Current Affairs for today- 18th November 2019
GS Paper I, Paper II
Quality on tap
The report of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has red-flagged the tap water quality in major Indian cities citing the haunting impending dearth of water in the nearest future.
What’s in the news?
- The report has recently been launched given that the official water distribution agencies routinely advise consumers to consume only boiled water.
- The various matrix of tests carried out by the Bureau of Indian Standards for the Ministry, Delhi has abysmal water quality, Chennai and Kolkata rank very low, and Mumbai is the only city with acceptable results.
- The city water systems are normatively required to comply with the national standard for drinking water, IS 10500:2012, but are not in compliance as they are not under the scanner and obviously feel no pressure to do so.
- Their lack of initiative could be attributed partly to the expanding footprint of packaged drinking water, especially in populous cities, coupled with the high dependence on groundwater in fast-growing urban clusters where State provision of piped water systems does not exist.
- The Central Ground Water Board estimates that nearly a fifth of the urban local bodies are already facing a water crisis due to excessive extraction, failed monsoons, and unplanned development.
- On paper, the Indian standard has a plethora of quality requirements, including the absence of viruses, parasites and microscopic organisms, and control over levels of toxic substances.
But in practice, municipal water fails these tests due to the lack of accountability of the official agencies, and the absence of robust data in the public domain on quality testing.
Centre’s approach should revolve around:
- There must a legal binding on the agencies to achieve standards and follow the SOPs to maintain the same in due course.
- Empowering consumers with rights is essential, because State governments would then take an integrated view of housing, water supply, sanitation and waste management.
- A scientific approach to water management is vital, considering that 21 cities — including many of those found to have unclean tap water — could run out of groundwater as early as 2020, as per a NITI Aayog report.
- For implementing regular testing, the government must entrust a separate agency with the task in each State, rather than relying on the same centralized agency that provides water to also perform this function.
- The public attention that unclear air is being swarmed with must also be applied to the data on water quality on the same lines and would ratchet up pressure on governments to act.
- For too long, the response of water departments to the challenge has been to chlorinate the supply, as this removes pathogens, ignoring such aspects as appearance, smell and taste. It is time to move beyond this and make tap water genuinely desirable.
Around 2 lakh people die in India every year because of the immense water shortage and 600 million people of this country don’t have access to clean drinking water.
Schemes introduced by the government to overcome the water stress:
- Swajal Scheme:
The government of India has launched Swajal scheme to ensure there is a steady supply of clean drinking water in rural areas. These areas received contaminated and harsh water to consume that has led to serious water-borne illnesses.
Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has launched the scheme in chosen 115 remote rural districts in the 1st phase to provide clean drinking water that will involve an outlay of Rs 700 cr through flexi funds under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) budget under the banner of government’s flagship vision of “New India”.
90 per cent of this project is funded by the government and 10 per cent is funded by the beneficiary communities.
The water supply is through fitted pipes and will be maintained regularly to prevent contamination.
Government aspired to bring technological change in these districts as well and transforming them rapidly to develop the nation further.
- Har Ghar Jal:
Jal Shakti Ministry’s aim of ‘Har Ghar Jal’ by 2024 is to be implemented under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
It refers to the government’s commitment to providing safe tap water on a sustained basis in every household by 2024 as per the United Nations sustainable development goals.
It also focuses on accomplishing the mission of providing safe drinking water to about 28,000 habitations affected by arsenic and fluoride contaminations in the country.
GS Paper II
Gotabaya wins in President Poll; Back to the Rajapaksas; Return of the Rajapaksa regime; Will Gotabaya make peace with India?
The ruling party candidate loses in the Sri Lankan President elections though he was leading in the northeast. President-elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa emerged winner securing 52.25% of the mandate marking the return of the Rajapaksa regime back in the island-nation.
What’s in the news?
Gotabaya belongs to his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Party) and will be sworn in as Sri Lanka’s 7th executive president in the historic city of Anuradhapura. This win is all kudos to the southern constituencies of Sinhala majority communities, as the minorities in the north and the eastern part of Sri Lanka including the Tamil and the Muslim communities voted against Rajapaksa but unanimously converged around 80% of the votes for his opposition candidate Mr Premadasa.
According to the author in the editorial and oped sections, Gotabaya must aim at synthesizing the best of out of current politico-administrative mess to maintain the ethnic and social structure intact.
The background to the Rajapaksa hegemony that brought the State to ruins during the civilian war in 2009, killing tens of thousands of people, the minority Muslims were convinced of being the next anti-social targets of the majoritarian economy backed by Gotabaya.
This election has made the election a referendum on the failures dictated by the disarray of power-sharing between the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that gave rise to a constitutional crisis.
Since the alliance of the neoliberal ideology under Wickremesinghe- Sirisena government in 2015 led to the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the citizens expected a ray of hope in the post-totalitarian era of the Rajapaksas with the rule of law back in place, fading away of authoritarian tendencies, creation of a democratic space by halting on the militarization and choking surveillance in the North and East providing room for freedom of expression and protest, independent commissions for human rights and right to information secured and strengthened, excessive powers of the executive presidency were clipped, independence of judiciary regained, media and the social movements gained a swing to critique the ruling government.
However, the win of Rajapaksa to power displays the polarization of the state along ethno-nationalist lines.
The various factors that led to the instability in the great liberal democratic experiment of 2015-
- Corruption allegations and the infighting within the party with the backdrop of poor economic performances, the coalition collapsed.
- The April 21 Easter bombings even after intelligence led to the palpable failure of the communications within the dominion and the security lapses that could have possibly averted the disaster.
- There was a global Islamophobic discourse on the stride with the government doing nothing to evade the portrayal of the Muslim population as the new enemies in the Sinhalese constituencies that ideologically mobilized chauvinist forces and interpretations within the State.
- Acute joblessness, soaring living costs, mounting household debt and people’s inclination towards rural livelihoods drove the economy to tatters.
- The breakdown of the political dominion that involved an attempted parliamentary coup to draw in Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister and the Easter attacks forced the public to turn to a “strong leader-figure” to obtain relief from gripping insecurity.
Road to power
- The Rajapaksa camp took the immense risk of forming their own party- Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) by building a strong base in the southern Sinhalese constituencies by engaging the rural population and lower-middle classes and capitalized the long-drawn drought and deteriorating economic situation into their prelude.
- They must erase the irredeemable damage that the expose of scandal of Central Bank bonds under the newly appointed Central Bank Governor did to taint the promise of ‘good governance’.
- Now is the time for the dispersed actors and forces that have to regroup ahead of the imminent parliamentary elections.
- Those blamed for the past democratic deficit are now back in power that could play the foul game to the Sri Lankans.
The newly elected President must rather keep his eyes on strengthening national security and protect the citizens to grapple against the economic crisis.
- The new government and the old tyrant must now head towards addressing the major election campaign mandate, minority concerns to abolish arbitrary tensions in the State.
- He must strive to allay such fears and work on building ethnic harmony and political unity by refraining from antagonizing the international community.
- The regime must willfully be ready to bring about national changes and must ensure the independence of the institutions and social groups.
- There is a critical need for the Tamil and Muslim minority parties and other social movement to defend the available democratic space from the authoritarian populist regime that is now looking well poised to consolidate power for the long haul.
In relations with India, Gotabaya must assuage concerns that he would promote the interests of China to the detriment of India’s. Things between Colombo and Sri Lanka took a toll when the Modi government took a stern view on Sri Lanka allowing the Chinese Naval ships into the Colombo harbor, though Sri Lanka averted against the claims stating that India was informed in advance about the plan and docking was routine.
There is an expectation that Gotabaya must build on the age-old traditional ties between New Delhi and Colombo given the unpopular image of his derogatory role in the war against the LTTE in 2009 amid allegations of human rights violations and ha thereby lost votes from the northern and eastern provinces in the President election.
On the other hand since China always has exploited the crisis in Sri Lanka to show dominance over India is already the island’s biggest investor and creditor, India must immediately establish good relations in the vacuum of mistrust and agitation with respect to the Tamil population by investing more on the developmental projects in those regions.