Gist of EPW February Week 1, 2019

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective. 

Topic covered in this article are:

  1. Climate Change and the Poor

  2. Unity in Diversity – Dream and Reality

Climate Change and the Poor

Context

  • If urgent steps are not taken, climate change will reverse decades of growth in the developing countries.

Introduction

  • Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.
  • Global climate change has already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy that are expected to grow in the coming decades.
  • Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented increases in temperature at Earth’s surface, as well as in the atmosphere and oceans. Many other aspects of global climate are changing as well.
  • Human activities, especially emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and land-use change, are the primary driver of the climate changes observed in the industrial era.
  • Climate change is an emergency that has been affecting the planet and its inhabitants, human, plant, and animal, in big and small ways. However, it has affected the poor disproportionately and has had a greater impact on the poor and developing nations.
  • The earlier widely held belief that climate change is a gradual, slow-moving phenomenon has been belied by an October 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, Global Warming of 1.5°C. The report estimates that even a 1.5 degree increase could push tens of millions of people into poverty.

Climate change and Agriculture

  • India ranks fifth globally for the losses it has experienced due to climate change. Around 800 million people in the country live in villages and depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods.
  • With at least 50% of the farmlands in the country being rain-fed, changes in the pattern of the monsoons will affect their livelihoods the most.
  • Empirical evidence suggests that climate change has led to a decline in wheat yields and has lowered the productivity of workers.
  • Studies reveal that small farmers are aware of the long-term changes in the weather pattern and have changed their practices to deal with the resultant socio-economic changes.
  • Small farmers also lack access to credit and other means of insurance, which makes them more vulnerable to climate change. Thus, climate change will make the existing problems of poverty, malnutrition, and farmer suicides worse.

Other impacts of Climate change

  • Unpredictable weather – The adverse effects of climate change are droughts, floods, heat waves, sea level rise and related problems are food shortages, spread of diseases, loss of jobs and migration. These will harmfully affect the poorest and further deteriorate the quality of their lives.
  • Numerous studies have shown that the poor suffer the worst effects from climate variability and climate change. Frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change lead to food shortages and rise in food prices. This causes ­hunger and malnutrition, the effects of which are felt most strongly by the poor.
  • Food Security – The poorest are the most affected by severe droughts that lead to food shortages and higher food prices. With climate change, people face shortage of water and food, resulting in increased competition to access these basic necessities.
  • Economy – The countries with the fewest resources are likely to bear the greatest burden of climate change in terms of investment and the economy. Example – El Niño affecting agriculture and fisheries. As the impacts of climate change worsen, it will become harder to eliminate poverty. That leaves a narrow window for ending extreme poverty.
  • Climate change will further reduce access to drinking water and negatively affect the health of poor people in many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Climate variability and climate change impacts can prevent us from reaching and maintaining the SDG targets.

Examples of negative impacts of Climate Change

  • The water crisis in Cape Town began in 2015, and the city continues to live under the threat of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water. However, the poorer neighbourhoods in the city have not only been dealing with reduced access to water for years now, but are more likely to face the brunt of the crisis.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, shifts in the timing and patterns of rainfall have led to lower food production and greater competition on arable land, increasing ethnic tensions and conflicts in the country. Such conflicts affect the poor the most, and further lead to an increase in poverty and displacement, pushing people into a vicious trap.
  • According to the World Food Programme’s 2018 Global Report on Food Crises, “climate disasters triggered food crises across 23 countries, mostly in Africa, with shocks such as drought leaving more than 39 million people in need of urgent assistance.”

Conclusion

  • If steps are not taken quickly, climate change has the potential to reverse decades of growth and development globally, and particularly in India.
  • The warning bells have been tolling for a while now, and the widening disparities between the developed and the developing countries, the rich and the poor, the global North and the South, are emerging clearer than ever where climate change and its effects are concerned.
  • Measuring poverty through its different dimensions would help policymakers figure out which aspects of poverty expose the poor and exacerbate their vulnerability to climate change.
  • Through such a process, India could also serve as a standard for other poor and developing countries that are beginning to think about inclusive “climate proofed development”.

Unity in Diversity – Dream and Reality

India is a country with a basic unity, but of great variety in religion, in cultural traditions and in ways of living. –  Jawaharlal Nehru, 1953

Introduction

  • Indian society is an exemplification of multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-ideological constructs, which co-exist, at once striving to strike harmony and also to retain its individuality.
  • Based on the generous concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam (the world is one family), Indian society possesses a great cultural heritage. During the course of its evolution, it has accommodated and integrated many communities and their ways of life from time to time.

Factors leading to unity amidst Diversity in India

  • Constitutional identity: The entire country is governed by one single Constitution. Even, most of the states follow a generalised scheme of 3-tier government structure, thus imparting uniformity in national governance framework. Further, the Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all citizens regardless of their age, gender, class, caste, religion, etc.
  • Religious co-existence: Religion tolerance is the unique feature of religions in India due to which multiple religions co-exist in India. Freedom of religion and religious practice is guaranteed by the Constitution itself. Moreover, there is no state religion and all religions are given equal preference by the state.
  • Inter-State mobility: The Constitution guarantees freedom to move throughout the territory of India under Article 19 (1) (d), thus promoting a sense of unity and brotherhood among the masses. Other factors such as uniform pattern of law, penal code, administrative works (eg. All India services) too lead to uniformity in the criminal justice system, policy implementation etc.
  • Economic integration: The Constitution of India secures the freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse within the territory of India under Article 301. Further, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) have paved way for ‘one country, one tax, one national market’, thus facilitating unity among different regions.
  • Institution of pilgrimage and religious practices: In India, religion and spirituality have great significance. From Badrinath and Kedarnath in the north to Rameshwaram in the south, Jagannath Puri in the east to Dwaraka in the west the religious shrines and holy rivers are spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. Closely related to them is the age-old culture of pilgrimage, which has always moved people to various parts of the country and fostered in them a sense of geo-cultural unity.
  • Fairs and festivals: They also act as integrating factors as people from all parts of the country celebrate them as per their own local customs. Eg. Diwali is celebrated throughout by Hindus in the country, similarly, Id and Christmas are celebrated by Muslims and Christians, respectively. Celebration of inter-religious festivals is also seen in India.
  • Climatic integration via monsoon: The flora and fauna in the entire Indian subcontinent, agricultural practices, life of people, including their festivities revolve around the monsoon season in India.
  • Sports and Cinema: These are followed by millions in the country, thus, acting as a binding force across the length and breadth of India.

Some important statements about Unity in diversity

  • This is an idea of India with which generations of Indians have grown up, and it represents a popular and shared conception of who we are as a nation.
  • The belief that there is an underlying cultural unity that transcends the innumerable diversities of blood, color, language, dress, manners and sect has been echoed by people from different walks of life and endorsed across the political spectrum
  • In the Constituent Assembly, Syama Prasad Mookerjee intervened in the discussion of official language with the words: “Unity in diversity is India’s keynote.”
  • More recently, speaking to diplomats from South East Asia, Sushma Swaraj said, India is “a celebration of a grand synthesis of cultures, religions and languages of people belonging to different communities, who are bound into an inseparable whole by a civilizational consciousness and cohesiveness.”
  • Scholars have written about India’s “composite” culture, “syncretic” tradition and “civilisational” unity; references to “vividhta,” and “anekta mein ekta” can be found abundantly in school curriculum and competitive examinations.

Difficulty in bringing Unity

  • It often happens with things that are frequently repeated, they become a matter of habit; they are said without much reflection. And, when they are taken seriously, they are subject to easy refutation. This is what has happened with the idea of unity in diversity.
  • The political leaders, who ushered us into a democratic republic, were all too aware of this. The claims for a separate homeland, and subsequently the partition of the country, had shown that unity in contexts of diversity was not, and could not, be taken as a given.
  • This was something that would emerge naturally and inevitably since people of different religions and cultures had coexisted here for thousands of years.
  • Unity had to be assiduously nurtured, worked for and cared after. In other words, it had to be achieved.
  • The experience of the national movement had revealed this quite starkly. It had brought together people from different communities and regions, but even when there was a common purpose—namely, challenging the colonial rule—the unity was fragile. Different groups could, and indeed did, move in different directions.
  • Following the partition of the country, there were many voices clamouring for India to be declared a Hindu state. To counter them, and those who wanted some commonality (of language, for instance) to unite the country, this precept was invoked to reiterate the commitment to recognise and protect diversity while seeking unity.

Conclusion

  • The quest for unity required actions of this kind: actions through which trust was created and an enabling environment provided so that different points of view could be presented and discussed, in place of being prejudged and dismissed as suspect or politically motivated.
  • Experience had shown that achieving unity, and more importantly, sustaining it, is not easy; it is by valuing diversity and showing respect for differences that we could hope to arrive at that goal.
  • Problem is not of diversity per se, but the handling of diversity in India society. The problems of regionalism, communalism, ethnic conflicts etc. have arisen because the fruits of development haven’t been distributed equally or the cultures of some groups haven’t been accorded due recognition.
  • The Constitution and its values must form guiding principles of our society. Any society which has tried to homogenize itself, has witnessed stagnation in due-course and ultimately decline. The most important example is this case is of Pakistan which tried to impose culture on East-Pakistan ultimately leading to creation of Bangladesh.

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