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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs 7th Sep, 2017

  • September 7, 2017
  • 1
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Sep 2017, IASbaba's Daily News Analysis, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 7th Sep 2017

Archives

NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 1

  • Social empowerment

General Studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

Murder of yet another rationalist: Stifling dissent

In news:

The murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru has set off a wave of protests across the country; the chill that has set in is difficult to miss.
The manner in which she was brutally murdered raises extremely worrying questions. Her killers caught her outside her home, alone and with her guard down as she got out of her car — they fired at point-blank range, hitting her on the chest and the temple. They appear to have fled without even once getting off their motorbike, leaving no finger or shoe prints, as ‘clean’ a murder as can be.

Why was she murdered?

Lankesh’s killing cannot but draw attention to the various constituencies that she kept on notice. Lankesh, the publisher and editor of the Kannada weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike , wore her activism on her sleeve.
She came up against the establishment in multiple ways, as she sought to bring naxalites to the mainstream, take up the cause of Dalits and farmers, raise consciousness on the creeping influence of Hindutva groups, give moral support to progressive campaigns, and basically bear scrutiny on those in power.

Cause of concern:

  • As in the cases of Safdar Hashmi decades ago and rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar in recent years, the high-profile death of an activist is a confirmation of how formidable are the forces, howsoever invisible they may be to the arm of the law, that individual activism is up against. The manner of killing bears a resemblance to the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.
  • The common factor is that they were vocal critics of the Hindu far right. If Kalburgi’s interpretation of Basavanna’s teachings earned the wrath of the self-appointed vigilantes, Dabholkar and Pansare lost their lives in 2013 and 2015, respectively, for espousing rationalism, and challenging casteism and dogma. Gauri Lankesh, the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, spoke for media and cultural freedoms, locking horns with the cow vigilantes, love jihad campaigners and others of their ilk. For praising Kanhaiya Kumar over the ‘sedition’ fracas in JNU in 2016, she was trolled as being anti-national.
  • These brutal attacks have the power to potentially scare off others — activists, journalists, complainants.
  • The rise in cultural intolerance and the muzzling of dissent by vigilante groups has become an alarming feature of this government’s tenure. Nationalism and the practice of religion are being rigidly defined.
  • Gauri Lankesh’s killing reminds us that forces of intolerance are still at large. Thus far, both the Centre and the governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra have failed to stand up to the moral police. Investigations into the killings of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi have made no progress. In the absence of convictions, conspiracy theories have flourished, spawning a climate of fear and suspicion.
  • Government’s response to this bleak state of affairs has been unconvincing, leaving it to party colleagues to deal with the public discourse. This needs to be stopped, otherwise, the rhetoric of development and progress will ring hollow in an atmosphere of insecurity and social polarisation.

How free is Indian press?

  • India dropped three places in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, from an already bleak 133 to 136 out of 180 countries.
  • The 2017 India Freedom Report , brought out this May by media watchdog Hoot, reports 54 reported attacks on journalists, and 45 sedition cases against individuals and groups between January 2016 and February 2017.
  • Laws such as the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution have been repeatedly sought to be suppressed by those in power.

Way ahead:

  • Identifying and capturing the Gauri Lankesh‘s killers, including those who ordered her execution-style assassination, is the responsibility of the Union government as well.
  • It is important that the police conduct a time-bound probe, so that the facts about the murder can be unearthed, and all the questions answered: Who killed Lankesh, and who ordered the killing? What was their motive?
  • Politicians across parties, many of whom are active on social media, must recognise this grave danger to a free and democratic discourse.

Conclusion:

Gauri is not the first to be silenced. She will not be the last if we do not take a firm stand to defend our Constitution and democratic rights. Gauri Lankesh’s killers must be found; or it’ll embolden those who stifle dissent. The murderers must be expeditiously traced and punished — another unsolved crime will only embolden those who believe that dissent and opposition must be met with violence creating a threat to one of the largest democracy of the world.

Connecting the dots:

  • Recent murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh is not first such incident. It is an indication of how moral policing is increasingly being threat to Indian democracy. Government of the day needs to see that the perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice. Discuss.

NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 1

  • Poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies

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

Urbanisation: Paying heed to ecological principles

Background:

Heavy rains this year from the southwest monsoon and accompanying floods have devastated people’s lives in parts of Mumbai, Chandigarh and Mount Abu (Rajasthan), all in the same period as Hurricane Harvey’s rampage through Houston. Mumbai is reported to have received 400 mm of rain within a matter of 12 hours while Houston received about 1,300 mm over several days with Harvey.

Climate change is responsible:

Climate models have indicated with high confidence that climate change will lead to an increase in extreme rainfall events.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Extreme Events, global warming leads to “changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events”.

In India:

For India, the average monsoon rainfall is expected to increase initially and then reduce after a few decades.
Examining daily rainfall data between 1951 and 2000, B.N. Goswami, former Director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, showed that there has been a significant increase in the magnitude and frequency of extreme rainfall events along with a decrease in the number of moderate events over central India.
These changes interacting with land-use patterns are contributing to floods and droughts simultaneously in several parts of the country.

Understanding extreme events:

The main reason for understanding extreme events is to help policymakers, emergency responders and local communities to plan and prepare for them.

Research that tries to understand this relationship between anthropogenic climate change and extreme events in particular locations is called “attribution”.

  • Is an extreme event, such as torrential rainfall or record storm surges, part of a natural cycle of variability or due to human-induced climate change?
  • To what extent do poor preparedness and ecologically insensitive land-use worsen the impacts?

Determining attribution:

  • According to much of the literature, it is easier to determine attribution for severe heat or cold waves. NASA scientist James Hansen earlier found, for instance, that the Texas heat wave of 2011 and the Russian heat wave of 2010 were due to climate change.
  • Conversely, for rainfall simulation, climate models cannot mimic or simulate extreme rainfall such as the kind Chennai experienced in 2015. According to a paper by Geert Jan Van Oldenborgh and colleagues, the 494 mm rain in Chennai was a rare event, with less than a 0.2% chance of occurring in any given year. The Chennai flood of 2015 did not have a clear climate signature to show that it was due to warming of the earth.
  • On the other hand, with regard to Hurricane Harvey, Michael Mann, a well-known climate scientist, wrote in The Guardian that climate change made the impact much worse, because of higher sea surface temperatures and a blocking region of high pressure that kept the rain clouds over Houston for a long period.

Issue:

Any rain that falls on soil or vegetation is mostly absorbed into the earth’s surface. Some of it slowly trickles into shallow or deep protected aquifers that make up what we call groundwater. The rest usually flows downhill along surface or subsurface stream channels. The spread of infrastructure such as roads, highways, buildings, residential complexes, tiled or asphalt-covered land obstructs rainwater from percolating into the soil. Often there are further barriers that block movement of water and increase flooding.

Unplanned urbanisation:

  • The actual patterns of flooding in Chennai, Mumbai and Houston were due to several human-induced activities: Rampant increase in built-up area across natural drainage channels and the diversion or damming of rivers upstream leading to sediment transport and siltation, coastal subsidence and other effects of development.
  • Topography not taken into consideration: In many parts of the world, construction in cities or in urbanising areas does not take into consideration the existing topography, surface water bodies, stream flows or other parts of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Hydrology ignored: In much of India, urban growth over the past few decades has blithely ignored the hydrology of the land. In Chennai, for example, systematic intrusion into the Pallikaranai marsh and other wetlands by housing complexes and commercial buildings, slums along Cooum and Adyar rivers, and large-scale construction along the coast are just examples of the flagrant encroachment of the built environment that obstructs rivulets and absorption of rainwater into the earth.
  • When it rains heavily, exceeding the capacity of the soil to absorb it and regular stream flows are blocked from proceeding into the sea, these heavily built-up areas get inundated. Satellite images from 15 or more years back show the existence of hundreds of lakes and tanks, and several waterways within the city’s boundaries.
  • Ecological principles ignored: For decades, urbanisation has ignored ecological principles associated with water bodies, vegetation, biodiversity and topography. These are not ‘environmental’ issues to be disregarded or attended to only after we have attained ‘growth’. Rather, they are part and parcel of and integral to how we live and whether we prosper.

What is to be done?

  • Development needs to be climate-smart, but also avoid social and institutional challenges such as moral hazard. If investments are made in places where severe impacts are likely, the government will end up bailing out those engaging in such risky activities. If the built environment and structures of financing and housing are ‘locked-in’ or get firmed up with regard to institutional arrangements, these can lead to further complications.
  • Construction on existing lake beds and other waterbodies needs to be removed or redesigned to allow flood drainage along natural water channels.
  • Hydrology, topography and ecological principles must be taken into account while cretaing plan for urban development.

Handling extreme events:

  • Cities could be laid out to reduce flooding by following natural contours, drainage and tank systems.
  • Emergency responders should be well prepared to transport and care for people who may become stranded during disasters.
  • Insurance companies might also be concerned about underwriting places that are at perpetual risk in the future.
  • Once an extreme event such as a heat wave or heavy rain occurs, people want to know to what extent a single event has been caused by climate change, that is, by greenhouse gases released through human activities.

Conclusion:

As the frequency of extreme weather events increases around the world, losses in rich countries are higher in terms of GDP, but in terms of the number of people at risk, it is the poor countries that suffer the most. Those who are the most vulnerable and the poorest end up bearing the brunt of the burdens of climate change and mal-development, which together operate to worsen impacts. Given the presence of highly vulnerable population in India, the urbanisation process needs to be planned in ways mentioned above.

Connecting the dots:

  • As the frequency of extreme weather events increases around the world, India faces severe risks in terms of the number of people at risk. Discuss.
  • Urbanisation in India is taking place at a much faster pace. All of it being done without paying heed to ecological principles. This is a cause of concern. Discuss why. Also analyze what needs to be done so as to make our cities climate change proof.

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