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Q.1) States need to reconsider their stand against Kasturirangan committee report on Western ghat in the wake of recent calamity. Comment

Answer: The monsoon floods in Kerala and parts of Karnataka would have been averted had the recommendations of the expert committee on Western Ghats been implemented.

Kasturirangan committee report –

Instead of declaring entire Western Ghats as Ecologically Sensitive Area, the panel said that 90% of the “natural landscape” should be protected.

  1. Economic options should not forbade but answer protection of Western Ghats.
  2. Supervising forests and bettering their productivity to ascertain inclusive growth and economical gains for local communities.
  3. Removing the cash crop plantations such as rubber, agricultural fields and settlements should be from the protection regime.
  4. Integrating forest accounts into state and national economic assessments
  5. Initiating an ecosystem service fund to help villages around the forests
  6. Promoting sustainable agriculture
  7. Encouraging ecotourism for local benefits.
  8. Establish a Decision Support and Monitoring Centre for Geospatial Analysis and Policy Support in the Western Ghats to supervise changes and recommend state government on policy reform.
  9. High-resolution maps delimiting ecologically sensitive areas, down to each village settlement, must be put in the public domain so that people can be involved in taking decisions about environment.
  10. A ban on all polluting industries categorised as most hazardous in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  11. The Forest Rights Act, 2006 that recognises the rights of dwellers on forest resources, will be implemented in letter and spirit and the consent of Gram Sabhas concerned will be mandatory for any project.
  12. Strict regime for Hydro-power projects including cumulative impact assessment of such projects and ensuring minimum water flow in the rivers in the lean season.

What were the objections:

  1. Need to balance human development pressures along with protection of Western Ghats.
  2. Allowing extractive industries such as quarrying and mining to operate in the region for industrial and revenue purposes.
  3. Calculation of what constitutes the sensitive core and what activities can be carried out.
  4. They expressed the view that declaring entire Western ghats region as an ecologically sensitive zone would seriously impair economic activity.

Why states should reconsider:

  1. Sustainable development of the region depends on the health of the ecosystem in this biodiversity hotspot.
  2. Activities affecting the environment need to be reconsidered in the wake of disasters life recent Kerala floods.
  3. Man-made factors worsened the impact of recent unprecedented rain in Kerala and Karnataka.
  4. Satellite images confirm the extent of degradation in these ecologically sensitive areas.
  5. Sustainable development is an imperative in times of global warming and extreme weather occurrences.

 

Q.2) Discuss the roles that telemedicine can play in improving the health conditions of rural India? What are the challenges in its implementing?

Answer: Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance.

Potential role of telemedicine

  1. Improved access – The physician population ratio in India is 0.6/1000. This ratio is among the lowest in the world. Telemedicine reduces the physical barriers in access to doctors.
  2. Cost effective – The actual public health spending in India is only 1.04% of GDP. This is grossly inadequate for the maintenance of good public health. Telemedicine makes medicine more affordable with the use of technology.
  3. Less infrastructure – 68% of the population still lives in the rural areas. Rural health care system is plagued with several problems from shortage of healthcare professionals and health infrastructure. About 60-80% of the physician positions in various specialties are vacant in the rural health care services. Telemedicine reduces the infrastructure needed for delivering the service.
  4. Bridges rural – urban divide in health outcomes: The rural/urban healthcare disparity is reflected in the healthcare outcomes as IMR in urban population is 27 whereas in rural population it is 44. Similarly, total fertility rate (TFR) is 1.8 in the urban population whereas in rural population it is 2.6.
  5. Telemedicine applications can be classified into two basic types.

a) Store-and-forward or asynchronous type – there is exchange of pre-recorded data between two or more individuals at different times/places.

b) Real-time or synchronous type – there is a real time exchange of information by methods such as in videoconferencing.

c) These two basic approaches to telemedicine can be applied to a wide array of clinical services, including disease diagnosis, triage, management and follow up of diseases

Challenges:

  1. Lack of basic infrastructure life electricity and communication network to utilise the technology.
  2. Lack of digital literacy.
  3. Insufficient financing to these projects. The cost of this infrastructure is a big concern as there are not enough funds.
  4. Despite the technology, there is need for other professionals to guide the rural people in explaining the processes.
  5. Linguistic diversity in India is a bigger challenge to improve the accessibility of the technology.

 

Q.3) Highlight the reasons behind failure of online companies to curb circulation of online videos of sexual violence against women and children. In your opinion what measures should government take to deal with this menace?

Answer: Reasons for failure:

  1. The compliance of service providers to the previous guidelines in this regard is mediocre.
  2. Issue of tracing the origin of “unlawful” content is a big challenge.
  3. Assistance to law enforcement agencies on identification of offender is delayed and meta data of end to end communication is not provided.
  4. Govt instructed the companies to set up an easy reporting mechanism for public on their platform. While Facebook has complied partially, Whatsapp and Twitter are yet to comply.

Measures to be taken by government:

  1. Bring directives to reduce the time taken by intermediary to comply with content removal requests under Sections of the IT Act.
  2. Request the companies to employ agencies for identification and removal of sexually violent content.
  3. The companies can be asked to deploy “proactive monitoring tools.”
  4. Intermediaries should share certain data with law enforcement agencies to identify the origin of such content.
  5. Intermediaries should be asked to keep a complete trail of forwarding of unlawful content and verify and maintain identifiers of the users that can help attribute information to the users.
  6. Bring in data localisation measures like China to make the tracking of individuals easy.
  7. Penalising the companies for lack of compliance to various directives.

 

Q.4) Critically analyse the government’s decision to turn down the foreign assistance for disaster relief with special reference in case of Kerala.

Answer: Why govt turned down the assistance:

  1. To demonstrate India’s superpower status. India should demonstrate that it had the strength to withstand and counter calamities and also help its neighbours, as in the case of December 2004 tsunami and piracy attacks in the Indian Ocean.
  2. This would strengthen its case for seeking to be a permanent member of United Nations Security Council and also hasten the prospect of superpower status by 2020.
  3. The fear of foreign hand, the spies who would come with it and interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

Merits:

  1. India has been the biggest contributor to the UN Development Programme and the biggest recipient of assistance. It is a party to the regulations of the UN and its conditionalities for assistance.

Demerits:

  1. This time should be used to use all assistance, Indian and foreign, to rebuild Kerala.
  2. This is an unnecessary distraction for the Central and State governments at a time of a grave crisis.
  3. The quoted amounts anyway will not meet even a fraction of the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure and bringing the State to normalcy.
  4. Bilateral and multilateral assistance will take a long time in coming though accepted. So any decision in this regard should be quickly taken.
  5. The policy of not accepting foreign assistance has not taken India even one step towards fulfilling its superpower ambitions.
  6. India was given admission into Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement it did not want, and Missile Technology Control Regime because its system of missile control was unmatchable, but the membership of NSG and the APEC were denied.
  7. The fear of spies is no more relevant. The development of technology is such that foreigners do not need to come in hordes to India to know what is happening or to influence decision-making.
  8. This may also have a negative impact on India’s relations with the UAE.
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