Category: Current Developments

Why Political Science & IR is the best optional for UPSC?

The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Many civil services aspirants reached out to me to share my experience about taking Political Science and International Relations as the optional for my UPSC attempts. I gave the mains examination thrice with Political Science and International Relations as optional and qualified twice for the interview with this optional. I believe that Political Science and International Relations is one of the best optional subjects for anyone appearing for Civil Services Examination and this is my personal experience. So, I am not forcing anyone to take this optional and it absolutely depend on the person’s own interest and ideas. In this blog post, I will be talking about the pros and cons of taking Political Science and International Relations:

PROS:

  • It helps you to prepare for the General Studies paper also as the syllabus of these optional overlaps with General Studies Paper I, II, and IV
  • Taking this optional means that you have to read not only Modern history, World history, Indian Politics but also International Relations
  • The Political Theory part of this optional make you think about ethical and philosophical issues which are helpful in Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude paper and also helpful in answer writing
  • Reading Political Science & IR also helps you to understand the context of things happening in the country and also around the world, it also helps you to interlink concepts and understand things in a better manner
  • The best advantage of taking Political Science & IR is that it also helps you during interview preparation

CONS:

  • This optional is quite vast and you need to read a lot to have a solid grip on this paper
  • If you are not a regular reader of the newspapers, you will find it difficult to prepare for this optional paper
  • For some people, the Political theory part is boring which makes you difficult to ace in the first paper.

Please also read the posts below where I list the important books, I read on Modern India, Indian Government & Politics and Comparative Politics & International Relations:

Book Review of The Capital

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”.

Plutarch
Migrants returning to their home walking hundreds of km due to lock down declared by the government corona virus crisis.

The present migrant crisis in India is a stark reminder of the economic inequities existing in our society. When rich and middle-class people are spending their time in the comfort of their homes doing various activities, poor and marginalized migrants are walking for a hundred thousand kilometers to reach their homes. Some also died on the way because of hunger and exhaustion. In this context, I thought to write a short review of the book, “The Capital” by Thomas Piketty, and how income inequalities are going to hurt us in the longer-term unless some concrete steps are not taken by the State and its people.

I never read the whole book but read it as much as to give a paper presentation on this book in the final year of my public policy course. Since then I was thinking to write a short take on this book. Whatever critics say, this book has brought the issue of income inequality at the forefront. Income inequality is not only an issue based on some statistics but also it’s a moral issue that will always pinch the conscience of the people living on this earth. This book became quite popular since it got published. The author of the book has also been hailed as “the Modern Marx” by “The Economist” magazine. He is a French economist who also taught at MIT for two years. His major work is a compilation of historical data about economic inequality. He also criticized the discipline of economics.

To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.

Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century

The core concern of the book is to put the issue of inequality in its broader historical context. The author’s main argument is that in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. He also adds that the concentration of wealth at one level is incompatible to democracy and social justice.

The history of the distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms.

Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century

He rejects the Simon Kuznets hypothesis which says that though societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialization, inequality reduces as they achieve maturity. However, the author does not think so. According to him, demography, low taxation and weak labor organizations will fundamentally lead to greater inequality.

The author feels that unless we do something, ‘free-market economy’ will become a ‘patrimonial system’ with an entrenched hereditary upper class and the rest of the population. He is highly critical of high compensation paid to senior executives of MNCs which is responsible for extreme inequality especially after the financial crisis in 2008. To save the world from this ‘doomsday scenario’, the author proposes various measures namely a global tax on inherited wealth, changes in income taxes, use of inflation to redistribute wealth downwards and also enforced transparency of banks.

His paper -,“Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj”? co-authored with Lucas Chancel argues that income inequality was highest in India in 2014 since the creation of Indian Income -tax in 1922. They concluded that the top 1 percent earners in 2014 earned 22% of India’s national income. Though there are various counter- arguments to it. Jagdish Bhagwati & Arvind Pangariya refuted this argument in their book, ‘Why growth matters’. Swaminath Aiyar also disapproved of his idea of stark inequality in India in one of his articles on the grounds of statistics and his failure to distinguish between different kinds of inequality.

Thomas Piketty’s hypothesis has been severely criticized by various economists. According to them, his approach to economics is anti-mathematical. As per the paper, “Income Inequality, Catastrophe Predictions, Thomas Piketty, How income and economic unit are defined can create significant differences in the data produced and in the interpretation of the data? For instance, Stephen Rose and Thomas Piketty reached different conclusions about the status of the middle class based on the definition of income and economic unit. Generally, there is no correlation between increasing income inequality and general welfare. His use of tax records to approximate income is convenient and allows easy comparison across different countries and at different times and he has also not considered the social security payments as part of his data.

Though income inequality is a complicated issue, Piketty’s biggest contribution is to elevate the income inequality issue to the forefront of both public and scholarly attention. Whatever is the reason behind stark inequality existing in society, the issue of inequality will always be debated as a moral issue.


How COVID-19 is affecting the higher-ed students in India: Need for corrective action

COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all sections of society. However, the impact on higher-ed students is the least discussed so far. Unlike schools, where students come from nearby localities, university students come from afar. They travel across their districts, their states, and the country to realize their dreams. Thus you will find the greatest amount of diversity in these students of higher-ed institutions – rural and urban, poor, middle-class and rich, from different religions, castes, and backgrounds. During this crisis and lockdown, when classes can not be conducted on the university premises, institutions are adopting digital tools for delivering lectures to students now back in their homes.

Many instructors and universities have leveraged ICT and tools like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft teams to impart live classes to the students. Universities have already started conducting exams and taking assignment submissions online. This is a great way to make education more accessible during these tough times. However, this access is not going to be uniform across all the students belonging to different sections of society.

The poor students are going to be affected the most during this period. Their access to appropriate devices like laptops and computers is going to be very difficult during this period. According to the India Internet 2019 Report, 99% of users in the country access the internet through mobiles, not laptops or computers. Laptops and desktops usage is only 2% and 1% respectively in rural areas and 6% and 4% respectively in urban areas of the country. Further, internet penetration is still very poor and stands at a mere 27% in rural India. Under the Bharat Net program of the Government of India, more than 40% of the villages are yet to be connected to the internet grid.

Thus, lack of access to the internet and proper devices is going to negatively impact students in leveraging online platforms. Many such students will not be able to attend online classes and participate in assignments and exams that are conducted online. In such a scenario, the rural students are in a disadvantageous position and the urban and rural poor students will be highly disadvantaged.

Recognizing this challenging situation during COVID-19, many universities such as MIT and Harvard have announced that they will either provide every student with a Pass or A/A- grades during this semester. Steps like this ensure fairness and empathize with students facing difficulties due to their prevailing circumstances.

In India, however, no debate or discussion is going on this pressing matter yet. It is an important issue affecting the future of the students who are the future of the country. UGC and deemed universities must provide suitable guidelines to ensure students are promoted to the next level fairly. It is a tough situation concerning the poor and the marginalized students and it must be dealt with utmost empathy. Keeping in mind the “digital divide” all further exams and assignments during the rest of the semester must be made voluntary. All students must be promoted to the next level. Alternatively, institutions can use the tests conducted so far as the basis for final assessments in a fair manner.

Unless such corrective measures are taken urgently, COVID-19 and the after-effects are going to deepen the divide across the poor and the rich students, rural and urban students for generations to come.

This blog is authored by Chaitanya Prakash Namburi. The author has a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and currently works for Google India. All views expressed are personal.

Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for India

This is the 4th day of the lock down. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared 21 days lock down amidst corona virus pandemic all over the country starting from March 24th. The situation is quite grim. People are panic buying and many migrant workers are stranded in different parts of the country due to the unprecedented shutdown of transportation mediums

When I sat on my desk to write this blog, India already had more than 900 cases. I have no idea, by the time, I finish this blog, how many corona virus cases will be detected in India. As per one article, India can see 30,000 Covid-19 deaths by May 2020 and there will not be any hospital beds left by June 2020.

Health has never been a priority for a diverse, heterogeneous and poor country like India. It can be ascertained with the fact that the first National Health Policy for India came in the year 1983 after 35 years of the existence of the Indian republic. Till now, we have only three National Health Policies in place released in the year 1983, 2002 and 2017.

India still spends less than 2 % of GDP on health when it has 18% of the world’s population. Not only the country gave health a low priority but also other stakeholders in terms of National political parties relegated the health as a non-issue when it comes to policy priorities for the development of the country.

India has a very low HDI index and high HDI rankings over the years. India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index rankings. Health(Life-expectancy at Birth) is one of the three dimensions to decide HDI rankings.Not only this HDI has stagnated in recent years despite India being the fastest growing economy of the world.

The primary health care infrastructure of the country is in shambles due to lack of financing and acute shortage of medical personnel. 65% of health expenditure is out of pocket and some 57 million people are sent to poverty every year due to this expenditure. India has a severe shortage of trained medical professionals. As per the Economic Survey 2019-20, the doctor-population ratio is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. The largest number of malnutrition children are found in India.

The substandard performance of India’s healthcare system is out in the public amidst the corona virus outbreak. However, this crisis is an opportunity for India to make India’s healthcare system best in the world. Systematic overhauling of health infrastructure is the need of the hour. Heath as an issue needs to be prioritized. It needs to become a priority politically, economically and socially.

Politically, ‘right to health’ needs to be recognized as the fundamental right through an act of parliament. Some of India states have better healthcare indicators. Heath is a state subject under the Constitution of India. Therefore, best practices from these states need to be replicated across India. Panchayati Raj Institutions can play a major role in providing leadership to deal with any health crisis.

Economically, health expenditure to India’s GDP should reflect the proportion of the population living in India. The current expenditure is inadequate. The government of India must increase its expenditure at least 5 % of its GDP from this year itself. Other measures like public-private partnership, increasing health insurance penetration etc should go on simultaneously.

Socially, awareness towards cleanliness,sanitation, and hygiene needs to increase in our country. Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness should be declared as ‘issue of national importance’. People should also vote for those representatives who give importance to the issues of education, health, employment, etc.

This is high time to realize the value of health as we can see, how corona virus outbreak has affected every aspect of human lives. Health is one of the most important ingredients in ‘human development approach’ Healthy human beings can only bring overall development and growth in the world.

This corona virus pandemic is an opportunity for India to create a world- class health infrastructure, strengthen public institutions, adopt best practices from other countries, increase public health expenditure by 5 % of its GDP, and declare “right to health” as a fundamental right for the people of India.

This blog has been republished by Social Development for Communities Foundation. Please find the link here.

Health Challenges for the Modi 2.0

“Will the ‘New Government’ be able to achieve the goal of “Health for All”?

The incumbent government led by Narendra Modi got a huge mandate for his second consecutive term in the recent Lok Sabha elections 2019. The government does not have any coalition compulsions and can take any complex decisions. The compositions of the Council of Ministers (COM) and the allocations of the portfolio also reflect the focus of the government on talent and good governance. The huge mandate to the incumbents also creates tremendous expectations.  Health will be a topmost priority of the government, said Dr. Harshvardhan, Union Health Minister in his first official statement. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned in his victory speech that this victory is for the sick who wait for years to save money to seek treatment and covered under Ayushman Bharat. In fact, Health is going to dominate the discourse of public policy in the country as it is one of the most important components in Human Capital approach. If India has to take advantage of its huge ‘demographic dividend’, it has to bring about structural transformation in the health sector to achieve the goal of Health for All”.

During the elections, two narratives were going on with respect to achieving the goal of universal healthcare. One narrative was to make the ‘right to healthcare’ as a legal and justiciable right proposed by Indian National Congress (INC) in its manifesto and supported by various civil society sections of the society. Another narrative was created by the incumbent government led by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to achieve the goal of universal health coverage through the route of insurance schemes like Ayushman Bharat. The winning of the incumbent government led by the Narendra Modi government shows that the goal of achieving universal healthcare will be led through the insurance-based model.  However, many health experts have criticized the insurance-based model. The argument here is that when the proper infrastructure related to healthcare facilities and personnel will not be available, how can the Auyushman Bharat scheme be able to provide quality services. The role of the private sector in the scheme is also criticized on the ground of promoting the role of the private sector with respect to providing basic services like health which is indispensable for the survival of poor people

In the last five years, the Narendra Modi government has launched two important schemes namely Swachh Bharat Mission and National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) also known as Ayushman Bharat to bring about substantive changes in the health sector.  Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to make India ‘open defecation free’ by 2nd October 2019 which in turn will help in preventive healthcare of the country. The government also launched Ayushman Bharat on Sept 23, 2018, as the world’s largest publicly-funded health insurance scheme as the main approach to achieve universal health coverage in the country. It aims to provide an Rs 5-lakh medical insurance cover to 50-crore low-income citizens. Annually, Rs 10,000 crore is the budget estimate of the scheme being touted as the biggest universal medical care program in the world. The scheme also aims to establish 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness centers to upgrade the primary healthcare infrastructure of the country. This scheme is going to solve the problem of out-of-pocket expenditure of the people. In fact, as per one report,   65 % of health expenditure is out of pocket and some 57 million people are sent to poverty every year due to this expenditure   The launching of National Health Policy 2017 (NHP 2017) was also a major milestone of the government as this health policy was launched after 15 years since the last policy launched. NHP 2017 also aims at increasing the public health expenditure as 2.5% of the GDP gradually.


Challenges for the New government to achieve Universal Health

As health is one of the most important priorities, the government of India has to face many challenges in the coming five years to achieve the goals set in the National Health Policy 2017. Some of the challenges are mentioned below:

  • The most important challenge is to change the perception of the health sector. The investment in health sector needs to be seen in a positive manner as it will play an important role in building a healthy population. This healthy population will be contributing to the overall development of the country as a working population. The health expenditure as a percentage of GDP is less than 2%.
  • As per the National Family Health Survey-4 2015-16, less than 10% of children receive adequate nutrition in the country. The lack of proper micro and macro nutrients to children is reflected in the high incidences of malnutrition and under nutrition in the country. As per the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) of 2018, India accounts for 23.8% of the global burden of malnourished and 30% of stunted children under 5.  
  • India has a severe shortage of medical professionals, especially in rural areas. India has only 0.62 doctors per 1000 population as opposed to the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 1 doctor per 1000 population. 74% of all sanctioned specialist doctor positions are lying vacant in community health centers across the country, including surgeons, gynecologists, physicians and pediatricians as per the Rural Health Statistics 2018.
  • There is also a need for institutional and regulatory reforms in the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors as there is no exclusive ministry governing both the sectors. The pharma sector is partly governed by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers as well as Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Medical Devices are still governed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Though the government has implemented Medical Device Rules 2017, there is still a needing to enact a separate law for effective governance of medical devices industries.
  • There is also a lot of policy anomalies in terms of promotion of generic drugs, price control policies on drugs and medical devices, issues related to fixed drugs combinations (FDC), shortage of medical professionals and treatment of Ayush doctors with respect to the medical fraternity, etc.
  • The second component of Ayushman Bharat (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) in terms of opening 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. This will be giving the real boost to primary healthcare infrastructure which needs to be strengthened to make the goal of “Health for All” a reality.
  • The government has also kept its momentum on making the country open defecation free to emphasize the role of preventive healthcare in the overall improvement of health indicators.

These challenges mentioned above should guide the policy actions of the government in the health sector. The government got a huge mandate to bring about change in the lives of the people. This term of the government will be very significant as India is at the cusp of change due to the high youth population, technological advancements, and most importantly, the country will be celebrating its 75 year of its existence in the year 2022. Not only this, the Government of India is obligated to achieve Goal 3(Good Health and wellbeing for all at all ages) of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). On the face of it, the government of India has a great window of opportunity to bring about policy changes with respect to the health sector to achieve the goal of “Health for All”.

Lets’s come together to achieve the goal of “Health for All”

WHY GROWTH MATTERS

38412_Why-Growth-Matters-How-Economic-Growth-in-India-Reduced-Poverty-and-the-Lessons-for-Other-Developing-Countries_1

The book starts with “Tryst with Destiny speech” given by the first Prime Minister of India J. L. Nehru from the ramparts of the red fort in August 1947 when India started a new journey towards nation-building and fulfilling the aspirations of teeming millions. The author by mentioning this wants to reinforce the idea that the ‘goal of poverty’ elimination had always been the part of India’s national strategy.  The whole book gives a feel of strategy document divided into three parts: first part is about debunking various myths related to economic growth and development of India, second part talks about the Track I reform that produce growth and directly impact on poverty and third part discusses the most important reforms in the areas of health care, education and guaranteed employment under the Track II reforms.

The authors of the book: Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya are the professor of economics at Columbia University. In fact, Panagariya is a protégé of Jagdish Bhagwati and he was appointed as the first Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog by the present BJP government. The authors of the book firmly believe in the ideas of globalization, free trade, and especially full-fledged reforms.

Under the first part of the book, the author has tried to debunk various myths- about early development strategy, regarding the inclusion of health and education, focus on redistribution to reduce poverty as compared to growth to emphasize the point that the early development strategy also focussed on these goals. The authors also challenged the myths about the reforms launched since 1991 and their impact on poverty reduction, farmers suicides, development of socially disadvantaged groups, the controversies surrounding poverty lines and most vociferously the impact of trade and globalization on poor.

They have also debunked the myth about increasing inequality due to reforms launched in the country since 1991. The authors disprove the “Kerala Model of Development” saying that it had a historical advantage in terms of literacy, health infrastructure, trade linkages and the dominance of the private sector. In fact, the author also mentions the account of Robin Jeffrey (1992) who highlighted the key factors- matrilineal tradition, the role of various rulers, caste and religion-based groups and trade linkages with various countries which played an important role in growth and development of Kerala. The author has lauded the “Gujarat Model of Development” and quashed the myth that despite high growth, Gujarat has performed poorly in health and education.

The Part II of the book talks about the Track I reform in the areas of labor laws, Land acquisition, Infrastructure, Higher Education & Agricultural Market reforms which are aimed accelerating and sustaining growth. In fact, the recent Economic Surveys released by the Government of India also discussed these critical issues which act as an impediment in the growth process. The current NDA government has launched various labor reforms like allowing fixed-term employment in all sectors, removing the arbitrary inspection system, providing EPF number portability, six-months maternity leaves to increase the female labor force participation rate, amending the apprentice law and child labor law etc. They also focused on infrastructure development by launching ‘Bharatmala Project’, ‘Sagarmala Project’, UDAN scheme, rural electrification, and road development. Launching of e-NAM(National Agriculture Market) and various other agricultural reforms focussed on doubling the farmers’ income. It has proposed the Higher Education Commission of India bill 2018 to abolish the UGC to provide more freedom and autonomy to various universities of India to reform the higher education system in India. However, according to me,  there is still a long way to go in the areas of labor reforms and land acquisition act which are still archaic and create hurdles in the ease of doing business in India.

Track II reforms discussed in Part III of the book are focussed on effective and inclusive redistribution process through providing guaranteeing employment, adult nutrition, and food security, reforming health care and universalizing elementary education. However, the authors’ main idea is that “growth will act as an instrument for poverty alleviation”. It will help in creating substantial economic resources to fund the redistribution goals. As per the author’s reasoning, “Track II reforms can stand only on the shoulders of Track I reforms; without the latter, the former cannot be financed. The whole viewpoint of authors of the book can be seen in terms of “trickle-down theory” which is labeled as “pull-up growth” strategy in the book.  The authors completely disagree with the model of redistribution proposed by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze because they think that it cannot be the answer to removing poverty in countries of India, Brazil, and China which has a huge population to cater. Under the Track II reforms, the author discussed the design of the redistribution programmes in terms of cash or kind transfers targeted or universal, public versus private provision, conditional versus unconditional transfers and recommends the strategy of policy mix consisting of targeted unconditional cash transfers for most needs, vouchers for elementary education and insurance for major illnesses with government covering the premiums.  In fact, the present government also implemented the idea of Direct Cash Transfers (DBT) through the help of “JAM (Jan-Dhan Aadhar Mobile) trinity” for cooking gas subsidy transfers, scholarship reimbursement etc. However, targeting any cash transfers or kind transfers is a complex task in India because of lack of identification mechanism where Aadhar can play a major role.

This book came into limelight after the whole Sen-Bhagwati debate started around 2013-2014. At the same time, Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics and recipient of Bharat Ratna and Jean Dreze book, “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions”. also published. Amartya Sen has given the ‘idea of capability-based approach’ to human development and he argues that ‘redistribution as a strategy’ will help in the elimination of poverty. In fact, he proposes the participatory growth and broad-based development model where rights are given to the people and there is freedom and agency for the people to bring about development for them. That is why Amartya Sen praises the “Kerala Experience of development” where all the social indicators are equal to the developed countries of the world. They also emphasize and compare India’s growth story to Bangladesh which has improved the social indicators in less time duration than India. Women have played an important role in improving the social indicators of Bangladesh because of the increasing employment of women in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors like apparel, textiles etc. It also indicates that providing agency to women creates a conducive climate for improving all the social indicators not only for the present generations but also future generations.

In fact, Bhagwati and Panagariya have not even discussed the gender issues in their book which is the biggest criticism of their whole strategy of growth. India being a patriarchal society has a very low labor force participation rate which needs to be improved to make the growth more inclusive and broad-based. Another criticism of the whole strategy proposed in the book is that there should not be any dependence of Track II reforms on Track I reforms as the author consistently pitched that Track II reforms will be implemented with the help of resources generated from Track I reforms. What will happen when the Indian economy is not growing at all in a doomsday scenario? In that case, the Government of India should work on both the fronts stimulating the growth process as well as creating a sustainable and humane mechanism to support and redistribute the resources to the poorest sections of the society. However, the model proposed by Sen in terms of State-led development has not resulted in substantial achievements before India has turned towards the strategy of liberalization, privatization, and globalization.

On the face of it, choosing one strategy among the two is not the option but choosing the better strategy for the overall and inclusive development of the country will be the right option. There is no option to go back and adopt the state-led development and there is also a danger in leaving everything for market forces to do. The pitfalls from both the approaches are very much visible all over the world where state-led development is almost abandoned by countries around the world and pure market fundamentalism has also led to the severe crisis and unrest even in the developed world.

Therefore, India should find a “middle-path” propounded by the Gautam Buddha whereby India takes the help of globalization to unleash the animal spirit of market forces to create growth and development along with creating a mechanism of participatory development where every individual of the country develop its capabilities to achieve the goal of sustainable development because development is not a singular concept of infrastructure, economic growth, poverty reduction, education, and health but it is a multi-dimensional concept where there is a substantial change not only in material and physical aspects but also change in social structures, popular attitudes, and national institutions.

CRITICISM OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

images
Image Credit: UNDP Website

The idea of “sustainable development” came into limelight in the 1980s after some extreme events like ‘acid rains’ and the human disasters of Bhopal Gas Tragedy[i] (1984), Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster [ii](1986) etc. Brundtland Commission Report titled “Our Common future” has given the idea of “sustainable development”. As per the report, ‘Sustainable Development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in September 2015 under the UN Sustainable Development Summit, comprehensively covers social, economic and environmental dimensions and build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are 17 SDGs which have 169 targets to be achieved by 2030.

These 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are:

  1. No Poverty-End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Zero Hunger-End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good Health and Well-Being for people– Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  4. Quality Education– Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender Equality– Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation– Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build a resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  10. Reducing Inequalities: Reduce income inequality within and among countries.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy.
  14. Life below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  15. Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize global partnerships for sustainable development.

 These goals are very comprehensive and universal in nature and a big improvement over the MDGs because SDGs were developed after a long multi-stakeholder consultation process. However, the SDGs are also criticized due to various challenges in achieving them as well as their lack of focus on social issues:

  • The goals are wishful and unattainable. For instance- the eradication of poverty by 2030 will be almost impossible in the wake of low economic growth and various other issues in the conflict-ridden world. The highest criticism came from The Economist calling SDGs as ‘worse than useless’.
  • There is also criticism regarding the definition of “sustainable” itself. There is no precise definition of sustainable development. Even UNDP has not taken any particular effort to precisely define the idea of sustainable development.
  • To achieve the goal of sustainability, not only in developing countries but also the developed world will be requiring a lot of funding. The absence of planning regarding the financing of SDGs is the biggest drawback of these goals.
  • There is also a lack of support for developing and poorer countries on the part of developed countries for the financing and technology transfer to achieve the goal of sustainable development. For instance-
  • There is also a lack of political will to deal with the issue of environmental degradation and climate change in various countries of the world. For instance- Under the leadership of Mr. Trump, USA has withdrawn from the Paris Climate agreement.
  • Natural occurrences and disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami etc can pose a threat to sustainability.
  • The government’s conflict between immediate profit and investment in sustainable technologies can also derail the implementation process of SDGs.
  • There is no proper monitoring and ownership mechanism to measure the implementation of SDGs in various countries of the world.
  • Many experts also criticized the SDGs for not putting enough emphasis on social issues whilst the goals regarding the environment and economic security are extensively secured.

Challenges for India to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • India[iii] accounts for the largest number of people living below the international poverty line with 30% (800 million) of its population living under $1.90 a day. Pulling this massive population out of poverty will be a nearly impossible task for India without international support.
  • A new study[iv] estimates that implementing SDGs in India by 2030 will cost around the US $14 .4 billion.
  • It will be a big challenge for NITI Aayog to monitor and provide innovative solutions to achieve the massive targets of SDGs.
  • India’s huge geographical as well as cultural diversity can also be a challenge to achieve the goals of sustainability because the needs and requirements of various regions are varied and they will need context-specific
  • India’s federal structure and differences among the States regarding the development indicators can also create challenges but if channelize properly in terms of “competitive federalism” can also turn into an important tool to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

In the context of India with a huge population and social challenges like massive poverty, hunger, malnutrition, acute gender discrimination, and low per capita income, these goals are nearly impossible to achieve. However, India[v] can play an important role in achieving sustainable development goals. In fact, these goals can be treated as ‘ideal goals’ which can act as a guideline for the national and international governments to measure their success in achieving inclusive and sustainable development.

REFERENCES:

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdyBy2s9I5c

[ii]http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/chernobyl-accident.aspxhttp://www.iisd.org/topic/sustainable-development

[iii]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/can-india-meet-sustainable-development-goals-on-poverty-hunger-despite-sluggish-economy/story-8NlIxkeBp

[iv] https://www.devalt.org/images/L3_ProjectPdfs/AchievingSDGsinIndia_DA_21Sept.pdf?mid=6&sid=28

[v]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sustainable-development-goals-will-succeed-if-india-succeeds-hardeep-puri/articleshow/65035265.cms

Delhi Air Pollution: A case of ‘environmental injustice’

dap3

“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all”- Robert Orben (Comedy Writer)

The above quote is so true for the city of Delhi. The pollution level has breached the highest mark in the recent times and the Delhi has notoriously become the most polluted city in the world. As per the Supreme Court, 8 people die prematurely everyday due to the air pollution in Delhi. There is a high possibility that these people belong to the lower and middle class as they are more affected by the pollution and do not have the wherewithal to save them with the help of various technological and other solutions. These residents of Delhi who generally do not own the cars, bear the brunt of the toxic air. As per one study[i], levels of suspended particulate are generally higher in the low neighborhoods of Delhi. The poor people also spend more time outdoors where they come in direct contact with the hazardous air. The affluent households are not that much affected by the toxic air due to the use of air-conditioning, air purifier, better nutrition and adequate greenery in the surroundings. Not only this, children in the region are the most vulnerable due to the harmful impact of air pollution. One in every third child has reduced lung function and high propensity for increased pulmonary hemorrhage. On the face of it, three toddlers moved to the Supreme Court to demand “Right to breath fresh air” under the “Right to life” under Article 21. In fact, right to breath fresh air is a human right. This public health emergency needs to be solved on war footing otherwise it will reach to a stage of unspeakable damage as our children are our future and so-called ‘demographic dividend’ and if they are not healthy and sound, country will not progress in the future.

Various studies, researchers have been conducted to understand the causes of the air pollution in Delhi. Almost all of the reports including the recent Economic Survey released by the Government of India has been vocal towards the vehicular emissions as one of the main causes of the pollution. Delhi has seen the uncontrollable growth of personal cars in the recent decades. As per NTPDC report, Delhi comprises 1.4% of the Indian population but accounts for more than 7% of all motor vehicles in the country. As per the recent Economic Survey, vehicular emissions are responsible for 30% pollution in Delhi. Therefore, there is a need to promote public transportation by providing more quality buses, extending the metro-lines to more areas, improve the last-mile connectivity by providing eco-friendly solutions- bike sharing, e-rickshaws, rent the cycle, charging higher parking fees, congestion charges to discourage usage of cars, promoting the idea of car-pooling and most importantly encouraging the buying of electric vehicles by providing more incentives, less interest rate on loans to buy electric vehicles, involving private sector to create charging infrastructure under CSR activities and seriously formulating a policy for the 100% electrification of public transportation system. The problem of crop-residue burning is also needed to be tackled with cooperation between Centre and States. Farmers need to be given subsidy to buy Turbo Happy Seeder(THS) machine and there is also need to look for innovative eco-friendly and sustainable solutions to convert the crop residue into useful manure.

Despite all these measures, there is a need to mobilize all the stakeholders and taking the help of civil society to take innovative steps to deal with the problem of toxic air. The Government of the day can’t be omnipresent. Therefore, citizens of Delhi-NCR need to become vigilant to persuade each other not to burn garbage, adopt the habit of car-pooling, plant more trees, take measures in their region for protecting the environment etc. In fact, corporate sectors and various other offices can also start some new ideas to deal with the problem of air pollution. For instance, corporates in Gurgaon have started one day of the week as car-free day[ii] which has proved to be successful in reducing the pollution level.

Not only this, there is a need to start a sensitization campaign among the citizens of Delhi towards the value of fresh air and its harmful impact on health. The Ministry of Environment and Health and Delhi government has started the Clean Air Campaign[iii] this February to sensitize the Delhiites towards the quality of air and as per the various reports, it was found that it turned out to be successful. There is a need to take more steps like this.

dap5The pollution in the Delhi-NCR region is not only a public health emergency but also a case of environmental injustice where and poor and our future generations especially the small children are bearing the brunt of toxic air. The most ironical that in most of the cases these people haven’t contributed towards the deteriorating quality of the air. On the face of it, this is high time that authorities take heed of this injustice and take strong actions to provide fresh air for all the citizens of Delhi-NCR.
[i] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X1100060X

[ii] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/car-free-day-corporates-plan-ways-to-decongest-gurgaon-roads/

[iii] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/clean-air-campaign-from-feb-10/article22432825.ece

SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME

election_system

Indian constitutional forefathers have adopted the parliamentary form of democracy after India became an independent country in 1947. India as a nation of teeming millions has also taken a bold step of adopting universal adult suffrage when experts were debating about India’s survival as a nation. This one ‘right to vote’ given to Indians shows the faith of our constitutional forefathers in the capacity of Indian voters when India was poor third world country with low literacy and abysmal development and growth in the economy. This faith is still visible in India’s election processes, as Indian general election is the largest event management exercise on earth during peace times.

The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. The first general elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-1952. In fact, this practice of simultaneous elections continued till 1967 when due to premature dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies the cycle of the synchronized elections got disrupted. In 1970, the fourth Lok Sabha got dissolved prematurely. And fifth Lok Sabha term was extended till 1977 due to emergency provisions under Article 352 of the Constitution of India. Since then the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies is the order of the day due to the fragmented political system, the emergence of regional parties and indiscriminate use of the power under Article 356 which gives power to the President to declare President’s rule in any state on various grounds. Though after the Supreme Court Judgement in S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India case, the arbitrary use of the Article has come down. The Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Lok Sabha was dissolved before the end of the term of their respective Lok Sabha. Due to this, the cycle of simultaneous elections got disrupted in the Indian polity for last 48 years.

Simultaneous elections mean a restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that the General Elections for the House of people and the Assembly elections for State Legislative Assemblies are conducted simultaneously. In such condition, voters will cast their vote on a single day and at the same time for electing the members of Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.

Recently, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for the debate to conduct simultaneous elections at various platforms. In fact, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind in his first address to parliament this year advocated for simultaneous elections and remarked that a sustained debate is required on the subject of simultaneous elections. Election Commission, Law Commission of India, NITI Aayog and Parliamentary Standing Committee has favored the conduct of simultaneous elections of the House of the people and the State Assemblies. The analysis from the NITI Aayog report and the discussion conducted on the MyGov website provides enough evidence to conduct simultaneous to improve governance process and reduce the election fatigue in the country.

WHY DO WE NEED SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS? 

India is a world’s largest democracy in the world due to its electoral size as well as subcontinental dimensions.  It is the largest peacetime mobilization of the people in the world. Commenting on the size and scale of Indian elections, the Strategic Plan 2016-2025 published by Election commission of India mentions,

“The magnitude and complexity of the Indian election can be estimated from the fact that the Indian elections are not only the largest exercise in logistics in the world but are also considered as one of the most credible elections in the world. India, in fact, accounts for the largest share of electors in any country, exceeding the total number of electors in the entire American continent, or even that of the entire African continent or that of all the European nations put together”.It shows the complexity of election process. However, the independent election commission along with other organizations are doing the humongous job of conducting the election process in free and fair manner. Despite that, Indian election process is fart with a number of challenges. The scope of this paper is to focus on the challenges created by the frequent elections and their overall impact on the polity, economy, and society of the country.

If we take the example of the period March 2014 to May 2016, then as per the Election Commission data, there were 15 State Assembly elections were conducted along with the elections for the 16th Lok Sabha. If we add the elections conducted in the third tier of the Government i.e. the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Municipalities, bye-elections, the number of elections conducted in one year will increase substantially. To manage this situation and reduce the burden on the exchequer, the idea of simultaneous elections was propounded by various political parties as well as the reports of various institutions. 170th Report of the Law Commission of India headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy, “the holding of a separate election to a Legislative Assembly should be an exception and not the rule. The rule ought to be one election once in five years for Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies”. In December 2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Department of Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has also supported the idea and given an alternative of holding the elections in two phases. It stated that elections to some Legislative Assemblies could be held during the midterm of the Lok Sabha and elections to the remaining assemblies could be held with the end of the Lok Sabha term. It has also given recommendations for fixing the schedule of the bye-elections.

NITI Aayog report has analyzed the whole issue extensively and recommended for holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. The recent India Action Plan- Three Year Action Agenda (2017-2020) also supported the idea of synchronized two-phase elections from the 2024 election to the Lok Sabha.

In fact, Election Commission of India also supported the conduct of simultaneous elections on various platforms. President of India has also supported the idea of simultaneous elections and said, “With some election or the other throughout the year, normal activities of the government come to a standstill because of the code of conduct. This is an idea the political leadership should think of. If political parties collectively think, we can change it… The Election Commission can also put in their idea and efforts on holding the polls together and that will be highly beneficial”. After this debate, Government of India has come out with five questions on the MyGov website to ascertain the views of the public and create a debate and discussion on this idea in public forum. People have aired their views freely in support of conducting simultaneous elections. In fact, they have narrated their ordeals of suffering due to deadlock in administration at the time of elections as well as disturbances of noise pollution, traffic jams etc. on the website. It can be seen as the anecdotal evidence to prove that the substantial number of people are in favor of conducting simultaneous elections.

Therefore, there is need to understand the profound implication of the frequent elections happening in our country. It can be seen on the below points:

  1. Impact on the Political and Administrative functioning of the government: Whenever any elections are conducted in our country, Election Commission enforces the Model Code of Conduct(MCC) to maintain a free and fair environment for the election process. It is imposed from the date of announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission and is in force till the whole election process is completed. During this period parties in power as well as other political parties are not allowed to announce welfare schemes or development projects throughout India if it is a General Election. In fact, even during the Assembly election, the Central Government can’t take any decision related to that particular state.

               The Parliamentary Standing Committee has articulated this problem stating that, “…The imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) puts on hold the entire development program and activities of the Union and State Governments in the poll-bound State. It even affects the normal governance. Frequent elections lead to the imposition of MCC over prolonged periods of time. This often leads to policy paralysis and governance deficit”. If we just take the year of 2014, the governance activities were suspended around 7months. If we assume that number of the average period of operation of Model Code of Conduct as 2 months during the State Assembly elections, the analysis in the below graph shows that at least for four months every year, the government functioning, as well as development works, will be suspended due the imposition of Model Code of Conduct.  

  1. Economic and financial impact of the frequent elections: Fighting elections and conducting elections create huge expenditure not only on the government machinery but also for all the political parties and their candidates. The management and the conduct of the elections create a severe strain on the economic and fiscal budget of the Government of India as well as the various state governments. In fact, this is also the reason behind the generation of black money and corruption. Dr. S. Y. Qureshi in one conference remarked, “…. elections have become the root cause of corruption in the country”. He further mentioned that “…. after winning elections, the politician-bureaucrat nexus indulges in “recovering the investmentand that is where corruption begins”. As per the news report, the expenditure on the General elections 2014 was the highest ever around 3500 cr.  Therefore, conducting simultaneous elections will help in saving the precious tax money and increase the fiscal space which can be used for the development activities.
  2. The social impact of the frequent elections: Frequent elections disrupt the normal life of common citizens as can be ascertained from the responses on the MyGov website. Since normal functioning of the government is on standstill and officials are busy in the management of elections, normal people wait for the completion of the election process to take forward their essential activities. School teachers are deployed for the election duty which impacts the quality and quantity of the education provided to the children. Not only this, frequent elections perpetuate the feeling of casteism, communalism, and religious biases.

Therefore, there is a strong basis and need to synchronize the elections of Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.

CRITICISM AND COUNTER ARGUMENTS

The idea of simultaneous elections is also criticized by various political parties, constitutional experts as well as various other stakeholders. The key criticism can be seen in the following points:

  • There are various logistic and operational challenges present in conducting the simultaneous elections in India because of its sheer number of electorates and sub-continental size and diversity of Indian polity. It is very difficult to comment on the capacity and capability of institutions which manage the election process in India. If they are still successful in doing it, they will be successful in the coming future. Regarding operational challenges implementing this idea presently, there is need to create consensus among all political parties to debate and come out the feasible proposals and subsequent constitutional amendments.
  • Some think-tanks and experts like Indira Jaisingh are of the view that not all voters are highly educated. They do not know whether they are voting for the Assembly or Parliament. It is not as simple as it seems. Indian voter is very matured and credible which can be seen in the track record of India’s voting pattern since the First General Election. In fact, the voting behavior depends on a range of parameters like incumbency, anti-incumbency, narrative dominance, political leadership, local and regional issues and other factors of caste, religion etc.
  • Another strong criticism is that simultaneous elections would benefit national parties at the cost of state/regional parties in case of a “national wave in favor of large national parties”.This can’t be proved after seeing the General election of 2014 when there was a wave in favor of BJP government, despite that Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim voters chose for regional parties in their respective states with more percentage of votes.
  • There is also a criticism that the simultaneous elections will weaken the federal structure in the country between Centre and States. However, it is premature to talk about this because the spirit of federalism has not come from anywhere rather the Constitution of India provides enough grounds for the principle of federalism in the Indian polity.

Successful experiments of Simultaneous Elections

South Africa held elections simultaneously for every five years for national and provincial legislatures and held municipal elections every two years. Sweden also held an election to its national legislature(Riksdag) and provincial legislature(landing) and local bodies(Kommunfullmaktige) on the fixed date on the second Sunday of September every four years. The UK also passed a Fixed Term Parliament Act, 2011 to provide a sense of stability and predictability to the British Parliament and its tenure. It will provide some stability in the electoral process. In fact, the Parliamentary Standing Committee praises this experiment as a novel experiment which needs to be looked on.  In fact, the US election, though it is a presidential system, works in proper fixed term form which creates stability in the functioning of the democracy of their country. There is no doubt these countries have a good track record in their democratic process except some hiccups as well as human development parameters.

Therefore, India should also synchronize the assembly and general elections to make our democratic process more stable and vibrant.

Indian democracy celebrates the festival of elections every year with a number of elections. Elections are the symbol of a vibrant democracy. However, the frequent elections create disturbances not only in the administration and political system but also in the normal life of the people of India.  In fact, in the last 30 years, there has not been a single year without an election in our country. It leads to a number of unavoidable consequences which creates problems for the long-term growth and development of the country.  In fact, India is on the cusp of change because of its huge demographic dividend[i] in the form of a window of opportunity. The governance processes also need to be transformed radically to satisfy the expectations of the youth in the country. To bring about rapid transformation[ii], India needs to bring about huge structural changes in the economy and public policy of the country. Frequent elections not only impose restrictions on the functioning of the governance process but also saps the energy and risk-taking capabilities of the government. Therefore, it is imperative to evolve a solution to stop these frequent elections cycle and move towards a stable system of simultaneous elections[iii].

[i] https://ritambharachaitanya.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/demographic-dividend-or-demographic-disaster/

[ii] http://www.narendramodi.in/pm-s-speech-on-the-occasion-of-transforming-india-lecture-513478

[iii] https://swarajyamag.com/politics/holding-elections-simultaneously-the-what-why-and-how

References:

Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy, 1999, ‘170th Report on the reform of Electoral Laws by Law Commission of India’.

Sarkaria Commission Report on Centre-State Relations (1988)

Supreme Court Judgement on S. R. Bomai vs. Union of India (1994)

Justice A. P. Shah, March 2015, ‘255th Report on the Electoral Reforms by Law Commission of India’.

Dr. E. M. Sudarshan Natchippan, December 2016, ‘79th Report on Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies by the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law, and Justice.

Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai, ‘Analysis of Simultaneous Elections: What, Why and How’ by NITI Aayog.

Standing Committee Report Summary by PRS Legislative Research.

‘India Votes- The General Elections 2014’ by the Election Commission of India.

 Priyanka Chaturvedi, 2016, ‘Idea good, but is it practical?’, Observer Research Foundation.

Hemant Sarin, 2016, ‘Simultaneous Elections to the Parliament and State Assemblies’, Live law.

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, 2016, ‘Constitutional Experts decry Modi’s call to Simultaneous Polls to Parliament and State Assemblies’, The Wire.

Venkaiah Naidu, 2016, ‘Breaking out of Election Mode’, The Hindu.

Jagdeep S. Chhokar and Sanjay Kumar, 2016, ‘The case against simultaneous polls’, The Hindu.

Kanishka Singh, 2017, ‘Merits and Demerits of simultaneous elections’, The Indian Express.

Dr. S. Y. Qureshi, 2016, ‘Holding Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together are desirable but not feasible’, The Quint.

 

 

Adaptation is the key to tackle Climate Change

climate-changepic

The year 2016 was the warmest year since the late 19th century and it was the hottest of three record-breaking years in a row. The year 2017 is also the hottest year on record without an El Nino boost. It is a matter of serious concern that even after taking all efforts and following commitments under the Paris Agreement, it will be very difficult to limit the warming of the climate by 2oCelsius. In fact, as per one report[i] “Turn Down the Heat” of the World Bank, without any action, we could be seeing warming by 4oC above pre-Industrial levels. As per the Climate Action Tracker, under the baseline scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, global temperature is expected to reach 4.1oC-4.8oC above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Increasing global temperatures will exacerbate the melting of ices in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems which will trigger catastrophic impact in terms of sea-level rise, intense storms, floods, etc. In fact, the adverse impact of climate change and Global warming is inevitable and we don’t have to wait for coming years to see their consequences. Low-lying delta regions and coastal areas are vulnerable to these changes. In fact, more than a tenth of humanity resides in vulnerable regions of the world that are within 10 meters of today’s sea level. It is also known as Low Elevation Coastal Zone(LECZ). Almost half of Bangladesh lies in the LECZ and it will be severely affected rising sea-level. On the face of it, it is high time to realize the importance of ‘climate change adaptation’ and work towards building resilience in the society.

Mitigation vs. Adaptation debate

Climate mitigation is any action taken to permanently eliminate or reduce the long-term risk and hazards of climate change to human life and property. Mitigation has become the dominant narrative in the world popularized by the international organizations who are slowly waking up to the issue of climate change adaptation. Mitigation strategies became the dominant narrative because of two reasons. First is the belief in human capability in the age of technology. We almost believed that we can change the environment or stop the changes happening around us. Second is the belief that development process cannot be stopped not only because of belief in the ideology of capitalism and its spreading impact and interlinkages through globalization but also the abject poverty and deprivations in other parts of the world, where these people need to be provided with basic necessities. In fact, even in the problem of climate change, countries are looking for opportunities for growth in the areas of renewables, technology, infrastructure etc. Here is the main problem where we want to focus on only the “cause” and not the “effect”.

 However slowly, the idea of adaptation is gaining ground due to the severe impact of climate changes in terms of various disasters in not only developing countries but also in developed countries. As per the IPCC 2001 report[ii], Adaptation is the adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems in response to actual or expected stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to the changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. In the simple language, adaptation calls for ‘natural resource management’, ‘strengthening food security’, ‘development of social and human capital’ and ‘strengthening institutional systems’. Due to the realization of the value of adaptation, the focus is now shifting towards the bottom-up approach and understanding the vulnerability of various regions and the people to prepare them to cope with the adverse impacts of the climate change. As per the Stern Review[iii] 2006, climate change may displace 200 million people by the middle of the century. Many islands[iv] like Tuvalu, Micronesia in western Pacific Ocean and Maldives, Kiribati in the Indian Ocean are already facing the brunt of climate change. This is high time to mainstream the vulnerability approach and adaptation in the development process to address the emerging challenges.

Why Adaptation?

Adaptation is more effective in solving the problems of climate change because of various reasons. First and foremost, no matter how much we will try to mitigate the impact of climate change, a certain degree of heating is inevitable due to historical emissions. It is very much visible in every country of the world with recurrent extreme-weather events. The second reason is that adaptation measures will give results immediately and in a very short period of time in comparison to mitigation measures which will take decades to show the results. For instance, countries started taking actions to stop the enlargement of the ozone hole in the decade of 1990s. But as per the report[v], the ozone layer is expected to return to normal levels by 2050 which is really a long time when many of us will not be alive. The third reason is that these measures can be applied at regional or local level by empowering the local community and their effectiveness is not dependent on actions of others. It is based on a decentralized and bottom-up approach which gives confidence to the local people to deal with their challenges. However, there are various challenges and hurdles in accepting and mainstreaming the adaptation process.

Challenges/Hurdles

  • It requires changing the mindset of the people who are at the helm to accept the adaptation process and empower the local community. However, sometimes a local community will also be reluctant to leave the vulnerable areas due to their livelihood sources like fishing, as well as attachment to their land and houses.
  • Another challenge is finance. We need a lot of finance to relocate and provide basic necessities to the vulnerable communities. The finance is also required to protect the natural resources. The irony is that those countries and the people who are most threatened due to climate change do not have the wherewithal to finance their adaptation processes and activities. Transfer of finance and technology from the developed countries to developing countries has become difficult because of the opposition from various quarters and the election of climate skeptics as the leader of western countries.
  • Adaptation needs to adopted as per the requirement of the region and the people. It is a very complex process because of huge diversity and complexity of the issue and even the adaptation processes and measures need to be modified as per the changing circumstances. This whole thing makes it very challenging to implement in a diverse setting like India or all over the world.

What needs to be done?

There is no need to tell the urgency of the problem again as I discussed in the introduction part of this article. It needs to be tackled on war-footing and the whole processes of adaptation in the form of “Protect-Aware-Accommodate-Retreat-Empower” must be mainstreamed in the development process. Protect the vulnerable communities, make them aware about the looming crisis, accommodate the vulnerable people to safer areas, retreat from the disaster-prone areas and most importantly empower the local communities to make them capable enough to deal with the upcoming challenges of climate change. Not only this, the government should take into account the views of other stakeholders like Coastal Alliance to frame its policies. The work done by various organizations need to implement in other areas of the country. Since the sea has no boundary naturally and the disaster will never ask before coming to any country. Therefore, the countries should come forward to tackle the problem by creating a joint action plan, sharing of knowledge and technologies, developing the capacity of the people and learning from the successes and failures of different adaptation strategies.

Conclusion

India is a signatory to not only the Paris Agreement 2015 but also agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). SDGs cannot be achieved without climate change adaptation. If India does want to ‘leave anyone behind’ and committed to achieving the goal of development in harmony with nature, they must take actions to reduce the impact of the crisis and build the resilience in the society to handle the upcoming crisis.

[i] http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange/publication/turn-down-the-heat

[ii] https://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/

[iii] http://mudancasclimaticas.cptec.inpe.br/~rmclima/pdfs/destaques/sternreview_report_complete.pdf

[iv] http://www.businessinsider.com/islands-threatened-by-climate-change-2012-10?IR=T/#solomon-islands-6

[v]https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/frequently-asked-questions-about-ozone-layer