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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 14 December 2023

  1. India’s Extreme Rainfall ‘Corridor’
  2. Foreign Universities are no Panacea


Context:

The characteristics of the Indian monsoon, such as its onset, withdrawal, active and break periods, and the presence of low-pressure systems are widely recognized. Global warming has impacted every aspect of the monsoon, leading to a consistent decline in total seasonal rainfall for over seven decades.

Relevance:         

GS-1-Physical Geography

  • Important Geophysical Phenomena
  • Agricultural Resources
  • Climate Change

Mains Question:

The impact of global warming varies throughout the monsoon season in India. Analyse how different regions in India have shown a difference in their rainfall pattern change due to global warming. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Background: Monsoons in India:

  • India’s climate is characterized as the ‘monsoon‘ type, a classification predominantly observed in the southern and southeastern regions of Asia.
  • Among the four seasonal divisions in India, the monsoon encompasses two specific divisions:
  • The Southwest Monsoon Season: This period experiences seasonal rainfall from the southwest monsoons and occurs between June and September.
  • The Retreating Monsoon Season: The months of October and November are notable for retreating monsoons, marking the conclusion of the monsoon season.

Recent Trend of Monsoons:

  • This decrease is attributed to the differential heating of the land and ocean caused by global warming.
  • Nevertheless, the impact of this trend varies throughout the monsoon season, evident in longer but less intense dry spells and more intense wet spells.

Dynamics of Monsoon Predictions in India:

  • Despite advancements by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in forecasting extremes, the complexity of multiple factors can still result in unpredictable and devastating heavy rain events.
  • India’s monsoon predictions heavily rely on the relationship with El Niño and La Niña phenomena, though this connection is effective only about 60% of the time.

El Nino and La Nina:

  • El Nino and La Nina represent intricate weather patterns resulting from fluctuations in ocean temperatures within the Equatorial Pacific Region.
  • They constitute opposing phases within the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which outlines temperature variations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • Typically lasting between nine to 12 months, some instances of El Nino and La Nina can extend for several years. El Nino, identified as the “warm phase” of ENSO, involves the abnormal warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It occurs more frequently than La Nina.
  • On the other hand, La Nina, recognized as the “cool phase” of ENSO, entails the unusual cooling of the tropical eastern Pacific.
  • La Nina events may persist for a period ranging from one to three years, in contrast to El Nino, which usually has a duration of no more than a year.
  • Both phenomena tend to reach their peak during the winter months of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • While there are other global relationships, translating them into more accurate predictions necessitates meticulous modeling experiments.
  • Researchers are actively seeking additional insights into various processes, particularly those associated with high-impact extreme rainfall events.

Extreme Rainfall in India:

  • A recent study, in which the author participated, reveals that despite seemingly disparate changes in different aspects of monsoon dynamics, a noteworthy consistent element exists concerning the occurrence of synchronized extreme rainfall events.
  • These large-scale extreme rainfall events, often simultaneous or nearly simultaneous heavy rain episodes, are scattered along a ‘highway’ stretching from parts of West Bengal and Odisha to areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
  • The most significant discovery is that this corridor has remained unchanged from 1901 to 2019.
  • Amidst the apparent chaos in various monsoon elements, the consistent confinement of extreme events to a relatively narrow corridor brings optimism for advancements in process understanding. This, in turn, is likely to enhance predictions of these synchronized extreme rainfall events.

Implications for the stability of the monsoon:

  • Conventional statistical approaches often overlook the intricate relationships among multiple rainfall centers. Utilizing rainfall data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) at a 25-km scale in latitude and longitude provides a detailed field for sophisticated network analysis.
  • This study applied such analysis, revealing that the most active nodes have consistently followed a ‘highway’ for over a century. The link lengths between nodes, representing the scales of synchronicity, have remained nearly constant, averaging about 200 km.
  • An examination of winds and other circulation features suggests that the monsoon domain has maintained a notable stability for the formation of these extremes, despite various influences from tropical oceans and pole-to-pole.

Further Predictions:

  • Despite assertions by some researchers that stationary elements no longer persist in climate systems due to global warming, the Indian monsoon continues to defy expectations by coordinating heavy rainfall events and adhering to the established ‘highway’ for an extended period.
  • This corridor is also the route for monsoon depressions, which have exhibited an increase at 3- to 10-day timescales and a decrease at lower frequencies of 10-60 days, as observed in the active and break periods mentioned earlier.
  • The primary geographical factor likely responsible for trapping synchronized extreme rainfall is believed to be the mountain range running along the west coast and across Central India.
  • Although this hypothesis requires testing in models, its undeniable implications for enhancing forecasts of such events are evident.
  • Moreover, the findings suggest that, contrary to increasing model resolution and computational costs, the focus should be on understanding the dynamics of synchronization.

Conclusion:

There is an enticing prospect of reducing risks at a smaller scale resulting from these large-scale extreme rainfall events, impacting areas such as agriculture, water resources, energy, transportation, and health. Fortunately, India possesses a robust modeling capacity and ample computational resources to fully exploit this potential.



Context:

The University Grants Commission in India has introduced the “Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India” Regulations, 2023. These regulations aim to permit Foreign Higher Educational Institutions to establish campuses in India, offering undergraduate and postgraduate certificates, diplomas, degrees, as well as doctoral and post-doctoral research programs.

Relevance:

GS2- Education

Mains Question:

Highlighting the major provisions of the Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India Regulations, 2023, point out the government’s objectives behind the regulations. Also discuss the challenges that hinder the successful implementation of the regulations. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Background: Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India Regulations, 2023:

It opens the door for the inclusion of foreign universities in the realm of higher education within the country.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • The UGC draft regulations for 2023 specify that the eligibility of foreign universities is based on being among the “top 500 foreign universities,” with rankings determined periodically by the UGC.
  • In contrast to the NEP-2020, which limited branch campuses to the top-100 QS ranking universities, the draft regulations-2023 introduce an additional criterion, requiring the applicant institution to be considered reputable in its home jurisdiction.

Fee Structure:

  • Under the draft regulations-2023, foreign higher educational institutions have the authority to establish a fee structure that is both “transparent and reasonable.”
  • Furthermore, these institutions now have the autonomy to determine qualifications, salary structures, and other employment conditions for faculty and staff.

Physical Infrastructure:

The regulations stipulate that foreign higher educational institutions must arrange for adequate physical infrastructure.

No Equivalence Requirement:

While Indian students with foreign degrees typically need an equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities, the draft regulations-2023 exempt degrees granted by foreign branch campuses in India from this equivalence requirement.

Safeguards for Indian Students:

The draft emphasizes that the UGC retains the right to inspect foreign campuses at any time. Additionally, foreign campuses are subject to anti-ragging and other criminal laws.

Repatriation of Profits:

  • The draft regulations-2023 facilitate the smooth repatriation of profits earned by foreign branch campuses, following the rules and regulations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999.
  • Foreign universities must submit audit and annual reports to the UGC, certifying compliance with FEMA 1999 and other relevant government policies.

Restrictive Instructions:

  • Foreign Higher Educational Institutions are prohibited from offering programs that jeopardize India’s national interest or higher education standards.
  • Operations and academic programs must align with the sovereignty, integrity, security, and friendly relations with other states, public order, decency, and morality.
  • The UGC reserves the right to impose penalties or suspend/withdraw approval if a university’s activities or academic programs are deemed against the interest of India.

Need of the Regulations:

  • The regulations aspire to globalize the Indian higher education system, enabling Indian students to study in renowned international universities at an affordable cost without leaving the country.
  • The primary motivation behind allowing Foreign Higher Education Institutions in India is to address the increasing trend of Indian students studying abroad, leading to a ‘brain drain’ and capital outflow.
  • As of January 2023, around 1.5 million Indian students were studying abroad, a number expected to reach 1.8 million by 2024, spending $75-85 billion overseas.
  • The regulations are presented as a significant step to counteract human and capital outflow, making India an attractive global education destination.
  • Foreign universities are seen not only as contributors to academic excellence but also as catalysts for competition, innovation, and excellence in Indian universities.

Concerns Associated with Foreign Universities:

  • Many Indian students studying abroad aim not just for education but for long-term settlement, driven by factors like better employment opportunities, non-prejudicial work environments, and equitable law-governed living conditions.
  • The INTO University Partnerships survey indicates that 76% of Indian students studying abroad plan to settle overseas, while only 20% intend to return to India immediately after their studies.
  • Foreign universities in India may not serve as a strong substitute for studying abroad, as the primary motivation for Indian students is often broader than education alone.
  • The survey also reveals that 41% of Indian students would still prefer studying overseas, even if the same quality of education was offered in India.

Challenges with the Regulations:

  • Education is perceived as more than a classroom exercise; it involves developing skill sets to navigate real-world challenges and exploring diverse environments.
  • While foreign universities in India may expand options for Indian students, they may not provide the same exposure to global opportunities as studying abroad.
  • Without substantial capital investments and administrative reforms, Indian universities may struggle to compete with foreign institutions.
  • The current state of faculty remuneration and funding inadequacies in state universities pose significant challenges.

Conclusion:

While opening up to foreign institutions, India needs comprehensive reforms in teaching, examination, work environment, and funding to strengthen its higher education system. The presence of foreign universities alone cannot be a panacea for the challenges faced by the extensive Indian higher education landscape.


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