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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 26 & 27 September 2021

Contents

  1. India, Nepal: Flood management cannot be watered down
  2. T.N. and NEET: Stopping short of social justice

India, Nepal: Flood management cannot be watered down

Context:

Over the years, many of Bihar’s districts have been facing serious challenges with recurrent and massive flooding.

Even in 2021 it has been a double whammy — of flooding and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster and Management (Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters, Disaster Management in India), GS-I: Geography (Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concern regarding Flooding in Bihar
  2. History of Cooperation between Nepal and India regarding Floods
  3. Issues with Flood management alongside Nepal
  4. Measures to control floods in Himalayan Regions

Concern regarding Flooding in Bihar

  • Nepal’s three biggest river systems—Kosi, Gandaki and Karnali—originate in the high mountain glaciers, flow through the country and then enter India through the state of Bihar.
  • About 65% of the catchment area of these rivers falls in Nepal/Tibet and only 35% of the catchment area lies in Bihar.
  • During the monsoons, these river systems flood causing many problems for Bihar. The Government of Bihar has raised the matter at regular intervals. Despite the best efforts made by the Government of Bihar, the task remains unaccomplished even after 17 years.
  • It is a necessity that there is process-driven coordination between the Centre and the Government of Bihar to handle the flooding in Nepal’s Terai and North Bihar (largely the Mithilanchal region).
  • The history of floods in Bihar from 1998 to 2012 reveals how strong discharges of water due to heavy rains in the catchment areas of Nepal have created a strong pressure on the river embankments in India.
  • About 76 per cent of the population living in northern Bihar live under threat of floods due to these river systems and a total of 73.06 per cent of the total geographical area of Bihar is flood affected (mostly during the monsoon).
  • A study indicated that the plains of North Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods during the last 30-years. In the years 1978, 1987, 1998, 2004 and 2007, Bihar witnessed high magnitudes of flood.
  • Flood of 2004 demonstrates the severity of the flood problem when a vast area of almost 24 thousand Sq Km was badly affected by the floods of Bagmati, Kamla & Adhwara groups of rivers causing loss of about 800 human lives, even when Ganga, the master drain was flowing low.

History of Cooperation between Nepal and India regarding Floods

  • The history of cooperation between India and Nepal for embankments starting in the 1950s is worth looking at, which began when work on the Kosi embankments started in 1955 and a group of retired Nepali soldiers came over voluntarily to join hands with Indian volunteers and start the work.
  • Such a progressive government-citizen interface could not sustain itself and water cooperation between the two countries for a common cause waned.
  • Consequently, not much has happened barring the use of water resources for hydroelectric generation.
  • The Kosi Treaty of 1954, under which the embankments in Nepal were established and maintained, was not futuristic and did not make enough provisions for the maintenance of embankments and the rivers changing their course.
  • The deposition of stones, sand, silt and sediment has led to river beds rising, changing course and causing unimaginable losses. Between the mid-18th and mid-20th centuries, the Kosi is said to have shifted over 100 kilometres westward, resulting in large-scale human displacements. Also, there is a need for greater sensitisation on climatic imbalances and sustainable development.
  • Ironically, the same flood-affected regions also face the issue of drought and a sinking water table.
  • Clearly, course correction is needed to reestablish water cooperation as a common cause and draw inspiration for joint action from the 1950s.

Issues with Flood management alongside Nepal

  • The Central Water Commission (CWC) has convened several meetings with Nepali Authorities.
  • However, what is evident is Nepal’s lack of prompt reciprocation. India has long-standing water sharing issues with Nepal.
  • As in the figures shared by Bihar, a total of four new flood protection works in the Gandak basin area were proposed before the floods of 2020. There were proposed Barrage structures located in the border districts. However, Nepal argues that many of the bund area falls into no man’s land along the open international border.
  • This is notwithstanding the fact that the embankment was built by India 30 years ago and there has not been any dispute regarding its maintenance all these years.
  • There is a need for India-Nepal collaboration for an efficiently operated barrage.
  • It is evident that Nepal’s attitude towards mutual issues (water sharing, flood control, etc.) has been short of collaboration, unlike in the past.

Measures to control floods in Himalayan Regions:

Monitoring

  • The first step in tackling the threat from these glacial lakes is to start monitoring them and the glaciers more actively and regularly. We do not need to monitor every glacier.
  • Glaciers in one basin do not have remarkably different properties. If we identify one or two benchmark glaciers in every basin, those that are more easily accessible, and do detailed studies, then the results can be extrapolated to the rest of the glaciers in the basin or the state.
  • The government of Uttarakhand itself takes a lead in this effort, and not be entirely dependent on outside agencies for monitoring or data. Afterall, Uttarakhand is the most vulnerable to natural disasters like these, and it must build capacities to reduce the risk.

Planning

  • Construction-related activities in the state might not have a direct link to Sunday’s incident, but these are not entirely benign. The Himalayas are very young mountain systems, and extremely fragile.
  • A minor change in orientation of the rocks can be enough to trigger landslides. It is important to include glaciers in any environment impact assessment for major projects such as construction of dams.
  • The entire catchment areas should be made part of the impact assessment. In fact, project owners must be asked to invest in such studies. After all, their own assets are also at stake.

Mitigation

  • If we monitor the glaciers regularly, it would enable us to identify the lakes that need mitigation solutions. Several structural and geotechnical measures can be applied, and there are successful examples where the threat from these lakes have been reduced.
  • It is possible to construct channels for gradual and regulated discharge of water from these lakes, which will reduce the pressure on them, and minimise the chances of a breach.

-Source: The Hindu


T.N. and NEET: Stopping short of social justice

Context:

The Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a Bill to dispense with the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) and allow admission to medical courses based on Class 12 marks to “ensure social justice”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Education, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Centre-State Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The provisions of Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET in Tamil Nadu
  2. What is NEET and Arguments against NEET
  1. What is the dilemma now?
  2. Can states refuse to implement Central laws?

The provisions of Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET in Tamil Nadu

  • The Permanent Exemption Bill for NEET exempts medical aspirants in Tamil Nadu from taking NEET examination for admission to UG degree courses in Indian medicine, dentistry and homeopathy.
  • Instead, it seeks to provide admission to such courses on the basis of marks obtained in the qualifying examination, through “Normalisation methods”.
  • The aim of the Bill is to ensure “social justice, uphold equality and equal opportunity, protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated”, the government said.
  • The Bill seeks to bring vulnerable student communities to the “mainstream of medical and dental education and in turn ensure a robust public health care across the state, particularly the rural areas”.
  • The Bill opposes NEET because it “undermined the diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affordable and affluent sections of the society and thwarting the dreams of underprivileged social groups”, it said.
  • NEET is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society, the preamble of the Bill to override NEET said.
  • The preamble added that the high-level committee making a detailed study on NEET concluded that if it continued for a few more years, the health care system of Tamil Nadu would be severely affected and there may not be enough doctors for Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals and that the rural and urban poor may not be able to pursue medical courses.
  • Admissions to medical courses are traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution and therefore the state legislature is competent to regulate the same, the Statement of Objects and Reasons (SoOAR) of the Bill.

What is NEET and Arguments against NEET

  • The Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act states that there shall be a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at UG level and PG level through such designated authority.
  • Union government issued an Ordinance in 2016 postponing the introduction of NEET to 2017  due to the opposition from many quarters.
  • The Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act states that there shall be a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at UG level and PG level through such designated authority.
  • Union government issued an Ordinance in 2016 postponing the introduction of NEET to 2017  due to the opposition from many quarters.
  • The Tamil Nadu state assembly says the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society who can afford coaching.
  • Some argue that NEET ‘undermined the diverse societal representation’ in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affluent class.
  • It is argued that the social groups most affected were the students of Tamil medium, having a rural background of government schools, those having a parental income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
  • It was also said that if NEET continued, the health care system of the state would be severely affected and there may not be enough doctors for Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals.

What is the dilemma now?

  • The question is whether the State government can exempt Section 10D of the IMC Act, which is a parliamentary law that falls under the Central List (Entry 66).
  • The introduction of internal reservation for government school students is also under challenge before the Madras High Court.
  • No other State in India has sought an exemption from NEET and therefore the possibility of exempting Tamil Nadu is low.
  • Also, if exempted, the fate of all-India quota of 15% and the condition of Tamil Nadu students who do not avail this quota by not writing the exam is a question.
  • Tamil Nadu government is of the view to conceive a better system with a fair admission process preserving merit and preventing rampant commercialisation.

Can states refuse to implement Central laws?

  • Since the T.N. law challenges a central law, it cannot come into force until and unless approved by the President of India.
  • Usually, when a state wants to amend a Central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the clearance of the Centre.
  • When a state law contradicts a Central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.

Why has the Constitution envisaged such an arrangement?

  • This is an arrangement envisaged as most Parliament laws apply to the whole of India and states amending the Central laws indiscriminately could lead to inconsistencies in different regions on the application of the same law. In matters of trade and commerce, this could especially pose serious problems.
  • The other options available with the states are taking the Centre to the Supreme Court over the validity of these laws:
    • Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the Centre.
    • Article 254 (2) of the Constitution empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the Central acts in the matters enumerated under the Concurrent List. A state legislation passed under Article 254 (2) requires the assent of the President of India.

-Source: The Hindu

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