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News Analysis – The Hindu Opinion Articles

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Uncertainty in Bangladesh    

  • Bangladesh’s elections have been scheduled on January 5.

  • There seems little chance of any understanding between Bangladesh’s two main political forces emerging ahead of the elections.

  • The ruling Awami League is locked in a fierce confrontation with the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party on the streets, with ugly clashes erupting in Dhaka and elsewhere. Its leader Khaleda Zia is virtually under house arrest

  • The BNP, along with its allies, is boycotting the election because it wants a neutral caretaker government to oversee the process.

  • Prime Minister Hasina did away with the constitutional provision for a transitional caretaker and instead offered a national government, this in turn was rejected by the BNP.

  • The crisis poses a serious challenge for India’s policy on Bangladesh. It is no secret that New Delhi’s relations with Dhaka have been best with the Awami League in power.

  • Prime Minister Hasina cracked down on Islamist extremism, and on safe havens for militants from the northeastern States. Yet, this very equation has set off an incredible amount of anti-India feeling within Bangladesh, especially as New Delhi was seen as not reciprocating Dhaka’s “concessions” in equal measure — the non-implementation of the Teesta Accord is one sore point

  • Background Information on Caretaker government of Bangladesh:

    • A caretaker government was first introduced in 1990 when three party alliances jointly made a demand for it.

    • A Caretaker government is headed by a Chief Adviser who enjoys the same power as the regular prime minister of the country except defense matters. The Advisors function as Ministers.

    • Since 1996, the Caretaker government has held the elections of 1996, 2001 and 2008. Although the first caretaker government was intended to help the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, this system was constitutionalized in 1996 by the Sixth Parliament dominated by Bangladesh Nationalist Party, yielding to boycotting opposition pressure.

  • Why BNP  wants neutral caretaker government ?

    • Because according to BNP, the polls will be fair only under a non-party Government as the chief advisors of caretaker government are of non party background.

  • What is Awami league’s stand?

    • Supreme court recently ruled the caretaker government concept as unconstitutional because in 2007 The military backed caretaker government was formed without constitutional provision, CA was appointed violating provision of constitution, performed all responsibilities of regular elected government and lasted for 2 years. Army chief used to attend the advisory council meetings and pressured cabinet to take decision as he wanted.

    • Hence Awami league gave the proposal for national government to which BNP opposes because Awami league again will get to have major say as it already holds 3/4th of majority.

Water priorities for urban India  

  • The Twelfth Five Year Plan has proposed a paradigm shift in water management in India.

  • Why the shift in strategy?

    1. The crisis of water and sanitation in urban India is even graver than in our rural areas.

    2. As important as the quantum of water is the problem of its management and equitable supply

  • What are the reasons for the existing problems ?

    1. In most cities, water supply is sourced from long distances and the length of the pipeline determines the costs, including costs of pumping.

    2. Enormous losses in the distribution system because of leakages and bad management.

    3. As the distance increases, the cost of building and then maintaining the water pipeline and its distribution network also rises. And if the network is not maintained, then water losses increase.

    4. The end result is that the government finds it impossible to subsidise the supply of water to all and, therefore, does not deliver water as needed

  • Some facts:

    1. As per the National Sample Survey (NSS) 65th round, only 47 per cent of urban households have individual water connections. Currently, it is estimated that as much as 40 to 50 per cent of the water is “lost” in the distribution system

    2. Electricity to pump water is between 30 to 50 per cent of what most cities spend on their water supply.

  • How it affects the poor?

    1. They have to spend a great deal of time and money to obtain water since they do not have house connections.

  • Groundwater Contamination and related costs

    1. As surface water or groundwater gets contaminated, a city has no option but to hunt for newer sources of its supply. Its search becomes more extensive and as the distance increases, the cost of pumping and supply increases.

  • Sewerage systems and urban India

    1. The 2011 Census reveals that only 32.7 per cent of urban Indians are connected to a piped sewerage system and 12.6 per cent — roughly 50 million urban Indians — still defecate in the open

    2. Currently, according to estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country has an installed capacity to treat only about 30 per cent of the excreta it generates. Just two cities, Delhi and Mumbai, which generate around 17 per cent of the country’s sewage, have nearly 40 per cent of the country’s installed capacity.

    3. Plants do not function because of high recurring costs (electricity and chemicals) and others because they do not have enough sewage to treat.

  • If the treated sewage — transported in official drains — is allowed to be mixed with the untreated sewage — transported in unofficial and open drains — then the net result is pollution.

  • The location of the hardware is also a problem

  • The sewage treatment plant — is not designed to dispose of the treated effluent so that it actually cleans the waterbody. The treated sewage is then disposed of, as conveniently as possible, invariably into a drain.

  • So what are the solutions?

    1. Reuse and recycling

    2. Investments in water supply must focus on demand management, reducing intra-city inequity and on the quality of water supplied.

    3. Cut distribution losses through bulk water meters and efficiency drives.

    4. User charges should plan to cover increasing proportions of operation and maintenance (O&M) costs, while building in equity by providing a “lifeline” amount of water free of charge, with higher tariffs for increasing levels of use.

    5. Each city must consider its local waterbodies as the first source of supply. Therefore, cities must only get funds for water projects, when they have accounted for the water supply from local waterbodies and have protected these waterbodies and their catchments

    6. No water scheme will be sanctioned without a sewage component.

    7. Unconventional methods of treating waste

    8. Using alternative biological methods of wastewater treatment

    9. The principle has to be to cut the cost of building the sewerage system, cut the length of the sewerage network and then to treat the waste as a resource — turn sewage into water for irrigation or use in industry.

    10. Aquifer mapping

      • The Twelfth Plan has launched an ambitious aquifer mapping and management programme.

      • The aquifers in each city need to be mapped and participatory, while sustainable and equitable arrangements for groundwater management need to be worked out in a very location-specific manner.

Counting conundrum  

  • Departments involved in gathering data on urban slums do not yet have reliable estimates.

  • The latest counting conundrum has emerged from a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Based on a survey of 881 slums, the NSSO has estimated that about 8.8 million households are in slums. This count differs vastly from Census 2011 figures, which estimates that 13.9 million households are in slums.

  • To add to the confusion, three years ago, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA), after reviewing various estimates, had concluded that the population living in slums would reach about 93 million (19.8 million households) by 2011. Which among the three is an accurate estimation?

  • What is the real danger of Underestimation?

    • It poses the real danger of excluding a large number of the urban poor from welfare projects. For instance, when Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission funds were allocated, States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh received less for slum improvement because of incorrect estimation

  • Each department adopts different definitions of slums and often goes ahead with projecting the final count despite inadequate data

  • To correct this, the committee on slum statistics constituted by the MHUPA in 2008 suggested that all government agencies should adopt common parameters.