Change at the helm: on Yediyurappa's resignation

By unseating B.S. Yediyurappa from the Chief Minister’s chair in Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set in motion a new strategy for its consolidation in the State. Considering that this change of guard has been in the making for a while, the party must have accounted for the ramifications. The BJP had to change its Chief Minister in Uttarakhand twice within a span of four months recently, pointing to the pitfalls in effecting changes even when they are premeditated. Mr. Yediyurappa is no pushover and remains agile and active even at the age of 78. He has already said he would remain active in politics. At least for now, he has no intention of crossing swords with the central leadership of the party, which gave him the marching orders. But the Lingayat community that he belongs to has left no opportunity to express its displeasure. Community leaders and seers have come out openly in support of the displaced Chief Minister. Lingayats form the axis of the BJP’s social base

Wounded mountains: on Himachal landslide tragedy

The tragic death of nine tourists in a landslip in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh is another pointer to the fragility of the ecology of the Himalayan States. Extraordinarily heavy rain pummelled the State recently, leaving the hill slopes unstable and causing floods in built-up areas including Dharamshala. The descending boulders from destabilised terrain, which crushed a bridge like a matchstick, are a source of worry even for cautious local residents, and for unwary visitors, such as the tourists travelling in a van, they can turn into sudden disaster. Himachal is famed for its scenic vistas and welcoming summer climate, and drew a few hundred thousand tourists in June this year as States began relaxing the controls for COVID-19. There was justified alarm at the prospect of a fresh surge in infections, prompting Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to appeal for COVID-appropriate behaviour. Unfortunately, there was not enough vigil against travel to risky areas, in the wake of a

A climate risk: On extreme weather events

The monsoon is nearing its halfway mark and July, which is among the rainiest months, began with a rainfall deficit but has since seen a revival. For most of last week, all-India rainfall has been over 50% more than what is normal for this time of the year. Many regions in the Konkan coast and the southern peninsula have been seeing instances of extreme rainfall. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data on the regional distribution, the ‘South Peninsula’ has seen 29% more rain from June 1-July 25 than what is normal for this period. Rainfall in Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra, was torrential enough to beat its all-time record, according to the IMD. The monsoon is characterised by unexpected variability that forecast models can capture only in a limited way. However, much evidence is accumulating that there is a distinctive change in climate patterns. The frequency and the strength of cyclones over the Arabian Sea have increased in the last two decades. There has been a 52%


Money changer: On need for an official digital currency

In contrast to India’s continued ambiguity over the legality of cryptocurrencies, its stance on introducing an official digital currency has been reassuringly clear and consistent over time. And, four years after an inter-ministerial committee recommended that India launch fiat money in digital form, the Reserve Bank of India has indicated that pilot projects to figure out its viability are likely to be launched soon. In a speech a few days ago, T. Rabi Sankar, Deputy Governor, RBI, said, “RBI is currently working towards a phased implementation strategy and examining use cases which could be implemented with little or no disruption.” The clarity is welcome, given that the much-awaited Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, is yet to be introduced. In recent years, the significant rise of private cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether has spooked central banks throughout the world, and pushed the case for official digital currencies. Mr. Rabi Sankar


The Ganga’s message: On microplastics pollution

The Ganga might have stood witness to many stages of India’s civilisation, as Mahatma Gandhi once noted, but in recent decades it has become a conduit for sewage, solid waste, industrial effluents and other pollutants. It is depressing, though not surprising, therefore, that a new study by an NGO has found evidence of a modern-day scourge, microplastics, in the river, with the highest concentrations in Varanasi and Kanpur, followed by Haridwar. What the data show is the alarming presence of plastic filaments, fibres, fragments, and in two places, microbeads, with their composition pointing to both industrial and secondary broken-down plastics from articles of everyday use. These range from tyres, clothing, food packaging, bags, cosmetics with microbeads, garland covers and other municipal waste. The finding of significant levels of microscopic particles invisible to the naked eye at below 300 micrometres to 5 millimetres in the country’s holiest river calls into question the progress

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