How India’s economy can gain from opportunities thrown up after Covid Editorial 1st Jun’20 LiveMint

Covid-19 impacted the economy hard:

  • Given India’s population density and modest health infrastructure, the government had no option but to order a complete lockdown when coronavirus reached India’s shores.
  • As the country stayed indoors, the economy was dealt a crushing blow.

Preparing for post-Covid world:

  • While both the central government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have announced mega stimulus packages to revitalize the economy, their impact will only be knows later. 
  • It is clear that the world will not be the same post covid-19 and even on the economic front there will be a “new normal”.
  • Like every crisis, this will also create opportunities and open new horizons, which if leveraged can help strengthen our economy.

Utilizing the Covid crisis to create new opportunities

Impetus for our domestic manufacturing through conducive business climate:

  • The Prime Minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India), can be just the right impetus for our domestic manufacturing.
  • The world including India is currently overly dependent on China for raw materials.
  • With companies now looking for alternative manufacturing hubs in their bid to de-risk, India could be their destination of choice, provided we offer a conducive environment.
  • A conducive business climate with better infrastructure and logistics, simplified land and labour laws and single window clearances can enable India to develop a robust manufacturing ecosystem.
  • This will help attract foreign capital, latest technology, create jobs and boost our exports.
  • We must also focus on Skill and Scale to be both quality and cost competitive and serve a global customer base.
  • Huge scope exists in sectors such as pharma, electronics, automobiles and defence machinery, not only to be self-reliant but also capture a decent slice of the global supply chain.

Move to regime of empowerment by shifting fully to DBT:

  • The government announced some useful economic reforms like amendments to the Essential Commodities Act.
  • We should also consider phasing out fertilizer and power subsidies that distort the market.
  • It is time to move to a direct benefit transfer (DBT) model instead of the appeasement tools like various farm and non-farm subsidies.
  • We should utilize this momentum to shift to a regime of empowerment rather than entitlement, as this will bring about a fundamental change for the better.

Use of technology and digitized lending models to boost credit growth:

  • With the financial sector reeling under the burden of bad loans, it is time to introduce new digitized lending models using artificial intelligence (AI).
  • For example, it could disburse credit basis business flows such as invoices of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and not assets.
  • This will be a boon for many startups and small enterprises who would otherwise be denied funding due to lack of collaterals.
  • Technology will also enable a more accurate determination of credit risk leading to more realistic pricing of loans, for our banks.

Scale up digital services:

  • The current crisis underlines the tremendous utility of social security programmes such as Jan Dhan accounts, Ayushman Bharat and insurance scheme in India, where migrant labourers, daily wage earners and other vulnerable sections form a significant chunk of the population.
  • The Jan Dhan scheme in particular enables them to get cash directly from the government bypassing any middlemen or red tape.
    • This has tremendous potential to empower the marginalized and bring them under a safety net, especially women and senior citizens.
    • The government must scale up the Jan Dhan programme by shifting focus from an account for every household to an account for every adult.
  • To help holders derive maximum benefit, along with accounts, we need financial literacy drives, introduction to mobile and digital banking, account linked insurance, custom financial products etc through a seamless integration with Aadhar.

Expand healthcare infrastructure with public-private partnership:

  • This pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to expand our healthcare infrastructure to be able to handle emergencies.
  • We need:
    • Improved coordination between the Centre and different states
    • Strong disease surveillance systems
    • A ready stock of critical lifesaving drugs and medical equipment
    • More diagnostic labs and modern hospitals in every district
    • Fast tracking of telemedicine/e-consultations
  • In health, the private sector needs to step up and partner with the Government more actively so that basic healthcare is accessible and affordable for all.
  • The Government’s decision to provide Viability Gap Funding (VGF) could facilitate their entry.

Digital boom:

  • Covid-19 will also induce some long term changes in consumption patterns that will help drive expansion and diversification of various digital business channels.
  • This could be a boon for e-retailers, online education services, home broadband and virtual private network (VPN) services, digital entertainment etc.
  • As the economy reboots, we may see the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
  • This is also the time for the economy to go cash light as digital payments may become the norm, creating a boom for fintech payment companies.

Sustainable development:

  • We may also see some softer benefits, post the Covid crisis.
  • As work-from-home increases, it is an excellent opportunity for us to narrow down the economic gender gap.
  • As remote working and flexible schedules become the norm in corporates, it can now welcome more women and mothers planning to resume their careers.
  • With reduced international travel, as more video conferences and virtual meetings replace physical events and seminars, the carbon footprint could be reduced.
  • More “home-offices” will lead to lesser public commute and huge energy savings and hence less emissions.
  • This could be just the push our businesses needed to advance the sustainability agenda.

Conclusion:

  • Winston Churchill famously said after World War II, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
  • The current pandemic will test the resilience and agility of the Indian economy, but it will also throw up some new opportunities.
  • It is up to us to capitalize on them and emerge stronger on the other side of this pandemic.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About: Locusts

About: Locusts

  • Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers, that are about the length of 6-8 centimeters.
  • According to the FAO, eggs can hatch in about two weeks, with locusts maturing to adulthood in two to four months on average.
  • They multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150 km in one day), which can contain as many as 80 million locusts per square kilometer. Swarms can vary from less than 1 square kilometer in size to several hundred square kilometers.
  • Four species of locusts are found in India:
    • Desert locust (Schistocercagregaria)
    • Migratory locust (Locustamigratoria)
    • Bombay Locust (Nomadacrissuccincta)
    • Tree locust (Anacridium sp.)

Desert Locusts:

  • The desert locust does not cause any harm while it moves about independently.
  • These winged insects differ from normal hoppers, and become dangerous only when their populations build up rapidly and the close physical contact in crowded conditions triggers behavioural changes.
  • They, then, enter the “gregarious phase”, by grouping into bands and forming swarms that can travel great distances (up to 150 km daily), while eating up every bit of vegetation on the way.
  • One locust can consume its own weight in food each day.
  • The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.
  • As per some estimate, a small swarm of the desert locusts eats on average as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 people.
  • Threaten food security:
    • The Desert Locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India as well as internationally.
    • If not controlled at the right time, these insect swarms can threaten the food security of countries.

Hurt India recently:

  • During late 2019 and early 2020, locusts have caused great damage to the growing rabi crops along western Rajasthan and parts of northern Gujarat.

Hurting Africa this year:

  • Desert Locusts, the destructive migratory pests, are currently devouring acres of maize, sorghum and wheat crops in East Africa.
  • Kenya is already reporting its worst locust outbreak in 70 years, while Ethiopia and Somalia haven’t seen one this bad in quarter of a century.

Background:

  • It is common to see locusts in India, but normally only during July-October and mostly as solitary insects or in small isolated groups.
  • But this year, the desert locusts appeared along the India-Pakistan border before mid-April.
  • The crop-eating pests had first entered Rajasthan from Pakistan in the second week of April.

News Summary:

  • After Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the swarm of desert locusts has reached the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, locusts are feared to affect 17 districts.
  • It is highly concerning as a big swarm of locusts can eat acres of crop within an hour.

Measures to counter them:

  • To deal with the situation, Uttar Pradesh’s agriculture department has launched a massive drive to educate farmers on how to keep the locust menace at a bay.
  • In Agra, the district administration has deployed 204 tractors mounted with chemical sprays.
  • Drone usage permitted:
    • The aviation ministry has permitted state government entities to use drones for anti-locust operations.
    • Battery-operated rotary-wing drones will be used for aerial surveillance, photography, public announcements and/or aerial spraying of anti-locust pesticides.

Retributive justice Editorial 6th Dec’19 TheHindu

Headline : Retributive justice Editorial 6th Dec’19 TheHindu

Details :

Outcry for women’s safety after Hyderabad incident:

  • The heinous rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad in late November shook the collective conscience of India.
  • It resulted in an outcry for justice for the victim and outrage over the persisting lack of safety for women in public spaces.

Creates societal pressure on justice system for quick justice:

  • Such societal pressure for justice invariably weighs upon legal institutions, as the police are required to find the culprits immediately and the judiciary to complete the legal process without undue delay.

But rule of law and procedure must continue to be upheld:

  • But these institutions must uphold the rule of law and procedure even in such circumstances.

 

The ‘encounter’ of the accused was celebrated:

  • The killing of the four accused of the rape and murder of the veterinary doctor by the Hyderabad police was celebrated by people in Hyderabad and across India.

Shows anger against gruesome crimes as well as justice system:

  • The jubilation over the killings by the police stems from the public anger and anguish over the burgeoning crimes against women.
  • There is a perception that the legal institutions are ill-equipped to deal with such crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

 

However, the encounter raises questions:

  • The police claim that they killed the accused in self-defence does not sound fully convincing, and raises disturbing questions.

The encounter must be probed:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has deputed a fact-finding team to Hyderabad to probe the incident.
  • The guidelines set by the Supreme Court to deal with such events, including the need for an independent investigation, must be strictly observed.

 

Some improvements in justice system from earlier times for quick justice in gruesome cases:

  • There has been greater awareness and improvement in both the policing and judicial process following the ‘Nirbhaya’ case in December 2012 in New Delhi.
  • The Telangana government had, in this case as well, issued orders for setting up a fast-track court to try the four accused.
  • If the Hyderabad police had followed the successful prosecution similar to the Delhi case, this case could have also brought closure to the case in a time-bound manner.

Much more needs to be done:

  • However, much more needs to done in terms of registration and charge-sheeting of sexual crimes by police and addressing the pendency in court of such cases.
  • Existing laws on sexual crimes and punishment need better application.

 

But severe retribution cannot be justice:

  • In any case, recourse to brutal retribution as in the case of present ‘encounter’ is no solution.
  • On the contrary, the political sanction to deliver such swift retribution would only be a disincentive for the police to follow due process. It may even deter them from pursuing the course of justice.

 

Conclusion:

  • Far from ensuring justice to the victims, bending the law in such cases would only undermine people’s faith in the criminal justice system.
  • Justice in any civilised society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence, and in less serious crimes, rehabilitation of the offenders.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Polity

Section : Editorial Analysis

An independent fiscal watchdog for Parliament Editorial 21st Sep’19 TheHindu

Headline : An independent fiscal watchdog for Parliament Editorial 21st Sep’19 TheHindu

Details :

Access to all of good quality analysis on economic, fiscal or financial matters is important for democracy:

  • For an effective democracy, it is important for our electorate and the representatives to have an independent, non-partisan source for these hard facts and evidence.
  • This is particularly important for our Parliament, which controls where and how money flows into our government and our country.
  • But besides the few Ministers privy to expertise from the civil service, most parliamentarians do not benefit from timely access to good quality analysis on economic, fiscal or financial matters.

Need a non-partisan body like Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in India:

  • A non-partisan body needs to be appointed with expertise in budgetary, fiscal and economic matters.
  • Regardless of a majority or minority government, this body serves parliamentarians equally and without prejudice.
  • This body exists in many countries around the world, usually called as Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs).

 

Work of PBOs:

  • These bodies help shape the debate and discourse around the state of the nation’s finances and the fiscal implications of significant proposals.
  • The work done by PBOs helps drive smarter, more focused debate in the media and with our electorate.
  • Besides costing policies and programmes, PBOs provide significant and sometimes the sole source of information on fiscal and economic projections.
  • Another data point, different from the government’s, generated by an independent, non-partisan office, helps the parliamentarians to ensure that these projections and estimates continue to be reliable enough for them to make decisions on.

Example of how this body will be useful:

  • In the recent time, the Rafale deal controversy in India resulted from uncertainty regarding the true lifecycle costs of the aircraft bought.
  • If parliamentarians could access analysis, information and research about defence costing from a PBO (like they do in Canada), they could hold the government to account in case of any discrepancies.

 

Will there be conflict with the office of CAG?

  • A question that arises is the necessity of such an office when we already have an auditor general (CAG).
  • However, an Auditor General’s role is to provide retrospective audits and analysis of the financial accounts and performance of government operations. These audits are often focused on the day-to-day goings on of government, and often hone in on the performance of the civil service.
  • On the other hand, the PBO provides prospective, forward-looking economic and fiscal projections, as well as policy costings.
  • This distinguishes PBO it from an auditor general, which provides useful information, but only after the fact.

 

Examples of PBO like institutions internationally:

  • Internationally, offices like PBO have been established across the world.
  • The most prominent such office is the Congressional Budget Office in the United Stateswhich provides impartial advice to both the houses of the legislature.
  • Offices in the Netherlands, Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom have also been established for varying lengths of time.
  • PBOs are also making an appearance in emerging economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • Wider role in some countries:
    • In some countries, including Australia, the Netherlands, and most recently, Canada, PBOs have also been playing the role of costing electoral platforms during an election campaign.
    • In this period, PBOs provide independent cost estimates of electoral platform measures to political parties.

 

Way forward – India should consider having a PBO:

  • Legislatures across the world have witnessed an increasingly stronger executive try to wrest away its rightful power of the purse.
  • The amount of information parliamentarians need to scrutinise in Budget documents has exponentially increased and a PBO would assist parliamentarians in this process of scrutiny.
  • As the process toward the Union Budget 2020 has already kicked off, it would be relevant for parliamentarians to examine the case for a PBO more deeply.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: International Relations

Section : Editorial Analysis

Automobile industry: Analysis

Headline : Putting the pedal to the metal Editorial 6th Sep’19 TheHindu

Details :

Automobile industry:

  • The automobile industry is notoriously cyclical (that is, it sees frequent cycles of ups and downs).

It is also a lead indicator for economic growth.

  • The industry is also a lead indicator for economic growth.
  • It has been slowing down for about an year, indicating the signs of an impending slowdown.
  • The economic growth has also been seeing a decline since the last quarter of calendar year 2018 and intensified with the passage of every month in 2019.

Current auto industry downturn is a major worry:

  • While the industry goes through cycles of ups and downs, the current slowdown is something that must be taken more seriously.
  • The current downturn in the auto industry is the worst it has seen in a long, long time in terms of depth, scale and character.

How’s the current slowdown different from the usual cyclical downturns?

  • The downturn this time is all-encompassing: Every segment of the auto industry, beginning from two-wheelers to passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles, and even tractors, has been hit.
  • Downturn amplified by other factors: A potentially natural, cyclical downturn has been amplified by extraordinary circumstances unleashed by reform measures that may have been well-meaning but have impacted the sector negatively.
    • Case of commercial vehicle industry:
      • For example, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has helped in quicker turnaround of trucks. Operators were able to keep the trucks gainfully deployed for 25% more days in a month than before.
      • The government is now scrambling to contain the damage by retracting some of their earlier statements and reassuring the industry that the electric motor will not be privileged over the internal combustion engine but it has come too late. This raised existing carrying capacity by up to a quarter.
      • These two reform measures impacted the commercial vehicle (CV) industry and only served to advance the cyclical slowdown which was on its way.
    • Pollution norms:
      • The deadline for the transition to BS-VI norms (from BS-IV) has been set as April 1, 2020.
      • Dealers are saddled with inventory of BS-IV vehicles that they need to clear out before the deadline.
      • Freight operators are waiting for the steep discounts that are bound to come by as the deadline nears and are not in a hurry anyway to add new trucks given the slowdown in goods movement.
      • This also had a negative impact on the CV industry.
    • Little innovation by car manufacturers:
      • Between Maruti and Hyundai, the two big players that account for two-thirds of the industry, there have been hardly any exciting new launches in the last one year.
      • There have been facelifts and limited editions of existing models but the two biggies have not ventured into launching fresh models, at least until very recently.
      • In contrast, some new entrants into the market have seen huge interest and bookings, much more than expected.
  • Policy choices:
    • Finally, an unthinking approach to a critical policymaking area such as electric vehicles (eVs) has only intensified and prolonged the slowdown.
    • Key Ministers have tried to contain the damage by retracting earlier statements about eVs and reassuring the industry that the electric motor will not be privileged over the internal combustion engine (ICE) but it has come too late.

Way ahead for the industry

  • The onset of festival season sales and the impact of recent measures by the government may help the cycle play itself out soon.

Government can cut GST to quicken the turnaround:

  • The government can reduce GST on automobiles from 28% to 18%, even if only for BS-IV vehicles, as they are now lying around in stockyards of vehicle manufacturers and dealers.
  • For the industry, this will help clear the clogged pipeline.
  • For the government, it will help contain the fallout on its revenue as the lower rate will apply only on a limited stock and until a specified time (say till March 31).
  • Prospective buyers, of cars as much as CVs, are delaying their decision as the word is out that the government may consider a tax cut.
  • The rate cuts could be announce immediately, and it make a huge difference to the industry.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis

Bank merger announcement is a needless distraction Editorial 5th Sep’19 IndianExpress

Headline : Bank merger announcement is a needless distraction Editorial 5th Sep’19 IndianExpress

Details :

Public Sector Bank (PSB) merger:

  • In a major reform measure, the Union Finance Ministry has announced the merger of 10 public sector banks (PSBs) into four entities.

Seen as a response to slowdown:

  • The announcement comes in the wake of growth sinking to a six-year low, and was meant to be seen as a big bang response to arresting the slowdown.

Criticism of the move

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In the short term, it will not help in improving the growth rates:

  • Some critics of the move say that the merger is actually a needless distraction.
  • In the short-term, the mergers will contribute nothing towards engineering a turnaround of the economy.
  • Divert banks’ attention from NPAs and Credit growth: Worse still, the administrative and logistic challenges of mergers will divert the mind space of bank managements away from their most pressing task at the moment — of managing the NPAs and aggressively looking for lending opportunities.
  • Divert resources away from actual banking: Also, at the lower levels, bank staff will be worrying about their jobs and career prospects while adapting to a new banking culture and new practices at a time when they should be giving their undivided attention to scouting for borrowers and improving service delivery.

In the long term, will the mergers be a net positive?

  • It is not unambiguously clear if the mergers will be a net positive in the long term. 
  • While mergers of banks motivated purely by business considerations lead to efficiency gains, it remains debatable whether the government forced bank mergers are a good thing .

Long-term benefits of mergers:

  • Cost efficiency: On the positive side, large banks will entail cost advantages by way of economies of scale such as centralised back office processing, elimination of branch overlap, savings in IT and other fixed costs etc.
  • Finance large projects: Large banks will also be able to finance large projects on their own even while staying within the prudential lending norms imposed by the regulator.

Shortcomings of mergers:

  • Creation of more banks too big to fail:
    • The biggest argument against big banks is that they can become too big to fail (this means government will be forced to bail them out in every crisis and it encourages irresponsible behaviour by big banks).
    • The financial sector is all inter-connected and a risk in any part of the system is a risk to the entire system. If a large bank were to fail, it could bring down the whole financial sector with it, as was evident from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which triggered the global financial crisis. No country can therefore afford the failure of a big bank.
    • The proposed mergers will increase this “too big to fail risk”.

PSBs played an important role in independent India:

  • Banks were nationalised 50 years ago in a different era, in a different context.
  • PSBs rendered commendable service to the nation by deepening bank penetration into the hinterland and implementing a variety of anti-poverty programmes.
  • Financial intermediation by PSBs is one of the factors responsible for India moving from low income to a low middle income country.

But are Public Sector Banks needed anymore?

  • While acknowledging the contribution of PSBs, it needs to be asked if we still need PSBs.
  • Some experts say that the financial sector is wide enough and deep enough to take care of financial intermediation without the government at the steering wheel.
  • Meanwhile, the government could use its mind and time on more important things.

Way towards $5-trillion economy

  • There is wide consensus that today’s economic slowdown is due both to cyclical and structural factors.

Cyclical response:

  • By way of cyclical response, the RBI has cut rates and the government has announced a few measures like frontloading expenditures and cutting some taxes.
  • The RBI will probably cut rates further and the government will follow on with some more measures.
  • However, the most these can do is to lift the growth rate to its potential but that will not make us a $5-trillion economy.

Structural reforms:

  • We will become a $5-trillion economy not by growing at our current potential growth rate but by raising it.
  • That requires structural reforms.
  • Structural measures will take time to work their way through the system.
  • But even the announcement effect of structural reforms can have a big impact.
  • Taking PSBs out of government control:
    • For example, the government can put out a roadmap for giving up its majority stake in PSBs.
    • It will go a long way in shoring up sentiment and getting us off the block to a $5-trillion economy.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economics

Section : Editorial Analysis

Science for disaster management Editorial 31st Aug’19 TimesOfIndia

Headline : Science for disaster management Editorial 31st Aug’19 TimesOfIndia

Details :

Managing disaster and emergency risks:

  • In an increasingly interconnected world, disaster and emergency risks are becoming more complex and difficult to manage.
  • Therefore, it is critically important to optimise the application of scientific and technological capabilities to understand, reduce and manage disaster and emergency risks.

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Use of science and technology:

  • Over the last 20 years, science and technology have brought a deeper understanding of how disaster risks are created and how they can be managed.
  • We now have reliable information on hazard patterns, data on people (their exposure to hazards), capital assets and economic activity.
  • We also have a much greater understanding of fragility or vulnerability of people, assets and systems.
  • This can be seen from the huge improvements in various things like
    • Forecasting extreme climate and weather events
    • Our improved understanding of disasters (like earthquakes and landslides)
    • Our ability to model risks and anticipate the impact of disasters even before reaching the disaster site

Increased outreach to scientific community:

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is reaching out to the scientific community and working towards a futuristic agenda for disaster risk management in the country.

However, challenges remain in application of Science & Technology:

  • At the systemic level, there are two principal challenges worth highlighting.
  1. On-the-ground application of technology:
  • There is still a time lag between the availability of scientific and technological capability and its on-the-ground application.
  • For example, mobile computing has been around for more than a decade, yet few post-disaster damage assessments make full use of the technology to come up with quick, rigorous and geo-referenced assessments.
  • Similarly, new products and technologies are emanating from the defence establishment that may be useful in disaster response, but their usage is minimal.
  1. Giving right direction to scientific development:
  • The second challenge is on the scientific development side.
  • We need to ensure that research is focussed on developing methodologies and tools that respond to real-world challenges and facilitate the shift from disaster management to disaster risk management.
  • In this context, there have been some positives in India as it has pursued the application of science and technology for disaster risk management.
  • For example, India has systematically pursued the application of space-based technologies for disaster risk management.
  • Our national system of science has also continually evolved over the years to meet the needs of disaster risk management professionals.
    • For example, some years ago, a number of scientific disciplines were brought together under the umbrella of ministry of earth sciences.

Principles for the next generation of our scientific efforts for disaster risk management:

  • We now have to look at the next generation of our scientific efforts to address disaster risk management challenges.
  • The next generation of scientific efforts need to be guided by the following three principles:
  • Sharper definition of disaster risk management problems:
    • We need a sharper definition of disaster risk management problems to galvanise scientific efforts that lead to progress.
    • With disaster risk management maturing in India, should be possible to articulate specific requirements from the scientific community.
  • Search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions:
    • While promoting the application of science for disaster risk management at the local level, we should search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions.
    • In most parts of the country and indeed the world, disaster risks are building up at an alarming rate.
    • Our ambition must match the scale of the problem.
  • Multi-disciplinary approach:
    • We need to enlarge the scope of multi-disciplinary work.
      • For example, this may include seismologists interacting with landslide experts, flash flood experts and meteorologists.
    • We need to study the interaction between hazards, current and future exposure (population, property and economic activity), and vulnerability.
    • This will require multi-disciplinary effort that will push us beyond our comfort zones.

Technology should be complemented by deeper understanding of social and economic processes:

  • Over the last few years, there is a lot of enthusiasm for application of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for disaster risk management.
  • However, we must recognise that these technologies are not a substitute for a deeper understanding of social and economic processes that make our society vulnerable.

Good risk governance practices should not be overlooked:

  • Technology can be complementary, but is not a substitute for the fundamental principles of good risk governance characterised by a responsive government and a risk-aware community.
  • The new methods and tools should supplement and not supplant the time tested practices of good disaster risk management.

Way ahead – Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure:

  • In this context, India, with UK and other partners, will be launching a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
  • The Coalition would prove to be a key milestone towards further strengthening our collaboration.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Disaster Management

Section : Editorial Analysis

A road map to transforming India’s energy Editorial 30th Aug’19 HindustanTimes

Headline : A road map to transforming India’s energy Editorial 30th Aug’19 HindustanTimes

Details :

India progressing:

  • Forty years ago, India barely had a car manufacturer, was way behind in the space race, and had an insignificant IT sector.
  • Today, India is the world’s fourth largest car manufacturer, and is set to become only the fourth country to land on the moon.
  • These achievements should be applauded, but India is just getting started.

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India should play a significant role the energy sector:

  • India today has a golden opportunity to play a prominent role in global energy as well.

Energy and economic development:

  • Energy and economic development have been deeply intertwined.
  • Access to affordable and reliable energy is fundamental to reducing poverty, improving health, increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and achieving social justice.
  • In the last 30 years, India’s GDP has increased nearly tenfold, while the energy consumption over that period grew nearly 400% (with around 8% last year).

India to overtake China in energy consumption:

  • By some estimates, global energy demand seems set to increase by a third.
  • By some estimates, India will overtake China as the largest growth market for energy by the mid-2020s.
  • This is significant, given that around 30% of the Indian population does not have access to modern sources of energy.

Concerns over emissions:

  • More energy consumption tends to lead to more emissions.
  • By 2040, India’s share of global emissions seems set to rise from around 7% to 13%, despite the great ambition shown from the government to address climate change.

Dual challenge of increasing energy needs and reducing emissions:

  • More energy to improve lives, but with fewer emissions to help address climate change — is what we call the dual challenge.

India can play a leading role in addressing the dual challenge:

  • India has the entrepreneurialism, ingenuity and a can-do attitude as well as the tools to reset its energy mix with the low-carbon fuel and power, and reimagine energy.

Ways to achieve this:

  • Developing India’s domestic gas production:
    • Good for economy:
      • There exists huge opportunity with natural gas, in which India has a domestic resource potential of more than 100 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), which includes conventional, unconventional, and yet-to-find gas.
      • This resource base has the potential to meet up to 50% of anticipated demand for gas through to 2050.
      • So, developing India’s domestic gas production will help reduce energy imports, enable more investment and create jobs.
    • Good for environment:
      • Natural gas also has a lower carbon intensity per unit of energy than coal in power generation, and offers significant benefits for air quality.
      • Longer term, natural gas can be used to produce hydrogen, and decarbonised using carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS).
  • Ramping up renewables:
    • There is also a big opportunity in renewables, where there are large untapped solar and wind resources.
    • Cost of renewables is becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels.
    • As such, these renewable resources could be further maximised to meet the three to four-fold power demand growth expected in India by 2050.
    • They would progressively displace coal in electricity generation, which is important as coal emits about twice as much carbon emissions than gas.
  • Decarbonising mobility:
    • There is a third opportunity with vehicle electrification and the substitution of liquid fuels with CNG or LNG.
    • Costs of light-duty electric car (on a total cost of ownership basis) could converge with conventional vehicles from 2035, and EVs (two and three-wheeler) are close to cost parity today.
    • CNG is already competitive in medium and heavy-duty vehicles and LNG is attractive for long-distance trucking.
  • Driving digital innovation:
    • India also has opportunity in digital innovation, which could help to optimise the energy system and reduce energy demand by as much as 18% by 2050.
    • There are opportunities in the field of transport, through autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and intelligent traffic management systems.
    • There are opportunities in buildings (through smart homes), in industry (through connected devices and advanced analytics), in transmission and distribution (though smart grid technologies) etc.

Conclusion:

  • With these initiatives, India could position itself as a leader in the energy transition.
  • India could help address the dual challenge of increasing energy needs and reducing emissions:

Importance:

GS Paper III: EconomySection : Editorial Analysis

India’s water crisis: All stakeholders must come together Editorial 29th Aug’19 HindustanTimes

Headline : India’s water crisis: All stakeholders must come together Editorial 29th Aug’19 HindustanTimes

Details :

Water stress in India:

  • India is home to 17% of world’s population, but has only 4% of the world’s fresh water resources.
  • At present, 75% of Indian households do not have access to drinking water, and close to 90% of rural households have no access to piped water.
  • India is a water-stressed country, and with 1,544 cubic metre per capita annual availability, we are advancing towards becoming water-scarce.
  • Five of the world’s 20 largest cities under water stress are in India.
  • As per the Economic Survey 2018-19, by 2050, India will be extremely susceptible to water insecurity.

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Economic cost of environmental degradation:

  • There are some other aspects that pertain to the economic cost of environmental degradation that India is faced with.
  • A 2018 World Bank study pegged the cost of environmental degradation to India at approximately $80 billion per year, which amounts to around 5.7% of our GDP.
  • Further, an environment survey of 178 countries ranked India at 155.
  • This is extremely worrying, especially since among the BRIC nations, India ranked last.

Water management crucial for India’s future

  • Water and its management will determine India’s ability to achieve high economic growth, ensure environmental sustainability, and improve the quality of life.

NITI’s Composite water management index (CWMI) tracking States’ efforts:

  • State-led efforts to manage water have been assessed and shared by the NITI Aayog, which has developed the composite water management index (CWMI).
  • States are ranked on the management of water and progress in 28 indicators relating to water management.

Community management of water needed:

  • Community management of water will be crucial if India is to become water secure.
  • For local community driven initiatives, work on community engagement has begun.

Corporations can also play a key role:

  • Corporate sector has been playing a role in driving innovation in many sectors.
  • Given the magnitude of the challenges India faces, there is a growing role for leading enterprises to help meet development targets.
  • In water management, corporations must can a more active role in using their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts towards innovation and conservation of water, along with the dissemination of proven practices that help conserve and harness water recharge.
  • Corporations should ensure that their CSR commitment and sustainability initiatives are effective and pervasive enough to make a substantial impact.

Examples of effective initiatives by corporations:

  • There are flag bearers for conservation efforts among Indian and multinational corporations, and their efforts must be emulated across the board.
  • ITC’s integrated water management:
    • ITC’s integrated water management approach has been a successful initiative.
    • Today, ITC’s integrated watershed development programme covers over one million acres spread across 15,000 water harvesting structures, benefiting over 300,000 people in 43 districts across 16 states.
    • This initiative has generated over six million person-days of employment within project villages, reducing levels of distress migration.
    • It is now extended to implement four large-scale river basin regeneration projects for achieving water balance and year-round environmental flows in select sub-basins in Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Pilot programme on water use efficiency in agriculture:
      • In addition, a pilot programme at scale on “water use efficiency in agriculture” is also being promoted to enable effective demand-side management.
      • This initiative has yielded water savings of 20% to 45% in crops like sugarcane, wheat, rice and banana.
  • Tata’s Water Mission:
    • Tata’s Water Mission aims to provide better access to pure water for six million people spread across 7,000 villages in 12 states, by 2020.
    • Key focus areas are to improve access to safe water and sanitation, and to make a difference through rigorous and technologically advanced interventions.
  • Pepsico’s sustainability agenda:
    • Under its 2025 sustainability agenda, Pepsico is said to aim for a global improvement in water use efficiency in high water risk areas of its direct agricultural supply chain by 15% by 2025.
  • Mahindra Hariyali programme:
    • Mahindra too is doing extensive work under its Mahindra Hariyali programme.
    • As its climate change resistance movement, the initiative is a social upsurge where tree planting is not merely a duty, but, in fact, is termed a celebration.
    • Since 2007, this initiative has achieved a target of planting 16 million saplings. 

Corporations must make water conservation and management their top CSR concern:

  • Many of the CSR activities currently are geared towards water conservation and management.
  • But now they need to make it a top priority rather than one of the many avenues where CSR initiatives are undertaken.

Conclusion:

  • Water is a critical resource and community water management is a must.
  • This will range from corporate engagement to smaller scale community initiatives, to individual efforts.
  • Now, the entire ecosystem must work in a cooperative manner to ensure India’s water conservation efforts are forward-thinking, while leveraging synergies from the State, corporations, and the community as a whole.

Importance:

GS Paper III: EconomySection : Editorial Analysis

Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Headline : Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Details :

PM announcing the creation of CDS:

  • One of the most significant announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day in 2019 is the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • The CDS is expected to be a four-star military officer, who would act as the single point adviser to the government on military matters.
  • The CDS would also coordinate amongst the three services and bridge the differences.
  • The appointment of the CDS will make the armed forces more effective. 
  • The CDS should be one with a good understanding of the global security environment and functioning of the three services. 

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Significance of having a CDS:

  • Modern military battles cannot be fought by each service fighting independently. 
  • The present Indian Armed Forces are colonial constructs and were configured primarily to serve the interest of their colonial masters during the great wars. 
  • The restructuring of armed forces, therefore, is required necessarily as the future wars are going to be short intense affairs where all organs of the state are likely to be employed simultaneously. 
  • Such a scenario would require unity of command, which is feasible only when the country has a unified command structure led by the CDS. 
  • Office of CDS has been a long pending demand of the defence forces. It was also recommended by both the Kargil Review Committee led by K Subrahmanyam in 1999, as well as the Committee of Experts set up by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of General D B Shekatkar. 

Earlier efforts at creating a CDS:

  • The Kargil Review Committee had recommended a CDS as well as a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS).
  • A group of ministers headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister examined it and recommended CDS with a tri-service joint planning staff. 
  • Accordingly, the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) was created in 2001. 

They failed as bureaucrats created hurdles:

  • Despite the importance of the office of CDS, political insecurities and bureaucratic stranglehold over the Ministry of Defence have prevented it from coming into effect.
  • In 2001, the bureaucrats succeeded in stalling the appointment of the CDS by creating the perception that it would be far easier for a CDS to stage a coup. 
  • Consequently, an anomalous situation was created wherein the HDQIDS has been functioning without a head for the past 18 years.
  • Ineffective office of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) was created:
  • The VCDS was reconfigured to create the office of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC).
  • The absence of the CDS has limited the ability of CISC to mediate between the three services.
  • More significantly, being lower in rank, he could not find acceptance as the sole adviser to the government in a rigidly hierarchical organisation like the military.

Making CDS effective:

  • Access to highest levels: For the CDS to be effective, he must have direct access to the defence minister and through him to the prime minister.
  • Non-rotational appointments: The post of CDS should not be a rotational appointment; the government must select one after interviewing top officials of the three services.
  • Also, to begin with, all defence land and capital budget must be put under the CDS and appointments in inter-service organisations must be made essential for further promotions. 
  • The government may take inspiration from the US Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act and push the three services.

Challenges:

  • Despite the PM’s announcement, it is not going to be a smooth affair. 
  • Bureaucratic resistance: The bureaucrats afraid of losing their salience will create bottlenecks. 
  • Services resistance: On top of that, individual services, afraid of losing their turf, are bound to resist the CDS’s involvement in their affairs. 

It should be followed by Integrated Theatre Commands

  • The mere creation of the office is not enough. 
  • This will need to be augmented by restructuring of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and creating integrated theatre commands. 

Conclusion:

  • After the reorganisation of MoD and establishment of theatre commands, they should directly be responsible to the defence minister through the CDS for all combat operations. 
  • Each service chief should majorly be responsible for equipping, organising and training of the forces. 
  • The creation of the CDS will need to be followed up with further reforms to reconfigure the armed forces to meet India’s aspirations to be a global power.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Defence & Security

Section : Defence & Security