Daily Current(09/01/2018) For UPSC IAS CDS CAPF UPPSC MPPSC RAS

Credibility crisis

UIDAI should target glaring loopholes instead of journalists who expose them

TOI Editorials

The Unique Identification Authority of India has a problem at hand, and it is not curious reporters, activists or whistleblowers. The problem is that multiple reports have been indicating unauthorised access to the Aadhaar database – blowing holes in UIDAI denials of data breach. UIDAI’s police complaint against reporter Rachna Khaira, who broke the story of touts offering ‘gateways’ to the Aadhaar database for just Rs 500, is classic shoot the messenger tactic.

After facing flak UIDAI released a statement asserting that it respects press freedoms and its complaint against Khaira is in the nature of passing on all information to Delhi Police. But the statement includes a disingenuously detailed reference to SC observations on sting operations, even though the reporter concerned was exposing illegality in classical journalistic fashion rather than crafting a melodramatic audio-visual spectacle. As the Editors Guild of India said, instead of “a direct attack on the freedom of press” UIDAI should have ordered a “thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public”.

UIDAI has made a virtue of how the critical biometric database containing fingerprint and iris scans has not been breached. But if personal information connecting a name to details such as date of birth, address, photo and phone number is on the black market, that is a matter of grave concern too. This is happening even as the Aadhaar ecosystem has grown beyond UIDAI and is being used for a plethora of services by central and state governments and private companies. Huge financial rewards can be reaped via unauthorised access. Yet multiple state government websites have mass-published phone numbers, photos and address information shared with UIDAI. Recently UIDAI barred a telecom company that was opening payments bank accounts for their subscribers using Aadhaar-based SIM verification without their ‘informed consent’.

Beyond the current Aadhaar Act which prescribes penalties for unauthorised access of data, there is an urgent need for enacting a data protection legislation that articulates a holistic philosophy on concepts like sensitive personal data, informed consent, data processing (storage, transfer and use) and data minimisation. The last is the opposite of the current trend of deploying Aadhaar and its biometrics for every conceivable purpose. UIDAI must welcome scrutiny, face up to the chinks in its armoury, and take remedial steps.


The digital future looms; who’s ready?

ET Editorials

Ford sacked its CEO in a year in which the company made record profits, for the reason that it had not invested enough in the emerging automobile future of electric, self-driving vehicles. If that criterion is applied, how many Indian CEOs would retain their jobs? The question is worth pondering, as digital technology transforms swathes of business that never imagined themselves as digital in any fashion. Tractors could start talking to drones on their own, and insurance majors could be left gaping, as nimble financial technology startups employing artificial intelligence gobble up their business. Offline retail has woken up to the e-commerce challenge in the US, and some similar stirrings are visible in India as well. But it is not just businesses that directly confront a tech invasion that will be affected by the power of digital transformation. Every business will be, and must be prepared.

Of course, technology cannot be an end in itself. To what end technology is to be deployed, and in what manner must first be determined by the management, before allocating a flexible budget to the chief information /technology officer. This calls for rethinking how the customer would like to be served and how available technologies can be marshalled to that end. This is easy to preach, tough to practice. That is why concepts such as design thinking are capturing managerial imagination. The point is not for CEOs to be able to mouth the bit of jargon that is the flavour of the latest gathering at Davos, but to figure out the likely tech-driven evolution of one’s own business — before being swept out of the path by the competition that has cracked this piece of the puzzle. India is fast acquiring the physical infrastructure of a connected economy that opens up new possibilities, which would translate, in some cases, into threats for existing business.

Adapting to the new, tech-driven future would also generate a whole lot of new work for Indian information technology companies. They must first acquire the consulting capability to advise companies on what is to be done, apart from the ability to execute it.


निजी सुरक्षा और मीडिया की आज़ादी में ही लोकहित

पत्रकार के विरुद्ध प्रथम सूचना रिपोर्ट (एफआईआर) दर्ज करके जो चुस्ती और प्रतिक्रिया दिखाई है उसने विवाद को जन्म दिया है।


भारतीय विशिष्ट पहचान प्राधिकरण (यूआईडीएआई) ने व्यक्ति की निजता से संबंधित आंकड़ों के लीक होने संबंधी एक खबर पर पत्रकार के विरुद्ध प्रथम सूचना रिपोर्ट (एफआईआर) दर्ज करके जो चुस्ती और प्रतिक्रिया दिखाई है उसने विवाद को जन्म दिया है। पत्रकारों की प्रतिष्ठित संस्था एडिटर्स गिल्ड, भारतीय प्रेस क्लब और वीमेन प्रेस कोर ने उसे प्रेस की आजादी का दमन बताकर जो प्रतिक्रिया जताई है उस पर लोकतांत्रिक संस्थाओं को ध्यान देना चाहिए। इस मामले पर यूआईडीएआई ने जो सफाई दी है कि उसमें एक प्रकार का अंतर्विरोध है। एक तरफ उसका कहना है कि आधार के बायोमेट्रिक डाटाबेस में किसी प्रकार की सेंध नहीं लगी है लेकिन, जब भी किसी प्रकार का अनाधिकृत प्रवेश किया जाता है तो कानून का उल्लंघन होता है और इसीलिए रपट दर्ज होती है। अपराध किसने किया है वह बाद में तय किया जाएगा। प्राधिकरण की इसी बात को आधार बनाकर एडिटर्स गिल्ड कह रहा है कि जब आंकड़े या लोगों के निजी विवरण चोरी हुए ही नहीं तो कानून का उल्लंघन हुआ कैसे? जनहित में खबरों को निकालने और व्यवस्था में सुधार की अपेक्षा के साथ उन्हें प्रकाशित या प्रसारित करना मीडिया के हर संस्थान की जिम्मेदारी है। इस बात से इनकार नहीं किया जा सकता कि इस काम में मीडिया अपनी लक्ष्मण रेखा का उल्लंघन भी करता है और अपनी तकनीकी क्षमता और संवैधानिक अधिकारों का इस्तेमाल भयादोहन के लिए भी कर सकता है लेकिन, यह काम सरकार की ओर से भी होता है। इसके बावजूद सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने 2014 में रजत प्रसाद बनाम सीबीआई के मामले में स्टिंग ॉपरेशन को सही ठहराते हुए यह भी कहा था कि पत्रकार अपना काम लोकहित में कर रहा है या निजी हित में इसका फैसला सबूतों के आधार पर होगा। इस फैसले की व्याख्या में सरकार की कार्रवाई के औचित्य और मीडिया की आज़ादी का दारोमदार है। मौजूदा स्थिति में आधार कार्ड की उपयोगिता, मीडिया की आज़ादी और व्यक्ति की निजता के अधिकार के सवाल उलझते जा रहे हैं। अगर सरकार, मीडिया और नागरिक सभी लोकहित के लिए काम कर रहे हैं तो इस मामले में किसी तरह का भ्रम और टकराव होना नहीं चाहिए। उम्मीद है कि आधार के मामले में सुप्रीम कोर्ट के फैसले के बाद इस विषय के सीमित और व्यापक पहलुओं से कोहरा छंटेगा।


नाबालिकों के अपराधों की जड़ें

डॉ० विजय अग्रवाल

यह लेख लिखते समय अनायास ही चीन के आधुनिक साहित्य के महान कथाकार लू शून (1881-1936) की एक प्रसिद्ध कहानी ‘‘एक पागल की डायरी’’ की याद आ रही है। इस कहानी का नायक पागल कहता है, ‘‘चार हजार साल से हम मनुष्य का गोश्त खाते आ रहे हैं। बच्चों ने उसे नहीं चखा है। बच्चों को बचाओ।’’ आज जब हम बच्चों को हत्या और गैंग रैप जैसे जघन्य अपराधों में संलग्न पाते हैं, तो लगता है कि हमने लू शून की उस चेतावनी पर ध्यान नहीं दिया, और अब बच्चों ने भी आदमी का गोश्त चख लिया है।नाबालिगों द्वारा किए जाने वाले जघन्य अपराधों ने पूरे देश के माथे पर लकीरें पाँच साल पहले हुए निर्भया कांड ने उकेरी थीं। 23 वर्षीया निर्भया के साथ की गई दरिंदगी में कुल जो छः लोग शामिल थे, उनमें एक 18 वर्ष से कम उम्र का भी था। इनमें से पाँच को तो फाँसी की सजा हो गई। लेकिन एक बच गया। इसके बाद नाबालिग की उम्र की सीमा 18 से घटाकर 16 करनी पड़ी। साथ ही कुछ दिनों पहले इस लड़के पर केस चलाने के मामले पर जुवेनाइल जस्टिस बोर्ड ने कहा कि चूँकि अभियुक्त ने जघन्य अपराध किया है, और वह इस अपराध के दण्ड को समझने के योग्य था, इसलिए उस पर मुकदमा वयस्कों की तरह ही चलेगा।

हाल में हुई कुछ अन्य अत्यंत दुखद घटनाओं से तो लोगों की आँखें फटी की फटी रह गई हैं। गुरुग्राम के रेयान इंटरनेशनल स्कूल के एक बच्चे ने स्कूल के एक लड़के की हत्या केवल इसलिए कर दी, ताकि कुछ दिनों के लिए परीक्षा टल जाये। नोएडा में तो एक लड़के ने अपनी माँ और बहन को इसलिए मार डाला, क्योंकि वे उसे डाँटते थे।इसी सिक्के का एक दूसरा पहलू हमें स्वयं के प्रति उनके द्वारा उठाये गये क्रूर कदमों में दिखाई देता है। नाबालिगों एवं युवाओं की आत्महत्या की खबरें आज आम हो गई हैं। ‘ब्लू व्हेल’ के खौफनाक खेल ने जघन्यता के उस नये स्वरूप को प्रस्तुत किया है। जिसमें स्वयं के प्रति क्रूरता के विभिन्न चरण दिखाई देते हैं।राष्ट्रीय अपराध रिकार्ड ब्यूरो के आँकड़े बताते हैं कि नाबालिगों द्वारा किये जाने वाले अपराध कुल अपराध का लगभग एक प्रतिशत होता है। तीन साल पूर्व के लगभग 45 हजार बाल अपराधों में लगभग 30 हजार अपराध 16 से 18 वर्ष की उम्र के बच्चों के द्वारा किये गये। राज्यसभा में बताया गया है कि इस तरह के अपराधों में पिछले पाँच सालों में लगभग 47 प्रतिशत की बढ़ोत्तरी हुई है, जो बहुत चिन्ताजनक है।

निर्भया कांड के बाद इस समस्या पर विमर्श के जो बिन्दु सामने आये, उनमें से अधिकांश का संबंध मुख्यतः इससे जुड़े कानूनों में सुधार तथा कठोर दंड व्यवस्था से था। इनका अपनी जगह औचित्य है। लेकिन इसे ही पर्याप्त मान लेना एक बड़ी भूल होगी। इस समस्या के जड़ों की तलाश हमें सामाजिक, आर्थिक, सांस्कृतिक एवं मनोवैज्ञानिक क्षेत्रों में करनी होगी। इसके लिए मैं आठवें दशक में राजकपूर की आई तहलका मचा देने वाली फिल्म ‘बॉबी’ के एक दृश्य की याद दिलाना चाहूंगा। हॉस्टल में रहकर पढ़ाई कर रहा धनी परिवार का एक नाबालिग बेटा जब अपने जन्मदिन पर घर लौटता है, तो वहाँ पार्टी और सजावट तो खूब है; लेकिन उसके माता-पिता नहीं। वे अपने बेटे को ‘एन्ज्वाय’ करने की बात कहकर स्वयं और कहीं चले जाते हैं। माँ-बाप के इस व्यवहार से बेटा (ऋषि कपूर) अन्दर से टूट जाता है, और हताश होकर वह अपने एक निम्नवर्गीय परिचित के यहाँ चला जाता है, जहाँ उसकी भेंट बॉबी नाम की एक लड़की से होती है।दरअसल, इस छोटे से किन्तु अत्यंत भावनात्मक दृश्य में बालमन की अनेक परतें तथा छवियां दिखाई देती हैं। आज माता-पिता के पास समय की कमी के कारण बच्चे निहायत ही एकाकी होते जा रहे हैं। न्यूक्लीयस पारिवारिक संरचना ने बच्चों को बुजुर्गों की गोद, स्नेहयुक्त स्पर्श तथा मनोरंजक एवं शिक्षाप्रद कहानियों से वंचित कर दिया है। इसके कारण उनमें संस्कारों तथा नैतिक मूल्यों का जबर्दस्त अभाव देखने में आ रहा है। यही स्थिति हमारी शिक्षा प्रणाली की भी है। फलस्वरूप हम उनसे जिस तरह के अनुशासन, मर्यादा एवं सहनशीलता जैसे मानवीय मूल्यों की अपेक्षा करते हैं, वे विकसित नहीं हो पाते।

एक या दो बच्चों की नीति के कारण बच्चा स्वाभाविक रूप से परिवार का लाड़ला हो जाता है; इसके कारण उसके बिगड़ने की आशंकायें प्रबल हो जाती हैं। उसे घर के बाहर भी माहौल ऐसा नहीं मिलता, जहाँ से वह कुछ अच्छे गुण सीख सके। इससे उसके अंदर सामाजिकता की भावना पनप नहीं पाती। नगरों-महानगरों में खुले स्थानों के अभाव ने उसके खेल को इंडोर एवं कम्प्यूटर गेम की ओर धकेल दिया है। खेल के मैदान बच्चों में सहनशीलता तथा सामूहिकता की भावना विकसित करने के सर्वोत्तम एवं स्वाभाविक माध्यम होते हैं। ऐसे में सचिन तेंदुलकर की उस दिवस की प्रतीक्षा सचमुच मन को छू जाती है, जिस दिन माता-पिता अपने बच्चों से पढ़ाई करने की बजाय खेलने के बारे में पूछेंगे।जो कुछ थोड़ा-बहुत बचा था, उन सबका सत्यानाश कर दिया अराजक इंटरनेट ने। यह भी धीरे-धीरे मादक पदार्थों की तरह एक नशे का रूप लेता जा रहा है। यही कारण है कि कई देशों ने बच्चों के लिए इस पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया है।निःसंदेह रूप से इस पूंजीवादी व्यवस्था ने आज के बच्चों को जितना अधिक महत्वाकांक्षी बना दिया है, वह उनके संस्कारों एवं मूल्यों के क्षरण का एक बहुत बड़ा कारण बन गया है। कैरियर एवं जल्दी से सब कुछ पा लेने की अदम्य चाहत ने उन्हें अंदर से बेहद बेचैन और असंतुलित कर दिया है। इसी की परिणति हम में साधनों की पवित्रता के पतन के रूप में देख रहे हैं।कुल-मिलाकर यह कि हमें इस बात को अच्छी तरह से समझकर खुलेमन से स्वीकार करना होगा कि कोई भी बच्चा अपराधी बच्चे के रूप में जन्म नहीं लेता। आगे चलकर वह जो भी रूप धारण करता है, वह समाज के साँचे के अनुकूल होता है। इसलिए नाबालिगों द्वारा किए जाने वाले अपराध को परिवार एवं समाज द्वारा किए जाने वाले अपराध के रूप में देखा जाना चाहिए। तभी इसका कुछ हल निकल सकेगा।


जल बिन जीवन


उत्तर भारत में इस समय जिस तरह की सर्दी चल रही है, उसमें मजबूरी न हो, तो शायद ही कोई नहाना चाहे। लेकिन जहां मौसम गरम हो, वहां भी नहाने पर पाबंदी लगा दी जाए, तो यह शायद ठंड में नहाने से बुरा होगा। भारतीय क्रिकेट टीम इस समय दक्षिण अफ्रीका के दौरे पर है। टीम के सदस्य जब राजधानी केपटाउन पहुंचे, तो ऐसी ही एक पाबंदी उनका इंतजार कर रही थी। वहां टीम इंडिया को साफ-साफ बता दिया गया कि नहाते वक्त कोई भी शॉवर के नीचे दो मिनट से ज्यादा समय नहीं बिताएगा। केपटाउन इस समय भयंकर सूखे से गुजर रहा है और इस तरह की पाबंदियां वहां आम हैं। इस समय वहां के हर नागरिक को हर रोज सिर्फ 87 लीटर पानी की आपूर्ति हो रही है और इसी में उसे सब कुछ कर लेना है। हमें यह बात कुछ अजीब भी लग सकती है, क्योंकि टीम इंडिया जब केपटाउन पहुंची, तो कप्तान विराट कोहली ने अपनी पत्नी अनुष्का शर्मा के साथ जो सेल्फी सोशल मीडिया पर डाली, उसमें उनके पीछे नीला सागर लहरा रहा था। दरअसल, केपटाउन उस जगह पर है, जहां अटलांटिक और हिंद महासागर आपस में मिलते हैं। लेकिन इनका खारा पानी दैनिक उपयोग के लायक नहीं है। और जिस पानी को यह शहर अपने उपयोग में लाता रहा है, उसकी वहां भारी किल्लत हो गई है। दक्षिण अफ्रीका के इस क्षेत्र में लंबे समय से बारिश नहीं हो रही है और शहर को जल-आपूर्ति के सारे संसाधन बुरी स्थिति में पहुंच गए हैं। शहर को जल की आपूर्ति करने वाले नेल्सन मांडेला बे पर बने बांध में अभी 33 फीसदी से भी कम पानी बचा है और मौसम विज्ञानी बता रहे हैं कि हाल-फिलहाल वहां बारिश की कोई संभावना नहीं है। जल-आपूर्ति की ढेर सारी पाबंदियों के बावजूद आशंका है कि चार महीने के अंदर यह बांध पूरी तरह से खाली हो जाएगा। ऐसा हुआ, तो केपटाउन दुनिया का पहला महानगर होगा, जिसके पास अपने बाशिंदों की प्यास बुझाने और उनके दैनिक उपयोग तक का पानी नहीं होगा।

केपटाउन हमारे लिए इस कारण से महत्वपूर्ण है कि वहां जो आज हो रहा है, उसमें दुनिया के कई महानगर अपना भविष्य देख सकते हैं। पानी की किल्लत वाले नगरों का जीवन कैसा होगा, केपटाउन इसका भी उदाहरण बन सकता है। शहर ने अपने नागरिकों को बहुत कम पानी में जीने की मजबूरी दे दी है, और नागरिकों ने भी इन दबावों के हिसाब से अपने आप को ढालना शुरू कर दिया है। यह शहर भारी संख्या में पर्यटकों को आकर्षित करता रहा है, लेकिन अब उनका स्वागत भी पाबंदियों से हो रहा है। इस समय जब हम भारत में शौचालय बनाने का अभियान चला रहे हैं, केपटाउन अपने सारे शौचालयों को शुष्क बना रहा है। यहां के लोग पानी का इस्तेमाल करने की बजाय उसे रिसाइकिल करना सीख रहे हैं।

केपटाउन की ताजा स्थिति यह भी बता रही है कि पर्यावरण के बदलाव को लेकर दुनिया भर में जो कोशिशें चल रही हैं, वे कितनी अधूरी हैं। पेरिस समझौते में दुनिया भर के वैज्ञानिक इस सहमति पर पहुंचे थे कि ग्लोबल वार्मिंग के कारण दुनिया के तापमान को दो डिग्री सेल्सियस से ज्यादा नहीं बढ़ने दिया जाएगा। हालांकि यह लक्ष्य काफी मुश्किल है, लेकिन यह भी कहा जा रहा है कि इतने में ही वनस्पतियों की कई महत्वपूर्ण प्रजातियां इस दुनिया से विदा हो जाएंगी। लेकिन यह दो डिग्री वाला लक्ष्य दूरगामी है और केपटाउन में जो खतरा दिख रहा है, वह सिर पर खड़ा है। वह कभी भी किसी भी जगह अपना रंग दिखा सकता है। भले ही वह केपटाउन जैसा न हो। हम भारत में भी सूखे का असर देख रहे हैं। दुखद यह कि फिलहाल किसी के पास इसका समाधान भी नहीं है।


Give police its due

To enable the force, revisit the constitutional arrangement. Union government must also own its responsibility in the matter.

Prakash Singh, [The writer was formerly Director-General BSF, DGP Uttar Pradesh and DGP Assam.]

The Directors General of Police from all over the country have gathered for an annual conference at Tekanpur (Gwalior) from January 6 to 8, 2018. The conference is attended, among others, by the prime minister and home minister. No other PM has given so much time to police matters or interacted with the police leaders of the country in the manner the present prime minister has done. He attended the conclaves in Guwahati, Rann of Kutch and will now be participating in the deliberations in Gwalior. Ironically, however, the government is yet to take any bold initiatives to transform the colonial police structure of the country into a progressive, modern force sensitive to the democratic aspirations of the people. The PM’s concept of having a SMART police remains a pipe dream.The failure to reinvent the police is to be attributed largely to the constitutional arrangement which places the police and law and order in the “state list”. The founding fathers of the Constitution could not visualise the tremendous changes that would take place in the coming decades, particularly in the domain of internal security, necessitating a concurrent role for the Centre in police and matters of law and order. It is high time that the constitutional arrangement is revisited.

This is, however, not to absolve the Union government of its responsibility in the matter. The Police Act Drafting Committee, headed by Soli J. Sorabjee, had prepared a Model Police Act as far back as 2006. It was expected that the UPA government would legislate on the subject and that its initiative would be followed up by state governments, at least in those states where the same party was in power. However, nothing of the kind happened and the Ministry of Home Affairs is still fiddling with the Delhi Police Bill.With the Centre not showing the expected interest and not giving any directions to the state governments, the provincial satraps went berserk, passing laws legitimising the status quo or issuing executive directions violating the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court’s directions of September 22, 2006. More than a decade has passed but the states continue to drag their feet in implementing the judicial directions. Monitoring by the SC has also cooled off and the case was not even listed during the tenure of the two previous chief justices.

The result is utter confusion at the ground level. Earlier, we had one police act for the entire country. Now we have a plethora of laws enacted by 17 state governments and different sets of executive orders issued by the remaining state governments. The Centre continues to procrastinate and has yet to approve a model police act. No wonder the internal security situation continues to be grim and the police performance leaves much to be desired. The National Security Strategy document of the US clearly states that “our strategy starts by recognising that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home” and that “what takes place within our borders will determine our strength and influence beyond them”. Our policymakers have yet to appreciate this simple truth. The steps which are absolutely essential to strengthen the internal security apparatus of the country are not being taken and only cosmetic improvements are made. The police, if it is to meet the expectations of the people, must be insulated from external pressures. Only then will it be able to uphold the rule of law.

It is remarkable that the Indian Police Service (IPS), despite the constraints under which it functions, has played a stellar role in the past. Andhra Pradesh was able to clear the Naxals in the state thanks to its Greyhounds. The terrorist movement in Punjab was comprehensively defeated in spite of the support it was getting all along from across the borders. The Tripura insurgency was squashed. Terrorism in the Terai area of Uttar Pradesh (geographically larger than Punjab) was stamped out in just about one year. And yet, the IPS was never given its due place of honour in the government hierarchy. This has severely constrained the initiative of its officers and affected their performance.

There are about 24,000 police stations and outposts across the country. The total strength of the state police is nearly 2.26 million. It is a formidable strength which covers the entire geographical stretch of India. This force is today performing at hardly 45 per cent of its potential, mainly because it is short of manpower, has poor infrastructure, and has no functional autonomy. Imagine this force performing at 80 to 90 per cent of its capacity, which is not difficult to achieve. It would make such a difference. People would feel safer and happier. The internal security problems — the Maoist insurgency, Kashmir imbroglio, Northeast separatist movements, terrorist threats, etc — would be contained and lose their sting.Police duties are arduous in any country. However, they are perhaps the toughest in India. More policemen die in the performance of their duties every year in the country than in all of Europe. It is high time that policepersons are recognised for the enormously difficult and hazardous duties they have to perform.

All services perform important functions. However, it must be recognised that without the police ensuring good law and order in the country, the other services would find it difficult to operate. We are proud of the fact that India is among the fastest growing economies in the world, but the economic superstructure could collapse if the law enforcement apparatus does not rise to the occasion in the face of a challenge, as happened in Haryana where the reservationists inflicted more damage than what the combined forces of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad could have done. The democratic structure may also crumble one day if the policeman has to salute the criminal politician instead of putting him behind the bars. The stakes are too high. The police must get its due and must be enabled to perform its mandated functions.


A sum of contributions

Routine engagement of the States is crucial to India’s climate action commitments

Aparna Roy is Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

The Emissions Gap Report 2017, released last year ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, underlined that fulfilment of national pledges related to carbon emission reductions under the Paris Agreement would be inadequate to keep global warming below 2°C. Thus, a renewed focus on climate governance is imperative.The Talanoa Dialogue of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, beginning this month, will facilitate the parties to take stock of progress post-Paris. As a key player in international climate governance, India could set the precedent in deepening the dialogue process through an action-oriented, inclusive, bottom-up approach, involving extensive participation and collaboration of its States.

In a federal democracy like India, subnationals or States are a vital part of the grand coalition between the Centre, civil society, businesses, and key climate stakeholders. India’s State Action Plan on Climate Change supports the integration of national climate change goals into subnational policies. India has committed to meet its current target of 33% reduction in emission intensity of the 2005 level by 2030, by generating 40% of its energy from renewables. States are important for the realisation of this goal.

Enhancing climate actions is expected to involve routine engagement of the States in the international process. The Under2 Coalition, a Memorandum of Understanding by subnational governments to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions towards net-zero by 2050, is generating a unique precedent for bold climate leadership, with its member states and regions surpassing 200 in number. Currently, Telangana and Chhattisgarh are signatories to this pact from India, as compared to representations from the other top emitters: 26 subnational governments in China and 24 in the U.S. Greater representation of Indian States is crucial.

It is equally imperative to examine the progress of subnational actions in meeting national climate targets. Towards this end, both national and State plans would need to be periodically reassessed and reviewed. A transparent framework for review, audit and monitoring of GHG emissions is needed. As State capacities vary significantly, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be applied to allocate mitigation targets in different States, based on the principle of equity.

States have enormous mitigation potential, but the evidence pertaining to its effectiveness is still scarce. Therefore, India must look towards creating knowledge action networks and partnerships under both national and State action plan frameworks. Kerala has taken the lead to build such a knowledge network funded by the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.


Dividends of arguments

Self-regulation enables the media to continuously reflect on the craft of journalism

A.S. Panneerselvan

A young lawyer wanted me to explain why I preferred self-regulation to statutory regulation for the media. He was deeply worried about the state of broadcast journalism, and most of his examples of irresponsible behaviour of the fourth estate were prime-time broadcasts over the last couple of years. He pointed out instances of victim blaming, trial by media, and scant respect for facts.

There is a missing element in his argument. The idea of self-regulation, as refined and modified subtly by the Leveson Inquiry in Britain, and which I agree with, is not devoid of any statutory underpinning. In what way statutory underpinning is vastly different from state control, censorship, and propaganda models has been explained in many scholarly papers since Leveson’s recommendation.

The scope of self-regulation

Self-regulation goes beyond the statutory arrangement by having a mechanism for continuous reflection on the craft of journalism. This arrangement is not restricted to ensuring fairness and accuracy in reportage alone; it also actively provides a platform for both readers and journalists of this newspaper to wrestle with a range of dilemmas. A newspaper does not just provide credible information; inquisitiveness, reading pleasure and visual experience are of equal importance. No statutory framework can address all these elements.

These additional layers of self-regulation work only when we have both questioning readers and a responsive editorial team. One of the issues that poses an additional burden on good journalism is the contested aspect of our history. For instance, there was a query about why the newspaper referred to the place of recent protest in two different ways: Bhima-Koregaon and Koregaon-Bhima. The journalists who handled these sensitive reports had a clear answer. Koregaon-Bhima is the official name of the village as per the Census, and that is what this newspaper uses when referring to just the place. But the battle between the British East India Company and the Peshwa’s army 200 years ago was fought on the banks of the Bhima, and is referred to as the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon.

Criticism is not seen as a flood that washes away everything in its path when the sluice gates are opened. What I have witnessed over the past six years is that journalists — reporters and the desk — in this newspaper absorb and internalise diverse criticism and evolve the standards of journalism. For instance, when I flagged the unintended consequences of literary allusions in headlines in “Do literary allusions hurt?” (Jan. 1, 2018), the Weekend Sport desk not only deliberated the issue threadbare but also explained how they came up with the headline “Into the Heart of Darkness”.

Giving headlines

The darkness in Joseph Conrad’s novel is about a range of discomforting questions and the desk felt it captured the nagging questions that confront the Indian cricket team. The novel’s title helped to invert racism to hint at South Africa’s own apartheid experience. The desk was aware of Chinua Achebe’s criticism and the theory of interpretation of text. The team said that the author of a headline cannot limit the text’s meaning just to his or her own original intention. It referred to Derrida: “A text… is no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces.”

The desk took care to separate the geographical region, South Africa, which was dealt with in a different story on the page titled “Lay of the land” that gave the various venues of this fixture. However, the main story dealt with the mental preparation of the team and the fear in its mind given its dismal record in South Africa. The team felt that “Into the Heart of Darkness” was evocative enough to bring out a range of issues.

The column irked one of the readers. He felt that instead of examining whether the headline was relevant to the content, or whether the two matched, the column chose to mention a host of literary stalwarts. The challenge was not a routine journalistic one, but one that flows from literary allusions. An excursion into literature was thus inevitable.


The problem of land hoarding

The government owns more land than it admits, large swathes of which are unused or underutilised

Ram Singh,is Professor, Delhi School of Economics

The Centre, by its own admission, does not know exactly how much property it owns. Imagine what would happen if a citizen or a private entity made such a claim before the taxman — they would be fined and very likely end up in jail. The actual size and value of government-owned land resources is thus a matter of speculation. The information provided by the Government Land Information System (GLIS) is both incomplete and patchy. While various Central Ministries admit to owning only about 13,50,500 hectares of land, disparate official sources suggest that the correct figure is several times more than what is disclosed.

The problem of unused land

What is worse is that a large proportion of government land lies unused. The Ministries of Railways and Defence, respectively, have 43,000 hectares and 32,780 hectares of land lying vacant, without even any proposed use. According to reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the 13 major port trusts have 14,728 hectares of land lying idle.These numbers are staggering, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. They exclude several departments of the Centre and, more importantly, don’t take into account excess land holding by the States. What is really unfortunate is that a large part of the unused land is high-value property in prime areas in major cities.

Land hoarding by government agencies has created artificial scarcity and is one of the main drivers of skyrocketing urban real estate prices. Even after the recent correction in property prices, middle- and lower-income households find adequate housing unaffordable. High land prices also reduce competitiveness by increasing the cost of industrial and development projects.Moreover, the allocation of unused land is rife with corruption. Scams involving the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the Srinagar airfield project, and the Kandla Port Trust are a few of the many examples of alleged complicity between private developers and local officials to misuse government land. At the State level too, instances abound of public land being resold to private entities in dubious deals.The CAG also reports that none of the government agencies maintains adequate ownership records. For instance, the 13 major ports have failed to produce title deeds for as much as 45% of their land holdings. This makes squatters difficult to evict, and so they gravitate to these areas.

Land use patterns

Land is a crucial and often constraining input for production, not only in agriculture but also in secondary and tertiary sectors. The problem of land scarcity has been aggravated by grossly wasteful land use by government agencies. While stock of land is fixed, its supply as an input in production is not — it crucially depends on land use patterns. A useful measure of this is the floor space index (FSI), which is the total floor area built per square metre of land. For example, if a single-storey building occupies 50% of a plot, the FSI would be 1/2. If the building is expanded vertically to have four stories, the FSI will go up to two (4 times 1/2), as the effective floor area has quadrupled.

The demand for land increases with both population density and economic growth. Therefore, to maintain efficiency, the FSI should also increase. By this token, the FSI should be the highest in major city centres, where the demand for space is highest, and it should taper off gradually towards the periphery. Apart from supplying space for economic activities, such an arrangement would also help maximise the gains from transport infrastructure.

However, most Indian cities defy these basic tenets of urban planning. The main reason is the large areas of unused or underutilised government land with an irresponsibly low FSI. Residential zones in Lutyens’ Delhi and Nungambakkam in Chennai are examples of this gross underutilisation of land. Other cities don’t fare much better. The problem is most acute in government residences and office locales. Indian metros thus have the lowest FSI compared to those in other developing countries with similar population densities. The FSI in Shanghai is four times of that of Delhi and Mumbai. Moreover, the investment per square metre gradient of Indian cities is very low and haphazard. This is a pity as solving the problem of wastage could generate employment and pull masses out of poverty, thereby aiding the economy to grow fast.

People have the right to know the size and use of land holding by government agencies, since most of the official land has been acquired from them by paying pittance by way of compensation. It is because of this subsidy that government agencies, and in many cases private companies, have been able to amass large stocks of unused land. For instance, another report by the CAG on Special Economic Zones shows that as much as 31,886 hectares, or 53% of the total land acquired by the government for these zones, remains unused — land which would have been put to more productive use by its original owners.

In a welcome initiative, the Centre has asked departments to identify surplus land. Unfortunately, agencies seem to be loathe to cooperate. The need of the hour is a comprehensive inventory of land resources and usage patterns for all government branches. It should include information on the location of each property, its dimensions, the legal title, current and planned use, and any applicable land use restrictions. This will enable effective identification of suboptimal land use, as well as of the land that is surplus.

The use of surplus land

Surplus land should be utilised to meet the ever-growing demands for services, such as water and waste disposal, as well for government-sponsored housing and transportation projects. It is crucial to avoid the temptation to sell surplus land as excessive acquisition of land may become the norm and unwilling sellers are typically under-compensated. Land intended for future use can be rented out till such time it is needed, through a transparent auctioning process. This will not only buoy the public exchequer but prevent plots of land lying waste for years.

The problem of inefficient land use by government departments and public sector units is complicated and endemic. Correcting such inefficiency is no mean feat. However, given the importance of land for the country, we need to be creative in finding solutions. A public-government partnership seems to be the way out. We could take a cue from Britain. There, the government has pledged to provide details of ownership, location, and intended use for all properties. Citizens are invited to contest official land use and suggest alternatives.Therefore, as a first step, the government should agree to disclose its land use and release of excess land, the use of which it cannot justify.