The HINDU Notes – 13th February 2018 - VISION

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 13th February 2018

📰 The jallikattu challenge

Any effort at securing animal welfare will have to be grounded in our own rights as human beings

•What must the Supreme Court do when a community’s right to cultural freedom comes into conflict with values of animal welfare? At first blush, on a purely intuitive level, this is likely to strike us as a question unworthy of close judicial scrutiny, for judges, we might think, would have to lose their moral capital before they condone cruelty to animals by placing a people’s right to culture on a pedestal. But a group of cases which the Supreme Court referred on February 2 to a Constitution Bench for final determination shows us that resolving this perceived clash is far from straightforward. To provide a morally justifiable answer, the court would have to not only make a hugely imaginative leap in its interpretation but also overcome a series of vexing doctrinal problems that limit the reach of constitutional theory.

Amendment the crux

•The issue before the Supreme Court arises out of Tamil Nadu’s amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act) made early last year amidst vociferous protests in the State. The amendment discharges the practice of jallikattu, which it defines with a sloppy lack of precision as “an event involving bulls conducted with a view to follow tradition and culture”, from the various rigours of the PCA Act. The petitioners, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, argue that the amending law violates a slew of fundamental rights. What’s more, in their belief, the Tamil Nadu government, in any event, lacked the legislative competence to dilute the requirements of the PCA Act.

•On an examination of these petitions, Justice R.F. Nariman wrote in his order of reference, at least five questions warrant deeper deliberation: Is the amendment an instance of colourable legislation? Can the law be considered as a measure introduced in furtherance of a community’s cultural right under Article 29? Was Tamil Nadu’s intention in making the amendment aimed at ensuring the survival of a native breed of bulls? Does the exemption granted to jallikattu run counter to some of the fundamental duties imposed by the Constitution, thereby impinging on rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 21? And, finally, has the amending law validly overcome the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgment in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, where the practice of jallikattu was found to offend the PCA Act?

•Part III of the Constitution, which lists the various fundamental rights, provides to persons different manners of guarantees, including in Article 14 a right to equality, and in Article 21 a right to life. These enumerated rights, however, do not explicitly recognise animals as persons. Indeed, until now, the liberties contained in Part III have largely been understood as promises made to human beings, and, in appropriate cases, to associations of human beings, such as corporations, partnerships and other similar entities. As a result, when a movement for animal welfare in India was initially launched, it stemmed not through an argument predicated on rights, but through an effort founded on qualities of decency, on a belief that to inflict unnecessary pain on animals was morally unconscionable.

•Since the Constitution imposed no binding obligation on the state to protect animal welfare, it was left to campaigners to beseech Parliament into enacting a proper law for the purpose. It was to this end that in 1960 the Union government brought into force the PCA Act, which criminalised several different types of actions resulting in cruelty to animals. But, far-reaching as the statute was for its time, it also defined a set of unpalatable exceptions. Notably, these included the performance of experiments on animals aimed purportedly at advancing discovery of drugs and a wide and general concession for “killing any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community”.

A case of violations

•It was clear, however, that plainly read, the bull-taming spectacle jallikattu, which is traditionally held during the Pongal period in southern States, violated many of the provisions of the PCA Act. Indeed, in 2014, in A. Nagaraja, the Supreme Court found that the practice treated bulls in a way that caused the animal unnecessary pain and suffering, and, therefore, that any attempt by Tamil Nadu to regulate these events could not be afforded any sanctity. But the effort made by the State last year in amending the PCA Act offers a different challenge.

•Given that the subject of preventing animal cruelty falls in the concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, State governments possess an equal authority to determine what actions constitute cruelty to animals within their respective territories. It was on the basis of this power that the Tamil Nadu government legitimised jallikattu, by amending the PCA Act, and by exempting the practice entirely from the statute’s demands. Therefore, this law, which also secured the President’s assent, ethically reprehensible as it might seem to us, cannot be described as a colourable legislation.

•In defending the statute, the State is likely to make two further arguments: one, that the amendment serves to preserve native varieties of bulls; and, two, that the exemption in favour of jallikattu furthers the Tamil people’s right to conserve their culture. The former assertion, at the least, seems palpably incongruous, and there is no doubt the Supreme Court will test the correctness of these contentions. But, even assuming the court rejects the State’s arguments on these grounds, the underlying conflict presents a fascinating constitutional difficulty: what precise fundamental right of the petitioners does the law violate?

A way out

•To unravel this conundrum, the court can do one of two things: it can simply follow its decision in A. Nagaraja, and hold that animals too possess a right to live with dignity, and, therefore, enjoy a right to life under Article 21. Or, it could hold that this right under Article 21 includes within its ambit a larger freedom to live in a society free of animal cruelty.

•In the case of the first approach, it would necessitate a finding from the court that animals are legal persons; appealing as such a conclusion might sound, though, it simply doesn’t fit with the Constitution’s text and structure. The second approach also brings with it its own complexities. But it does present us with a rationally justifiable answer. After all, the Supreme Court has previously held that the right to life under Article 21 partakes a right to a healthy environment. Perhaps, therefore, it might not be implausible for it to also hold that this right includes a freedom to live in a society that respects and shows empathy towards other living beings, that Tamil Nadu’s law, much as it strives to protect a community’s cultural rights, offends this larger, more general guarantee.

•Paradoxically, therefore, for the present, any effort at securing animal welfare will have to be grounded in our own rights as human beings. If such a reading of Article 21 allows for a kinder, more compassionate society, where animals are treated with dignity, it is perhaps the interpretation that the Supreme Court must prefer. But the court will have to be exceedingly cautious here. It mustn’t, in endeavouring to read Article 21 widely, borrow generously from the list of fundamental duties contained in Article 51A. These duties are non-justiciable by definition, and they should remain so. The court’s venture must be to independently construe Article 21, to see whether a finding that the right partakes a freedom to live in a society free of animal cruelty fits with India’s larger constitutional design. Ultimately, the court has two choices: to uphold the law and give in to the occasionally depressing limits of constitutionalism, or to take a plunge into the unknown, in the interests of articulating a morally consistent constitutional theory.

📰 Rethinking trafficking

India should not follow the raid-rescue-rehabilitation model.

•Last year, India protested against the release of a report, ‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’, a collaborative effort of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organisation for Migration. The report estimated that there were 40.3 million “modern slaves” worldwide in 2016, with 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriages. It did not name countries, but the writing on the wall was clear as 17,000 interviews had been conducted in India, and 61.78% of the “modern slaves” were in Asia and the Pacific. Registering its protest with the ILO, India vowed to undertake its own surveys. The Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, and member of NITI Aayog, Bibek Debroy, was scathing in his critique. He called the estimates on forced marriage “confused and fuddled” and urged reliance on the government’s reports on child marriage.

Falling into a trap

•However, as the report forms the baseline for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 (eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and end child labour by 2025), and since NITI Aayog is the body entrusted with the task of overseeing implementation of the SDGs in the country, India’s desire to protect its international image by measuring “more” and “better” is wholly inadequate. Rather than succumb to the numbers game played by international organisations and philanthrocapitalists, India could be more ambitious. It could assert a leadership role in the global fight against exploitation by countering the influence of neoabolitionism, a discourse that perpetuates sensationalist accounts of “modern slaves” as victims tricked by unscrupulous traffickers and whose only hope is to be rescued by law-enforcing heroes. After all, long before neoabolitionist groups and indeed Western countries set the global policy agenda on “trafficking”, in the 1970s and 1980s India and Brazil had developed a rich, indigenous jurisprudence on exploitation. This had a structural understanding of coercion and exploitation in labour markets and was backed by a creative regulatory response. But sadly today, the Indian government is set to introduce the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, which exemplifies neoabolitionism.

•India has a complex patchwork of anti-trafficking laws, ranging from the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986, to social welfare legislation on contract and bonded labour, and inter-state migrant work. While criminal laws like the ITPA target ‘bad men’ traffickers, labour laws presume endemic exploitation in labour markets. In India, a combination of penal, labour and contract laws are used to impose obligations for better working conditions. Unfortunately, as the topic of trafficking gained international prominence, the government understood trafficking to be equivalent to sex trafficking and sex work.

•The current definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC is not limited to sex work; yet, the Trafficking Bill is patently neoabolitionist. It pursues the classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model, with stringent penalties for trafficking, including life imprisonment for its aggravated forms, reversals of burden of proof, and provisions for stripping traffickers of their assets. It creates a plethora of new institutions with unclear roles, capacious powers (including for surveillance) and no accountability, alongside a parallel adjudication machinery with special courts and special public prosecutors. There is no clarity on how the Bill relates to the ITPA and to labour laws.

What should India do?

•In a recent statement, scholars, activists and workers’ rights groups argued against extending a criminal law, raid-rescue-rehabilitation model beyond sex work to other labour sectors. They called instead for a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy; robust implementation of labour laws; a universal social protection floor; self-organisation of workers; improved labour inspection, including in the informal economy; and corporate accountability for decent work conditions. They also reiterated the need for systemic reforms to counter distress migration, end caste-based discrimination, enforce the rural employment guarantee legislation, avoid the indiscriminate rescue of voluntary sex workers, and protect migrants’ mobility and rights. As the introduction of the Trafficking Bill in Parliament appears imminent, only a bold, holistic response to what is a socioeconomic problem of labour exploitation can help India realise SDG 8.7.

📰 Russia seeks Rs. 125 cr. to carry out repairs on INS Chakra

Centre trying to fix responsibility for damage to nuclear submarine

•Russian authorities have demanded over $20 million for rectifying the damage suffered by nuclear submarine INS Chakra , which was dry-docked last week, even as the government is seeking to fix responsibility for the mishap.

•According to defence sources, Russia has quoted $20 million (approximately Rs. 125 crore) for fixing the front portion, which was damaged while the submarine was entering the harbour in Visakhapatnam. The accident details emerged in public in early October last year.

•The developments around INS Chakra come even as the indigenously built nuclear ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant, which had suffered extensive damage because of human error over a year ago, is yet to be back to active sailing.

Arihant still to sail

•After extensive flushing and replacement of many of its pipes, Arihant was floated recently but sailing it will take more time, the defence sources said.

•On INS Chakra , Russian officials have conveyed to India that they would be making all the replacement panels in their own facility, and would not be using any Indian facilities. The almost 5x5 ft. panels of the sonar dome would be brought to Visakhapatnam and fitted on to the leased submarine.

•In an interview to The Hindu last week, Russian Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev said he wasn’t aware when the nuclear-powered submarine would sail again.

•“As far as I know the submarine is under repairs as of now but in the near future it is expected to be back in operation. There is nothing irreversible that happened there. That is what I am aware of,” the Russian Ambassador said.

•The Defence Ministry did not respond to queries from The Hindu .

Posting put on hold

•Meanwhile, government sources indicate that they want responsibility fixed for the damage suffered by INS Chakra .

•As part of the firm stand taken by the government, it is believed to have put on hold the proposal to appoint Inspector General of Nuclear Safety Vice Admiral Srikant as the new Commandant of the New Delhi-based National Defence College (NDC), until responsibility is fixed for the Chakra mishap.

•Vice Admiral Srikant is the senior most naval officer responsible for nuclear submarines. Lt. Gen. YVK Mohan moved out as NDC commandant early in January to take over as the General Officer Commanding IX Corps headquartered at Yol in Himachal Pradesh.

•Denying any specific knowledge of the Ministry’s move, Navy officials admitted that a series of appointments in the Navy are currently waiting to be cleared by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Vice Admiral Srikant’s is also among them.

📰 Expanding horizons

India’s West Asia engagement must focus on strengthening its presence as an economic and security partner

•As India seeks to pursue a multi-dimensional engagement with West Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest visit to the region has merely underscored its growing salience in the Indian foreign policy matrix. While much focus is often given to India’s ‘Act East’ policy, India’s ‘Look West’ policy too is evolving rapidly. This is Mr. Modi’s fifth visit to West Asia in the last three and a half years and sustained high-level engagements have ensured that India’s voice is becoming an important one in a region that is witnessing major power rivalries playing out.

•Mr. Modi’s Palestine visit — and the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister — coming just weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s high profile visit to India, has been being looked at with significant interest. Underlining India’s credentials as a “very respected country in the international arena”, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had called for a potential Indian role in the West Asian peace process. “We believe in the importance of a possible Indian role... to reach a final agreement based on international consensus and resolutions,” he had suggested before Mr. Modi’s visit, but the Prime Minister decided to steer clear of this as the complexities of the region were evident in the very manner of his landing at the Palestinian Authority’s presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

•In line with New Delhi’s policy of trying to build capacity of Palestine, India signed six agreements worth around $50 million with the Palestinian Authority that include setting up of a super speciality hospital in Beit Sahur, a centre for empowering women, procurement of equipment and machinery for the National Printing Press and significant investment in the education section. Mr. Abbas also conferred the ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ on Mr. Modi in recognition of his key contribution in promoting ties between India and Palestine. Though Mr. Modi said, “India hopes for Palestine to soon emerge a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful atmosphere”, he dropped any mention of a “united” and “viable” Palestine in his remarks, in a departure from past practice. His shift is as much about changing realities on the ground as it is about New Delhi’s evolving priorities.

Bringing in a focus

•India’s robust engagements with the Arab Gulf states are a part of this dynamic, with Mr. Modi visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the second time in the last three years. Trade and economic ties are becoming central to the India-UAE relationship. A landmark pact awarding a consortium of Indian oil companies a 10% stake in offshore oil concession will be the first Indian investment in the UAE’s upstream oil sector, transforming a traditional buyer-seller relationship into a long-term investor relationship with stakes in each other’s strategic sectors. There was also an MoU aimed at institutionalising the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers. In their joint statement, the two countries “reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.” There is also growing convergence between the two countries on tackling terrorism.

Containing China

•Oman has been a long-standing partner of India in West Asia, where Indians constitute the largest expatriate community. With the Indian Ocean becoming a priority focus area for New Delhi, Oman’s significance is likely to grow. China’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean Region has alerted India to the possibility of strengthening security ties with littoral states. India is likely to step up its military presence in Oman. Naval cooperation has already been gaining momentum with Muscat giving berthing rights to Indian naval vessels to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Regular naval exercises have now become the norm.

•India and Oman have not only made military cooperation more expansive during the Modi visit but also made an attempt to take the relationship to other domains: by enhancing cooperation in the field of health, tourism and peaceful uses of outer space.

•Given the nature of West Asian polities, with sultans and monarchs still holding sway, the Prime Minister’s personal diplomacy has indeed had a significant impact in galvanising bilateral relations. But bureaucratic inertia in New Delhi continues to hamper India’s outreach. India’s engagement with West Asia should now focus on delivering on its commitments and strengthening its presence as an economic and security partner. This will be crucial as traditional powers such as the U.S. and Russia are jostling militarily, even as America’s stakes in the region decline by the day. China and India, as two emerging powers, are yet to articulate a clear road map for the region. While India is still stuck in the age-old debates of Israel-Arab rivalry, West Asia has moved on. Growing rivalry between the Sunni Arabs and Shia Iran is reshaping old relationships and India will have to be more pragmatic in its approach towards the region. The Prime Minister’s visit has underlined this new reality for India.

📰 India, Oman agree to isolate sponsors of terror

Countries acknowledge the ‘inter-linkage’ between the stability of the West Asian region and the Indian subcontinent

•India and Oman have agreed to isolate the sponsors of international terrorism, the External Affairs Ministry said here on Monday.

•The declaration on battling terrorism came at the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country during which both sides acknowledged that there was an “inter-linkage” between the stability of the Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent.

•“The two sides also emphasised the need to isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism and agreed that the international community should take urgent action against all such entities, which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy,” a joint statement issued at the end of Mr. Modi’s visit declared.

•The visit to the strategically located country is of special significance as the monarchy, led by Sultan Qaboos bin Said for more than four decades, is soon likely to undergo a phase of succession.

•Indian officials last week thanked Oman for providing refuelling facilities to Indian ships and aircraft.

•The delegations declared that both sides recognise “the close inter-linkage of the stability and security of the Gulf region with the Indian subcontinent”. Mr. Modi appreciated Oman’s help in dealing with “specific” security challenges, the joint statement mentioned.

•Prime Minister Modi arrived in Oman on Sunday after visiting Jordan, Palestine and the UAE. He addressed a gathering of Indian workers and professionals during his stay in Muscat.

Military cooperation

•Mr. Modi thanked Sultan Qaboos for “exceptional warmth” and said, “My visit to Oman (is) one of the most memorable visits I have undertaken anywhere.”

•On military cooperation, the joint statement said: “The Indian side thanked Omani side for facilitating operational visits by Indian Naval ships and aircraft as well as Indian Air Force aircraft to various Omani ports and airports. The Omani side expressed appreciation of the training facilities provided to the Omani Royal Armed Forces personnel by India.”

Strategic oil reserve

•Mr. Modi also informed Oman’s ruler about the strategic oil reserve that India plans to build and invited Oman to participate in the project.

•The Omani side briefed India about its own strategic oil reserve project in Ras Markaz near the port of Duqm.

•A total of eight MoUs were signed on health, legal cooperation, tourism and military cooperation. Oman also expressed that it would like its scientists to be trained in Indian space research facilities.

📰 Unending pain: On SBI’s Q3 loss

Governance reforms and recognition of losses are a must to solve the bad loans crisis

•If the financial performance of India’s largest lender is anything to go by, an end to the severe bad loans crisis may be much farther beyond the horizon than previously anticipated. For the first time in almost 19 years, the State Bank of India reported a quarterly loss of ₹2,416 crore for the three months ended December, compared with a net profit of ₹2,610 crore in the year-earlier period. While the figures are not strictly comparable after SBI completed merger with its associates, the loss was the result of both a massive increase in provisions to account for bad loans and a substantial amount of mark-to-market losses on its holding of government bonds. Provisions for non-performing assets (NPAs) more than doubled to about ₹17,760 crore, from about ₹7,200 crore in the third quarter of 2016-17. On treasury operations, SBI recorded a loss of about ₹3,255 crore, versus a profit of about ₹4,776 crore in the comparable period. The bank revealed that an audit by the Reserve Bank of India showed a divergence of ₹23,239 crore in the way it classified assets at the end of the last financial year, which led to increase in provisions in the last quarter. Most of these reclassified assets are linked to troubled projects in sectors including power and telecom. SBI, of course, is not the only lender to have had its assets forcibly reclassified by the RBI. Private sector lenders have also been found guilty of pushing troubled assets under the carpet until the RBI called their bluff.

•It may be tempting to believe that last year’s bankruptcy law reforms will soon begin to ease the pain at banks by encouraging the quick sale of assets of troubled borrowers. The proceeds from such sales, however, would likely amount to very little in comparison with the mammoth scale of troubled assets. According to a joint study by Assocham and Crisil, gross NPAs in the banking system are estimated to increase to ₹9.5 lakh crore by March 2018, from ₹8 lakh crore a year earlier. In that case, write-offs recognising losses may be the most honest and practical way to deal with the bad loans problem. So the RBI in the coming months should continue to push banks, both public and private, to promptly recognise the stressed loans on their portfolios. Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week laid the blame for bad loans on the previous government. While it is quite true that the present bad loans crisis has been a long time in the making, the problem of lax corporate governance, which has plagued public sector banks and contributed in no small measure to the present crisis, still remains largely unaddressed by the government. Even the latest plan to recapitalise public sector banks may achieve little more than giving some temporary relief to lenders for the sake of reviving credit growth. The bad loans problem is likely to remain a festering sore and risks undermining the health of the economy until meaningful structural reforms to the banking system are undertaken.

📰 ‘Industrial policy must create jobs’

•The proposed new Industrial Policy, while addressing ways to incorporate the use of modern smart technologies for advanced manufacturing in India, should also look at creating more jobs as well as boosting the economic activities of Self-Help Groups (SHG), said Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu.

•Meeting economists, academicians and industry leaders for inputs regarding the formulation of the new Industrial Policy, the Minister said “we need to think about linking the economic activities of the SHGs [to the new policy to give them a boost]. These are grass-root level organisations that are both informal and a bit formal.”

📰 Industrial activity posts robust growth

Index of Industrial production up 7%

•Industrial activity saw robust growth for the second consecutive month in December, with the Index of Industrial Production growing 7.07%. The rise follows strong growth in the manufacturing, capital goods, and consumer non-durables sectors, according to official data released on Monday.

•Retail inflation eased somewhat in January, but remained at about 5%. The Consumer Price Index quickened by 5.07% in that month, boosted by the persistently high inflation in the food and fuel segments, a separate data release on Monday showed. The relatively strong growth in the IIP comes on top of an even stronger growth of 8.8% in November.

•“I think the broad message is that the recovery is still on course,” Chief Policy Advisor at EY India D.K. Srivastava told The Hindu . “There is a base effect, especially on capital goods. There is also a small deceleration over last month’s growth rate, but it does not disturb the recovery story.”

•“India’s growth story continues to march on,” Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted, reacting to the IIP data. “Focus on Make In India [is] showing consistent results. Manufacturing recorded a robust growth of 8.4% in December 2017 over December 2016. Double digit growth of 16.4% in capital goods and consumer non-durables at 16.5% reinforces heightened economic activity.”

📰 India records marginal increase in forest cover

Biennial report says Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala registered the maximum growth; northeast States show a decrease

•India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the biennial India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017. The document says that India has about 7,08,273 square kilometres of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km).

•Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long standing goal of the government since 1988.

The 21% mark

•However various editions of the SFR over the years, have reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%. So the government also includes substantial patches of trees outside areas designated as forests — such as plantations or greenlands — in its assessment. The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 square kilometres or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 square kilometres estimated in 2015.

•Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala topped the States that posted an increase in forest cover. “Much of this increase can be attributed to plantation and conservation activities both within and outside the Recorded Forest areas as well as an improvement in interpretation of satellite data,” the survey notes.

•Currently, 15 States and union territories have 33% of their geographical area under forests. In India’s north-east however, forest cover showed a decrease; 1,71,306 square kilometres, or 65.34%, of the geographical area was under forest and this was a 630 square kilometre decline from the 2015 assessment.

•The category of ‘very dense forest’— defined as a canopy cover over 70% — and an indicator of the quality of a forest, saw a dramatic rise from 85,904 square kilometres to 98,158 square kilometres this year but the category of ‘moderately dense forest’ (40%-70%) saw a 7,056 square kilometre-decline from 2015.

•“In different categories of forests there may be fluctuations within categories. However we are soon coming up with a comprehensive policy to address this,” said Siddhanta Das, Director General of Forests.

•Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan lauded the survey findings.

•“India is ranked 10th in the world, with 24.4% of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17% of human and 18% livestock population,” he said at a press conference to release the survey results.

•The forest survey for the first time mapped 633 districts and relied on satellite-mapping. Earlier this year, the government ceased to define bamboo as a tree to promote economic activity among tribals. The survey found that India’s bamboo bearing area rose by 1.73 million hectares (2011) to 15.69 million hectares (2017).

📰 Adapting better to climate change

In addition to vulnerabilities and costs, adaptation projects should also consider issues around equity.

•While there are ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restrict global warming to below 2°C or even below 1.5°C, there are also efforts to help us live in a world where average global temperatures are rising. These projects on adaptation have been funded or implemented in a number of countries, either by individual governments or with the help of external donor funds.

Failures of adaptation projects

•Many projects on adaptation begin by studying what climate impacts are expected, what kinds of vulnerabilities exist locally and how these can be addressed in a given local context. However, a 2010 survey by James Ford and his colleagues of over 1,700 projects concluded that adaptation projects were not helping the most vulnerable communities, and benefits were simply reaching those who had been assisted earlier. When several projects from the global Adaptation Fund, an international fund managed by the United Nations climate secretariat to help developing countries with climate change adaptation projects, were analysed, they too were found not to take into account unequal power structures.

•More recently, when Benjamin Sovocool and his colleagues studied various adaptation projects across the world, they considered the context of the political economy by looking at how multi-scale political forces influence economic distribution and how this produces different social and economic arrangements. What they specifically looked at were the power struggles among those competing for limited resources. For their study, they developed a new framework involving four main themes to show that failures in adaptation projects fell under one or more of these categories.

•The first is enclosure, which is when private agents acquire public assets or expand their authority over them. Exclusion is the second mode of failure, which is associated with some stakeholders getting excluded or marginalised, thus limiting their access to decision-making processes. The third is encroachment, in which the adaptation actions undertaken during the project end up intervening in areas that are rich in biodiversity, thereby interfering with ecosystem services and often resulting in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The last is entrenchment, where the condition of those who are already disempowered or marginalised in the local social context, such as the poor, women or other minorities, worsens from the intervention.

•There are various examples of projects from both developing and advanced industrial countries that fail under these themes. A desalination plant was constructed in Melbourne, Australia, by seizing valuable land from the Bunurong aboriginal community and turning it over to private actors. In Norway, as there was low representation of community organisations and environmental groups during the coastal planning process, their interests were not represented or heard over the well-organised commercial actors in the area. In Alaska, the Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors built a barrier against the sea even though this was against the wishes of the local community.

•An example of encroachment from Tanzania shows how marine protection areas that were set up to boost the resilience of coral reefs encroached on the lands of traditional fishing communities who then turned to energy-intensive farming which led to higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions. In Burkina Faso, efforts to increase options for livelihood during drought led to distress selling of productive assets that people owned, such as livestock. Disaster relief funds provided to cities first led to crises in rural communities in Kenya. Each of these situations may not fall under separate distinct problems, but may also result in multiple harmful effects. Studying a range of adaptation projects in Bangladesh in another report, these authors found that these projects also suffer from the same types of problems.

Looking forward

•There are important lessons to be learned from these cases. Politics and power struggles to control resources need to be acknowledged as being part and parcel of adaptation projects. Mechanisms to anticipate and deal with them correctly should be incorporated well in advance. That elite networks will capture prized outcomes of projects, such as land, water or other resources and privileges, should be accepted, and measures to prevent or mitigate their actions need to be identified. Best practices that can thwart or reduce the impact of political economy forces do exist, and have been identified in other cases. Sovocool and his colleagues recommend undertaking a thorough analysis of stakeholders’ interests and power relationships between allies and competitors in adaptation projects, “alongside free, prior and informed consent” from any potentially affected community.

•There are important lessons in these for India, a deeply stratified society with entrenched elite networks and growing levels of inequality, where a number of adaptation and development projects are carried out. That such problems exist may not be new to practitioners in these areas, but the point is to anticipate them and look for measures to reduce the adverse effects of projects that ultimately aim to reduce the effects of global warming over many decades.

•Besides, there has been a tendency to identify climate impacts and then regard technology as the straightforward solution. For example, use drip irrigation to save water, or do watershed development to increase water availability, or build barriers along the shore for protection from storms. While these may be successful, the ramifications and worsening of social and political conditions are ignored.

•Thus, while considering and designing climate change adaptation projects, in addition to vulnerabilities and costs, issues around equity, justice and social hierarchies must be equally considered. Otherwise, one may anticipate a deepening of existing social, economic and ecological problems. These may also result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and deepen vulnerabilities among marginalised people. Policies on adaptation need to consider the multiple scales of effects of the project — not just on a household, community or state, for instance. Forces of political economy and ecology that are an integral part of our societies cannot be wished away when considering adaptation projects.

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