Friday, 28 November 2014

Collective Climate Change Conciliation

There has been much hue and cry over the US-China climate change agreement on India. It has been considered that it may lead to isolation of India in upcoming climate change negotiation in Paris for an overarching framework of Green House Gas emission post 2020. However, most of the critiques have overlooked the real intention behind the agreement and its outcome on India.

India with about 6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions is simply not in the same league as China, the U.S. or the EU. Even with 8 per cent economic growth over the next decade and a half, its share will not cross 10 per cent at most. Of course, in per-capita terms India will be more advantageously placed simply because its population, already 1.24 billion, will increase by about 400 million over the next 35 years. But it would be extremely unwise to dismiss the significance of this agreement on the grounds that India is “different” because of the per-capita argument. Climate change is a global phenomenon and so is its impact. Any change in climate, rain pattern, river flow or the overall ecosystem, will have adverse consequences for India as well, whether the reason of increase in Green House Gas emission is coming out of China, US or EU. The impact cannot be country specific or region specific. Though the gravity of impact may be different but it will have impact on red-fed areas, irrigation, agricultural output, droughts and floods as well rise in sea level and subsequent merger of low land or coast jeopardizing the 7500 Km coastline and livelihood of people. The agreement will provide India to adopt, adapt, mitigate and reduce its carbon emission through shifting to carbon free sources of energy. The present strategy of not taking the impending crises into policy making and calling for differential responsibility, in which India can use resources for growth will be a double burden. First, we would be going for technologies, which may be carbon intensive to fund our growth prospect and then, we would be making vocal protest for more technologies to mitigate and decrease the impact of increased greenhouse emissions coming out of exploitation of resources. It is better to adopt a strategy that would be a judicious mix of both of them and that is what new agreement between china and US offers.
The agreement offers new paradigm shift in how climate change shall be taken into consideration and how we, as collective being must proceed despite our differences which may be historic or contemporary ranging from per-capita emissions or industrial activity and its intensity. Further, the agreement is signed for collective reduction of greenhouse gases by setting a target for all countries whether developed or developing. The agreement is no way seeks to reduce the developed world responsibility to decrease its funding of Green Climate Fund agreed in Copenhagen Summit or transfer of technology for mitigation and adaptation. China has been vocal in supporting the BASIC group and the agreement nowhere talks about the same responsibility of the developing countries in terms of funding and research.

Thus, it is necessary for India to move away from its callous attitude and call for a framework that substantiates its reduction targets on equity criteria but being pragmatic about its vocal support for funding by the developed countries.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Make in/ Made by India

Past six months have witnessed a stream of schemes that are aimed at cleaning India to making India to faking India at various domestic and international events. Well, the one thing that caught my eye is much touted “Make in India” that aims to provide a manufacturing boost to the economy. Manufacturing sector is always considered as the growth engine of the economy and this can be gauged by China’s domination in every product manufacturing and its dumping potential that even threaten the western intellectuals.


The government called upon the multi-national companies to invest in manufacturing sector through the exclusive red carpet that would be more shiny then that of Cannes and more transparent and smooth then the screen guards of smartphones (transparent and smooth in context of getting license and setting business). Well, the move is somewhere to counter the China’s manufacturing items that has infested to each and every household in India ranging from electronics products to deepawali diyas. But the scheme is nothing but Old Wine in a New Bottle and will not be able to make any change except the cosmetic ones. China is today a leading manufacturer and is construed to be a world power but because it is independent with regard to economic policies. No country can be expected to be a free bird from the shacked globalized order without being a sense of confidence in itself. This comes out of the fact that a country’s growth is measured by, how many countries are looking forward, not to invest but to seek investment. The status is defined not by how much you get/earn but by, how much you can give whether through altruistic ideology or through paternalistic attitude if individual and self-interest.
I never understood why it is “Make in India” and not “Made by Indians”. Today what China has witnessed is not the magnanimity of foreign powers or MNCs, but its self-reliant and capability to earn. Like the respect and trust needs to be earned, so is the growth through the hard work and consistent failures. India doesn't need any “Make in India” scheme that offers more benefits to foreign companies that what it does for Indians. There is a need to develop indigenous talent and expertise in manufacturing that comes out of growth of a new breed to individual ready to take risk and supported by government effort in a free and fair environment without bureaucratic hurdles and politics of trade unions and associations.
In addition to that, not only supply side, demand side must also be looked upon. There has been rise in consumerism or affluenza among the new born middle class and upper class. This ideology, more through the new door step shopping has increased the cravings of those just like the blood craves the lion when one smells it for the first time. Indian products are not sold at these platforms or there is psychic state that what is western is good or what is branded is awesome but not what is generic. There is need to change that thinking whether the protectionist attitude or change in policies to coerce sellers through the use of policies. Raw material must be extracted by swadeshi firm, processed and manufactured by desi company and sold to videshis as well. Only then can we expect anything substantial.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Clean and Sanitized India : From my point of view

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched with much fanfare from the echelons of Red fort on 15th August 2014 to provide independence from the dirt, filth surrounding the public places in India. It has various political, economic, health and environmental and aesthetic connotations. The program calls for at least 2 hours a week of dedication from the citizens to keep your city clean and green and maintain the decorum of public places. This has led to coming out of various celebrities doing symbolic cleansing of the area around their locality or politicians using the brooms to clean up roads which were deliberately made dirty.
However, when I look around, I don’t find any sea change in the awareness of large sections of society; forget a change in overall picture. I have not seen a single political activist, Bollywood celebrity or the so called social volunteers (NGOs) coming out to clean slums, ghettos, or the tracks of Indian Railways. There is a take here, clean areas that doesn't have any social stigma attached with it – this is swachhta called for these elites.

Well, leaving this social, cultural paradigm aside, I thought of conducting a survey in my locality about the way people took the programme in general. Well, due to low access to manpower, I decided to side-line this idea and simply went to talk about the cleanliness individually from my neighbours and it is hard to believe the outcomes. Most people especially youths are not aware of the programme and even if they are aware, they tend avoid any confrontation. The social behaviour teaches us not only ignore the wrongs inflicted but be a part of that wrong. This is what in general parlance we call, “imitation”. “Why should I be doing everything right, when all others are doing the same”. The same thing goes with corruption, red tape and other problems of India.

Coming back to my point, the outcomes are with regard to cross examination I myself faced from people. When I asked them about various methods to maintain clean places, the first question was, “Does these places even have dustbins? Where else do you expect us to throw? When you travel by railways, I never found any dustbin in the compartment.” I wondered how Delhi Metro remained so clean even when there are no dustbins. Well, the same person tend to keep the litter in his/her bag while in a metro as a part of social co-presence and the same person tend to throw away the garbage on the track or on platform, again as a part of social co-presence. Though there is definitely a need for providing ‘use me’ at certain distance on roads and at key public places.

Recently, my mother’s school has introduced a dustbin despite the fact that there is no canteen in that rural village, neither child bring any food from home as it is provided under Mid-Day Meal Scheme. So, before kick-starting a program it is necessary to create provision for dustbins at places. However, placing dustbins must be supplemented by continuous monitoring of these dustbins by municipal corporations/ contractors so that the garbage doesn't rote and are taken for processing through waste treatment plants.

Other questions I faced were. “Are there any community toilets and even if they are, they are worse off and seems that nobody has cleaned them ever. Further, some of them at bus stands and stations have been contracted and why should I be paying for the same thing that I can do in open?” While they have some genuine concern on this one. I myself wondered most of the times that there is lack of availability of community toilets. If we don’t talk about the Sulabh Experiment in New Delhi, most of tier-II and tier III towns don’t have community toilets. 

Further, there is no manpower and proper water availability to lean these toilets. Most of the times, they stink and are nothing but rusted ammoniated marble structures. Thus open defecation is sort of institutionalised and more people prefer to go in fields as these offer somewhat pleasant experience then those toilets.

 Now, coming to disposal of waste that has been generated especially at the household level. Household is one of the greatest consumption Unit and thus among the largest contributor to waste both food and non-food. “There is no segregation of plastic bags from the other food waste. This leads to a great problem as I have to wash these plastic bags from water to sell for recycling”, said the rag-picker who is contracted by our municipal corporation. Well, he is right in the sense that, most of us don’t segregate the waste that will make it easier to dispose, recycle, reuse. The food waste like peeled off vegetables and rotten food can be directly routed to centres of animal breeding or stray dogs. This will help in disposing off the waste. Further, polythene can be segregated and can directly be given to the rag pickers. That will not only act as a source of livelihood and recycling but also help prevent water pollution that comes out of washing those polythene bags. There are various land fill sites in my city near civilian institutions like colleges where the waste is dumped first. From there it is taken to a plant outside the city where it is again dumped causing land degradation twice. It is necessary to collect waste at once and exhuming directly to the waste disposal plants. Further, more consumerism has given rise of more waste generation but the capacity of the plants remaining same; there is huge pressure and slow disposal. That needs to be reinvigorated and shall be the main area of focus.

Further, there is need for the development of modern sewage infrastructure in all cities on a priority basis. While plastic bags have been banned but still, they are in use everywhere. It is necessary to crackdown at these manufacturing industries which degrade environment while making the product at well as at the time of disposal. More public toilets and dustbins must be put in place. The program shall start from individual level (keeping your waste with yourself and not throwing it at any place except dustbins or requisite place) as well as household level (segregation of waste). Moving towards a city/town concept that places more emphasis on planned growth even with regard to ghettos and providing better services with regard to water, infrastructure in these places with pucca houses can only usher in a sanitized India and Indians.