The HINDU Notes – 03rd October 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, October 03, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 03rd October 2019

πŸ“° ‘Mo Sarkar’ initiative launched

Bid to provide service with dignity to people of Odisha

•Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to Wednesday launched his government’s new governance initiative ‘Mo Sarkar’ on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti when different parties organised padayatras and other events to derive political mileage on the occasion.

•Mr. Patnaik called eight persons in seven districts over phone from his residence to collect their feedback about treatment at government hospitals and service at police stations. The phone numbers of these people, who had earlier come to hospitals and police stations, were collected randomly from the ‘Mo Sarkar’ portal.

Logo released

•Later Mr. Patnaik went to the Capital Hospital and Saheed Nagar Police Station in the city and released the logo and preamble of the ‘Mo Sarkar’ programme. He had announced this new programme on the occasion of Independence Day this year.

•The ‘Mo Sarkar’ was launched at all police stations across the State along with 21 district headquarters hospitals and three government-run medical college hospitals at Cuttack, Berhampur and Sambalpur. The programme will be effective at all the 30 district headquarters hospitals of the State by October 30.

•The objective of the ‘Mo Sarkar’ programme is to provide service with dignity to people who are coming to government offices for different purposes. The phone numbers of people who are coming to government offices will be collected randomly with the purpose to improve the governance system by collecting feedback on behaviour and professionalism of government officers.

Feedback collection

•The Chief Minister, Departmental Minister, Director General of Police (in case of police stations) and Departmental Minister, Secretary and Director (in case of hospitals) will call on random numbers to collect feedback.

•The employees will be ranked as good or bad on the basis of the feedback and those with good rank will get out-of-turn promotion and action will be taken against employees with bad rank.

πŸ“° Jagan launches Village Secretariat system in Andhra Pradesh

•Opening a new chapter in public administration by inaugurating the Village Secretariat system at Karapa village near Kakinada on Wednesday, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy said it was a happy coincidence with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who firmly believed that the country would perish if development eluded villages.

•Andhra Pradesh became a role model for other States by setting up village and ward secretariats. These institutions would act as a bridge between the government and the people by rendering over 500 types of services at their doorstep, he said, pointing out that they were a major step towards his poll promise of decentralisation of administration.

‘Record effort’

•The village and ward secretariats employed over 4.50 lakh people in a record time of four months of the YSR Congress (YSRC) coming to power, he said, observing that the idea of establishing them struck when he found during his ‘Praja Sankalpa Yatra’ that there was a yawning gap between the promises made by the previous government and their delivery.

•The CM said people had to bribe the officials to get ration cards or pensions or to avail any welfare scheme. All that would be a thing of the past when the village and ward secretariats start functioning in a full-fledged manner from January 1, 2020, he said.

•Mr. Jagan said the Village Secretariats would showcase government programmes and make pictorial representations of government schools and hospitals under the caption ‘then and now’ to show how reforms have changed their functioning.

•He said the government’s top priorities were improving the literacy rate and providing facilities in hospitals and schools.

•The government’s flagship programme YSR Rythu Bharosa would be implemented from October 15. It would help the farmers overcome the crises plaguing the agriculture sector.

•The CM said the government took its promise of imposing total prohibition in phases seriously. The number of liquor outlets was reduced from 4,580 to 3,450 and belt shops across the State were shut down. By Ugadi, house pattas would be given to 25 lakh people, he added.

•Deputy Chief Minister Pilli Subhash Chandra Bose and Ministers Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy, P. Viswaroop and K. Kanna Babu and MP Vanga Geetha were among those present.

πŸ“° After India-Russia missile deal, U.S. warns allies of sanctions risk

India agreed to purchase the surface-to-air missile system from Russia in 2018 for about $5.2 billion.

•On a day when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had said that he was “reasonably convinced” of persuading the U.S. to accept India’s decision on the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, U.S. officials warned that any such purchases may risk sanctions.

•“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu via email hours after Mr Jaishankar’s comments on Tuesday.

•India agreed to purchase the surface-to-air missile system from Russia in 2018 for about $5.2 billion, risking sanctions under the 2017 U.S. CAATSA law. Sanctions could kick in when the first payment for the equipment is made, unless the U.S. President grants a waiver. U.S. government officials have repeatedly said, in the Indian context, that countries should not assume that waivers are automatic.

•Mr. Jaishankar, who is on a visit to Washington, following the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week in New York, has held or will hold meetings with U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

•The State Department however said that Mr. Pompeo had not made any decisions regarding India’s transactions when asked about possible CAATSA sanctions.

•“The Secretary has not made any determination regarding the significance of any transaction involving India. We cannot prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions,” a spokesperson told The Hindu.

πŸ“° A sound review: On Supreme Court recalling its verdict diluting SC/ST anti-atrocities law

Supreme Court’s order on anti-atrocities law is a caution against entering legislative domain

•After last year’s amendments aimed at nullifying the effect of a Supreme Court judgment that was seen as diluting the law against atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the apex court’s decision recalling the earlier verdict may not appear very significant. However, the latest order by a three-judge Bench on the Centre’s petition seeking a review is more than a mere academic exercise. Its sound reasoning and sympathetic reconsideration have fortified the legislative measure to restore the law on atrocities committed on Dalits as originally conceived by Parliament. The March 2018 decision laid down three new rules as safeguards against the Act’s possible misuse: that the bar on anticipatory bail under Section 18 need not prevent courts from granting advance bail; that a person can be arrested only if the “appointing authority” (in the case of a public servant) or the SP (in the case of others) approves such arrest; and that there should be a preliminary enquiry into all complaints. It caused an uproar among Dalits, and a nation-wide protest in August last year turned violent in some places. There was political clamour for Parliament’s intervention to restore the anti-atrocities law to its original rigour. That the Bench declined to stay its own order when a review was sought spurred the government into action.

•There was widespread criticism then that the BJP’s perceived espousal of upper caste interests and its weak submissions in court had led to the verdict. It was even argued that the Centre was under political compulsion to undo the perception that the interests of the SCs and STs were in danger. The court’s re-examination, on the contrary, is anchored in sound principles. It first underscores that special laws for the protection of SC and ST communities flow from social realities, the discrimination they still face and the circumstances that preclude them from mustering the courage to lodge a complaint in the first place. The court assails the assumption that SC/ST members are more likely to give false complaints than the general population (as evidenced by the fact that there is no preliminary enquiry or prior sanction for arrest envisaged for other complaints). In other words, the additional “safeguards” against the alleged abuse of law by Dalits is another form of discrimination, the court has pointed out. Further, it rejects the idea of treating Dalits as people prone to lodging false complaints. The directions for getting an authority’s sanction for arrest or holding a preliminary enquiry for this class of cases alone are extra-statutory, and clearly amount to the judiciary engaging in legislation. The review is a timely reminder that the top court’s power to pass any order required to uphold justice cannot be used to give directives contrary to existing laws or to supplant them altogether.

πŸ“° Furthering this neighbourhood friendship

There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties to move to the next level, based on cooperation, coordination and consolidation

•Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will make her first official visit to India from October 3-6, post the general elections in Bangladesh (December 2018) and India (May 2019). She will address the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit followed by the bilateral visit. India and Bangladesh today enjoy one of the best periods of their relationship, with positive development in the areas of diplomatic, political, economic and security relations.

Despite gains, the issues

•The current Bangladesh government has uprooted security threats and acts of insurgency against India and today, the India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured. The signing of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 was a milestone, where the two neighbours amicably resolved a long-outstanding issue.

•Bilateral trade was a little over $9 billion in FY 2017-18 and Bangladeshi exports increased by 42.91%, reaching $1.25 billion in FY 2018-2019. Removal of non-tariff barriers will help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India. In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW. A 1,600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system is being developed to boost power trade.

•Land routes have gained popularity over air travel, and are preferred by 85.6% of Bangladeshis visiting India. Train services on the Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Khulna are doing well, while a third, on the Agartala-Akhaura route, is under construction. Five additional bus services were introduced in 2018; this March, the first ever Dhaka-Kolkata cruise ship was launched. Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 21.6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018 (83.7% tourists and 10.28% medical patients). Today, Bangladesh contributes 50% of India’s health tourism revenue.

•A few major outstanding issues still remain, with the most pressing being the Teesta Water Sharing Agreement. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to endorse water-sharing terms agreed upon by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 has resulted in the current impasse. A lack of water has affected 100,000 hectares of land, with contamination affecting the soil; the increased cost of pesticides and irrigation has made farming less profitable. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971. Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and that the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.

•Border killings have decreased. India’s Border Security Force (BSF) claims that most of the firing is in self-defence in tackling cattle trafficking. However, since the ban by India on cattle export, cattle trade has fallen from 23 lakh in 2013 to 75,000 till the end of May this year — which makes the argument unconvincing. International rules of engagement entail that military action must be “proportional to provocation”, which makes such killings a serious violation of human rights. It must not be forgotten that in 2018, the BSF DG had said: “Relations between India and Bangladesh and the two border guarding forces are at their best right now.”

•Since 2010, India has approved three lines of credit to Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects. Due to bureaucratic red tape, just $442 million has been disbursed till December 2018. While Bangladesh has been slow in implementation, India’s requirement of the disbursement process to be approved by India’s Exim Bank has not helped either. During Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Delhi in 2017, two defence pacts were signed; in 2018, India extended a credit line of $500 million to purchase armaments; two memoranda of understanding were also signed for cooperation between the naval forces.

Subject of Rohingya

•The Rohingya issue and India’s remarks in 2017 on the issue have been upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes. The recent visit to Dhaka by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (August 19-21), saw a marked departure in India’s position; he had said then: “We agreed that safe, speedy and sustainable return of displaced persons (Rohingyas) is in the national interest of all three countries - Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India.” However, it is China that is mediating when, given its geographical proximity, it is India which is ideally positioned to play a positive role in regional leadership.

•India-Bangladesh relations have matured in the last decade with development in many areas of cooperation. In a neighbourhood where distrust and cynicism prevail over friendship and hope, the relationship between the two countries has given hope for optimism. But the sooner existing challenges are resolved, the better it is. On the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly late last month, Mr. Modi assured Sheikh Hasina that she would not need to worry about the NRC and water-sharing as bilateral relations are very good. It is now time to walk the talk.

•The shared colonial legacy, history and socio-cultural bonds demand that the political leadership of the two countries inject momentum into India-Bangladesh relations. Sheikh Hasina’s trip to India will hopefully help relations graduate to the next level of strengthening the three Cs: cooperation, coordination, and consolidation.

πŸ“° In pursuit of an ideal criminal process

It is time to rethink the power of arrest and the concept of cognisable offences

•Let us say we were creating the law on criminal process from scratch, for a just utopia. The law would need to empower police to arrest persons who are probable, not merely possible, suspects. Inbuilt in such a power to arrest must be a restriction against arbitrarily arresting people who are not probable crime suspects. Such a restriction would have to be founded in the right of individuals against arbitrary intrusions into their lives by the state and law enforcement, recognised in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017). Departing from the view of privacy as a bundle of rights, the Supreme Court held that privacy is essential for protecting personal liberty as it allows us to define ourselves and our relations to others.

•But it is not enough to merely recognise a right of individuals, and a corresponding restriction on the power of the police. The restriction must also serve to deter the police from intruding willy-nilly into the private lives of individuals. On balance, criminal process in a just utopia ought to incentivise honouring the individual’s right to privacy as autonomy while discharging law enforcement duties. After all, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Cognisable offences

•How close is India to being this utopia? Activist Shehla Rashid, on FIRs accusing her of sedition and promoting enmity between religious groups, had to recently secure protection against arrest from a court. This is because both the named offences are “cognisable” — that is, an officer can take cognisance of and arrest a suspect without seeking a court’s warrant to do so, if she has “reason to believe” that the person has committed the offence and is satisfied that the arrest is necessary on certain enumerated bases. Within 24 hours of the arrest, the officer must have any further detention of the arrested person ratified by a judicial magistrate.

•How would officers make the decision on whether to arrest someone? They must first weigh the probability of a person having engaged in the criminalised conduct. This is a factual question. Next, they must assess if the conduct in question fits the definition of the offence, to decide if the person ought to be arrested. This too is a factual question. However, this question is comparatively easier to answer when the offence criminalises conduct for constituting the harm. For instance, the offence of murder constitutes the harm of loss of life — the police officer must decide, on facts, whether the loss of life resulted from the intentional conduct of the accused. But it is a harder question to answer in case of offences such as those in the FIR against Ms. Rashid, as officers must answer whether the suspect’s conduct will result in or cause harm as a downstream effect. Needless to say, this prediction can only be accurate and free of error if officers are clairvoyant!

•Whether the offence criminalises conduct for constituting harm or causing harm as a downstream effect, there is no restriction on the powers of the police that deters arrests based on an error in answering these factual questions. In the case of offences mentioned in Ms. Rashid’s example, factual errors can result from exuberant policing, driven by subjective convictions on what might cause hatred, contempt or excite disaffection against the government or promote enmity between religious groups. In offences like these, the line between exuberant policing and a reasonable belief that the arrested person engaged in criminalised conduct can be hazy. Therefore, it is unclear what parameters can be employed by the judicial magistrate in deciding whether to remand the accused person to further custody for investigating the acts of the accused.

•An arrest based on such an error would unconstitutionally curtail not only the arrested person’s freedom to engage in speech and conduct, but also her liberty against arbitrary arrest. Further queering the pitch is the requirement on the police to apply judgments of the Supreme Court modifying definitions of offences to bring them in line with the Constitution. For instance, the definition of sedition was read down in Kedarnath Singh v. Bihar (1962) to encompass only speech or conduct that can “incite violence” or “involves the intention or tendency to create disorder”. Thus, an officer examining a sedition FIR needs to accurately understand and apply Kedarnath Singh, before taking cognisance of the offence. The Court restated this requirement in September 2016, in Common Cause v. Union. The question is whether such an essentially mixed question of fact and law can be left to the police force, an essentially executive authority trained to undertake investigative decisions.

Non-cognisable offences

•On the other hand, a non-cognisable offence would need officers to approach a court for a warrant before they can arrest a suspect. Why some offences can lead to arrests only upon judicial intervention for issuance of warrant is unclear. One rationale proposed by some courts is that grave and serious offences are cognisable. However, the Malimath Committee noted in 2003 that many serious offences like public servants disobeying the law to cause injury to any person; bribery during election; buying or disposing of any person as a slave; cheating; mischief; forgery; making or using documents resembling currency notes; and criminal intimidation were non-cognisable.

•Contradicting the gravity-of-offence rationale is the 177th Law Commission Report which states that cognisable offences are those that require immediate arrest. However, lawyer and scholar Abhinav Sekhri notes that Part B of the Schedule comprising cognisable offences in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) carries several offences that do not necessitate immediate arrest, such as making unauthorised constructions, repairs and modifications to one’s house under a Maharashtra town planning law. This raises questions about the rationale behind selectively requiring judicial scrutiny of some arrests, while permitting full police-discretion over other arrests.

•The CrPC was written in 1973. Ever since, multiple judgments of the apex court such as Joginder Kumar (1994), DK Basu (1997) as well as Law Commission Reports (154th, 177th) critiqued the wide powers of arrest for cognisable offences. This led to the 2009 amendment which restricted the power to arrest, to persons against whom “a reasonable complaint” or “reasonable suspicion” exists, or “credible information” is received, of having “committed a cognisable offence.” Even so, the CrPC neither deters arbitrary arrests, nor comprises incentives for carrying out arrests consistent with the individual liberty and autonomy of individuals. What then happens to the right to privacy and autonomy of a person who is arrested on a charge that does not meet the tests laid down by the Court — such as in Kedarnath Singh or, worse, on a charge that is proved to be empty?

•A code that does not compel the police to constantly be accountable to individual liberty and the Constitution is merely a police procedure manual. After Puttaswamy’s emphatic recognition of the right to privacy as autonomy, inherent in individual dignity, it is imperative that we rethink the powers to arrest for cognisable offences against the state and against public tranquility. For the CrPC to truly realise criminal justice, we might even profitably reimagine the very concept of a cognisable offence as we presently know it.

πŸ“° Prime Minister Modi declares country open defecation-free

Narendra Modi also said the world appreciated India for providing toilets to over 60 crore people.

•On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the country open defecation-free, claiming success for the government’s initiative under which every household now apparently has access to a toilet. 

•“I am satisfied that on the occasion of Gandhi at 150, we are witnessing the fulfilment of his dream of ‘Swachh Bharat’. I feel lucky that on this occasion, when India has successfully stopped open defecation, I’m here at the ashram,” the Prime Minister wrote in the visitor’s book at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram here on Wednesday. 

•“The world is impressed by our success on the open defecation-free front, and is giving awards to us,” said Mr. Modi, declaring that the country has achieved cleanliness in urban and rural areas thanks to the government’s push to build toilets.

•The Prime Minister pressed a remote, unveiling the map of India as open defecation-free at the Sabarmati riverfront ground in the presence of more than 20,000 village heads from across the country and also representatives from several countries. “Today, rural India has declared itself open defecation-free. This is a great achievement of the Swachh Bharat movement which has people’s participation,” said the Prime Minister.

•“On the call of Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom movement, people of the country mobilised for ‘satyagrah’ and they did the same now for swachhagrah,” he said.

•“In 60 months, 600 million people have been given access to toilets, more than 110 million toilets have been built. The whole world is amazed to hear this,” he said. 

‘A milestone’

•“However, this achievement is just a milestone and we should not stop here. The movement has to continue,” he said, adding that sanitation, conservation of environment and animals were dear to Mahatma Gandhi. 

•Mr. Modi credited ground-level volunteers who made Swachhta and toilets a common man’s topic after the government launched the initiative. 

•“This mission helped make the toilet, which was earlier a difficult topic, a common topic of discussion. From girls who demanded a toilet before marriage to Bollywood, everyone contributed to the mission to make India an open defecation-free country,” he added, acknowledging the contribution of every section of society in the public movement.

•On the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary, he said his government is committed to make the country free of plastics by 2022, setting an ambitious target.

•“Plastic is a major threat to the environment so we have to achieve the goal to eradicate ‘single-use plastic’ from the country by 2022.”

•In a separate event organised by the State BJP, he said the country’s stature is on the rise on the world stage. 

•According to him, a glimpse of the respect India has globally was seen during the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston during his recent week-long trip to the U.S.

•At an event organised by the BJP State unit to felicitate the Prime Minister for his speech at the UN General Assembly, Mr. Modi said the world can see that India is at the forefront of several positive changes taking place globally.

•“The strength and the value of the Indian passport has increased. The world now sees those holding Indian passport with respect. The ‘HowdyModi’ event in the U.S. has become a talking point among world leaders he met after that programme,” he said.

•“The fact that U.S. President Donald Trump came to the Indian event and stayed there for such a long time was great. After speeches, when I requested him, he came for a round of the stadium without considering security protocol. I thank him and all those who organised the event,” he said.

•“In a way, the world is looking at India with great eagerness. The world was curious about India, a huge country with a vibrant democracy and it is hopeful that India’s participation will be most significant whenever there are opportunities to bring about global changes,” he said.

πŸ“° Raining misery: On ongoing monsoon fury

Better infrastructure for water management to break the droughts, floods cycle is needed

•If Bihar is struggling to stay afloat in the ongoing monsoon, its distress can be traced to poor infrastructure and a lack of administrative preparedness. Even large parts of the capital, Patna, have been paralysed without power and communications, as the State government tries to drain its streets of water, and critical rations are distributed by boat and helicopter. The rain has not spared the more affluent residents either; those living in upscale localities including the Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, have been rescued. But the plight of people in a dozen other districts, many of them struggling with underdevelopment, is much worse. Across Bihar, there has been a significant loss of life and property. Scenes of similar distress have been reported from some other States as well, notably eastern Uttar Pradesh. The monsoon is expected to withdraw after October 10, more than a month behind normal, and its overhang is consistent with the prevalent scientific view on the effects of a changing climate: extreme rainfall and drought occurring at an increased frequency. Normal patterns will become less common in coming years, according to the current consensus. This alarming outlook calls for a far-sighted national response, with the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, given the responsibility of coordinating the efforts of other Ministries in charge of housing, urban and rural development, water management, and agriculture, as well as State governments.

•Indian cities are attracting heavy investments in several spheres, but State and municipal administrations have not matched their ambitions for development with capacity building and infrastructure creation. They must focus on ensuring the safety of citizens and durability of economic assets. Ignoring urban planning and adaptation is proving costly, and losses are sapping the vitality of the economy. In its Cities and Climate Change report, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change pointed to flooding as a key danger, apart from drought and heat islands. This is particularly true of urban centres through which rivers flow — such as Patna — and are often located on the coast, facing the additional threat of cyclones. India’s cities should work towards solutions that use engineering and ecology to contain the excess water from rain and put it to good use. This could be in the form of new lakes and bioswales, which are vegetated channels to manage rainwater. There is no better time to create such green infrastructure than today, as water management is a priority programme of the NDA government. States should be able to find financial and technical linkages to put up flood-handling structures. In Bihar’s case, coordination with Nepal to track monsoon flows is also vital, since big Gangetic rivers originate in the Himalayan region.

πŸ“° Excess rain washes out IMD’s methods

Excess rain washes out IMD’s methods
New dynamical model failed to forecast August-September deluge.

•While India this year may have recorded its highest monsoon rain in 25 years, an analysis suggests that new monsoon models, called the Monsoon Mission Coupled Forecast Model (CFS), deployed by the IMD over the last decade don’t do better than the older ones in long-range forecasting.

•This year, India ended up with 10% more monsoon rain (or 110% of the long period average LPA of 887 mm) than usual. However, none of the agency’s models tuned to capture long term forecast trends warned of this. The IMD’s workhorse statistical models said in its last update on August 1 that All India Monsoon Rainfall (June-September) would be 96% of the LPA. The CFS model in April said the monsoon would be 94% of the normal and updated to 99% in August.

Accurate in short term

•However, the IMD models that forecast two weeks ahead (called extended range prediction) did warn of increased monsoon activity, as did short-term forecast models (that gauge weather three days ahead). However, the Department doesn’t use these to update estimates of the anticipated all India figures. The newer models were developed as part of a ₹1200 crore ‘Monsoon mission’ that has been underway for over a decade and were meant to improve both short term and long term forecasts.

•A perusal by The Hindu of the forecast abilities of the CFS model, used since 2012, show that only twice — in 2013 and 2015 — did the CFS model get the monsoon right. It predicted 104% and 86% of the LPA and India ended up with 106% and 86% respectively. Like the CFS, the older statistical model also got 2015 right — when India saw one of its severest droughts. It also got 2017 right. The statistical model said the country would get 98% and India ended up with 95%. The CFS said 100%.

•Independent scientists said they were “surprised” that IMD didn’t update its August forecast to reflect the quantity of the torrential rains in August and September.

•“By middle of July, it was apparent that the Indian Ocean Dipole (an anomaly in surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean that correlates with good rains) was favourable,” said K.S. Krishnan of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, who works on long term climate forecasting.

•“This strengthened in subsequent weeks and it was evident it would lead to very good August and September rains. So I'm surprised that they didn't warn of higher rains.”

Highest since 1983

•On August 1, the IMD said August and September rains would be “100% of what’s normal” for the two months with an error window of ±8%. The country ended up with 130%, the highest since 1983.

•On September 10, scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the INCOIS, Hyderabad, said the monsoon rains in August and September would be “above normal” — based on data updated to August 10. This was due to the diminished effect of an El Nino (a temperature anomaly in the eastern Pacific, that frequently dries up monsoon rains) that has been compensated for by acitivity in the Equatorial Indian Ocean. Their report appeared in the September 10 issue of the journal Current Science.

•IMD scientists admitted that the dynamical models were yet incapable of factoring in changes in the Indian Ocean a month or two in advance. “Anomalies in the Indian Ocean develop rapidly, unlike El Nino which has an 18 month cycle and can be anticipated well in advance,” said D.S. Pai, who heads the IMD's climate forecasting division. “The excess rain in September was attributable to the low pressure systems that suddenly developed. This can’t be anticipated beyond a few days,” he added.

•Dr. Pai said the dynamical models gave a good “sign” rather than getting the numbers right and it could be customised for predicting summer heatwaves and cold-waves. It would need much more time to be fully integrated into India's monsoon forecasting system.

•Prior to the monsoon hitting the Kerala coast on the June 1, the IMD provides an official forecast in April and an update by late May and yet another update in early August.

•Traditionally it has relied on its statistical database of over a 100 years to find correlations between certain weather parameters such as temperatures in the Indian ocean, or the warm water volume in the Pacific, for instance, to estimate the chances of a good monsoon — or a drought. Over the years some parameters have been dropped, some added. But, in consonance with emerging trends in meteorology, the IMD too came around to the view that a new approach to forecasting was needed.

•Dynamical models employ a different approach to forecasting the monsoon. Roughly, this relies on capturing the interactions between the land, ocean and atmosphere and tracking how the changes in each affect the other. The land, atmosphere and ocean state at a particulate time, generally March, is mathematically simulated on supercomputers and extrapolated into the monsoon months.

πŸ“° Miles to go before becoming open defecation-free

India needs to have a non-coercive sanitation policy for those who continue to use the outdoors

•October 2 was not only Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, but also the fifth, and perhaps final, anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Speaking in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared India “open defecation-free”.

•But is rural India really open defecation-free? The Swachh Bharat Mission website claims with some caveats that the country has achieved 100% coverage of latrine ownership. If this was the definition of being open defecation-free, then, again with some caveats, India can be declared so.

Study findings

•Ten months ago, our team revisited families we had interviewed in a 2014 survey in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. We asked about the defecation behaviour of nearly 10,000 people. Between 2014 and the end of 2018, latrine ownership in the region had increased by 34 percentage points. Yet, even in States that had already been declared open defecation-free, the actual coverage was far below 100%. Although the percentage of people defecating in the open declined by 26 percentage points, close to half still reported to be relieving themselves in the open. And sadly, the programme barely managed to bring any change in the behaviour of latrine owners. Like in 2014, about a quarter of people who own a functional latrine continued to defecate in the open. Overall, the study found that 44% of people in these four States defecated in the open. These facts are unlikely to have radically changed in only 10 months.

•Some may call Mr. Modi’s declaration a political overstatement and move on to celebrate the reduction in open defecation. But doing so will leave us with an unanswered question: Will India have a sanitation policy that will address the remaining who openly defecate? For those who care about India’s abandoned toilets and stunted health outcomes, this is an important question.

•In the past five years, the Indian government has built a 100 million toilets. This implies that it constructed 38 toilets every minute that had passed since the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched. With a country as large as India, this is a big achievement. But another important question to ask here is: how was this achieved?

The other half of the story

•Hard-working government officials going around convincing people to build and use a latrine might be half the story, but the remaining half is alarming. From talking to 156 government officials, we learned that many rural Indians were threatened with or even denied their legal rights, such as PDS ration, for not building a latrine. Officials resorted to threats of fines and jail terms to intimidate people in some places.

•“The tehsildar came [to our village] once. He told the patwari that he should cancel the Kisan Credit Cards of people who did not build toilets,” said a village secretary in M.P. In Rajasthan, a ration dealer told us that the government had asked him to “stop people’s ration until they had a niralo ghar [house with a toilet] stamp on their ration card”.

•With unrealistic targets pushed down from the top, “Swachh Bharat Mission beneficiaries” were not alone in facing coercion. Government officials at every level – whether elected, appointed, or contracted – faced immense pressure and threats from their bosses. A block coordinator in M.P. said, “We have to motivate people but we also have construction targets. We have to build 18,000 toilets before October 2 [2018]. So, we have put motivation aside and we focus on the construction target. I am a contract worker. They tell us that if we don’t get 700 toilets built, we will be fired.”

•Coercion in some form or the other was ubiquitous in almost all the places we visited. More than half of the families we talked to reported the use of coercive activities in their villages to get people to build or use latrines; one in every four families told us that they have heard of government benefits being withdrawn for not having a latrine; and Dalits and Adivasis were at least twice as likely as others to report that they or their family members had faced coercion.

•The spirit of bidding farewell to open defecation as a gift to Gandhi deserves accolades. But we must not forget that there are still miles to go. India needs to have a sanitation policy that focuses on reducing open defecation. And most importantly, it should follow Gandhi’s path of ahimsa and compassion.