Tackling the human-dog conflict
Dogs have evoked different emotions in people for hundreds of years. You can hate them or love them, but you cannot ignore them. Over the past few decades, for example, the growing population of street dogs has posed increasing challenges for municipalities and cities across the country. With so many interest holders and their beliefs, it has been difficult to discuss the issue as many emotions are involved.
The cynicism of some stakeholders has even led to the dismissal of animal birth control initiatives as a failure, which is both mischievous and wrong-headed.
Various factors contribute to street dog overpopulation, and animal birth control, while being an integral measure, is only a part of the broad solution to a complex problem. Other components are needed.
Work in progress
By disparaging the effects of the Prevention of Cruelty (Animal Birth Control) Rules 2001, critics overlook the progressive trajectory of the policy which has now produced The Prevention of Cruelty (Animal Birth Control) Rules 2023 rules that have been designed to address emerging challenges.
If there are further challenges after the implementation of the 2023 rules, we will see more policy reform. That is how public policy works. We should seek to improve our strategies and policy responses, and not give up and discard animal birth control altogether.
What the proponents of the new rules want is the same thing that its critics want; a safe society for everyone — humans and dogs alike. To argue that the groups or individuals that care for animals have no consideration for humankind is misleading and disingenuous. Regardless of the motivation for an Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme, all stakeholders benefit.
Yes, it is in the welfare of the animals that we do not cull them. But it is in the interest of society and its collective conscience and decency too. We should seek out ways to show that we are more than just selfish creatures.
What are the alternatives to ABC? First, there is culling, and it can be easily characterised as a cruel solution. We have seen it being put to practice and our dog population has bounced back time and again.
Confinement in pounds or shelters? Of course, there is a place for them. But they are economically unviable and unsustainable.
The room freed up on our streets as a result of round-ups and culling will be filled by dogs that end up there because of abandonment, free-roaming and breeding pets and street dogs. This is no kind of solution.
That leaves us with ABC — a seemingly imperfect solution but only because it has never been uniformly implemented. The 2023 rules attempt to resolve that shortcoming by standardising processes.
ABC programmes are now being streamlined, and the burden of its implementation will fall on the ABC monitoring committees at the State, district and municipality levels. The rules require updated infrastructure investments for the capture, housing, surgery and release of dogs; specific processes to be recorded such as keeping and reporting; procedures for responding to conflict situations; engagement of organisations to ensure that the standards of ABC are high; and differentiation of street dogs from pet dogs to improve data collection and analysis.
There is another dimension of the problem that we consistently ignore, and at our peril — irresponsible pet ownership. Because of this persistent factor, a significant number of dog bites occur, uncontrolled reproduction takes place and territorial behaviour arises in most animal communities.
Yes, a scientific approach is required to tackle the street dog conflict and population issue. But there is a social marketing and human behaviour change component that demands our attention too. Instead of attacking each other, we must bring our shared expertise and commitment to bear on this complex societal problem. If there is no research on the benefits of ABC on dogs, we must put our money into it. If there is no research on dog bite mitigation, we must fund such research and create model programmes we can scale up. If there are poor ABC programmes, organisations must take ownership and improve their standards through training.
Dogs are true friends to humanity and if we cannot live happily, safely and peacefully with each other through simple solutions such as ABC, responsible pet ownership, waste management and adoption of Indian dogs (as opposed to feeding the commercial pet trade through animal purchases), what real hope is there for our efforts to tackle still larger problems that plague our society.
The right attitude
If we wish to change the system, we must be a part of it and we must play a constructive role in encouraging additional reforms and resource investments.
We need to come together and join hands not only for the dogs but also for the future generations of Indians. We can do them a real favour by sparing them from having to grow up in an India that has been all too complacent about solving the street dog problem.
We must do away forever with the suffering, cruelty, misery and public health threats associated with archaic approaches to this challenge. The new rules, and the energy we invest in their implementation, will help us achieve this noblest of goals.
The Prevention of Cruelty (Animal Birth Control) Rules 2023 is a humane approach that balances out the welfare of dogs while taking into consideration the concerns of humans.
Sedition — illogical equation of government with state
In its 279th Report, the Law Commission of India has recommended the retention of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which contains the Law of Sedition. It has also recommended enhanced punishment for this offence in the name of national security. While Section 124A provides for a minimum imprisonment of three years, the commission recommends a minimum of seven. In 2022, the Supreme Court of India had ordered a stay on all existing proceedings and also on the registration of fresh cases (S.G. Vombatkere vs Union of India) under sedition upon the Union Government assuring the Court of a review of this law at the earliest. The Court’s stay order was in consideration of the fact that this law was widely misused by the law enforcement authorities.
An offence against government, not country
The law of sedition in India has a long and infamous history. Section 124A was incorporated in the Indian Penal Code in 1870. The purpose was to suppress the voice of Indians who spoke against the British Raj, as the government did not want any voice of dissent or protest. The wording of Section 124A clearly reveals the intention of the colonial government. Sedition is an offence against the government and not against the country, as many think. The offence is in bringing or attempting to bring in hatred or contempt or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the government established by law. The offence is committed by spoken or written words, by signs or by any other means. Thus, the gist of the offence is bringing a government into hatred or contempt or causing disaffection towards the government of the day.
The law of sedition was defined and applied in two different ways during the British period. The first major case was Queen Empress vs Bal Gangadhar Tilak 1897 in which the Bombay Court found Bal Gangadhar Tilak guilty of sedition for writing a couple of articles in Kesari, a Marathi weekly, invoking Shivaji, which was interpreted as exciting disaffection towards the British government. Judge Stratchy explained the law as: “The offence (Sedition) consists in exciting or attempting to excite in others certain bad feelings towards the government. It is not the exciting or attempting to excite mutiny or rebellion or any sort of actual disturbance great or small…. but even if he neither excited nor intended to excite any rebellion or outbreak or forcible resistance to the authority of the government that is sufficient to make him guilty under the Section.” Later, the Privy Council upheld this exposition of law. Thus,sedition meant exciting or attempting to excite bad feelings towards the government. It was a very draconian law.
The second case was Niharendu Dutt Majumdar And Ors. vs Emperor which was decided by the Federal Court. Acquitting the accused Majumdar, Sir Mauris Gwyer, Chief Justice, explained the law as: “Public disorder or the reasonable anticipation or likelihood of public disorder is thus the gist of the offence.”
These two statements of the law of sedition given by two courts in British India differ from one another. One defines sedition as disaffection, which was interpreted as ‘political hatred of government’ and comes within the mischief of sedition. The other interprets it to mean that the offence is committed only when there is incitement to violence or disorder.
It may be noted that the Privy Council, the highest appellate court of that time, approved the law stated by Justice Stratchy in Tilak’s case. Further, it is said that the opinion of the Privy Council on sedition was not brought to the notice of the Federal Court when it decided Majumdar’s case. Otherwise it would have followed the Privy Council’s decision.
‘Kedarnath’ and constitutionality of sedition
The brief journey into the British era is necessary to better understand the judgment in Kedarnath vs State of Bihar (1962) by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court and the Law Commission’s recommendations for incorporating the essence of that judgment.
Kedarnath decided the constitutionality of sedition. The Court held that it is constitutionally valid for two reasons. One, sedition, though an offence against the government, is against the state because the government is a visible symbol of state and the existence of the state will be in jeopardy if the government is subverted. Second, Article 19(2) imposes restrictions in the interest of the security of the state which has wider amplitude and which includes the law on sedition.
Sedition is an offence against the government. Anyone who causes disaffection towards the government is liable to be prosecuted under this law. Disaffection has been defined as ‘political hatred’ towards the government by the full Bench of the Bombay High Court which upheld the punishment of Tilak. So, causing political hatred towards the government in the minds of the public is the offence of sedition. In this sense, it clearly violates the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In a democratic republic where people have the freedom to change a bad government, disaffection towards a government cannot be an offence. In fact, it is a part of the democratic process and experience. Therefore, making it an offence directly conflicts with the fundamental rights of citizens. We cannot expect citizens to have any affection towards a bad government.
The law declared by the Privy Council was final, according to which even a gesture which indicates political hatred towards the government comes within the mischief of sedition. Obviously, sedition contained in Section 124A goes against Article 19(1)(a).
However, the Supreme Court had, in an attempt to declare sedition constitutionally valid, admittedly adopted the Federal Court’s approach and held that Section 124A is valid but can be invoked only when the words or gestures have a tendency to incite violence. The Court was aware that sedition, as it is worded in Section 124A in IPC and interpreted by the Privy Council, could not have remained in the statute book after the Constitution came into force in 1950. The Court was also conscious of the fact that sedition, as a reasonable restriction on the right of speech and expression, was deleted from the draft Constitution by the Constituent Assembly.
The implication was clear. Sedition was not meant to be a reasonable restriction. But the Court wanted to retain sedition because it was genuinely worried about an imminent communist revolution in the country, which Kedarnath, a local communist in Begu Sarai in Bihar was advocating. But, on a closer scrutiny, we will find that the position taken by the court in Kedarnath is not radically different from Tilak. As per Kedarnath, a tendency to incite disorder would amount to sedition, and actual disorder need not occur. So, in substance there is not much difference between Kedarnath and Tilak.
The Law Commission has suggested that the tendency to incite disorder should be incorporated in Section 124A. The commission defines tendency as a slight inclination. It is a policeman who will detect the tendency to incite disorder in a speech or article, and the citizen will be behind bars for seven years or even for life. In fact, the Kedarnath judgment did not soften the law on sedition. If anything it has brought it closer to the judgment in Tilak without mitigating the rigour of the law. The recommendation for the enhancement of punishment defies common sense when there is a universal demand for the scrapping of this law. The commission could not see the absurdity of a law which punishes citizens of a democratic country for making comments which may cause disaffection towards a government which they have the power to remove.
It is unconstitutional
The real issue is that the law of sedition contained in Section 124A of the IPC is unconstitutional. The Law Commission failed or did not want to see the fallacy in the Kedarnath judgment which did not in effect soften this harsh law but declared that it is constitutionally valid. Kedarnath equates government with state, which is illogical in the context of a democratic republic. Therefore, its attempt to bring sedition within the framework of reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) is constitutionally impermissible.
In a democratic republic where the people have the freedom to change a bad government, disaffection towards a government cannot be an offence.
How can we transition to a low-carbon city?
In 2020, cities dumped a whopping 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, given the significant impact that cities have on the environment, low-carbon cities are crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change. Transitioning to low-carbon or even net-zero cities requires us to integrate mitigation and adaptation options in multiple sectors. This is called the ‘sector-coupling approach’, and it is necessary to decarbonise urban systems.
Why are energy-system transitions important?
An energy-system transition could reduce urban carbon dioxide emissions by around 74%. With rapid advancements in clean energy and related technologies and nosediving prices, we have crossed the economic and technological barriers to implementing low-carbon solutions. The transition must be implemented both on the demand and the supply side. Mitigation options on the supply side include phasing out fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix, and using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. On the demand side, using the ‘avoid, shift, improve’ framework would entail reducing the demand for materials and energy, and substituting the demand for fossil fuels with renewables. Secondly, in order to address residual emissions in the energy sector, we must implement carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.
As we now have the appropriate technologies and knowledge base to build net-zero urban systems through energy transitions, the only impediments are social and political in nature.
What are the different strategies?
The strategies to mitigate and adapt to low-carbon varies based on a city’s characteristics. Transitioning to renewable energy sources is not as simple as replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. There are multifarious issues of energy justice and social equity to be dealt with. This is a key consideration when we frame energy-transition policies that are socially and environmentally fair. These considerations are a city’s spatial form, land-use pattern, level of development, and the state of urbanisation.
An established city can retrofit and repurpose its infrastructure to increase energy efficiency, and promote public as well as active transport like bicycling and walking. In fact, walkable cities designed around people can significantly reduce energy demand, as can electrifying public transport and setting up renewable-based district cooling and heating networks. A rapidly growing city can try to colocate housing and jobs — by planning the city in a way that brings places of work closer to residential complexes, thus reducing transport energy demand. Such cities can also leapfrog to low-carbon technologies, including renewables and CCS.
New and emerging cities have the most potential to reduce emissions — using energy-efficient services and infrastructure, and a people-centric urban design. They can also implement building codes that mandate net-zero energy use and retrofit existing buildings, all while gradually shifting to low-emission construction material.
How can an energy transition be just?
Energy systems are directly and indirectly linked to livelihoods, local economic development, and the socio-economic well-being of people engaged in diverse sectors. So a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to ensure a socially and environmentally just transition. For example, transitioning to renewable-energy sources could disproportionately affect groups of people or communities in developing economies and sectors that depend on fossil fuels.
Broadly, the energy supply needs to be balanced against fast-growing energy demand (due to urbanisation), the needs of energy security, and exports. Additional justice concerns include land dispossession related to large-scale renewable energy projects, spatial concentration of poverty, the marginalisation of certain communities, gendered impacts, and the reliance on coal for livelihoods. For instance, developing economies, including Nigeria, Angola, and Venezuela, owe a significant fraction of their gross domestic products (GDPs) to fossil-fuel exports. Transitioning away from these industries could devastate their economies, with the consequences landing particularly heavily on the workers employed in the fossil-fuel sector. Similarly, in developed countries, many communities suffer energy poverty and inequity due to high energy costs, low incomes, and inadequate infrastructure. In the U.S., expenditure on energy bills is a significant chunk of the total income of low-income households. This can crowd out expenses for other amenities like healthcare and nutrition.
Are there any solutions that foreground justice?
Ensuring a transition to low-carbon energy systems in cities at different stages of urbanisation, national contexts, and institutional capacities requires strategic and bespoke efforts. They must be directed at governance and planning, achieving behavioural shifts, promoting technology and innovation, and building institutional capacity. We must also adopt a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of energy and environmental injustices. This includes mitigation and adaptation responses that engage multiple stakeholders in energy governance and decision-making, promoting energy-efficiency, scaling up climate investments, and capturing alternate knowledge streams (including indigenous and local lived experiences).
Stuti Haldar is a postdoctoral researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru.
Transitioning to low-carbon or even net-zero cities requires us to integrate mitigation and adaptation options in multiple sectors. This is called the ‘sector-coupling approach’.
The strategies to mitigate and adapt to low-carbon varies based on a city’s characteristics. Transitioning to renewable energy sources is not as simple as replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. There are multifarious issues of energy justice and social equity to be dealt with.
Energy systems are directly and indirectly linked to livelihoods, local economic development, and the socio-economic well-being of people engaged in diverse sectors. So a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to ensure a socially and environmentally just transition.
How KFON aims to bridge the digital divide in Kerala
How is the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project going to be rolled out? Has any other State declared access to Internet as a basic right? Who are the beneficiaries of the project?
The story so far:
On November 7, 2019, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala announced that access to the Internet would be a basic right in the State, becoming the first State in the country to do so. The declaration came three years after the UN had passed a resolution recognising Internet access as a basic human right. The announcement was accompanied by a detailed plan to ensure that it would become a ground reality, with the setting up of the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON), through which Internet connections would be provided free of cost to 20 lakh below-poverty-line (BPL) families. The project is aimed at ensuring universal Internet access and narrowing the digital divide, which has become especially acute after the COVID-19 outbreak.
How is the government running the network and providing services?
The Kerala government’s role involves setting up the vast infrastructure required for providing Internet, especially to remote corners of the State. The network has reached remote locations, including tribal hamlets in Wayanad and elsewhere, which had remained out of the information superhighway until now. The cabling works, stretching to 34,961 km, piggybacks on the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) existing infrastructure. KFON Limited is, in fact, a joint venture of the KSEB and the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL).
In July 2022, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) granted KFON an infrastructure provider (IP) licence and also approved it as an internet service provider (ISP).
How will the plan be rolled out?
The aim was to provide Internet connections to 14,000 BPL families, with 100 each from the State’s 140 assembly constituencies in the first phase. The panchayats and the urban local bodies were given the responsibility of choosing the beneficiaries. However, the process of selection has been slow, with many local bodies delaying the submission of a list of beneficiaries from their area. As of now, Internet connection has been provided to 7,000 BPL families across the State. Each household will get 1.5 GB of data per day at 15 Mbps speed. In the second phase, Internet services will be made available to the public at affordable rates.
Free Internet connections for BPL families and government institutions is just one part of the ₹1,548 crore KFON project. The rest of the network will be monetised. The State government in 2022 had constituted a committee headed by the Chief Secretary to study the possibilities of monetising the network. About 22 of a total of 48 fibres will be used for the network’s own operations, with the KSEB also using some. The rest can be leased out, Santhosh Babu, Managing Director, KFON, had earlier told The Hindu.
What is the road ahead?
The commissioning of the first phase of KFON comes a week after the Chief Minister declared Kerala as India’s first fully e-governed State. The e-office system has already been implemented in the Secretariat, district collectorates, commissionerates and directorates. As many as 900 government services, comprising all the services usually required by the public, are now available through a single-window portal.
The government has also begun a digital literacy campaign at the grassroot level through various local bodies to ensure that everyone is equipped to access basic services through the Internet. If the KFON project achieves what it has envisaged, it can bring about a change at the ground level as far as access and opportunities are concerned.
On November 7, 2019, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala announced that access to the Internet would be a basic right in the State, becoming the first State in the country to do so.
The Kerala government’s role involves setting up the vast infrastructure required for providing Internet, especially to remote corners of the State.
The government has also begun a digital literacy campaign at the grassroot level through various local bodies to ensure that everyone is equipped to access basic services through the Internet.
India, U.S. review export control regulations
India and the U.S. pledged to streamline their export control regimes for critical technologies at the inaugural India-U.S. Strategic Trade Dialogue (IUSSTD), as senior delegations led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Under Secretary for Commerce Alan Estevez met in Washington on Tuesday.
The talks came just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington when a number of high-technology partnerships, including a deal that will involve GE-414 jet engine sales to India, are on the cards.
Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials indicated a softer line on India-Russia ties and said Mr. Modi’s visit would help build trust and confidence in the U.S.’s “most important bilateral relationship”.
“IUSSTD focused on ways in which both governments can facilitate the development and trade of technologies in critical domains such as semiconductors, space, telecom, quantum, AI, defence, bio-tech and others,” said a press release issued by the Indian Embassy on Wednesday. “Both sides reviewed the relevant bilateral export control regulations with the objective of building and diversifying resilient supply chains for these strategic technologies,” it said.
Change in stance
Although the U.S. had issued a number of statements immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine calling for India to reduce its military ties with Russia, forgo Russian oil and vote alongside western countries at the UN, none of which New Delhi agreed to, it has in more recent months given up those demands. Ahead of his visit to Delhi next week, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. should be prepared to “meet” India and other countries not joining the sanctions, rather than “debate” them.
“The big thing the United States needs to do is not have a debate with each of these countries about Ukraine, but rather meet them where they are in terms of what they are trying to accomplish,” said Mr. Sullivan referring to countries that have refused to join sanctions against Russia imposed by the U.S. and European Union over the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Sullivan said that India had not joined the sanctions but the U.S.-India partnership has “never been stronger” in terms of technology, defence cooperation and people-to-people ties.
SOURCE : THE HINDU