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WTO and India

[op-ed snap] The case for a progressive international

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gig economy, DiEM25

Mains level: The need for a new global order of democarcy


Context

Problems in bilateral treaties

  1. Earlier this year, it was revealed that India is facing legal claims from international investors in as many as 23 arbitration cases, before various tribunals
  2. These claims, worth billions of dollars, arise out of bilateral investment treaties between India and other states
  3. One striking feature of such treaties is that they allow international investors (primarily MNCs) to initiate a dispute directly in an international tribunal, bypassing the state’s own constitutional system and its courts

Reasons behind such disputes

    1.  Often, the disputes revolve around measures that were triggered by public health emergencies, economic crises or other matters directly involving public welfare — which would, therefore, be permissible under the Constitution, but which a corporation believes have negatively impacted its financial interests

Effect of globalisation

  1. This reveals an important truth about the contemporary, globalised world: issues that were earlier resolved within a sovereign state in accordance with its constitutional system have now acquired a transnational character
  2. For example, because of its attempts to make essential medicines affordable through amendments to its Patent Act, India has come under pressure from the U.S. and the European Union (at the behest of prominent pharmaceutical companies), while finding support and emulation in countries like South Africa and Thailand
  3. In 2011, the EU seized shipments of life-saving Indian drugs that were being transported to Africa and Latin America, on the basis that it could apply its more restrictive patent and customs laws to goods in transit through its territory
  4. The transnational character of these issues suggests that the response cannot succeed if it is unilateral
  5. The issues are not limited to conflicts before international forums. Recent months have seen clashes between national regulatory authorities and the corporations that drive the new “gig economy”, such as Uber
  6. Just like in the case of investment treaties, it is often difficult for one country to tackle the problem alone – especially when the corporation is global in character, and can issue a credible threat of withdrawing substantial levels of investment

The question of accountability

  1. While global problems cannot be solved without nation-states, nation-states cannot solve their problems on their own
  2. India’s battle to preserve affordable access to medicines is part of a larger struggle, where participation in the global intellectual property regime has severely constrained the ability of countries to respond to public health crises
  3. Whatever a country’s Constitution may say about the right to life and the right to health for its citizens, it will still be dragged before an international tribunal if it attempts to forestall or mitigate a public health crisis by lifting patent restrictions upon, for example, a life-saving drug
  4. The point is not only about who finally succeeds in litigation — rather, it is that the final decision is taken by a set of individuals who are beyond the structures of accountability that are established in democratic and constitutional states

Taking a cue from DiEM25

  1. A recent example is that of the Democracy in Europe Movement 25
  2. DiEM25 arose after the debt crisis in Greece had resulted in a wide-ranging “structural adjustment programme” imposed upon that country by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (or “the troika”)
  3. This included severe austerity measures (including cuts to public funding, resulting in mass unemployment) and widespread privatisation, in direct contravention of the publicly expressed will of the people, through both elections and a public referendum
  4. The central insight of DiEM25 is precisely that today a progressive movement oriented towards social justice and fundamental rights cannot succeed if it is constrained within national borders
  5. Many of the fundamental decisions that shape national policy (with wide-ranging consequences) are simply beyond the ken of nation-states themselves
  6. For this reason, DiEM25 identifies as “pan-European”, and isolates a range of issues currently left in the hands of national governments powerless to act upon them” — including public debt, banking, inadequate investment, migration, and rising poverty
  7. DiEM25 returns these issues to democratic control, but also acknowledges that the solutions needed to achieve this can only come from transnational action
  8. Another important insight of the DiEM25 manifesto is that the world today is based on the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquerading as merely technical decisions

Understanding DiEM25 in India’s context

  1. For example, what steps a country like India must take to ensure the availability of life-saving drugs (and not only during a public health crisis) is a decision that must be taken democratically and politically, within the constitutional framework
  2. At present, however, it always remains ultimately subject to a “technical decision” (potentially taken by an international tribunal) about whether India has breached its obligations under an international intellectual property rights treaty regime
  3. What needs to be done is to reshape that regime to make it more democratic, an effort that, by its very nature, cannot be undertaken by a single country

The future framework in India

  1. The focus on democracy is particularly important with respect to a third issue: the increasing role of technology in our daily lives
  2. This debate has come to the fore recently, with the long-running conflict over Aadhaar, and the draft DNA Profiling Bill
  3. The relationship between technology and human freedoms will be vital in the future
  4. It is therefore particularly interesting that through the evolving concept of “technological sovereignty”, DiEM25 has drawn a specific link between technology and democracy, which can help us think through contemporary issues such as platform monopolies, the ubiquity of AI in public decision-making (including on public welfare), etc

Way forward: A new international regime

  1. There has been a talk about an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power
  2. Movements such as DiEM25, which have sprung up in various parts of the world, serve as potential blueprints and models for what a “progressive international” may look like
  3. It is a conversation that progressive movements in India must take heed of, and engage with if we are to adequately address the transnational problems that face us today

Global Geological And Climatic Events

[op-ed snap] Cool it: on labour loss due to heatwave

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNFCCC, Heatwaves

Mains level: Impact of climate change on various weather events


Context

Loss of crucial labour hours due to heat waves

  1. The staggering loss of an estimated 153 billion hours of labour during 2017 due to rising temperatures around the globe is a reminder to governments that they are not doing enough to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions
  2. The Lancet countdown on health and climate has reported that India was particularly affected by the rising frequency of heatwave events and lost about 75 billion hours of work, a significant part of it in the agricultural sector

Impact on India

  1. This has worrying implications for rural employment and the well-being of a large section of the population that depends on farming
  2. At stake for all countries in the developing world is the health of millions, many of them already vulnerable to extreme weather events
  3. From a public health perspective, the report sounds a warning that rising temperatures will enable the dengue virus and malaria to spread farther and faster
  4. This is also true of some other infections

Measures that need to be taken by India

  1. It is vital that India gets more ambitious about cutting back on carbon emissions, even as it presses for the fulfilment of the climate finance obligations of developed countries under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  2. A further reduction in the share of coal in the energy mix through sustained support for renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaics, must form the cornerstone of national policy
  3. This must be matched by a shift away from the use of fossil fuels for transport, and the induction of more electric vehicles
  4. Such a policy would yield the parallel benefit of improving air quality
  5. Ambient air pollution led to the premature death of an estimated half a million people in India in 2015

Garnering international consensus for changing climate fund usage

  1. The consensus on climate change is that it has begun to affect the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events
  2. India’s approach to adaptation should, therefore, prepare for catastrophes with a well-considered plan to provide relief and rehabilitation
  3. If the Centre and State governments can arrive at a consensus on the strong climate link to the excessive rain in Kerala and Cyclone Gaja in Tamil Nadu, for instance, a case could be made for climate funds under the Paris Agreement
  4. Such a claim has to be supported by a perspective plan that identifies vulnerable regions and communities and incorporates transparent systems for funds utilisation

Way forward

  1. The aggravated impact of climate change on health is a serious issue for policymakers to consider
  2. The importance of funds for adaptation is underscored by Lancet’s finding that 99% of losses from climate-related events in low-income countries were not insured
  3. Increased exposure to heatwaves needs a policy response, nationally and globally

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[op-ed snap] Number theory: on lowering UPA-era GDP growth rate

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy Issues relating to planning

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GDP calculation, Base year, CSO, United Nations System of National Accounts

Mains level: Controversy related to GDP revision and why a robust methodology is necessary for calculating growth


Context

Revised GDP data

  1. The release of the new GDP back series data shows that the economy grew at an average of 6.7 per cent between 2005-06 to 2008-09 as well as between 2009-10 to 2013-14
  2. This is lower than the earlier estimates of 8.1 per cent and 7 per cent average growth respectively going by the earlier 2004-05 base
  3. The biggest of learning is that India never really decoupled from the global economy during the years of the financial crisis (2008-10), unlike what was earlier believed

Revisions of figures not new

  1. Backcasting, or reworking past national accounts statistics based on the latest base year, is a regular exercise that governments carry out
  2. Mainly done to enable precise comparison and analysis, it is a difficult exercise prone to contestation as it involves the inclusion of newer data sources, exclusion of outdated ones and making some subjective assumptions in the process

Spat over economic data

  1. In January 2015, when the government switched to a new series with 2011-12 as the base year, and subsequently after the report of the Committee on Real Sector Statistics which was mandated by the National Statistical Commission to work out a robust methodology under the new series a few months ago, there was a controversy, with agencies such as the IMF besides the RBI flagging their concerns
  2. The release of the data under the new series in 2015, and also later, had led to sceptics questioning the validity of growth figures

Reliability of the data

  1. Any criticism of the data has to take into account the fact that it has been generated by a thoroughly professional organisation, the CSO, and the methods have been scrutinised by experts, including past chief statisticians, and the Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics
  2. Certainly, the release of the back series by the Niti Aayog goes against convention and is bad in optics
  3. But this should not be the reason to contest its integrity
  4. The method of computation reflects the latest United Nations System of National Accounts
  5. It also captures changes in the economy since 2004-05
  6. Data sources have also been updated. Experts had testified to the robustness of the method when it was introduced in 2015

Way forward

  1. There is little doubt that India needs to invest more in data collection and integration and do informal sector surveys more frequently
  2. Robust, updated data are, in fact, insurance against politicians hijacking what is essentially an economic exercise
  3. Revisions in economic growth data are not uncommon elsewhere but what political parties ought to keep in mind is the potential damage to the credibility and its impact on investors, both global and domestic, who rely on the quality, reliability and consistency of data when they pump in money and on informed policy-making

With inputs from the article: Back and forth

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Vulnerable Forum

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CVF, Jumemmej Declaration

Mains level: International collaboration against threats posed by Climate Change


News

  • Leaders at the Climate Vulnerable Forum called on world’s governments to raise the ambition of their climate targets by 2020 in order to save vulnerable nations threatened by warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

About Climate Vulnerable Forum

  1. The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international cooperation group of developing countries tackling global climate change.
  2. The CVF was founded by the Maldives government before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which sought to increase awareness of countries considered vulnerable.
  3. United Nations agencies collaborate in implementing activities linked to the CVF with the UNDP, the lead organization supporting the forum’s work.
  4. The CVF was formed to increase the accountability of industrialized nations for the consequences of global climate change.
  5. Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan are its members, whereas India is one of the observer states.

World’s first Virtual Climate Summit

  1. The CVF is being held in Marshall Islands.
  2. Through the summit’s “Jumemmej Declaration”, the forum’s leaders committed to strengthening their national climate efforts by 2020 in order to pressure world governments to act.
  3. “Jumemmej” is a Marshallese word of seafaring origin calling for vigilance to keep a watch against threats.
  4. The carbon-free summit brought together leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which represents many of the countries most threatened by climate change.
  5. More than 40 heads of state, government and delegation also constituted the first global gathering of leaders of nations most threatened by climate change.

Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Exercise KONKAN-18

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Konkan

Mains level:  India-UK strategic relations


News

Exercise Konkan-18

  1. The Bilateral KONKAN exercise is marks the naval cooperation between India and the United Kingdom based on the long term strategic relationship.
  2. The KONKAN series of exercises commenced in 2004, and since then has grown in scale.
  3. KONKAN-2018 will be conducted from 28 Nov to 06 Dec 18 off Goa with units participating from both navies.
  4. The harbour phase is scheduled from 28 Nov to 30 Nov 18, followed by the sea phase from 02 to 06 Dec 18.
  5. The Royal Navy will be represented by HMS Dragon, a Type 45 Class Destroyer equipped with an integral Wildcat helicopter.
  6. The Indian Navy will field INS Kolkata, the first ship of latest Kolkata class destroyers, equipped with integral Seaking and an IN submarine.
  7. The thrust of the exercise this year would be on Anti-Air warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) and Seamanship Evolutions.

[pib] 8 more States achieve 100% household electrification under Saubhagya

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Saubhagya’ scheme

Mains level:  Attaining 100% Electrification


News

Nearing 100% Electrification

  1. 8 States have achieved 100% saturation in household electrification under Saubhagya namely Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar, J&K, Mizoram, Sikkim, Telangana and West Bengal.
  2. The Minister informed that as many as 2.1 crore connections have been released under Saubhagya so far.
  3. Many more State like Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh etc. are left with small number of un-electrified households and expected to achieve saturation any time.
  4. Nation is expected to achieve 100% saturation in the country by 31st December, 2018.

Award Scheme under Saubhagya

  1. For creating healthy competition amongst various DISCOMs, an award scheme has been instituted with awards of more than Rs 300 crore to be won by States/Discoms.
  2. The first DISCOM/Power Departments to complete 100% household electrification will be felicitated with cash award of Rs. 50 Lakh for the employees and Rs.100 crore grant to be spent for distribution infrastructure.
  3. For the purpose of award, States have been divided into 3 categories and award would be given in each of these categories.
  4. The States completing 100% household electrification by 31st 2018 will also receive additional grant of 15% of the project cost (5% for special category States) sanctioned under Saubhagya.

Back2Basics

Saubhagya Scheme

Government launches Saubhagya scheme for household electrification

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Country’s first owl festival organized in Pune

 

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Owl Festival

Mains level: Conservation of Owls in India


News

Indian Owl Festival

  1. The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, will be held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune, Maharashtra.
  2. The two-day festival is organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation.
  3. It will give information on owl conservation and feature art forms like pictures, paintings, lanterns, lamp shades, posters, origami, stitched articles, poems and stories on owls.
  4. It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it.

Why Conserve Owls?

  1. Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened.
  2. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss, both are man-made.
  3. Owls eat rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. So these birds are actually very beneficial to farmers.

Owls in India

  1. According to a report published by Traffic India, a wildlife trade monitoring body, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010, owls were found to be consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/zoos, food and in folk medicines.
  2. Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the report has found owls to be highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Gender wage gap highest in India, women are paid 34% less than men: ILO

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Wage Report 2018-19

Mains level: Inequality of Wages for Women


News

Highest gender wage gap is in India

  1. Women are paid the most unequally in India, compared to men, when it comes to hourly wages for labour.
  2. On average, women are paid 34 per cent less than men, a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.
  3. This gap in wages, known as the gender wage gap, is the highest among 73 countries studied in the report.

India not alone in the race

  1. This gender wage gap has remained unchanged at 20 per cent from 2016 to 2017. Women are paid higher hourly wages than men in Bangladesh.
  2. In advanced economies (G20), real wage growth declined from 0.9 per cent in 2016 to 0.4 per cent in 2017, meaning near stagnation.
  3. By contrast, in emerging economies and developing G20 countries, real wage growth dipped marginally from 4.9 per cent in 2016 and 4.3 per cent in 2017.

Global Scenario

  1. These findings are presented in the flagship publication of the ILO, the Global Wage Report 2018-19, which was released on November 26.
  2. The trend holds true globally as well. Inequality is higher in monthly wages, with a gap of 22 per cent.
  3. In real terms (adjusted for price inflation), global wage growth declined to 1.8 per cent in 2017, from 2.4 per cent in 2016. The findings are based on the data from 136 countries.
  4. Overall, real wages grew just 1.8 per cent globally (136 countries) in 2017.
  5. In most countries, women and men differ significantly in respect of working time – specifically, that part-time work is more prevalent among women than among men.

Way Forward

  1. But in 2017, the gender gap was accompanied by a near-stagnation in wages. Real wage growth has been the lowest since 2008, the year of the financial crisis.
  2. With empirical evidence that gender wage gap is visible even with women with higher levels of education, the report advocated that emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring equal pay for women and men.