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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 April 2024

  1. Central Water Commission’s Report on the Storage of Reservoirs
  2. Workers, not Tech, should be the State’s Priority


The Central Water Commission monitors the live storage status of 150 reservoirs of the country and issues weekly bulletin on every Thursday. According to recent analysis, only 23% of the total holding capacity in South India’s reservoirs is currently filled with water. This figure is nine percentage points lower than the rolling decadal average, indicating a significant and imminent crisis. The last time South India experienced a water crisis during the summer was in 2017.



  • Agricultural Resources
  • Water Resources
  • Conservation of Resources

Mains Question:

With reference to the Central Water Commission’s recently released Report on the Storage of Reservoirs in India, discuss the current major causes for water crisis and suggest a way forward strategy in this regard. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

About the Central Water Commission:

  • The Central Water Commission (CWC) operates as an attached office under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, specifically within the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • Its primary mandate involves initiating, coordinating, and advancing schemes in consultation with relevant State Governments to manage, conserve, and utilize water resources across the nation.
  • These efforts encompass flood control, irrigation, navigation, drinking water supply, and water power development.
  • Additionally, the Commission is responsible for conducting investigations, as well as overseeing the construction and execution of such schemes as needed.
  • The CWC, led by a chairman holding the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India, is organized into three main wings: Designs and Research (D&R) Wing, River Management (RM) Wing, and Water Planning and Projects (WP&P) Wing.
  • Furthermore, a separate Human Resources Management Unit, headed by a Chief Engineer, oversees matters related to human resources management and development, financial management, training, and administrative affairs within the CWC.
  • The National Water Academy, situated in Pune, is tasked with the training of both central and state in-service engineers. It operates under the direct guidance of the Chairman.
  • The headquarters of the Central Water Commission is located in New Delhi.

More on the Water Crisis in India:

This year’s situation is expected to be even more severe for several reasons:

Firstly, the monsoon patterns, influenced by various factors, including ongoing El Niño events, are becoming increasingly erratic. Unlike previous years, the current El Niño event is one of the five strongest on record.

  • WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo recently noted that while El Nino has impacted ocean surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, sea-surface temperatures in other regions have remained persistently and unusually high for the past ten months.
  • The sea-surface temperature in January 2024 was particularly concerning, setting a new record for January and indicating a worrying trend that cannot be solely attributed to El Nino.
  • Scientists highlight that El Nino typically exerts its greatest influence on the global climate in the second year of its development, which is 2024 in this case.
  • Despite the current El Nino event weakening, it is expected, along with predicted above-normal sea-surface temperatures over much of the global oceans, to result in above-normal temperatures over nearly all land areas in the coming three months.
  • Additionally, it will influence regional rainfall patterns, according to a Global Seasonal Climate Update released by the WMO.
  • The ongoing El Nino event, which began in June 2023, reached its peak strength between November and January.
  • During this period, it recorded a peak value of approximately 2.0 degrees Celsius above the 1991 to 2020 average sea-surface temperature for the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • While one of the five strongest El Nino events on record, it was weaker compared to the 1997-98 and 2015-2016 events.

Secondly, following meteorologists’ declaration of 2023 as the warmest year on record, projections suggest that 2024 will be even hotter.

  • The UK Met Office-led team also forecasts a 93% likelihood of each year until 2026 setting new temperature records.
  • January 2024 marked the warmest January on record worldwide with the temperature 0.70°C higher than the January average from 1991 to 2020 and 0.12°C above the previous record set in January 2020.
  • This occurrence extends the streak to eight consecutive months where each month has been the warmest on record for its respective time of the year.
  • Although the global temperature anomaly for January 2024 was lower than the anomalies observed during the last six months of 2023, it surpassed any anomalies recorded before July 2023.
  • In comparison to the designated pre-industrial reference period of 1850-1900, January 2024 was notably warmer, registering a temperature 1.66°C higher.
  • Moreover, the average global temperature over the past twelve months, spanning from February 2023 to January 2024, reached a record high. It stood at 0.64°C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.52°C higher than the pre-industrial average from 1850-1900.

Thirdly, due to the upcoming general election, millions of people in India will be spending more time outdoors this summer, potentially exacerbating water usage.

Fourthly, although there have been improvements in policies and forecasting, the implementation and preparedness for such crises on the ground remain insufficient.

  • Persistent factors contributing to the crisis include unplanned urban growth, excessive groundwater extraction, low efficiency in water reuse, inadequate community involvement, and encroachment or degradation of catchment areas.
  • The fact that a region’s water situation becomes precarious after just one year of insufficient rainfall is a clear indication that governments either fail to learn from past experiences or choose to disregard them, regardless of the severity of the deficit.

Climate Change and Water Crisis:

  • Climate change will exact a graver toll on low- and middle-income countries like India by triggering concurrent crises.
  • As climate shifts alter the dynamics of weather events, they also impact the likelihood of these events occurring simultaneously, increasing the chances of, for instance, droughts and disease outbreaks coinciding. This, in turn, will exacerbate socio-economic hardships among marginalized populations.
  • It’s crucial to view any water crisis within this broader context, where it not only represents a crisis in itself but also amplifies the effects of other crises as shown below:

Impact on Rainfall and Water Availability:

  • Climate change disrupts the global water cycle, causing shifts in rainfall patterns. This disruption leads to extended dry periods in some regions and excessive rainfall in others, neither of which facilitates efficient collection and utilization of freshwater.
  • These changes not only affect water availability but also worsen water scarcity in already vulnerable regions.

Increased Frequency of Droughts and Floods:

  • One of the immediate consequences of climate change on water resources is the heightened frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods.
  • Droughts directly reduce freshwater availability, impacting various sectors including domestic supply, agriculture, and industry. On the other hand, although floods may imply abundant water, they often contaminate freshwater sources, rendering the water unusable without extensive treatment.

Agricultural Water Demand:

  • Agriculture, the largest consumer of freshwater, faces a dual challenge under climate change. Rising temperatures necessitate increased irrigation, intensifying pressure on water resources.
  • Concurrently, altered precipitation patterns may result in water shortages during critical stages of the growing season, posing a threat to food security.


As climate change progresses, its impact on the planet’s water systems becomes increasingly profound, resulting in altered precipitation patterns, more frequent and intense droughts, and a general exacerbation of water-related challenges. Governments and policymakers appear to require reminders that present and future crises will not solely revolve around water issues or be solely attributable to climate change.


The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) has received considerable focus, largely due to the numerous challenges it faces. This warrants significant attention because the government, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), is obligated by law to provide up to 100 days of assured wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members opt for unskilled manual labor. Moreover, there has been a noteworthy rise in the budgetary allocation to MGNREGS this year, reaching nearly ₹86,000 crore.



  • Poverty
  • Government Policies and Interventions
  • Issues Relating to Development


  • Employment
  • Growth and Development

Mains Question:

The objective of MGNREGS is not to offer a playing field for technological interventions, but to provide deprived households a sense of work security, facilitated by digital technology. Discuss. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Challenges Associated with Digitalisation:

  • Numerous analysts have highlighted the difficulties associated with integrating rural employment guarantees with digitalized individual identification systems.
  • These challenges encompass issues such as internet connectivity, problems with fingerprint recognition, obstacles faced by individuals with disabilities, unrecorded working days, name duplication, lack of awareness, linking errors, authentication problems, removal of names, discrepancies in name spellings, and difficulties in seeding – mostly attributable to minimal fault on the part of the workers.
  • Research indicates that there are over 260 million workers registered with MGNREGS. Among them, up to 52 million workers were removed from the database in 2022-23.
  • An article in The Hindu highlighted that 34.8% of job card holders remain ineligible for ABPS. Other commentators have elucidated how, even for those enrolled, there are numerous flawed elements within the payment system.

Beneficiaries or Dependents?

  • The core issue underlying these challenges is that workers have been rendered dependent on technology, contrary to the idealized concept of them being its beneficiaries.
  • Evidently, technology has been given precedence over employment security, with the worker being relegated further down the priority scale.
  • The design, structure, and implementation of the ABPS have led to a scenario where the worker appears to be merely a component within a state-supported technological program, rather than technology serving as an enabler for the worker in a state-supported livelihood guarantee scheme.
  • The rural employment guarantee system has become overly reliant on technology, imposing excessive complexity on the worker’s life. This perpetuates the notorious legacy of inefficiency and complexity in government-managed development processes, albeit now within a digital context.
  • This raises the question of whether the state aims for an empowering, modern, transparent, and efficient digital economy, or if it pursues technology for its own sake. Perhaps there has been an excessive focus on techno-solutionism, often sidelining the actual beneficiary.

Way Forward:

  • The primary aim of these employment guarantee programs is not to create opportunities for technological interventions, but rather to offer socioeconomically disadvantaged households a sense of job security, facilitated by digital technology.
  • Programs like MGNREGS are grounded in principles such as inclusion in the development process and the reduction of inequality and socioeconomic hardship, which have been internationally recognized, such as by the United Nations Development Programme, as contributing to a productive, equitable, and interconnected society.
  • When the state adopts a technocentric approach in managing such programs, it risks contradicting its own objectives. A scholarly study published in World Development has demonstrated how these programs lead to improved nutritional intake in participating households, empower women by ensuring equal pay, act as substitutes for insurance, provide significant benefits to marginalized communities including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and households with disabled workers, and contribute to political transparency.
  • These principles should not be overshadowed by eagerness for technological intervention. The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the potentially counterproductive nature of technological interventions for deprived communities are still fresh in our minds.
  • This situation urgently demands attention to the technological infrastructure’s dimensions. Additionally, there’s a need for introspection regarding how the state perceives and comprehends technology and the worker.
  • Throughout history and across the globe, technological interventions have consistently demonstrated the capacity to advance progressive ideals.
  • Technology lies at the core of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and India’s rural employment guarantee schemes have proven to be effective avenues for advancing several SDGs, both directly and indirectly.
  • The significant budget allocated to MGNREGS should be directed through a system free of technological shortcomings. While both technological and non-technological solutions have been explored to rectify these issues, there is also a need to reevaluate some fundamental techno-developmental concepts.
  • The state’s perception of the worker as an active participant in these goals and in the nation’s specific development priorities must not be overshadowed by an excessively enthusiastic embrace of technology.


In a period marked by growing socioeconomic disparities, heightened job insecurity, dwindling social safety nets, and rural hardships, technology can certainly be instrumental, but it shouldn’t be given undue favoritism by the state. The primary focus must always be on the welfare and job security of the workers.

April 2024