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a) Parched or polluted: on India’s water crisis

India’s water crisis is clear and present, with implications for the health of the entire population. According to the Composite Water Management Index developed by NITI Aayog, 70% of the water resources are identified as polluted. This is based primarily on data supplied by States for calculating the index. If the water accessible to millions is contaminated, the problem is infinitely worse than that of availability. The system of ratings for States is based on their performance in augmenting water resources and watersheds, investing in infrastructure, providing rural and urban drinking water, and encouraging efficient agricultural use. It presumes that this ‘hall of fame’ approach will foster “competitive and cooperative federalism”. What emerges from the early assessment is that States such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Telangana have initiated reforms for judicious water use, while populous ones such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have failed to respond to the challenge. Tamil Nadu, which has a middling score, does well on augmentation of water sources, but is abysmally poor in ensuring sustainable use for farming. The trends that the data reflect of high to extreme stress faced by 600 million people call for speedy reforms. Two areas that need urgent measures are augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture and to serve habitations, and strict pollution control enforcement. In this context, the Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and the Central Ground Water Board, chaired by Mihir Shah, has called for a user-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture. It advocates decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund. Clearly, awarding an index rank should help advance such schemes, making States feel the need to be competitive. Yet, such approaches may not resolve seemingly intractable inter-State river disputes. As the Cauvery issue has demonstrated, State governments would rather seek judicial intervention than be accused of bartering away the rights to a precious resource under a shared, cooperative framework. Groundwater extraction patterns need to be better understood through robust data collection; less than 5% of about 12 million wells are now under study. Steady urbanisation calls for a new management paradigm, augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse. Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs. These forward-looking changes would need revamped national and State institutions, and updated laws. A legal mandate will work better than just competition and cooperation; it would make governments accountable.

b) Change in Mexico?

Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has dominated its politics for the better part of a century, seems at risk of a defeat in the July 1 election. Brisk economic growth, low inflation and a sharp fall in unemployment have not contained the steady political slide under the corruption-tainted rule of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Simultaneously, the strong showing in opinion polls for the radical left-wing frontrunner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement, is linked to the peso’s sharp decline and a sense of drift. The threat of Washington quitting the North American Free Trade Agreement has loomed large over the latter part of Mr. Peña Nieto’s rule. But his challenges at home have been no less formidable. The fallout from the political mishandling of the mysterious disappearance of scores of children in 2014 has been severe. Mr. Peña Nieto’s government has also been at the centre of a political storm beginning with accusations that surfaced last year of illegal funding of his 2012 election. The sacking of the chief prosecutor investigating the allegations eroded the credibility of the government’s attempts to combat graft. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Congress blocked investigations into allegations of bribes received by public figures from a Brazilian firm. Official assertions that corruption was more a matter of perception than of scale have deepened public scepticism about the government’s intentions. Mr. López Obrador, a three-time contender for the presidency and former Mayor of Mexico City, has sought to capitalise on this widespread disenchantment. While his rhetoric may sound too simplistic, voters could well give him the benefit of the doubt for want of an alternative. All the same, Mr. López Obrador’s rising popularity has sent jitters across the energy industry over the future of the contracts for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the PRI has designated José Antonio Meade, who has held key ministerial portfolios in the present and earlier conservative governments, as a presidential candidate. (Presidents are allowed just the one term in Mexico.) The calculation is that the technocrat’s independence from any party affiliation could broaden his appeal and, by implication, of the PRI with the electorate at large. Whatever the outcome on July 1, Mexico’s transition through the ballot seems an integral feature of the country’s polity. This is no mean achievement in Latin America, where extensions of presidential terms through constitutional fiat are routine. And going forward, FIFA’s decision to award the 2026 World Cup to the three NAFTA nations — Mexico, with the U.S. and Canada — will possibly lead to a more conducive overall climate in the region.


1) Contaminated

Meaning: Make (something) impure by exposure to or addition of a poisonous or polluting substance.

Example: “the site was found to be contaminated by radioactivity”

Synonyms: Pollute, Adulterate

Antonyms: Purify

2) Augmenting

Meaning: Make (something) greater by adding to it; increase.

Example: “he augmented his meagre income by plying for hire as a ferryman”

Synonyms: Increase, Expand

Antonyms: Decrease

3) Presumes

Meaning: Take for granted that something exists or is the case.

Example: “the argument presumes that only one person can do the work”

4) Hall of fame

Meaning: A building that contains images of famous people and interesting things that are connected with them.

Example: You really know you’ve made it when they enshrine you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5) Judicious

Meaning: Having, showing, or done with good judgement or sense.

Example: “the judicious use of public investment”

Synonyms: Wise, Sensible

Antonyms: Injudicious, Foolish

6) Middling

Meaning: Moderate or average in size, amount, or rank.

Example: “people on middling incomes”

Synonyms: Average, Normal

7) Abysmally

Meaning: In an extremely bad way; appallingly.

Example: “she treats me abysmally at times”

8) Habitations

Meaning: The fact of living in a particular place.

Example: “signs of human habitation”

Synonyms: Occupancy, Residence

9) Enforcement

Meaning: The act of compelling observance of or compliance with a law, rule, or obligation.

Example: “the strict enforcement of environmental regulations”

Synonyms: Imposition, Application

10) Decentralisation

Meaning: The transfer of authority from central to local government.

Example: “efforts to promote decentralization and reform of the national political party”

11) Demonstrated

Meaning: Clearly show the existence or truth of (something) by giving proof or evidence.

Example: “their shameful silence demonstrates their ineptitude”

Synonyms: Reveal, Indicate

Antonyms: Hide

12) Bartering

Meaning: Exchange (goods or services) for other goods or services without using money.

Example: “he often bartered a meal for drawings”

Synonyms: trade, Swap

13) Robust

Meaning: Strong and healthy; vigorous.

Example: “the Caplan family are a robust lot”

Synonyms: Strong, Powerful

Antonyms: Weak, Frail

14) Levying

Meaning: Impose (a tax, fee, or fine).

Example: “a tax of two per cent was levied on all cargoes”

Synonyms: Impose, Charge

15) Revamped

Meaning: Give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to.

Example: “an attempt to revamp the museum’s image”

Synonyms: Renovate, Redecorate

16) Tainted

Meaning: Affect with a bad or undesirable quality.

Example: “his administration was tainted by scandal”

Synonyms: Tarnish, Blacken

Antonyms: Improve

17) Radical

Meaning: Advocating or based on thorough or complete political or social change; representing or supporting an extreme or progressive section of a political party.

Example: “a radical American activist”

Synonyms: Revolutionary, Progressive

Antonyms: Conservative, Reactionary

18) Decline

Meaning: Diminish in strength or quality; deteriorate.

Example: “her health began to decline”

Synonyms: Deteriorate, Crumble

Antonyms: Flourish

19) Loomed

Meaning: Appear as a vague form, especially one that is large or threatening.

Example: “vehicles loomed out of the darkness”

Synonyms: Emerged, Appear

20) Formidable

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

Example: “a formidable opponent”

Synonyms: Forbidding, Daunting

Antonyms: Easy, Weak

21) Fallout

Meaning: The adverse results of a situation or action.

Example: “he’s prepared to take calculated risks regardless of political fallout”

22) Mysterious

Meaning: Difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify.

Example: “his colleague had vanished in mysterious circumstances”

Synonyms: Puzzling, Strange

Antonyms: Straightforward

23) Accusations

Meaning: A charge or claim that someone has done something illegal or wrong.

Example: “accusations of bribery”

Synonyms: Allegation, Charge

24) Surfaced

Meaning: Come to people’s attention; become apparent.

Example: “the row first surfaced two years ago”

Synonyms: Emerge, Arise

25) Eroded

Meaning: Gradually destroy or be gradually destroyed.

Example: “this humiliation has eroded what confidence Jean has”

Synonyms: Abrade, Crumble

26) Assertions

Meaning: A confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.

Example: “his assertion that his father had deserted the family”

Synonyms: Declaration, Contention

27) Perception

Meaning: Someone’s ability to notice and understand things that are not obvious to other people.

Example: She has extraordinary powers of perception for one so young.

28) Scepticism

Meaning: A sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something.

Example: “these claims were treated with scepticism”

Synonyms: Doubt, Suspicion

Antonyms: Conviction, Belief

29) Intentions

Meaning: A thing intended; an aim or plan.

Example: “she was full of good intentions”

Synonyms: Aim, Intent

30) Disenchantment

Meaning: A feeling of disappointment about someone or something you previously respected or admired; disillusionment.

Example: “their growing disenchantment with the leadership”

Synonyms: Disillusionment, Dissatisfaction

31) Rhetoric

Meaning: Speech or writing intended to be effective and influence people.

Example: How far the president will be able to translate his campaign rhetoric into action remains to be seen.

Synonyms: Diction, Oratory

32) Simplistic

Meaning: Treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are.

Example: “simplistic solutions”

Synonyms: Facile, Superficial

33) Jitters

Meaning: A feeling of nervousness that you experience before something important happens.

Example: I always get the jitters the morning before an exam.

Synonyms: Anxiety, Worry

34) Designated

Meaning: Appoint (someone) to a specified office or post.

Example: “he was designated as prime minister”

Synonyms: Appoint, Nominate

35) Technocrat

Meaning: An expert in science or technology who has a lot of power in or influence with the government or industry.

Example: We believe there is a danger in policy-makers blindly trusting the technocrats.

Synonyms: Expert, Specialist

36) Affiliation

Meaning: The state or process of affiliating or being affiliated.

Example: “the group has no affiliation to any preservation society”

Synonyms: Integration, Federation

37) Electorate

Meaning: All the people in a country or area who are entitled to vote in an election.

Example: “75 per cent of the electorate voted for a Scottish parliament in some form”

38) Integral

Meaning: Necessary to make a whole complete; essential or fundamental.

Example: “games are an integral part of the school’s curriculum”

Synonyms: Essential, Basic

Antonyms: Incidental, Peripheral

39) Fiat

Meaning: An order given by a person in authority.

Example: No company can set industry standards by fiat.

40) Conducive

Meaning: making a certain situation or outcome likely or possible.

Example: “the harsh lights and cameras were hardly conducive to a relaxed atmosphere”

Synonyms: Favourable, Valuable

Antonyms: Unfavorable

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