1. Flash floods in India’s urban areas are not merely nature’s fury but manmade disasters. Discuss in the light of recent events. What policy measures can be taken to counter this?
Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Flash floods occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes.
It is important to recognise that urban floods begin with an unanticipated high rainfall event which seriously disrupts public transport, electricity and communications and also plays havoc with the urban economy.
Some examples of flash floods
On December 1, 2015, even in 2005 and 2006, heavy rains from the months of October to December had flooded Chennai.
Located in a relatively flat area, Chennai depends on natural water bodies, canals and rivers to drain the heavy water runoff during rains. Its drainage and storm water network, which is absent in many places, is inadequate even to convey water during moderate rains.
The phenomenon of metropolitan cities receiving excessive rainfall, leading to sudden flooding, has been seen in cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata also.
- Heavy Rainfall: Water of Heavy rainfall concentrates and flows quickly through urban paved area and impounded in to low lying area raising the water level. It creates more havoc when a main drain or a river passing through the area over-flows or breaches
- Lakes: Lakes can store the excess water and regulate the flow of water. When lakes become smaller, their ability to regulate the flow become less and hence causes flooding.
- Silting: The drains carry large amounts of sediments and deposited in the lower courses making beds shallower thus channel capacity is reduced. When there is heavy rain, these silted drains can’t carry full discharge and result in flooding.
- Population pressure: Because of large amount of people, more materials are needed, like wood, land, food, etc. This aggravates overgrazing, over cultivation and soil erosion which increases the risk of flooding.
- Deforestation: Large areas of forests near the rivers/catchment of cities are used to make rooms for settlements, roads and farmlands and is being cleared due to which soil is quickly lost to drains. This raises the drain bed causing overflow and in turn urban flooding.
- Trespassing on water storm drains: The areas which were essentially created by the storm water drains to let their flood waters pass freely being tress-passed for developmental purposes result in obstruction of water flow and thus contributed immensely to the fury of floods
- Un-Authorized colonies: Un-Authorized colonies have been developed by the local colonisers without consideration to the city plans ,drainage, sewerage etc. and thus subjected to flooding during heavy rain falls.
- Poor Water and Sewerage Management: Old drainage and sewerage system has not been overhauled nor is it adequate now .All the drainage and sewer system in many parts of Delhi has collapsed resulting in flooding. This can be seen during rainy seasons every year.
Mapping flood zones: By combining field surveys, historical records, satellite imagery and infrastructure assessment, they have identified vulnerable areas.
Such maps and data are shared with citizens so that they could decide where to live there or not. More importantly, this data is used to regulate development. Cities have been divided into zones on the basis of risks.
Indian cities can take lessons and try to come up with the clear risk zones.
Compliance: Only preparing data will not be adequate, unless compliance according to data is not enforced. State governments should be willing to commit to zero tolerance against non-compliance.
Enhance mitigation: Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo have built extensive water discharge tunnels to divert and store floodwater. Tokyo has one of the largest underground tunnels to hold diverted flood water, which is later pumped into safe watercourses using turbines.
While this system can be extremely expensive, what India can do reclaiming the existing water bodies, which have been reduced to very small areas.
Response measures: Rio de Janerio has spent $14 million and created a real-time monitoring centre of infrastructure and traffic flows. There is need for early warning and dissemination of reliable information about floods and rescue.
Check Illegal constructions: Strict action against illegal encroachments should be taken by checking real estate mafia involved in illegal construction and usurping of water bodies. Clearing flood channels and riverbeds where illegal buildings stand.
Maintenance of existing infrastructures: Regular maintenance of the drainage system by desilting the drainage system across the city.
2.How far is state intervention in the cultural space of citizens justified? Discuss in the light of recent judicial pronouncements.
Recent interventions of Courts in religions and cultures spheres
In the most recent judgement SC uphold the Bombay High Court’s decision on Dahi Handi ritual.
Bombay HC had ruled previously that youth below 18 years of age cannot participate in the Dahi Handi ritual, part of the Janmashtami festival, in Maharashtra and the height of the human pyramid for it cannot exceed 20 feet.
In another judgement Supreme Court declined three petitions filed by private individuals to review its May 7, 2014 judgment banning jallikattu (bull-taming sport) as an inherently cruel act.
Constitutional provisions related to religious matters:-
Article 25(1) guarantees the right to freedom of conscience, and the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion.
However, Article 25(2)(a) allows the State to make laws “regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.” And Article 25(2)(a) says that State can take measures to throw open Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus
Article 26(b) guarantees the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs in matters of religion.
And Article 26(d) allows the denomination to administer property in accordance with law (i.e., subordinating the right to manage property to State-made law).
Article 25(2)(a) and Article 26(d) makes these rights subject to state interventions in certain conditions and it becomes very difficult to interpret that what is included in the rights and what is subject to state intervention.
So to solve this issue Courts have developed two broad doctrinal tools:
- A distinction between the religious and the secular,
Article 25(2)(a) provides three illustrations of the secular – the economic, the financial, and the political. 26(d) does something similar with the administration of property. But still there is too much scope for conflict as constitution has provided no further guidance, it is where the role of court comes. Ultimately, this is a question that the Courts must decide.
- And the “essential religious practices” test
An essential practise for the religion would be any practise without which the substratum of the religion would fail, any other activity will not be essential religious practise.
There are certain exceptions which are given in the Constitution itself like economic, political, and financial.
While holding that the state cannot use the reform clause to “reform a religion out of existence”, it has nonetheless held that aspects beyond essential practices have no protection from state intervention.
Rationale of intervention
- The religious conceptions in this country are so vast that they cover every aspect of life, from birth to death.
- During the debates in the Constituent Assembly, some of the members were in the favor of giving wide, interventionist powers to the state on the ground of the deep and pervasive role that religion played in the lives of Indians.
- Hence there was need to limit the definition of religion in such a manner that scope of religion shall not extend beyond beliefs and such rituals as may be connected with ceremonials which are essentially religious.
- To resolve this issue, SC uphold that the state cannot use the reform clause to “reform a religion out of existence”, it has nonetheless held that aspects beyond essential practices have no protection from state intervention.
- In determining what constitutes an “essential religious practice”, the Court has failed to lay down a set of consistent principles.
- The essential religious practices test is an entirely arbitrary doctrine.
3.Augmented Reality games raise a serious concern for children’s safety in both real and virtual world. Critically examine.
Some of the games like Pokemon Go, and other advanced AR devices like Google Glass and HoloLens are present in the market today.
All AR devices whether it is a game or device, distracts people from their surroundings, leading to potentially severe consequences.
While talking about Augmented Reality games, Pokemon Go is one of the best example.
Several countries have issued advisories regarding the game and some have even raised ‘national security’ concerns.
Some examples of safety concerns
A Pokémon Go player was robbed at knife point in New Hampshire, a player got stuck in a tree in a cemetery in New Jersey, a teenager was led to a dead body in a river in Wyoming, and in Baltimore a man drove into a police car while chasing Pokémons.
Safety concerns Linked to children
- Real-world gameplay has been linked to armed robberies as criminals have used the game to locate and lure intended targets and children are most vulnerable in that scenario.
- Since these games encourage players to go to areas which may not belong to them. Trespassers whether the children or a mature person face a real threat of physical harm from property owners who may use force to protect their property.
- The game requires users’ full attention immediately. Children playing games on the roads can meet an accident due to speedy cars or any other cause.
- Since the game, developed by Niantic, uses Google Maps and has access to IP addresses of the users, it can be used to trace locations, in which case children are the most vulnerable and will be unable to respond to any criminal activities.
- When a player downloads Pokémon Go, the app gets “full access” to the person’s phone. Children playing games on their parents cellphones could give up personal data in the phones.
- A number of doctors and psychologists feel that these games adds to the stress levels of the player and children tend to get more stressed due to their immature emotional level.
- These games can affect a growing child’s ability to distinguish between real and virtual objects.
- Addicted children will spend most of their time playing these games, compromising their studies and other physical activities.
Accidents and mishaps can be avoided by being more alert and avoiding seedy locations.
The only way to resolve this from the developer’s side would be to maintain a global, up-to-date information bank on what areas are off limits, and alter the gaming experience accordingly. The sheer scale of this task makes it very difficult to accomplish by today’s standards.
4.The melting of the Arctic offers new challenges as well as opportunities to developing countries like India. Discuss India’s interests and initiatives in the Arctic. What steps can be taken to further India’s interests in the region?
Arctic has witnessed enormous depletion in its ice cover.
The extent of ice cover on the Arctic has come down to 5.2 million sq km as of September 2014 from an average 7.2 million sq Km in 1979.
- Arctic contains 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas, which is approximately 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil resources, 30% of its undiscovered natural gas resources, and 20% of its undiscovered natural gas.
- India, being the fourth-largest energy consumer in the world, can explore the hydrocarbon potential of this region.
- By involvement in the research in the region, countries like India will be able to understand the dynamics of glaciers melting, which it will be able to use in the regional problem of glaciers melting in Himalayas.
- Melting of Arctic ice will reduce the sailing distance between Asian ports and northern Europe by 40 per cent.
- Alternate sea route will also save the developing countries to take the piracy infested conventional route.
- Developing countries like India, which has been accorded with the permanent observer status in the Arctic Council, could play a decisive role in shaping the policies for the future of the ecologically fragile Arctic region
Challenges for developing countries like India
- Enhancement of economic activity in the Arctic Region will accelerate global warming and lead to large sea level rise.
- Melting ice may also add to the problem of global warming with its reduced capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
- Any imminent change in the Arctic is going to affect the monsoon system, which may fall worst on the agrarian economy.
- This may also results in thermal expansion, which increases the sea level, thereby allowing melted glacial water to flow into tributaries of Himalayan Rivers.
- Adding more water in the sea may result in submergence of coastal areas.
- The waters of the Arctic Sea will absorb more sunlight as the ice thins down. This may affect the ocean currents.
- The opening of arctic shipping routes and the exploration of mineral, hydrocarbons and marine living resources would add to the prosperity of the already affluent countries and would thus deepen the North-South divide.
- The melting of arctic ice and the commercial exploitation of the resources would have detrimental affect on the local inhabitants like Inuits, Chukchis, Lapps etc
Way ahead for India
- India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic.
- India should remain engaged with the leading organisations like the Arctic Council where many important decisions on the future of the Arctic region will be taken. Decisions regarding Arctic can have direct or indirect impact on India.
- In order to advance its stakes in the Arctic, India must establish increased bilateral dialogues with the Arctic littorals.
- The Arctic has enough hydrocarbons to cater to India’s energy needs, but India does not have sufficient technical capability to undertake Arctic exploration.
- India could raise the concerns of the local inhabitants at fora such as UN and thus play a leading role in advancing human rights of the indigenous people.
- India should leverage its experience from the studies in the Arctic, Antarctica and the Himalayas (third pole) to guide global policy formulation on climate change and its consequent impacts
5.Fundamental duties can help balance out rights of citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development. What additional fundamental duties in your opinion can help achieve this goal?
The Fundamental Duties are defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India. The idea for Fundamental Duties has been taken from erstwhile USSR.
India’s original constitution contained only fundamental rights and not fundamental duties. 11 Fundamental duties were added in Indian constitution Article 51A by the 42nd Constitutional amendment act, 1976 on the recommendations of Swaran Singh committee.
Fundamental duties establish democratic balance by making the people conscious of their duties equally as they are conscious of their rights.
Balancing out rights:-
When rights and responsibilities are balanced, freedom is enhanced.
They serve as a reminder to the citizens that while enjoying their rights, they should also be conscious of duties they owe to their country, their society and to their fellow citizens.
They serve as a source of inspiration for the citizens and promote a sense of discipline and commitment among them.
There is growing perception that excessive emphasis on exercise of fundamental rights by citizens diminishes the importance of performance of correlative duties, has grown the importance of guiding principles. This function is being performed by fundamental duties in the constitution.
Fundamental duties make citizens responsible:-
- Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution. They should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens.
- Fundamental duties define the moral obligations of all citizens.
- Fundamental duties serve as a warning against the anti-national and antisocial activities.
- Fundamental duties make citizen conscious of his social and citizenship responsibilities and so shape the society in which all become solicitous and considerate of the inalienable rights of our fellow citizens
Additional fundamental duties:-
Duty to vote
The state can take several steps to ensure that this duty to vote is made operational and effective. One method through which this may be achieved is by developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who abstain.
Duty to pay taxes
Citizens must believe that their taxes are bound to be used for public good. The incorporation of the right to pay taxes as part of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution will shift the onus onto the taxpayer to pay taxes rather than the tax department to collect them.
Duty to help accident victims:
According to the Law Commission of India, at least 50 per cent of fatalities can be prevented if road accident victims receive medical attention within the critical first hour after the accident. With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other.
Duty to keep the premises clean:
The most effective mechanism to tackle uncleanliness is to sensitise people about this duty. Therefore, it is imperative that a Fundamental Duty to this effect be added to the Constitution.
Duty to protect whistle-blowers
While the state has a great deal of responsibility in providing for their protection through appropriate legislative instruments, the responsibility to protect torchbearers of transparency vests on each one of us.