THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 8th November 2017

a) Spirit of Paris: on the climate change meet in Bonn

The 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change under way in Bonn faces the challenge of raising the ambition of the world’s leaders, and giving practical form to the provisions of the Paris Agreement. Although 169 countries have ratified the accord, and there is tremendous support for greener, low-risk pathways to growth worldwide, the Trump administration in the U.S., one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), has announced it will withdraw from the pact. Even if it will take until 2020 to achieve an actual withdrawal, the U.S. action reverses the overall momentum achieved in Paris in 2015, and negates President Barack Obama’s legacy of regulations designed to reduce America’s GHG emissions, especially from the use of coal. It is heartening that China, which has achieved rapid economic growth and leads in GHG emissions, is firmly behind the pact to reduce the risk of climate change. There is steady progress in the growth of renewable energy sources as they become cheaper and the efficiency of solar, wind and energy storage technologies improves. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa has said, the time is now to firm up the tasks set out in the agreement reached in Paris, notably on funds to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Agreement has a benchmark of raising $100 billion a year by 2020. Major risks from climate change, such as extreme weather phenomena, loss of agriculture, water stress and harm to human health, pose a threat to millions around the world. For some countries, such as Fiji, which holds the presidency of the Bonn conference, and other small island-states, the future is deeply worrying because of the fear that sea levels may rise sharply due to climate change. The recent Emissions Gap Report from the UN underscores the terrible mismatch between the voluntary pledges made by countries for the Paris Agreement and what is necessary to keep a rise in global average temperature below 2º C, preferably 1.5º C. All major countries, especially those that have depleted the global carbon budget by releasing massive amounts of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution, have to respond with stronger caps in their updated pledges under the Paris Agreement. India’s emissions have been rising overall, but it has committed itself to lowering the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level. By some estimates, India has been awarded among the highest levels of multilateral climate funding at $745 million since 2013. Securing funds for mitigation and adaptation is a high priority for India, but it must ensure that States acquire the capacity to absorb such assistance efficiently. While the emphasis on a giant renewable energy programme has won global acclaim, the focus is equally on India’s readiness to embrace green technologies across the spectrum of activity, including buildings and transport.

b) Straws in the Gujarat breeze

More than three years after the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed to power at the Centre with an unprecedented victory, it finds itself on the defensive, especially on the economic front. This defensiveness extends to the political front as well, evident in the Gujarat election campaign where after 19 years of unbroken rule, the party is facing a serious challenge.

Tell-tale signs

Three developments signal that political equations in the country may well be in a state of flux. First, the rejection of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in recent university elections indicates a strong sense of discomfort with the BJP’s politics among the youth who gave the party solid support in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Second, the Election Commission’s decision to de-hyphenate the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly election notification which allowed the Central and State governments more time to frantically announce sops, including slashing rates of the goods and services tax (GST) on select items, loan waivers for farmers, and benefits for government employees. Third, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to pass the blame for the disruptive introduction of the GST and its shambolic implementation on the Congress implies that something is really changing on the ground. For the first time, he argued in favour of collective ownership of the GST after taking sole credit for its introduction in a midnight session of Parliament, saying that all State governments, including of the Congress, are responsible for the GST. This has created opportune conditions for the Congress Party to come out of its self-imposed hibernation since 2014. It suddenly appears to be eager, even aggressive, in taking on the BJP on its home turf. This coincides with a rising discontent across the country over the economic slowdown and growing job losses. The double blunder of demonetisation and GST seems to have infused new life into Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s floundering political career just weeks before his likely elevation as the party president. The Gujarat election, which was expected to be an easy win for the BJP, has unexpectedly developed into a possibly close and certainly engrossing contest. For the past several years, the BJP has constantly harped on the Gujarat model of development claiming that it was a perfect formula for growth, and it could be extended to the rest of the country. But in the meantime, Rahul Gandhi and his party upped their game in Gujarat, seeking to puncture the mythology built around the Gujarat model with pointed attacks on the government’s economic policies and the inadequate development in the Prime Minister’s home State. Against this backdrop, the Congress put the BJP on the back foot with its Gujarat campaign highlighting joblessness, decelerating economic growth and poor social infrastructure through the hashtag “Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe” (development has gone crazy).

Where is Vikas?

It has gone all out since then to broadcast and publicise the social media campaign captured by the image of an upturned state transport bus with its wheels off. While the Gujarat model proved extremely persuasive in 2014, three years later people seem to have a more sceptical take on it and what lies beneath it. Despite three decades of high growth rates, Gujarat’s performance on social indicators has not improved significantly; this has damaged its credibility. For the first time in more than two decades, people are freely criticising the ruling dispensation, mocking the Gujarat model through jokes, caricatures, and parody. One witty message posted on Twitter sums up the popular take on the model: “In a conversation, on seeing the railway tracks submerged in water, a person asks why Vikas is not visible. He gets the reply that as Vikas is sitting in the bullet train, he is invisible.” The growing number of humorists poking fun at official policies has struck a chord among people. It forced BJP president Amit Shah to urge the State’s youth not to fall prey to the Congress’s anti-BJP propaganda on social media. Thanks to this campaign, the ruling party is facing its toughest fight in State, in sharp contrast to the 2012 Assembly elections, for instance, when Mr. Modi had made powerful use of social media in his campaign against the Congress. Aside from the advantages of political humour, the Gujarat campaign underlines the effectiveness of a State-specific approach. Ensuring that the Gujarat election remains a State battle, the Congress has fashioned its campaign around governance, law and order and failed promises of the Gujarat model, and questioning the leadership of incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his predecessor Anandiben Patel while targeting specific social constituencies. Finding itself on the defensive on issues like nationalism, terrorism and corruption, the Congress has shifted the discourse to development failures to preempt Hindu consolidation; it is cornering the government on the economic front and at the same time shunning cultural and emotional issues. The Congress is keen to shed its pro-minority image and deflect attention from Hindu-Muslim tension in order to prevent the BJP from diverting the simmering discontent towards the familiar territory of minority appeasement and the projection of Congress as a Muslim-centric party. However, while drawing attention to the government’s economic failures, the Congress has not offered any alternative model of growth. In his speech at the University of California, Berkeley in September, Mr. Gandhi said the Congress can steer a new development model in the future and that “creating jobs in a democratic environment” is vital for inclusive growth. But what this new model is has not been spelt out so far. A critique of economic failures is not enough; a party must shape it with a social and economic agenda of its own. Also, the weakness in the Congress’s organisation remains glaring: it has no strong State leader and no organisation. The party has been rendered organisationally quite weak in Gujarat over the past two decades; it needs a dedicated cadre of grassroots workers and an organisation to fight the formidable RSS/BJP election machine, which it does not have, leave alone the capacity to micro-manage elections as this political machine can.

Map of disaffection

To harvest the collective discontent in the State, the Congress has reached out to disaffected groups, including the Patidars, by attempting to build a social coalition with like-minded civil society leaders in Gujarat against the BJP. The new coalition is pivoted on socio-economic issues, and not identity politics. That’s the new strategic dimension of the campaign. Hampered by the lack of a strong local face, it revolves around bolstering the anti-BJP sentiment whipped up by the troika of young leaders: Alpesh Thakor, Jignesh Mewani and Hardik Patel. In theory, the support of OBCs, Dalits and Patels, represented by these three leaders, along with that of Adivasis, can give the Congress an edge over the BJP; in any event, their support has helped to create a public mood against the BJP. It is too early to say what electoral dividends this fascinating campaign will pay, but one thing is clear. It has unsettled and disrupted the official narrative about the much-hyped Gujarat model of development that paid rich dividends for Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections.


1) Ratified

Meaning: Sign or give formal consent to (a treaty, contract, or agreement), making it officially valid.

Example: “both countries were due to ratify the treaty by the end of the year”

Synonyms: Approval

2) Heartening

Meaning: Make more cheerful or confident.

Example: “she was heartened to observe that the effect was faintly comic”

Synonyms: Cheer, Encourage

Antonyms: Dishearten

3) Mitigate

Meaning: make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful.

Example: “drainage schemes have helped to mitigate this problem”

Synonyms: Alleviate, Reduce

Antonyms: Aggravate, Increase

4) Phenomena (plural form of phenomenon)

Meaning: A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question.

Example: “glaciers are interesting natural phenomena”

Synonyms: Occurrence, Event

5) Depleted

Meaning: Use up the supply or resources of.

Example: “fish stocks are severely depleted”

Synonyms: Exhaust, Consume

Antonyms: Augment, Increase

6) Emphasis

Meaning: Special importance, value, or prominence given to something.

Example: “they placed great emphasis on the individual’s freedom”

Synonyms: Prominence, Importance

7) Embrace

Meaning: Include or contain (something) as a constituent part.

Example: “his career embraces a number of activities—composing, playing, and acting”

Synonyms: Accept, Adopt

Antonyms: Reject

8) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: “the government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence”

Synonyms: Unparallel, Unequal

Antonyms: Normal, Common

9) Flux

Meaning: Continuous change.

Example: “the whole political system is in a state of flux”

Synonyms: Irregularity, Variability

Antonyms: Stability

10) Frantically

Meaning: In a distraught way owing to fear, anxiety, or other emotion.

Example: “women wept as they frantically searched for missing children”

11) Disruptive

Meaning: Causing or tending to cause disruption.

Example: “disruptive pupils”

Synonyms: Turbulent, Unruly

Antonyms: Manageable, Well-behaved

12) Shambolic

Meaning: Chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged.

Example: “the department’s shambolic accounting”

Synonyms: Muddled, Confused

Antonyms: Efficient, Organized

13) Hibernation

Meaning: An extended period of remaining inactive or indoors.

Example: “the fair-weather cyclists are emerging from winter hibernation”

14) Aggressive

Meaning: Behaving or done in a determined and forceful way.

Example: “we needed more growth to pursue our aggressive acquisition strategy”

Synonyms: Assertive, Forceful

Antonyms: Submissive, Diffident

15) Turf

Meaning: Force (someone) to leave somewhere.

Example: “they were turfed off the bus”

Synonyms: Remove, Eject

Antonyms: Add, Join

16) Demonetisation

Meaning: To officially stop using particular notes or coins, or a particular currency.

Example: In 2002 the currencies of twelve European countries were demonetized and replaced with the Euro.

Synonyms: Stop, Make invalid

17) Infused

Meaning: fill; pervade.

Example: “her work is infused with an anger born of pain and oppression”

Synonyms: Fill, Pervade

18) Floundering

Meaning: Be in serious difficulty.

Example: “many firms are floundering”

Synonyms: Struggle, Difficult

Antonyms: Prosper

19) Engrossing

Meaning: Very interesting and needing all your attention.

Example: I found the movie completely engrossing from beginning to end.

Synonyms: Absorb, Engage

Antonyms: Bore, Inattentive

20) Harped on

Meaning: To talk or complain about something many times.

Example: He’s always harping on about lack of discipline.

Synonyms: Complain

21) Puncture

Meaning: Cause a sudden collapse of .

Example: “the earlier mood of optimism was punctured”

Synonyms: Reverse, Reduce

22) Backdrop

Meaning: The setting or background for a scene, event, or situation.

Example: “the conference took place against a backdrop of increasing diplomatic activity”

23) Decelerating

Meaning: Reduce or cause to reduce in speed.

Example: “the train began to decelerate”

Synonyms: Slow, Brake

Antonyms: Accelerate

24) Hashtag (#)

Meaning:  a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, especially Twitter, to identify messages on a specific topic.

Example: “spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them”

25) Persuasive

Meaning: good at persuading someone to do or believe something through reasoning or the use of temptation.

Example: “an informative and persuasive speech”

Synonyms: Credible, Effective

Antonyms: Unconvincing, Weak

26) Sceptical

Meaning: Not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations.

Example: “the public were deeply sceptical about some of the proposals”

Synonyms: Dubious, Doubtful

Antonyms: Certain, Convinced

27) Dispensation

Meaning: Exemption from a rule or usual requirement.

Example: “although she was too young, she was given special dispensation to play before her birthday”

Synonyms: Exemption, Immunity

28) Poking

Meaning: protrude and be visible.

Example: “she had wisps of grey hair poking out from under her bonnet”

Synonyms: Protrude, Extend

29) Propaganda

Meaning: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Example: “he was charged with distributing enemy propaganda”

Synonyms: Information, Promotion

30) Cornering

Meaning: Control (a market) by dominating the supply of a particular commodity.

Example: “whether they will corner the market in graphics software remains to be seen”

Synonyms: Control, Dominate

31) Shunning

Meaning: Persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.

Example: “he shunned fashionable society”

Synonyms: Avoid, Evade

Antonyms: Accept, Seek

32) Appeasement

Meaning: The action or process of appeasing.

Example: “a policy of appeasement”

Synonyms: Conciliation, Propitiation

Antonyms: Provocation, Aggression

33) Rendered

Meaning: Provide or give (a service, help, etc.).

Example: “money serves as a reward for services rendered”

Synonyms: Give, Provide

34) Formidable

Meaning: Inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable.

Example: “a formidable opponent”

Synonyms: Redoubtable, Daunting

Antonyms: Comforting, Easy

35) Pivoted

Meaning: Depend on.

Example: “the government’s reaction pivoted on the response of the Prime Minister”

Synonyms: Depend, Turn

36) Hampered

Meaning: Hinder or impede the movement or progress of.

Example: “their work is hampered by lack of funds”

Synonyms: Hinder, Impede

Antonyms: Help

37) Bolstering

Meaning: Support or strengthen.

Example: “the fall in interest rates is starting to bolster confidence”

Synonyms: Strengthen, Support

Antonyms: Undermine

38) Whipped up

Meaning: To encourage or cause people to have strong feelings about something.

Example: She criticized the organization for trying to whip up anti-immigrant prejudice.

Synonyms: Encourage, Cause

39) Troika

Meaning: A group of three people working together, especially in an administrative or managerial capacity.

Example: She is a member of the president’s troika of close advisers.

40) Fascinating

Meaning: Attract the strong attention and interest of (someone).

Example: “I’ve always been fascinated by computers”

Synonyms: Enchant, Enthrall

Antonyms: Bore, Repel

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