1.How to Tame our forest fires (THE HINDU)
2.No Economy for Women (The Hindu)
3.Building Grass-Roots Student Innovators (Livemint)
1.How to Tame our forest fires (THE HINDU)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the positive side of forest fires and its role in ecology. (GS paper III)
- Every year at the advent of summers, forest fires becomes the topic of discussions among the ecologists and people dependent or concerned about forests.
- But, are really forest fires that bad as they have been portrayed?
- Rather they can be beneficial if seen under a different lens.
Why Indian Forest are prone to forest fires?
- Indian forest are inherently vulnerable to forest fires as the bulk of forest fires in India occurs in the tropical dry forests of our country which is a collective category covering scrub, savannah grassland, dry and moist-deciduous forests. Roughly 70% of forests in India are composed of these types.
- Leaving apart some other patches, majority of forest occur in: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha.
- Forest administration still suffers from a colonial line of thinking which intents on keeping forestry systems free from fire in order to prevent the loss of fuel supply as well as valued raw material.
- The forest department, on the other hand, has historically prevented fire in order to protect timber stocks.
Are Forest fires really bad?
- Only in the last century has fire in the forest been considered “bad.”
- Though fire is often destructive it is also a catalyst for welcomed and necessary change. Fire changes the composition and density of the forest creating openings for more fire resistant trees and stimulating regeneration.
- Fire also creates early plant successional stages that benefit many species of wildlife.
Some other benefits of forest fires
- Reduce fuel accumulations – Periodic burning reduces the annual fuel accumulation in forests and grasslands reducing fire intensity and creating an ecosystem less susceptible to catastrophic wildfire.
- Improve wildlife habitat – Periodic burning improves habitat for wildlife by modifying cover, and food quality and volume.
- Increase biodiversity – Periodic burning induces environmental changes that result in plant and animal communities that are adapted to fire.
- Control encroachment – Periodic burning also helps control invasive specie encroachments onto old fields
Who start these fires
- Apart from natural factors,forest dwellers set fire in forests to clear walking paths, to collect non-timber forest products like gooseberry and mahua flowers, and to encourage the fresh growth of grass for their livestock, and sometimes as a part of ritual practice.
- Agriculturists set fire to hill forests so that the fertilising ash from fire washes down to their fields with the monsoon rains. For the forest dweller, therefore, fires have cultural and livelihood significance.
Flaws in Indian policy
- Indian policy is guided by strict implementation of a no-fire forest policy. This ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of fire protection is perhaps incompatible with the ecology of India’s tropical dry forests.
- Recent fires in Bandipur Tiger Reserve were immensely difficult to control because of ample fuel supplied by the alien invasive species Lantana camara.
- A strict no-fire policy was probably responsible for the spread of Lantana in the first place as frequent, low-intensity forest fires possibly prevented the proliferation of Lantana in the past.
- Thus, frequent, small forest fires are in fact beneficial to prevent future catastrophic fires
- Forest Fires are not entirely negative as being understood in modern resource driven society. Instead forest managers should perhaps expand their world view and be more inclusive to information from ecological and local knowledge systems that view fires as being both rejuvenating and revitalising.
- Moreover, many tree species distinct to dry forests have co-evolved with fires and have developed fire-resistance features like thick, spongy bark, and can re-sprout from rootstock in response to fire.
- Thus, India should rethink its blanket ‘no forest fire’ policy and should engross the ecological experts to build on best practices including regulated fires as practiced in USA to conserve forests.
2.No Economy for Women (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the status of labour force participation rate among women and possible avenues to open it up.(GS paper and II and III)
- Gender parity issues also involves labour force participation rate(LFPR) as the key measure to evaluate the equality of women with their counterparts.
- According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, empowering women to participate in India’s economy on an equal basis with men would add $3 trillion to the nation’s economy by 2025.
- However, to tap this hidden potential huge systemic manipulations are needed.
- According to a recent report by International Labour Organisation (ILO), India and Pakistan have the lowest rates of women’s labour force participation in Asia, in sharp contrast to Nepal, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that have the highest.
- The National Sample Survey found that while in 1999-2000, 25.9% of all women worked, by 2011-12 this proportion had dropped to 21.9%. This is in stark contrast to worldwide trends.
- On optimistic lines it could be concluded that with rising incomes, women have the opportunity to escape harsh labour in farms and on construction sites, and focus on their families.
- But on more practical considerations such a situation can be attributed to the declining farm sizes, rising mechanisation, and consequently decreasing labour demands in agriculture and hence women are being forced out of the workforce.
Avenues determining LFPR
- A recent study by India Human Development Survey (IHDS) have shown that women seek forward to job creation schemes such as MGNREGA and have gladly taken up job opportunities. Hence, more such job creating plans should be put forward. Notably, among MGNREGA workers in 2011-12, a whopping 45% were not in wage labour before the scheme was initiated.
- According to IHDS, even basic infrastructure such as roads can lead to remarkable improvement in employment for women as well as men. Construction of concrete roads leads to improved transportation services such as buses, which, in turn, could facilitate movement of the rural workforce, especially women, into non-agricultural work in neighbouring villages and towns.
- Unlike women in west, Indian women are more guided by family considerations and tend to cater towards family first, hence rigid work environment also leads to dropout of women from work. Creation of family-friendly work institutions can significantly improve women’s access to white-collar jobs in the formal sector.
- Over the past two decades demands have grown. With rising global competition, Indian firms have chosen to follow the American model with demands for extended work hours as well as attendance on Saturdays and Sundays. This creates a time bind for both men and women where someone must give. Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision study have found that young workers in India worked 52 hours per week as against, say, 42 hours by their counterparts in Canada. Long working hours coupled with inflexible work environment creates sticky trade offs between work and home care where often women have to suffer.
- Maternity Benefit bill which provides for 26 weeks of paid leave instead of present 12 weeks is a good step to provide ambient work conditions to increase LFPR .
- Government should come out with more such noble innovations to recognise the potential of women labour contribution.
- Moreover, in view of shrinking farm work, we need to create opportunities for women to move from agricultural to non-agricultural manual work.
- Behavioural approach is must to foster a work environment that allows more women, especially urban and educated women, to take up salaried jobs.
- Even to reap the benefits of Demographic dividend that India is facing currently, we need to create an ecosystem to tap women contribution. Initiatives such as “Step it up” are good in this direction.
3.Building Grass-Roots Student Innovators (Livemint)
Synoptic line: it throws light on how a thinking platform can nurture creativity and “out of box” thinking.(GSII)
- Educational curriculum in India is dominated by rote learning and theoretical cramming, as a result open ended thinking and practical problem solving is ignored.
- Today’s Children are tomorrow’s workers and has to drive the technological revolution coupled with artificial intelligence, data analytics and sophisticated robotics.
- In this scenario Government is initiating several initiatives such as Atal innovation Mission and Atal Tinkering labs to promote viable and more practical thinking.
ATAL INNOVATION MISSION (AIM)
- Atal innovation mission is step towards the promotion of innovative business ideas by young talent of the country.
- Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
- The main mission of AIMs is to provide complete support to the start-ups by providing the facility of incubation centres. Under this mission financial help will be given to establish new incubation centres and improve and enhance the existing incubation centres.
Three major schemes under Atal Innovation Mission:
- Establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools- Young children will get a chance to work with tools and equipment to understand the concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
- Establishing New Atal Incubation Centers- 100 new incubation centers will be established in subject specific areas such as manufacturing, transport, energy, health, education, agriculture, water and sanitation, etc.
- Scaling-Up Established Incubation Centers
Atal Tinkering labs(ATL)
- ATLs are the beginning of an experiment to provide a failure-friendly space to school students to identify physical problems, experiment with possible solutions, and potentially come up with viable solutions.
- Present world is driven by an amalgamation of emerging technologies like data volumes, computational power, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, design, advanced robotics and cyber-physical systems.
- The ATL programme, relies on the premise that innovators are not born, they can be created from the ground up, by following a systemic approach of design thinking, which is about defining the problem you want to solve, ideating, brainstorming, creating prototypes, testing solutions and re-vectoring based on user feedback.
- Students in ATLs will be trained to use rapid prototyping, engineering equipment and encouraged to identify the local problems of their community and come up with solutions.
- ATLs will also engage students from the community, thereby spreading the mission of innovation to a larger population, with adequate safety measures in place. The goal is to create ATLs as open-ended innovation workspaces where students can go beyond the school curriculum and pre-defined science experiments.
- With the countries now entering the fourth generation of industrial revolution, more popularly called the generation of Industry 4.0., where the physical world meets digital worlds, it will be a step in the long journey for India to metamorphose from a developing nation to a developed nation, and to contribute heavily to the fourth industrial revolution.
- In the spirit of learning from experiments, AIM looks forward to learning from our pilot and including the lessons to design the next phase of the programme, to take it to every district in India. ATL is a first step in the long journey for India to metamorphose from a developing nation to a developed nation, and to contribute heavily to the fourth industrial revolution.
- Commonwealth card is being floated as a mechanism to increase trade among member countries.
- It is supposed to be a s a travel document issued to business travellers who are citizens of Commonwealth economies.
- Commonwealth card will allow business travellers pre-cleared, facilitated short-term entry to participating member economies.
- It removes the need to individually apply for visas or entry permits, saving valuable time, and allows multiple entries into participating economies during a specified time period. Card holders will also benefit from faster immigration processing on arrival.
- Commonwealth card is inspired from APEC business card which was started in 1997 and data indicates that the growth rate has continued to accelerate steadily in the APEC countries.
· Commonwealth is a free association of (52 states)sovereign states comprising the United Kingdom and a number of its former dependencies who have chosen to maintain ties of friendship and practical cooperation.
· Commonwealth differs from other international bodies. It has no formal constitution or bylaws. The members have no legal or formal obligation to one another; they are held together by shared traditions, institutions, and experiences as well as by economic self-interest.
· Commonwealth day is celebrated on March 13 and theme for 2017 Commonwealth stands to be “Peace building”
Implications for India
- India was not being able to leverage the ties with Britain due to failing to secure the INDIA- EU FTA. But under the proposed scheme India may leverage the benefits related to trade facilitation.
- Moreover, Britain too wants to make its presence felt in post Brexit scenario hence it can be a fruitful instance for increased trade and investment.
- India will become more attractive to majority of participating countries as along with several business reforms (such as SWIFT, ICEGATE) business will be hassle free.
- However there will be certain cautions as well because countries such as Singapore and Malaysia are also part of Commonwealth and a common entry card will facilitate trade in those countries also. Due to which India may face a fierce competition.