[op-ed snap] Next, Plasticene

Mains : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anthropocene

Mains level : Broad usage of plastic should make it a category under anthropocene.


CONTEXT

The Holocene is drawing to a close, and the Age of Humans will dawn in 2021. But the Anthropocene lacks a sub-category.

Background

Anthropocene era –

  • Just when the human race seems ready to annihilate itself and enter the fossil record for keeps, the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy is propelling it into the Anthropocene Age — the era in which the imprint of this industrial and agricultural species becomes visible planetwide.
  • Of course, stratigraphers work with geological slowness.
  • The process of defining the Anthropocene was initiated in 2016 and, while the working group has voted overwhelmingly for the motion, it will be formally proposed only two years later to the commission.

Difference in the legacy of Holocene and Anthropocene

  • Humans have also left their mark on the Holocene, the era which began about 11,650 years ago, when the glaciers retreated.
  • Ruined cities like Petra and Ur are stirring tourist attractions. Further back in time are the odds and ends of material culture — Acheulian hand-axes, Jomon pottery — and much further back are fossils like Lucy, and fossilised human footprints on the sands of time.
  • Signs of the Anthropocene are less poetic — traces of pollution in tree rings, layers of soot in the substrata of industrial towns, massive deforestation and erosion, millions of acres of concrete, space junk in orbit.

Subcategory of Anthropocene

  • However, there is time yet, until 2021.
  • Time to define a subsidiary age of the Anthropocene, in recognition of a human stain that is far more pervasive than all these vile signs — plastic. Undegraded plastic is everywhere, from landfills to kitchens and the innards of cows.
  • Rivers of plastic flow down to the sea, where it breaks down into microscopic particles that are now found in maritime life forms.
  • Plastic is the most enduring sign of the human race. It is significant enough to be eponymous, identifying a subsidiary of the Anthropocene. It must be named Plasticene
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Why the integrity of data matters

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Autonomy of NSC is required to maintain sanctity of data, surveys.


CONTEXT

The announcement that the government has decided to merge the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) into and under the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has caused both surprise and concern. ecent attempts to question the veracity of National Sample Survey (NSS) data and the way the issue has been handled have given rise to apprehensions within academia, State governments and the media about the prospect of radical changes in the present system for deciding substantive issues of scope, design, scrutiny and validation of the surveys.

The present system

Under the present system, every year various departments of government send a list of subjects that they would like to be investigated by the NSSO.

Request for investigation are sent to NSC –

The requests are sent to the National Statistical Commission (NSC), which has respected economists, subject matter specialists and statisticians from government, including the head of the CSO and senior officials of the NSSO responsible for technical aspects of design and conduct of field work, as well as representatives of State governments.

The investigation by NSC –

  • Subject matter specialists in particular fields are also brought in. The proposals are discussed at length keeping in view the budget allocations, availability of trained field staff and supervisors.
  • In doing so, the conduct of periodic surveys on important issues is also considered. (It should be noted that budget allocations, and personnel of the NSSO have always been under the Department of Statistics.)
  • After providing for periodic repeat surveys (at quinquennial or decennial intervals) of some important aspects (notably consumer expenditure, employment, social consumption, land holdings, rural savings and investments), the subjects to be covered in a particular year and the scope of the inquiry are decided.
  • The tasks of sampling design, the scope and content of information to be collected, design of schedules and protocols of field work are left to be decided by special working groups.
  • The tabulated results are discussed in detail by the NSC and are published after its approval.

Compromising autonomy

  • The NSSO surveys command wide respect among academics, State governments and non-governmental organisations .
  • The existing institutional arrangement in which the NSC, as a professional body independent of government, has not only functioned smoothly but also commands confidence and respect both within the country and abroad must be maintained.
  • Any attempt or even a suggestion that its substantive work, publication and free dissemination of data are subject to the department’s approval will hugely dent the credibility of the Indian statistical system.

Scope for improvement

  • It is widely recognised that there is scope for improvement in the functioning of the institution and the way data are collected.
  • These problems are well known: the NSSO doesn’t have adequate budgetary allocations; there is an acute shortage of trained field staff; the scale of surveys is un-manageably large mainly because the users demand a degree of detail in content and regional disaggregation of estimates.
  • But there are also serious difficulties inherent in trying to get reliable and complete information through the interview method.

Solutions

  • The solutions call for action by the institutions responsible for gathering data by investing in continuing research on improving sampling design, field survey methods and validation of data.
  • Correcting these deficiencies is entirely in the domain of government.

Conclusion

Increasing the role of CSO officials in running the NSSO will not solve these problems, but they can help by providing funds for specialised research on survey design and methodology. The necessity and importance of such research calls for far greater attention and resources than they receive at present.

Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc