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General Studies – 2
Reference: Indian Express
The Index for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) evaluates progress of states and Union Territories (UTs) on various parameters including health, education, gender, economic growth, institutions, climate change and environment. First launched in December 2018, the index has become the primary tool for monitoring progress on the SDGs in India. It has also fostered competition among the states and UTs by ranking them on the global goals.
Progress of Indian States in achieving SGD Goals
- The country’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21 — on accounts of improvement in performance in providing facilities including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy among others.
- While Kerala retained its rank as the top with a score of 75, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu both took the second spot with a score of 74. Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam were the worst performing states in this year’s India index.
- Chandigarh maintained its top spot among the UTs with a score of 79, followed by Delhi (68).
- Mizoram, Haryana and Uttarakhand are the top gainers in 2020-21 in terms of improvement in score from 2019, with an increase of 12, 10 and 8 points, respectively.
- While in 2019, 10 states/UTs belonged to the category of front-runners (score in the range 65-99, including both), 12 more states/UTs find themselves in this category in 2020-21.
- Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Punjab, Haryana, Tripura, Delhi, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh graduated to the category of front-runners (scores between 65 and 99, including both).
- SDGs on eradication of poverty and hunger, measures related to the availability of affordable, clean energy in particular, showed improvements across several States and Union Territories. The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been shown to be an important factor.
- While this is cause for cheer, the Index reveals that there has been a major decline in the areas of industry, innovation and infrastructure besides decent work and economic growth, again made worse by the lockdowns imposed by the governments seeking to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
- But the stark differences between the southern and western States on the one hand and the north-central and eastern States on the other in their performance on the SDGs, point to persisting socio-economic and governance disparities.
- These, if left unaddressed, will exacerbate federal challenges and outcomes, as seen in the public health challenges during the second wave across some of the worse-off States.
India’s push in the right direction in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health has helped it improve its overall SDG score from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2021. India must continue to aggressively take up the goals as a challenge for New India by 2030.
2. While discussing the strategic significance of Indian Ocean islands and the challenges before it explain the significance of India’s efforts to shape the strategic and military dynamics of the Indian Ocean region. (250 words)
Reference: Hindustan Times
With global power dynamics shifting from West to East, regional powers, namely China and India, have shifted focus to an ocean-based approach in determining geo-strategies and foreign relations.
The strategic importance of Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is ever increasing to the world order in general and Indian sub-continent in particular. A secure IOR is key to ensuring security of India’s national interests.
Major reasons that explain the increasing significance of Indian Ocean islands:
- Their location, which makes them vital for establishing a regional naval presence, and their proximity to sea lines of communications (SLOCs), which facilitates patrolling in the region during times of peace and conflict.
- The presence of these major powers in the form of naval establishments, trade, and infrastructure development aid to the smaller island nations, legitimizes their role as a security provider, thereby also allowing greater influence in the Indian Ocean region.
- Islands in the Indian Ocean are located near key transit routes providing access and influence over important chokepoints and waterways, and thus, their key geographies have the potential to impact geopolitical competition.
- Farther west from India, the islands of Socotra (Yemen), Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles have gained strategic importance, standing at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and South Asia.
- While Socotra is strategically located at the opening of Gulf of Aden, which connects the Suez Canal with Indian Ocean, the maritime zones of Madagascar, Mauritius, the Maldives, and Seychelles span over 1 million sq km, which allows them greater rights in ocean waters
- China’s rapidly growing presence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean along with the deployment of Chinese submarines and ships in the region is a challenge for India.
- Traditional threats include the military presence of belligerent powers and the consequent strategic rivalry, as well as terrorism, piracy, and illegal smuggling; non-traditional threats include the challenges of climate change, such as increasing natural disasters and loss of traditional livelihoods.
- A close partnership between these island nations and larger littoral countries thus becomes a practical necessity and plays a critical role in maintaining stability in the region.
Significance of India’s efforts
- India has stepped up its cooperation with Indian Ocean littoral states and maritime neighbours, as part of expanding its maritime engagement.
- Under the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Navy undertakes Joint Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance with Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius and Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.
- Search and rescue and capability-enhancement activities have also emerged as major areas.
- Besides escorting Indian flagged vessels, ships of other countries have also been provided protection
- New Delhi’s Indian Ocean policy, enshrined in “SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region,” articulates India’s vision for building a secured regional architecture, which includes “safeguarding mainland and islands, strengthening capacities of maritime neighbours and advancing peace and security” in the Indian Ocean Region.
- For a country like India, the island nations of the Indian Ocean hold immense strategic value in shaping the geopolitical contours of the region and ensuring maritime security and order.
- The Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar, as well as Lakshadweep, have significantly helped the country in enhancing its maritime capabilities
- This enables India to closely observe military and economic activities in and around the Strait of Malacca and also overlook the maritime entry point of western Pacific countries in the Indian Ocean.
- The Indian Navy has provided hydrographic assistance to the islands of Mauritius, Maldives, and the Seychelles for mapping ocean waters to ensure maritime security. India has also played a leading role spearheading the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), which aims at strengthening maritime security through naval cooperation of its 35 members, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), involving 21 members to work toward security, governance, promotion of blue economy, and cultural tourism.
- The membership of Comoros, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Madagascar to these intergovernmental forums is indicative of India’s efforts to promote stability and prosperity by involving all stakeholders irrespective of their economic and naval capacities.
Resonating with the words of Alfred Mahan that “whoever attains control of the Indian Ocean, will dominate Asia,” India has charted the path of becoming an “influential” and “responsible” leader in the Indian Ocean region.
3. Amidst evident dependency both India and Bangladesh have for each other for security and stability. Account for the importance of consolidation of ties between the two countries and discuss the issues that need to be addressed. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
Significance of India-Bangladesh ties for each other’s security and stability
- Security of North East: A friendly Bangladesh can ensure that its soil is not used for anti-India activities. Bangladesh’s action resulted in the arrest of many top leaders of the NE insurgent groups like United Liberation Front of Assam & National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
- Connectivity of North East: The north eastern states are land-locked & have shorter route to sea through Bangladesh. Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur socio-economic development and integration of North-East India.
- Bridge to Southeast Asia: Bangladesh is a natural pillar of Act East policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond. Bangladesh is important component of BIMSTEC and BBIN initiatives.
- Strengthening South Asia as a regional power: Bangladesh is important for strengthening of SAARC, for promoting cooperation among its member nations to economic growth and securing strategic interests.
- Securing sea lines of communication: Bangladesh is strategically placed nearby important sea lanes. It can play significant role in containing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
- Fighting terrorism and deradicalization: Stable, open and tolerant Bangladesh helps India in stopping extremists from flourishing there and also in cooperation in deradicalization efforts, sharing intelligence, and other counter-terrorism efforts.
- Balancing China: A neutral Bangladesh would ensure containment of an assertive China in this region, and help in countering it’s string of pearls policy.
Indo-Bangladesh bilateral ties
- Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India and Bangladesh have facilitative trade agreement. Both are members of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), SAARC Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which govern the tariff regimes for trade.
- Through Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), India is assisting Bangladesh to capture the potential of waterways for both inter and intra border connectivity of Bangladesh.
- Rooppur atomic energy project, is an Indo-Russian project in Bangladesh. Under it, India will provide personnel training, consultation support and participate in the construction and erection activity and non-critical materials supply to the site in Bangladesh.
- India currently exports 660 MW of electricity, on a daily basis, to Bangladesh.
- Defence: Through defence cooperation framework pact, India is providing Military equipment and technology transfer for enhancing cooperation in the field of strategic and operational studies.
- Space and technology: South Asian Satellite (SAARC Satellite) has been launched to boost regional connectivity in the areas of disaster management, tele-education, tele-medicine inter-government networks etc.
Consolidation of bilateral ties is the need of the hour
- India shares 54 trans-boundary rivers with Bangladesh. Some of the major disputes include: Teesta River water sharing issue, Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River, Ganga river dispute etc. This must see early resolution.
- The Indo-Bangladesh border is of porous nature which provides pathway for smuggling, trafficking in arms, drugs and people and cattle. Border Cooperation is the key for prevention.
- India must fastrack its project completion to ensure that Bangladesh’s reliance on China stands reduced.
- Both nations must address the issue of illegal migration and India must assure Bangladesh about its CAA and NRC which otherwise would make relations frictional.
Deepening relationship with Bangladesh has become a necessity in the face of shifting geo-economics. Bangladesh, with its growing economic success, and with its 8 percent growth rate provides a vital partnership in the region. There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties to move to the next level, based on cooperation, coordination and consolidation as Prime Minister has termed the present period of relationship between the two countries as ‘Sonali Adhyay’
Reference: The Hindu
As per Section 124A of IPC, Sedition is an act that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise.
- The section 124A of Indian Penal Code is a pre- independence provision, which covers sedition charges against government.
- Various verdicts by Indian Judiciary have led to re-interpretation and re-examination of ‘sedition’ in light of Article 19 of the Constitution.
- There has been an effort to strike a balance between right to free speech and expression and power of State to impose reasonable restrictions (Article 19(2)).
- In 1962, the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar upheld Section 124A and held that it struck a “correct balance” between fundamental rights and the need for public order.
- The court had significantly reduced the scope of Sedition law to only those cases where there is incitement to imminent violence towards overthrow of the state.
- Further, the Court held that it is not mere against government of the day but the institutions as symbol of state.
Arguments against Section 124A
- Against democratic norms: It stifles the democratic and fundamental right of people to criticize the government.
- Inadequate capacity of State Machinery: The police might not have the “requisite” training to understand the consequences of imposing such a “stringent” provision.
- Possibility of Misuse: It has been used arbitrarily to curb dissent. In many cases the main targets have been writers, journalists, activists who question government policy and projects, and political dissenters.
- The draconian nature of this law as the crime is non-bailable, non-cognisable and punishment can extend for life—it has a strong deterrent effect on dissent even if it is not used.
- Used to gag press: The press should be protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
Arguments in favour of Section 124A
- Not really a draconian law: Now after the Supreme Court directions, its jurisdiction has been narrowed down. It can be applied only on grounds laid down by the court.
- Application is a part of reasonable restrictions: It is provided under the Article 19 (2).
- Does not really curb free speech: One can use any kind of strong language in criticism of the government without inviting sedition. However, such dissent should not be turned into some kind of persuasion to break the country.
- Threats to unity and integrity of nation due to presence of anti- national elements and divisive Forces such as naxals, separatists who are receiving support from inside and outside the country.
- Mere misuse cannot be a ground of repeal, rather provisions should be made where such misuse is eliminated.
The guidelines of the SC must be incorporated in Section 124A as well by amendment to IPC so that any ambiguity must be removed. Only those actions/words that directly result in the use of violence or incitement to violence should be termed seditious. The state police must be sufficiently guided as to where the section must be imposed and where it must not. Need to include provisions where the government can be penalized, if it misuses the section. This will ensure that section 124 A of IPC strikes a balance between security and smooth functioning of state with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.
A recent move by a Pune based charitable hospital needs to be evaluated. The hospital assured fixed set of doses per day to be given free of cost to the underprivileged. This shows that vaccine policy is flawed and there are deep inequalities that make Right to life and good health a privilege of wealthy. However, proceeding from the normative commitment to the universal and fundamental right to life, reducing an essential life-saving service such as vaccination to an act of charity is deeply problematic at many levels.
Issues with vaccination policy
- The act of ‘donating’ for vaccines as a charity to ‘underprivileged’ individuals entails that the intended beneficiaries are implicitly not considered equal right-bearing citizens.
- Under such a scheme of things if one is unable to be the consumer who can purchase the commercial product, i.e. vaccine at its market price, then they will have to become the client of the charitable patron and depend on their dole or donation.
- On the one hand, the said hospital will sell the vaccine at the so-called market rate to earn profits and on the other hand, indulge in a piecemeal act of charity.
- Such universalisation would undermine the primacy of profit, whereas, charity or philanthropy not only coexist but rather complement the profit motive or commercial interest.
- Hence, universalization is conceivable only if the vaccine is considered as a public good – neither a commercial product nor a charitable dole – to be availed as a right by every citizen.
- And indeed, it has to be considered as a fundamental right as the right to life cannot be devoid of the right to health and anything that protects human life and health has to be made available universally to every human being.
- While agreeing in principle with this reasoning, one can still argue pragmatically that what is the harm if those who can afford are asked to pay for the vaccine.
- It should be borne in mind that a differentiated policy of vaccination would, by design, force a section of the society to depend on charity as such policy would thwart the goal of universalization.
- Forcing individuals from a section of society to rely on charity is tantamount to relegating them to sub-citizens, if not subhuman level, devoid of dignity.
- Substantive reading of the right to life suggests that it is not about mere survival, but a life of dignity and hence it demands the universalization of vaccination is treated as a fundamental right.
Need of the hour
- Universal vaccination is the main weapon in the fight against the pandemic. Experiences around the world prove that it is the reliable way to herd immunity.
- Only when everyone is vaccinated can the country be insulated against the pandemic.
- For the safety of any person, his/her colleagues or neighbours also need to be vaccinated.
- Having accepted this fact, countries around the world have chalked out their policies in this global battle. In a huge country like India, where a large proportion of the population lives below the poverty line, this, of course, is a herculean task.
- The challenge before the government is to take up this task. By May 25, 20.04 crore people got vaccinated in India. But among them only 4.35 crore could get two doses.
- The government should come out in firefighting mode to collect sufficient doses of vaccines.
- The role of the government at such a crucial moment is vital. Free and universal vaccination in a time-bound manner should be the motto of the government.
India has an efficient army of health workers whose dedication and talents are proven. The government has to act here and now. The need of the hour is to to prevent the third wave before its dreadful tentacles embrace us.
General Studies – 3
Reference: The Hindu
Black carbon is a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels.
According to a research done by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, the concentration of black carbon on Gangotri glacier has almost doubled in the past few years primarily because of agricultural burning and forest fires.
Major Sources of Black Carbon:
- Forest fires- (According to the Forest Survey of India, the forest fire activity is generally reported in Uttarakhand from February to June, with a peak in fire incidences in May and June.), domestic and commercial fuel wood burning, seasonal burning of crop residue and developmental activities.
- Pollution from local, regional and global sources that accumulate over the Himalayan region and increase the concentration of black carbon.
- Black carbon emissions from cook stoves, diesel engines.
Impact on Himalayan Ecosystem
Nearly 28 per cent of particles collected from the air samples from a research station in the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau were tarballs, a recent study has found.
- Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity which accelerate the pace of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels, new research by World Bank (WB).
- The fine particles absorb light and about a million times more energy than carbon dioxide.
- Black carbon absorbs solar energy and warms the atmosphere. When it falls to earth with precipitation, it darkens the surface of snow and ice, reducing their albedo (the reflecting power of a surface), warming the snow, and hastening melting.
- Black carbon concentrations near the Gangotri glacier rose 400 times in summer due to forest fires and stubble burning from agricultural waste, and triggered glacial melt.
- Black materials absorb more light and emit infra-red radiation which increases the temperature. So, when there is an increase in black carbon in the higher Himalayas, it will contribute to faster melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
- Glacier melt produces flash floods, landslips, soil erosion, and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), and in the short run, the higher volumes of melt water could replace receding groundwater downstream. But in the long run, decreased water availability would aggravate water shortage.
- In the longer run, the changes in the atmospheric composition of the high Himalayan will affect the weather pattern (such as rain and snow precipitation patterns), and accordingly natural resources and socio-economic activities of Himalayan communities.
- Changing rain patterns can have far-reaching consequences for both ecosystems and human livelihoods, for example by disrupting monsoons, which are critical for agriculture in large parts of Asia and Africa.
Impact of Human health:
- Concentration of black carbon particles was highest in the placentas of women who are most exposed to airborne pollutants in their daily life.
- Inhalation of these particles by the mother gets translocated from the mothers’ lungs to the placenta, resulting in life-long changes to the development of the baby along with permanently damaging the lung tissues.
- The link between exposure to dirty air and increased cases of miscarriages, premature births, and low birth weights which in turn increases the chances for diabetes, asthma, stroke, heart disease and a lot of other conditions, has been established in this study.
Full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23% reduction but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits, the WB said in its research report titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience”
The Black Carbon (BC) aerosols contribute significantly towards global warming due to its light-absorbing nature. Their presence in the eco-sensitive zone, such as the Himalayan glacier valleys, is a matter of serious concern and needs to be meticulously monitored.
BC is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
Reference The Hindu
Precision agriculture (PA) is an approach to farm management that uses information technology to ensure that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. The goal of PA is to ensure profitability, sustainability and protection of the environment.
PA is also known as satellite agriculture, as-needed farming and site-specific crop management.
- It is a modern agriculture practice involving the use of technology in agriculture like remote sensing, GPS and Geographical Information System (GIS) for improving productivity and profitability.
- It enables farmers to use crop inputs more efficiently including pesticides, fertilizers, and tillage and irrigation water.
- More effective utilization of inputs will bring in more crop yield and quality without polluting the environment and will result in sustainable agriculture and sustainable development.
- Hence precision agriculture is about doing the right thing, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time.
Advantages of precision farming
- It will enhance agricultural productivity and prevent soil degradation in cultivable land resulting in sustained agricultural development.
- It will reduce excessive chemical usage in crop production.
- Water resources will be utilized efficiently under the precision farming.
- GPS allows agricultural fields to be surveyed with ease. Moreover, the yield and soil characteristics can also be mapped.
- Dissemination of information about agricultural practices to improve quality, quantity and reduced cost of production in agricultural crops.
- It will minimize the risk to the environment particularly with respect to the nitrate leaching and groundwater contamination by means of the optimization of agro-chemical products.
- Non-uniform fields can be sub-divided into smaller plots based on their unique requirements.
- It provides opportunities for better resource management and hence reduce wastage of resources.
Disadvantages of precision farming
- High capital costs may discourage farmers to not adopt this method of farming.
- Precision agriculture techniques are still under development and requires expert advice before actual implementation.
- It may take several years before the actual collection of sufficient data to fully implement the system.
- It is an extremely difficult task particularly the collection and analysis of data.
How could India benefit from precision farming?
- Refinement and wider application of precision agriculture technologies in India can help in reducing production costs, increasing productivity and better utilization of natural resources.
- It has the ability to revolutionize modern farm management in India through improvement in profitability, productivity, sustainability, crop quality, environmental protection, on-farm quality of life, food safety and rural economic development.
- Site-specific application of irrigation in wheat of Punjab and Haryana, pesticides in cotton and fertilizers applications in oil palm plantation in South India, and coffee and tea garden of eastern India can highly reduce production costs and also reduce environmental loading of chemicals.
- It can increase the efficiency of irrigation efficiency when water resources are low.
- Farmers can use forecast and mitigate problems like water stress, nutrient deficiency, and pests/diseases.
- It also increases opportunities for skilled employment in the agriculture sector and also provides new tools for evaluating multifunctional aspects including non-market functions.
- It has the essential role in the monitoring of greenhouse conditions in agricultural fields
Challenges in adopting precision farming in India
- The adoption of precision farming in India is yet in the nascent stage due to its unique pattern of land holdings, poor infrastructure, and lack of farmer’s inclination to take the risk, social and economic conditions and demographic conditions
- The small size of landholdings in most of the Indian agriculture limits economic gains from currently available precision farming technology.
Rapid socio-economic changes such as economic growth, urbanization, and energy consumption are creating new opportunities for the application of precision farming in India. Instead of blindly adopting the advanced Precision Agriculture technologies adopted by developed countries, India should adopt technologies based on the need of the socio-economic condition of the country.