21st APRIL 2016
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS III : CLIMATE CHANGE
1. If hotter, longer and deadlier summers are to be the new normal in India under a changing climate, proactive adaptation measures are required. Discuss some policy initiatives in this regard in various sectors, especially health, water and power.
If hotter, longer and deadlier summers are to be the new normal under a changing climate, proactive adaptation measures are required. This implies policy intervention and coordination across three sectors - health, water and power.
1. Heat-Health Warning Systems (HHWS):
- At their core, such warning systems include providing weather forecasts in advance, issuing warnings to people, providing readiness of emergency response systems, and preparing doctors and health facilities to handle a sudden influx of patients.
- Warnings facilitate people in taking appropriate actions against heat-related harm.
- Though the IMD does issue heat warnings, often the coordination with emergency response systems and health facilities is missing.
- Globally, studies show that implementing HHWS results in fewer deaths. The most quoted example is that of France where 4,400 deaths were avoided due to HHWS during the 2006 heatwave.
- Closer home, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Odisha have made pioneering efforts in this direction. These systems need to be expanded to other cities across the country.
2. National Action Plan on Climate Change and Health
- Expedite the rollout of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and Health that was launched last year.
- Preventing temperature-related morbidity and mortality could be a key programme under this mission.
3. Adequate supply of water
- Dehydration is a key outcome of heat exposure which can cascade into life-threatening conditions and ultimately death.
- Timely access to drinking water can help mitigate this escalation.
- In areas where heat extremes coincide with water scarcity, the risk of heat-related illness remains highest. Areas like Latur, Osmanabad and Beed, which are already experiencing acute water shortages, could face large casualties if hit by heatwaves.
- Water is also required for electricity production that helps provide access to cooler environments through use of fans and air conditioners.
- Therefore, strategic planning in the water sector is of paramount importance to protect human lives.
4. Reliable electricity for adequate duration
- Access to cool environments remains the mainstay of preventing heat stress.
- Use of fans, air conditioners or functioning of medical centres is contingent upon electricity supply.
- Further, many communities depend on electricity to draw groundwater for drinking.
- This requires planning to meet peak loads in summer, when power outages are most common.
- In rural areas, where electricity access is a challenge, supplementing power supply of primary health centres with solar-based systems should be undertaken. Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Tripura have already deployed such systems.
Finding policy alignment and coordination across these sectors remains a daunting, yet much needed exercise. The romance of the seasons may be lost in the years to come. Lives need not be.
GS III: SOCIAL - CASTE
2. In "Annihilation of Caste", his undelivered speech, B. R. Ambedkar described caste as anti-national. How far is this view correct? What is the situation today with respect to Ambedkar's mission of annihilation of caste.
- The 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is an apt occasion to assess and reassess his thoughts and ideology and their relevance in India and the world today.
- He believed that the annihilation of caste and negation of capitalism are imperatives for change and taking India and the world forward.
Caste as anti-national:
- It is instructive to note that Ambedkar very persuasively, prophetically and incisively wrote that the governing class in India always raised the cry of ‘nationalism/Bharat mata is in danger' whenever the exploited classes demanded justice and fair and equal treatment and affirmative action for representation in the legislature, executive and public service.
- He also pointed out that the governing class was aware that class ideology, class interests, class issues and class conflicts would spell disaster for its rule and therefore always sidetracked the issues and interests of the exploited masses by playing upon the sentiment of nationalism and national unity. He described it as a misuse of nationalism.
- It is well known that during the freedom struggle untouchables demanded separate electorates. Such a demand was described as anti-national in spirit.
‘Annihilation of Caste'
- Annihilation of Caste is an undelivered speech written in 1936 by Dr. Ambedkar.
- The speech was prepared as the presidential address for the annual conference of a Hindu reformist group Jat-Pat Todak Mandal, on the ill effects of caste in Hindu society.
- After his invitation to speak at the conference was withdrawn due to the address's "unbearable" content, Ambedkar self-published 1,500 copies of the speech in May 1936.
- In his ‘Annihilation of Caste', Ambedkar gave illustrations of how they were deprived of education and freedom of occupation and were subjected to stigmatised manual labour, all resulting in their virtual economic slavery, how they were segregated and deprived of basic rights such as drinking water even from public wells, and above all how they were made victims of social persecutions.
- In The Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar, probably for the first time, raised many profound questions with respect to caste.
1. He rejected the defence of caste on the basis of division of labour and argued that it was not merely a division of labour but a division of labourers. The former was voluntary and depended upon one's choice and aptitude and, therefore, rewarded efficiency. The latter was involuntary, forced, killed initiative and resulted in job aversion and inefficiency. He argued that caste could not be defended on the basis of purity of blood, though pollution is a hallmark of the caste system.
2. He claimed that caste destroyed the concept of ethics and morality. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible.
3. Ambedkar was convinced that political empowerment was key to the socio-economic development of the untouchables. Therefore, he vehemently demanded a separate electorate for untouchables in the Second Round Table Conference in 1932. When the British conceded his demand, Gandhi started his historic fast unto death in the Yerawada jail. Pressure from all corners mounted on Ambedkar to forgo the demand for a separate electorate as the Mahatma's life was at stake. Reluctantly Ambedkar agreed to the formula of a Joint Electorate with reserved seats in legislatures for untouchables.
What is the situation today with respect to Ambedkar's mission of annihilation of caste?
1. First, the state's reservation policy for the Scheduled Castes (S.Cs) and Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts) has made a positive impact on their socio-economic condition. Though the gap between them and the rest of society persists, and they lag behind the others with respect to many indicators of development, the overall situation has improved. A small strata in all areas of national importance - education, professions, governance, politics, art, literature and so on - has emerged in these communities. This upward occupational mobility has been accompanied by some social prestige, which was unthinkable earlier. The spread of literacy and higher and professional education, the pace of urbanisation, the development of means of communication and transport, and so on have been instrumental in loosening somewhat the rigidity and hangover of the caste system, particularly in the urban areas.
2. Second, and contrary to this positive development, caste has come to be used blatantly and indiscriminately for political ends. This has sharpened caste and sub-caste identities and resulted in caste alliances of different types in different regions for the sole purpose of wielding political power.
3. Third, since caste is considered a potent instrument for socio-economic and political empowerment, caste and sub-caste organisations have proliferated. There is growing demand by some castes, keeping their caste arrogance intact, to get included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, and by some OBCs to be considered as S.Ts (for instance, Jats in Haryana and Rajasthan). This is indeed a trend in reverse.
4. Fourth, the entire trade union movement ignored issues relating to caste owing to total apathy and lack of concern or because of the fear of a rift in the rank and file over the contentious issue of reservation. As a result, there is a growing tendency on the part of the S.Cs and S.Ts in several organisations to form their own associations to fight for their demands.
5. Fifth, Ambedkar suggested inter-caste marriage as the remedy to destroy caste. Today, marriages are preferred not only within castes, but also within sub-castes. In Haryana and Rajasthan, for instance, the khap (caste council) gives orders to kill young lovers for marrying outside their caste. Such inhuman killings are glorified as honour killings.
6. Lastly, atrocities on the S.Cs and S.Ts continue unabated in different parts of the country. They are on two counts: first, owing to the practice of untouchability, resulting in the violation of human and civil rights of these groups, particularly in the rural areas; second, for economic and political reasons.
7. Various legislative measures such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, have progressed at a snail pace because of the lack of political will to implement them.
Ambedkar thought the abolition of untouchability and the eradication of caste would make India an emotionally strong and unified country. His thought and passion are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago.