Ensuring Crime Free Election

Paper: II

For Prelims:

For Mains: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency & Accountability and institutional and other measures.

Context of News:

  • With Election just few days away in National Capital of Assemble Election, police along with state election commission is on the toe to ensure free and fair election.
  • Ensuring free and crime free election has become difficult all the more in age of digital platform era.

Challenges of Ensuring Free and Fair Election:

  • Ensuring Model Code of Conduct:
  • ECI is entrusted with the task of ensuring a level playing field and good spirit of the whole campaign process. ECI has devised a model code of conduct (MCC). It has also issued guidelines to be observed during campaigning. But this particular task has become increasingly more difficult in recent times due to evolution of new mediums of communication and innovative and overzealous campaigning.
  • Social media is an evolving platform. It provides an intimate, immediate and democratic space for information dissemination and interaction. The scale and depth of this platform is so vast that it is practically impossible to oversight and regulates it in a liberal democracy like India. ECI is still grappling with this challenge. There are no easy solutions to it. ECI is opening itself up to new possibilities and multi- stakeholder involvement.
  • Mushrooming Political Parties:
  • Proliferation of political parties is also one of the root causes for the deterioration of electoral process. Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, (RP Act, 1951) allows for small groups of people to form political parties by making only a simple declaration. According to the ECI, a large number of non-serious parties create excessive load on the electoral system.
  • Problem of Money Power:
  • It is widely believed that in many cases successfully contesting an election costs a significant amount of money that is often much greater than the prescribed limits. A Consultation Paper to the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2001, noted that “the campaign expenditure by candidates is in the range of about twenty to thirty times the legal limits”.
  • The problem with extravagant spending of money is that the person who wins the election spends all his or her time recovering the money that he or she spent during the election and in returning favours to those who funded him or her, rather than focusing on real issues of governance. In addition to this the citizens are directly affected because apart from compromised governance, the huge money spent on elections pushes up the cost of everything in the country and in return the general citizen has to face the real hurdles. Moreover it has been seen that electoral compulsions for funds become the foundation of the whole structure of corruption.
  • The Issue of Contempt:
  • Earlier in 2017, ECI sought an urgent amendment to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, to empower it to punish anyone being disobedient or discourteous towards its authority. The rationale behind this argument is that certain allegations affect the credibility of the commission as one of the important guardian of the democratic process. Therefore to maintain credibility ECI has sought the power of contempt. Election management bodies of Kenya and Pakistan have direct power to initiate contempt proceedings.
  • However the body, custodian of secret ballot, should choose transparency rather than contempt powers to maintain its track record of honesty and fairness. Contestation is part and parcel of elections. Thus, powers to silence criticism will undermine this democratic process. ECI does not have to satisfy every politician. It enjoys public confidence and reputation of impartiality. Thus, it just needs to reach out to people and explain process transparently.

Way Forward:

  • Any serious reform with regard to funding must come from the EC itself, the EC should convene a conference of all stakeholders, including of course all recognized political parties, both central and State. The list of stakeholders must also include the best constitutional and legal minds in our country.
  • ECI must ensure strict compliance of model code of conduct and anyone seen violating it must be given highest possible restraint to deter herself from any such future practice.
  • Role of policing and responsibility of civic society is very important in conducting crime free election.
  • Being a watchdog of the democracy, media should follow the ethical reporting of events covering real issues affecting people and should not indulge in paid news and in propaganda politics.

 


CPCB pulls up 14 coal plants

Paper: GS-III

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

For Prelims: Particulate Matters, Central Pollution Control Board, and Environment Protection Act.

For Mains: Thermal Power Plants and their deadline to limits Sulphur dioxide emissions.

Why in news?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 14 thermal power plants for not complying with a December 31, 2019 deadline to limit sulphur dioxide emissions.
  • These are 5 plants in Haryana, 3 in Punjab, 2 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 in Telangana and 1 in Tamil Nadu with a total capacity of approx 15 GW that have missed the deadline.

A Phased-approach for Coal fired units:

  • To limit particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission from thermal plants, India put in place a phased-approach that directs 440 coal-fired units responsible for about 166,000 MW of power to put in place measures to limit pollution by December 2022.
  • However 11 plants in a 300 km radius of Delhi were to comply by December 31, 2019 because of the poor air quality in the city as well as the surrounding Gangetic plain.
  • Some of them claimed to have set in place the process for acquiring flu-gas desulphurization technology where as others said they were yet to award tenders. Only one of these plants has actually implemented technology to limit emissions.

Plea in NGT:

  • Non-compliance by the thermal power plants is an ongoing dispute being contested at the National Green Tribunal through a petition filed in April 2017.
  • There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding the extensions given to these plants.
  • The 14 plants have been given until the end of this month to explain to the CPCB why they have not complied with the norms and why action should not be taken.
  • The CPCB has the power to impose steep fines or shut a unit under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act.
  • As per Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates, these norms can help reduce PM emissions by about 35%, NOx emission by about 70%, and SO2 emissions by more than 85% by 2026-27 against a business-as-usual scenario with no pollution control technologies.

Purpose of the Environmental Protection Act:

  • The purpose of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) is to support and promote the management, protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment, while recognizing the following:
  1. Preventing, mitigating and remediating environmental impacts is important in making decisions and taking actions.
  2. Where there are threats of serious or irreparable harm to the ecological integrity, lack of complete certainty is not to be a reason for postponing reasonable environmental protection measures.
  3. All persons are responsible, financially and otherwise, for impacts on the environment as a result of their actions or inaction.
  4. Administrative, management and regulatory processes need to be adaptive, responsive, fair, effective and timely.

Particulate matter: 

  • PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution), the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

Particle pollution includes:

  • PM10 :inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
  • 5:fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.

Sources of PM:

  • These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
  • Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
  • Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.

Harmful Effects of PM:

  • Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.
  • Some particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health.
  • Fine particles are also the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas.

Conclusion:

  • EPA regulates inhalable particles. Particles of sand and large dust, which are larger than 10 micrometers, are not regulated by EPA.
  • EPA’s national and regional rules to reduce emissions of pollutants that form PM will help state and local governments meet the Agency’s national air quality standards.