General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Water Pollution, Wastewater management.
Water management: Reinventing organisations
A category IV hurricane Harvey that struck Texas in the US cause 50 fatalities, whereas a lesser intensity rainfall and floods cause nearly 500 fatalities and affect 10 million people in north India. Floods wreak havoc again this year in Bihar and UP impacting the life of the common man.
- Floods remain destructive despite the fact that a maze of embankments have been built with considerable investment since decades as defence against floods by multitude of water organisations across India.
- Lakes in Bengaluru catch fire with amazing consistency as rivers run as toxic streams across Indian cities and towns.
- Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad, drown season after season.
- Farmers commit suicide as rain fails coupled with poor efficiency of canal irrigation. Concomitantly, groundwater levels have plummeted to alarming levels.
- Hundreds of crores of rupees have been committed across India since independence for structural intervention as flood defence or defence against droughts.
- The engineering structures have not been worthy of the investment.
The Netherlands and Germany have constructed embankments or dykes as a defence against floods, but when these countries discovered that the investment on structural interventions as a defence against floods isn’t worthy, they changed the very concept of management of floods with a novelty namely, “Room for Rivers” or “Living with Floods”.
Similarly in the US, as and when dams end their utility, they have been decommissioned, barrier removed to enable river flow smoothly.
Reasons behind chaos in the water sector:
India’s chaos in the water sector is primarily due to the prevalence of status quo with its outdated and dogmatic water institutions and organisations leading to outdated ideas and methods. The institutions and organisations from where the ideas originate remain the same since independence. Whether it is management of floods or droughts, the engineers in these organisations cannot think beyond the perspective of engineering solutions.
- The Constitutional mandate over jurisdiction of Centre and States over water i.e. Entry 17 and Entry 56 that is outdated, creates confusion and lacks clarity, as it is inspired by pre-Independence era, Government of India Act, 1935.
- The Constitutional position is blind to the 21st century concepts such as “Integrated Water Resources Management”, “Environment flows”, “Conjunctive use”, “Basin management, “Groundwater”, “Water markets”, “Water footprint” and “Virtual water trade”.
Multitude of organisations:
- A multitude of water organisations and institutions in India has been a bane of the water sector.
- About 23 organisations and ministries deal with water resources at the union government alone. Similar counterparts exist at State, district and village levels with overlapping jurisdictions.
- Primary issues such as pollution control, ground water management, policy and planning, environment concerns, rural and urban water supply have been torn between multiple organisations, institutions, ministries, norms and guidelines.
Paradoxically, these organisations rarely co-ordinate or integrate between themselves to solve a water problem.
Many water organisations in India have become irrelevant in 21st century due to the decades-old mandate of “build” or scientism of dam-building activities that includes barrages, dykes and canals, which were relevant in the 1950s and 1960s. These are irrelevant today.
- Engineers, dominating water organisations in India, aren’t trained to recognise the inter-disciplinary nature of water resources.
- In many State water resources departments, most engineers aren’t from specialisations of hydrology or hydraulics at all, which explains why India’s water sector lacks innovation.
An example: Central Water Engineering Services, the only organised water service cadre of union government isn’t composed of technocrats who opted water resources as a career choice but composed of the rejects who aspired for railways or roads or buildings or even civil services as their career choice.
These flaws have caused stagnation of ideas in water governance and management thus leading to a water crisis of monstrous proportions as witnessed in the form of floods, droughts and pollution across India, every now and then.
The 21st century faces daunting challenges that were unknown 70 years ago, like:
- Population explosion.
- Change in consumption pattern.
- Rise in demand for water for agriculture, industry and environment.
- Plummeting groundwater levels.
- Climate change.
- Water conflicts, silting dams.
- Closed basins.
- Deteriorating quality of freshwater.
- Water conflicts threatening the federal structure of the country.
The above challenegs demand fresh ideas and solutions beyond engineering ones.
The challenges of the future:
- Ageing of dams
- Permanent loss of live storage, basin closure etc.
- Climate variability, water conflicts, etc.
The above mentioned issues cannot be overcome with a business-as-usual approach or with the same archaic ideas of structural intervention.
- The water crisis as demonstrated by the floods and water scarcity, and the futility of current methods demands governments to urgently revamp water institutions and organisations to liberate the water sector from 20th century dogma.
- We need to generate fresh ideas and innovations through a multi-disciplinary workforce to overcome the daunting challenges to the water sector.
- Reinvent the entire organisational structure, institutions and constitutional status for water organisations and institutions at union, State and local level at the earliest.
The impact of a worsening water crisis on the nation’s economy, society and the environment is acute. Unsuspecting citizens face worsening health crises due to consumption of contaminated water, thereby destroying their hard earned savings. It is time we reinvent organisations and generate new ideas so as to save India from water crisis.
Connecting the dots:
- Archaic water governance and management has lead to a water crisis of monstrous proportions as witnessed in the form of floods, droughts and pollution across India, every now and then. Critically analyze.
- Discuss the challenges being faced when it comes to managing water crisis like floods year after year in India. Also elaborate what needs to be done at both organisational and constitutional level to solve the issue.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Inclusive growth: Indispensable to reach India’s full economic potential
Today, India is in the midst of an equally monumental struggle in economic liberalization. An economic future of broadly shared prosperity and vanishing poverty for more than 1.2 billion people is within grasp. To get there, however, calls for advancing inclusive growth.
Good economic performance:
India’s economic performance in recent years has been outstanding in relation to both its own historical record and the global economy.
Between 2010 and 2016, for example, annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in India averaged 6.7% despite a relatively weak post-crisis global economy that averaged only 2.7% annual gains.
Deficiencies in economy remains:
There is a growing recognition that many deficiencies in the economy remain deep-seated and if not effectively addressed could undermine future growth.
- Employment growth:
Despite strong economic growth in the last decade, job growth averaged only approximately 2% a year in the formal sector. Such growth is basically flat when adjusted for the growing population.
In the coming decades, some 12-15 million Indians will enter the labour force each year, and if the current job growth trends persist, fewer than half of them will be able to secure formal employment of any kind.
For those who fail to find formal employment, their only option is to work in the informal economy.
- Informal sector:
It is estimated that about 80% of India’s labour force works in the informal economy.
Jobs in the informal economy are typically insecure, with neither employment contracts nor regular pay, and very often workers are engaged on a day-to-day basis.
The working conditions in the informal economy therefore resemble a low-productivity trap.
Employers have no incentives to invest in training workers who are seen as transient and interchangeable or to invest in better tools and equipment for them.
Without some assurance of future income, workers find it difficult to plan for the long term, let alone find the means to invest in learning new skills.
The informal economy thus embodies the exact opposite of inclusive growth: workers are effectively excluded from accessing many of the resources they need to make themselves more productive and thereby improve their life chances.
At the most basic level, economic growth results from labour force growth and productivity growth of workers. With 80% of the labour force stuck in low-productivity activities in informal employment, it is not surprising that the Indian economy is performing far below its true potential.
Advancing inclusive growth is important in India today.
Reducing the size of informal economy:
- For the Indian economy to reach its growth potential, ways and means must be found to move workers from informal to formal employment. Ultimately, the economy can reach its full potential only when the hundreds of millions of Indian workers can escape the trap of low productivity.
Reducing the size of the informal economy is pivotal to inclusive growth.
- It allows India to reach its growth potential and deliver broadly shared prosperity for the vast majority.
- Sustaining a real GDP growth rate of 7% each year until 2040 will quintuple per capita GDP to $28,000 on a purchasing power parity basis.
- By 2040, India will also reach its maximum share of the working-age population. This will help endow the youth bulge with meaningful, well-compensated and rewarding formal employment in a society where prosperity is broadly shared and absolute poverty has become a thing of the past.
Convergence of recent reforms:
Recent reform initiatives are preparing the ground for greater inclusion.
- The biometric-based unique identification system, Aadhaar, now ensures that the poor are no longer invisible and, therefore, more empowered.
- A bank account for every adult now ensures universal access to financial services, at least in principle. When combined with Aadhaar, such access will accelerate financial inclusion.
- The shock of demonetisation and the introduction of the new national goods and services tax will gradually expand India’s tax base and eliminate incentives for businesses to operate in the shadow of the formal economy.
Much greater gains will be realized when the different reforms begin to converge to bring more people into the mainstream economy altogether. What is needed is to sustain the push for more reforms, not fewer.
After 70 years of independence, what India needs to do next is clear: democratize productivity through inclusive growth to finally reach its full economic potential.
Connecting the dots:
- Despite good economic performance in recent years, many economic deficiencies especially large informal sector and poor job growth remains. In this perspective how inclusive growth us required so that India could reach its full economic potential.
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