1. Bat with sticky discs found in Meghalaya
Eudiscopus denticulus was recorded near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary
Meghalaya has yielded India’s first bamboo-dwelling bat with sticky discs, taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130.
The disc-footed bat (Eudiscopus denticulus) was recorded in the northeastern State’s Lailad area near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, about 1,000 km west of its nearest known habitat in Myanmar.
A team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and a few European natural history museums stumbled upon this “very specialised” small bat with “disc-like pads in the thumb and bright orange colouration” while sampling in a bamboo patch almost a year ago.
The finding by the ZSI’s Uttam Saikia, Rohit Chakravarty, Vishwanath D. Hegde and Asem Bipin Meetei has been published in the latest edition of Revue Suisse de Zoologie, a Swiss journal.
The European authors of this report are Sergei Kruskop from the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University, Gabor Csorba of the Hungarian Natural History Museum, and Manuel Ruedi of Switzerland’s Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle.
“There are a couple of other bamboo-dwelling bats in India. But the extent of adaptation for bamboo habitat in this species is not seen in the others,” one of the ZSI scientists involved in the study said, declining to be quoted.
The newly recorded bat was presumed to be a bamboo-dwelling species, but its flattened skull and adhesive pads helped in identifying it as the disc-footed known from specific localities in southern China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
Dr. Saikia and his colleagues found that the flattened skull and sticky pads enabled the bats to roost inside cramped spaces, clinging to smooth surfaces such as bamboo internodes. The disc-footed bat was also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disc-like pads.
Scientists analysed the very high frequency echolocation calls of the disc-footed bat, which was suitable for orientation in a cluttered environment such as inside bamboo groves.
The disc-footed bat has raised Meghalaya’s bat count to 66, the most for any State in India. It has also helped add a genus and species to the bat fauna of India, the ZSI scientists said.
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was launched in 1916 to promote survey, exploration, and research to enhance the knowledge regarding the flora and fauna of the British Indian Empire. It is India’s apex organization on animal taxonomy.
- It originated as a Zoological Section of the Indian Museum in Kolkata.
- Initially, the ZSI had eight regional centers across India. Currently, there are 16 regional centers spread across the country.
- The headquarters is in Kolkata.
- It has been declared as a designated repository for the National Zoological Collection as per Section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
The ZSI has contributed significantly to knowledge and research on the fauna of the country. The primary objectives of the ZSI are:
- To promote the survey, exploration, research, and documentation on various aspects of animal taxonomy in the Indian subcontinent. It also seeks the advancement of knowledge on animal taxonomy.
- Make a status survey of the threatened and endemic species.
- Preparation of Red Data Book, Fauna of India, and Fauna of States.
- Bio-ecological studies on important communities/species.
- Preparation of database for the recorded species of the country.
- Maintenance and Development of National Zoological Collections.
The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. Its functions are as follows:
- ZSI publishes the Red Data Book on Indian Animals. It was first published in 1983 and is similar to the Red Data Book published by IUCN.
- Publication of results including Fauna of India, Fauna of States, and Fauna of Conservation Areas.
- Training, Capacity Building, and Human Resource Development of the people involved.
- Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing studies on recorded animal diversity as well as on threatened species.
- It works for the development of Environmental Information System (ENVIS) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Centers.
- CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
- Conducts collaborative research programs on “Biodiversity” with other organizations in India and abroad.
- Zoological Survey of India, recently updated their checklist of amphibian species. The number of species is currently at 447. Among the amphibians listed, 35 species are endangered and 20 species are categorized as critically endangered. Some species of frogs found in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Western Ghats of Kerala were included in the list of critically endangered species.
- Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India had recently developed the ‘Pangolin Indexing System’. This new kit could help in tracking the illegal trading of Pangolins. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals. ‘Pangolin Indexing System’ uses DNA markers to identify the unique individuals from the animals’ scales that are frequently seized by security agencies. Pangolins are trafficked to southeast Asian countries and China as the scales and meat of Pangolins are in great demand in these countries. This new kit will help the Forest and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to get an estimate of the number of Pangolins killed. As per reports published, from 2009 to 2017, approximately 6000 Pangolins were seized from illegal trade.
- Assam Keelback snake was discovered along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border after 129 years. It was first seen in 1891. One of the two original species of Assam Keelback snake was kept in the Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata. The other was kept in the Natural History Museum, London.
- A scientist from the Zoological Survey of India in 2020 discovered a sub-species of a moth. A similar sub-species moth was first discovered in Israel in 2005. It belongs to the Olepa Genus species. The larvae of these moths feed on economically important crops like Banana, Brinjal, Sweet Potato, Sunflower, Cotton, Maize, Castor, Ivy Gourd, etc.
2. U.S., China agree to cooperate with urgency on climate crisis
The pact comes ahead of Biden’s summit with world leaders on April 22 and 23
The U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to curb climate change with urgency, just days before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue.
The agreement was reached by U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week, according to a joint statement.
The two countries “are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” said the statement.
Mr. Kerry said the language in the statement is “strong” and that the two countries agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.” But the former Secretary of state said, “I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions. We all need to see what happens.”
China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, followed by the U.S. The two countries pump out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation is key to the success of global efforts to curb climate change.
Noting that China is the world’s biggest coal user, Mr. Kerry said he and Chinese officials had a lot of discussions on how to accelerate a global energy transition.
Mr. Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the April 22-23 summit. The U.S. and other countries are expected to announce more ambitious national targets for cutting carbon emissions ahead of or at the meeting, along with pledging financial help for climate efforts by less wealthy nations.
While Mr. Kerry was still in Shanghai, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng signalled on Friday that China is unlikely to make any new pledges at next week’s summit. “For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered,” Mr. Le said in Beijing. “Some countries are asking China to achieve the goals earlier. I am afraid this is not very realistic.”
‘Not a geopolitical chip’
During a video meeting with German and French leaders on Friday, Mr. Xi said that climate change “should not become a geopolitical chip, a target for attacking other countries or an excuse for trade barriers,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
On whether Mr. Xi would join the summit, Mr. Le said “the Chinese side is actively studying the matter.”
The joint statement said the two countries “look forward to” next week’s summit. Mr. Kerry said on Sunday that “we very much hope that (Xi) will take part” in the summit but it’s up to China to make that decision.
Paris Agreement – COP 21
What is the Paris Agreement?
It is a multilateral agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); signed to reduce, mitigate greenhouse-gas-emissions.
Official site – https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
When was the Paris Agreement signed?
An agreement was signed on 22 April 2016.
How many countries signed the Paris Agreement?
Currently, 195 UNFCCC members have signed it. However, US President Donald Trump has announced his intention to withdraw from the agreement by November 2020.
The goal of the Paris Agreement
- To curtail the rise of global temperature this century below 2-degree Celsius, above pre-industrial levels; and also pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees celsius.
- Develop mechanisms to help and support countries that are very vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. An example would be countries like the Maldives facing threat due to sea-level rise.
- Confirms the obligation that developed countries have towards developing countries, by providing them financial and technological support.
The agreement talks about 20/20/20 targets, i.e.
- Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions by 20%,
- Work on increasing the renewable energy market share by 20%
- Target to increase energy efficiency by 20%
What is Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)?
- It means the contributions that need to be done by each country to achieve the overall global goal.
- The contributions need to be reported every 5 years to UNFCCC.
- The contributions are not legally binding.
- The goal is to make sure that all countries have access to technical expertise and financial capability to meet the climate challenges.
Climate Ambition Summit 2020
- The United Nations, France, United Kingdom in partnership with Italy and Chile hosted the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 in Glasgow Scotland to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
- The Summit provided a meaningful platform for businesses, cities and other non-state actors who are rallying together and collaborating to support governments and accelerate the systemic change required to reduce emissions and build resilience.
- The objective of the Climate Ambition Summit was to set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement that are mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments.
Status of Global Emission After 5 years of the Paris Agreement
All the states have submitted their national contributions to mitigate and adapt to climate change after 5 years of the agreement –
- China has the highest GHG emissions (30%) while the US contributes 13.5% and the EU 8.7%. Earlier the emission status was like (China at 13% while, the US had the highest emissions at 25%, followed by EU at 22%).
- Besides India, only Bhutan, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Gambia complied with the Paris Climate Accord.
|Paris Climate Accord It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change that was adopted by 196 countries at the Conference of the Parties COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. The objective of the Paris Climate Accord was to achieve the long-term temperature goal. Countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century. The main goal of the Paris Climate Accord is to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius and preferably limit it to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.|
- The contributions are radically insufficient to reach the well below the 2° Celsius limit and are even further from the 1.5° Celsius limit given in the Paris Agreement.
|India’s Status of Current Emissions – A United Nations report released earlier this year stated that India’s per capita emissions are actually 60% lower than the global average. The list of Reports published by International Organizations can be checked on the link provided here. The emissions in the country grew 1.4% in 2019, much lower than its average of 3.3% per year over the last decade. Some of the Measures taken by India to Control Emissions: National Solar Mission: It is a major initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenge. Bharat Stage (BS) VI norms: These are emission control standards put in place by the government to keep a check on air pollution. National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy 2018: The main objective of the policy is to provide a framework for the promotion of large grid-connected wind-solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid systems for optimal and efficient utilization of wind and solar resources, transmission infrastructure and land. All these and many other initiatives helped India in cutting CO2 emissions by 164 million kg.|
The major difference between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement
In the Paris agreement, there is no difference between developing and developed countries. In the Kyoto Protocol, there was a differentiation between developed and developing countries by clubbing them as Annex 1 countries and non-Annex 1 countries.
International transfer of Mitigation outcomes
As per the Paris agreement, Parties have the right to include the reduction of emissions in any other country as their NDC, as per the system of carbon trading and accounting.
Financial Support pledged during the Paris 2015 Agreement
- Developed countries have committed $ 100 Billion a year.
- Finance would be balanced between mitigation and adaptation.
- G7 countries announced the US $ 420 Million for Climate Risk Insurance and the launching of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative.
- $ 3 Billion commitment for Green Climate Fund.
What is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement?
- Help Governments establish and implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)
- Help establish a global price of carbon
- The use of establishing a global price in Carbon is that if countries exceed their NDC, those countries will have to bear the cost of global warming.
India at COP 21
- India put out a statement that we need to grow rapidly to meet the aspiration of 1.25 Billion population, and out of this 300 Million people are without access to energy.
- Yet despite the growing demands, India has pledged to reduce emissions intensity per unit GDP by 33-35% of 2005 levels
- Aiming to reach 40% of installed capacity from non-fossil fuels.
- Targeting 175 GW of renewable energy generation by 2022.
- Planning to enlarge forest cover to absorb 2.5 Billion tonnes worth of carbon dioxide.
- Reducing dependence on fossil fuels through levies and reduction in subsidies.
- India exhorted on the principles of equity and differentiated responsibilities
- As per India, equity means national commitments that must be consistent with the carbon space nations occupy.
- India expects developed countries to mobilize 100 billion US dollars annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.
3. Myanmar shadow govt. wants invite for ASEAN crisis talks
It urges foreign leaders not to formally recognise the junta
Myanmar’s shadow government on Sunday urged Southeast Asian leaders to give it a seat at the table during crisis talks next week, and not to recognise the military regime that seized power in a February coup.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is expected to join a special ASEAN summit on Myanmar on Saturday in Jakarta — his first official overseas trip since the putsch that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Army has moved to quell mass protests against its rule, killing at least 730 people according to a local monitoring group.
The military chief’s invitation to the meeting of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations has drawn scorn from activists and former lawmakers who have urged foreign leaders not to formally recognise the junta.
Moe Zaw Oo, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the parallel “national unity government” — formed on Friday by ousted lawmakers mostly from Ms. Suu Kyi’s party, as well as ethnic-minority politicians — said ASEAN had not reached out to them. “If ASEAN wants to help solve the Myanmar situation, they are not going to achieve anything without consulting and negotiating with the NUG, which is supported by the people and has full legitimacy,” he told Voice of America’s Burmese service.
“It’s important that this military council is not recognised. This needs to be handled carefully.”
Unrest continued across the country on Sunday, with protesters rallying in Mandalay, Meiktila, Magway and Myingyan, showing support for the national unity government.
At Palaw in the country’s south, demonstrators brandished banners that read: “Military dictators should not be allowed to rule. The dictatorship will be uprooted. Support the national unity government.”
Young demonstrators also staged motorbike rallies while carrying flags in Hpakant and Sagaing.
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states.
- The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
- 8th August is observed as ASEAN Day.
- ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.
Genesis of ASEAN
- 1967 – ASEAN was established with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers.
- Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
- 1990s – Membership doubled after the changing conditions in the region following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the Cold War in 1991.
- Addition of Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).
- 1995 – Members signed a deal to create a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia.
- 1997 – Adoption of ASEAN Vision 2020.
- 2003 – Bali Concord II for the establishment of an ASEAN Community.
- 2007 – Cebu Declaration, to accelerate the establishment of ASEAN Community by 2015.
- 2008 – ASEAN Charter comes into force and becomes a legally binding agreement.
- 2015 – Launch of ASEAN Community.
- ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars:
- ASEAN Political-Security Community
- ASEAN Economic Community
- ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community
- ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars:
- To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations.
- To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
- To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields.
- To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, the improvement of transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of peoples.
- To promote Southeast Asian studies.
- To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations.
|The ASEAN fundamental principles, as contained in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) of 1976 Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations.The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion.Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner.Renunciation of the threat or use of force.Effective cooperation among themselves.|
- Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
- ASEAN Summit: The supreme policy making body of ASEAN. As the highest level of authority in ASEAN, the Summit sets the direction for ASEAN policies and objectives. Under the Charter, the Summit meets twice a year.
- ASEAN Ministerial Councils: The Charter established four important new Ministerial bodies to support the Summit.
- ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC)
- ASEAN Political-Security Community Council
- ASEAN Economic Community Council
- ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council
- Decision Making: The primary mode of decision-making in ASEAN is consultation and consensus.
However, the Charter enshrines the principle of ASEAN-X – This means that if all member states are in agreement, a formula for flexible participation may be used so that the members who are ready may go ahead while members who need more time for implementation may apply a flexible timeline.
- ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): Launched in 1993, the twenty-seven-member multilateral grouping was developed to facilitate cooperation on political and security issues to contribute to regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.
- ASEAN Plus Three: The consultative group initiated in 1997 brings together ASEAN’s ten members, China, Japan, and South Korea.
- East Asia Summit (EAS): First held in 2005, the summit seeks to promote security and prosperity in the region and is usually attended by the heads of state from ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. ASEAN plays a central role as the agenda-setter.
Strengths & Opportunities
- ASEAN commands far greater influence on Asia-Pacific trade, political, and security issues than its members could achieve individually.
- Demographic dividend – It constitutes 3rd largest population in the world, of which more than half is below thirty years of age.
- 3rd largest market in the world – larger than EU and North American markets.
- 6th largest economy in the world, 3rd in Asia.
- Free-trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
- Fourth most popular investment destination globally.
- ASEAN’s share of global exports has also risen, from only 2 percent in 1967 to 7 percent by 2016, indicating the rising importance of trade to ASEAN’s economic prospects.
- The ASEAN Single Aviation Market and Open Skies policies have increased its transport and connectivity potential.
- ASEAN has contributed to regional stability by building much-needed norms and fostering a neutral environment to address shared challenges.
- Regional imbalances in the economic and social status of its individual markets.
- Gap between rich and poor ASEAN member states remains very large and they have a mixed record on income inequality.
- While Singapore boasts the highest GDP per capita—nearly $53,000 (2016), Cambodia’s per capita GDP is the lowest at less than $1,300.
- Many regional initiatives were not able to be incorporated into national plans, as the less developed countries faced resource constraints to implement the regional commitments.
- The members’ political systems are equally mixed with democracies, communist, and authoritarian states.
- While the South China Sea is the main issue exposing the organization’s rifts.
- ASEAN has been divided over major issues of human rights. For example, crackdowns in Myanmar against the Rohingyas.
- Inability to negotiate a unified approach with regards to China, particularly in response to its widespread maritime claims in the South China Sea.
- The emphasis on consensus sometimes becomes the a chief drawback – difficult problems have been avoided rather than confronted.
- There is no central mechanism to enforce compliance.
- Inefficient dispute-settlement mechanism, whether it be in the economic or political spheres.
India and ASEAN
- India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of her foreign policy and the foundation of Act East Policy.
- India has a separate Mission to ASEAN and the EAS in Jakarta.
- India and ASEAN already has 25 years of Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership with ASEAN.
- Economic Cooperation:
- ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner.
- India’s trade with ASEAN stands at approx. 10.6% of India’s overall trade.
- India’s export to ASEAN stands at 11.28% of our total exports. The ASEAN-India Free Trade Area has been completed.
- ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in 2003 to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform.
- Socio-Cultural Cooperation: Programmes to boost People-to-People Interaction with ASEAN, such as inviting ASEAN students to India, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, etc.
- Funds: Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the following Funds:
- ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund
- ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund
- ASEAN-India Green Fund
- Delhi Declaration: To identify Cooperation in the Maritime Domain as the key area of cooperation under the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
- Delhi Dialogue: Annual Track 1.5 event for discussing politico-security and economic issues between ASEAN and India.
- ASEAN-India Centre (AIC): To undertake policy research, advocacy and networking activities with organizations and think-tanks in India and ASEAN.
- Political Security Cooperation: India places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region.
4. Amid high demand, Railways to run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had asked for the service
The Railways will run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country, the national transporter said on Sunday.
Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen in the country has gone through the roof.
Empty tankers will begin their journey from the Kalamboli and Boisar railway stations in and near Mumbai on Monday to load liquid medical oxygen from Visakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro, officials said.
The Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had earlier approached the Ministry of Railways to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network, they said. On the receipt of the request from the two States, the Railways immediately explored the technical feasibility of transportation of liquid medical oxygen. It has to be transported through roll-on-roll-off service with road tankers placed on flat wagons.
“Since the first empty tankers will move on April 19, we hope to begin operations of Oxygen Express over the next few days. We would be able to send oxygen wherever there is such demand. Green Corridor is being created for fast movement of the trains,” an official said.
“Instructions have been issued to zonal railways to ensure readiness to receive the trailers and load them back. Ramps have to be built at Visakhapatnam, Angul and Bhilai and the existing ramp at Kalamboli is to be strengthened,” the Ministry said.
Green National Highways Corridor Project
- Green National Highways Corridor Project:
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) had launched a National Green Highways Mission (NGHM) following the promulgation of ‘Green Highways Policy’ in September 2015.
- The Green National Highways Corridor Projects (GNHCP) supports the implementation of the NGHM and the provision of green and safe transport.
- The objective of the Project is to demonstrate safe and green National Highway corridors in selected States and enhance the institutional capacity of the MoRTH in mainstreaming safety and green technologies.
- Three Components of the Project:
- Green Highway Corridor Improvement and Maintenance:
- This includes upgradation and maintenance for five years of about 783 km of selected existing National Highways in the states of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
- Institutional Capacity Enhancement:
- It will support the capacity enhancement of MoRTH in its pursuit to conserve natural resources and improve climate vulnerability of the National Highways network and reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
- Road Safety:
- It will provide support to improve road safety data analytics and highway safety monitoring and implementation.
- Green Highway Corridor Improvement and Maintenance:
- About the Pact between the Government and the World Bank:
- The USD 500 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an arm of the World Bank, has a maturity of 18.5 years including a five-year grace period.
- Significance of the Project:
- The National Highways of India carry about 40% of road traffic. However, several sections of these highways have inadequate capacity, weak drainage structures and black spots prone to accidents.
- The ultimate objective of transport infrastructure is to provide seamless connectivity and reduce logistics costs.
- Historically, the transport sector in India has offered limited employment opportunities for women. The project will support the ministry with an in-depth analysis of gender-related issues in the transport sector along with help in creating jobs for women by training women-led micro enterprises and women collectives to implement green technologies in the highway corridors.
- It will also support the Bharatmala Pariyojana Program (BPP).
Key Features of Green Highways Policy 2015
- Promote greening and development of eco-friendly National Highway corridors across the country with participation of farmers, private sector and government institutions including the Forest Department.
- It addresses the issues that lie in the road of development and shows the way towards sustainable development.
- Planting of trees in any particular area will depend on the soil suitability and climatic conditions.
- Its objective is to reduce the impact of air pollution and dust by planting trees and shrubs along the National Highways. They will act as natural sinks for air pollutants and arrest soil erosion at the embankment slopes.
5. Editorial-1: The ECI cannot be a super government
There is still some confusion about the extent and nature of the powers that are available to the Election Commission
Elections bring the Election Commission of India (ECI) into sharp focus as this constitutional body superintends, directs and controls the conduct of elections. It is the constitutional duty of the ECI to ensure that the elections held are free and fair.
It is an interesting aspect of the ECI’s history that before T.N. Seshan came on the scene as the Chief Election Commissioner, no one in the country ever knew or felt that the ECI had any powers. Seshan discovered the ECI’s powers hidden in Article 324 of the Constitution which was then used to discipline recalcitrant political parties which had till then believed that it was their birth right to rig elections. Thus there was a very high level of confidence in the minds of Indian citizens about the ECI’s role restoring the purity of the elected legislative bodies in the country.
It became rather easier for Seshan to locate the powers of the ECI after the Supreme Court held in Mohinder Singh Gill vs Chief Election Commissioner (AIR 1978 SC 851) that Article 324 contains plenary powers to ensure free and fair elections and these are vested in the ECI which can take all necessary steps to achieve this constitutional object. All subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court reaffirmed Gill’s decision and thus the ECI was fortified by these court decisions in taking tough measures.
The model code
The model code of conduct issued by the ECI is a set of guidelines meant for political parties, candidates and governments to adhere to during an election. This code is based on consensus among political parties. Its origin can be traced to a code of conduct for political parties prepared by the Kerala government in 1960 for the Assembly elections. It was adopted and refined and enlarged by the ECI in later years, and was enforced strictly from 1991 onwards.
There is absolutely no doubt that elections need to be properly and effectively regulated. The Constitution has clothed the ECI with enough powers to do that. Thus, the code has been issued in exercise of its powers under Article 324. Besides the code, the ECI issues from time to time directions, instructions and clarifications on a host of issues which crop up in the course of an election. The model code is observed by all stakeholders for fear of action by the ECI. However, there exists a considerable amount of confusion about the extent and nature of the powers which are available to the ECI in enforcing the code as well as its other decisions in relation to an election.
Since it is a code of conduct framed on the basis of a consensus among political parties, it has not been given any legal backing. Although a committee of Parliament recommended that the code should be made a part of the Representation of the People Act 1951, the ECI did not agree to it on the ground that once it becomes a part of law, all matters connected with the enforcement of the code will be taken to court, which would delay elections.
The position taken by the ECI is sound from a practical point of view. But then the question about the enforceability of the code remains unresolved. Paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (https://bit.ly/3ttbbUl) says that the commission may suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party if it refuses to observe the model code of conduct.
But it is doubtful whether this provision is legally sustainable. The reason is that withdrawal of the recognition of a party recognised under these orders seriously effects the functioning of political parties. When the code is legally not enforceable, how can the ECI resort to a punitive action such as withdrawal of recognition?
There are two crucial issues which need to be examined in the context of the model code and the exercise of powers by the ECI under Article 324.
Transfer of officials
One issue relates to the abrupt transfer of senior officials working under State governments by an order of the commission. It may be that the observers of the ECI report to it about the conduct of certain officials of the States where elections are to be held. The ECI apparently acts on such reports and orders the transfer on the assumption that the presence of those officials will adversely affect the free and fair election in that State. Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. It is actually not clear whether the ECI can transfer a State government official in exercise of the general powers under Article 324 or under the model code.
The code does not say what the ECI can do; it contains only guidelines for the candidates, political parties and the governments. Further, Article 324 does not confer untrammelled powers on the ECI to do anything in connection with the elections. If transfer of officials is a power which the ECI can exercise without the concurrence of the State governments, the whole State administration could come to a grinding halt. The ECI may transfer even the Chief Secretary or the head of the police force in the State abruptly. In Mohinder Singh Gill’s case (supra), the Court had made it abundantly clear that the ECI can draw power from Article 324 only when no law exists which governs a particular matter. It means that the ECI is bound to act in accordance with the law in force. Transfer of officials, etc is governed by rules made under Article 309 of the Constitution which cannot be bypassed by the ECI under the purported exercise of power conferred by Article 324. Further, to assume that a police officer or a civil servant will be able to swing the election in favour of the ruling party is extremely unrealistic and naive. It reflects in a way the ECI’s lack of confidence in the efficacy of politicians’ campaigns.
Another issue relates to the ECI’s intervention in the administrative decisions of a State government or even the union government. According to the model code, Ministers cannot announce any financial grants in any form, make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities, etc or make any ad hoc appointments in the government. departments or public undertakings. These are the core guidelines relating to the government. But in reality, no government is allowed by the ECI to take any action, administrative or otherwise, if the ECI believes that such actions or decisions will affect free and fair elections.
A recent decision of the ECI to stop the Government of Kerala from continuing to supply kits containing rice, pulses, cooking oil, etc is a case in point. The State government has been distributing such free kits for nearly a year to meet the situation arising out of the pandemic, which has helped many a household. The decision to stop the kit distribution was reportedly on a complaint from the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. The question is whether the ECI could have taken such a decision either under the model code or Article 324. The model code does not provide any clue. As regards the use of Article 324, the issue boils down to whether distribution of food items to those in need in a pandemic will affect free and fair elections.
The Supreme Court had in S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Govt. of T. Nadu & Ors (2013) held that the distribution of colour TVs, computers, cycles, goats, cows, etc, done or promised by the government is in the nature of welfare measures and is in accordance with the directive principles of state policy, and therefore it is permissible during an election. If colour TVs, computers, etc can be promised or distributed during an election and it does not influence the free choice of the people, how can the distribution of essential food articles which are used to stave off starvation be an electoral malpractice? Further, Section 123 (2)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 says that declaration of a public policy or the exercise of a legal right will not be regarded as interfering with the free exercise of the electoral right.
There is no doubt that the ECI, through the conduct of free and fair elections in an extremely complex country, has restored the purity of the legislative bodies. However, no constitutional body is vested with unguided and absolute powers. Neither citizens nor the ECI is permitted to assume that the ECI has unlimited and arbitrary powers. It would be useful to remember the insightful words of Justice S.M. Fazalali, in A.C. Jose vs Sivan Pillai (1984): “if the [Election] Commission is armed with such unlimited and arbitrary powers and if it ever happens that the persons manning the commission shares or is wedded to a particular ideology, he could by giving odd directions cause a political havoc or bring about a constitutional crisis, setting at naught the integrity and independence of the electoral process so important and indispensable to the democratic system.”
6. Editorial: An obituary for the IP Appellate Board
Its tenure was a missed opportunity to develop the home-grown jurisprudence on patent law
The demise of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), India’s specialist tribunal for determining disputes relating to intellectual property (IP) rights, is symbolic of its tenuous life. For an organisation that was created in haste and managed in haste, the end came about, unsurprisingly, in haste.
The patent system is notorious for its bipolar nature. Ever since its inception, public opinion has been divided about the usefulness of the system. There have been regular calls for its abolition. The lack of unanimity about the system here was seen in the way Indian parliamentarians deliberated on patent bills in the past.Most of the significant amendments to the Patents Act since 1970 came through, not by way of an Act passed by Parliament, but through an ordinance. Just as we pushed through amendments to the Patents Act through ordinances in 1994 and 2005, we have now accorded the IPAB a similar burial. On April 4, the President of India signed the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, shutting down the IPAB and many other tribunals for good.
Ever since its creation, the IPAB has been treated like an unwanted child. Perennially understaffed and underfunded, it always looked like a jugaad fix for the problems in the innovation system. Established under the Trade Marks Act of 1999, its jurisdiction was later extended to hear patent cases after the Patents (Amendment) Act of 2002. Historically, appeals from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), rectification and revocation applications were heard by the various High Courts. However, the Patents (Amendment) Act of 2002 divested these powers from the High Courts and extended it to the IPAB. Though the patents side of the IPAB existed in theory since 2002, the Central government notified its functioning only in April 2007 after a rebuke from the Madras High Court. The court was then hearing an appeal from the IPO regarding Novartis’ Glivec patent application which ought to have been heard by the IPAB. After the notification, the High Court transferred Novartis’ petition and subsequently all other pending patent cases to the IPAB.
Since its inception, the institution has been involved in controversies. Even though the IPAB has not been performing its adjudicatory function on the patent side regularly due to administrative reasons, it certainly has been the subject matter of judicial review before the various High Courts. These cases include a challenge to the constitutionality of the IPAB, petitions seeking filling up of vacancies before the High Court in Delhi and Chennai, and even a petition to the Supreme Court for extension of the term of the chairperson.
After remaining headless for almost two years, in January 2018, the IPAB was given a head. The then chairperson of the Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property was given additional charge. However, there was a substantial delay in the start of hearing of patent cases due to a technical reason. The appointment of the technical member for patents, with whom the chairperson sits while deciding cases on patents, who brings the much-needed technical expertise that patent cases usually demand, was delayed. The appointment of the technical member finally came last year after the government was sued by the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association.
IPAB’s end was foreseen by the leaders who ran it. One of the former chairpersons had publicly raised concerns regarding the judicial and institutional independence of the IPAB, and called for closing it. Not only was the IPAB understaffed, with its administrative staff often being on deputation, it was also underpowered, at times quite literally. The tribunal had to bear the brunt of the summer power cuts in Chennai. Imagine the highest authority on protecting technology and innovation working through the scorching Chennai summer during power cuts without any viable backup. One lasting memory of the IPAB will be the image of a dimly lit court hall with the presiding judges poring over patent specifications covering high technology using two emergency lights and the counsel arguing the case using the flashlight on his phone. For those who had the misfortune of walking into the tribunal in Guna Complex in Chennai, where the IPAB was housed during those punishing power cuts, this image would have been a teaser of what was to follow.
The IPAB’s jurisdiction of cases was split between trademarks, patents, copyright, and geographical indication, where the predominant business pertained to trademarks. Thus, the workload of the IPAB was typically split between trademarks and patents with the former consuming much of the time. Not only did the IPAB juggle its time with the different forms of IP, but it also had sittings in five different cities, with just one chairperson who had to fly between them at times. The chairperson had to summon parties and papers to all these cities, which came at a substantial cost to the public.
The patents bench of the IPAB would have probably taken longer to constitute had it not been for the limelight brought by the Novartis case. In any case, the disposal rate for patents at the IPAB did not justify its continuance. Patent disputes owing to their technological complexity were the IPAB’s predominant time-consuming business after trademarks. In our study of the first decade of operation of the patents bench, we saw a paltry disposal rate of about 20 patent cases a year. Nearly 70% of the patent cases filed were either pending at some stage or yet to be taken up for hearing. After the IPAB was set up, not more than 15 cases were transferred from all the High Courts to the IPAB. Going by this disposal rate, it would have taken another decade to dispose of the pending applications, leave alone the new ones. The irony was that tribunals were established with the primary aim of speedy disposal of cases by specialised experts.
The functioning of the IPAB is critical for the innovation ecosystem. Every patent granted by the Patent Office is a potential subject matter in appeal before the IPAB. An unjustified patent grant at the Patent Office, by error or oversight, can only be corrected in appeal. While we know the number of cases filed and disposed, we will never know the number of unjustified patents that went unquestioned for lack of an effective appellate mechanism.
India stands as a shining example for what it has done legislatively in patent law. Be it the retraction of product patents for pharmaceuticals and chemicals between 1970 and 2005, the anti-evergreening provisions or the robust compulsory licensing regime, it has offered the world a host of TRIPS-compliant flexibilities in its statute. But when it came to developing a jurisprudence around these provisions – case laws from the highest courts on how these provisions will be worked – it has failed. Barring a few bright spots, there has been a reluctance to extend the flexibilities in the Patents Act through judicial interpretation that expands the law. The tenure of the IPAB will be remembered as a missed opportunity to develop the home-grown jurisprudence on patent law that is much lacking in India.
7. Editorial: Implementing green contracts
How corporations can cut down emissions
The increasing concerns about climate change once again point to the need for enhanced efforts towards achieving sustainable growth goals in India. While the massive levels of production, consumption and disposal of goods and services have their own set of benefits in a post-industrial society, they have also slowed down the replenishment cycle of limited resources.
As both consumers and corporations reap the benefits of large-scale manufacturing and services, they must equally share the responsibilities relating to the loss of resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While much has been discussed on the operational ways of cutting down carbon emissions, this article focuses on how Indian corporations can be a major character in the country’s story of sustainable growth. Some corporations contribute a fair share to building a clean and sustainable future. But here we discuss how they can contribute to cutting down emissions through the process of green contracting.
What are green contracts?
‘Green contracts’ refer to commercial contracts which mandate that contracting parties cut down greenhouse gas emissions at different stages of delivery of goods/services, including design, manufacturing, transportation, operations and waste disposal, as applicable to the industry. The process of implementing a green contract may commence at the bidding stage itself, when various interested companies participate in the tender process. In such a scenario, a ‘green tender’ may prescribe necessary ‘green qualifications’, which can be considered when awarding the contract to a bidder. These green qualifications can range from using a pre-defined percentage of ‘green energy’ in service delivery to adequate on-site waste management, reducing carbon emissions by a certain level over period of time, etc. Once such a bidder is chosen, the contracting agreement between the parties can prescribe the ‘green obligations’ in detail, thus making the obligations binding and enforceable in the eyes of the law. It is this obligatory nature of green contracts which sets the tone for the parties to cut down emissions. This can be achieved by contractual clauses providing for the use of good quality and energy-efficient infrastructure for production of goods/services, efforts in day-to-day operations such as reducing noise, air and water pollution and ensuring eco-friendly means of transportation like bicycles on site, establishing and maintaining a sustainable waste management system, and so on.
One effective way to make sure that the service providers adhere to these contractual obligations would be to provide for measurement criteria and audit of the performance of the contractor with regard to these obligations. An organisation may also choose to contractually highlight non-performance of such obligations as a ground of contractual breach, with penalty prescriptions. Another way to make sure that these obligations under the green contracts resonate far is to make sure that they flow down to all levels of the supply chain engaged in the delivery of goods and services.
Naturally, the degree of effecting a green contract will depend on the type of contract and the industry to which it relates. However, in the absence of any mandatory rules in this respect, it is the confidence and consideration of India Inc. towards green contracting which can aid the attainment of sustainable growth goals. The service recipients can also themselves undertake thorough assessments on their current standing on greenhouse gas emissions, and initiate relevant processes to contribute their share in India’s green sustainable future.
Having said that, it is but natural to bear in mind the economic efficiency in awarding and executing green contracts. The economic cost of executing green contracts may be greater than a normal brown contract, but global entities operating in a changing environment need to take into consideration the greater environment costs at stake.