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News Analysis: 15-02-2019
General Studies-II : Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
SC sends Delhi power tussle case to larger Bench
A Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan on Thursday gave a split opinion on whether the Delhi government has control over the administration’s services and decided to refer the question to a larger Bench.
While Justice Bhushan held that the Delhi government has no power over services, observing that Entry 41 of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution — dealing with ‘State Public Services’ — was outside the purview of the Delhi Assembly, Justice Sikri, the lead judge on the Bench, took the middle path
Ruling that files on the transfers and postings of officers of the rank of Secretary, Head of Department and Joint Secretary could be directly submitted to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), Justice Sikri said that as far as the Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) cadre is concerned, the files could be processed through the Council of Ministers, led by the Chief Minister, before being sent to the LG. Observing that in case of a difference of opinion, the LG prevails, Justice Sikri
Justice Sikri also proposed the setting up of Civil Service Boards to take care of the service matters of grade one, two, three and four officers. The Boards for grade four and three officers could be led by the Services Secretary and the others by the Chief Secretary. However, one would have to wait for a final decision on this issue, the judge said.
Thursday’s judgment on individual appeals followed a verdict by the Constitution Bench on July 4, 2018, wherein the court held that the LG was bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of the National Capital Territory government.
Interestingly, other than the question of services, the two judges agreed on all other questions raised in separate appeals.
The court upheld as “legal” the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notifications of May 21, 2015, and July 23, 2015, authorising the LG to exercise powers in relation to services and directing the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) police not to take cognisance of offences against Central government officials.
The court said the notifications were limited to the officials of the Central Government under the Prevention of Corruption Act and were “perfectly in order”. Thus, the apex court confirmed the Delhi High Court’s finding that the ACB’s jurisdiction is confined to Delhi officials and statutory bodies and does not extend to Central government officials.
The Supreme Court also confirmed the Delhi HC’s finding that the “appropriate government” under the Commission of Inquiry Act of 1952 is the Centre and not the Delhi government.
The court was unanimous in its decision that the Delhi government should have taken the views of the LG before issuing the circular dated August 4, 2015, revising minimum rates of agricultural land (circle rules) under the provisions of Indian Stamp Act, 1899, and the Delhi Stamp (Prevention of Undervaluation of Instrument) Rules
Source: The Hindu
General Studies-III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment Disaster and disaster management.
Wasted effort: half of India’s waste-to-energy plants defunct
Nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity, says an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment.
Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have shut down.
Apart from Delhi, these include plants at Kanpur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Vijayawada and Karimnagar.
The key reasons for closure are the plants’ inability to handle mixed solid waste and the high cost of electricity generated by them that renders it unattractive to power companies.
It also proposes setting up a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India, which would construct incineration plants through PPP models. Currently, there are 40-odd WTE plants at various stages of construction.
However, this has not stopped the government from betting big on WTE. The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together.
The fundamental reason (for the inefficiency of these plants) is the quality and composition of waste. MSW (municipal solid waste) in India has low calorific value and high moisture content. As most wastes sent to the WTE plants are unsegregated, they also have high inert content. These wastes are just not suitable for burning in these plants. To burn them, additional fuel is required which makes these plants expensive to run
The WTEs have also triggered widespread opprobrium among citizens. For instance, there has been a continuous protest against the Okhla WTE plant for polluting the environment.
In 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slapped environmental compensation fine of ₹25 lakh on the plant.
Moreover, the plants are expensive because they produce power at nearly ₹7 per unit, which is more than the ₹3-5 offered by thermal as well as solar sources.
Source: The Hindu
General Studies-II : Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
The CAG report does not allay all doubts about the Rafale deal
The price-redacted audit report on the process to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets is unlikely to bring closure to the controversy over the deal.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India tabled in Parliament comes in the midst of a vigorous campaign by the Opposition that is questioning the process, based on media revelations about possible lapses and deviations and significant points raised by dissenting members of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT).
The Modi government can draw comfort from the fact that the CAG report concludes that the 2016 agreement is slightly better in terms of both pricing and delivery than what was under negotiation in 2007 during the UPA regime. However, the report does not allay all doubts.
Pegged at 2.86%, the price advantage in the contract over the 2007 offer is marginal. It is a far cry from the 9% saving claimed by the government.
The delivery schedule is only one month sooner than the estimated outer limit in the earlier process. The CAG has found fault with Dassault Aviation being allowed to retain the gains made by the absence of a bank guarantee, which, if executed, would have come with significant charges.
Disappointingly, the CAG has not quantified this amount, though it declares that it should have been passed on to the Defence Ministry.
The 2007 price offered by Dassault included bank charges, and its absence in the 2016 contract is a clear benefit to the company. In other words, the ‘advantage’ is lower than the 2.86%.
While the key question of pricing is sought to be resolved by the CAG by comparing the auditors’ aligned price with the INT’s computation, some issues remain unaddressed.
The original issue of bringing down the total acquisition from 126 to 36 aircraft does not draw much comment.
Also, the huge outgo on the India-Specific Enhancements (ISEs), despite the final figure being projected as a 17% saving on the aligned offer, is something that requires deeper examination.
While auditing the earlier process, the CAG found that ISEs were upgrades allowed to be made so that Dassault’s bid would be compliant with qualitative requirements. Even a team of Ministry officials that examined in March 2015 the integrity of the earlier process concluded that “the acceptance of [Dassault’s] additional commercial proposal after bid submission date... was unprecedented and against the canons of financial propriety.”
Dassault was not the lowest bidder in the earlier process, and its technical bid had been rejected. Perhaps, this presented an opportunity to the present regime to reopen the entire process to buy Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) and invite fresh bids.
However, it chose the IGA route with France, possibly for diplomatic reasons. The CAG identifies as a major problem the fact that the technical requirements are too narrowly defined for most vendors to comply with.
The message from the report is that defence acquisition processes require reforms and streamlining.
Source: The Hindu
General Studies-III : Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
37 CRPF men killed in J&K suicide attack
At least 37 CRPF personnel were killed on Thursday when a convoy in which they were travelling was attacked by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber, who rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into one of the convoy’s buses near Awantipora on the -Jammu Highway
The attack raises questions over security on the national highway, which is patrolled three agencies — the local police, the CRPF and Army — on a daily basis.
Immediately after the attack, the JeM claimed responsibility and released a picture of its local operative who had carried out the attack. He was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar alias ‘Waqas Commando’, a resident of Pulwama’s Kakapora. According to the police, Dar joined the outfit in 2018 and was a Class 10 dropout.
In 2001, 38 people were killed when a three-member JeM squad blew up a car outside the J&K Assembly.
The toll in Thursday’s attack exceeded the fatalities inflicted by militants in Uri, in 2016, when 19 Armymen were killed near the LoC.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant outfit, with a cadre strength of zero in 2015 and six in 2016, is regrouping in Kashmir again and has carried more attacks on the security forces than the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) outfits in the past two months, according to the police data.
In a “desperate bid” to take centre stage, The JeM has carried out around 10 grenade attacks, with four grenades triggered in capital Srinagar this year so far, according to the police report.
The attacks left around 20 security personnel injured. The JeM attacks come at a time when the LeT and the HM’s abilities were “heavily dented” with the killing of around 20 militants in the past two months by the security forces in back-to-back operations
India blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed for the terrorist attack in Pulwama on Thursday.
The terror group is led by the international terrorist Masood Azhar, who has been given full freedom by the government of Pakistan to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity
Source: The Hindu
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