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The Hindu Editorial

20-January-2024

1. Gearing up for change

Topic: GS1 – GeographyMonsoon
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding monsoon, its regional variability and importance of meteorological analysis for guiding regional planning, enhancing climate resilience, and allocating resources effectively 
Context:
  • The editorial highlights the 150th anniversary of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and its historical context, emphasizing its origins in colonial times when it was primarily focused on understanding the southwest monsoon to aid British administrators in agricultural revenue planning.
  • Over the years, the IMD has gathered extensive meteorological data, enabling it to make forecasts, particularly for the crucial southwest monsoon.
Celebrating 150 Years of the IMD
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) recently observed its 150th year.
  • Originating in colonial times, it initially focused on unraveling the mysteries of the southwest monsoon to aid British administrators in revenue planning.
IMD’s Comprehensive Analyses
  • Over time, the IMD has evolved to analyze a broad spectrum of climate and weather phenomena.
  • From cyclones to fog, the department now provides comprehensive forecasts crucial for various sectors.
CEEW Study on Monsoon Trends (1982-2022)
  • The Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) conducted a study on monsoon trends at the tehsil level from 1982 to 2022.
  • Findings reveal an increase in monsoon rainfall in 55% of India’s tehsils, with 11% experiencing a decrease.
Regional Impacts and Changing Patterns
  • Critical sowing months, June and July, saw reduced rainfall in specific tehsils, notably in the Indo-Gangetic plains, northeastern India, and the Indian Himalayan region.
  • Traditionally dry regions, including parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, are witnessing increased rainfall.
  • The northeast monsoon has shown a significant rise in certain regions over the past decade.
Implications for Climate Resilience
  • Nearly 76% of India’s annual rainfall is attributed to the southwest monsoon.
  • Ongoing research aims to distinguish the influence of natural variability from that of global warming.
  • The importance of meteorological analyses lies in guiding regional planning, enhancing climate resilience, and allocating resources effectively.
Conclusion:
  • The study underscores the importance of meteorological analyses for guiding regional planning, enhancing climate resilience, and allocating resources effectively.
  • The call to prioritize localized forecasts over national ones signals a forward-thinking approach for the government in addressing evolving climate scenarios.
About India Meteorological Department (IMD)
  • India’s official weather agency: Established in 1875, the IMD is responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting, and issuing warnings for cyclones, floods, and other severe weather events.
  • Wide network of stations: With over 500 observatories and 6,800 automatic weather stations spread across the country, the IMD gathers vast amounts of data to monitor weather conditions in real-time.
  • Advanced forecasting systems: The IMD utilizes sophisticated numerical models and satellite technology to generate accurate weather forecasts for different timeframes, from short-range to long-range.
  • Public weather services: The IMD provides daily weather updates, warnings for extreme weather events, and seasonal outlooks through various channels like TV, radio, mobile apps, and the official website.
  • Disaster preparedness and mitigation: The IMD plays a crucial role in disaster preparedness by issuing early warnings and collaborating with emergency response agencies to minimize the impact of natural disasters.
  • Research and development: The IMD actively conducts research in various areas of meteorology, including climate change, monsoon dynamics, and weather modification techniques.
  • International collaboration: The IMD actively participates in international meteorological organizations and programs, sharing data and expertise for improved global weather forecasting and climate research.
PYQ: Discuss the meaning of colour-coded weather warnings for cyclone prone areas given by India Meteorological Department. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2022)
Practice Question: Evaluate the implications of the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) study on India’s monsoon trends for climate resilience and governance, particularly in the context of the increasing vulnerability to dry spells and intense wet periods. (250 words/15m)

2. The problem with India’s science management

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Achievements of Indians in S&T
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of understanding challenges faced by India in research and development and measures to address these challenges.
Context:
  • The article underscores the imperative connection between sustained economic progress and scientific advancements.
  • As India undergoes a substantial transformation of its science establishment, highlighted by initiatives like the National Research Foundation (NRF) and restructuring of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), several challenges and administrative issues come to the forefront.
 Overview of India’s Science Establishment
  • Importance of Scientific Advances: Sustained economic progress tied to national ambitions relies on scientific advances translated into deployable technologies.
  • Government Initiatives: The government is revamping India’s science establishment, introducing the National Research Foundation (NRF) and restructuring the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • Need for Assessment: The article emphasizes the need for a candid evaluation of the current administrative capacity to optimize Indian science’s efficiency and resilience.
Challenges in Research and Development
  • Low Expenditure: India’s research and development expenditure is approximately 0.7% of GDP, significantly lower than the United States (3.5%) and China (2.4%).
  • Allocation of Resources: With limited funding, it becomes crucial to allocate resources wisely and focus on high-impact projects.
  • Issues in Space and Nuclear Energy: The article points out shortcomings in India’s space program, ranking eighth globally in launch numbers, and delays in embracing small modular reactors in nuclear energy.
  • Concerns in Critical Technologies: India lags in critical science and technology domains such as genomics, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
Administrative Challenges in Indian Science
  • Public Sector Dominance: India’s science is predominantly governed by the public sector, leading to generic bureaucratic issues such as delays in funding approvals.
  • Role of Scientists: Senior scientists play a significant role in administration, leading to challenges in decision-making, long-term funding commitments, and prioritization.
  • Skill Set Mismatch: The article argues that good scientists may not inherently possess the administrative skills required for effective science management.
  • Conflicts of Interest: The centrality of scientists in administration leads to potential conflicts of interest, compromising the integrity of the system.
  • Historical Root Causes: The article traces the root causes of the present administrative challenges back to the concentration of high-end equipment in specific institutions, creating gatekeepers who control appointments and influence.
Proposed Solutions
  • Separation of Roles: The article suggests a separation of roles between scientists and administrators, akin to established practices in robust science establishments globally.
  • American Model: Drawing from the U.S. system, the passage proposes an American middle-way arrangement where scientists are selected and trained in an all-India pool for science administration.
  • Training for Administrators: It advocates for the creation of an all-India service pool for science administration, similar to an administrative central service, to ensure proper training and specialization.
Conclusion:
  • The article concludes by highlighting the necessity of teaching and practicing administration separately from scientific subjects, emphasizing the importance of addressing core concerns for India’s science establishment to meet economic and strategic aspirations.
PYQ: Scientific research in Indian universities is declining, because a career in science is not as attractive as our business operations, engineering or administration, and the universities are becoming consumer oriented. Critically comment. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)
Practice Question: Examine the challenges faced by India in research and development, particularly in terms of low expenditure and concerns in space and nuclear energy. Propose strategic measures to address these challenges and enhance India’s position in critical technologies. (250 words/15m)

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