The order stated the application of all the provisions of the Indian Constitution to the state of J&K, thus leading to the suspension of J&K’s separate constitution.
- Moreover, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 also became operational in the state by replacing its Ranbir Penal Code that got scrapped with the Presidential order, 2019.
The amendment was bought by the government not under the traditional amending provision given in Article 368 of the constitution but under the Clause 3 of Article 370 Thus, bypassing the amendment route.
Article 35 A
Article 35 A granted special provisions and rights to permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir that included the acquisition of property in J&K, privileges in public sector jobs and other welfare. According to this article, only permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir could buy the land and property in J&K and vote in assembly elections. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, Article 35A was repealed.
After the successful Abrogation of Article 370, the Central Government will not need any concurrence from the state’s government to apply laws. Article 35 A ceased to have any effect after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. In simple words, there will be no distinction between the permanent residents of J&K and the other residents of the state.
Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019
On 5th August 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act in Rajya Sabha. It became effective from 31st October 2019, marked as National Unity Day on the birth occasion of India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
This act reconstituted the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories, namely Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The aftermath of revoking Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir are:
- It will do away with the radicalization among the state’s youth and the state’s separatist movement.
- It will open corridors for growth and opportunities in various sectors, including healthcare and industry within the state.
- It will bring down the terrorism and corruption levels.
- The introduction of any new reform faces teething problems, but it brings great rewards in the long term.
2. Understanding the fusion energy breakthrough announced by the U.S.
United States government officials announced on Tuesday that a federal facility had achieved a significant milestone in nuclear fusion research. Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said the feat puts us on the path to “zero-carbon abundant fusion energy powering our society.”
Officials said the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California, had conducted a fusion test on December 5 that produced 153% as much energy as went into triggering it.
The NIF uses powerful lasers to heat and compress hydrogen nuclei. When the nuclei fuse, they release heat. When this heat is equal to or greater than the heat delivered to the container, the event is called ignition. The ratio of the output energy to the input delivered to the container is the gain.
In 2021, the NIF reported that it had achieved a gain of 0.72. Now, it has reportedly achieved ignition with a gain of 1.53 with a yield of 3 megajoules. “The recent results from the NIF are a major achievement on the road to fusion energy,” Matthew Zepf, professor at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and a director of the Helmholtz Institute Jena, said.
Magnetic confinement and inertial confinement are two popular ways to achieve nuclear fusion. Magnetic confinement uses bespoke reactors in which a hydrogen plasma is heated to a high temperature and the nuclei are guided by strong magnetic fields to fuse. Its corresponding technology is considered to be more technologically mature than that of inertial confinement.
In the NIF’s setup, 192 high-power lasers fire pulses at a 2-mm-wide capsule inside a 1-cm-long cylinder called a hohlraum, in less than 10 billionths of a second. The capsule holds deuterium and tritium atoms. As the pulses strike the hohlraum’s insides, the latter heats up and releases X-rays, which heat the nuclei to millions of kelvin and compress them to billions of Earth-atmospheres.
The high temperature is required to energise the nuclei to overcome their mutual like-charges-repel repulsion. The technique is called inertial confinement because the nuclei’s inertia creates a short window between implosion and explosion in which nuclear forces dominate, fusing the nuclei.
When two hydrogen-2 nuclei fuse, they yield a helium-4 nucleus, a neutron and 17.6 MeV of energy according to the mass-energy equivalence.
For a fusion chain reaction, the energy released by the initial reaction needs to set the stage for more reactions. To this end, the NIF’s goal has been to create a “burning plasma”: when nuclei are encouraged to fuse not by the external heat source but by the heat of other reactions.
The NIF achieved this in 2021 with a gain of 0.72: 1.37 megajoules produced by the fusing nuclei versus 1.97 megajoules delivered by the lasers.
In August 2022, the facility reported it had produced a burning plasma that met the Lawson criterion: the heat generated was sufficient to potentially trigger other fusion reactions as well as offset heat loss during the reaction. Now, the facility has reportedly achieved a burning plasma that meets the Lawson criterion as well as a gain greater than 1.
The NIF’s is a significant scientific achievement — but where energy is concerned, the important question is: what does it imply for practicable fusion?
After the NIF achieved a gain of 0.72 in 2021, the people in charge of the experiment tried thrice to repeat their feat. They failed — because the NIF fusion facility is a highly sophisticated system with tiny moving parts. Even small changes in input conditions, like microscopic bumps on the capsule, can lead to large variations in output.
So the NIF will need to reproduce its new results.
Second: For fusion to be truly gainful, the energy released by the reactions needs to be greater than the energy going into the lasers, about 300 megajoules, and not just the energy delivered to the hohlraum. This hasn’t yet been achieved.
“The energy transferred to the plasma is just about 1%, the rest is all lost in other processes,” said Shishir Deshpande, a professor at the Institute for Plasma Research, Gandhinagar.
“Future research will need to focus on reaching the next major milestone — a target gain of G > 100, which is required to run a power plant efficiently,”according to Matthew Zepf, professor at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and a director of the Helmholtz Institute Jena, said.
That is, if the lasers deposit 2 megajoules, the reactions in a power plant will have to produce at least 200 megajoules to be feasible. And “even if one were to achieve high gain,” Mr. Deshpande said. “Questions about how often one can repeat the pulse, to get sustained power, and couple a higher fraction of the initial energy investment [to the fuel] will be crucial in future,” he added.
Third: The road to a power plant from the NIF’s current achievement isn’t well-understood.
For example, at the NIF, lasers fire at a hohlraum, generating X-rays that heat the capsule — instead of hitting the capsule directly. This prevents the laser pulses from being pinpoint accurate and allows the capsule to be heated in a symmetric way, which is highly desirable. But the cost is lower gain.
“It wouldn’t be possible to set a timeline” about a power plant, Mr. Deshpande said, “as the scientific understanding is still evolving.”
3. Centre to take measures to further help slow inflation, says Sitharaman
FM says inflation rate will be brought down further for the sake of the common people, after it eased to an 11-month low of 5.88% in November; stresses there is no fear of ‘stagflation’ and that government is committed to path of fiscal consolidation
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday assured the Lok Sabha that the Centre would be taking measures to further help ease inflation, which has dipped below the Reserve Bank of India’s upper tolerance level of 6%. Retail inflation slowed to an 11-month low of 5.88% in November from 6.77% in the previous month.
“We will bring [it] down further for the sake of common people,” the Finance Minister said, while replying to a discussion on the first batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants 2022-23 in the Lok Sabha.
Later, the House passed the Supplementary Demands for Grants, authorising the Centre to spend an additional ₹3.25 lakh crore in 2022-23. The government is constantly watching the price situation of essential commodities, she said. Ms. Sitharaman made it clear that there was no fear of stagflation, as ‘India is one of the fastest-growing economies with low inflation levels’.
MGNREGA demand dips
She also said the government was noticing a trend of decline in demand for employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. The Minister said the government would be able to meet the fiscal deficit target of 6.4% of GDP for FY23. The government is committed to the path of fiscal consolidation, the Minister added.
On the rupee, she said the domestic unit was appreciating against all other currencies, adding that the rupee’s fall against the U.S. dollar was low compared with the weakening in other currencies.
4. Editorial-1: Building climate resilience collectively
India unveiled its long-term climate action plan at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. While the document titled ‘Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LT-LCDS)’ has multi-sectoral measures to reach a net-zero emissions status, climate-resilient urbanisation forms a cornerstone of the Government of India’s strategy under the Paris Agreement.
This three-pronged and long-term plan for urban areas focuses on adaptation and resource efficiency in urban planning, climate-responsive and climate-resilient buildings, and municipal service delivery.
Have a data-driven approach
There are several flagship missions championed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs as well, which target specific objectives towards creating a smart, sustainable and resilient urban India. To facilitate implementation of the LT-LCDS and other missions, and enable their integration, a data-driven approach may be useful. Demonstrating urban planning strategies aimed at climate resilience through specific actions and interventions (backed by sound data) and linking them to various finance streams accessible to the urban local bodies is important.
Cities need effective and efficient planning instruments that translate master plans into transformative business-ready investment projects.
For instance, the Urban Sustainability Assessment Framework (USAF), a decision support tool of UN-Habitat for municipal commissioners and urban practitioners, supports the sustainable and resilient urban planning and management of Indian cities. It enables cities to regularly capture inter-sectoral data and corresponding analysis on urban metrices, thereby helping in monitoring the performance of a city in static and dynamic contexts. Cities can enhance vertical integration by pulling together the missions’ objectives at the central level, State policies and projects, and local implementation through city-specific strategic actions linked to capital investment planning.
The urban transport sector is among the key contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The cases of Bhopal and Jaipur
In the case of Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), for example, they make up for 19% of the city’s GHG emissions. Bhopal favours non-motorised transport (NMT) with a 43% NMT modal share but provides access to public bike docking stops to only 24% of its population; only half of its streets have footpaths. By designing ‘shared streets’ for personal vehicles, public transport, NMT and pedestrians, and linking them with future economic activity zones and underserved areas, the city has immense potential to reduce its carbon footprint. These streets can also be conduits for native plant species and groundwater recharge by integrating water-sensitive urban design features with a potential of reducing GHG emissions of up to 15 tCO2/annum per kilometre. In Bhopal, the Smart Cities Mission has made significant investments in NMT, though the use of this infrastructure has been sub-optimal. There are opportunities for improvement and increased usage of the NMT network though better land-use integration. Spatial analyses can inform decision-making towards co-location of investments and projects from various missions for cumulative community impact and enhanced urban value.
Nature-based solutions provide a range of solutions for climate change adaptation over hard grey infrastructure. As seen in Jaipur (Rajasthan), with only 1.42 sq.m per capita of open space against a benchmark of 12 sq.m per person, the desert capital also experiences various hazards that include heat waves, droughts and urban flooding. Residential areas with at least 10% of land area under open space and parks were found to be at least 1.25°C cooler than neighbourhoods with less green pockets. In industrial pockets, the urban heat island impact was greater with temperatures higher by 1.1°C. There are several macro and micro options available to Jaipur such as planting shade trees, urban forests, installing cool roofs, planning cool islands and investing in city scale blue green infrastructure to improve the micro-climate and environmental conditions.
Jaipur has also witnessed a significant decline in porous surfaces (by 50%) in the last three decades and a corresponding sharp increase in surface stormwater run-off (156%) which the city struggles to accommodate leading to regular urban flooding. Simple yet effective solutions that can increase Jaipur’s resilience include community recharge pits in neighbourhood parks, and increasing permeable spaces along mobility corridors to decrease the run-off by a sizeable fraction. Such interventions find consonance with the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) mandates and allows for cities to integrate them with their capital investment plans.
The suggested planning approach merits a comprehensive stakeholder participation towards building climate resilience. Active involvement from various tiers of government, non-governmental, community-based organisations, and academic institutions is desirable at each step — from building a sustainability profile to arriving at very specific interventions. Movements on the city performance indicators communicate the impact of these interventions to the decision-makers and the community at large. In addition, cumulative benefits and efficient use of public resources from various central and State missions, and on-ground convergence are possible by identifying neighbourhoods/wards to co-locate investments for holistic and integrated city-level transformations. This evidence-based approach aims at making cities sustainable, resilient and inclusive with no one and no place left behind.
All this is in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan which affirms that “sustainable and just solutions to the climate crisis must be founded on meaningful and effective social dialogue and participation of all stakeholders”. Therefore, India’s long-term strategy must accommodate the most vulnerable of its people in its low-emissions pathways to achieve sustainable economic growth and poverty eradication.
5. Editorial-2: Energy conundrum
Solar power is important for India, but it will not serve every energy need
At the core of India’s energy transformation is its bet on solar power. Based on a commitment to address the global climate crisis, India has promised to source nearly half its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and, in the shorter term, source at least 60% of its renewable energy from solar power. However, a disclosure in Parliament by the Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy suggests that India faces significant headwind in this quest. A key central policy to source solar power is facilitating the establishment of large solar parks; small solar power projects usually translate to higher per-unit production costs. And so, in 2014, the Centre announced the ‘Solar Parks and Ultra-Mega Solar Power Projects’ policy to facilitate the creation of large parks. The initial plan was to set up 25 parks capable of generating at least 20,000 MW by 2019. In 2017, the Government scaled this to 61 parks with a target of 40,000 MW. It emerges, however, as of 2022, that only a fourth of the capacity has been achieved, that is, projects worth 10,000 MW have been commissioned. Four projects have been cancelled, by the Centre’s own admission, due to tardy progress. The roadblocks, in the Centre’s estimate, have been challenges in acquiring land with a clear title, setting up infrastructure necessary to transmit power produced at these parks to the grid and, in an unusual disclosure, “environmental issues” in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where projects have been halted because their transmission lines encroach upon the habitat of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.
Notwithstanding its claims on international podia that it is on track to meeting renewable energy targets, it is no secret that India is lagging behind. By the end of 2022, India had committed to having in place 1,75,000 MW of renewable energy capacity, with 1,00,000 MW from solar power. However, only around 61,000 MW of such capacity has actually been installed. For a few years now, there has been considerable hype around solar power achieving grid parity in India — meaning power companies are able to sell it at a price lower or as much as conventional sources — but this does not account for the subsidies or concessions front-loaded by the Government. While India should continue to expand its economy on the back of renewable energy, the Government must take a hard look at whether renewable power, solar, wind or nuclear, meets standards of economic viability and environmental sustainability. Solar power may be a valuable tool in India’s energy transformation story, but it cannot be the panacea for every need.