26th October 2018
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- ENVIRONMENT
Q1. Although India’s socio-economic condition is a roadblock in fighting climate change, there are many successful examples of transformative innovation around energy production and climate resilience. Comment.
- India has two complex and inter-related problems. The first is to bring a vast population out of poverty and into decent lives. The second is to do this while dealing responsibly with the global carbon challenge and building resilience to climate change.
- While India is often mentioned along with China in climate-related discussions as a large emerging economy, the two are very different. India ranks 130 among nations in the Human Development Index, and China ranks 86. In spite of remarkable recent improvements, India still has 364 million living in multidimensional poverty. Nearly a third (27.5%) are multidimensionally poor and about a fifth (19.1%) are vulnerable to becoming poor. Almost half the country is therefore at high risk from events such as loss of a job or ill health of a family member. Combined with damage from a severe cyclone, flood or drought, each subsequent shock will have a multiplier effect on hundreds of millions, potentially pushing them deeper into poverty.
- Add to this the current rural distress and the large youth bulge with few job prospects, and the country is in dire straits. It is clear that past development frameworks have not improved well-being across social strata. Instead, evidence indicates that economic growth has gone hand-in-hand with rising inequality and the creation of a small but powerful class of the super-rich.
- India, nevertheless, has a large number of successful examples of transformative innovation around energy production and access, land, livelihoods and climate resilience. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency showed how government ‘nudges’ are made effective through appliance labelling and large-scale procurement of efficient devices. In the building and cement industry, innovation around housing and new materials, including natural fibre composites, could make far-reaching changes in infrastructure through low-carbon modular technologies.
- India expects to reach its ambitious solar target of 100 GW capacity by 2022 primarily through large centralised solar power plants, but these require significant amounts of land, water and evacuation infrastructure and support from mega-corporations. Instead, as some States have shown, renewable-based microgrids can become an important feature of electricity policy. Jharkhand, which has 249 remote villages powered by solar microgrids, is now considering their use even in villages that are already grid connected.
- In the near future, entrepreneurs could make use of rapidly lowering storage costs to build decentralised, neighbourhood-scale micro-utilities, managed by locally owned enterprises and cooperatives. With modern power electronics and innovations in hybrid waste to energy, water recycling and community gardens could be integrated as standalone modules that are connected to larger grids.
- Sustainable approaches to land are evident in cases such as forest conservation in Mendha-Lekha village in Maharashtra and community delivery of public services in Nagaland. These and several other instances are documented in initiatives such as Vikalp Sangam.
- Some research groups have recognised that agro-ecology methods are best suited for increasing crop yield, raising profits, trapping soil carbon, reducing dependence on fertilisers and pesticides. Successful models are already effective on small scales in many States. Andhra Pradesh is attempting to replicate widely one such approach, Zero Budget Natural Farming, to all its farmers by 2024 with an expected savings of 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. This is with 6 million farmers across 8 million hectares. If similar methods were used for the entire country, the savings would be substantial.
- It turns out that the most sensible way to deal with these complex challenges is to deepen and expand India’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The synergies of meeting SDGs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate can only be fully realised if transformative and cross-scale changes are conceived, deliberated upon and tested widely. Further, “scaling up” may not be the correct way to think about what is needed; rather, replication with context-relevant modifications through local and institutional innovation may be more appropriate for a country of India’s size and ecological diversity.
- The 1.5° C report calls for societal transformation on a global scale that “reflect[s] the links, synergies and trade-offs between mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development.” Recent events, however, show that we cannot trade off forests, urban water bodies, riverine ecosystems, waste management or groundwater as these come back to bite us as floods, landslides, droughts and infectious disease.
- The next round of state action plans on climate change now being developed might begin with identifying successful development approaches overlaid with expected climate impacts in each ecological zone. Policymakers, with inputs from academia, community workers and the public, could then work on how these would be repeated in other contexts keeping climate impacts in mind.
- Large investments are needed to make the transitions in each sector that would take the country to a near zero-carbon economy. But given the shortage of external support and the need for rapid deployment, India will not be able to rely entirely on external funds. Some of this could instead be financed through a ‘luxury’ carbon tax that curbs non-essential consumption. Savings can also be expected from the economic and social transformation itself.
- In transport and urbanisation, the challenge is to create isotropic communities in the areas of the peri-urban, the rapidly expanding hinterland, which would have to be designed around not cars but walking, cycling and sustainable neighbourhood vehicles. Work and industry would also have to focus on the small and medium scale of about 300 employees and modest capital investments, which reduce the risk of speculation and jobless growth.
- Energy and livelihood gains from such alternative visions could be far more significant than conventional ways of replacing fossil-fuelled infrastructure with renewables. But they also involve a lot of learning-by-doing, living laboratories and innovation, practice, patience and support from government and academia.
- Political pressure and activism across the globe may soon turn the tide in other countries, but India needs to begin now with its enormous untapped successes. We cannot be pressured from outside, but need to change from within.
GS II- SOCIAL-GENDER
Q2. Feminist movements such as the recent #MeToo movement can help bring a change in the mindset and behavior of Indian men. Explain.
- It’s hopeful and say that the behaviour of men will change after the #MeToo movement. The first and toughest step in fighting any oppression is to tell the oppressor that his power over you is not absolute and that it will not remain unchallenged. #MeToo has enabled women to take that step against workplace harassment. Such harassment had been normalised to the extent that most women believed that it was a price they had to pay to become a part of the workforce. The next generation of women will not grow up with that flawed belief.
- Male dominance over women is systematic, institutionalised, and, above all, physical. Power has been demonstrated through threats of harassment and rape, sexual assault, acid attacks, domestic violence and making spaces of cohabitation a source of constant threat. Many women have taken to social media to challenge this and it’s working.
- Despite the vicious fightback by the accused and their supporters, powerful men are evidently rattled. A film production and distribution company, Phantom Films, has been dissolved; a Minister of State was forced to step down; Aamir Khan has ‘stepped away’ from Mogul after sexual misconduct allegations against a team member; journalists in more than one prominent media organisation have been asked to step down, or have volunteered to do so. Beyond the headlines, invisible wheels have started turning. Industries that had no sexual harassment policy or redress mechanisms are being forced to set up committees. Corporates are being forced to proclaim that they have zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Conversations around sexual harassment that were earlier hush-hush have become loud. The lasting impact of #MeToo, long after it stops making the headlines, will be on men who know that they don’t have the guarantee of silence, that they will be made answerable for abuse, and that their ‘boys club’ won’t be enough to protect them.
- The modern economy needs women in the workforce. The #MeToo movement has made it evident that being on the wrong side is also bad for business. And economy is a language that men understand. #MeToo has given women the power to expose men, socially shame them, take away their jobs, and upset their private and professional lives. And power is a language that men understand. Fear, too, is a language that men will soon come to understand.
- Women have taken to social media to talk about being harassed, humiliated, assaulted and bullied by powerful men. The sheer volume of stories and the unflinching solidarity for these women is unprecedented. Expectedly, attempts are being made to derail, politicise, discredit, and misuse the movement, and suppress those testifying. Others are questioning what the movement stands for, its circumvention of due process, and what qualifies as harassment. This sort of consternation has in the past derailed meaningful conversation about change. But this time, the storm is too powerful for that to happen.
- Almost none of the stories being told are surprising. Yet, the horror is manifest in the relentless surge of testimonies. It is impossible to look away, and that is a necessary precondition for change. Another strong element of the movement is ironically what has been labelled as its biggest weakness: it is anarchic and revolutionary. Instinctive and systematic oppression taking place over centuries cannot be challenged by organic, incremental change. Women are talking about all kinds of subjugation and transgressions.
- #MeToo will also have to find a way to transcend its small, elite and urban sphere of influence to include women excluded by the nature of the medium on which this is playing out, women negotiating the intersection of caste and gender oppression and women for whom the stakes of speaking out are impossibly high.