TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Disaster and disaster management.
Flood Protection to Flood Governance- Part II
During his recent visit to Assam, Prime Minister announced a Rs 2,000 crore package for relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the flood-affected states in the Northeast.
A corpus fund of Rs 100 crore will be used to set up a high-powered committee that will work on finding permanent solutions to the flood problem.
There is, however, a need to shift the focus from flood protection to flood governance. Hopefully, the high-powered committee, whenever it is constituted, will make this paradigm shift.
Understanding floods in better way:
A shift is required in the understanding of floods from being an extreme weather event, to a hazard that is partly natural and partly anthropogenic.
- Flooding is natural because the rivers in the Northeast, mostly originating in the Eastern Himalayas, experience a sharp fall in gradient as they move from Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan to reach Assam’s floodplains. This fall in altitude causes a large volume of water to gush to the floodplains.
- Most of these rivers carry large amounts of sediments, which then get deposited on the floodplains, reducing the storage capacity of the river channels and resulting in inundation of the adjoining floodplains. Flooding is partly anthropogenic as the sediment load carried by the rivers is accentuated through “developmental” interventions in the Eastern Himalayas that result in deforestation.
Issues with present strategy of flood protection:
The dominant narrative of flood protection includes measures such as embankments, dredging rivers and bank strengthening.
In a study spread over 96 villages in Assam, Bihar, UP, and Bengal, we found embankments are cost-intensive options. The focus here has been more on construction and less on maintenance.
The scope of storage dams in Arunachal Pradesh is limited, given the region’s geology and the ecology. Proposals for dams have been a matter of serious debate in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Flood Governance: Building resilience
There is a need to shift the focus of action towards flood affected people. This will require building resilience of these communities.
- Access to schools during the flood months is restricted, because the schools are either inundated or are make-shift relief centres.
- Water and sanitation issues require attention during the flood months.
- Floods are accompanied by outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhea. Access to veterinary services is limited resulting in high cattle mortality and morbidity.
- People in the flood-prone areas in the Northeast, by and large, practice subsistence agriculture. While the land remains inundated for an extended period in the monsoons, limited irrigation coverage (less than 10 per cent in Assam, compared to 49 per cent as an average for the country) constrains intensification of agriculture in the dry months.
Flood governance: Bringing sustainable changes
Flood governance through resilience building could bring about sustainable change in the situation. This could be an outcome of three broad sets of action:
- Reducing vulnerability-
Community-based advance flood warning systems, for example, have been successfully piloted in parts of Assam. Providing adequate number of boats — the most important, yet scarce resource in the villages — will enhance access to developmental activities during floods and also facilitate safe commute for schoolchildren.
- Increasing access to services-
Usual toilets are of limited use in flood-prone areas. Elevated toilets, ecosanitation units — promoted in the flood-prone areas of North Bihar — and elevated dugwells or tubewells with iron filter need to be installed in the Northeast. These are more expensive than the Swachh Bharat toilets and wells or handpumps. But if promoted on a large-scale, they will reduce the public health challenges in the flood-prone areas.
- Maximising productivity through optimal use of available resources-
Productivity can be maximised by giving people access to cheaper sources of irrigation, research on short duration boro paddy, and innovative agriculture techniques like floating vegetable gardens. Scientific fish farming on the waterbodies and the inundated land can ensure that inundation, when it cannot be avoided, is put to optimal use.
Flood governance would require innovative combination of above mentioned initiatives.
- Strategic environment assessment of development activities, a practice followed in several countries, needs to be undertaken in the Brahmaputra basin.
- Strengthening planning authorities like the Brahmaputra Board and flood control departments by staffing them with scientists from a wide range of disciplines is essential.
The flood-prone regions of the country require a focused approach from the Centre and state governments.
Connecting the dots:
- What do you understand by the term flood governance. India needs to move from flood protection to flood governance. Discuss.
General Studies 3
- Awareness in the fields of IT, computers,
- Challenges to internal security through communication networks, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
- Linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Important aspects of governance
How Digital India is transforming India?
Digital India is a flagship programme of the present government to empower India and Indians using technology. More significantly, it is a transformational initiative incorporating the spirit of “sabka saath” to create a new India by ensuring “sabka vikas”.
An ambitious programme:
Digital India aims to bridge the gap between the digital haves and have-nots. Digital India BRIDGE (Bringing Revolution In Digital Governance and Economy) channelises initiatives like Aadhaar, eSign, digital lockers, Aadhaar Pay and BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) to offer citizen-centric services at marginal costs — or zero cost. The trinity of Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile (JAM) uses more than 116 crore Aadhaar cards, 118 crore mobile phones, including 40 crore smart phones, 110 crore bank accounts, including 29 crore Jan Dhan accounts, to bring about inclusive development.
- Transforming lives of poor– The government has been able to tap the true potential of the Aadhaar platform by using it to transform the lives of the poor, and strengthen digital governance. The use of Aadhaar enables nearly 3 crore e-authentications everyday at no cost. Citizens can get new mobile connections, open bank accounts or avail government services based on Aadhaar-based e-KYC in a paperless manner.
- Good governance– Digital India has been a driver of good governance, epitomising the government’s credo of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) is an example of that. Earlier welfare schemes had to pass through layers of bureaucracy at the Centre and states, as well as at the district, block and panchayat levels. Their implementation would get delayed by months and involved administrative overheads.
- Direct transfers of cooking gas subsidies (PAHAL), ration subsidies — through the public distribution system — MGNREGA wages, scholarships and many other entitlements have ensured transparency and also saved Rs 57,000 crore of public money.
- Rural transformation–
Common Service Centres (CSCs) have been galvanised into becoming agents of rural transformation. Women, tribal people and Dalits have used CSCs to become digital entrepreneurs, transforming their own lives and the lives of others in the process.
Digital literacy initiatives are further helping in bridging the digital divide. Under the new Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) programme, another six crore adults are to be made digitally literate in the next two years.
The Rural BPO scheme is another initiative to take the IT industry to smaller towns and cities. This will not only uplift the employment ecosystem in small towns but will also help in reducing migration to cities.
The online registration system, e-Hospital, has empowered patients in rural India. They can seek appointments in AIIMS and other big hospitals from their villages without having to wait for days in Delhi or other big cities. More than 170 government hospitals have been brought on the digital platform.
Rural electrification is happening at an unprecedented pace; this can be easily tracked on the Garv mobile app.
- Transparency– Digital payments which got a boost after demonetisation will bring transparency and accountability in the economy. Prices have fallen and tax collections have risen. India’s unique innovations in the field of digital payments such as BHIM, UPI (Unified Payments Interface), USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) and Aadhaar Pay have offered affordable digital payment solutions to people. Steep growth has been registered in digital transactions in the last six months.
- Agricultural sector- Soil health cards and e-NAM (e National Agricultural Mandi) are programmes to empower farmers.
More than eight crore soil health cards have been issued, helping farmers save crores on their inputs.
The e-NAM brings together disparate mandis into a single marketplace. More than 450 mandis and 48 lakh farmers use e-NAM today and 585 mandis across the country are expected to be integrated on the portal by the end of this year.
Digital India is one of the biggest government programmes in the world to bring about sustainable and inclusive societal transformation using digital technologies. The process of making India into a trillion-dollar digital economy has begun and Digital India is making this dream a reality. Digital India will surely create a new India.
Connecting the dots:
- Digital India Programme is transforming India in numerous ways. Critically analyze.
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