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Lets Talk About APTO (Asia Pacific Treaty Organization)

China’s rise in the world arena has now begun to challenge the traditional power equations. Its flourishing economy, rising incomes and a huge defense expenditure has provided it a platform to challenge the US dominance in the world. As it rises on the world arena, it is poised to ruffle many feathers, mainly in its neighborhood. This trend is more than evident.

China, from its north-eastern extremity, has territorial disputes with almost all of its neighbors. From the East China Sea dispute with Japan, the South China Sea disputes with many ASEAN nations and the land boundary dispute with India, China has been assertively flexing its muscles. These have led to many minor skirmishes in the South China Sea, with the ones with Philippines and Vietnam being quite evident. Its own Nine dash line declares Chinese sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea, from which, more than $5 trillion of global trade passes.

The rejection of the ruling of International Tribunal in an arbitration case on South China Sea, which went against its expansive interests, has shown China’s contempt for established global rules. It is conspicuous that China was shedding its status quoist stance on world affairs and adopting a more revisionist stance. This assertiveness of  Chinese has compelled  other Asian nations to look towards USA to provide a counter balance to this Chinese assertiveness. But, since the US is looking to turn isolationist and more inward looking, a more pro-active America seems less than forthcoming. In this situation, the Asia Pacific nations, should develop a collective security system on the lines of NATO.

NATO was formed after the end of World War 2 to formulate a collective security system against the rise of Soviet Union. It was a collective security system among the North Atlantic and Western European nations. It is a collective defence system, whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by an external party. Such an organization is the need of the hour in Asia Pacific.

Asia Pacific Treaty Organization (APTO)

China has grown into a huge economic and military power house. It is the second largest economy in the world with one of the largest standing armies. Rest of the economies in the region are comparatively small and cannot match the growing power differential. A collective defence strategy, however can. Put together, India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore can grow into a great economic and military organization. This security architecture, anchored around the limited role the US can play, might act as a regional counterpoise to the Chinese aggressive postures.

Let us have a look at the defense budgets of the countries:

Country

Defense Budget ($, billion)

China

215

India

53

Japan

41

South Korea

36

Australia

23.6

Indonesia

7.6

Singapore

10

Vietnam

5

Malaysia

3.6

 

As it is evident, the combined budget of all these countries cannot match up with the overall defence budget of China. However, synergic development, joint military and naval exercises can provide an effective deterence to Chinese muscle flexing.

This arrangement will not be easy to come. There would be resistance from the Chinese, as well as domestic political pressures will be against such huge military arrangement. But, the contempt with which China is treating its neighbors and trying to expand its boundaries, it only reminds of the World War 2 era Germany, which wreacked havoc on the European countries in search of Lebensraum. Such threat seams distant, but APTO is an idea which needs a serious reckoning today.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: Changing global contexts

 

The World wants to move towards a Fourth Industrial Revolution, and this was the major point of discussion at the 2016 Annual Summit meeting of World Economic Forum. The first Industrial revolution was about moving to machines from hand made tools,, the second one about assembly lines pioneered by Henry Ford and third one about Information Technology and Digitization of manufacturing processes.

The fourth Industrial Revolution would be about:

  • Embracing a number of contemporary automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies
  • Blurring lines between physical, digital and biological spheres
  • Driver less cars + artificial intelligence + smart robotics + nano technology will the way traditional industry works

The current Industrial Revolution will be all about increasing efficiencies in manufacturing by bringing in more automation and reducing the human connect. It threatens low skilled jobs in manufacturing. It has the ability to vary the basic tenets of the current world order and political systems.

Fourth Industrial Revolution and Growing Isolationism

The world is observing an undercurrent against globalization in the Western nations, which had once been the vociferous advocates of a single world order of free trade, investment and movement of capital. Their economies benefitted from the low cost manufacturing in emerging economies, which drove consumerism in the West and improved incomes in India and China. However, this offshoring of manufacturing led to a loss of low skilled jobs in the Western countries. Also, the real beneficiaries of such a system were the MNCs which maximized their profits, the losers being average workers, whose jobs were lost. This drove a wedge between these and caused sharp income inequalities in the West.

Now, the West is talking about Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence and smart robotics to reduce the human interference in manufacturing. This will surely reduce the dependence of the large manufacturing firms on the emerging economies for low cost labour. Hence, President Donald Trump makes perfect sense when he talks about preventing companies from going abroad and wants them to invest in robotics and artificial intelligence.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has also given a push towards new form of social welfare, namely, the Universal Basic Income (UBI).

A drive towards Universal Basic Income

The UBI is being given a serious thought in the Western Academic circles. It ensures a basic income to all the citizens of the country to ensure a Minimum Standard of Living for them. UBI is become all the more imperative owing to the loss of jobs by moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Such a concept was introduced in Switzerland, which although rejected in a referendum, started an international debate. On a pilot basis, UBI is being adopted by Finland, which provides basic income to the unemployed.

India has also started public discussions on the utility of UBI and wants to introduce it by replacing all other welfare schemes provided by the state. Along with being more effective, it promises to reduce leakages in delivery of services. However, highly prohibitive fiscal costs have ensured it remains on the Economic Survey only.

Fourth Industrial Revolution is bound to bring paradigm changes in the world order, and the nations which can catch up to the new normal will be the ones prospering through the 21st century.

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was proposed by the Indian government to replace the existing Collegium System for Judicial Appointments. However, the Supreme Court has struck down the NJAC Bill and has called for reforms in the existing  system to usher in transparency in the existing process of judicial appointments.

NJAC

Problems with existing Collegium system according to the government:

  • Process is opaque
  • Selection of judges on considerations other than merit
  • Favouritism being shown in judicial appointments and consequent inefficiency of judiciary
  • There has been evidence that current judicial appointments process has led to inefficient, incompetent, ethically compromised individuals being sworn in as judges
  • The real issue is not who appoints the judges, but how they are being appointed. Opaque system is bound to have subjectivity and personal bias
Problems with the judiciary:
  • Too many vacancies in the High Courts. 276 vacancies in June 2013, against a sanctioned strength of 904. Almost 1/3rd seats are empty
  • Slow and ailing judicial process
  • Lack of judicial auditing system
  • Article 124(3) of the constitution provides for appointment of three types of persons in the Supreme Court including judges of high courts, eminent lawyers and distinguished jurists
    • While the initial two have got representation in the SC, there has not been a single instance wherein an eminent jurist has made it to the apex court
    • Distinguished Jurists are the persons who have done commendable work in the field of law, research professors etc. who are dignified
    • Such jurists are needed in the Supreme Court to improve the canvass of thought process of the apex court and improve quality of judgements
  • The judges have been only appointed on the basis of their seniority. However, this must not be the only factor in deciding the efficiency and mental faculty of judges. Other factors such as following must be added to seniority clause
    • the number of cases judged successfully
    • number of judgements averted by higher courts
    • time taken to dispose off cases
    • Number of written judgements delivered
  • Nearly 2 crore cases are pending in all the Indian courts with 2/3rds of them being criminal cases
  • Lower level judicial proceedings are harbingers of corrupt practices
Reforms for judiciary:
  • To evolve an objective criteria for appointment of judges
  • Only few cases should be put to appeal in higher courts. Wisdom of lower court judges must be respected
  • Legal auditing of why cases took so long must be done
  • Archaic laws need to be repealed which impede the effective and speedy functioning of the courts
NJAC Bill
  • It plans to replace the collegium system with a more transparent Judicial Appointments Commission.
    • The commission would consist of 6 members including the Chief Justice, two most senior judges of Supreme Court, two eminent persons and the law minister
    • Two eminent persons would be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition in the Parliament
    • Two eminent persons would be selected for a period of 3 years, without having an option of re appointment
  • The term eminent personalities has been left vague by the constitutional amendment and is open to the Supreme Court’s interpretation
  • The bill has been passed as a constitutional amendment bill number 99.
  • Functions of the commission:
    • Appointment of judges of SC and CJI
    • Appointment of judges of high court sand their chief justices
    • Recommending transfer of judges between high courts or from high courts to Supreme Court
    • Ensuring transparency and objectivity in judicial appointments
    • Ensuring that the judges are of merit, ability and other criteria mentioned in the regulations
  • The bill has been challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds of it bridging the independence of judiciary
Problems with NJAC (Why it was struck down?)
  • The Supreme Court considers it as a challenge to judicial independence
  • Vague statements in the bill, open to different interpretations and thus ensuring conflict
  • Concept of eminent personalities and their appointment by a political majority and their significant role in judicial appointments would compromise judicial independence
  • Two members, out of 6, if are against the appointment of a particular judge, the appointment would not take place
  • There is a prevalent trust deficit between the higher echelons of Judiciary and the government.
International Best Practices:
  • UK’s system of appointment: the JAC assesses the candidates on 5 merit criteria:
    • Intellectual capacity
    • Personal qualities like integrity, independence of mind, decisiveness, objectivity etc
    • Ability to understand and deal fairly
    • Authority and communication skills
    • Efficiency

Onion problem in India

The Onion problem in India has affected the people in each and every lean season. Sky rocketing prices have kept them out of the reach of common man. The detailed analysis of the Onion Problem has been done below, with some suggestions for the government.
Inside An Onion Storehouse As India Prepares To Import Onions As Prices Surge
Major producing states:
  • Maharashtra
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Karnataka
  • Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Bihar and Gujarat
  • Nashik district in Maharashtra accounts for nearly 15% of the total onion production in India
Why onion shortage?
  • Indian cuisine has a widespread usage of onion
  • Demand supply mismatch
  • Truant monsoons
  • Rabi onion crop, down in December and marketed in April, is the best of the three onion crops of the year.
    • It forms nearly half of the total onion production in the country
    • Is of best quality
    • Can be stored for up to 6 months
    • It was this crop which was destroyed by untimely hailstorms in March, which has led to this supply shortage
What is being done?
  • The government increased Minimum Export Price (MEP) of onions by 2.5 times to put a virtual ban on exports, so that the supplies can be channelised into the domestic market
  • Government has set up the Price Stabilization Fund
    • Initial corpus of ₹500 crore
    • Would cover fluctuations in prices of Agro horticultural perishable goods
    • Cover only potato and onion currently
    • Losses would be shared by centre and states equally
What are the problem areas?
  • Government is following knee jerk reactions and interfering in market forces, which might have short term gains, but is harmful in the long term
  • Hoarding by large scale traders and speculative trading
  • Lack of storage facilities and perishability of onions
  • Problems in supply chain
  • Indians do not prefer ready made alternatives for cooking in place of onions like onion pastes etc. These can help reduce the demand during peak periods
What needs to be done?
  • Production and productivity of onion needs to increase
  • Hoarding needs to be checked. Market speculations need to be reduced
  • The crop needs to be made immune from vagaries of monsoon and the onion intensive areas should be brought under predictable and efficient irrigation
  • Inventory can be managed so that it can be used to stabilise prices in case of glut and in case of scarcity
  • Dehydration of onions can be done to improve their shelf life
  • The reaction time of the government is very long. Observing the looming crisis period, the government should act swiftly to import onions or use Price Stabilisation Fund to procure during supply gluts

Bureaucracy: Bedrock to Democracy

Bureaucracy is a set of written rules and regulations. It involves a hierarchical setup wherein there is a separation of work at each level. It is a contractual service extended by the government to the civil servants to serve the general public on their behalf. The entire governance, administrative and executive structure of the government is dependent upon the bureaucracy. It has often been charged with being antithetical to democracy, as bureaucrats are the not the representatives of people.

bureaucracy

Bureaucracy has often been accused of being rigid, full of inertia, unwilling to change and acts as power concentrator. It has been inward looking and has been found guilty of being more concerned about internal procedures and processes rather than developmental works. A large number of veto points in a vertical hierarchical structure often stymies the decision making process.

Power concentration in bureaucratic structures are often in contradiction to the developmental stage of a nation. More developed the nation, the more down sized is its bureaucracy. Civil services in India have been practicing New Despotism since independence. They acted as British in disguise, so unapproachable, so elitist, socially aloof.

However, it was described as the steel frame of Indian government by Sardar Patel.

Bureaucracy acts as an effective bridge between the government and citizens. It provides continuity to the government policies. Democratic governments may come and go but bureaucrats ensure the continuity of policies from one government to another.

Bureaucracy imparts stability to the nation. It always controls any acts of violence, protests etc against the government. All the government goods and services meant for the public are extended by the civil servants.

Civil servants help in policy formulation and policy execution. Policy formulations as delegated legislations are the prerogative of these bureaucrats. They employ their vast experience in policy formulations, use all facts and data they have access to and come up with effective policy frameworks. These policies are then implemented structurally through well formed organizations. Bureaucracy acts as a facilitator to democracy and acts as a bedrock to a democratically elected government.

But there is an urgent need to upgrade the bureaucracy to reflect the aims and ambitions of today’s tech savvy and ultra fast citizens. There needs to be a paradigm shift from process accountability to productivity accountability. End results should be the sole thing which should matter. The bureaucracy has to look beyond transactional governance towards a more holistic transformational governance. It needs to be down sized and right sized to reflect modern day realities.

Though there are few contradictions and paradoxes, but still democracy cannot work without bureaucracy. These two complement each other. Though to ensure good governance, the government and the bureaucracy must tread the path of reforms to be relevant today.

Combating Corruption: Is the Jan Lokpal (Ombudsman) Enough?

On 15th August’ 1947, India woke up independent from British rule. India inherited a lot of legacies from the British from Communal violence to railways to airways. One thing India was not able to inherit were the work ethics of British. The dilution of these work ethics in due course made India fall into the clutches of corruption, a disease which has eaten into most of its systems.

corruption

Corruption simply means using a public office for private purposes. There can be innumerable ways in which corruption can be done. Nepotism, Red Tapism, taking Speed Money, Favouritism, embezzlement of funds, using public employees for private work etc. are only a few of them.

The extent up to which it has bothered the common people is evident in the mass protests spearheaded by Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal Bill. The bill envisaged a separate watchdog to look into the allegations of corruption against government office bearers. However, only forming a strong Jan Lokpal can’t simply curb this menace. There is something more fundamental to it, which needs to be understood and acted against.

Traditional Indian society was known for its ethics and morality around the globe. So what has changed now? India retired religion in the garb of secularism too early after independence. Religion is one of the strongest factors in building an ethical and moral character. There has been an increased acceptance of corrupt practices in our everyday lives. It is a matter of fact that the societies which left religion in their nascent stages have been the worst affected by it. China can be cited as another befitting example. This perception needs to change. Indian society has to go through an ethical makeover.

Gandhiji was a follower of religion. He believed that religion had the ability to instill a feeling of ethical and moral behavior in people who follow it. Most of his ethical and moral principles of non violence, truth and the strength to follow them, were all derived from religion.

Although a strong ombudsman (Jan Lokpal) is a step in the right direction, laying back only on it would not suffice. What is needed is an ethical cleansing of the society, mostly civil servants, that too the cutting edge bureaucracy. The government needs to impart moral and ethical training to its personnel. As a long term solution, the students must be taught ethics and morality in schools. They should be sensitized about the menace of corruption, the benefits of an ethical character. Thus, the setting up of an institution of Ombudsman though necessary, is not sufficient.

Good Governance: Some pre requisites

Good governance refers to governance that it accountable, democratic, accessible, transparent, responsive, ethical, modern and accountable along with being citizen centric. Public systems have earned the epithet of being voluminous, full of inertia, change averse and have strict procedures. With the modernizing world, the administrative setups had to keep pace with new societal demands. Hence, the concept of good governance was propounded by the World Bank in 1992, to reform the bureaucratic administration all over the world.

Good governance

India’s bureaucratic hurdles are famous all around the globe. From the days of license raj and inspector raj, it is the bureaucracy which has ruled the roost in India. Often, the Indian bureaucracy is accused of its social aloofness and its relative inability to act as an effective bridge between the citizens and the government. It has, since independence, worked under shrouds, unknowing of the plight of common man, for whom they had been employed for.
However, with the he turn of the century and the Indian elephant pacing with overwhelming economic growth, India has acknowledged the importance of good governance. The Administrative Reforms Commission, in its series of reports, has recommended paradigm shifts in the way public services are perceived. However, to ensure good governance, the Indian government needs to tread a long hurdled path.
India is suffering from archaic laws, which have lost relevance in today’s modern world. There is a lack of clarity and burgeoning complexity. Sometimes a single issue is being governed by various laws, often paradoxical to one another. India needs a sound, modern, effective and efficient legal framework to ensure good governance. Archaic laws need to be repealed or amended to reflect modern realities. The Official Secrets Act’ 1923 is antithetical to the Right to Information Act’ 2005. Laws governing the police have long outlived themselves and need to be reformed.
After a sound legal framework, to ensure good governance, a robust institutional mechanism is required. India has provided many successful institutions in the form of SEBI, RBI, TRAI etc. but a vast number of institutions lack effective powers and modern technologies. They are being governed by ineffective laws, which need to be updated. Funds need to be infused to ensure effective capacity buildup and trainings in modern technologies must be imparted.
Competent, well equipped, trained, ethical, well paid personnel must be recruited who have a fervour for public services. The vacant government posts must be filled with new recruits to reduce work loads and improve consumer satisfactions. Already employed personnel must be imparted with training facilities in modern ways of exercising their duties. Ethical and moral behavior must be made legally binding upon the personnel. There have to be sound human resource management techniques and appraisals must consider employee’s quality of work as a criteria.
Indian administration is accused of being vertically structured with various levels of bureaucracy, causing effective delays. There had been a tendency of adopting a top down approach in which plans and policies were framed at top levels without involving the cutting edge bureaucracy, the civil society and citizens. For effective administration, there has to be a bottoms up approach. There has to be an effective devolution, decentralization, delegation of powers to local bodies, civil societies etc. which are accustomed to local needs and have a better connect with the problems.
Apart from all these, tools such as the Lokpal, RTI, Citizen’s Charter, E-Governance, grievance redressal mechanisms etc. can act as potential game changers and provide a paradigm shift towards good governance. Hence, India needs to tread a long hurdled path to roll out a red carpet for its citizens and local & global investors instead of greeting them with red tape.
Know the various components of Good Governance. Click here

Euthanasia: An ethical debate in India

Euthanasia is an assisted death. It is administered by doctors to the patients who they consider as almost dead and have a right to a dignified death. There have been wide ranging debates on it in the world and India has also witnessed it in recent times. The Supreme Court ruling in Aruna Shanbaug case reflects India’s position on the matter.
Case of Aruna Shanbaug
  • India’s debate on the legality of the use of euthanasia was pioneered by the case of Aruna Shanbaug, who was molested and raped by a ward boy in a Mumbai hospital.
  • From the past 42 years, she had been in a vegetative state living on various life support systems.
  • She was diagnosed with pneumonia and was put on ventilator system and the she suffered a cardiac arrest on 18th May finally leading to her death.

euthanasia

Role of the Honorable Supreme Court
  • This case had sparked a debate on the legality of passive euthanasia in India when the case was filed in the Supreme Court by petitioner Vinki Virani, who had applied for a permission from the Supreme Court to grant passive euthanasia to Shanbaug.
  • Justice Markande Katju and Justice Gyansudha Misra delivered a landmark judgement in 2011, allowing passive euthanasia in certain special cases where the family members of the victim apply for a passive euthanasia.
  • The Attorney General GE Vahanvati was against the grant of such an unnatural death depicting the government stand.
  • India needs a strong legislation on this part to define the applicability of passive euthanasia and apply stringent checks and balances.
Active vs Passive Euthanasia
  • Active euthanasia is a type in which a doctor deliberately causes a patient to die by administrating a lethal drug. The doctor acts with an intention that it would cause death, when he is assured that the person is beyond cure and is suffering unbearable pain.
  • In case of passive euthanasia, the doctor lets the patient die by either turning off the life support machines, disconnecting the feeding tube or not giving a life extending drug. This is once again done only when the patient is incurable or is suffering from unbearable pain.
  • Many feel that active euthanasia is immoral and passive is more moral. They feel that it is immoral to inject lethal drugs to kill someone.
  • Many consider passive euthanasia to be immoral due to the fact that it would lead to a gradual and more painful death to the patient as compared to active euthanasia.
  • The action should be based on the principle that which action would cause the least affliction of pain on the patient.
Arguments in favor
  • Pain inflicted upon the patient
  • Medical expenses
  • Lack of medical facilities in a country like India
  • Death is not always bad
  • Cruel and in humane to refuse someone the right to die if he/she is under unbearable pain
  • It just reinforces the inevitability of an imminent death

Arguments against

  • Right to life
  • No one can be authorized to inflict death upon a patient
  • Judgement of patients may be impaired by the pain and suffering they see ahead, even if they seem curable
  • It undermines concept of medical excellence and medical miracles. It is probably a retrograde step for medical innovations
  • It violates the codes of medical ethics
  • Voluntary euthanasia can become involuntary due to flouting of rules
  • Grey population could be thought of being a burden on the family and hence their progeny may opt for euthanasia
International practices
  • Netherlands became the First Nation to legalize assisted suicide in 2002 in case a patient is suffering from unbearable pain and the illness must be incurable. Such an activity can be carried out in case a demand is raised by the patient in a fully conscious state.
  • In France, the concept of right to be left to die was introduced in 2005. It allowed the doctors to decide to limit or stop any treatment that was not useful and has no object but to artificially prolong life.
  • Euthanasia has been legalized in a few states of the U.S.

The Indian Parliament must enact a law to legalise euthanasia, but in a very restricted and controlled environment, so that the practise is not misused and doesn’t lead to indiscriminate deaths.

Communalism and its manifestations in India

Communalism etymologically has been derived from Communal meaning deriving out of some commonality and ism, which means ideology. Hence communalism is referred to as a set of ideology which has been derived out of a commonality. Communalism is generally synonymous with religion but Religious communalism is just a facet of it. There can be other types as well: Linguistic, Racial, Cultural, Ethnic, Caste etc. Except for racial communalism, India’s contemporary history is replete with instances of linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious communalism.

communalism

Communally divided Indian Society

India’s partition on the basis of Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory saw the country fall into the clutches of Religious Communalism. India witnessed some of the worst communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in its western state of Punjab and eastern state of West Bengal. This period of 1946-1948 saw the amity of India’s peaceful ancient society fall apart and acted as a preclude to India’s communally divided polity. The Babri Masjid riots, Muzzafarabad riots, Godhra riots, Anti Sikh riots and Gujarat clashes are all examples of India’s religious communal clashes.

Also, India has witnessed linguistic communalism right since independence. The linguistic fervour was manifested in Potti Sitaramulu’s movement in 1956, of a separate Telugu speaking state from the majority Tamil speaking Madras Presidency state. Such was the impact of the movement that inspite of the rejection of demand of state reorganization on linguistic basis by the state reorganization commission, the Telugu speaking state was carved out. Similar movements, on linguistic basis led to the carving out of Marathi speaking Maharashtra and Gujarati speaking Gujarat state from Bombay Presidency State. Haryana was separated from Punjab on similar lines.

North East India is an apt example of ethnic and cultural communal tensions in India. The people of North East are of different ethnicities than the people of the rest of India. They differ in physical characteristics. There were communal clashes in the Indian capital last year towards the people of North East. This is Ethnic Communalism. Also, North Indians are discriminated in the South and South Indians in North, due to their ethnic differences.

Also, the North Eastern area is replete with diverse cultural groups. From Nagas to Bodos to Garos and Khasis to Manipuris, each group has distinct social identities. They are similar in their ethnic origins but differ in their cultural and societal beliefs. There have been instances of frictions between these societal groups leading to cultural communal tensions.

 Hence communalism in India has different manifestations, associating it just with religion is like limiting it.

Clouds and their various types

The types of clouds are based on what they look like and how high are they in the sky. Based on this, we have 4 major divisions. They are :

1. High level: They are formed in altitudes more than 20,000 feet. Because the temperatures are very cold at these high elevations, these clouds are mainly composed of ice crystals. High level clouds are further divided in to three main parts:

Cirrus: They are very weak and thin clouds that are blown away by high winds. They usually mean that the day will have a pleasant and fair weather. These clouds flow in the direction of the winds at their altitudes.

Cirrus clouds

Cirrostratus : They are very thin sheets of clouds extending over large parts of the sky. They are composed of ice crystals and are very difficult to detect. They sometimes signal the beginning of a warm front. These clouds do not show any precipitation.

cirrostratus clouds

Cirrocumulus: They look like small cotton puffs in the sky. They are sometimes known as Mackerel cloud due to their resemblance with the fish scales. Like other cumulus clouds, they also signify convection. Unlike other high level clouds, they include a small amount of water droplets but in a super cooled state. They do show precipitation but occasionally.

cirrocumulus clouds

2. Mid level: They are found in altitudes between 6500 to 20000 feet. They are mainly composed of water droplets but can also be composed of ice crystals when the temperature is cold enough. They are further categorized as under:

Altocumulus: They are grey and puffy clouds which are largely composed of water droplets. These are usually seen on warm and humid summer mornings and are usually a sign that thunderstorms will follow later in the day. It also signifies convection as all the cumulus clouds do. They usually show no precipitation.

Altocumulus

Altostratus: These are types which are uniform gray to bluish gray in color but slightly lighter than the nimbostratus ones. They are formed by the rising of a large air mass that condenses into a cloud. They are composed of ice crystals and water droplets and have the capacity of covering the entire sky. Rain is only possible in case of  thickened clouds and if the rain persists, they are known as nimbostratus clouds.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Low level: They are found below 6500 feet and although they are mainly composed of water droplets, they can be composed of ice crystals if the temperatures are very cold in that region. They are further classified as :

Stratus: They belong to the class characterized by horizontal layering with a uniform base. The term stratus is used to describe flat, hazy and featureless clouds of low lying altitude which are dark grey to white in color. They can be the result of fog lifting in the morning. They usually show light precipitations.

stratus clouds

Stratocumulus: They are characterized by large dark rounded masses. They appear much like cumulus ones except they are lumped together and are bigger. They show precipitation but not that intense. They may indicate a coming storm.

strato cumulus

4. Vertical: 

Cumulus: They are also known as fair weather clouds and look like floating cotton. They have flat bases and are not very tall. They are often precursors of other types. They have a noticeable vertical development and have well defined edges. They may appear alone, in lines or in clusters.

cumulus

Nimbostratus: They are dark grey clouds that produce falling rain or snow. It has a moderate vertical development. It usually has a thickness of around 2000 meter and are found commonly in the middle latitudes.

nimbostratus-clouds

Cumulonimbus: They can take up to several miles across the sky and can reach elevations of 39,000 feet or higher because of very strong up drafts in the atmosphere. Low level cumulonimbus are made of water droplets but at higher altitudes, they are composed of ice crystals. They are the types that bring lightening, thunder, violent tornadoes and other intense weather situations.

cumulo nimbus