The Anthropocene Era!

 

he Chronological approach to understand the evolution of earth since its formation, geological timescale has been divided into periods and named further to understand and remember their features.

The Holocene Epoch which started around 11,700 years ago and still continues has run to its finish line as scientists have started referring to the period starting mid 20th century as the “Great Acceleration” and have coined the starting of a new age “Anthropocene”.

Holocene which succeeded the late Palaeolithic Ice age brought with itself a more heat insolated earth resulting into faster glacier retreat. Family system, animal domestication, agriculture and cultivation led to deforestation and settlements. In contrast the Anthropocene period is being marked by- advanced technological developments leading to exploitation of natural resources exponentially, industrialisation, increased levels of Carbon Dioxide, methane, stratospheric ozone, rise in surface temperature, ocean acidification, marine fish harvesting, tropical forest loss, population growth etc.

Also, the Holocene transition is attributed to the changes that happened naturally, while for the Anthropocene transition, humans are directly responsible.

Though, it is better to understand the terms and the transition reasons related to the chronological ordering on our geological timescale, it should be more critical to understand the irreversible changes that we as humans are doing to this planet. A greater awareness not to affect our environment on such a scale that it starts affecting the ecological and geological scale is needed. Also the use of renewable resources, environmental consciousness, limiting fossil fuel use etc. will definitely be an educated move to avoid such anthropogenic effects in future.

Surrogacy and Women Empowerment.

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The Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016 is likely to regulate the practice of surrogacy in India prioritising the rights of surrogates and the child.

The bill has following provisions empowering the surrogate mother:

  • By providing for a national regulator to oversee clinics offering surrogate services: will curb any kind of overcharging, misappropriation and miscarriage of best practices.
  • By providing for legal aid to the surrogate mother: will empower women with legal rights in matters related to the surrogacy.

However the Bill has some provisions negating the advances made towards women empowerment:

  • Commercial surrogacy being banned completely will lead to restricting the ability of poor and unskilled women to pull themselves out of poverty and miseries ending their financial independence. They will again be forced to live at the mercy of moneylenders and get into the vicious cycle of debt.
  • Threat in the form of Absence of livelihood will affect their autonomy in decision making.
  • State putting restriction to only one time altruistic surrogacy shows a challenge in the form of freedom of choice passing from individual to state
  • A regressive observation in the form of considering single women unfit to look after a child by forbidding them from having a surrogate child.

Looking closely at the bill, a clear glimpse of compromise with respect to advances in women empowerment can be observed. The bill can be made more significant and effective by regulating the whole surrogacy industry, greater interaction with the women community involved, acknowledging their ground level challenges and providing alternatives to those who were coerced to work into this business.

The Nuclear Umbrella.

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Nuclear umbrella is a collective nuclear security agreement between a nuclear power state and other non-nuclear states in which the former provides a nuclear security to the later as we have US providing nuclear umbrella to Japan.

Over a period of time since the cold war, the umbrella states have changed their strategy towards disarmament campaign considering the new emerging geo-political and diplomatic situations. As of date umbrella states are divided into two groups. One state acts as a proxy for other nuclear states to scuttle such disarmament campaigns while the otherd are in a fix as to what action can be taken.

During the recent open ended working group meeting, umbrella countries like Australia who earlier supported CTBT , voted against the resolution to bring a legally binding agreement for nuclear disarmament in 2017. Other umbrella countries like Japan, however abstained from the voting.

It is obvious that all the umbrella countries are taking decision based on their economic, political and social, security and diplomatic concerns, however for the welfare of the whole humanity, states whether nuclear or umbrella start looking beyond their political boundaries.

Public Servants and Anti-Corruption Policies.

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The 1988 Prevention of Corruption Act was a significant step in a way to encounter the challenge of corruption in a broader sense. Section 13 (1) (d) of this act has provision on Criminal misconduct by a public servant in five forms.

It is necessary and important in ensuring probity in civil services as:

  • It ascertains the liability clearly defining the scenarios, thereby avoiding the vagueness of the “abuse of office” phrase of 1947 law against public servant corruption.
  • It keeps a check on public servants so that they not easily give up to corrupt demands from their superiors (accused case of H.C. Gupta in the coal scam)
  • It provides for a criminal liability on abetment of graft, even in cases in which the pubic servant is not benefitted directly, but gross misappropriation occurred because of the absence of any resistance
  • Ensures that while holding office, obtaining anything valuable, or taking any pecuniary advantage, without any public interest is treated as criminal misconduct.

A fearless environment and accountability are two pillars which provide a stable platform for a successful bureaucracy, and the proposed amendment to do away with sec 13 1 d  will definitely challenge both of these pillars as well as the governance framework in which, an easy drift for an honest and weak civil servant may become very frequent. The solution therefore should be making the section more elaborate, amending its provisions to further strengthen the accountability of civil servants- by documenting their decisions and the reasons behind in  a more elaborate question anwer framework and by creating a more accountable, transparent structure in which the public servant is always answerable to the public or the assigned authority (via press, media or gazette) because at last it is all about the public money and societal needs for which the bureaucracy works.

The GST Challenge.

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The GST council has been given the ultimate responsibility to bring the biggest tax reform of India-the GST act- to reality. But, there has been a lot of concern about its structure and functioning , most of which has revolved around the Centre-State relationship, like :

1) The provision of Centre reserving 33% voting rights in a council requiring 3/4th votes as majority gives a veto power to the centre.  Thus, fear of centralization exists.

2) Since the tax collection ambit will expand, it will affect poor, the most and the states no longer have the autonomy to frame policies to secure their interests based on regional priorities and requirements.

3) The bill takes away taxation of Goods from states permanently, thereby increasing the financial dependence on centre via grants/loans/aids.

4) Despite parity in GST council there is a risk of loosing out in case same party rules at the centre and the state compromising regional needs against party politics.

Though there seem to be many challenges in front of cooperative federalism in respect to the structural implementation of GST, however the necessity of a long wished common taxation system and a common pricing structure for commodities has definitely been  fulfilled.

Considering its infancy, utilitarian vulnerability and challenging structure, the implementation needs utmost care with active feedback support from all the stakeholders to make it more successful. The Centre having the largest stake, should work with an open-door policy and an inclusive mindset for the bill to have a positive effect on the Society, States and the Centre.

Climate Change!!

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Pollution is continuously affecting our environment and ecology by fundamentally changing the heat insolation, radiation, cloud formation, cloud behaviour and precipitation patterns.
Normally, the heat received by earth in a non-polluted atmosphere, makes the rising motion of air. In response to this rising warm air, moisture laden cold winds come to balance the low pressure region created, bring with them clouds, thereby resulting in precipitation response (also called monsoon in India). The abnormal changes, in the form of presence of dust, Particulate Matter, Soot etc. on the first place reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth which ruins the whole process of evaporation. This leads to less heating of air to create a low pressure zone, cloud formation and the precipitation response.

The changes in the pollution level and the chemical composition is even mixing up with the types of clouds formation resulting in reduction of moisture holding capacity and weak precipitation. Similarly the problem of Green House Gas emissions which form a major chunk of polluting gases is worsening the heat releasing capacity of our atmosphere and making earth a heat shell leading to an expected increase of above 2 deg Celsius above Industrial levels. Heated sea surface as a result is again prone to reduce the atmospheric stability that supports the existence of large scale statiform cloud decks and precipitation patterns.

Such atmospheric changes are going to have a very severe effect on the living beings:
1) Net fall in rainfall may lead to drought conditions and create food security concerns
2) Sea and ocean surface temp rise will affect the aquatic ecology
3) Land degradation, Conversion to desert and arid kind of climate
4) Variable weather patterns
5) Differential distribution of precipitation leading to flood in some regions and drought in other parts

Pollution thus becomes a continuously growing devil and a cause of concern. Pollution levels however can be optimally brought down and kept under control by various measures such as using renewable resources of energy like wind energy, solar energy, tidal energy and geo-thermal energy. Also, policies like formation of the International Solar Alliance, Jawaharlal Nehru National solar mission, setting up of multi purpose projects for electricity generation, energy conservation via LED bulbs must be appreciated along with creating more awareness about the use and pollution related critical concerns on the ground level.

India’s role in the neighborhood.

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India’s long struggle for independence and the philosophy of our founding fathers based on which we achieved our independence and put the building blocks of our democracy, provided us a vision to support those who are facing identical circumstances in terms of racial discrimination, human right violations and colonial repression.

As in the case of Apartheid and African colonialisation, India took a strong stand to severe its relation with the related nations for decades. Similarly in the case of Palestine, India has always supported their cause as a separate state and in light of the huge human rights violation by Israel India even opposed Israels entry to the United Nations.

Proving its stand against the repression of Tibetians by the Chinese Regime, India granted asylum to Dalai Lama even on the cost of deteriorating relations with a significant neighbour. India also extended its significant support when it came to the safeguard of the East Pakistani Population against the genocide and medieval butchery attempt by Pakistani forces under operation searchlight.

Considering the recent stand of India against the Human Rights violation in the Balochistan region (currently under Pakistan’s regime) which comes after a long time since India’s indirect support in the Srilankan Civil war, India has not lost its moral rights on expressing concerns on such issues and bringing them on the international platform. Although there are many such critical repressive violations occurring around the world (e.g. Oromos of Ethiopia), in the light of globalisation, diplomatic relations, trade relations and foreign policies which require a careful brainstorming before taking a stand, any country including India has to take a pragmatic approach in expressing concerns single-handedly or collectively for the greater cause of national and international benefit.

 

Awaiting the dawn!