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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 January 2024

  1. Floods and a ‘preventive measure’ that needs review 
  2. Children with Disability face Multiple Challenges


Context:

Many days have passed since Cyclone Michuang swept through, yet the residents of Chennai continue to grapple with the repercussions of a series of decisions made for them or on their behalf by a multitude of individuals. It is imperative to scrutinize these decisions as they have yielded various consequences, some readily apparent while others remain concealed and nuanced.

Relevance:

GS3- Disaster Management- Floods

Mains Question:

While ceasing electricity supply to areas where cyclonic winds can damage power cables and cause live wires to drop into flooded streets appears rational, carrying out this practice as a ‘preventive measure’, continuing it even after the disaster raises multiple concerns. Examine and suggest a way forward strategy in this regard. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Floods and Power Cuts:

Concerns Associated:

  • The decision to cease electricity supply in areas prone to cyclonic winds, preventing damage to power cables and the risk of live wires falling into flooded streets, seems rational and prudent.
  • However, there is another aspect to consider, particularly when this practice is implemented as a ‘preventive measure’ over a broad area and prolonged beyond the natural event or reported accidents. Plunging homes and neighborhoods into darkness can pose inherent dangers.
  • The concern is not only about the potential risks during the event itself but also about the aftermath. In the absence of electricity, homes become hazardous, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • As of 2021, Tamil Nadu had a population of 13.8 crore people aged over 60. In the Chennai metropolitan area, with an estimated population exceeding 12 million, there are 500,000 individuals above 60, and over 50,000 are aged 80 or above. Many of these individuals live alone or have limited assistance, making a widespread power disruption a significant hazard.
  • Moreover, the absence of electricity in households raises security and safety concerns. Accidents and injuries are more likely to occur in the dark, turning simple tasks into precarious situations.
  • Additionally, the lack of power increases the likelihood of reptiles, insects, and potential miscreants entering houses, further compounding the risks.

Way Forward:

  • Examining the decision to cut off electricity during a cyclone and maintain the blackout even after the rain subsides must be done in light of the aforementioned facts.
  • There is no objectively “safe” choice in this scenario; it involves an ongoing, dynamic balance. Consequently, those in decision-making roles should be held accountable for the choices they make.
  • Navigating decision-making during any crisis is emotionally taxing and psychologically demanding. When these decisions are on a large scale, and the disaster’s nature is catastrophic, the process becomes an intense test of intellectual and analytical judgment, as well as personal strength and confidence.
  • The potential consequences of errors weigh heavily on the decision-maker’s mind, often leaning towards conservative options. However, neglecting to adequately consider the ‘flip side’ can result in equally serious, though perhaps less dramatic, complications due to inaction.
  • While cutting off electricity during a storm can be life-saving, the prompt restoration of power afterward is equally crucial to preserve lives and prevent severe individual consequences.
  • The decision-making process involves a delicate balance, requiring careful consideration of both immediate safety concerns and the potential long-term repercussions of the chosen course of action.
  • Certain individuals present a disingenuous case advocating for increased public transparency in these intricate decision-making processes. However, given the specialized and often confidential nature of these decisions, any review should be entrusted to specialists and subject-matter experts.
  • Allowing a complex and nuanced evaluation to devolve into a contest of shallow populism should be strictly avoided. The memories of the repercussions faced during the floods in 2015 serve as a vivid reminder of the dangers associated with taking that approach.

Think of Shared Responsibility:

  • In a robust democratic system, no individual or group should wield unchecked power over such decisions or be allowed to make them arbitrarily. It is imperative to hold decision-makers accountable for their choices, particularly when those decisions have widespread impacts.
  • While an ‘ideal solution’ may not always be achievable, our aim should be to strive towards one.
  • A hierarchical approach, structured with varying levels of responsibility based on the impact area or ‘target population size,’ could prove effective.
  • The decision-making process should be more detailed, decidedly faster, and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances.
  • In major decision-making, involving more than one person might be beneficial. Amid an evolving crisis, periodic reviews conducted every few hours by an oversight team could help question and rectify dubious choices.

Conclusion:

Regardless of the specifics, the underlying principle is that a decision-maker’s rationale and evidence supporting a choice or preference should be open to review. If such decisions are found indefensible or unsupported, they must be overturned or modified promptly. The responsibility rests squarely on the individual(s) making sub-optimal moves, possibly leading to their exclusion from decision-making positions in the future.



Context:

In India, children with disabilities encounter significant obstacles, particularly exacerbated by socio-economic factors. Recent data indicates that a considerable number of these children lack essential medical and educational support. These challenges not only impact the immediate health and well-being of these children but also limit their prospects in terms of education, employment, and social inclusion, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and marginalization.

Relevance:

GS2- Health

  • Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes;
  • Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.
  • Health

Mains Question:

Children with disabilities in underserved communities face a multitude of societal and economic challenges which not only impact their immediate health and well-being, but also limit their prospects in terms of education, employment, and social inclusion. Analyse. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Children with Disabilities in India:

  • As of January 2023, an analysis of the National Statistical Office’s 2018 report on disability in India revealed that there are 561,744 children under the age of 14 with an intellectual disability, excluding autism. This report is considered the latest nationally representative survey providing data on disability within the general population of India.
  • A 2017 study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) indicated that approximately 0.5% of boys and 0.2% of girls aged 10-14 years were identified as being on the autism spectrum, using data from the Global Burden of Disease Study.

Challenges Faced by Children with Disabilities:

Lack of Awareness:

Parents frequently struggle to identify developmental issues in their children due to a lack of awareness and information. Recognizing signs of disabilities such as autism, hearing impairments, or cognitive delays can be challenging without proper knowledge or access to healthcare professionals.

Cultural Stigma:

  • Cultural stigma and misconceptions about disabilities can further lead to denial or reluctance to seek help. This delay in identification hampers early intervention, which is crucial for improved outcomes.
  • Stigma and a lack of awareness in these communities further contribute to social isolation and discrimination, hindering the children’s development and integration into society.

Limited Availability of Specialized Healthcare Services:

The limited availability of specialized healthcare services in many regions compounds these challenges. Specialized healthcare and rehabilitation services are often scarce, especially in rural and underprivileged areas.

Steps Taken in This Regard:

  • To effectively confront these challenges, early identification and comprehensive lifelong support are imperative. Programs like the Cochlear Implant Program have assisted more than 1200 hearing-impaired children since 2013, and the Hans Foundation’s (THF) Little Hearts Program addresses congenital heart defects in children.
  • Collaborations between NGOs and government healthcare systems ensure broader accessibility to essential medical treatments. The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Neuro-Rehabilitation, established in partnership with AIIMS, aims to centralize services for children with disabilities, ensuring more accessible and effective care.
  • Philanthropy can indeed play a crucial role in enhancing pediatric care for children with disabilities and creating lasting positive impacts. By investing in specialized pediatric care centers, supporting research and innovation, and promoting early intervention programs, philanthropic efforts can significantly improve the quality of care for children facing disabilities.
  • Providing financial assistance to families, training healthcare professionals, and constructing accessible facilities are additional avenues through which philanthropy can actively contribute.
  • Advocacy and awareness campaigns serve to educate various stakeholders, and collaboration with government agencies and NGOs ensures a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to pediatric care.

Conclusion:

Supporting community-based initiatives and fostering long-term partnerships with healthcare institutions and advocacy groups further enhances the impact of philanthropy. Through these initiatives, philanthropy not only addresses immediate healthcare needs but also strives to create inclusive environments that empower children with disabilities and their families, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and supportive future.


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