The HINDU Notes – 04th August 2022 - VISION

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Thursday, August 04, 2022

The HINDU Notes – 04th August 2022


📰 Cabinet nod for climate pledges

However, India’s updated NDC does not include all the promises made at COP26

•India ratified pledges made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Glasgow last November to accelerate the country’s reliance on renewable energy to power the economy and be effectively free from use of fossil fuels by 2070. However, the approved pledges were fewer than those Mr. Modi committed to.

•The Union Cabinet, chaired by Mr. Modi, on Wednesday approved an update to India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). Mr. Modi had laid out five commitments, or Panchamrit, as the government references it, namely: India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW (gigawatt) by 2030; will meet 50% of its energy requirements from “renewable energy” by 2030; will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now till 2030; will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by more than 45%; and will achieve the target of “net zero” by the year 2070, when there will be no net carbon dioxide emitted from energy sources. A press statement, following the Cabinet approval, only mentions two of these promises, namely that India is committed to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, from the 2005 level and achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.

•Independent experts said that while the NDCs reflected India’s commitment to sustainable development they were a climbdown from the ambition India had expressed at Glasgow.

•“India’s updated NDC does not include all the promises made at COP26 in Glasgow,” Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist & India Lead, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said in a statement.

•Madhura Joshi, Senior Associate, India Energy Transition Lead, E3G, said: “A reiteration of the renewables focus would have provided a fresh impetus for the renewables sector.”

📰 India to host UNSC meet on counterterrorism

Meeting in October to bring representatives of 15 countries, including China and Russia, for talks on emerging threats

•In a first, India will host diplomats and officials from all 15 countries of the United Nations Security Council, including China, Russia and the U.S., for a special meeting on terrorism, in Delhi and Mumbai in October.

•The meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), which India is chairing for 2022 as a member of the UNSC, will focus particularly on challenges such as terrorism financing, cyberthreats and the use of drones, said officials.

•New Delhi is expected to highlight cross-border threats from Pakistan and Afghanistan at the meeting, which will come two months before India completes its tenure as an elected member of the UNSC (2021-22). In addition, India has been pushing for the UN members to adopt a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (first proposed in 1996), which is likely to be raised during the meeting.

•“The event will showcase India’s role as a victim of terrorism as well as a country at the forefront of global counter-terrorism efforts,” said an official involved in the planning.

New challenges

•Sources said that while terror financing was now recognised and dealt with through mechanisms such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it was necessary to build templates and “codes of conduct” for newer threats, including financing through cryptocurrency and the use of drones for terror attacks. They said the CTC meeting in India could also pave the way for a possible visit to New York by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December, when India will be the President of the UNSC for the entire month.

•In August 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Modi had chaired a UNSC special session on Enhancing Maritime Security virtually, in which several leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, had attended. Officials said India’s UN Mission, where Permanent Representative Ruchira Khamboj presented her credentials on Tuesday, would be working on ensuring maximum participation at the event, in case the Prime Minister decides to travel.

•An earlier plan to travel to Washington in December for the Democracy Summit to be convened by U.S. President Joe Biden may be put off, as the summit is likely to be postponed.

•Announcing the visit of the delegates, the United Nations said that the special meeting had been convened on October 29 in India, in view of “the increasing threat posed by the misuse of new and emerging technologies”. “The special meeting will specifically focus on three significant areas where emerging technologies are experiencing rapid development, growing use by Member States (including for security and counter-terrorism purposes), and increasing threat of abuse for terrorism purposes, namely (a) the Internet and social media, (b) terrorism financing, and (c) unmanned aerial systems,” the UN said.

•Officials told The Hindu that the details of the visit were still being finalised, including whether the visiting delegates would include Permanent Representatives or Ministers at the respective missions of the member states. The meeting, which is normally held in New York, had been discussed and planned since early this year, said sources, as part of the events to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence.

📰 Reaping the demographic dividend

India needs to invest in quality school and higher education as well as healthcare

•The UN report, World Population Prospects 2022, forecasts that the world’s population will touch eight billion this year and rise to 9.8 billion in 2050. What is of immediate interest to India is that its population will surpass China’s by 2023 and continue to surge.

•A long-time critic of China’s population policy and author of Big Country with An Empty Nest, Yi Fuxian, believes that without its one child policy, China’s population, too, would have naturally risen and peaked at 1.6 billion in 2040, allowing the world’s second-largest economy to enjoy a much longer “demographic dividend.” Instead, China is enduring an ongoing population implosion, which by 2050, will leave it with only 1.3 billion people, of whom 500 million will be past the age of 60. India’s population, by contrast, would have peaked at 1.7 billion, of whom only 330 million will be 60 years or older.

•Simply put, India is getting a demographic dividend that will last nearly 30 years. How it handles this windfall will determine if it will rise to the top of the economic league table by the end of this century or continue to eddy at lower middle-income levels. A sceptical world is watching.

India’s potential workforce

•Most optimistic about India’s future rise are major consulting firms. Deloitte’s Deloitte Insights (September 2017) expects “India’s potential workforce to rise from 885 million to “1.08 billion people over the next two decades from today”, and “remain above a billion people for half a century,” betting that “these new workers will be much better trained and educated,” than their existing counterparts. It contends that “the next 50 years will, therefore, be an Indian summer that redraws the face of global economic power.”

•McKinsey & Company’s report, ‘India at Turning Point’ (August 2020), believes the “trends such as digitisation and automation, shifting supply chains, urbanisation, rising incomes and demographic shifts, and a greater focus on sustainability, health, and safety are accelerating” to “create $2.5 trillion of economic value in 2030 and support 112 million jobs, or about 30% of the non-farm workforce in 2030.”

•The Economist is optimistic about India’s future too. In its May 14, 2022 issue, it had this to say about India, “As the pandemic recedes, four pillars are clearly visible that will support growth in the next decade; the forging of a single national market, an expansion of industry owing to the renewable-energy shift and a move in supply chains away from China, continued pre-eminence in IT, and a high-tech welfare safety-net for the hundreds of millions left behind by all this.” But not all are so bullish about India.

•The Financial Times in an article, ‘Demographics: Indian workers are not ready to seize the baton’, believes that India’s bad infrastructure and poorly skilled workforce will impede its growth.

•RAND Corporation’s report, ‘China and India, 2025, A Comparative Assessment,’ commissioned by the U.S. Secretary of Defense endorses this view as does the 2018 report, ‘An Indian Economic Strategy to 2035’, released by the Australian government and another on India from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) titled, “Going for Growth’‘. Their pessimism may be overstated and even outdated today. It is possible that McKinsey & Company and Deloitte are seeing something many others are missing out on.

‘India: an open society’

•There is so much going on for India today compared to China, the only country it can be reasonably compared to. It is still a young country and in a much better position to transform itself compared to China of the 1970s. It is still an open society where mass protest matters and produces results. Indians have not been traumatised as Chinese were at the time of Mao Zedong’s death and in the aftermath of two events he set off and which roiled China for decades — The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

•The IT technologies now available in India, and most importantly the Internet they run on have matured exponentially. Many things right from video conferencing to instantaneous payments and satellite imaging are getting better and cheaper by the day.

•Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know these can revolutionise learning and transform Indian society at an astonishingly low cost, unimaginable through much of China’s economic liberalisation.

•Creaky and inadequate as they are, India’s administrative systems manage to deliver and its infrastructure is in far better shape today than it was for China at the start of its reforms. Nor did India impose the equivalent of China’s one child policy that has seen China suffer the consequences of a prematurely ageing society with a skewed gender ratio.

Deep divide in China

•India does not have a Hukou system which in China tethers rural folk to rural parts creating a deep divide between a small and prosperous urban China and a much larger, very deprived rural China about which the world knows so little about.

•As Scott Rozelle at Stanford University’s Centre on China’s Economy and Institutions, writes in his book co-authored with Natalie Hell, Invisible China - How the Urban Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise, “Thanks to the Hukou system disincentivising migration to urban areas, only about 36% of China’s overall population is urban and fully 64% is rural (some 800 to 900 million people).” The huge divide between urban and rural China is, according to Rozelle, almost unbridgeable.

•To wring the best out of its demographic dividend, India needs to invest massively in quality school and higher education as well as healthcare — sectors it has neglected for decades — across India on an unprecedented scale, literally in trillions of rupees between now and 2050 when it would have reached the apogee of its population growth.

•India must seize the moment and not be incremental in its approach. Given the will it can initiate and see through a transformation that will stun the world, even more than China’s has so far.

📰 Understanding the provisions for foreign visits of State government Ministers

Why was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal denied clearance to attend the World Cities Summit in Singapore?

•Delhi State Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has moved court with a plea to set aside the need for travel clearances by the Centre for private foreign visits of State Ministers. 

•In 1982, the Cabinet Secretariat issued the first memorandum which stated that foreign visits by members of the State governments in their official capacity would require clearances from the Centre. In 2010, political clearances became mandatory before private visits of Ministers in State governments.

•Mr. Gahlot’s petition argues that the need for political clearances for personal foreign visits of State government Ministers violates their right to privacy.

•The story so far: Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena recently advised Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal against attending the World Cities Summit in Singapore as it was for “mayors of cities”. Now, State Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot — who had also sought political clearance for an official visit to London — has moved the Delhi High Court with a plea to set aside the need for travel clearances by the Centre for private foreign visits of State government Ministers. He has also asked for the framing of appropriate guidelines with respect to the clearances for official foreign tours of Chief Ministers and other State government members.

When did Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seek approval for Singapore visit?

•According to the petition, on April 5, the Chief Minister received an invitation from the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister of Finance and Development Singapore, to participate in the World Cities Summit scheduled from July 31 to August 3. The State government’s Deputy Security (Protocol), through a letter dated June 3, requested that all necessary clearances and arrangements for the visit be made. On June 7, the file was submitted for sign-off to the LG office. On June 3, the petitioner had applied for political clearance for his official visit to London from June 12 to 19.

•Additionally, the petition also mentioned another instance wherein political clearance for the Delhi Chief Minister’s proposed visit to Copenhagen for attending the 7th C-40 World Mayors Summit in October 2019 was rejected by the MEA “without providing any reasons”.

Under which provisions are approvals required?

•On August 16, 1982, the Cabinet Secretariat had issued an office memorandum titled “‘Guidelines regarding foreign travel of Ministers of State government and Union Territories and State government officials”, stating that foreign visits by members of the State governments in their official capacity would require clearances from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Home Affairs, Finance Ministry, and the Central Administrative Ministry. It issued another order on March 30, 1995, reiterating the same.

•The Secretariat circulated another order on September 3, 2004, modifying the provisions to the extent that the final orders were to be issued by the Finance Ministry. The following directive dated November 2, 2004, stipulated that Chief Ministers required further approval from the Prime Minister’s Office before an official visit. On August 26, 2010, yet another office memorandum made political clearances mandatory before private visits of Ministers in State governments, which was reiterated through an order on May 6, 2015.

•The petition seeks a quashing of the 2010 and 2015 office memoranda which require State government Ministers to ask for political clearances for personal visits abroad.

What followed after the approvals were sought?

•As no decision on his application was received from the MEA, the petitioner wrote to the Ministry on June 27 raising concerns. He also sought data on the number of such clearances rejected in the past five years. Another letter was sent on July 4, asking for the statutory and constitutional grounds for denial of travel clearances.

•Since the LG office had not yet responded on the Singapore visit, the Chief Minister on July 17 wrote a letter addressed to the Prime Minister requesting expedited clearances for the Singapore visit. On July 20, the LG wrote back stating that the visit to Singapore was “not advisable”, pointing out that it was primarily attended by mayoral heads and that, in any case, urban governance in Delhi was not the exclusive domain of the State government. The next day, the State government requested political clearance from the Centre directly. However, no communication on the decision has yet been received from the relevant Central government authorities, the petition said.

On what grounds has the petition been filed?

•The petition argues that the need for political clearances from the MEA for personal foreign visits of State government Ministers violates their right to privacy and dignity of their constitutional office; that the “undated” LG letter advising against the proposed Singapore visit is beyond the jurisdiction of his office’s authority; that the use of “gross delay” to effectively deny clearances for official foreign visits, including the Chief Minister’s Singapore visit, is an “arbitrary non-exercise of power”; and that the manner of implementation of the relevant office memoranda on clearances for official visits “suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and un-channeled discretion”. It also states that the “arbitrary and capricious implementation” of the travel clearance Office Memoranda is against national interest and good governance, and impinges upon the right to travel abroad as guaranteed under Article 21.

📰 Bring back the dhow route

Revitalising regional trade networks will help maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean

•A Chinese military vessel is scheduled to call at the Sri Lankan Port of Hambantota. The Indian Government, with their concerns for Indian security, has raised the issue with the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lankan government is heavily in debt and distress partly because of the mega infrastructure of the Hambantota port and many other such projects. The Hambantota port is now the property of a Chinese corporation, having been swapped for part of Sri Lanka debt to a variety of Chinese entities. 

•China’s interests in the Indian Ocean grew in the context of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. The OBOR consists of two components; namely the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). It constitutes a massive geopolitical project that aims to construct landscapes to enable flow of trade and investment by ‘promoting economic cooperation and connectivity’ between Asia, West Asia, Africa, and Europe. 

Centralising trade routes

•In the last one thousand years, many emerging powers have frequently attempted to capture and centralise these trade routes, only to find that they finally end up dealing with the same merchant families of the Indian Ocean — families prospering in the Arabian Gulf, East Africa, the Indian Peninsula, Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and other small island states. 

•For centuries, Indian Ocean navigators, ship owners and merchants were the custodians of all trade routes that crisscrossed their ocean. From the ports and harbours on Bahr Faris (Arabian Gulf) and down to the Swahili Coast on the west to the ports and harbours on the far east to Malacca. The Gujarat and Malabar Coasts to the Bay of Bengal on the north and the island states in the south of the ocean. Hundreds of ports and thousands of families were linked by navigation and trade, marriage, and love. 

•Being a Battuta and a Sri Lanka fan, I am now reading Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka. His book, The Rihla, talks of his travels in the Maldives and all throughout the Indian Ocean trading ports, and is perhaps the best depiction of the port cities, types of vessels, cargo traded and merchant families of the dhow route’s early days.

•The Portuguese rule immensely improved the boat building capabilities of the Indian Ocean port cities, but of course took away the trade from the local families. The Dutch, the East India Company and later the British Empire went on capturing and colonising the port cities. The British colonial rule consolidated cargo in several bigger port cities. Britain’s advocacy of free trade also gave opportunity for the local traders to freely trade within the Indian Ocean states. 

The Indian Ocean ports

•The resilience of the Indian Ocean rim ports and their hinterland is because of their smallness. Their small boats, dhows and dhonis, increased and decreased in tonnage depending on the trade available. Their navigators were master mariners with expert knowledge of the winds, currents, reefs, and shallows of the seas. Their merchants had a vast network of connection and trade credit ties throughout the Indian Ocean ports. Their political connection and the ability to influence state policy was and still is comparable to no other lobby group.

•The recent Chinese attempts to consolidate the Indian Ocean trade routes under the road and belt initiative are yet to materialise. Host countries of the Belt and Road ports have gone or are going bankrupt, defaulting on their sovereign debt. Sri Lanka has gone into default, East African port countries look shaky, and Pakistan stands on the brink of sovereign default. Attempts to consolidate and centralise economic activities in hub ports remain a series of white elephants, dotted throughout the Indian Ocean rim countries, while the debt of the nonperforming infrastructure breaks local economies and livelihoods. 

•There might be an argument for economies of scale and mega ports. This argument rarely holds water when robust small units with more flexibility and agility produce more inclusive and sustainable returns. Attempts to restructure the debt of the Indian Ocean port cities and proceed with the same mega infrastructure programmes must not be the future vision of the Indian Ocean states. 

•In one form or another, the Indian Ocean states still maintain their maritime heritage. National and private shipping lines are plenty. Commodities to trade are in abundance. Ship type, wind and fuel hybrid propulsion can bring in more efficiencies. Revitalising regional trade networks will be for the advantage of not only the port city economies in distress but also to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean.

📰 Supreme Court calls for a panel to look into freebies issue

Court asks parties for inputs to set up a specialised body

•The Supreme Court on August 3 said the Parliament may not be able to effectively debate the issue of doing away with "irrational freebies" offered to voters during elections, saying the "reality" is that not a single political party wants to take away freebies.

•The court suggested setting up a specialised body composed of persons who can “dispassionately” examine the problem.

•The observations from a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana came even as the Centre said these freebies were paving the way to an "economic disaster" besides "distorting the informed decision of voters". The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said it "substantially and in principle" supported doing away with the practice of promising freebies to voters.

•Mr. Mehta said the court should allow the Election Commission of India (ECI) to "apply its mind" to the problem.

•But senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the ECI should be "kept away" from the discussion on freebies. "ECI is MFI (Most Favoured Institution)," Mr. Sibal. He said the issue was political and economical in nature and did not just concern elections.

•"The Parliament will have to debate," Mr. Sibal said.

•"Mr. Sibal, do you think there will be a debate in the Parliament? These days everyone wants freebies. Not a single political party will allow freebies to be taken away… We take the side of the ordinary people, the downtrodden. Their welfare has to be taken care of. We are not just looking at this as just another problem during election time… We are looking at the national economic well-being," Chief Justice Ramana said.

•The court said the government as well as organisations like Niti Aayog, Finance Commission of India, the Law Commission, Reserve Bank of India, Opposition, etc, have to be involved in the process of brainstorming on the problem of freebies and come up with constructive conclusions on the issue.

•The court directed the parties to make "suggestions for the composition of a body". It proposed that this body could examine ways to resolve the issue of freebies and file a report before the Centre or the ECI. The court said once the parties come up with suggestions on the composition of such a body in a week, it would pass orders.

•Senior advocate Vikas Singh, for petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay, said political parties and those in power in states riddled by debts should first come out in public about where they would source the money for paying for the largesse.

•"It needs to be revealed from whose pockets these freebies are paid for," Mr. Singh submitted.

•"A poor person feels that what is put in his left pocket would be taken out of his right pocket in a few years," Mr. Mehta joined in.

•Chief Justice Ramana said ordinary citizens pay taxes on the belief that their money would be used for progress.

•"State benefits should not just reach the rich. The poor are also entitled to benefits," the CJI said.

•Mr. Singh suggested that ECI could prepare a "model manifesto" to control freebies.

•Chief Justice Ramana retorted that if the ECI had taken up the issue, the court would not have had to intervene now. The court said its judgments against violence during elections continue to be ignored.

•The Bench said there was no point in "empty formalities" like model manifestos. Nor would there be any purpose in the court engaging in lengthy debates to frame guidelines on the issue of freebies. The solution has to be found among the stakeholders, including Opposition parties and even Chief Ministers. The proposed body may help.

•"It cannot be that you (political parties) do whatever you want for four years and then a Model Code of Conduct is put in place days before the elections," the court said, scheduling the case for next Thursday.

•The petitioner, Mr. Upadhyay, had argued that the offer and distribution of "irrational freebies" amounted to bribery and unduly influencing voters. It vitiated free and fair elections in the country.

•Mr. Upadhyay claimed that states in total have debts tallying to over ₹ 70 lakh crore.