Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Graded Response Action Plan
- Dam safety Act
- Issue of Pending cases
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Graded Response Action Plan
Context: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to officials in Punjab and Delhi over the deteriorating air quality and violation of GRAP norms in the National Capital Region and neighbouring States.
About the news
- An NGT Bench noted that farm fires in Punjab during the kharif season (till October 4), were up by 63% compared to the corresponding period last year.
- It further noted that a smog tower in Delhi built for ₹22.9 crore was lying unused for seven months and experts had termed the equipment “a waste of money”.
Background of GRAP
- The GRAP was first notified in January 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This was based on a plan submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in November 2016.
- According to the notification, the task of implementing the GRAP fell on the now-dissolved Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the NCR.
- From 2021 onwards, the GRAP is being implemented by the CAQM.
What is CAQM?
- The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has been set up for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas for better co-ordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- It is a statutory body formed under the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas, Act 2021.
- GRAP is a set of emergency measures to be taken to reduce the air pollution depending on the level of pollution.
- GRAP is a plan that institutionalised measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
- It was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government representatives and experts.
- GRAP works only as an emergency measure. If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
- GRAP was notified in 2017 by the Centre and draws its authority from this notification
- Plan has been prepared for implementation under different Air Quality Index (AQI) categories namely, Moderate & Poor, Very Poor, and Severe as per National Air Quality Index. A new category of “Severe+ or Emergency” has been added
- Stage I – ‘Poor’ Air Quality: (DELHI AQI ranging between 201-300): Actions: Strictly enforce NGT / Hon’ble SC’s order on overaged diesel / petrol vehicles and as per extant statutes.
- Stage II- Very Poor Air Quality: ( Delhi AQI ranging between 301-400): Actions: Ensure focused and targeted action for abatement of air pollution in all identified hotspots in NCR. Intensify remedial measures for the predominant sector(s) contributing to adverse air quality in each of such hotspots.
- Stage III- Severe Air Quality: (Delhi AQI > 450) : Actions: Do not permit LCVs registered outside Delhi, other than EVs / CNG / BS-VI diesel, to enter Delhi, except those carrying essential commodities / providing essential services. NCR State Govts. and GNCTD may take a decision on discontinuing physical classes even for classes VI – IX, class XI and conduct lessons in an online mode. State Governments may consider additional emergency measures like closure of colleges/ educational institutions and closure of non‑emergency commercial activities, permitting running of vehicles on odd-even basis of registration numbers etc.
2 . Dam safety Act
Context: India has almost 6,000 large dams and about 80% of them are more than 25 years old and carry safety risks. A new Dam Safety Act (DSA) was passed in late 2021. On October 4 2023, a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in North Sikkim’s South Lhonak Lake washed away one of the biggest hydropower projects in India, the Teesta III dam at Chungthang. Reports have since revealed there were no early warning systems, no risk assessment or preventive measures in place as required under the Act.
About Dam Safety
- Dam safety involves :
- Designing and constructing dams that adhere to safety margins,
- Maintaining and operating them per guidelines
- Recording data in real-time in an accessible format
- Forecasting hazardous events and instituting emergency plans
- Periodic reviews are expected to bring forth fresh inundation maps and new rule curves (which determine the capacity of dam reservoirs), all of which contribute towards the safety of the downstream areas.
Why was the Dam Safety Act framed?
- The Central government had mooted a bill on dam safety on account of the absence of a proper dam safety institutional framework.
- The Dam Safety Act, 2021, which came into force in 2021, deals with the subjects of surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of stipulated dams across the country.
- Broadly, the law, which holds dam owners responsible for the construction, operation, maintenance, and supervision of dams, has designed two sets of bodies, one at the level of the Union government and another at the level of States.
- The National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) would devise dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations while the NDSA would implement policies and address unresolved issues between States, apart from being the regulatory body.
- At the other level, the State Dam Safety Organisation and State Committees on Dam Safety have been envisaged. There is one more function attached to the NDSA, by which the NDSA would assume the role of a State Dam Safety Organisation for a dam located in one State and owned and operated by anothe
Objective of the act
- The Act’s purpose is to oversee, inspect, operate, and maintain all designated dams throughout the country. These dams have a height exceeding 15 meters or a height ranging from 10 to 15 meters while meeting specific design and structural conditions. It also establishes an organizational framework to ensure the safety of these dams.
Provisions of the act
- Institutional Framework: Two National-Level Bodies: The National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) formulates policies and suggests regulations for dam safety standards. The National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) enforces NCDA’s policies, offers technical support to State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSOs), and resolves disputes involving an SDSO.
- Two State-Level Bodies: SDSOs are responsible for continuous monitoring, inspection, and supervision of dams. The State Committee on Dam Safety oversees state dam rehabilitation programs, assesses the work of SDSOs, and tracks progress related to dam safety measures, among other responsibilities.
- Responsibilities of Dam Owners: Owners of dams are accountable for the secure construction, operation, maintenance, and oversight of a dam. They are required to establish a dam safety unit at each dam, which will conduct inspections: before and after the monsoon season during and after any earthquake, flood, calamity, or signs of distress.
- The functions of dam owners include: creating an emergency action plan conducting risk assessment studies at specified intervals preparing a comprehensive dam safety evaluation with the assistance of expert panels.
- Offenses and Penalties: Individuals who obstruct someone in performing their duties under the Act or refuse to follow directives may face up to one year in imprisonment. In cases involving loss of life, the individual may be imprisoned for up to two years.
Challenges with the Act
- As per experts, the recent Sikkim incident exemplifies blind spots in both the legislation and its implementation.
- It does not promote risk-based decision-making and fails to incentivize transparency.
- Jurisdiction of Parliament for Enacting Laws Regarding Dams within a State: This Act is applicable to all designated dams in the nation. According to the Constitution, states have the authority to create laws related to water, including water storage and water power but Parliament can oversee and advance inter-state river valleys if it believes it’s essential for the public interest. The question at hand is whether Parliament possesses the authority to regulate dams located on rivers that flow entirely within one state.
3 . Issue of Pending cases
Context: The Supreme Court has called for proactive steps to clear mounting pendency in courts, saying speedy justice is fast becoming a chimera for the 6% population involved in litigation.
About the news
- The Supreme Court directed courts at district and taluka levels to ensure proper execution of the summons in a time-bound manner.
- It also directed the setting of committees by the Chief Justices of the respective States to constantly monitor old cases pending for more than five years.
Status of Pendency of cases
- India has the largest number of pending court cases in the world.
- The court cases is categorised into two types – civil and criminal. In 2022, the total number of pending cases of all types and at all levels rose to 50 million or 5 crores, including over 169,000 court cases pending for more than 30 years in district and high courts.
- 4.3 crore out of 5 crore cases, i.e more than 85% cases, are pending in district courts as of December 2022.
- Government itself is the biggest litigant, having 50% of the pending cases being sponsored by the state.
- Pendency of cases cost 1.5%-2% of India’s GDP.
Causes of Pendency
- Low strength of judges and non-judicial staff: In 2022, the sanctioned strength of judges in India was 21.03 judges per million population. The absolute sanctioned strength of judges were 34 in Supreme Court, 1108 in high courts, and 24,631 in district courts. Law commission of India and Justice V S Malimath Committee had recommended in the past to raise the strength of judges to 50 judges per million population, or 20,000 population per judge.
- Vacant position of the judges: Despite sanctioned strength of judges, courts in India have often not worked in full capacity due to vacancy of judges. In 2022, the working strength of judges in India was 14.4 judges per million population. Non-judicial staff positions also remain vacant with some states having vacancy upto 25% in 2018-19.
- Inadequate funding: Except the Supreme Court which is funded by the central government, all the expenses of the High Court and the District Courts in a state are funded by the respective state government. As of 2018, 92% of all expenditure on the judiciary was borne by the states. This includes salary of judges, non-judicial staff and all operation costs. In 2019, India spent 0.08% of its GDP on the judiciary.
- Abuse of legal procedure: Court cases proceed as per rules described in CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and CPC (Code of Civil Procedure). CRPC and CPC have been criticised for being archaic. Adjournments have been used as a tool to delay the proceedings. Lawyers unrestrictedly argue with unrelated oral arguments and submit impractical, long written pleadings to waste time and delay the proceedings.
Impact of Pendency on India
- Delayed Dispensation of Justice: Extended legal proceedings result in justice being postponed, which can nullify the very purpose of seeking legal remedies. Both individuals and businesses often suffer due to these delays.
- Eroded Trust: Prolonged cases erode public confidence in the judicial system, causing frustration and skepticism about its effectiveness. People may explore alternative methods to resolve disputes.
- Overburdened System: The backlog hinders the courts’ capacity to handle new cases effectively, perpetuating a cycle of delays. This results in a detrimental cycle where new cases are added to the existing backlog.
4 . Facts for Prelims
- H5N1 is a type of influenza virus. It is often referred to as avian influenza or bird flu.
- The “H5” and “N1” in its name represent specific proteins found on the surface of the virus.
- H5N1 is of particular concern because it can infect not only birds but also humans.
- In humans, it has the potential to cause severe illness and has raised concerns about potential pandemics. Outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry flocks have led to culling and control measures to prevent its spread.
- A rare butterfly known as paintbrush swift has been spotted first time in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district.
- It is a species belonging to the family Hesperiidae.
- It is identified based on two separated spots in the upper forewing cell.
- It is a project started by the Indian army to rediscover the profound Indic heritage of statecraft and strategic thoughts derived from ancient Indian texts of statecraft, warcraft, diplomacy and grand strategy in collaboration with the United Service Institution of India, a defence think-tank.
- The objective of the Project is to synthesize ancient wisdom with contemporary military practices, forging a unique and holistic approach to address modern security challenges.
- It is a visionary initiative by the Indian Army that seeks to integrate age-old wisdom with contemporary military pedagogy.
Unique features of Bats
- Bats are the only mammals on the earth that can maintain sustained flight.
- They also have relatively long life-spans and are relatively more protected from a variety of diseases, including cancer.
- They also have a unique ability in echolocation, whereby they use sound to navigate and locate objects, freeing them from being constrained by the availability of light like humans are.
- Bats are also unique because they have a relatively small genome, around 2 billion bases.
- A set of immune-related genes have been undergoing positive selection in bats, adapting them to control the spread of viruses while mitigating the antiviral inflammatory response. As a result, the bats are shielded from the effects of the clinical response of their bodies to these viruses.
- Bats have molecular mechanisms that allow them to host a range of deadly viruses but evade clinical disease.
- They can harbour multiple viruses at the same time, i.e. in a state of co-infection, without themselves falling ill.