1.The numbers game (The Hindu)

2.Post-Elphinstone (The Hindu)

3.Lingayat leap of faith (The Indian Express)

1.The numbers game (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of India Meteorological Department getting its monsoon forecast wrong this year. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Data from previous 16 years shows that IMD’s first monsoon forecast was mostly at a large variance from actual rainfall values. The southwest monsoon is considered normal when the rainfall is 96-104% of its long period average (LPA).
  • As the southwest monsoon (June-September) “withdrew” recently the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has revised the season’s rainfall estimate to “below-normal”; it had earlier projected the rains to be “normal”.

Assessment

  • Over the years, the variance between the first long-range forecast and actual rainfall values has reduced, especially after 2010, IMD data suggests.
  • In April, the IMD had predicted “near normal” or 96%, rains and then upgraded the figure to 98% a couple of months later. These percentages refer to the proportion of rains to 89 cm, a 50-year average of monsoon rains. However, the country finally ended up with “below normal” rains (that is, less than 96% of the 50-year long period average).
  • Though the Crop sowing is expected to be only a little less than last year, which saw a record harvest, with more districts posting deficient rain. Better drought management has over the years weakened the link between rain shortfall and food production, but the IMD continues to persevere with the meaningless practice of assigning a catch-all number to the quantum of rain expected during the monsoon.
  • IMD was initially conceived as a measure to bring rigour to the task of warning the government about a drought or weak rains; but it has now become a numbers exercise, couched in statistical error margins and to ward off blame for getting its forecast wrong.
  • While a single number, 96 or 95, has the power to brand rainfall as “near” or “below” normal. It relies on the security of generous error margins. Thus, a 98% forecast, say, implies a range from 94% to 102% and so could span “below normal” to “above normal”.
  • The agriculture ministry has estimated the country’s kharif foodgrain production will be 3% lower than last year, mainly because of patchy monsoon rains in parts of central India along with floods in parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam. However this year’s kharif production would still be higher than the average production of the five years between 2011-12 to 2015-16.
  • The data about the Indian monsoon has ripple effects of tricking everyone from policymakers to the stock markets that a ‘normal’ monsoon implies all will be well with rainfall distribution. The Indian monsoon has over the centuries stayed remarkably consistent at around 89 cm during the monsoon months, give or take 10%.
  • But the challenge lies in capturing intra-seasonal variation or forecasting a sudden change in global weather that can affect rainfall over specific districts, simply getting these blanket four-month forecasts right doesn’t really help. Now more and more farmers are opting for crop insurance and have far greater access via mobile phones to news on weather patterns, what they seek are localised, actionable inputs to guide them on sowing or harvesting decisions.

Question– The monsoon is the lifeblood for India’s farm-dependent $2 trillion economy, as at least half the farmlands are rain-fed. The country gets about 70% of annual rainfall in the June-September monsoon season, making it crucial for millions of farmers. How does the monsoon affect the economy?

 

2.Post-Elphinstone (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of urban area problems in the light on recent rush-hour stampede in the Mumbai. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Urbanization is an integral part of the process of economic growth.  As in most countries, India’s towns and cities make a major contribution to the country’s economy. Urbanization in India has expanded rapidly as increasing numbers of people migrate to towns and cities in search of economic opportunity and with rapidly increasing urbanization India’s major cities are now facing great social issues.
  • Recently the rush-hour stampede at the Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road railway station follows just after heavy rain and flooding last month that brought the city to a halt and also cost lives. The resilient Mumbai spirit is in the face of crisis and t is a sign that something has gone badly wrong with the city’s governance.

Rising population

  • The Mumbai has been outpaced by the growth; the area around the railway station has undergone a dramatic transformation over the years. Various developments which involved the construction of high-rises for offices and residences occurred without any adaptive response from the public authorities to address transportation challenges and ease the pressure on the existing transport infrastructure.
  • The footfalls in surrounding railway stations, of those commuting to work in these areas, increased manifold exposing the woefully inadequate carrying capacity of bridges and stairways here, there has been increasing pressure on the city. Commuters are not from the city alone, with many of them residing in peri-urban areas, cities and towns within the Mumbai metropolitan region. Therefore, one may ask why the authorities have not been more responsive to the dynamic city.

Lack of coordination

  • In the immediate aftermath of the stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station’s north foot over bridge, commuters witnessed the unedifying spectacle of the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Mumbai Police arguing over whose jurisdiction the tragedy happened in.
  • A key reason is the absence of coordination among the many public organisations undertaking various civic and infrastructure-related functions in the city and metropolitan region. Besides the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, which is the urban local body providing basic amenities and discharging functions such as solid waste management and sanitation, there is the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority which creates regional plans and plans for special planning areas, the Ministry of Railways whose parastatal organisations look after the suburban railway network; and the Mumbai Port Trust, currently planning the commercial development of a part of its land, among others.
  • There is no joint formulation of transport plans in tandem with land use plans by these bodies. Ultimately, the obfuscation due to overlapping functions and jurisdictions undermines accountability. Also there is lack of an adaptive and flexible planning process in response to the economic forces that drive demand for land and land use.

Solution

  • There is need to have a single coordinating agency. Coordination and cooperation among all public authorities concerned needs to take place not just in response to a crisis but as a regular and routine feature of the governance set-up.
  • The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act calls for establishing metropolitan planning committees (MPCs) for metropolitan regions. However, the experience of MPCs has been disappointing because of lack of autonomy, executive power, finances and functionaries.
  • Studies on metropolitan governance in India have recommended creating metropolitan councils entrusted with specific powers that are appointed democratically. There are other successful instances of transport planning and other functions being managed at the metropolitan level for regions such as London and New York that could be useful case studies.
  • In reforming the governance system, the existing political incentives of public officials will have to be considered and necessary checks and accountability mechanisms put in place.

Way ahead

  • The agency is in need to have a clear functional mandate and adequate autonomous power for planning and decision making. Also it should have jurisdiction over certain functions such as transport for the entire metropolitan region.
  • Besides transit, other functions such as solid waste disposal and water supply, that require provisioning at a regional level, could be delineated to be undertaken by this agency. It needs to have representatives from other public organisations and domain experts from outside the public sphere.

Question– Explain the rising problems of urban India, critically analyse the measures taken by the government.

3.Lingayat leap of faith (The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue the minority status demand by Lingayats. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The agitation seeking minority status for Lingayats is once again revealing the politics of bad faith that often characterises the construction of religious boundaries in India. The Lingayats want to distinguish themselves from Hinduism, and in particular Veerashaivism, and they want to be recognised as a religious minority.

Indian minorities

  • The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Bill, 2004 to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities envisages a change in the way minorities are specified. The Cabinet has reportedly approved a proposal in 2007 to define minorities State-wise in line with several Supreme Court judgments.
  • For the purpose of this legislation, minority will be specified as such in relation to a particular State and Union Territory by a presidential notification issued after consultation with the State Government; this will be in addition to the five minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis) referred to in the NCM Act, 1992.
  • The new approach is not consistent with the understanding developed in the Constituent Assembly on the protection of minorities and the constitutional compact between the State and minority groups.
  • Although the Constitution does not define a minority or provide details relating to the geographical and numerical specification of the concept, it is clear that the constitutional scheme envisages this to be determined at the national level.

About Lingayats

  • Lingayathism is started in the 12th century by Guru Basaveshwara with the aim to stop the evil, traditions, to stop bifurcating people by birth, to stop male female inequality, to provide education to people. Lingayat literature explains the clear proper concept of GOD, and provides a way to worship the GOD in the form of Ishtalinga. And rejects all the superstitions beliefs.
  • In Lingayat all are equal by birth; differentiation is based on the knowledge they possess. This is equivalent of current education system. i.e. any one becomes an officer by scoring good marks not by taking birth in officer’s house.

Lingayats demands

  • The demands for religious minority status have been in existence since the late 19th century, but the exigencies of politics are now creating unprecedented momentum for this demand.
  • The Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and others have successively tried for minority status. In the case of Lingayats, the movement has a social base, and ironically for a sect which sought to transcend caste, a deep caste basis. It is not a demand that is going away easily.
  • In India the demand of minority status usually become a thorny public matter for two reasons. Firstly, the state distributes rights and privileges based on whether or not communities are minorities or not. The great drive towards minoritisation is propelled largely by the view that getting a minority tag allows a community greater autonomy over its educational institutions.
  • Secondly the drive towards minoritisation is what it does to religion itself. One of the challenges of thinking about the politics of naming religion in India is this. Both scholars, and proponents of these movements, often assume that in these cases there are clearly designated categories of communities, whose actions, forms of consciousness, social practices, beliefs, set them easily apart from others. There must be some objective theological truth of the matter in which Jains are different from Hindus, or Lingayats from Veerashaivas, or Brahmos from other Vedantins.
  • In the modern process of religious identity construction like the Lingayats, three moves are made that are conceptually dubious- Objectification, essentialism, and rigidification. Objectification is the idea that there is a single authoritative truth about a sect that can be objectively defined. What is odd about the Lingayat movement is not just that it tries to delineate what its own beliefs are; in the process it seeks to define the core of Hinduism and Veerashaivism itself so that it can be set apart.
  • Essentialism is the idea that Hinduism or Veerashaivism will always be wedded to whatever that rotten core is from which you are trying to separate or the conceit that Lingayats will always be progressive and rigidification is the idea that creation of a new form of identity will bring strong forms of identification and political assertion.
  • One can construct Basavanna as a secular or a regional figure. But this construction only shows that what practices get designated as religious or secular or as a minority is entirely a function of political power.

Way ahead

  • The demand for minority status by Lingayats is also a move to construct identities in a way that is both constricted and rigid. It is also turning a great reformer, radical and egalitarian like Basavanna into a mere minoritarian secessionist.

Question– According to some experts the Indian Constitution does not permit the government to grant independent religion status on any community. The Centre, though, can grant minority status to any religion under some Acts, explain this in the wake of Lingayats demand for religious minority.