Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Opinion: Curing the real disadvantage in India

Government of India passed a law to reserve 27% seats in Centrally Administered Institutions (IIT and IIM included) for the disadvantaged Other Backward Castes. This law adds to already reserved 15% seats for Scheduled castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes raising total reservations in these institutions to 49.5%. Our legislatures provide the rational that caste is invariably the single most disadvantage in Indian society and so we need a large scale affirmative action.

Well one thing is clear from human development indexes that India is really disadvantaged. She has a large fraction of malnourished children, low life expectancy, high income inequality, a large portion of population below poverty line, widespread corruption etc. Even after 60 years of independence, we match many African countries in terms of human development indexes (no offence to African countries). India surely needs a cure.

So what do we need to cure to realize the potential of the country.
1. Is Caste System holding down the potential of a large portion of India? Clearly those who got college education are already employed today irrespective of castes. The rural people whose only source of education is village schools are not employable in many industries. Whether it is Brahmin's from Darbhanga or Yadavs from Chappara, they just do not have the required skills. In my opinion, caste is not the determining factor. Rather it is the scarcity of quality education and little will to improve it. The private schools (till high school) in all cities have been quite successful in delivering quality education when compared to the utter failure of all government schools. Well government views everything as a avenue to provide social justice. Even government schools have 50% reservations for backward castes. Government reserved at least 50% jobs in almost every service it controls that includes DRDO scientists, bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, police etc. Proposals are available for providing faculty reservations in all institutions that include IIM/IIT/NIT/?.

2. Apart from education, Government has failed significantly in providing basic services. People are debating about what will happen when climate change will dry north Indian rivers. Now when we have water in all north Indian rivers, most places receive drinking water for at most 10 hours a day. Most cities receive less than 15 hours of electricity. Health awareness provided by government doctors to rural areas is almost null. These are not impossible issues to solve and with very little effort can be accomplished. However, government is not interested in this.

3. Law that protects rights of poor people is absent in the mind of people and its enforcer. Poor people are still stuck in usury practices, do not get minimum wages and pensions assigned by the government. Whether the police officer or regulatory officer (engineers, pension officers) is a forward caste, backward caste or a scheduled caste, his or her main objective is to sidestep laws that he/she is assigned to protect and generate money out of it. There may be honest officers but the very lack of government initiation to ensure functioning of its own apparatus explains rampant corrupt practices.

In conclusion politicians game of caste and religion and our support for those games have illusioned our path. It is imperative that we prioritize real disadvantages of Indian society.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Impact of Himalyan glacier retreat on North Indian rivers

I'm pulling relavant informaiton from the following draft "An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China." I have not read any of the cited papers except Shresta et al 2003 and right now I'm trusting this source for the following information.

A status of the glacier inventory of Ganga-Brahmaputra basins

Basins Numbers of glaciers Glacierised area (Km2) Ice volume (km3)
Bhagirathi 238 755.0 67.0
Tista 449 706.0 40.0
Brahmaputra 161 223.0 10.0
Others 640 2378.0 -
Total 1488 4062.0 117.0
Source : Kaul et a.,1999

How much is it receding?
Retreats of Important Glaciers in the Himalayas
Glacier Location Period Avg. retreat Reference
Milam Uttaranchal 1849-1957 12.5 Vohra (1981)
Pindari Uttaranchal 1845-1966 23.0 Vohra (1981)
Gangotri Uttaranchal 1935-1976 15.0 Vohra (1981)
Gangotri Uttaranchal 1985-2001 23.0 Hasnain, et al. 2004
Bada Himachal Predesh 1890-1906 20.0 Mayekwski&Jschke Shigri (1979)
Kolhani Jammu & Kashmir 1857-1909 15.0 Mayekwski&Jeschke
Kolhani Jammu & Kashmir 1912-1961 16.0 Mayekwski & Jeschke
Machoi Jammu & Kashmir 1906-1957 8.1 Tiwari (1972)
Chota- Himachal Pradesh 1970-1989 7.5 Surender et al. (1994)

How much North Indian rivers are fed by himalyan glaciers?
Meltwater draining from these ice and snowfields is important in regulating the hydrology of the Indian sub-continent. Though it contributes only to 5 percent of total runoff, it releases water in the dry season (Upadhyay 1995).

Impact of glacier retreat on precipitation

Similar analysis on precipitation data, however, does not reveal any significant trends though
oscillatory characteristics are present in the precipitation series (Shrestha et al. 2000). Similar to
temperature, precipitation in Nepal is found to be influenced by or correlated to several large-
scale climatological phenomena including El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation, regional scale land and
sea-surface temperature changes and extreme events such as volcanic eruptions.

Impact of glacier retreat on river discharge

"More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets flow through Nepal. A comprehensive analysis of trends in
river flow has not been performed yet. However, a preliminary analysis of river discharge i.e.
trends in large outlet rivers, southern rivers and snow-fed rivers, has been carried out (Fig 15).
Among the large rivers, Karnali and Sapta Koshi show decreasing trends although the records for
Sapta Koshi are quite short. In contrast, the Narayani, another large river, displays an increasing
trend. Southern rivers do not show any trend. All of the three snow-fed rivers examined showed
declining trends in discharge. While these observations in river discharge are neither consistent
nor significant in magnitude due to the short record-lengths and high inter-annual variability in
discharge data, a separate study suggests that the number of flood days and consecutive days of
flood events are increasing."

Future impact of glacier retreat on fresh water in India (by simulation studies)
A model has been developed in joint collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK under the
SAGARMATHA project (2004). This model reveals that there will be an increase in river
discharge at the beginning causing widespread flooding in the adjacent areas. But after a few
decades, this situation will reverse and water levels in these rivers will start declining to a
permanent decreased level.

This model, when run for 100 years under different climatic scenarios, shows distinct differences
in the potential impacts of deglaciation both regionally, in an E-W direction along the Himalayan
arc, and within catchments. In the upper Indus, the study sites show initial increases of between
+14 percent and +90 percent in mean flows (compared to baseline) over the first few decades of
the 100 year incremental scenario runs, which are generally followed by flows decreasing
between –30 percent and –90 percent of baseline by decade 10. For the Ganga, the response of
the river, near the headwaters in Uttarkashi is significantly different from what is seen
downstream at Allahabad. At Uttarkashi, flows peak at between +20 percent and +33 percent of
baseline within the first two decades and then recede to around –50 percent of baseline by decade
6; further downstream the deglaciation impacts are barely noticeable. In the headwaters of the
Brahmaputra, there is a general decrease in decadal mean flows for all temperature scenarios;
glaciers are few in this area and flows recede as the permanent snow cover reduces with
increasing temperatures.

The Feast of Roses -- Indu Sundaresan

The feast of roses is a fiction that covers a detailed historical view on Mughal empire during the rein of Jahangir. The book sheds light on Mehrunisha/Noor Jahan, the twentieth wife of Jahangir and one of the most powerful women in Mughal empire. The book covers in detail how Jahangir used to run the empire and in broader perspective how Mughal empire was structured. It provides detailed information on throne inheritance, struggle for power (vested in the emperor), purpose of marriage and status of women in the Indian society and small discussions on religious freedom and trade in the society.

The focus of the book is mainly on Jahangir's faith in Mehrunisha and how Mehrunisha used that faith to gain control of the Mughal empire. Jahangir acted on Mehrunisha's advice on a number of critical decisions like in Khurram's (or Shah Jahan) marriage to Mehrunisha's cousin Mumtaz mahal, in declining trade permission to English, in deciding future of ministers and in deciding who should be fighting different rebels in the empire.

A couple of historical information surprised me. They challenged my belief which included Mumtaz Mahal was the strongest woman in Mughal empire, Mughal empire has no clear form of justice or governance, and there was really no trade and development.

State of fear -- Michael Crichton

Global warming is significantly covered by media these days and a large number of people are convinced about the scientific evidence of global warming. After all if Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consisting of more than 200 scientists have reported significant rise in temperature in future, then a common person is hardly wrong. If one is a skeptic of global warming, then it is only because he does not understand science and media headlines like "Political efforts to water down IPCC report" clearly underscore it.

Michel Crichton digs up a number of scientific papers that illustrate significant skepticism to a phenomena that covers the entire planet called global warming. This 600+ page science fiction has a lawyer with common understanding of global warming and he meets a professor involved in busting international terrorist operations. The lawyer makes several arguments for global warming from the perspective of a common person and the professor replies with concise summaries of scientific papers that cast doubt on such phenomena. Interestingly, both of them work to stop "environmental terrorists" from creating environmental disasters. The purpose of these disasters are to underscore the point of climate control but has the potential to kill a large number of innocent people. The terrorist call themselves flag bearers of greater good whose broader goal is to save the planet.

The novel casts doubt on a large number of commonly understood "truth" on global warming like:
1. Is Antarctica melting?
2. Are glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro melting due to global warming?
3. Is all environmental disaster ranging from tsunami, melting glaciers, hurricanes all result of a single factor called global warming and a single cause called carbon-di-oxide?
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