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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Central Bank Digital Currency

In the recent past, worldwide interest in cryptocurrency has risen. A recent survey says 86% of the central banks across the world are actively researching cryptocurrency while 60% are engaged in CBDC. Against this backdrop, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) discussed its “phased implementation strategy” of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

  • CBDC is a central bank issued digital currency which is backed by some kind of assets in the form of either gold, currency reserves, bonds and other assets, recognised by the central banks as a monetary asset.
  • The present concept of CBDCs was directly inspired by Bitcoin, but a CBDC is different from virtual currency and cryptocurrency.
  • Cryptocurrencies are not issued by a state and lack the legal tender status declared by the government.

What is Currency chest?

Currency in India is managed by Currency chest. Currency chest is a place where the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stocks the money meant for banks and ATMs. These chests are usually situated on the premises of different banks but administrated by the RBI.

Why India needs a digital rupee?

  • Online transactions: India is a leader in digital payments, but cash remains dominant for small-value transactions.
  • High currency in circulation: India has a fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio.
  • Cost of currency management: An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter-bank settlement.

Why is CBDC preferred over Cryptocurrency?

  • Sovereign guarantee: Cryptocurrencies pose risks to consumers.  They do not have any sovereign guarantee and hence are not legal tender.
  • Market volatility: Their speculative nature also makes them highly volatile.  For instance, the value of Bitcoin fell from USD 20,000 in December 2017 to USD 3,800 in November 2018.
  • Risk in security: A user loses access to their cryptocurrency if they lose their private key (unlike traditional digital banking accounts, this password cannot be reset).
  • Malware threats: In some cases, these private keys are stored by technical service providers (cryptocurrency exchanges or wallets), which are prone to malware or hacking.
  • Money laundering: Cryptocurrencies are more vulnerable to criminal activity and money laundering.  They provide greater anonymity than other payment methods since the public keys engaging in a transaction cannot be directly linked to an individual.
  • Regulatory bypass: A central bank cannot regulate the supply of cryptocurrencies in the economy.  This could pose a risk to the financial stability of the country if their use becomes widespread.
  • Power consumption: Since validating transactions is energy-intensive, it may have adverse consequences for the country’s energy security (the total electricity use of bitcoin mining, in 2018, was equivalent to that of mid-sized economies such as Switzerland).

Features of CBDC

  • High-security instrument: CBDC is a high-security digital instrument; like paper banknotes, it is a means of payment, a unit of account, and a store of value.
  • Uniquely identifiable: And like paper currency, each unit is uniquely identifiable to prevent counterfeit.
  • Liability of central bank: It is a liability of the central bank just as physical currency is.
  • Transferability: It’s a digital bearer instrument that can be stored, transferred, and transmitted by all kinds of digital payment systems and services.

Key benefits offered

  • Faster system: CBDC can definitely increase the transmission of money from central banks to commercial banks and end customers much faster than the present system.
  • Financial inclusion: Specific use cases, like financial inclusion, can also be covered by CBDC that can benefit millions of citizens who need money and are currently unbanked or banked with limited banking services
  • Monetary policy facilitation: The move to bring out a CBDC could significantly improve monetary policy development in India.
  • Making of a regional currency: In the cross border payments domain, India can take a lead by leveraging digital Rupee especially in countries such as Bhutan, Saudia Arabia and Singapore where NPCI has existing arrangements.

Others:

  • It is efficient than printing notes (cost of printing, transporting, and storing paper currency)
  • It reduces the risk of transactions
  • It makes tax collection transparent
  • Prevents money laundering

Issues involved with CBDC

  • Innovation with centralization: The approach of bringing a sovereign digital currency stands in stark contrast to the idea of decentralization.
  • Liability on RBI:  when bank customers wish to convert their deposits into digital rupee, the RBI will have to take these liabilities from the books of banks and onto its own balance sheet.
  • Inflationary risk: Central banks would indulge in issuing more digital currencies which could potentially trigger higher inflation.
  • User adoption: User adoption could also pose a major setback for the smooth roll out of the CBDC in India. The main challenges would always be user adoption and security.
  • Reduced savings: Many, including various central bankers, fear that people may begin withdrawing money from their bank accounts as digital currencies issued by Central banks become more popular.
  • Volatility: the risk is higher and there is more price volatility and lesser acceptance as a money instrument globally, unless the trust factor and investor protection factors change.

Way forward

  • The launch of CBDCs may not be a smooth affair and still requires more clarity in India. There are still a lot of misconceptions about the concept of digital currency in the country.
  • The effectiveness of CBDCs will depend on aspects such as privacy design and programmability.
  • There is a huge opportunity for India to take a lead globally via a large-scale rollout and adoption of digital currencies.

Conclusion

  • RBI is creating small pivot for experimenting CBDC where financial transaction is happening through digital currency.
  • CBDC has to be a gradual process, various nuances has to be taken care not only about its utilization but also about the impact it will make.
  • More clarity on the concept in the days to come will be the key for CBDCs and much will depend on how the whole concept will evolve in India which is predominantly a paper currency market.
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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Carbon Border Tax: Why is India opposing it

The two-day G-20 ministerial meeting on environment and climate change in Italy are expected to raise their concerns over the European Union’s recent proposal on the first of its kind carbon border tax.

Under this proposal, the 27 EU nations will impose a border tax on imports of carbon-intensive goods.  Yet to be legally formalized, the tax plan could come into force from 2026.

So, what exactly is a carbon border tax? Why do developed countries want to impose such a tariff and why are developing nations opposed to the idea?

What is Carbon Pricing?

  • Carbon pricing is an approach to reducing carbon emissions that uses market mechanisms to pass the cost of emitting to emitters.
  • Its goal is to discourage the use of fossil fuels, address the causes of the climate crisis and meet national and international agreements.
  • Well-designed carbon pricing can change the behavior of consumers, businesses and investors while encouraging technological innovation and generating revenue that can be used productively.
  • There are a few carbon pricing instruments, such as a carbon tax and cap-and-trade programmes.

What is Carbon Border Tax?

  • A carbon border tax (CBT) is a tax on carbon emissions attributed to imported goods that have not been carbon-taxed at source.
  • The carbon border tax proposal is part of the European Commission’s European Green Deal that endeavours to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. 

Objective:

  • To ‘incentivize’ greener manufacturing around the world and create parity with European manufacturers who are already subjected to substantial carbon levies.

A move to benefit local EU manufacturers

The carbon border tax has wide appeal in Europe. It is supported by the new president of the European Commission.

  • A carbon border tax is able to protect a country’s local manufacturers, motivating them to adhere to green regulations.
  • Many EU companies are at a cost disadvantage as they have been paying a carbon border tax and for carbon emissions since 2005 under the EU’s Emissions Trading System.
  • The new carbon border tax can therefore lead to a more level playing field against importers, especially those from nations with more lax environmental standards.

What could the new proposal mean politically?

  • Notably, China’s continuing reliance on non-renewable energy to power its economy leaves it particularly vulnerable in this matter.
  • For example, given that China produces steel with blast furnaces that release a large amount of carbon, it will have to pay an additional layer of carbon border tax, which will increase its costs and its market price.
  • This will consequently reduce the competitiveness of steel produced in China, compared to steel from other countries that is made in more carbon-efficient mills that do not have to pay this additional tax.

This suggests that the carbon border tax is also politically preferable to Europe as it slows down the gradually rising economy in China, and would therefore preserve the European countries’ competitiveness. 

The BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries’ grouping had opposed the EU’s proposal.

How does this impact India?

  • As India’s third largest trading partner, the EU accounted for €62.8 billion ($74.5 billion) worth of trade in goods in 2020, or 11.1% of India’s total global trade.
  • India’s exports to the EU were worth $41.36 billion in 2020-21, as per data from the commerce ministry.
  • The CBT would cover energy-intensive sectors such as cement, steel, aluminium, oil refinery, paper, glass, chemicals as well as the power sector.
  • By increasing the prices of Indian-made goods in the EU, this tax would make Indian goods less attractive for buyers and could shrink demand.
  • Sadly, India’s many ‘self-reliance’ tariffs are also a contributor to this.

Issues with CBT

  • Impact on trade: The degree of impact on industrial sectors would be largely influenced by two factors: carbon intensity and trade intensity.
  • Altering competitiveness: For companies, it will raise the administrative burden of crossing borders and increase trade frictions, especially for small businesses. That will inevitably reduce choice and raise costs for consumers.
  • Promoting protectionism: The carbon tax may end up being protectionist, and will hit emerging economies like India hard.
  • Unfair practices under WTO: Depending on their design they could fall foul of WTO measures designed to prevent importing countries from discriminating against particular exporting countries.
  • A violation of Paris Accord: CBT compels developing countries to pay the same price as the developed countries to climate change. The EU is essentially bypassing the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that should guide international climate action.

Way forward

  • Carbon taxing is just one way of holding large emitters accountable for their role in harming the environment.
  • However, fundamental changes can’t be forced by tariffs.
  • If the planet is to have any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement goals, drastic measures that consider both the economic and social wellbeing of nations’ inhabitants must be taken.
  • This should take all nations into confidence than imposing such overnight tariffs.
  • It is no doubt that India must be in the forefront in climate politics. But it must also be cautious about the negotiations in global laws to protect domestic interests.
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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021

The government has introduced the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 in the Rajya Sabha to replace a nine-decade-old law to pave the way for shifting from lighthouses to modern aids for marine navigation.  Lok Sabha passed the Bill in March this year.

In this article, we shall study the salient features, its application, the changes the bill would bring about in marine navigation.

Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021

  • The Bill repeals the Lighthouse Act, 1927 and seeks to provide a framework for the development, maintenance, and management of aids to navigation in India.
  • Key features of the Bill include:

Application:

  • The Bill applies to the whole of India including various maritime zones including territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone.

Aid to navigation:

  • The Bill defines aid to navigation as a device, system, or service, external to the vessels designed and operated to enhance the safety and efficiency of navigation of vessels and vessel traffic. 
  • A vessel includes a ship, boat, sailing vessel, fishing vessel, submersible, and mobile offshore drilling units.
  • Vessel traffic service is defined as a service to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and protect the environment.

Director-General of Aids to Navigation:

  • The Bill provides that the central government will appoint: (i) a Director General, (ii) Deputy Director Generals, and (iii) Directors for districts (which the centre may demarcate). 
  • The Director General will advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation, among others.

Central Advisory Committee:

  • The central government may appoint a Central Advisory Committee (CAC) consisting of persons representing the interests affected by the Bill, or having special knowledge of the sector. 
  • The government may consult the CAC on matters including: (i) establishment of aids to navigation, (ii) additions, alteration, or removal of, any such aids, (iii) cost of any proposal relating to such aids.
  • Further, the CAC may also appoint sub-committees for additional advice on these matters.

Management of General Aids: 

  • The central government will be responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of all general aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.
  • Its powers with regard to management of aids to navigation include: (i) establishing, maintaining, adding, altering, or removing any aid to navigation, (ii) authorising to inspect any such aid which may affect the safety of navigation, and (iii) acquiring any land as may be necessary.

Training and certification:

  • The Bill provides that no person shall be allowed to operate on any aid to navigation (including any ancillary activities), or any vessel traffic service in any place unless he holds a valid training certificate. 
  • The central government will accredit training organizations for imparting training to, or conduct assessments of, persons in the operation of aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.

Levy of marine aids to navigation dues:

  • The Bill provides that marine aids to navigation dues will be levied and collected for every ship arriving at or departing from any port in India, at the rate specified by the central government from time to time. 
  • The central government may wholly or partially exempt certain vessels from these dues. 
  • These vessels include: (i) any government ship, which is not carrying cargo or passengers for freight or fares, or (ii) any other ship, classes of ships, or ships performing specified voyages.
  • Any dispute related to the marine aids to navigation dues, expenses, or costs, will be heard and determined by a civil court having jurisdiction at the place where the dispute arose.

 Heritage Lighthouse:

  • The central government may designate any aid to navigation under its control as a heritage lighthouse. 
  • In addition to their function as aids to navigation, such lighthouses will be developed for educational, cultural, and tourism purposes.

Why was such bill needed?

  • India has a long coastline. There are radar beacons, GPS Navigation system to guide a ship for proper directing  of the ship.
  • In India there are 18 light houses which are more than 75 years old.
  • There are light house districts where safe navigation is provided. Cost of Maintaining of these Light houses is also very high.
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Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] The Pandemic & Global Synergy

June 2021

Context

  • The notion of correlation between various countries characterized by interconnectedness played an important role in the proliferation of the COVID.
  • India’s vaccine diplomacy provides the scope to reflect its cultural values imbued with democratic ethos, cooperation, humanity, development and compassion.
  • It is coupled with the vision of India as a responsible global player deserving the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent membership.
  • India assumes a significant position in the global supply chain of the vaccine due to its time-tested production capabilities and being the world’s largest producer of vaccines.

Vaccines and India

  • India’s Covid-19 vaccines are the cheapest in the world with two frontrunners; “Covishield” developed by the Serum Institute of India and the “Covaxin” developed by the collaboration of ICMR and NIV with Bharat Biotech (Mondal, 2021).
  • A third vaccine, Russia’s Sputnik V has been approved for emergency use in India by Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI).
  • The local production of Sputnik V will begin in July 2021 and Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories will manufacture the vaccine in India.

India’s vaccine diplomacy

  • India has supplied vaccines to nations including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Brazil, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, and South Africa.
  • Supplies made under grant amount to 56 lakh doses and commercial supplies amounting to over 100 lakh doses.
  • Indian vaccines have reached Afghanistan and also it is reaching the shores of CARICOM countries in the Caribbean, Pacific Island States, Nicaragua etc.
  • India’s ubiquitous vaccine delivery programme to the rest of the world is situated within the framework of Vaccine Maitri which is quite synonymous with the SAGAR doctrine of India.
  • This gives legitimacy to India’s vaccine efforts further.

Why need vaccine diplomacy?

  • The aspect of health is central to welfare.
  • Such centrality when disrupted or threatened creates a humongous clamor for instant relief; in this case such action was observed in the pursuit for a vaccine to end this interlude.
  • The field of vaccine development cuts across the national boundaries.
  • This was witnessed in the various collaborative international efforts between various manufacturing companies and laboratories engaged in research.

India’s efforts

  • The launch of India’s vaccine outreach initiative known as “Vaccine Maitri” demonstrates India’s concern to bring down the curve of the pandemic as a powerful booster to economic recovery prospect.
  • In this context, the recognition is earned as Indian vaccines reflected her pool of scientific skill and professionalism.
  • Besides, India assumes a significant position in the global supply chain of the vaccine due to its time-tested production capabilities and being the world’s largest producer of vaccines.

Significance of India’s vaccine diplomacy

  • This can be understood if we take into account the nature of action of the developed countries which shows their propensity to reserve doses much beyond the need of their population.
  • The situation of the developing countries, on the contrary, is messy because majority of people in the developing and poor countries could remain unprotected if they cannot afford to pay for the vaccine.
  • Put in this perspective, the nobility of India’s moves stands upon her commitment to share her mastery.
  • India has shared its vaccines with all fellow countries not only those situated in South Asia but also to different countries of the Middle East to Africa and beyond.

It is undoubtedly a great achievement so far as the domain of our foreign policy and soft power are concerned.

Utility of vaccine diplomacy

  • Sometimes we can get the outcomes we want without tangible threats or payoffs. This is what is called “second face of power”.
  • A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries—admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness— want to follow it.
  • Vaccine diplomacy as the nomenclature to define this phenomenon, bends towards the soft power perspective.
  • Soft power rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others.

Reflecting India’s wisdom

  • Vaccine diplomacy provides India with the scope to reflect its cultural values imbued with democratic ethos, cooperation, humanity, development and compassion.
  • The idea of compassion and generosity are a distinct hallmark of Indian wisdom which is engraved both within the domestic public space as well as its institutions.

Benefits reaped

  • In today’s world heavily loaded by hard power there is no gainsaying the fact that our dependence on soft power potentialities cannot be absolute.
  • Nevertheless, to succeed in world politics; the path that India adopts with regard to her vaccine diplomacy provides her with unique advantage.
  • For instance, India’s well-positioned stature in terms of vaccine manufacturing has been recognised by Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau.

Way forward

  • Diplomacy is all about the conduct of international relations with other countries based on certain parameters of connectedness and cooperation.
  • It is worth noting that India’s first supply of vaccine dosage went to Bhutan and Maldives, these two countries being India’s closest ally in the South Asian region.
  • India should follow a preferential and prudential line of judgement when it comes to vaccine distribution.
  • Being generous is a great virtue but generosity should be backed by judicious calculation.
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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Drone Draft rules: Impetus to future tech

The Union Civil Aviation ministry has released the draft of the national drone policy, making it significantly easier for people and companies to own and operate drones, while also streamlining the certification process for manufacturers, importers and users.

Drones have been in the spotlight since such a device was used to target an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Jammu with explosives last month.

In this article we will discuss and analyse all aspects of this issue.

Why such urgent promulgation?

  • Drones now form a significant new consumer tech category, particularly among hobbyists and visual artists.
  • They are being tested for a range of practical as well as industrial uses such as automated package deliveries by e-commerce companies.
  • They have wide range of applications such as in disaster management, delivery systems.
  • The new draft rules provide a positive move. They present a lot of clarity in the usage of drones.

Draft Drone Rules 2021

The objective of the policy is to enable more types of unmanned aircraft operational scenarios, increase the ease of compliance for the unmanned aviation industry, and ensure safety and security.

Some of the key features are as under:

Number of forms: The rules propose to reduce the number of forms required for manufacturing, importing, testing, certifying and operating drones in India from 25 to six.

Abolishing authorization number: The draft seeks to abolish the unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, and certificate of conformance that were previously required for approval of drone flights.

Digital Sky Platform: Digital Sky, a platform launched by the government in December 2018, will become a single-window system for all approvals under the newly proposed rules.

Airspace map: An airspace map segregating the entire landmass of India into Green, Yellow and Red zones will be published on the platform within 30 days of notification of the new rules, the government said. The map will also be machine-readable through an Application Programming Interface (API) for easier plotting of drone flight paths.

Airport Perimeter: The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km. The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

Drone corridors: The government will also publish a policy framework for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) within 60 days of notifying the rules. This will also include frameworks for developing “drone corridors” for the safe transfer of goods by drones.

Drone Promotion Council: The Rules also propose the setting up of a Drone Promotion Council, with the aim of facilitating a business-friendly regulatory regime for drones in India, the establishment of incubators for developing drone technologies and organizing competitive events to showcase drones and counter-drone solutions.

Others: To implement safety features such as “no permission, no take-off”, real-time tracking and geofencing, drone manufacturers, importers and operators will get six months’ time to comply from the date of notification of the rules.

Security imperative and Drones

  • The integration of unmanned aircraft systems into national air-force is critical and challenging both.
  • We have incidences were arms, narcotic drugs have been dropped by drones. So, security challenges are increasing.
  • DRDO has come up with an Anti-drone system. This makes India capable of where drones can be jammed.
  • Other is one can shoot the drone through lasers. But this has potential threats to humans.
  • Drones are called eyes in the sky as they are used by law enforcement agencies, fire emergency services, health care facilities.

Digital Sky Platform: Key to Success

  • The success of these initiatives will depend in large part on the ‘Digital Sky’ platform — a single-window online system where most permissions to own and operate drones will be self-generated.
  • Bureaucratic red tape and ‘rubber stamp culture’ has been the bane of Indian aviation for decades.
  • Paper trails with needless human intervention lend themselves to ‘discretionary powers’ and opens doors for corruption.
  • It is encouraging to see the shift to paperless approval.

Conclusion

  • The drone industry (manufacturing and operation) is still grappling with evolutionary challenges in India.
  • The ministry of civil aviation’s decision to liberalize the drone policy even after the recent drone incidents in Jammu showcases the government’s bold approach.
  • They are necessary to promote the use of the drone and the government must focus on the development of counter-drone technology to address the threat posed by rogue drones.
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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Subsidy Reforms & Fiscal Position

Finance Secretary has recently underlined the need for improving the fiscal position of the government through reforms in farm, food and fertilizer subsidies so that additional funds can be generated for the development of infrastructure and education systems.

In this article we will discuss and analyse all aspects of this issue.

Financial crunch of India

  • India’s fiscal deficit at 9.3% of GDP for FY21, down from a revised estimate of 9.5%.
  • This is expected to rise due to covid induced welfare schemes announced recently.

Role of Subsidies

  • In India, food and fertilizer subsidies formed a major chunk of the overall subsidy followed by education, health, corporate concession, etc.
  • Farm, food and fertilizer reforms are administratively easy but politically difficult in view of the ramifications.

At the present juncture we have two main kinds of buckets of reform-

  1. We have to set our fiscal house in order and also provide for the many things that governments legitimately should provide.
  2. We will need to reform some of our subsidies — farm subsidies, food subsidies, fertilizer subsidies. Some of them are intertwined with each other.

Burden of Subsidies in India

(1) Farm Subsidies

  • The continued trust in Centre is established with the ever-increasing support to farmers.
  • Various farm subsidies from the govt include fertilizers, farm credit, crop insurance and MSP etc.
  • A similar support from State Governments towards electricity power subsidies, irrigation subsidies crop insurance subsidies.
  • Public investment in agriculture through major irrigation projects by States, is almost equal to the annual farm subsidies of the Government of India.
  • In addition, 50% of the food subsidies are granted to farmers under National Food Security Mission, as 75% of rural population covered.
  • State Governments also waived farm loans of Rs. 1,22,000 crores.

Thus, farm subsidies form about two percent of India’s GDP.

(2) Fertilizer Subsidies

  • The government’s role in shaping the fertilizer landscape goes back to 1957 when it introduced the Fertilizer Control Order (FCO) to regulate the sale, price, and quality of fertilizers in the market.
  • This has not only contributed to the start of a green revolution but also increased the use of fertilizer by farmers and resulted in higher yields.
  • India is currently the second-largest consumer of fertilizer globally after China.

Over the years, the distribution of fertilizer in India became prone to leakages. This is due to:

  1. Lack of a dedicated fertilizer beneficiary database
  2. Absence of a cap on fertilizer entitlements (Presently farmers can buy any amount, irrespective of need)
  3. Different levels of subsidy provided to the manufacturing plants based on their cost of production
  4. Disproportionate use of urea as opposed to other types of fertilizer, such as fertilizers containing phosphorous (P) or Potassium (K) nutrients, or both.

(3) Food Subsidies

India has one of the largest food subsidy programmes in the world that has created a relatively effective social safety net.

  • Food subsidies are under increasing criticism because of its large contributions to government budget deficits, economic inefficiency and poor targeting.
  • The food subsidy bill is becoming unmanageably large.
  • For the 2021/22 fiscal year, India’s total outlay toward the food subsidy is expected to cross Rs 2.1 lakh crore.
  • The Economic Survey 2020-21 released on Friday recommended an increase in the issue price at which poor households receive food grains.
  • Central issue price (CIP) is the amount priority households pay, ₹2 per kg of wheat and ₹3 per kg of rice, to avail grain from the subsidized PDS.
  • This issue price for wheat and rice has not been revised since the introduction of the National Food Security Act in 2013.

The total cost of food subsidies that amounted to about 2.2 per cent of agricultural GDP during the 1990s increased significantly to about 5 per cent during the last decade.

Why these subsidies are a cause of concern?

  • Current level of fiscal deficit is difficult to address as even during 1991, fiscal deficit was around 7.5%
  • Historically countries like England and Germany faced similar problems during global meltdown.
  • Our type of subsidy pattern is similar to these countries.
  • Giving subsidies are not empowering people is not the true way. It is not helping the poors the way it should have been.

Challenges to bring subsidies reforms in India

  • Subsidy benefits are not reaching to intended person in supply chain due to leakages like middlemen in MSP payments, fertilizer leakage to industry, etc.
  • Over the years, subsidies have not empowered the poor people. Ex. Poor spends lakh and lakh of crores on health even after getting subsidy.
  • Political will and cooperation from opposition is required in bringing changes to subsidy structure. Ex. Due to lack of opposition support, farmers are protesting against new farm laws
  • Government needs to address those details mentioned in NFSA. Ex. Provision of providing rice at Rs. 3 per kg.

Subsidy reforms is really a big fraud affair that it’s hard for govt to go forward.

Way forward

  • Indian needs to implement Brazil “Conditional Subsidy Model” called ‘Bolsa Família’ which even Bangladesh has also adopted. It is based on conditional cash transfer.
  • Reform should be focused on two points – Direction of change and Time of change. In the direction of change, food subsidy reform should be at last due to covid.
  • There should be a public and private partnership model for community health center and public health center in rural India to utilize subsidies in a much better manner.
  • A voucher system can be the perfect alternative to food subsidy as it will significantly reduce administrative costs.
  • Active centre & states partnership is required to strengthen the health and education sector as both these comes under state legislature.
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Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] Are We on a Cliff?

June 2021

Context

  • The world is facing gloomy times in midst of the pandemic, conflicts, and natural calamities.
  • Recently, we witnessed the horrors caused by nature in Chamoli district, the ground of the famed Chipko movement in Uttarakhand.
  • Nature’s warning is evident with visible cracks in its erstwhile harmonious relationship with humanity.

This essay/article emphasizes the need for building an ecological civilization and descending from the present cliff of uncertainty towards peaceful living and inclusive development and respect for nature.

The first industrial revolution that took place 250 years ago was primarily with coal and steam; the second with electricity and oil; the third with computers and its accessories; and now the fourth is a fusion of technologies in the physical, digital and technological worlds.

Civilizational chaos

  • The wave of industrial and green revolution marked a major turning point in earth’s ecology and humans’ relationship with the environment.
  • During the 20th century, with the detonation of the atomic bomb, humanity entered a new era.
  • Thus, we gained the power to destroy ourselves (mutually assured destruction), without the wisdom to ensure that we must avoid doing so.

Looming threats to mankind

  • Widespread industrialization, the proliferation of factories, destruction of forests for the construction of massive dams & power stations and the migration of people has all caused serious disturbances in the ecosystem.
  • The resulting climate change and global warming is a serious threat to the present as well as the future.
  • Both nature and world peace are under threat.
  • All these developments coupled with geopolitics have put humanity on a cliff and presents dangerous situations.

Future of Peace

The future of peace and harmony in the 21st century is likely to be directly linked to issues concerning five key realities of life today:

  1. Ecology, global warming, and climate change
  2. Nuclear weapons, the emerging technology of warfare and the continuing arms race among nation-states
  3. Geopolitics and nationalism
  4. Religious extremism and
  5. Poverty and inequality

We do not know how to retrieve the present dangerous situation away from its self-destructive ways. This needs to be appreciated in a threefold perspective:

[1] Nature

  • Today there is a credible threat to human survival from global warming and climate change with the potential to damage the lives and habitats of billions of people in different parts of the world.
  • The enormity of the challenge of conservation of ecology and halting climate change is formidable and calls for making changes in our behavior and thinking.
  • At the heart of the matter is: How do we move towards building fresh sensitivities for conservation in our civilizational processes?

Five events of the recent times need to be particularly referred to:

  1. Outbreak of pandemic SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in Hong Kong in 2002-03;
  2. Bushfires in Brazil and Australia of 2019;
  3. Continuous extinction of species
  4. Forest fires in California alongside the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and
  5. Coronavirus pandemic

These five events have given us signals that if ecology problems are not attended to urgently the world may not need world wars to destroy itself.

[2] Science

  • In the last decades of the 20th century, the focus of society has shifted decisively towards science and its domineering daughter, technology, both in the western and developing countries.
  • This has led to the globalization of products, cultural values, and information. It is integrating markets and trade.
  • But what becomes of environment and nature in such a scenario, remains a matter of great concern.
  • We have been brought to an alarming situation primarily on account of excessive greed, faulty planning, insensitive politics, and lack of imagination.
  • Technology, being value-neutral, has accelerated the pace of the downward journey.

Outcome: Climate change

  • Climate change and global warming are posing serious problems.
  • The biggest polluter has been the release of carbon dioxide.
  • To control it with speed, we have to change the terms of the market. It is based on the law of profit.

A change would mean rejecting the general line of dealings in the market in the world for the sake of the long-term interests of the human race. Are we ready for this major break? And, here wisdom comes.

[3] Wisdom

  • Wisdom is defined as ‘the ability to use one’s knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments.’
  • Wisdom is a product of experiences and reflections not only of the present generation but of the civilizational processes of a nation and also of the world.
  • Human beings can destroy their environment as well as can rise above petty interests, use technology and reverse the process of destruction of plant species and minimize carbon emissions.
  • At the present juncture, if we do not make use of our cumulative wisdom, nature will be harmed and succeeding generations will blame us for our failure.

We have to keep the Vedic precept of ‘माता भूमिः पुत्रो अहं पृथिव्याः ’ (‘This earth is our mother and we are its sons.’) in our minds.

  • Thankfully, on 12 December 2015, the Global Climate Accord was reached among 195 countries of the world in Paris.
  • The Paris Accord as it came to be known, commits countries to actions and policies that would restrict the rise in global temperatures ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100.

Way Forward

  • We have to generate hope, courage, and respect for nature.
  • We should employ science and human ingenuity with determination to overcome the present state of despondency.
  • If science, spirituality, and wisdom go hand in hand, one can create a better world on this earth. Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed’.
  • It should become the maxim of the post-Covid world, that it will need farsighted leadership and efficient institutions of governance.
  • There is an imperative requirement to contemplate and work towards building an ecological civilization that would outline the ways of living in harmony with nature.

Bahudha Approach is based on the maxim enjoined upon us by the Rigveda. It proclaims: Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti The Real is One, the learned speak of it variously.  This provides for dialogue among different religions, cultures, and ways of living. It celebrates diversity and respect for harmonious living and nature.

Conclusion

  • The post-Covid world would be a different world.
  • It has made evident that we are all interdependent and have to work for sharing economic benefits as well as fruits of science together, irrespective of religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural divides.
  • We have to move towards building an ecological civilization and descending from the present cliff of uncertainty towards peaceful living and inclusive development and respect for nature.
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RSTV Archive Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Cooperative Based Economic Development

A new Ministry of Cooperation has been created to strengthen cooperative movement. This separate administrative structure was proposed in Union Budget earlier this year. New ministry is expected to streamline processes for cooperatives and realise the vision of ‘ Sahkar se Samriddhi’.

In this article we will discuss and analyse all aspects of this issue.

What is a Cooperative?

  • A cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise”.
  • Cooperatives are democratically owned by their members, with each member having one vote in electing the board of directors.

Cooperative Movement in India

The history of cooperatives in India goes back to more than a hundred years and they continue to stay relevant due to their grassroots reach and ability to bring economic growth to underserved sections.

  • The cooperative movement, which has its roots in the 19th century Europe, developed in pre-Independence India in response to agricultural distress and indebtedness.
  • Their growth was fostered, first by India’s erstwhile British rulers and, post-Independence, several steps have been taken to put assist in their growth and functioning.
  • The formal launch of the cooperative movement in India occurred with the introduction of the Cooperative Societies Act in 1904.
  • However, it notes that even before the passing of that law, “the practice of the concept of cooperation and cooperative activities were prevalent in several parts of India”.
  • In 1912, another Cooperative Societies Act was passed to rectify some of the drawbacks of the earlier law.
  • The next landmark change came in 1919 when cooperation was made a state subject. That allowed the various states to come up with their own legislation governing cooperatives.

Who can form a cooperative in India?

  • Cooperatives are geared towards benefiting the chunk of Indian people — about 65 per cent of the country’s population — who depend on agriculture and related activities.
  • According to the Co-operative Societies Act, 1912, at least 10 persons aged above 18 years with common economic objectives, like farming, weaving, consuming, etc, can form a cooperative society.

Which are the key sectors where cooperatives operate in India?

  1. Consumer Cooperative Society
  2. Producer Cooperative Society
  3. Co-operative Credit Societies
  4. Marketing Cooperative Society
  5. Housing Cooperative Society
  6. Co-operative Farming Societies
  • The various kinds of cooperatives in India include consumers’ cooperative societies, which seek to protect the interest of general consumers by making goods available at reasonable rates.
  • Then there are producers’ cooperative societies that protect the interest of small producers by enabling access to raw materials, tools and equipment, machinery, etc. are examples of producers’ co-operative societies.
  • Among the most famous cooperative brands in the country, Amul developed out of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which is owned by 36 lakh milk producers in Gujarat.
  • It is an example of a cooperative marketing society, formed by small producers and manufacturers who find it difficult to sell their products individually.
  • Among other types of cooperatives are cooperative credit societies, which accept deposits from members and grant them loans at reasonable rates, and cooperative farming societies, which are formed by small farmers to work jointly and thereby enjoy the benefits of large-scale farming.

Why needs cooperatives?

It is easier to understand the need of the cooperatives by knowing its specific objectives. They can be summed as follows:      

  • Cooperatives are good, reliable opportunities for growth
  • They provide an opportunity for collective decision making.
  • They eliminate the unnecessary profits of middlemen in trade and commerce.
  • They aim to protect the rights of people both producers and consumers.
  • They promote mutual understanding and education among their members and people in general.
  • They bring together people at the grassroots and provide them collective bargaining power and benefits of economies of scale.
  • They provide an economic model with a higher level of entrepreneurial or social sustainability and often work as pressure groups to voice the views of their members in a larger market.
  • Being a part of a co-op improves your creditworthiness as a producer as well as a consumer.
  • They are easy to join, ensure equitable distribution of profits, prioritise welfare over individual profits, are stable in their functioning and output, and receive a substantial amount of government support.

Why need a separate ministry?

  • Over the years, the cooperative institutions have experienced drying out of funding.
  • While the capital came from the Centre, in the form of equity or working capital, only a few states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka got to enjoy it, while other states could not receive much.
  • It had become important to restore the structure of these cooperatives.
  • Under the new Ministry, the cooperative movement would get the required financial and legal power needed to penetrate into other states also.

How do these cooperative structures influence politics?

  • The cooperative institutions ranging from the village-level primary agricultural credit societies (PACSs) or the urban housing societies have been the starting point of a lot of present leaders.
  • That’s because these cooperatives elect their own board of directors.
  • Many veteran politicians of the day have been in connection with the cooperative movement in the past.
  • They often tend to start their political career through cooperative elections.
  • Control of co-operatives allows politicians to influence decisions upstream (who gets a cabinet seat) as well as downstream and ancillary fields (where are the votes coming from).
  • They are a source of funding and patronage.
  • A canny politician can leverage his/her power at the cooperative level all the way to state and national prominence.

Challenges for cooperatives

  • Capital: As the income from agriculture in the rural sector has declined drastically there these banks need a new business model to function.
  • Regionality: Milk cooperatives are a huge source of income for the farmers but the growth of the dairy sector is dismal. The North and northeast do not contribute substantially to the dairy sector.  There is a need for policies for supporting ancillary services for the dairy sector.
  • State laws: State cooperative Laws are not in tune with the current socio-economic situation.

Opposition from the states

  • In Maharashtra and Gujarat, there are many big cooperative societies engaged in sugar and milk production, power looms, and running urban and rural non-agri credit societies.
  • In Mh alone there are around 21,000 primary agriculture credit societies and 31 district cooperative banks.
  • It is believed that around 150 MLAs in Maharashtra are connected to this sector.
  • The Left parties have also expressed concern over the move, stating that it seeks to undermine the federal structure of the country. 
  • Cooperative societies are a state subject in the Constitution’s 7th Schedule.

What will be the new cooperation ministry’s role?

  • Separate administration: With a focus to help deepen cooperatives as a true people-based movement, the ministry is mandated to “provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement”.
  • Facilitation: The ministry will streamline processes for ease of doing business for cooperatives and enable the development of multi-state cooperatives.
  • Expansion: With the coming up of handicraft and weavers’ cooperatives and so on the farmers’ income can be doubled.
  • Economic boost: It will contribute towards economic growth and development. It will help in identifying other sectors where the cooperatives can come up which will be beneficial for the ones down the value chain.

What should be the key areas where the ministry should focus?

  • Rural sector: Double farmers’ income can be achieved by growth of the food processing industry. India can learn from the Netherlands in this aspect.
  • Housing for all: Mass housing through cooperative societies in urban areas as majority urban poor live in slums.
  • Consumer cooperatives in urban areas: There are none in the country with credible work. As these can act as a balancing sector.
  • Ease of doing business: EODB norms should be extended to all cooperatives so that they are able to function without obstructions.

Way forward

  • The new ministry should empower cooperatives to form their SPVs.
  • It should promote companies under the companies act which are formed by the cooperatives.
  • The cooperative should not be dependent only on govt or borrowing for capital.

Reference:

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Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] The Pandemic through Gandhian Perspective

June 2021

Covid-19 has pushed the world into a pervasive crisis encompassing every aspect of human life. With the passage of time, the trade-off between saving lives and saving livelihoods has grown starker.  

This article attempts to relate the present crisis to the Gandhian way of thinking to arrive at some concrete take-homes.

Unprecedented uncertainty

  • The most fearsome feature of this pandemic is its uncertainty: from the symptoms and their absence to the possibility of its return with a vengeance, and the serious after-effects on the ‘recovered’ cases.
  • It is time to introspect about the wrongs we have committed as ‘civilized’ inhabitants of the earth which makes our ways of living so precarious, inequitable and unsustainable today.

Gandhi and the Pandemic

  • Beginning with the containment of wants, Gandhian economics, grounded on the premises of non-violence, truth and non-covetousness (Aparigraha/not possessing), is instantly antithetical to mainstream economics.
  • It is based on the principle of dignity of labour, self-sufficient and strong village economy and public trusteeship.
  • It offers an integrated view of managing economy, polity and society harmoniously. Gandhian thought can provide some critical insights during this exercise in introspection.

How is Gandhiji relevant in this pandemic?

(1) Gandhian principles

  • Non-violence: Squeezing wages and exploiting workers is also equivalent to violence. Creating circumstances that force people to migrate because of poverty might amount to violence at a societal level.
  • Non-possession: Unequal landholding is a manifestation of greed, which was sought to be corrected through the Bhoodan movement by Gandhiji’s illustrious disciple, Vinoba Bhave.
  • Self-sufficient villages: Gandhiji wanted to reverse this by making village communities stronger and self-sufficient.
  • Social empowerment: Empowering villages through a benevolent Jajmani system was his idea of nurturing the roots of India that lived mostly in villages.

Note: Jajmani system or Yajman system was an economic system most notably found in villages of India in which lower castes performed various functions for upper castes and received grain or other goods in return.

(2) Opposition for automated production

  • Gandhiji’s ideas about the choice of technology have been much debated. He was not against industries.
  • He was proponent of the key idea for optimally using the local resources and skills.

(3) Trusteeship and community ownership

  • Industries would be necessary for progress, and they would have to make profit in order to survive.
  • But again, the profits belong to the society, that provided every possible resource to an industrialist, who is therefore a mere trustee of this wealth. It becomes his obligation to look after the needs of the society.
  • Using profit towards larger social good, which is the crux of Corporate Social Responsibility, can be traced back to Gandhiji’s idea of Trusteeship.

The current pandemic has paved the way for the possibility of a social experimentation based on Gandhian ideology, and there are several grounds to justify this position:

(a) Changing Consumption Pattern

  • The pattern of consumption has changed significantly especially since the lockdown.
  • Studies have noted a substantial reduction in ‘discretionary’ or conspicuous consumption (meaning luxuries goods consumption has declined).
  • Consumers are less blinded by the ‘brand value’ and are increasingly alert about distinguishing between essential and non-essential consumption due to financial viability.
  • Preferences are shifting to natural and herbal remedies.
  • However, there are studies of higher incidence of substance abuse, alcoholism, anxiety and depression, and on the other, innovative and creative ways are being devised to make home-stay more bearable.

(b) Changing Patterns of Production

  • As the world grapples with the problem of fragmentation of the supply chain, the necessity to restart in whatever manner possible, producers may be forced to relocate their sources of supply.
  • There is a trend towards the relocation of GVC (Global Value Chain) in favour of greater use of local skills and materials.
  • Compelled by the pressures of circumstance we might redevelop production systems of the kind that Gandhiji advocated strongly to promote self-sufficiency.

(c) Empathy towards the Deprived

  • The migrants reaching their home States in large exodus has been a heart-wrenching story.
  • The State did arrange Shramik trains to ensure safe return, but the role of individuals, NGOs and religious institutions that extended a helping hand so spontaneously cannot be overemphasized.
  • If the reverse migrant movement is akin to partition, so is the extent of support and help from various quarters of the society.
  • Gandhiji would have not only appreciated this spirit of empathy but would have perhaps succeeded in processing into institution building to sustain it longer.

When the existing patterns of socio-economic systems are shaken, they create a space for a paradigm shift. It is also an opportune time to correct the previous malfunctions of the system. For example:

i. Reducing Rural-Urban Imbalance:

  • Providing more jobs in the non-agriculture sector and more so in manufacturing is the need of the hour.
  • Promoting agro-based and related commercial activities such as fisheries and food processing can go a long way in providing more opportunities for gainful employment in the rural sector.
  • This would be a step in the Gandhian direction.

ii. Domestic Violence and the Gender Issue:

  • It is well-recorded that there is an increase in violent, abusive, impulsive, compulsive, and controlling behavior and aggression towards women during the period of economic hardships.
  • Studies suggest an astonishing rise in the harassment of women behind closed doors.
  • This has justified the term ‘parallel pandemic’ to domestic violence, underlining the dark gender impact of the pandemic, but they have also brought out the issue of gender disparity and the disenfranchisement of women in a manner that can no longer be overlooked.

(d) Treatment to the Reverse Migrants

  • States which have had pressure for accommodating reverse migrants now have an opportunity to deploy their expertise at home.
  • These States can use this experienced labour force to work on improving infrastructure, building industrial estates, setting up new MSMEs, etc. to attract more business.
  • As for migrants with experience of running tiny or home-based businesses, it is possible to bring them together into clusters to form co-operatives.
  • Co-operatives are important because they facilitate decentralization of the process of growth, which is Gandhian in spirit.

(e) Urban Development

  • Covid-19 has emphasized the need for cleanliness and hygiene like never before.
  • It has compelled the urban local bodies to improve and expand their health services.
  • Ignoring hygiene or treating it as welfare or a charitable act is not going to help because these are necessary for everyone’s survival now.
  • In a way, ensuring decent living conditions, which is implicit in the dignity of labour, is thrust upon us as a need for survival.

(f) Decent Wages and the Covid Allowance

  • States from where the migrant workers have moved out have had to raise wages due to a severe shortage of labour.
  • They do echo the need to treat workers with dignity through intervention in the Ahmedabad textile strike to negotiate in the issue of plague allowance.

(g) Environmental Concerns

  • Lockdown reportedly reduced air and water pollution substantially.
  • It would be up to us to maintain it with as much caution as possible.

Way forward

  • Gandhiji has been the conscience-keeper of our country.
  • This onslaught of circumstances calls for an alternative way of managing human affairs and revisiting Gandhi.
  • It is high time we follow his advice as he would have given us if he were alive.

Conclusion

  • Any attempt to engage in greater sustainability is Gandhian in spirit because it can be achieved only by rising above the baser instincts of greed, violence and petty self-importance.
  • In a truly Gandhian perspective, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be seen as an integrated vision stemming from a peaceful and harmonious coexistence of all.
  • The pandemic has opened up opportunities to tweak our ways of living on this planet in a wiser and more compassionate way.
  • The choices we make now can have long-term effects on our well-being.
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Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] E-waste Management

June 2021

E-waste management is a complicated process given the multitude of actors that are involved in the process. Even though the e-waste management policies are in place since 2011 in India, implementation has been sluggish. As of today, some 95% of e-waste is managed by the informal sector which operates under inferior working conditions and relies on crude techniques for dismantling and recycling.

Problem of the millennium

  • The world dumped a record 53.6 million tons (Mt) of e-waste in 2019, recycling only 17.4% of it.
  • India has an e-waste management policy in place since 2011, with its scope expanded in 2016 and 2018. Yet, the pace of its implementation has not been satisfactory.
  • An attempt is made here to outline key policy measures to improve recycling capacity in India through market-based mechanisms for policy enforcement.

What is E-waste?

  • Electronic waste (e-waste) i.e., waste arising from end-of-life electronic products, such as computers and mobile phones, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world today.

Why is it generated at such a large scale?

  • With the enhancement in the standard of living, modern societies have become resource-intensive in their consumption.
  • This has increased the demand for electronic items while considerably bringing down the life cycle of electronic products.
  • Coupled with planned obsolescence by the producers, inadequate repair options or awareness about deposit refund policies consumers tend to dispose of electronic goods along with other household waste, thus products entering the informal market.
  • Again the life span of devices is getting shorter with the rapid pace of technological advancements, improved specifications and better performance.
  • This has led to product replacements much before these run out of their usable periods.

What is E-waste Management?

  • E-waste is generated when the first user of the product concludes on its useful life with no intention of reuse and disposes of it by donating or selling.
  • This e-waste can be managed either formally through collection or disposal in waste bins or informally through developed e-waste management infrastructure or even without it.

E-waste value chain

  • E-waste management is a complicated process given the multitude of actors that are involved in the process.
  • The major stakeholders in the value chain include importers, producers/manufacturers, retailers (businesses/government/others), consumers (individual households, businesses, government and others), traders, scrap dealers, dissemblers/dismantlers and recyclers.
  • To critically assess each in the different stages of processing, it is important to understand the e-waste value chain.
  • The process involves four stages: generation, collection, segregation and treatment/disposal.

[1] Generation (discussed earlier)

[2] Collection

  • E-waste is collected by designated organizations, producers, Government retailer take-back, and producer take-back. This e-waste is then taken to a specialised treatment facility.
  • The disposer resorts to openly dumping the product in a waste bin along with other household wastes. E-waste ends up being incinerated or landfilled as other domestic waste.
  • Some countries may have an established network of individual waste dealers or companies who collect and trade the e-waste through various channels wherein possible metal recycling may occur at the destination.

[3] Segregation and Disposal

  • The e-waste collected may be sold to an informal dealer who may repair, refurbish, or sell again to a backyard recycler.
  • This recycler dismantles the product through burning, leaching, and melting, thus converting it into secondary raw materials.

India’s regulatory ecosystem

  • Indian electronics sector boomed in the last decade.
  • Increased production and penetration of imported electronics items led to an accelerated e-waste generation that necessitated regulatory control over the sector.
  • India has Electronic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 in place since . Its scope was expanded in 2016 and 2018 through amendments.

Provisions of the 2011 Rules

  • To streamline e-waste management, the Government introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) whereby producers were required to collect and recycle electronic items.
  • Since manufacturers were incurring the disposal cost, their designs would incorporate less toxic and easily recyclable materials, thereby reducing input material requirement.

Inherent flaws

  • The pace of its implementation has not been satisfactory.
  • Less than five percent of the waste is treated through formal recycling facilities.
  • The rest is handled by the informal sector with very little enforcement of environmental and occupational safety norms.

Why?

  • A deeper analysis revealed that the EPR regulations in India were not quantified through collection or recycling targets as in other countries with better implementation framework and mechanisms.
  • In the absence of targets, producers had little incentive to ensure the collection of their used products.

Subsequent amendments

[I] Deposit-refund system (DRS): This resulted in the e-waste rules being amended in 2016 to include collection targets and implementing a deposit-refund system (DRS) by the producers. In a DRS, an upfront deposit is charged to the consumer at the time of purchase of the product, and the deposit is refunded when the product is safely returned to the producer.

[II] Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs): The 2018 amendment made provision for the registration of PROs. PROs in India offer comprehensive compliance services, from negotiating the most cost-effective regional collection and recycling contracts with different recyclers to helping producers meet outreach and awareness-raising requirement.

Current scenario and issues in e-waste recycling

  • Crude and Scrappage: As of today, some 95% of e-waste is managed by the informal sector which operates under inferior working conditions and relies on crude techniques for dismantling and recycling.
  • Infrastructure lacunae: Another important issue is the lack of sufficient metal processing infrastructure which is why recyclers have to export materials to global smelters.
  • Price competencies: As aggregators are mostly informal, they demand up-front cash payments.
  • Bloomed informal network: The informal network is well-established and rests on social capital ties that PROs have yet to establish and are hence insulated from reaching the viable number of aggregators.
  • Policy failure: Policy changes have tried repeatedly to formalize the sector, but issues of implementation persist on the ground.

Stakeholder analysis

  • The demand and supply side gap analysis against the backdrop of the regulatory landscape reveals two major stakeholders in the process – (1) Business Advocates and (2) Public and Media Gatekeepers.
  • The Government remains a great catalyst in the entire process. Its role can be discounted to that of a facilitator and a regulator in a self-propelled market.
  • It is important that consumers responsibly consume the product for its useful life and then weigh between the chances of repair or disposal with utmost consciousness towards the environment.
  • On the supply side, e-waste can be reduced when producers design electronic products that are safer, and more durable, repairable and recyclable. Manufacturers must reuse the recyclable materials and not mine rare elements unnecessarily to meet new production.

Recommendations (by author)

  • The electronics sector will have to adapt operations to reduce virgin material usage and build technologies around greater extraction and recycling capabilities.
  • Process designs should be revolutionized to find alternatives to existing practices to not unsustainably extract rare earth resources.
  • Optimising the e-waste recycling chain requires strict monitoring, enforcement and tracking, the realization of economies of scale and global cooperation.
  • Failing to address any of these elements will result in suboptimal resource efficiency while posing a risk to the environment.
  • Enforcement of EPR targets and comprehensive monitoring of formal recycling flows and processes is a critical first step to avoid leakage of valuable materials to an uncontrolled informal sector.
  • In India, public awareness of e-waste hazards and recycling is low. People should be made aware of the trade-offs between sustainability and consumerism through both industry campaigns and media networks.

India can grab the opportunity

  • Since India is highly deficient in precious mineral resources, there is a need for a well-designed, robust and regulated e-waste recovery regime that would generate jobs and wealth.
  • If these materials are domestically isolated, it can lead to greater metals security and resource efficiency in the country.

Way forward

  • The consumers must responsibly consume the product for its useful life and then weigh between the chances of repair or disposal with utmost consciousness towards the environment.
  • On the supply side, e-waste can be reduced when producers design electronic products that are safer, and more durable, repairable and recyclable.
  • Manufacturers must reuse the recyclable materials and not mine rare elements unnecessarily to meet new production.
  • Rather than hoping that informal recyclers become formal it would be more feasible for companies and the state to design programs ensure e-waste easily makes its way to proper recyclers.

Conclusion

  • The size and complexity of the e-waste problem are growing at a much quicker rate than the efficacy of strategies to contain it.
  • The policy advocates for greater awareness campaigns on the part of producers.
  • Concerted efforts are important to generate a momentum of sustained efforts towards increasing disposal through formal channels and catalyzing sustainable consumption patterns.
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Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] Maharashtra: A Journey of Over Sixty Years

On 1st May 1960, the separate Marathi speaking state of Maharashtra was created.  Located in the western region of India, Maharashtra is the third-largest state in India in terms of area and the second-largest in terms of population. The State has been recognized as the country’s industrial powerhouse and maintains the position of being the most industrialized state.

Mumbai—the capital of Maharashtra, is seen as India’s financial capital, but is literally the Gateway of India-secular, progressive yet rooted.

Historical perspective

[A] Ancient

  • Many Chalcolithic sites are located in present-day Maharashtra and some like Inamgaon (1300 BCE to 700 BCE) were extensively excavated.
  • The Satavahanas ruled in regions belonging to present-day Maharashtra between the 1st century BCE to 3rd century CE.
  • International trade with the western world was in full swing during this period. The ports in Maharashtra played a major role in this.
  • The result can be seen in the excavation of many Buddhist rock-cut caves like Bhaja, Pitalkhore, Karla Nasik, etc. patronized mainly by the trading community.
  • After the decline of the Satavahana rule, many small kingdoms were established in different parts of Maharashtra like the Abhiras, Traikutakas, etc.
  • In the 8th century CE when the Rashtrakutas came to power, they were involved in creating the world-famous caves at Ellora.

[B] Medieval

  • The Yadavas (10th century to 13th century CE) were the next rulers in the state. The Shilahara rulers were contemporary to them ruling in western and southern Maharashtra.
  • Allauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate defeated the Yadavas. Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital to Daulatabad (Devagiri) from Delhi for some time.
  • This period marks the efflorescence of the temple building activity in Maharashtra.
  • After the decline of the Tughlaqs, the Bahmani Sultanate started ruling over Maharashtra in the 14th century CE. After the disintegration of the Bahamani empire, the Nizam Shahi and Adil Shahi ruled over different parts of the state.
  • In the 17th century CE, Chhatrapati Shivaji established his independent rule in Maharashtra. Maratha Empire lasted until the British took over it in 1819.

[C] Modern

  • Maharashtra played a major role in the struggle for independence.
  • The year 1885 saw the establishment of the Indian National Congress in Bombay.
  • The establishment of the first Indian newspaper Darpan also happened in the state.
  • Maharashtra has been a pioneer of women’s rights and the Indian feminist movement.
  • From the early 19th century onwards, the state saw a host of thinkers and reformers who campaigned against child marriage and Sati, while simultaneously upholding women’s education and widow remarriage.
  • Prominent names include the late Justice MG Ranade, Savitribai Phule, and Pandita Ramabai.
  • India’s first female doctor, Late Anandi Bai Joshi comes from the state of Maharashtra.
  • As early as the 1930s, cities like Pune was also known as a prominent educational hub and as the ‘Oxford of the East’.

Geography of Maharashtra

The modern state of Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the West, Gujarat and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the Northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the North & North East, Chhattisgarh to the East, Karnataka to the South, Andhra Pradesh to the Southeast and Goa to the Southwest.

Physical features

  • The Western Ghats form the source of several major rivers of Maharashtra, notable among them being the Godavari and the Krishna.
  • The Sahyadri Range is the defining geographical feature of Maharashtra. The Konkan, lying between the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri Range, is a narrow coastal lowland.
  • The Satpuras, hills along the northern border, and the Bhamragad Chiroli-Gaikhuri Ranges on the eastern border form physical barriers.
  • Apart from the mainly occurring rock Basalt; other rocks like Laterite are found in the coastal humid and tropical region.

Natural resources found

  • Maharashtra is rich in ore deposits. Granite, Granite gneiss, Quartzite, Conglomerates are found in the basement regions of the Konkan Rivers.
  • Kamti of the Nagpur region is famous for coal.
  • The Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Bhandara, and Nagpur Districts form the main mineral belt, with coal and manganese as the major minerals and iron ore and limestone as minor minerals.

Heritages

[A] Rock-cut caves and temples

  • Ajanta and Ellora, in the vicinity of Aurangabad, are world-famous heritage sites. All these have been carved out of solid rock.
  • Buddhist rock-cut caves like Bhaja, Pitalkhora, Karla and Nasik are also equally famous rock-cut caves in the state.
  • The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves on Elephanta Island.

[B] Folk art

  • Musical forms like Powada, a song praising the valour of a great ruler and graceful dance forms like Lavani are popular art forms of the state.
  • The Koli dance form is also famous in the coastal region of the state.

[C] Social-cultural reforms

  • The Bhakti movement—a medieval movement spread all over the country between the 13th and 17th centuries found resonance in Maharashtra as well.
  • Famous personalities of the Bhakti movement includes saint poets like Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, and Chokhamela.
  • The Warkari movement every year in June-July sees a plethora of farmers and myriad believers in Vitthoba (an avatar of Lord Vishnu) converge to Pandharpur in an annual pilgrimage.

Related Previous Year Questions:

Q.There are only two known examples of cave paintings of the Gupta period in ancient India. One of these is paintings of Ajanta caves. Where is the other surviving example of Gupta paintings? (CSP 2010)

(a) Bagh caves

(b) Ellora caves

(c) Lomas Rishi cave

(d) Nasik caves

Q. In the context of Indian history, the Rakhmabai case of 1884 revolved around

1. Women’s right to gain education

2. Age of consent

3. Restitution of conjugal rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below: (CSP 2019)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1,2 and 3

Q.Satya Shodhak Samaj organized (CSP 2016):

(a) A movement for upliftment of tribals in Bihar

(b) A temple-entry movement in Gujarat

(c) An anti-caste movement in Maharashtra

(d) A peasant movement in Punjab

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Famous place Region

1. Bodhgaya : Baghelkhand

2. Khajuraho : Bundelkhand

3. Shirdi : Vidarbha

4. Nasik (Nashik) : Malwa

5. Tirupati : Rayalaseema

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

(a) 1, 2 and 4

(b) 2, 3, 4 and 5

(c) 2 and 5

(d) 1, 3, 4 and 5

Q. Among the following, who was not a proponent of bhakti cult?

(a) Nagarjuna

(b) Tukaram

(c) Tyagaraja

(d) Vallabhacharya

Categories
Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] NITI Aayog: Redefining Federalism

May 2020
  • A few decades ago, when we talked of Federal Structure, one generally drew a uni-dimensional picture, in mind, with Centre on the top of all the States.
  • We rarely saw it as a synergy between the States, and a common strategy to develop and grow together.
  • Though, this is the new-age approach of the Federal Structure based on cooperative and competitive federalism defined and re-emphasized with the formation of NITI Aayog.

What is Federalism?

  • Essentially, federalism is an institutional mechanism to accommodate two sets of polities—one at the regional level and the other at the national level. Each government is autonomous in its sphere.
  • The Indian Constitution provides for a federation with a strong center.
  • It does not use the word ‘federation’ and has described India as a “Union of States”, which implies the ‘cooperative’ nature with certain unitary features.
  • The Union, State, and Concurrent lists demarcate the responsibilities and functions of the two.

The idea behind Indian Federalism

Federalism has to continuously maintain a difficult balance between the Centre and the States with decentralization of resources, strengthening them all by bringing the weaker leg forward, creating healthy competition among the States in the form of Health, Sanitation Rankings, etc.

  • The idea is to develop a culture and a set of values and virtues like mutual trust, and a spirit of cooperation among the people and policies.
  • It is about acknowledging and celebrating unity as well as diversity, respecting the boundaries as well as transcending the boundaries.
  • The most common analogy given for such a structure is ‘the brain’ and ‘the body parts’.
  • The way they work in tandem with perfect synchronization is the spirit, mind, and soul of federalism as well.
  • Each organ is dependent on the other for smooth functioning and growth of the entire body.

NITI Aayog

  • The NITI Aayog (abbreviation for National Institution for Transforming India) is a public policy think tank of the Government of India.
  • It is established with the aim to achieve sustainable development goals with cooperative federalism by fostering the involvement of States in the economic policy-making process using a bottom-up approach.

Its founding principles include:

  1. Cooperative federalism (a collaboration between the Central and State Governments) and
  2. Competitive federalism (spurring healthy competition among States)

NITI Aayog Vs Planning Commission: A comparison

  • Planning Commission and NITI Aayog, their mandate and approach of the two institutions, with the same overarching goal of developing India, could not be more different.
  • Planning Commission operated through the lens of Five-Year Plans, using financial resources as the primary lever for guiding development.
  • NITI Aayog, on the other hand, is driven primarily through intellectual firepower as well as the mandate and capability of forging meaningful partnerships with the stakeholders
  • While the Planning Commission acted as a fund disburser, NITI Aayog works as a thought partner with all stakeholders, especially the States, which are the principal agents for fostering economic development in the country.
  • While the Planning Commission followed a top-down model, the NITI Aayog is using a bottom-up approach.
  • While the Planning Commission impinged on the fiscal sovereignty of the States, they are now empowered to decide how best to use their funds, without being mandated to follow a top-down direction.
  • The NITI Aayog has replaced the Central Government’s practice of unilaterally designing the pan-Indian development strategy-while working with State Governments to jointly prepare development blueprints.

Notably, the Planning Commission adopted a ‘onesize- fits-all’ approach towards the Indian States. NITI Aayog, on the other hand, is guided by a ‘States-first’ approach.

Various initiatives by the NITI Aayog

[1] For regional development

  • The NITI Forum for North East has been constituted and tangible sectoral proposals are being implemented by the States in partnership with the North East Council.
  • It has designed some major initiatives for island development which are being implemented by relevant authorities under the overall guidance of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It is also envisaged that like the NITI Forum for the North East, other regional councils of contiguous States could be formed in the coming months.

[2] Various Indicators

NITI promotes competitive federalism by pushing its sectoral indices which are put out in the public domain.

  • The indices on water, education, health, innovation, export preparedness, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have attracted significant positive attention through SDG India Index.
  • The ‘Performance in Health Outcomes’ Index, for instance, captures the overall performance of States in health along with annual improvements in health outcomes, governance, and processes.
  • Similarly, the Composite Water Management Index details how States have progressed on water-related issues over time.
  • The ‘School Education Quality Index’ and Performance Grading Index aims to institutionalize a focus on improving education outcomes (learning, access, equity) in India.

[3] Policy inputs

  • NITI Aayog has been continuously engaged in providing fresh policy-related inputs for implementation by relevant Central Government Ministries and State Government agencies.
  • It has been involved in drafting the National Medical Commission Bill and the bills for reforming the education system pertaining to Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy.
  • Several policy suggestions are contained in NITI’s document ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’. It is a seven-year strategy.
  • The Centre has passed important legislation in the agriculture sector. The onus is now on the States to implement this reform and pave the way for significantly enhancing productivity and doubling farmers’ income.

[4] Various development programs

NITI Aayog has also introduced a competition element in the ‘Aspirational Districts Program’ which aims to raise the human development indicators in these districts to the national averages by focusing on governance improvement and achieving effective convergence among government agencies and organizations on the ground.

NITI Aayog has been focused on nurturing an innovation ecosystem across the country through the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM). It is a flagship initiative of NITI for promoting innovation and entrepreneurship across the length and breadth of the country.

AIM promotes an innovative mindset in school students through Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) which feed into start-ups fostered by the Atal Incubation Centres (AICs).

[5] Various schemes

  • NITI Aayog has also been closely involved with the design and monitoring of the Ayushman Bharat program.
  • It has played a similar key role in the POSHAN Abhiyaan which the Government launched to provide an appropriate governance structure that affects the nutritional status of an individual or household.
  • It has also implemented the SATH – ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital’ program in 3 States.
  • It shared a road map for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana with all States and Union Territories.

Way forward

  • In the years to come, India needs to make similar persistent efforts wherein both the Central and State Governments work jointly to solve the country’s most complex issues and unleash growth.
  • To meet the rising aspirations of our young population, India needs to achieve and sustain a high rate of GDP growth for the next three decades.
  • In pursuit of this goal, continued structural reforms are crucial for laying new foundations to ensure sustained and inclusive growth.
  • NITI Aayog has a key role to play in helping India undertake these reforms and implement policy initiatives in a scalable and impactful manner through partnerships with States.
  • To achieve the goal of rapid, sustained, and clean growth that generates employment for all, investing in the right physical and social infrastructure, is a prerequisite.

NITI Aayog with its intellectual breadth and depth is well placed to help India achieve these goals.

Conclusion

  • NITI Aayog has endeavored to pursue its twin mandate of promoting cooperative and competitive federalism through partnerships with States for designing and reviewing development plans.
  • Ultimately, the onus of putting India on a high-growth trajectory and ensuring that the benefits of growth are equitably distributed rests with both the Centre and States.
  • NITI Aayog will continue to work towards strengthening cooperative federalism in the country, thereby enabling the Centre and States to work in tandem as equal partners for ensuring India’s success.
Categories
Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV ARCHIVE] Ethanol Blending: Significance & Road Ahead

The Central Government has resolved to meet the target of 20 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2025. This will help India strengthen its energy security, enable local enterprises and farmers to participate in the energy economy and reduce vehicular emissions.

In this article we shall discuss and analyze all aspects of this issue.

What is Ethanol Blending?

  • An ethanol blend is defined as a blended motor fuel containing ethyl alcohol that is at least 99% pure, derived from agricultural products, and blended exclusively with petrol (gasoline).
  • Ethanol, anhydrous ethyl alcohol having a chemical formula of C2H5OH, can be produced from sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc. which are having high starch content.
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by the fermentation process. Ethanol can be mixed with the gasoline to form different blends.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
  • Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered a renewable fuel.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in January, 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol.
  • The programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements.
  • OMCs are advised to continue according priority of ethanol from 1) sugarcane juice/sugar/sugar syrup, 2) B-heavy molasses 3) C-heavy molasses and 4) damaged food grains/other sources.
  • At present, this programme has been extended to whole of India except UTs of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 01st April, 2019 wherein OMCs sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10%.

Ethanol blending in India

  • Ethanol now is blended 10% to petrol, which started with 5% when the EBP was launched
  • Last year 173 crore liters of petrol was blended with ethanol.

Why need 20% blending?

Mixing 20 percent ethanol in petrol holds multiple attractions for India.

  • First, it can potentially reduce the auto fuel import bill by a yearly $4 billion, or Rs 30,000 crore.
  • Second, it also provides for farmers to earn extra income if they grow to produce that helps in ethanol production.
  • Third, and no less important, is the fact that ethanol is less polluting than other fuels and, per the NITI Aayog paper, “offers equivalent efficiency at a lower cost than petrol”.

What is needed to meet the blending target?

  • Till 2014 an average of only 1.5 percent ethanol could be blended in India, that proportion has now reached about 8.5 percent.
  • So, while in 2013-14, about 38 crore liters of ethanol were purchased in the country, that figure now stands at more than 320 crore liters.
  • A majority of the ethanol units are concentrated in 4 to 5 states where sugar production is high but food grain-based distilleries are now being set up across India.
  • There have been efforts to make ethanol from agricultural waste.

Response from automobile sector

  • All automobile materials produced after 2009 are compatible with 10% ethanol. However they are not compatible with E20 (20 percent ethanol blend with petrol).
  • The NITI Aayog paper said that two-wheelers and passenger vehicles that are now being made in the country “are designed optimally for E5 while rubber and plastic components are “compatible with E10 fuel”.
  • The industry body the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has guaranteed that “once a road-map for making E10 and E20 available in the country is notified… they would gear up to supply compatible vehicles in line with the roadmap”.
  • All the components required can be made available in the country” and that “no significant change in the assembly line is expected”.

Why is 20% blending a significant decision?

  • Ethanol blending will also, to a large extent, solve the problem of agricultural waste as well as sugar rates plummeting due to excess production, therefore providing security to sugarcane farmers.
  • It can help accomplish dual goal of strengthening energy security with low carbon emission.
  • It will enable local enterprises and farmers to participate in the energy economy.
  • Reducing import bill is another significant benefit. India imports 85% of crude oil.
  • Ethanol blending increases octane number thereby increasing fuel quality in terms of anti-knocking tendency (engine sound)

Hurdles in implementation

  • In the previous fiscal, 87 per cent of ethanol used for India’s ethanol blending program was produced using sugar.
  • The price of ethanol production in India ranges from $0.63 – $0.87 a litre, significantly higher than the US and Brazil where it is about $ 0.61 per litre.
  • The procurement of ethanol by OMCs is governed by an administered pricing mechanism that fixes prices every year based on the raw material used.
  • This fixing of the price of raw materials for production had led to India producing ethanol at prices higher than other countries.
  • The report also highlighted the excessive use of water — estimated at 2,860 litres — for the production of one litre of ethanol from sugar.

Hence there is a need to move to more environmentally sustainable crops.

Way forward

  • For attaining E100 i.e. cent percent clean mobility, ambitious ethanol blending program is a must.
  • Emphasis should be laid on alternative of ethanol. Methanol with some modifications can also be used for blending.
  • Major source of producing ethanol is sugarcane which is a water intensive crop. Hence we need more sustainable sources to produce Ethanol.

Source:

Categories
Yojana/RSTV

[Yojana Archive] One Nation-One Election

May 2021

Have you been hearing the words ‘simultaneous elections’ often these days? That’s because there is a proposal to conduct the elections to the Lok Sabha and a State assemblies at the same time.

What are simultaneous polls?

  • Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately — that is whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
  • This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha. The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronize with one another.
  • For instance, Rajasthan faced elections in late 2018, whereas Tamil Nadu will go to elections only in 2021.
  • But the idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.

Simultaneous polls in India

  • India had concurrent elections for the first two decades.
  • Starting from the first general elections of free India in 1951 and the next three cycles of elections, the country witnessed concurrent Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
  • Exceptions to these were a few states like Kerala where a mid-term election was held in 1960 on the premature dissolution of the Assembly.
  • In Nagaland and Pondicherry where the Legislative Assembly was created only after the 1962 general elections.

End of the era

  • The fourth Lok Sabha constituted in 1967 was dissolved prematurely in 1971 ahead of its normal term resulting in a mid-term Lok Sabha election.
  • This was the beginning of the end of simultaneous elections in India.
  • Extension of the term of Lok Sabha during the National Emergency declared in 1975 and the dissolution of Assemblies of some States after the 1977 Lok Sabha election further disturbed this cycle.
  • Currently, there are at least two rounds of Assembly general elections every year.

Making simultaneous elections a reality

  • Sections 14 and 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, empower the Election Commission to notify elections any time during the last six months of the term of the House and not earlier than that.
  • Therefore, if the terms of the Houses are expiring within a window of three to four months, it would be legally possible to hold elections simultaneously to constitute the new Houses.
  • In other words, to contemplate simultaneous elections, we need, as a starting point, a situation where the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of all States and UTs have their terms ending together.

Synchronizing the terms of the Houses

  • Both the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies (ordinarily) have a term of five years.
  • Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of Lok Sabha. Identical provisions are present in Article 172(1) regarding the term of the Legislative Assemblies.

There is no duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections and hence no extra labor or expenditure is involved on this count.

What is required?

  • This necessarily calls for either extending the terms of several of the Houses or curtailing of terms or a combination of both, that too by two to three years in some cases.
  • For enabling such curtailing or extension of the term, the relevant Articles of the Constitution mentioned above will have to be suitably amended.

Why Simultaneous Elections?

Two seemingly relevant factors in favor of simultaneous elections as opposed to separate elections are:

  1. Effort saving: Simultaneous elections reduce labour, time and expenditure in the conduct of elections; and
  2. Instances of pause in governance are addressed if elections are conducted in one go instead of staggered elections.

[1] How is effort saving possible?

  • Electoral roll: Polling stations for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections are the same. So is the electoral roll.
  • Labour: There is no duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections and hence no extra labour or expenditure is involved on this count.
  • Logistics: In the conduct of elections, all logistic arrangements are replicated for the two elections when the same drill can cater to both the elections if held together.
  • Security: This will also mean saving in terms of human resources. Another area of saving in simultaneous elections would be in the deployment of the Central Police Force.

[2] Governance pause can be avoided

  • Instances of pause in governance is due to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • MCC is a set of behavior guidelines for candidates and political parties that comes into operation from the date election is announced by the Election Commission.
  • A crucial part of the MCC is the restrictions on the party in power.  If all elections are held together, the restrictions under MCC will be through in one go.

[3] Help reduce campaign expenses

  • Simultaneous elections can bring considerable savings in the election propaganda campaign expenditure for the political parties.
  • Given that political funding is a major factor in the increasing menace of corruption, the move to reduce campaign expenditure is a welcome initiative.

[4] Voter turnout

  • A nationwide election could push up the voter turnout since a once-in-five-years event is bound to attract more enthusiastic participation across all sections.
  • Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor at least among some sections of electors.
  • The simultaneous elections help address the fatigue element and the usually observed urban apathy in voting. Better electors’ participation will further add to the credibility of the election.

Exceptions to this debate: Local Bodies’ Elections

  • The local bodies’ elections have not been considered for the analysis here.
  • This is for the reason that the elections to local bodies cannot be clubbed with the proposed simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha.

Why?

  • The elections to local bodies are conducted under the superintendence, direction, and control of a different constitutional authority, namely, the respective State Election Commission.
  • Holding local bodies’ elections along with the other elections will require the team of the same polling officials to report to and take instructions from two different authorities simultaneously.
  • There is a distinct set of polling stations too for local bodies’ elections.
  • Further, the litigation forum before which these elections can be challenged is different.

Challenges in ensuring simultaneous elections in India:

[1] Synchronizing the Houses

  • Bringing the terms of all the Houses to sync with one another necessarily calls for either extending the terms of several of the Houses or curtailing of terms or a combination of both.
  • This may be by two to three years in some cases.
  • For this, relevant Articles of the Constitution will have to be suitably amended.

[2] Midterm dissolution cannot be controlled

  • Even if the terms of the Houses are in sync as a one-time measure, we will still need an adequate legal safeguard in place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle.
  • This can be a tough task in conventionally fragile states with smaller assemblies with coalitions.

[3] EVM related expenses

  • One aspect that could offset the savings would be the doubling of expenses on electronic voting machines (EVMs).
  • Considering that the incidental recurring expense in the storage and security of the EVMs will also be a considerable amount.
  • The overall expenditure in holding elections may not see any substantial dip on account of simultaneous elections.

Arguments against the idea

  • National and state issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters.
  • Since elections will be held once in five years, it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people. Repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increases accountability.
  • When an election in a State is postponed until the synchronized phase, President’s rule will have to be imposed in the interim period in that state.
  • This will be a blow to democracy and federalism.

Way forward

  • We need an adequate legal safeguarding place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle.
  • For maintaining the electoral cycle, some countries have legal provisions to the effect that for a ‘no-confidence motion’.
  • Their proposed resolution also contains a constructive ‘vote of confidence in an alternative government to continue with the tenure.
Categories
Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] PMGKAY- Shielding the vulnerable in crisis

In a major relief to the poor amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, PM has announced that the government has extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to distribute wheat and rice-free of cost to around 80 crore people till November this year.

Background

  • After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year in March, the PMGKAY scheme was launched to support the vulnerable sections of society. It was implemented during April to November 2020.
  • In this edition we shall understand more about the scheme and how beneficial will it be for the vulnerable population amid the pandemic.

What is PMGKAY?

  • PMGKAY is a food security welfare scheme announced by the GoI in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.0

Major provisions

  • The scheme aims to feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System, to all the priority households (ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana).
  • It provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.

Why was such a scheme needed?

The devastation by this pandemic has increased manifold in the second wave resulting into localized restrictions and lockdowns from the States.

  • This has resulted in massive jobs losses in urban areas since the largest employers being construction and hospitality sectors have been completely shut down.
  • The virus has penetrated deeper in the countryside in rural areas halting almost every sources of livelihood.
  • These areas are such where 60% of the income was earned from non-pharm activities. This resulted in livelihood losses of large section of population.

Success of the scheme

  • It was the first step by the government when pandemic affected India.
  • The scheme reached its targeted population feeding almost 80Cr people.
  • It has proven to be more of a safety net to migrant people who had job and livelihood losses.
  • This has also ensured nutrition security to children of the migrant workers.

Failures

  • The scheme has been affected by widespread corruption, leakages and failure to distribute grain to the intended recipients.
  • Several of the states above have claimed that the ineffective distribution has been caused by the beneficiaries, especially migrant workers, not being available to receive their rations.
  • Out of the 79.25 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), only 55 crore have so far received their 5 kg.
  • However, almost 90% of beneficiaries have received their regular subsidized grain for the month, raising questions over why the free grain has reached fewer beneficiaries.
  • Many people were denied their share due to inability to access ration cards.
  • Livelihood losses led to decline in aggregate demand and resulted into lowest ever consumption expenditure by the people owing to scarcity of cash.
  • This in turn led to selling of the free grains obtained in the local markets for cash.

Way forward: Making it a roaring success

  • There should be a all-encompassing database for migrant workers and their family. This should accurately capture the data on migration.
  • The One Nation One Ration Card should be implemented in true spirit by all the states.
  • Along with food security, there should be a sustainable income support through schemes like MGNREGS accompanied by free vaccines in nearest future.
  • The leakages in PDS should be minimized through modernize PDS. To avoid leakages, there should be food-token system.

Conclusion

Implementation has been a historical problem in our country with any of the schemes which is meant particularly for poor.


Source:

Categories
Yojana/RSTV

[RSTV Archive] Multilateral Institutions – Need for reforms

Context

  • Recently BRICS Foreign Ministers summit was organized.
  • During the conclusion, they acknowledged that the current international challenges should be addressed through reinvigorated and reformed multilateral systems.

Multilateralism: The spirit of global governance/cooperation

  • In international relations, multilateralism refers to an alliance of multiple countries pursuing a common goal.
  • Multilateralism, in the form of membership in international institutions, serves to bind powerful nations, discourage unilateralism and give small powers a voice and influence that they could not otherwise exercise.
  • Similarly, multilateralism may allow one great power to influence another great power.
  • For a great power to seek control through bilateral ties could be costly; it may require bargaining and compromise with the other great power.

What are Multilateral Organizations?

  • These are organizations formed between three or more nations to work on issues that relate to all of the countries in the organization.
  • They include the UN, and other institutions such as IMF, World Bank, WTO, and WHO.
  • These institutions are the major reflective of a larger power reality in the international structure.

Failure of multilateralism

  • Across the system, multilateralism is severely eroding as nations become more inward-focused, directing their attention and strategies towards improving domestic capacities and reducing dependence on foreign imports.
  • Protectionist tendencies are on the rise in addition to the pressures of constrained mobility and fear of a reduction in financial resources essential for tackling climate change and achieving SDGs.
  • It seems that a tussle between unilateralism and multilateralism is going to shape much of the discourse on international cooperation.

Why are they under question?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the nature of international cooperation and bringing out the inherent fault lines and weaknesses embedded in global institutions to sharp focus.
  • The western, or so-called ‘Atlantic system’, comprising of the USA and developed European countries ostensibly considered champions of multilateralism has failed to cope with the pandemic.
  • They have failed to provide any meaningful leadership during this unprecedented crisis.

Recent shocks to multilateralism

(1) Trade disputes

  • Most state-state disputes are handled by the WTO system, the primary body governing international trade.
  • Since last year, we have seen many times WTO panel ruling against India in a trade dispute over its subsidies to exporters under various schemes.
  • The US still has veto power over an array of major decisions in the World Bank.

(2) Lack of transparency

  • Multilateral organizations were more intergovernmental during their inception. These institutions were undoubtedly western dominated.
  • The lack of transparency of the WHO and its handling of the covid pandemic has exposed the limitations of global cooperation.

(3) Losing consensus

  • Major institutions are functioning in stagnancy since no new agreement has been reached in decades.
  • Be it WTO for its Agreement on Agriculture or the UNFCCC for the climate change negotiations for phasing out fossil fuels.

(4) Rise of regional superpowers

  • The rise of China and is strategic might has been a bone of contention for the global community due to its clear defiance of the rule based global community over South China Sea.
  • The proxy trade wars between the US and China as well as the India and China are reaching new lows.

(5) Rise of Mini-laterals

  • The contemporary global problems are sought to be better solved at the regional rather than the bilateral or global level.
  • This has led to the decline in global cooperation over range of issues. For example, RCEP to counterbalance the US dominated Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • These are called issue-based coalitions.

(6) Security challenges

  • There is inherent irony over the expansion of the membership global security blocs as such NATO, UNSC etc.
  • For example, Africa where most of the UN Peacekeeping forces operate, has no permanent member in the UNSC.
  • The UNSC veto powers possessed by permanent members are used as an instrument to shore up their geopolitical interests.

Way forward

  • Multilateralism should promote international law, democracy, equity and justice, mutual respect, right to development and non-interference in internal affairs of any country without double standards.

Reforming the multilateral system should encompass the following steps:

  • It should make instruments of global governance more inclusive, representative, and participatory to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries.
  • It should be based on inclusive consultation and collaboration for the benefit of all, while respecting sovereign independence, equality, mutual legitimate interests and concerns.
  • It should strengthen the capacities of individual states and international organizations to better respond to new and emerging, traditional and non-traditional challenges.

Indian approach to multilateralism: NORMS

  • NORMS stands for New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.
  • India will work constructively with partners to bring innovative and inclusive solutions to foster development and for greater involvement of women and youth to shape a new paradigm.
  • A first and vital step is the reform of the United Nations Security Council. It must reflect contemporary realities to be more effective.

Conclusion

  • There is no easy way out for immediate consensus-building among nations over the limitations of these multilateral institutions.
  • For this, non-alignment or ad-hoc coalitions could never be the answer.
  • Issues-based coalitions are the best answer and Health is the easiest framework to work upon.
  • Lastly, there are many mini-laterals that should unite for a global commonality.

Source:

RSTV: The Big Picture : Multilateral Institutions – Need for reforms