22nd APRIL 2016
GS II : POLITY - PRESIDENT's RULE
Uttarakhand HC sets aside President's Rule
The Uttarakhand High Court quashed the Union government's order imposing President's Rule on the State on March 27, holding that the situation must be viewed "on a larger canvas of democracy, federalism and the rule of law."
Deciding that the Congress shall return to power, a Division Bench ordered a floor test of Harish Rawat's claim of majority in the Assembly on April 29.
The decision is a setback to the Modi government, which had approached the President to prove that there was a breakdown of the constitutional machinery. In New Delhi, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the government would move the Supreme Court against the High Court order.
Uttarakhand Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal said the "effective strength" of the House has now come down to 62 as the High Court has upheld the disqualification of the nine rebel Congress MLAs.
Mr. Rawat, who had moved the High Court on March 28, said: "We should forget everything and look ahead. The legal battles will go on, but I want to tell the Centre that we will be able to recover from the injuries caused by the President's Rule if it [the Centre] cooperates with Uttarakhand."
GS III: MONEY LAUNDERING
Banks have no right to know my assets, says Mallya
Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya claimed privilege in the Supreme Court from divulging details of his overseas assets to his debtor banks, saying a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) like him is not obliged to disclose riches abroad even in "Indian income tax returns."
In a 41-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, responding to an order passed, Mr. Mallya said his lenders had no right to seek information about his assets abroad as well as those of his children, who are U.S. citizens, and estranged wife, also an NRI.
Moreover, he argued that these assets were never considered by the banks while granting loans or restructuring those of Kingfisher Airlines, and there was no reason to give them such information now.
But he revealed that the net estimated current value of the overseas assets of himself, his wife and children amounted to $114.571 million or around Rs.780 crore. He said specific details of these assets would be handed over to the court on April 26, the next date of hearing, in a sealed envelope.
In the April 7 order, the Bench had asked him to disclose assets in India and abroad of himself and his wife and children. It also wanted to know when the businessman, believed to be abroad, would return and be present in the Supreme Court to start negotiations to settle the carrier's debts running up to Rs.9,000 crore.
GS III: ENVIRONMENT
Bird hit: NGT halts Tawang hydro power project
The threat to the future of a vulnerable bird species has halted the Rs. 6,400-crore hydro power project in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has suspended the Union Environment Ministry's clearance for the project granted in 2012. The clearance, the court noted, didn't consider the impact of the hydro project - promoted by Noida-based textile-to-steel conglomerate, LNJ Bhilwara Group - on the habitat of the black-necked crane, a species that breeds on the Tibetan plateau and migrates to Tawang for the winter. The bird, most commonly found in China, is legally protected in Bhutan and India and is considered sacred to certain Buddhist traditions.
The black-necked crane is rated as ‘vulnerable' in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of endangered species and is listed in India's Wildlife Act as a Schedule 1 species, which gives animals and birds the highest legal protection.
Other species that are found in the region include the red panda, the snow leopard and the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, a recently-described primate species in the area, according to court documents.
The project is planned on the Nyamjang Chhu river and is the largest of 13 hydro power projects to be built in the Tawang basin. With the NGT's order, project developers will need to revisit their environmental clearance process.
GS III: ENVIRONMENT - PARIS TREATY
Paris treaty: To be signed on World Earth Day
Today, world leaders and their entourages will disembark from carbon-spewing jets in New York to sign the world's costliest-ever climate change treaty. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among them.
The Paris Treaty talks a big game. It doesn't just commit to capping the global temperature increase at 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The text goes even further and says that the world's leaders commit to keeping the increase "well below 2°C" and will try to cap it at 1.5°C.
But this is just rhetoric. My own research and the only peer-reviewed published assessment of the Paris agreement measured the impact of every nation fulfilling every major carbon-cutting promise in the treaty between now and 2030. I found that the total temperature reduction will be just 0.048°C by 2100.
Even if these promises were extended for another 70 years, all the promises will reduce temperature rise by 0.17°C by 2100. This is very similar to a finding by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is feeble.
The only global treaty to cut carbon -the Kyoto Protocol - famously failed when it was never ratified by the U.S., and eventually abandoned by Canada, Russia and Japan. Even before that, the treaty had holes in it so big that it was never destined to achieve anything.
By the United Nations' own reckoning, this treaty will only achieve less than 1 per cent of the emission cuts needed to meet target temperatures. Ninety-nine per cent of the problem is left for tomorrow's leaders to deal with.
And what does it cost to make such feeble cuts? Models show that the total cost by 2030 will possibly rise to $2 trillion annually - more than India's total GDP. It is likely to be the most expensive treaty in the history of the world. India highlights the need to make a sensible transition. More than almost any other nation, India knows that cheap and plentiful power is crucial. Like China, which over the past 30 years has lifted 680 million people out of poverty, a number greater than any nation has ever managed in the history of the world, India's growth has been mostly powered by cheap, if polluting, coal.
Prime Minister Modi has suggested that he wants 100GW of solar power by 2022 and 60 GW of wind. This is highly ambitious; the International Energy Agency does not expect it to be achieved.
Moreover, the International Energy Agency shows that the electricity cost of both wind and solar will remain higher than the average generation cost in India, even in 2040. That is why solar in 2020 is expected to produce just 7 per cent of electricity in India, and provide just 1 per cent of India's energy.
India has proposed 455 new coal plants. As India sees its energy consumption increase by 150 per cent over the next 25 years, a larger proportion, almost half, will be serviced by coal.
And the fact is that this focus makes sense. Four hundred million people - almost one-third of India's total population - lack reliable access to electricity. Since we know that power is one of the most crucial inputs to get out of poverty, it is crucial for India to focus on getting more power at low costs.
Eventually, that power will have to come from green energy, which will have to become cheaper. If it were truly economically advantageous to quit our fossil fuel addiction right now, we wouldn't need a treaty. Every right-thinking nation on the planet would stampede to cut CO. Instead, we need green innovation.
A new green energy innovation coalition backed by the philanthropist Bill Gates, business leaders, and around 20 governments including India to double global green energy research and development is an excellent global initiative, and is likely to achieve far more than the Paris Treaty.
But the Gates fund is just a start. A panel of Nobel laureates for the project Copenhagen Consensus on Climate found that we shouldn't just double R&D but make a 10-fold increase, to reach at least $100 billion per year.
Sadly, that will not be the focus of the treaty signed at the United Nations this Earth Day, which will do very little at a very high cost.
GS III: S&T - SPACE
China to launch ‘core module' for space station
China will launch a "core module" for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official told the state-run Xinhua news agency, part of a plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
Advancing China's space programme is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power, and apart from its civilian ambitions Beijing has tested anti-satellite missiles. China insists its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defence Department has highlighted its increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.
The "core module" for the space station would be called the "Tianhe-1", the Chinese word for galaxy or Milky Way.
"If the International Space Station, which has extended its service, is retired by 2024, China's new space station will be the only operational one in outer space," he added.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL
Harriet Tubman, former slavery victim, to be first African-American on US currency
Anti-slavery advocate Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American on the face of U.S. paper currency, and the first woman in more than a century, when she replaces former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
The U.S. Treasury Department said that Tubman, who was born into slavery in the early 1820s and went on to help hundreds of slaves escape, would take the centre spot on the bill, while Jackson, a slave owner, would move to the back.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is campaigning to become the first female U.S. president, praised Tubman as "a woman, a leader, and a freedom fighter".