Each year, parts of our country have undergone flooding, in many instances at the cost of precious lives. This year, Kerala has been the worst affected, and even days after the deluge, both Kozhikode and Kochi airports are unusable, leaving those stranded only the options of Mangalore or Thiruvananthapuram. As a consequence, the price of tickets from these two airports has moved upwards at the speed of a rocket. Textbooks claim that such a situation will result in more flights getting diverted to the sectors that have suddenly become hugely profitable to operate, so that ticket prices get reduced. However, the available evidence suggests that the number of flights into and from these two airports has remained what it was before the flooding of large parts of Kerala, thereby continuing the upward pressure on prices. It could be that the regulatory processes for altering flight schedules are too cumbersome for changes to be made in routing at short notice. If so, this shows yet again that some of the rules and procedures so elaborately created and enforced by the Civil Aviation Ministry hinder rather than promote the public interest. Hopefully the capable and people-friendly Civil Aviation Minister, Suresh Prabhu, will look into whether rules can get tweaked to ensure an immediate response to emergencies. Much needs to be done to ensure that airports get back into operation in hours rather than in days when affected by the effects of climate change.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ensured that India is no longer seen as the problem by negotiators on matters relating to climate, but very much as part of the solution. In particular, the global Solar Initiative championed by the Prime Minister has the potential to ensure that the move towards sustainable development accelerates to the speed necessary to avoid disasters which could result as a consequence of global warming, a process that some warn could lead to “global warming” as a consequence, for example, of lack of water for the vastly increased population of the planet, most of the births being from regions that are under-developed. The people of India comprise the largest number of young people present in any country in the world, and this can be either an opportunity or a major headache in the not far away future. The HRD Ministry needs to ensure that climate consciousness seeps into the everyday attitude and life of the Indian school kid, through changes in syllabi. At the same time, infrastructure such as roads, bridges and dwellings need to be designed so as to withstand the swings in climate that have now become commonplace. Simple steps such as ensuring the whitening of roofs and an expansion in rainwater storage facilities should be made far more pervasive than they presently are. Israel is an example of a country that has through hard work and ingenuity overcome the disadvantages of weather and fostered a thriving agricultural sector. Delegations have gone in profusion to Tel Aviv but seem to have had remarkably low levels of success in ensuring that at least some of the innovations that are now commonplace in Israel get adopted in India in a significant manner. This may be because composition of several delegations, even those that are technical and scientific, are decided on the basis of personal likes and dislikes of those drawing up the list rather than be based on merit and need. Indeed, several delegations are in the nature of paid vacations, with the members (and sometimes accompanying family members) in a holiday mood, of course at taxpayer expense. An audit of such groups by an independent entity not subordinated to the very individuals who sent the delegations after choosing them is needed to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for the moneys spent. Very soon, India will overtake China in the number of inhabitants present within its boundaries, and stability in the future can be ensured only by double digit rates of growth. The people of India have the potential to deliver 10%-12% rates of growth, rather than the 7% now attained, which is about the same average rate as that achieved by the Manmohan Singh ministry, that too during a period of global financial crisis. Much more is expected of the Modi government than was anticipated under its predecessor, and despite the limited period left before its term expires, the public expects several policy steps to get taken that will boost growth and at the same time, better cushion the shocks experienced by the public at the manner in which the weather is damaging human habitation in so many parts of India. Whether it be Odisha or Kerala, West Bengal or Maharashtra, Rajasthan or Tamil Nadu, all available expertise and resources need to be harnessed to ensure that both lives as well as livelihoods are protected. Events in Kerala are a wake-up call to the fact that much more needs to be done to protect the people of India from the damage caused by extreme weather, whether it come in the form of excessive heat or rainfall.