1. Monsoon getting hotter than summer: study
‘Average temperatures during the season are 0.3 degrees Celsius higher than the average summer figures’
The monsoon has usually meant respite from the heat, but temperatures during these months — June to September — are seeing a rise, says an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environment group, made public on Thursday.
At an all-India level, average temperatures during the season are 0.3 degrees Celsius higher than the average summer temperatures (March to May) when compared from 1951 to 1980. In the past decade, 2012-2021, this anomaly has risen to 0.4 degrees Celsius.
India’s average temperature has risen 0.62 degrees Celsius from 1901 to 2020, according to India Meteorological Department records.
However, in a breakdown of this rise, the CSE analysis shows it has translated to summer temperatures rising slower than not only monsoon but even post-monsoon (October-December) and winter (January and February) temperatures.
The increase in these two seasons are 0.79 degrees and 0.58 degrees, respectively, whereas summer temperatures has risen only 0.49 degrees. This year, India saw record pre-monsoon temperatures in northern and western regions, in the absence of rain.
The average daily maximum temperature for March and April for Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — as per IMD classification — was almost 4 degrees Celsius above normal (compared to its baseline of 1981-2010). This is almost twice as much as the anomaly observed at an all-India level, and it holds true for even average daily minimum, daily mean and land surface temperatures, the CSE noted. Temperatures became closer to normal during May.
These numbers had a bearing on heatwave deaths. From 2015 to 2020, 2,137 people had reportedly died of heat stroke in the States in northwest but the southern peninsula region had reported 2,444 deaths due to excess environmental heat, with Andhra Pradesh alone accounting for over half the reported casualties.
Delhi reported only one death for the period. Most deaths have been reported among working age men (30-60 age group).
Generally, across the world, the monsoons are experienced in the tropical area roughly between 20° N and 20° S.
The climate of India is described as the ‘monsoon’ type. In Asia, this type of climate is found mainly in the south and the southeast.
Out of a total of 4 seasonal divisions of India, monsoon occupy 2 divisions, namely.
- The southwest monsoon season – Rainfall received from the southwest monsoons is seasonal in character, which occurs between June and September.
- The retreating monsoon season – The months of October and November are known for retreating monsoons.
Factors Influencing South-West Monsoon Formation
- The differential heating and cooling of land and water creates a low pressure on the landmass of India while the seas around experience comparatively high pressure.
- The shift of the position of Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in summer, over the Ganga plain (this is the equatorial trough normally positioned about 5°N of the equator. It is also known as the monsoon-trough during the monsoon season).
Inter Tropical Convergence Zone
The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ,) is a broad trough of low pressure in equatorial latitudes. This is where the northeast and the southeast trade winds converge. This convergence zone lies more or less parallel to the equator but moves north or south with the apparent movement of the sun.
- The presence of the high-pressure area, east of Madagascar, approximately at 20°S over the Indian Ocean. The intensity and position of this high-pressure area affect the Indian Monsoon.
- The Tibetan plateau gets intensely heated during summer, which results in strong vertical air currents and the formation of low pressure over the plateau at about 9 km above sea level.
- The movement of the westerly jet stream to the north of the Himalayas and the presence of the tropical easterly jet stream over the Indian peninsula during summer.
- Tropical Easterly Jet (African Easterly Jet).
- Southern Oscillation (SO): Normally when the tropical eastern south Pacific Ocean experiences high pressure, the tropical eastern Indian Ocean experiences low pressure. But in certain years, there is a reversal in the pressure conditions and the eastern Pacific has lower pressure in comparison to the eastern Indian Ocean. This periodic change in pressure conditions is known as the SO.
This is a name given to the periodic development of a warm ocean current along the coast of Peru as a temporary replacement of the cold Peruvian current. ‘El Nino’ is a Spanish word meaning ‘the child’, and refers to the baby Christ, as this current starts flowing during Christmas. The presence of the El Nino leads to an increase in sea-surface temperatures and weakening of the trade winds in the region.
Onset of the South-West Monsoon
- The location of ITCZ shifts north and south of the equator with the apparent movement of the Sun.
- During the month of June, the sun shines vertically over the Tropic of Cancer and the ITCZ shifts northwards.
- The southeast trade winds of the southern hemisphere cross the equator and start blowing in southwest to northeast direction under the influence of Coriolis force.
- These winds collect moisture as they travel over the warm Indian Ocean.
- In the month of July, the ITCZ shifts to 20°-25° N latitude and is located in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and the south-west monsoons blow from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The ITCZ in this position is often called the Monsoon Trough.
- The shift in the position of the ITCZ is also related to the phenomenon of the withdrawal of the westerly jet stream from its position over the north Indian plain, south of the Himalayas.
- The easterly Jet Stream (Somali Jet) sets in along 15°N latitude only after the western jet stream has withdrawn itself from the region. This easterly jet stream is held responsible for the burst of the monsoon in India.
- As these winds approach the land, their southwesterly direction is modified by the relief and thermal low pressure over northwest India. The monsoon approaches the Indian landmass in two branches:
- The Arabian Sea branch – The monsoon winds originating over the Arabian Sea.
- The Bay of Bengal branch – The Arakan Hills along the coast of Myanmar deflect a big portion of this branch towards the Indian subcontinent. The monsoon, therefore, enters West Bengal and Bangladesh from south and southeast instead of from the south-westerly direction.
- Another phenomenon associated with the monsoon is its tendency to have ‘breaks’ in rainfall. The monsoon rains take place only for a few days at a time. They are interspersed with rainless intervals. These breaks in monsoon are related to the movement of the monsoon trough.
Despite an overall unity in the general pattern, there are perceptible regional variations in climatic conditions within the country.
Retreating Monsoon Season
- The retreating southwest monsoon season is marked by clear skies and rise in temperature.
- The land is still moist. Owing to the conditions of high temperature and humidity, the weather becomes rather oppressive. This is commonly known as the ‘October heat’.
- In the second half of October, the mercury begins to fall rapidly, particularly in northern India.
- The weather in the retreating monsoon is dry in north India but it is associated with rain in the eastern part of the Peninsula. Here, October and November are the rainiest months of the year.
- The widespread rain in this season is associated with the passage of cyclonic depressions which originate over the Andaman Sea and manage to cross the eastern coast of the southern Peninsula. These tropical cyclones are very destructive.
- A bulk of the rainfall of the Coromandel Coast is derived from these depressions and cyclones.
- Unlike the rest of the country, which receives rain in the southwest monsoon season between June and September, the northeast monsoon is crucial for farming and water security in the south.
Impact of Monsoons on Life in India
- About 64% of people in India depend on agriculture for their livelihood and agriculture itself is based on monsoon.
- Agricultural prosperity of India depends very much on timely and adequately distributed rainfall. If it fails, agriculture is adversely affected particularly in those regions where means of irrigation are not developed.
- Regional variations in monsoon climate help in growing various types of crops.
- Regional monsoon variation in India is reflected in the vast variety of food, clothes and house types.
- Monsoon rain helps recharge dams and reservoirs, which is further used for the generation of hydro-electric power.
- Winter rainfall by temperate cyclones in north India is highly beneficial for Rabi crops.
- Variability of rainfall brings droughts or floods every year in some parts of the country.
- Sudden monsoon burst creates a problem of soil erosion over large areas in India.
- In hilly areas sudden rainfall brings landslide which damages natural and physical infrastructure subsequently disrupting human life economically as well as socially.
Monsoon Prediction In India
- More than a century ago, when there were no computers, IMD’s forecasts depended only on snow cover. Lesser cover meant a better monsoon.
- British physicist Gilbert Walker, who headed the IMD, designed a statistical weather model – an empirical way of predicting the weather – based on the relationship between two weather phenomena.
- In 2014, the IMD started to use numerical models to supplement statistical models for long-range forecasting as well.
- Now, although the numerical models used by the IMD are state-of-the-art – developed by the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction – their forecast capacity is still weak because a longer period of forecast creates more uncertainty in prediction.
- At the moment, the IMD provides district-wise weather data but it’s not sufficient; because when IMD says there will be scattered rainfall over a particular district, it means that 26-50% that district (by area) will receive rainfall.
- The IMD collects weather data like temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation through 679 automatic weather stations, 550 surface observatories, 43 radiosonde or weather balloons, 24 radars and three satellites.
- Currently, highly advanced dynamical models need supercomputers. Prediction models will not run until proper data about current weather conditions is available.
Factors Responsible for Inaccurate Monsoon Forecast
- The lack of data due to insufficient monitoring stations.
- Automatic weather stations are of substandard quality. They need to be calibrated and cleaned regularly, which does not happen often. That affects data.
- Then, there are major data gaps, like those involving dust, aerosols, soil moisture and maritime conditions are not monitored.
- The models that we have brought from the west have been developed by western scientists to forecast in their region, little progress has been made is the fine-tuning of weather models to suit Indian conditions.
- Lack of competent software professionals and scientists working with the IMD.
Global Warming and Monsoon
- A drastic change in the monsoon rainfall intensity, duration, frequency and spatial distribution can be attributed to the climate change. However, it is too soon to arrive at a conclusion.
- If all this is in response to global warming then it can be permanent and might accelerate. If not then the monsoon system will revert to a more normal state.
- More data and reanalysis is needed to get a clear picture on the complete separation of the global warming impact from natural climate variability (such as El Niño).
2. The proposal for an India-specific norm for assessing vehicular safety in collision
How does the new draft on the Bharat New Car Assessment Program compare with the Global NCAP? How has the automobile industry responded?
On June 24, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari approved a Draft GSR (general statutory rules) Notification seeking comments on a proposal to introduce the Bharat New Car Assessment Program (Bharat-NCAP).
New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP) provide reliable information about the crash safety of a vehicle based on certain common criteria and procedures. This then helps vehicles acquire a foothold in international markets.
Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars on parameters such as Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP) and Safety Assist Technologies (SAT).
The story so far: On June 24, Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari approved a Draft GSR (general statutory rules) Notification seeking comments on a proposal to introduce the Bharat New Car Assessment Program (Bharat-NCAP). It would accord vehicles a star rating based on their performance in crash tests. They are intended to increase the export-worthiness of vehicles and competition on safety parameters among manufacturers, as well as instil consumer confidence in their safety. “Bharat NCAP will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar with the mission of making India the Number 1 automobile hub in the world,” he tweeted.
What is the purpose of an NCAP?
New Car Assessment Programs (NCAPs) provide globally reliable information about the crash safety of a vehicle based on certain common criteria and procedures. This then helps vehicles acquire a foothold in international markets. They are separate from country-specific motor standards in the sense that the latter restricts itself to assessing the vehicle’s roadworthiness and not necessarily how it would ensure safety in a collision. However, a zero rating in an NCAP cannot prevent a car from being sold in any geography.
Global NCAP is a standardised platform establishing cooperation and coordination among NCAPs internationally whereas regional NCAPs take into account specific local conditions. A car may have attained a good rating elsewhere but it might not be the case in another geography because of potentially separate manufacturing origins and quality. The nature of the domestic markets also matter — consumers may prefer a car with reduced safety specifications for there is greater insistence on affordability.
How would the vehicles be evaluated?
The voluntary Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars on parameters such as Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP) and Safety Assist Technologies (SAT). It would study frontal impact, side impact and the possibility of a door opening after a crash. The potential impact is studied with the help of dummies, of pre-specified measurements, placed inside the vehicle. The car is crashed into an aluminium deformable barrier impersonating an opposing force of the same magnitude — a crash-like situation, with a 40% overlap.
Bharat NCAP would conduct its frontal offset crash testing at 64 kmph instead of the prevailing 56 kmph norm. Offset collisions are those where one side of a vehicle’s front and not the full width hits the barrier. Even though the existing regulations adhere to United Nations Regulation 94 for collision testing, its absence in domestic testing norms, and inadequate side protection in vehicles (such as airbags), has been often cited as reasons for the poor performance of Indian vehicles at NCAPs.
After the test collision, to assess adult protection, the dummy would be checked for injuries on the head, neck, chest, knee, pelvis area, lower leg, foot and ankle. Whether the airbags protect the occupant’s head that moves forward reflexively in the aftermath of a collision would be evaluated. There must not be any rib compression or injury to the knee joint. Additionally, full or partial ejection of an occupant because of a door opening is negatively marked.
For assessing child protection, the NCAP would evaluate the impact to a child restraint system (CRS) and airbag safety. CRS are portable seats designed to protect children during vehicle collisions. Vehicles that can accommodate a broad variety of child seats available in the domestic market would be rewarded. The child must not be ejected from the CRS and his/her head must be contained within the shell of the CRS preventing any outside blow following a crash.
Higher ratings would be accorded to vehicles with a permanent warning label on frontal airbags. Sudden braking may propel a child in the front row towards the dashboard, against an airbag which is inflating at an immense speed and having huge volume, causing injury or death. Cars must have manual switches to disable airbags which should not be within the child’s reach.
What does it hold for the domestic automobile industry?
The proposed move follows Mr. Gadkari’s focus on “zero tolerance for road accidents.” In February this year, he had said efforts must be made to reduce road accidents by 50% by the year 2025.
With respect to Bharat NCAP, Hemal Thakkar, Director for Transport, Logistics and Mobility at analytics firm CRISIL, said that consumers will have to prepare for an increase in vehicle prices, but will also get safer vehicles. “There could be a dent to the price sensitive lower compact segment as muted income growth has already increased pressure on this segment which will get further accentuated on account of this move,” he stated. Vinkesh Gulati, President of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), believes that having the Bharat NCAP rating criteria would emerge as a turning point in the domestic automotive sector in terms of product, technology and safety, since it would provide a platform that would test vehicular safety as per Indian conditions. “There were Indian OEMS (original equipment manufacturers) who were giving lot of importance to passenger safety and getting their vehicle tested under Global NCAP, but lot of MNC OEMs were not interested in this,” Mr. Gulati said. He suggested that the grading system be made mandatory for all OEMs so that the choice is entirely left to the customer.
Addressing the issue of export-worthiness, Mr. Thakkar said that the proposed norm may not make a difference, since any vehicle that is exported to the EU or North America needs to be homologated in the respective country. However, India exports a lot of passenger vehicles to Africa and Latin America, because of which prices of vehicles would increase, he said.
If the Bharat NCAP is implemented, domestic testing agencies would conduct tests for M1 category of vehicles, that is, passenger vehicles having not more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat, and weighing less than 3.50 tonnes — imported or domestically manufactured. If cleared, it would be applicable from April 1, 2023.
3. Editorial-1: A community and a health issue of concern
The mental illnesses and challenges that India’s LGBTQIA++ people face need comprehensive and long-term solutions
During the recent celebration of Pride month (June) globally and in India, we witnessed an incredible social media presence filled with striking images and stories. It would not have been amiss to also pause and reflect momentarily on the state of mental health of LGBTQIA++ communities in India. The reflection would undoubtedly have been a sobering one.
Despite the reading down of Section 377, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment as also successive progressive movements, India’s class, caste and regionally diverse LGBTQIA++ communities remain at risk of life-long mental illnesses and challenges. This can take the form of severe mental illness or transient and long standing dysfunctional harmful behaviours.
Stigma and suffering
Why? This is caused by life-long dissonance, deep-rooted stigma, discrimination and often abuse, that the community experiences. It often leads to extreme distress and poor self-worth, resulting in self-hate and suffering. The community is often fearful and has such deeply internalised stigma that it is challenging to even articulate what it feels like — forget about seeking help.
While the mental health needs of the LGBTQIA++ communities are not different from others, their identities, social contexts and the discrimination give them stressors that impact their mental health, relentlessly, from a young age. Sexual orientation and gender identity are rarely discussed in our social, educational or familial environments, and if ever done, these discussions are stigmatising. Society marginalises LGBTQIA++ people throughout life, no matter how accomplished they may be. This is payment extracted by a heteronormative society that demands assimilation .
In such an environment, it is hard to come out to yourself; forget the others. Even within the LGBTQIA++ communities, the lines are easily fractured by caste, class, and, more recently, by religious affiliation. It is difficult to find friends and family who understand what the person feels.
If they are able to cope with this, there is the constant othering. The life one leads and lived experiences have little or no overlap with those around oneself. In every sense, the person remains an outsider. If a person’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth, this conflict and othering is extreme. The person feels trapped and conflicted, that feeds their gender dysphoria.
This relentless dissonance and othering can result in internalised homophobia, often leading to anxiety, loneliness and substance use. It is not surprising then, that LGBTQIA++ youth are likely to suffer 1.75 times more anxiety and depression than the rest of society while the transgender community is even more vulnerable as its members suffer 2.4 times higher anxiety and depression.
In India and elsewhere, from an early age, everyone is pressured, openly or structurally, into accepting gender roles and sexual identities. Those who do not comply are bullied, abused, and assaulted under the pretence of correcting them.
Inadequate health services
When help is sought even by the most empowered, queer affirmative mental health services are hardly available. A large majority of the psychiatrists in India still consider diverse sexual orientations and gender identities as a disorder and practice ‘correctional therapy’. This is also true of general health care as well. In an ongoing study, the Raahat Project found that a large number of trans and gay men preferred to pay and seek help in the private sector rather than access government health care due to harassment and stigma.
How then do we build communities that sustain the good mental health of LGBTQIA++ communities? What we need is a national focus on LGBTQIA++ mental health that has become further acerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We need comprehensive long-term solutions that make queer mental health a priority and address community needs but also engage everyone to change the environment in which they exist. These solutions must engage with all stakeholders, including educational institutions, communities, health-care providers, mental health professionals, police personnel and families who are often a key source of mental health stress. This is not easy as this is not a priority for the Government and funding agencies, and is also neglected in society.
Awareness and other steps
One way to change the status quo is to ensure that every aspect of mental health work in India must include aspects of queer mental health issues, especially in schools and universities, to destigmatise diverse gender and sexual identities. A key aspect is building self-care skills among queer adolescents and youth. Strong components of behaviour change and awareness and also building capacity are important ways to build agency among these youth populations. What we need is a movement on queer mental health guided by non-discrimination and public awareness in order to change social attitudes.
Community building is an important part of improving the mental health for LGBTQIA++ people. We need to create supportive, safe and educative spaces, access points for health care and information on mental health. One such project that the Raahat Project has been working on through participatory methods has opened a host of issues that LGBTQIA++ communities face in leading colleges on an ongoing basis. The challenge is on how to address these issues in a holistic way when institutions are so queerphobic.
In the end, ignoring the mental health needs of LGBTQIA++ communities comes at a great cost to them and to society. Without addressing both the preventive and support aspects of the mental health of LGBTQIA++ people we will compound an already neglected problem of mental illness that will be hard to handle in the future. This would not just be injustice, but also a crisis created by deliberate neglect.
4. Editorial-2: Just fine
Justice for environmental crimes must be dispensed quickly and equitably
The Union Environment Ministry, tasked with safeguarding India’s forests and its environmental assets, proposes to amend sections of key environmental legislation and make them less threatening to potential violators. India has eight cornerstone pieces of legislation that define a regulatory framework to ensure that natural resources are not wantonly exploited, acts of pollution are apprehended and there is a mechanism to punish and deter violators. Under provisions in the existing legislation, violators are punishable with imprisonment up to five years or with a fine up to one lakh rupees, or with both. Were violations to continue, there is an additional fine of up to ₹5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction. There is also a provision for jail terms to extend to seven years. Under the new amendments proposed, the Ministry says it wants to weed out “fear of imprisonment for simple violations”, and therefore have such violations invite only monetary fines. However, serious environmental crimes that cause grave injury or death would invite imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code. These penalties would be decided by an ‘adjudication officer’ and transferred to an ‘Environment Protection Fund’. Moreover, the quantum of potential fines has been raised from beyond the one lakh rupees to as much as five crore rupees. These proposals are not yet law and have been placed in the public domain for feedback.
The question of whether the threat of imprisonment acts as a deterrent has a long history with both proponents and opponents. The proposed amendments do not cover the destruction of forests and wildlife, which make up a substantial fraction of environmental crime, and would continue to invite existing penal provisions. Research on environmental crime in the United States and Europe suggests that fining is the most common mode of punishment. India has a long history of corporate violations as well as a woefully slow redress system. An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment found that Indian courts took between 9-33 years to clear a backlog of cases for environmental violations. Starting with 2018, close to 45,000 cases were pending for trial and another 35,000 cases were added in that year. More than 90% of cases were pending for trial in five of seven major environmental laws. While fines could theoretically help with faster redress, large environmental fines will continue to be contested in courts, adding to the prevailing practice of tardy justice. The threat of imprisonment might have acted as a deterrent in India where the effectiveness of environment regulation is under par. Justice for environmental crimes must be dispensed quickly and equitably before tinkering with the law to make it less foreboding.
5. Editorial-3: Making sense of the rupee slump
On July 1, the rupee breached the 79 per dollar mark for the first time ever. The domestic currency has been dominating the headlines for hitting lifetime lows against the greenback for some time. In 2022, it slipped 6.7% against the dollar (see chart 1). While the rupee has fared better than other emerging market currencies including the Philippine peso (8.1% drop), the Thai baht (8.1%), the Chilean peso (12.3%), and the Polish zloty (15.8%), it is the worst performer among the BRICS countries. During the same period, the dollar index, which gauges the strength of the greenback against six peer currencies, rose by 11%.
One factor that has triggered this free fall of currencies is the massive sell-off by foreign portfolio investors. Due to steep interest rate increases by the U.S. Federal Reserve to tame four decades-high inflation, investors have withdrawn from riskier emerging markets and opted for safe haven assets. So far, in 2022, FPIs have dumped Indian equities worth a net $29.01 billion, more than double the $11.9 billion worth of equities sold during all of 2008, the year of the global financial crisis (see chart 2).
This selling spree by FPIs has exacerbated the demand for the dollar and led to a corresponding excess supply of the rupee, weakening the local currency. In order to smoothen the rupee’s fall and curb excess volatility, the Reserve Bank of India has been selling dollars in the forex markets from its reserves from time to time. The drawdown of dollars by the central bank has dented reserves. From a high of $642 billion in September, reserves plummeted to $593 billion as of June 24, a drop of $49 billion (see chart 3). According to the RBI’s latest ‘State of the Economy’ report, the foreign exchange reserves in June were equivalent to 10 months of import, down from 15 months of import cover in September 2021.
Besides the FPI outflows, a widening trade deficit has added pressure on India’s current account deficit (CAD), which in turn has added pressure on the outlook for the local currency. In FY22, India incurred a CAD of $38.7 billion, or 1.2% of the GDP. Incurring a CAD means that India is importing more goods and services and spending on servicing overseas borrowings than it is exporting or earning through remittances, which in turn creates more demand for dollars. While the CAD came in at $13.4 billion for the January-to-March quarter, which is sequentially lower than the $22.1 billion recorded between October and December (see chart 4), it is expected to rise further this fiscal in the wake of record high trade deficits in May and June.
In order to rein in the widening CAD and reduce pressure on the weakening rupee, the government raised the import duty levied on gold to 15% from 10.75%. While India’s production of gold is negligible, the country is the second highest consumer of gold in the world. In FY22, India imported gold worth $46.17 billion, which is 33% higher than the year earlier (see chart 5). In May, gold imports swelled to $6.02 billion, recording an almost nine-fold jump from a year earlier.
At the same time, the government also imposed a cess on the export of petrol, diesel and jet fuel. Private refiners have been exporting fuel and earning ‘windfall’ profits while pumps were running dry in some parts of the country. High-speed diesel and motor gasoline exports more than trebled in March 2022, while the exports of jet fuel more than doubled.