- The Defence Ministry on placed an order with the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, for the supply of 118 indigenous Arjun Mk-1A main battle tanks for the Army at a cost of ₹7,523 crore.
- The new tanks, developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation, will be manufactured at the government’s Heavy Vehicles Factory in Chennai.
- The new variant of the Main Battle Tank (MBT) has 72 new features and more indigenous features compared to the Mk-1
- The state–of-the-art MBT Mk-1A is a new variant of Arjun Tank designed to enhance fire power, mobility and survivability
A Disease surveillance system
- In the years to follow, epidemiology became a key discipline to prevent and control infectious diseases (and in present context for non communicable diseases as well).
- The application of principles of epidemiology is possible through systematic collection and timely analysis, and dissemination of data on the diseases.
- This is to initiate action to either prevent or stop further spread, a process termed as disease surveillance
- In 2004, India launched the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP).
- The focus under the IDSP was to increase government funding for disease surveillance, strengthen laboratory capacity, train the health workforce and have at least one trained epidemiologist in every district of India.
- It was on this foundation of the IDSP (which now has become a full fledged programme) that when COVID-19 pandemic struck, India could rapidly deploy the teams of epidemiologists and public health experts to respond to and guide the response, coordinate the contact tracing and rapidly scale up testing capacity.
- In a well-functioning disease surveillance system, an increase in cases of any illness would be identified very quickly
A review of the IDSP
- A review of the IDSP by joint monitoring mission in 2015, conducted jointly by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Government of India and World Health Organization India had made a few concrete recommendations to strengthen disease surveillance systems.
- These included increasing financial resource allocation, ensuring adequate number of trained human resources, strengthening laboratories, and zoonosis, influenza and vaccine-preventable diseases surveillance.
- First, the government resources allocated to preventive and promotive health services and disease surveillance need to be increased by the Union and State governments.
- Second, the workforce in the primary health-care system in both rural and urban areas needs to be retrained in disease surveillance and public health actions. The vacancies of surveillance staff at all levels need to be urgently filled in.
- Third, the laboratory capacity for COVID-19, developed in the last 18 months, needs to be planned and repurposed to increase the ability to conduct testing for other public health challenges and infections.
- The ‘One Health’ approach has to be promoted beyond policy discourses and made functional on the ground.
- Fifth, there has to be a dedicated focus on strengthening the civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems and medical certification of cause of deaths (MCCD)
- Sixth, it is also time to ensure coordinated actions between the State government and municipal corporation to develop joint action plans and assume responsibility for public health and disease surveillance.
- The allocation made by the 15th Finance Commission to corporations for health should be used to activate this process.
India and climate change
- “Environment is something we are trustees of and have to leave behind a better environment for our children and great grandchildren.”
- However, a recent report, “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region” by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) reveals that India has warmed up 0.7° C during 1901- 2018.
- The 2010-2019 decade was the hottest with a mean temperature of 0.36° C higher than average.
- Heatwaves continued to increase with no signs of diminishing greenhouse gas emissions despite lower activity since the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- Prolonged exposure to heat is becoming detrimental to public health, especially the poor unable to afford support for coping with the heat.
- Assessment by the MoES shows that India may experience a 4.4° C rise by the end of this century.
Economic cost of climate change
- India has also suffered two of the 10 most expensive climate disasters in the last two years. Supercyclone “Cyclone Amphan” that hit India in 2020, cost more than USD13 billion even as the country was just recovering from “June-October Monsoon Flooding” that cost USD10 billion and around 1,600 lives.
- It was India’s heaviest monsoon rain in the last 25 years and the world’s seventh costliest.
- In early 2021, India suffered two more cyclones: Cyclone Tauktae hitting the west coast and Cyclone Yaas from the east.
- India’s Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs)
- According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, India’s Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) are rising due to damaging climate events.
- Uttarakhand residents began deserting their homes after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 due to heavy precipitation that increases every year.
- Within 2050, rainfall is expected to rise by 6% and temperature by 1.6° C.
- To make things worse, India lost about 235 square kilometres to coastal erosion due to climate change induced sea-level rise, land erosion and natural disasters such as tropical cyclones between 1990-2016.
- About 3.6 million out of 170 million living in coastal areas were displaced between 2008- 2018.
- Recent figures are more alarming with 3.9 million displaced in 2020 alone, mostly due to Cyclone Amphan
- India’s Deccan plateau has seen eight out of 17 severe droughts since 1876 in the 21st century (2000-2003; 2015-2018).
- In Maharashtra and Karnataka (the heart of the Deccan Plateau), families deserted homes in 2019 due to an acute water crisis.
- India held the top 10 position for the second year in a row in 2020’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
- The country received credit under all of the CCPI’s performance fields except renewable energy where India performed medium.
- India vowed to work with COP21 by signing the Paris Agreement to limit global warming and submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with a goal of reducing emissions intensity of GDP by 33%-35% and increasing green energy resources (non-fossil-oil based) to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030.
- India confounded with France at COP21, in 2015, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) — a coalition of about 120 countries with solar rich resources— which aims at mobilising USD1 trillion in investments for the deployment of solar energy at affordable prices by 2030.
- Despite leading ISA, India performed the least in renewable energy according to the CCPI’s performance of India
- According to India’s carbon emission trajectory, the country is en route to achieve barely half of the pledged carbon sink by 2030.
- To achieve the Paris Agreement’s NDC target, India needs to produce 25 million-30 million hectares of forest cover by 2030 — a third of current Indian forestation and trees
- The Glasgow COP26 offers India a great opportunity to reflect on the years since the Paris Agreement and update NDCs to successfully meet the set targets.
- India is expected to be the most populated country by 2027, overtaking China, contributing significantly to the global climate through its consumption pattern. India is in a rather unique position to have a significant influence on global climate impact in the new decade
Smart cities and e governance
- As India grows more urban, the importance of effective governance and service delivery by city governments becomes central to the well-being of Indians.
- We hope to live in ‘smart cities’, where digital systems enable the use of data — generated by people living and working in the city itself — to continuously improve how the city functions.
- A smart city requires good data to inform decision-making.
- The only reliable way to get good data is to design ‘smart systems’ that generate such data by default
- The most advanced e-governance systems stand on the foundation of a simple behavioural change: when doing their work, local government employees have to switch from using pen and paper and records to using digital tools and systems. This is the first step in the e-governance journey
- In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, ULB employees reported saving an average of 11 hours every week after a digital system was adopted.
- At the same time, leaders can set phased targets for adoption of the new tools, and ensure adequate technical support and education for employees during the transition.
- All the benefits we associate with e-governance — the ease of interaction, the gains in efficiency through both performance management and process reform, and the potential for data-driven preventive maintenance of infrastructure — hinge upon adoption of the system by local government employees and citizens themselves.
- Smart cities emerge, not from the top down, but from organic collaboration between departments, employees, and citizens, who are simply looking to do their own jobs more effectively