BLUE FLAG BEACHES
WHY IN NEWS?
Last week, the Centre issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification declaring a list of activities and facilities that would be permissible in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas of certain beaches, which have been identified for obtaining the ‘Blue Flag’ certification.
In July 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had identified 13 beaches across the country for the Blue Flag certification, and announced a list of activities that would be permissible in their respective CRZ zones for that purpose. The new notification issued on January 9 contains a bigger list, and supersedes the previous notification.
The ‘Blue Flag’ is a certification that can be obtained by a beach, marina, or sustainable boating tourism operator, and serves as an eco-label.
The certification is awarded by the Denmark-based non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which sets stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria that applicants must meet and maintain. It is awarded annually to beaches and marinas in FEE member countries.
The world-renowned certification is known as an indication of high environmental and quality standards. Forty-seven countries currently participate in the program, and 4,573 beaches, marinas, and boats have this certification.
In its July 2019 notification, the Environment Ministry identified the following beaches in India for Blue Flag certification: Shivrajpur (Devbhumi Dwarka, Gujarat), Bhogave (Sindhudurg, Maharashtra), Ghoghla (Diu, Daman and Diu), Miramar (Panjim, Goa), Kasarkod (Karwar, Karnataka), Padubidri (Udupi, Karnataka), Kappad (Kozhikode, Kerala), Eden (Puducherry), Mahabalipuram (Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu), Rushikonda (Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh), Golden (Puri, Odisha), and Radhanagar (Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar).
What activities does the new notification permit?
According to the latest notification, the following activities and facilities would be permitted in the CRZ of the beaches, including Islands, subject to maintaining a minimum distance of 10 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL):
(a) Portable toilet blocks, change rooms and shower panels;
(b) Grey water treatment plant;
(c) Solid waste management plant;
(d) Solar power plant;
(e) Purified drinking water facility;
(f) Beach access pathways;
(g) Landscaping lighting;
(h) Seating benches and sit-out umbrellas;
(i) Outdoor play / fitness equipment;
(j) CCTV surveillance and control room;
(k) First aid station;
(l) Cloak room facility;
(m) Safety watch towers and beach safety equipment;
(n) Beach layout, environment information boards and other signages;
(o) Fencing, preferably vegetative;
(p) Parking facilities;
(q) Entry gate, tourist facilitation centre; and
(r) Other associated facilities or infrastructure, as per requirements of Blue Flag Certification.
The notification also said that these activities and facilities would be exempt from prior clearance under the provisions of CRZ Notification, Island Protection Zone Notification and Island Coastal Regulation Zone Notifications respectively.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, the first state to challenge the law, filed a petition under Article 131 of the Constitution and asked for the law to be declared unconstitutional and in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion).
What is Article 131 of the Constitution?
The Article vests the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over disputes occurring between states or between states and the Centre. The original jurisdiction of a court means the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, in which the court reviews the decision of a lower court.
Unlike the original jurisdiction under Article 32 (which gives the top court the power to issue writs, etc.), the jurisdiction in Article 131 is exclusive, meaning it is only the Supreme Court which has this authority. Under Article 226, the High Courts too have the power to issue writs, directions etc.
Article 131 reads, “Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. — Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute —
(a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or
(b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
(c) between two or more States,
if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends:
Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad, or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or which provides, that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute.”
What kinds of disputes are covered under Article 131?
In ‘State of Rajasthan vs Union of India’, 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that the existence or extent of a legal right is a precursor before a suit under Article 131 is entertained, and that “mere wrangles between governments have no place in the scheme of that Article”, and upheld its jurisdiction in that case.
Similarly, in the 1978 case, ‘State of Karnataka vs Union of India’, which involved the Centre’s authority to order an inquiry into a state Chief Minister’s conduct, jurisdiction under Article 131 was held valid.
In the present case filed by Kerala, central legislation (CAA) is being challenged. In 2011, a two-judge Supreme Court Bench in ‘Madhya Pradesh v Union of India’ had held such a suit was not maintainable.
Later in 2014, another two-judge Bench in ‘State of Jharkhand v State of Bihar and Another’ disagreed with the previous verdict and referred the matter to a larger Bench. Kerala’s plaint relies on the 2014 verdict.
ASER 2019 REPORT
Since 2005, the NGO Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER) have shone a light on a critical failure of India’s education system: A large number of school-going children across the country are short on basic learning skills.
These reports have led to debates on seminal policy interventions such as the Right to Education Act and have been catalysts for meaningful conversations on the pedagogical deficiencies of the formal school system.
The latest edition of ASER, released on Tuesday, directs attention to children between four and eight years of age, and suggests that India’s learning crisis could be linked to the weakness of the country’s pre-primary system.
More than 20 per cent of students in Standard I are less than six, ASER 2019 reveals — they should ideally be in pre-school.
At the same time, 36 per cent students in Standard 1 are older than the RTE-mandated age of six. “Even within Standard I, children’s performance on cognitive, early language, early numeracy, and social and emotional learning tasks is strongly related to their age. Older children do better on all tasks,” the report says.
This is a significant finding and should be the starting point for a substantive debate on the ideal entry-level age to primary school. In this context, policymakers would also do well to go back to the pedagogical axiom which underlines that children between four and eight are best taught cognitive skills through play-based activities. The emphasis, as ASER 2019 emphasises, should be on “developing problem-solving faculties and building memory of children, and not content knowledge”.
ASER 2019 talks about leveraging the existing network of anganwadi centres to implement school readiness. The core structure of the anganwadis was developed more than 40 years ago as part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Pre-school education is part of their mandate. But at the best of times, these centres do no more than implement the government’s child nutrition schemes.
A number of health crises — including last year’s AES outbreak in Bihar — have bared the inadequacies of the system.
A growing body of scholarly work has also shown that the anganwadi worker is poorly-paid, demoralised and lacks the autonomy to be an effective nurturer.
The ASER report is alive to such shortcomings. “There is a need to expand and upgrade anganwadis to ensure that children get adequate and correct educational inputs of the kind that are not modeled after the formal school,” it notes.
The government would do well to act on this recommendation — especially since the Draft Education Policy that was put up for public discussion last year, also stresses on the pre-school system.