1.Copping with summer (The Hindu)
2.Wine and Whimper (The Hindu)
3.Sharpen the focus on growth (The Hindu)
4.India must reaffirm its Paris Pledge (The Hindu)
5.Digital push must be disability inclusive (The Hindu)
1. Copping with summer (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of heat waves as a potential disaster. (GS paper II)
- Entire India and particularly the North is reeling under severe heatwaves which can transform into a serious disaster. Effective steps are urgently needed at administrative as well as ecological level.
- Stark Influences of heat strain which will sweep across much of India are even likely to grow longer.
Severe heat waves
- A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India. Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
- The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
- The first heat deaths of the season have already been recorded, which is very unusual in the month of March.
Possible reasons for heat waves:
- When the temperature rises 3°C to 4°C above normal it is termed as a ‘heat wave’. It can be see that the average temperatures have risen. The possible reason is that the hot winds are blowing from deserts and these are combining with the dry winds on surface. Thus, an anticyclone that was formed in Central India has now covered the entire country. Simultaneously there is no cloud formation. All these situations are causing the heat wave
Why heat wave in March
- The reason for such a phenomenon is the presence of anticyclone. Usually, anticyclones are formed in the region of Gujarat and Rajasthan in the month of April. This year, it happened earlier. It has also occupied the entire country now. Hence, the heat wave and the rise in temperature can be seen. Normally, when the temperature rises in the month of April, there is thunderstorm activity to balance it.
Is it a matter of concern?
- It may be the result of climate change. Untimely rainfall has been observed this year. Now there are severe heat waves. The cycle of weather is changing. If one analyses the average temperature data, this sort of temperature rise has never been seen. It is the percolation of climate change. These are the localised outcomes of climate change that are now visible.
- With rising greenhouse gases, their impact can only intensify.
Impacts of heat waves
Impacts of heat waves are deadly, crop failures and disruption of electricity supply due to sudden peak demand are common. People experience dehydration, heat cramps and deadly heatstroke. The elderly are particularly at risk, since higher temperatures affect blood viscosity and raise the risk of thrombosis.
- It is encouraging that the National Disaster Management Authority is guiding States, in partnership with the India Meteorological Department, to evolve heat action plan protocols.
Some Notable Success models to cope heat stress
- European and America has also framed policy responses such as creating green and blue urban spaces to provide tree shade and higher moisture, as well as housing design that cuts heat through the albedo effect of reflected solar energy.
- Such an approach should also be implemented in Indian urban plans.
- Ahmedabad drew up a city-level action plan in the wake of its 46.8°C heatwave of 2010 with support from public health institutions.
- It focussed on preparing the health system to identify symptoms of heat stress and providing treatment through urban health centres.
- Reviewing school timetables, rescheduling work timings to cooler hours, making water widely available and reserving religious sites and libraries as cooling centres were others.
- Better meteorological forecasting can provide an early warning about a coming hot spell during the summer window. This gives the NDMA and the States sufficient opportunity to launch an action protocol: to inform the public as soon as the temperature crosses the threshold fixed by the IMD, advise on precautionary measures, and aid those who are most vulnerable, such as older adults, farm workers and those pursuing outdoor vocations.
- Some of these passive defences are actually integral to vernacular practices and will serve everyone well. It is essential to study the efficacy of heat action plans and share the results across States to achieve best practices.
Question: Heat waves are not just a matter of health concern but points toward a greater issue of climate change. How govt. should respond towards it?
2.Wine and Whimper (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the Issue of banning liquor along highways and its implications.(GS paper II)
- Supreme Court’s order to ban the liquor outlets along highways is no doubt a noble step in its intent but it is fraught with huge systemic challenges.
- The question of practical implications of the decision are not properly accounted. It may lead to huge employment losses along with rendering hotel business crippled.
- The Supreme Court banned States and Union Territories from granting licences for the sale of liquor along National and State highways across the country, noting that drunken driving was the main culprit behind a large number of road accidents in the country. It pointed out that nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year in accidents.
- However, North-eastern States of Sikkim and Meghalaya got a fill exemption from the 500-m no-liquor zone ban after the court took into consideration their hilly terrain and also the fact that 82% of its area is forest and over 90% of its liquor shops would be closed if the ban is imposed strictly in its original form.
- The court also reduced the no-liquor zone in local areas with a population of 20000 or less from 500 m to 220 m.
- The court in its clarification decision also asserted that the proscription would cover not just retail outlets but hotels and bars too will be covered.
- The opinion rendered by the court now sounds even more draconian in the light of coverage as retail outlets can perhaps move another 500 m with minimal expense and no great loss of clientele. But established hotels and clubs enjoy no such luxury. All of a sudden, what was a great advantage of location is a major disadvantage.
- Moreover, the order does not exempt outlets in cities and towns, where most of the consumers are local residents, nor does it distinguish between hotel guests and passing drivers.
Implications of the order
- The State governments throughout the nation will face a huge loss in revenue. Even smaller administrative units such as Union Territories will be the worst-hit from the decision.
- Puducherry, which includes enclaves such as Mahe, will find relocation of many shops impossible. They are caught between the highway and the sea.
- Similarly, Goa, a small State that depends heavily on tourism, is in a likewise difficult situation.
- The act of Prohibition is successfully implemented in Bhutan and in some Middle East countries. Though the sale of alcohol is apparently uncontrolled in European countries they have strong mechanisms to ensure prevention of addiction. Drunken driving will attract severe punishment in Europe. Hence, we should rather focus on existing mechanisms such as rigorously enforcing the offence of drunken driving.
- People should be instilled with a deep notion as “You may be of any position but if found driving after consuming liquor, you will be handcuffed, arrested and remanded in custody. If found drunken you will immediately lose your job”. However, such a psychological nudging is absent in Indian context.
Question: Discuss the flaws of court judgements regarding liquor ban and how it is a blow on right to choose?
3.Sharpen the focus on growth (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the sate of Indian economy and possible remedies for it.(GS paper II)
- India was called as enjoying sweet spot last year in World Economic forum. However, economic prospects are supposedly not anymore “sweet “as indicated by various indices released recently by the government agencies.
- Ranging from increasing the investment levels to bringing systemic changes, various policy measures will be needed to address the economic regime in India.
Declining Economic Indicators
- The Central Statistics Office’s second advanced estimates indicate that the growth rate of GDP for 2016-17 will be 7.1% as against 7.9% in 2015-16.
- The growth rate of gross value added at basic prices in 2016-17 will be 6.7% as against 7.8% in 2015-16.
- However, the growth rates projected for 2016-17 do not capture the impact of demonetisation, which when taken into account may bring down the projected growth rate by around 0.5%.
Growth enablers to be considered
- Growth rate is determined by two factors:
- The investment rate and
- The efficiency in the use of capital.
- Therefore, growth rate is equal to the investment rate divided by the incremental capital-output ratio.
- The incremental capital-output ratio (ICOR) is the amount of capital required to produce one unit of output. The higher the ICOR, the less efficient we are in the use of capital.
- However, when we run an analysis on India’s performance in the last five years, two facts stand out.
- One is a decline in the investment rate and the second is a rise in ICOR; both of which can only lead to a lower growth rate.
Determinants of ICOR
- ICOR is determined by a variety of factors including technology, skill of manpower, managerial competence and also macroeconomic policies.
- Thus delays in the completion of projects, lack of complementary investments in related sectors and the non-availability of critical inputs can all lead to a rise in ICOR.
- Stalled projects in India accounts a huge blow to investment regime. More than 400 major project are stalled due to various systemic loopholes and huge number of them are turning to be unviable due to changed conditions. A periodic reporting by the government on the progress of stalled projects will be of great help.
Taming the Investment
- India’s growth peaked around 2007-08 at 9.4%. The major determinant in this period was high investment rate close to 38%. However, since then investment rate has been declined and so is the growth rate.
Major reasons for declining investment rate:
- Weak external environment:
- The external environment was also not encouraging. The growth rate of the advanced economies remained low and the recovery from the crisis of 2008 was lukewarm which had an adverse impact on Indian exports.
- India had to cope with a high level of inflation which also had an adverse impact on investment sentiment.
- Vicious Cycle of decline:
- Once the growth rate starts to decline, it sets in motion a vicious cycle of decline in investment and lower growth. The acceleration principle begins to operate. We need to break this chain in order to move on to a higher growth path.
- Policy paralysis:
- It means inability of the government to take policy decisions because of coalition compulsions. It created a sense of uncertainty in the minds of invesors, due to which private investment was deterred
Solutions to ailing Economy (Way Forward)
- Increase Public Investment: In the best of times, public investment has been 8% of GDP. The Central government’s capital expenditures even after some increase in the last two years, is only 1.8% of GDP.
- In the present context, it is imperative for public sector undertakings to come out with an explicit statement indicating the extent of investment they intend to make during the current fiscal. And this intention must be monitored every quarter. This will inspire confidence among prospective private investors.
- Enhance private investment: It is also essential to enhance private investment, and that too private corporate investment. During the high growth phase, corporate investment reached the level of 14% of GDP. Since then it has fallen. This continuing trend must be reversed.
- Process reforms: Reforms are needed to simplify procedures. Some significant steps have been taken in this regard in recent years such as moving forward on the GST Bill, passing of the Bankruptcy Act, and enlarging the scope of foreign direct investment.
- Stalled projects: All viable stalled projects must be brought to completion.
- Financial bottlenecks: It needs to be cleared. The banking system is under stress. The non-performing loans of the system have risen and are rising. This has squeezed the profitability of banks with some showing loss.
- Long-term lending: Long term lending institutions on the lines of erstwhile ICICI and IDBI are required to be revived as they can assist in dissemination of capital required for investment purposes.
Question: Discuss the prospects for Indian Economy in making India as a regional power in Asian affairs.
4. India must reaffirm its Paris Pledge (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the US’s move on climate change and its possible implications for the world. (GS paper II)
- USA is constantly passing the executive and legislation actions impacting the fight towards climate change in the name of spurring economic growth and fixating energy security.
- It can have far reaching impacts on whatever consensus has been made against climate change and thereby bringing a virtual deadlock for climate change negotiations occurred so far.
USA’s recent policy decisions
- S. President has recently signed an executive order, purportedly promoting U.S. energy independence and economic growth, but with potential collateral damage to global efforts to limit climate change.
- It had also called for the review of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the American electricity sector (it was a key element in US plans to meet America’s climate pledge under the Paris Agreement)
- These are the certain actions among various others which can have an implication towards climate change action.
Implications of the decision
- The action of US will undoubtedly have implications for the trajectory of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. These orders set back climate mitigation efforts in the U.S.
- But the deeper significance of the order rests in the political signal it sends to the world, and the reactions it may elicit. The Paris Agreement is, at the core, a confidence game. Each country is required to submit a national ‘pledge’ to limit emissions growth, which is to be reviewed internationally, and updated and enhanced every five years. The intent is to generate a virtuous cycle of enhanced actions over time, as countries gain confidence in each other’s commitment to climate action.
- Global confidence punctured, other countries may follow the U.S. lead and dilute their national actions too.
- This is not the first time the U.S. has pulled the rug out from under the global community. In the mid-1990s, it notably walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to take the lead
Implications for India
- On the face of it, it would be tempting to conclude that India could use the U.S. retreat to stage one of its own, go slow on its own obligations, and adopt an approach of gentle neglect towards the Paris Agreement.
- However, India’s interests are best served by strengthening the Paris Agreement, using its mechanisms to hold to account the developed world, and maintaining its own pledges.
- India has a lot to gain from a virtuous cycle because it is extremely vulnerable to climate impacts. While the ability of the Paris Agreement to slow warming may be more modest than is ideal, it will certainly have more effect than no agreement at all.
- Moreover, India has little to gain from going slow on implementing its own pledge. India’s approach is based on accelerating a transition to renewable energy, which would bring gains in terms of energy security and air pollution. But in doing so, India importantly retains the right to meet its energy access needs and energy for development through fossil fuel use, particularly coal, if needed.
Why Paris Agreement should not be cancelled?
- If Paris agreement failed, then there will almost certainly be a push to re-negotiate a new agreement when political conditions in the U.S. change. At that time, developed country emissions will be lower, India’s emissions will likely be rising faster than any other country, and it will have considerably more pressure to take on more ambitious pledges that could, in fact, risk constraining its energy choices
- India is emerging as a strike player in global climate politics. As a large emerging country, India has enormous leverage as a deciding factor in the future of the Paris Agreement. It should insist that Western countries maintain their obligations, including financial.
Question: How India should respond in Climate change forums in the light of unilateralism asserted by the USA? Discuss.
5.Digital push must be disability inclusive (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of vulnerable conditions of disable people and the need of digitally inclusive environment for their overall development. (GS paper II)
- Around 8-10% of India’s population lives with disabilities, Disability is highly ignored social issue in our Indian society, even after Independence; there has been minimal change in the fortunes of India’s disabled population.
- It becomes our collective responsibility to ensure inclusive development that engages all stakeholders through a pragmatic and judicious combination of interventions with effective technology to ensure truly inclusive and sustainable development for disable population.
What are disabled?
- According to WHO, Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
- Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
- Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.
India’s action towards disability : Accessible India Campaign, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, the Smart Cities Mission and the Digital India campaign to achieve the combined goal of creating an inclusive society will allow for a better quality of life for all citizens, including persons with disabilities.
Impact of ICT in lives of disabled
- Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential to significantly impact the lives of these groups, facilitating access of services available to them and allowing them to handle a wide range of activities independently, enhancing their social, cultural, political and economic participation.
Accessibility as a key to empowerment
- Poor accessibility due to lack of focussed information and political will has led to social exclusion of people with disabilities, exacerbating the negative impact of the existing digital divide.
- Accessibility forms the common thread weaving together the Accessible India Campaign, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, the Smart Cities Mission and the Digital India campaign to achieve the combined goal of creating an inclusive society that will allow for a better quality of life for all citizens, including persons with disabilities.
- Beyond the social implications, accessibility makes for business and economic sense too. If principles of Universal Design are incorporated at the design stage, cost implications are negligible.
ACCESSIBLE INDIA CAMPAIGN (SUGAMYA BHARAT ABHIYAN)
A nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility that will enable persons with disabilities to gain access for equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society. The campaign targets at enhancing the accessibility of built environment, transport system and Information & communication eco-System.
- Government launches ‘Inclusiveness and Accessibility Index’ as part of ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan’ for Persons with disabilities on 3rd December (International Day of Persons with Disabilities). The ‘Inclusiveness and Accessibility Index’ helps the industries and corporate to participate in the Accessible India Campaign (AIC) by voluntarily evaluating their readiness for making the workplace accessible for Persons with Disabilities.
SMART CITY MISSION
Smart Cities Mission, the flagship programme launched by Government of India in 2015, embarks upon creating a sustainable and an inclusive development through the provision of core infrastructure and a decent quality of life for 100 selected cities. It also mentions provision for development of disable friendly environment.
- The mission states the fulfillment of basic needs through following elements:
- Adequate and clean water supply,
- Assured electricity supply,
- Sanitation facilities, including solid waste management,
- Efficient urban mobility and public transport,
- Affordable housing, especially for the poor,
- Robust IT connectivity and digitalization,
- Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
- Sustainable environment,
- Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
- Health and education.
- However, the mission with its notion of inclusiveness fails to integrate disability as a key issue in the smart city proposal. The mention of disability under the mission statement and guidelines only lie on the part of citizen consultation which has failed to ensure the component of universal accessibility in every proposal.
- The key challenges under the Smart Cities Mission for disability sector can be highlighted as follows:
- Lack of awareness regarding e-accessibility for persons with disabilities by the stakeholders.
- Lack of data or guiding principles on persons with disabilities.
- Poor project execution leading to the failure to incorporate features for persons with disabilities.
- Smart city proposals that lack accessibility features from the beginning of the mission.
- No benchmarks for accessibility features like other services.
RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016
- The parliament has passed The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016″. The Bill will replace the existing Persons with Disability Act (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) 1995, which was enacted 21 years back.
- The Bill is being brought to comply with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India became a signatory in 2007.
- The Act has categorized Persons with Disabilities into three categories:
- Person with disability- is defined as “a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others”.
- Person with benchmark disability- means “a person with not less than 40% of a specified disability, where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms,
- Person with disability having high support needs
Salient features of the Act:
- Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
- Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
- District level committees will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs.
- Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
- Broad-based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy-making bodies at the Central and State level.
- Office of Chief Commissioner and those of the State Commissioners of Persons with Disabilities has been strengthened.
- The Act says that any person who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with a disability in any place within public view” is punishable with imprisonment.
- India is emerging economy, exclusion of persons with disabilities from education, employment and participation on account of a hostile infrastructure and inaccessible technology has huge economic implications. So there is need to address the issue diligently.
- Disability is not an isolated issue. It is cross-cutting and can impact everyone irrespective of caste, gender, age and nationality. Thus ensuring a disability sensitive development across the sectors is very important.
- There have been so much technological developments and innovations to help visually impaired or autistic children and address many types of disabilities to enable them live independently and empower them to live with dignity. But India is still highly unaffordable, so need to empower our procurement policy.
- As India is moving towards cashless digital economy, it becomes imperative to ensure accessibility for inclusion. The need is for representation of persons with disabilities in all ministries and key missions, commissions and committees to advise and ensure inclusion in all policies, programmes and developments.
Question: Discuss the role of ICT and accessibility campaign in making lives of disabled more meaningful. How govt. should leverage Smart city mission for the betterment of disables.