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1.Asian cities and its need to be the focal point for climate change (Live Mint)

2.Political turmoil in Zimbabwe (The Hindu)

3.Story of Rani Padmavati (Indian Express)

1.Asian cities and its need to be the focal point for climate change (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the emphasis needed on Asian cities to fight climate change. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The global response to climate change has so far been focused entirely on nation states. Until the Paris Agreement and the recently concluded Kigali Agreement, the inability of nation states to broker any agreement resulted in inadequate positive action.
  • This is amply borne out by the increase in both the duration and frequency of extreme climatic events. It is only now that the emphasis of the climate change debate is shifting to cities, particularly mega cities.

Cities and climate change

  • Cities cover less than 2% of the earth’s surface, but consume 78% of its energy. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook (2008), urban areas account for over 71% of energy-related global greenhouse gases (GHGs), particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, mainly through concentrated and increased energy consumption by transport and industry, and biomass use.
  • This figure is expected to rise to 76% by 2030. Thus, there is large-scale urban contribution to global warming. As long as the present trend of urbanization continues, it is unlikely that the energy and fossil fuel consumption of cities, and the resultant GHGs emissions, will decrease.
  • An increase in sea levels and large storm surges due to global warming leave crucial infrastructure of mega cities (with a population of over 10 million) especially vulnerable as most of them are along coasts and/or river banks.
  • Cities will have to bear the brunt of not only physical catastrophes in the form of stressed water resources and sewage systems, but also reduced availability of agricultural produce and consequent higher prices.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) indicates a probability of 10-40% loss in crop production in India with increases in temperatures by 2080-2100. Hence, climate change will exacerbate urban pressures of rapid population growth and sprawl, poverty, and pollution.

Asia’s mega cities:

  • Of the world’s 31 mega cities, as many as 18 are in Asia. China is home to six mega cities, and India has five. The combined population of these cities is a staggering 310 million (2016). By 2030, according to the UN World Cities Report (2016), the number of mega cities is projected to rise to 41, and added to the list would be six Asian cities.
  • Moreover, among the fastest-growing cities, 40 are located in Asia (20 in China alone), with an average growth rate of 6%. During the next decade, several of the biggest cities in South Asia, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai in India, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Karachi in Pakistan, will rank amongst the largest in the world. Therefore, not only is Asia home to the largest number of mega cities, the continent continues to urbanize fast and has the largest number of fastest-growing cities.

Power, transport, water and sanitation

  • The power and transport sectors are the major generators of GHG emissions, particularly CO2. In many South Asian cities, this is due to dependence on thermal power plants using coal with high ash and sulphur content, and use of private vehicles due to inadequate public transport.
  • Integration of the transport sector with land-use planning and transit-oriented development needs to be discussed within municipal corporations and development authorities charged with this mandate. Enough examples from the developing world are available: Bogotá in Colombia, and Curitiba in Brazil.
  • The water and sanitation sectors also generate large amounts of non-CO2 GHG emissions like methane, which is classified as a short-lived climate pollutant. Empirical evidence shows that methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 as a GHG. Methane from sewage treatment plants and landfills is usually flared but has rarely been considered an energy resource.
  • South and South-East Asian cities which are being viewed as environmental hot spots, actually offer huge possibilities and opportunities for efficiency improvements in power, transport, and water and sanitation infrastructure for the mitigation of GHG emissions responsible for global warming and climate change. Cities have enormous potential to be centres of innovation to deliver cost-effective solutions.
  • The case for efficient public transport and sewage systems is, therefore, far more compelling for South and South-East Asian cities today than it was for East Asian cities half a century ago.

Way ahead

  • It is clear that unless each city begins to worry obsessively about climate change and improves efficiency in power, transport, and water and sanitation, it may not be able to save the very resources of its sustenance water, air quality, and green cover.
  • The biggest challenge in cities is also the biggest opportunity in forging links with global climate change. The immense opportunities for stabilization of GHG emissions can have an immediate impact on climate change. Climate change is, hence, a reason to promote a sustainable urbanization pattern and transform transport, power, and water and sanitation.
  • However, the entire focus on nation states rather than mega cities has resulted in misplaced responsibility wherein municipalities have not been involved in climate change mitigation. Mayors and municipal commissioners of mega cities have to become the torch-bearers of positive action in the fight against climate change. It is only by focusing on Asian cities that we can protect the cities and the people that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Question– What should be the strategy relating to Asian cities with regard to climate change?

 

2.Political turmoil in Zimbabwe (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent political turmoil in Zimbabwe. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Zimbabwe’s prolonged political crisis reached the boiling point earlier this month when President Robert Mugabe dismissed the Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Unfolding the Political crisis in Zimbabwe

  • A battle to succeed the 93-year-old liberation hero-turned President had already been brewing within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), with the old guard backing Mr. Mnangagwa, himself a freedom fighter, and ‘Generation 40’, a grouping of younger leaders supporting Mr. Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife, Grace. Ms. Mugabe, known for her extravagant lifestyle and interfering ways, has been vocal in recent months about her political ambitions.
  • Mugabe was seen to have endorsed her when on November 6 he dismissed Mr. Mnangagwa. But Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, erred on two counts: he underestimated the deep connections Mr. Mnangagwa has within the establishment and overestimated his own power in a system he has helped shape.
  • In the good old days, Mr. Mugabe was able to rule with an iron grip. But those days are gone. Age and health problems have weakened his hold on power, while there is a groundswell of anger among the public over economic mismanagement.
  • So when he turned against a man long seen by the establishment as his successor, Mr. Mugabe left little doubt that he was acting from a position of political weakness. This gave the security forces the confidence to turn against him and make it clear they didn’t want a Mugabe dynasty.

Military’s reaction

  • The military doesn’t want to call its action a coup d’etat, for obvious reasons. A coup would attract international condemnation, even sanctions. But it is certain that the army chief, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, is in charge. His plan, as it emerges, is to force Mr. Mugabe to resign and install a transitional government, perhaps under Mr. Mnangagwa, until elections are held.
  • If Mr. Mugabe doesn’t resign, it will complicate the process. He has not been seen since the army took over the capital, Harare. Any attempt to hurt him could backfire. Even if he agrees to resign, the transition may not be smooth.
  • However inept and dictatorial Mr. Mugabe’s regime had been, a coup will remain a coup irrespective of what the plotters call it, raising questions of legitimacy about the new government.
  • Also, Mr. Mugabe can still tap into his support base among the black working class, which has provided him a buffer against public anger towards his government.

Way ahead

  • Across Africa, Mr. Mugabe continues to be seen by many as an anti-colonial hero. His successor, who will be picked by the generals, will inherit huge challenges a dysfunctional economy, massive unemployment, a broken ruling party and a united opposition.
  • Besides, the military has shaken up the civilian supremacy over the armed forces by staging this coup. The biggest challenge for the new leader will be to make sure that the military stays in the barracks. 

Question– What can be the possible impact of African crisis on India diaspora based in Africa?

3.Story of Rani Padmavati (Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the historical roots of rani Padmavati and the controversy related to it. (Paper I) 

Overview

  • Every year between the months of February and March, the city of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan comes together in celebration of what is believed to be one of the most critical episodes of their community’s history the Jauhar(self-immolation) of Queen Padmavati in defence of her honour and virtues.
  • For the Rajputs, Rani Padmini or Padmavati, has held a semi-Goddess like position for centuries now. Her choice to rather die than be captured by another man has been celebrated with utmost vehemence as the symbol of Rajput valour and integrity.
  • When director Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced his upcoming project Padmavati it was the Rajput consciousness of their historical identity which was at stake. So Rajput group Karni Sena took it upon itself to protest against the film’s alleged attempt to distort Rajput history.

Tracing history

  • The legend of Padmavati first appeared in a piece of poetry called ‘Padmavat’ dating back to the sixteenth century. Written in Avadhi language by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi, ‘Padmavati’ was a tale of love, heroism and sacrifice, dotted all along with fantastical elements giving it a larger than life imagery. The poem narrates that a princess of unparalleled beauty called Padmini lived in the kingdom of Simhaladvipa, now Sri Lanka.
  • Enamoured by her beauty, King Ratansen of Chittor was engulfed with the passion to acquire her and overcame a large number of adventurous obstacles to make her his queen. Back in the kingdom of Chittor, Ratansen banished a sorcerer, who travelled to Delhi and told its ruler Alauddin Khalji of Padmini’s beauty.
  • The Khalji ruler marched to Chittor and vanquished Ratansen. But he did not manage to win Padmini as she along with other Rajput women committed Jauharby consigning themselves to the flames. 

Story of Padmavati

  • Padmavati’s story is sacrosanct among the Rajputs who consider her the ideal wife and woman and within her is vested their legacy of bravery and virtue. Further, this narrative of their past is something that has been learned through oral transmission from one generation to another and local folk tales that have given it a sacred legitimacy.
  • Ever since the protests against Bhansali’s film broke out, an issue of constant debate is to what extent the legend of Padmavati historically authentic and to what extent is she a product of fiction.
  • Cultural memory of a community hardly ever distinguishes between historical authenticity and fictional concepts that have over time acquired the garb of historicity. In that sense, it becomes increasingly difficult for the community to come to terms with the fact that a part of their historical pride may or may not have existed at all.
  • While parts of the Padmavati legend has been proven historically, particularly the battle between Ratansen and Alauddin Khalji, the extensive use of fanciful elements in the story make it imperative for us to approach the authenticity of the narrative carefully.
  • More important, however, is the necessity to read the Padmavat focusing on the time and social order in which it was composed and then analyse the corruption in interpretation it has gone through to finally become an episode of Rajput and Hindu pride.

The social context

  • Alauddin Khalji was the Sultan of Delhi between 1296 and 1316. Under his rule, the Khalji empire expanded rapidly to occupy regions in western, central and peninsular India. Khalji’s attack on Rajasthan had a particularly destructive impact upon the ruling lineages of the region resulting in the Delhi Sultan occupying a particularly hated space in Rajput memory. Khalji’s rule was also noted for having destroyed the authority of local chiefs, most of whom belonged to the social group of Rajputs.
  • However, we need to note that Amir Khusrao, the Sultan’s court poet who had accompanied him during his invasion of Chittor, mentions no account of a Rani Padmini there in his accounts of the attack.

The origins of story

  • Padmavati is introduced to us by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, about two centuries after the attack on Chittor took place. Jayasi was from the region of Jais in North India and had been initiated in the Chisti Sufi lineage of Saiyid Ashraf Jahangir Simnani. In the sixteenth century, when Padmavat was written, it was common for the Sufi pirs to provide religious legitimation to the ruling elite in return for the patronage the rulers gave them. “The choice for the story of the siege of Chittor and the role of the Rajput queen Padmavati as the main theme of Padmavat makes the poem particularly relevant in this context.
  • It locates the poet in a literary field defined by the interests of both worldly and religious patrons,” writes historian Thomas de Bruijn in his book ‘Ruby in the dust: history and poetry in Padmāvat by the South Asian Sufi poet Muḥammad Jāyasī’.
  • From the fifteenth century new Rajput ruling lineages claimed lineal and political descent from the predecessors who had been destroyed by Khalji. Historian Ramya Sreenivasan notes that this was the period from when the Rajput memory of Alauddin Khalji’s invasion began to be actively reshaped focusing on the valour of the monarch of Chittor who resisted Khalji’s attacks. One of the first texts to participate in this celebration of Rajput history was the Kanhadade Prabandh, which was commissioned by the Chauhan chief of Jalor.
  • The narration of Padmavati by Jayasi, needs to be contextualised in this new form social order that had emerged in Rajasthan. Awadh at this time was populated by a large number of Rajput elites. Sreenivasan has located the creation of Padmavat in the sixteenth century politics of Awadh, where the rising influence of Sher Shah Suri had led to great anxiety among the Rajput elites.
  • Further, she also pointed to the historicity of another king Ratansen who was the Rana of Chittor in the sixteenth century. Under his reign, nine years before the Padmavat was written, an episode of mass immolation had taken place in Chittor, just before its conquest by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. It is possible that Jayasi in his narration of Padmavat was transporting contemporary politics to a historical period. As these Awadh elites were deeply involved in the patronage of Chisti Sufis, it seems all the more justified to position Jayasi’s Padmavat in this context.
  • The construction of Padmavat’s narrative in the form of a fantastical tale of love needs to be located in the influence of other literary and cultural traditions of the sixteenth century in North India had on Sufi literature.
  • Such narratives of a king falling in love with a beautiful princess, overcoming all obstacles in the process of acquiring her and in their union the king obtaining spiritual apogee was an imagery common among Jain, Persian and other folk genres of the period and Jayasi was bound to be inspired by it.

The interpretation of Padmavat in modern times

  • The circulation and transmission of the Padmavat has been an ongoing process and its interpretation at various historical stages needs to be located in the political context of the time in which it was being read. The modern interpretation of the text is a result of the twentieth century rendition of it inspired by the nationalist movement of the time.
  • The nationalist struggle inspired scholars to investigate early modern vernacular literature to promote a Sanskritised form of Hindi which was deemed to be a necessary prerequisite to the linguistic unity of independent India. Awadhi and Braj literary traditions were particularly promoted as the predecessors of modern Hindi.
  • With respect to Padmavat, the rendition of Ramchandra Shukla in 1924 was particularly important. Ideologically Shukla was inclined to represent early modern vernaculars in a Hindu religious context, and the Sufi literature of the period posed a problem for him.
  • While he was unhappy with aspects of the poem as not being ideally Indian, he is known to have been touched by the mysticism in Jayasi’s poem which he believed was similar to Kabir’s poetry and therefore Jayasi was accepted as “Indian.”
  • Further, as Thomas de Bruijn notes, “he is also positive about the representation of the behaviour of Padmavati when Ratansen is taken captive by Alauddin, which he interprets as an ideal image for the devotion of the Indian wife, in the manner in which he sees it portrayed in truly ‘Indian’ poetry.”
  • Shukla and his contemporaries’ interpretation of Padmavati as depicting the Indian and Hindu positivities of the nation is what has stayed on in the way the text is read and remembered till date. The celebration of Rani Padmini’s jauhar in Chittor and the Karni Sena’s relentless protest against Bhansali’s film need to be located in the flawed and motivated interpretation of Padmavat that has seeped into the Rajput cultural memory for decades now.

Question– What is the role of flawed history in the present context of uprisings against modern films based on historical background?