Current Affairs ONLY (Daily Editorials Analysis, Date: 12th July 2018)

IMPORTANT EDITORIALS

1. A clean cooking strategy: driving towards sustainability

2. High on rhetoric: on Punjab’s drug menace


1. A clean cooking strategy: driving towards sustainability

CONTEXT:

In its drive towards sustainability and energy security, India must ensure an awareness of better cooking fuel choices

Why In News:

  • Energy use, a key indicator of living standards across the world, is also instrumental in raising it.
  • The choice of cooking fuel in households (especially rural) has a huge impact on living conditions especially for women and children.
  • On an average in India, household spending on cooking fuel accounts for around 5-6% of its total expenditure.
  • Factors such as socio-economic (availability and easy access, also determined by household income and price of fuel, education and awareness), culture or lifestyle, and, to a large extent, government policies also influence cooking fuel choice.

IMPORTANT POINTS:

  • Affordable, reliable and clean energy for cooking is essential not only for reducing health and environmental impacts but also helping women to do more productive work and developing the rural economy.

Comparing the options

  • Among the various fuel options available (firewood, pellet, biogas, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, piped natural gas or PNG) biogas accounts for the lowest effective greenhouse gas emission; PNG and then LPG are next.
  • An assessment of annual life cycle emissions of various fuels per household per annum is based on the estimation of life cycle emissions, feedstock processing, fuel processing, distribution and cook-stove use.
  • Further, a comparison of the levelised cost of various fuels (non-taxed and not subsidised), annual life cycle emission per household (kg/CO2 equivalent) and extent of in-house air pollution for various cooking fuels suggests that biogas and PNG are the best cooking energy options.
  • In households with limited ventilation — common in rural household and semi-urban areas — these pollutants could lead to severe health problems.
  • Among the various options available for cooking fuel, firewood and pellet are the most polluting, LPG and kerosene are moderately cleaner, and biogas and natural gas are cleaner fuels for combustion.

The push

  • National level programmes to ensure that most switch to clean cooking fuels have been initiated since the 1980s, the National Project on Biogas Development (NPBD) being an example.
  • But the programme has been hampered by mala fide practices, poor construction material, a lack of maintenance, misrepresentation of achievements and a lack of accountability and follow-up services.
  • Once again, in order to ensure access to clean energy —a key focus area for poverty alleviation —the government launched a flagship programme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in May 2016.
  • with a cumulative target of providing LPG connections to more than eight crore families. Further, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has been holding auctions across cities for distribution of gas for cooking through PNG.
  • What can work
  • To promote biogas in rural and semi-urban areas, adopting the service-based enterprise model with suitable resource availability offers a sustainable approach.
  • It will also help self-drive the programme. The model is being successfully implemented in Hoshiarpur, Punjab using a 100 cubic meter biogas plant.
  • The plant supplies clean and piped cooking biogas to 44 households and a school every day.
  • The cost-competitiveness of natural gas (including imported re-gasified LNG) calls for scaling its penetration in urban and semi-urban/rural areas.
  • PNG needs to be promoted in urban areas beginning with the densely populated Tier-I and Tier-II/III cities, making LPG just one of the options to choose from rather than it having an edge over others.
  • As India takes a long-term view on sustainability and energy security, it is important to create an environment where its citizens are aware of the options and make their energy choices based on the nature of the fuel and not because of socio-economic constraints.

2. High on rhetoric: on Punjab’s drug menace

CONTEXT:

Punjab’s drug menace demands an all-out war that goes beyond empty gestures

Why In News:

  • It has taken Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh over a year and a half to launch his much-anticipated war on drugs.
  • This he did on July 4 by ordering mandatory drug tests for all government employees, including the police. While this is welcome, even if belated, it is a very small and insubstantial measure towards curbing the pervasive drug menace.
  • For someone who promised to wipe out drugs from the Statewithin a month of being elected, the conduct of annual drug tests on some 3.25 lakh employees is a piece of tokenism. More steps are needed; less missteps, too.

 

IMPORTANT POINTS:

  • The decision of the Punjab Cabinet to recommend the death penalty to drug-peddlersis an example of the latter.
  • Capital punishment is abhorrent. Given that there is evidence that suggests it is also no guarantee of deterring crime, this is more of an empty signal.
  • What is required is a comprehensive war on drugs fought on several fronts, including interventions in the community to spread awareness and foster a culture against the use of drugs.
  • The challenges faced by the State are huge. Estimates vary but by some accounts as many as two-thirds of all households in Punjab have a drug addict in their midst.
  • Punjab’s prisons are overcrowded with drug-users and peddlers, and its streets and farms witness the easy availability of narcotics and opiates.
  • Last year the government arrested 18,977 peddlers and treated some two lakh addicts.
  • The sheer extent of the problem suggests it is more than just a few profiteers that have been responsible for causing this menace or helping to sustain it.
  • Given the geography, the drugs, whether it is opium or heroin, make an easy and assisted entrance into Punjabfrom the Golden Crescent (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan), and synthetic drugs are thought to come in via Himachal Pradesh.
  • That means those guarding Punjab’s 553-km border with Pakistan must take serious steps to plug the inflow.
  • The Central security forces are obviously beyond the control of Amarinder Singh.
  • Therefore, security-planners in New Delhi have to make sure that the border is properly barred to the flow of narcotic substances.
  • This is a national problem as a substantial portion of the drugs that land in Punjab make their way to the rest of the country.
  • Given the links between drugs and terror, this poses a national security threat.
  • Then there are the politicians. The previous Akali Dal-BJP alliance had also promised to drain Punjab’s vast drug swamp. The political class has a critical role to play in winning the war on drugs.
  • It is not enough that politicians merely line up to have themselves tested for drugs to win political brownie points.
  • They need to put the State and the nation above self-serving political ends and agree that this battle must be fought in concrete ways, going beyond photo-ops and sound-bites.

 

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