Q.1) The government has launched Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) to eliminate open defecation. What are the main components of this mission? How far has it been successful? GS 2
The Government of India had launched “Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)” on 2nd October, 2014 with the following objectives:
- Eliminate open defecation,
- Conversion of insanitary toilets to pour flush toilets,
- Eradication of manual scavenging,
- 100% collection and scientific processing/disposal reuse/recycle of Municipal Solid Waste
- To bring about a behavioral change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices
- Generate awareness among the citizens about sanitation and its linkages with public health.
- Strengthening of urban local bodies to design, execute and operate systems.
- To create enabling environment for private sector participation in Capital Expenditure and Operation & Maintenance (O&M) costs.
Swachh Bharat Mission is the project which primarily focuses on elimination of open defecation in the nation by 2019. The main components of the project are:
- Construction of Household Toilets,
- Community and Public Toilets,
- Solid Waste Management
- Information, Education & Communication (IEC) and Public Awareness,
- Capacity Building and Administrative & Office Expenses (A&OE).
The achievements of the project are listed below:
- Rural sanitation coverage having gone up from 39% to 67% in three years.
- The use of media and campaigns like ‘DarwazaBandh’ has led to behavior change and public awareness of the need for sanitation.
- The project has set-off healthy competition among cities and districts.
- Self-help groups, NGOs and popular icons have pitched in and the results are showing in the form of a record number of sustainable toilets, open defecation-free towns, schools with gender specific toilets and decrease in water borne diseases in open defecation field villages and towns.
- Making functional toilets a compulsory qualification for contesting panchayat elections in Haryana and Rajasthan shows the determination to achieve the dream.
- In terms of quantity of toilets constructed, SwachhVidyalayAbhiyan is a success.
- People are coming with ideas to contribute to the mission.
- The dropout rate of females from schools and colleges is decreasing and those that had left have come to school after construction of toilets.
- The spread of communicable diseases has seen a downward trend in villages that have performed well in Swachh Bharat Mission.
- Of 73 cities that participated in SwachhSurvekshan 2016, 54 cities have improved their score in overall municipal solid waste management in 2017
The project also has few drawbacks like:
- The project is facing the problems like outdated infrastructure and space crunch.
- There is lack of public-private partnership to bear the total cost.
- Urban metros and towns in India lack space.
- The rapid increase of slums and decrease in available spaces has also resulted in problems related to health and sanitation.
- Another area of worry is the cut in resources allocated for behaviour change.
- The policy and approach behind it ignores a fundamental pre-requisite to ensure sustainable results through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).
- The real focus of the implementation is on showing toilets and the expenditure to be reported on toilet-based subsidies. As a result, usage on community scale becomes its immediate casualty.
- The present verification system which seeks the uploading of toilet pictures (for beneficiary payments to be reimbursed) reinforces this focus on toilets instead of behaviour change.
- Most of the money is going towards toilet construction, and very little towards information, education, and communication (IEC). This is troublesome given the reasons open defecation persists in rural India.
- Even the goal of the mission is to eliminate open defecation and programme guidelines call for a latrine use survey, there is still no plan to collect such data.
- Direct central involvement with the districts means that it loses the ability to critically examine ODF declarations. It becomes an actor responsible for the result and not a judge of the outcome. This can end up putting a question mark on the sustainability of the achievements that will be rewarded through the World Bank loan.
Lack of proper sanitation leads to a less healthy and less productive population, leading to economic loss. A World Bank study estimates that the resulting loss to the Indian economy is 6.4% of the GDP because of poor sanitation. Announcing a goal of eliminating open defecation by 2019 was a great initiative but now that we are 40% through India’s flagship sanitation campaign, it is a good time to assess how much progress the mission has made.
Q.2) What is the National River Linking Project (NRLP)? What is the need of interlinking of rivers? What will be the adverse impact of Interlinking of rivers on environment and people? GS-1
National River Linking Project:
- The National River Linking Project (NRLP) is a proposed large-scale project that aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals.
- It aims at reducing persistent floods in Eastern India and water shortages in Southern and Western India
- The project is being managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA), under its Ministry of Water Resources.
- The project will comprise of 30 links to connect 37 rivers across the nation through a network of nearly 3000 storage dams.
- It has two major components: Himalayan Component and Peninsular Component.
It has four sub components:
- Mahanadi and Godavari basins to Krishna, Cauvery and Vaigai rivers
- West-flowing rivers south of Tapi to the north of Bombay
- Ken River to Betwa River and Parbati, Kalisindh rivers to Chambal rivers
- Some West flowing rivers to the East flowing rivers
Need for interlinking of projects:
- The rainfall is highly variable across India- the east and north get most of the rain, while the west and south get less
- India also sees years of excess monsoons and floods, followed by late monsoons with droughts.
- This geographical and time variance in the availability of natural water versus the year round demand for irrigation, drinking and industrial water creates a demand-supply gap.
- Proponents of river-linking project claims that India’s water problem can be solved by conserving monsoon water in reservoirs and delivering this water to water-scarce regions using rivers interlinking projects.
The interlinking of rivers will have adverse impact on environment and lives of million people. Some of these are discussed below:
1- Environmental Impacts:
- Environmental Degradation
- Climate Change: if the glaciers don’t sustain their glacier mass due to climate change, the very concept that the donor basin (mostly Himalayan Rivers) has surplus water that can be made available for the recipient basin, will change.
- Loss of aquatic ecosystem
- Water logging and salinity
- Submergence of vast areas of land in reservoirs: linking of the Ken and Betwa rivers at the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is expected to submerge an important wildlife habitat which is home to many endangered species.
- Threat to Himalayan Forest: the Ganga basin’s topography is flat, building dams would not substantially add to river flows and these dams could threaten the forests of the Himalayas. This may impact the functioning of the monsoon system.
- Destruction f groundwater recharge mechanisms
2- Loss of livelihood and displacement of people:
- Loss of land, forests and fisheries on which most of the poor and tribal people sustain their livelihood
- Massive displacement of people : psychological damage due to forced resettlement
- Rehabilitation of the affected people is a major challenge for the project
3- Geopolitical Constraints:
- Some of the interlinking of rivers schemes has international implications, with a possible impact on countries like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh
- Bangladesh strongly objects to transferring the Brahmaputra water to the Ganga.
- Water transfer in the Himalayan component needs to consider the effects on the neighbouring countries
The River Linking project is a great challenge and an opportunity to address the water issues arising out of climate change. The long-term solution to water scarcity lies in making the River Linking project work by building a network of dams and canals across the length and breadth of the country. However, interlinking has to take place after a detailed study so that it does not cause any problem to the environment and society.
Q.3) The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 was recently notified by the government. What are the key features of the act? Critically analyze GS -2
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 was recently notified by government which amended some of the provisions related to the duration and applicability of maternity leave, and other facilities in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
- The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.
- The Act states that every woman will be entitled to maternity benefit of 12 weeks. The amended act increases this to 26 weeks.
- Under the Act, this maternity benefit should not be availed before six weeks from the date of expected delivery. The amendment changes this to eight weeks.
- In case of a woman who has two or more children, the maternity benefit will continue to be 12 weeks, which cannot be availed before six weeks from the date of the expected delivery.
- The amendment introduces a provision to grant 12 weeks of maternity leave to:
1- a woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age
2- a commissioning mother. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.
- An employer may permit a woman to work from home even after the leave period.
- It is a mandatory provision requiring every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance.
- Informing women employees of the right to maternity leave: every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her.
- The amendment provides a maternity leave of 26 weeks which exceeds ILO’s minimum standard of 14 weeks. It will improve India’s ranking in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave.
- The amendment will help lakhs of women workforce in organised sector.
- The amendments also help women devote time to take care of their babies and enable an increase in the women’s labour force participation (WLFPR) rate in India.
- As absence of adequate maternity leave and income security is one of the reasons for women dropping out of the labour force, this will provide protection to women.
- The increase in maternity would help new mothers bond with their babies and also to enable them to breastfeed leading to enhanced nutrition and immunity for the child.
- The amendment recognizes mothers as primary care giver and ignores role of father in childcare. Thus, it perpetuates gender role stereotypes i.e. fathers don’t need to spend time with new-born.
- The amendment is silent on paternity leave issue.
- It may lead to employers to pay men more than the women due to different work conditions. It weakens the directive “equal pay for equal work” enshrined under Article 38 of the Constitution.
- The amendment is silent on single father or transgender who might want to adopt a child.
- The amendment may deter employers from hiring female work force, thus making women less desirable as male employees in free market enterprises, perpetuating gender gap in employment.
- Increasing maternity leave could have an adverse impact on the job opportunities available for women as the amendment requires the employer to pay full wages during maternity leave. It could increase costs for employers and result in a preference for hiring male workers.