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ENERGY SECTOR AND LAW: A CRITIQUE OF CONTEMPORARY POLICIES

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India witnesses spike in solar, decline in coal

I. INTRODUCTION

The energy sector is one of the most essential and crucial parts of the Indian economy. For the development and growth of India, new policies new legislations are necessary for the welfare of the nations and the growth of the Indian economy. The demand for electricity in the country is increasing. If we compare, India’s power sector is diversified compared to so many developing countries where “Natural Gas” and “Renewables” play an essential role. India ranked sixth in the list of countries to make significant investments in clean energy at US$ 90 billion. Out of 25 nations that measure overall power, India ranked fourth in the Asia Pacific region. Furthermore, India ranked fifth in renewable power, fourth in wind power, fifth in solar energy according to the Installed capacity index 2018. With the rapidly increasing demand for electricity, India ranked 26th in the World Bank list accessibility in 2017. The Government of India (GOI) focuses on the “Power for all” policy. By 2022, 114 GW is estimated to contribute by solar energy, 67 GW from wind power and biomass and hydropower; it’s approximately 15 GW. Furthermore, by 2022 the target for renewable energy is also increasing by 227 GW. By October 2020 total installed capacity of power stations increased to 373.43 GW, and electricity production reached 1252.61 billion in FY20. The present paper analyses two current policies of the government, the EV (electricity vehicles) policy through which it aims to achieve a target where 70% of all the commercial cars, 30 % of private vehicles, and 80% two-wheeler ( 2W) and three-wheeler by 2030 but there are severe flaws as far as setting up the infrastructure is concerned due to a weak financial standing. The second part of the paper critiques the government’s Solar Power policy because of its heavy dependence on China’s hostile neighbour for raw material imports.

II. EV VEHICLES POLICY CRITIQUE

Electric vehicles are a rage in the modern automotive industry, with Tesla Inc. changing the market dynamics of the automotive industry with its ballooning valuation and swelling innovation in the EV market, which is forcing the existing automotive leaders like Volkswagen, General Motors, Toyota etc. to innovate and setting deadlines to switch to EV completely. Hence, it becomes imperative to look at the Indian EV market, especially the current laws and policies operating in India and their viability.

III. THE CURRENT INDIAN MARKET

The Indian EV market is still nascent, having a market share of 0.47 % in the Four-wheeler vehicle industry as of 2019. However, the government has announced some critical strategies towards adopting EVs in the Indian market. The government aims at 100% adoption of EV by 2030. In furtherance towards EV development, the central government had initiated the “Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME)” scheme for two years at an authorised disbursement of Rs. 795 Crore in the year 2015. Further, it was protracted until September 2018 and was concentrated on “technology development, demand creation, pilot projects and charging infrastructure.” In phase II of ‘FAME’, it was intentioned to increase the monetary backing of Rs further. 8,730 Cr for three years. The government shall be principally targeting the placement of electric buses plying in the Indian markets.

The NITI Aayog, in its 2020 report, stated that “India’s electric vehicle financing industry projected to be worth Rs 3.7 lakh crore in 2030.” Some of the government’s effective plans include setting up infrastructure for 69,000 EV charging stations across India, charging stations at every 25 km, taxation benefits for EVs, etc. The Supreme court (SC) has also stated the importance of EVs, especially about the environment. So, it can be perceived that the Indian government is determined about the adoption of EVs in the Indian market.

IV. RELIANCE ON DISCOMS FOR EV

The Electricity sector in India falls under the concurrent list of the Indian constitution and is managed by the central and state governments concurrently. The Electricity distribution companies in India (Discom) are driven mainly by the state governments and are mostly government-owned companies. However, they aren’t the producers of electricity. Discoms procure electricity from the producers and then retail it in the market through their distribution infrastructure.

In the EV policies of the Indian government, discoms play a critical role. In its “Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles – Guidelines and Standards”, the Ministry of Power stated that the Discoms are responsible for facilitating the charging points for EVs in Offices and private residences. Similarly, the guidelines proposed that Discoms shall be the default Nodal agency in a state to set up infrastructure for charging, subject to the state governments discretion. Similarly, under the “Amendments in Model Building Bye-Laws (MBBL – 2016) for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure”, most of the aspects relating to charging, inspection, certification etc., of charging stations are the responsibility Discoms. Hence, the discoms play a vital role in developing EVs in India.

However, as can be seen in the next section, the Discom companies are operationally inefficient and financially unhealthy even to complete their existing duties.

V. THE DISCOM ISSUE

One of the essential requirements for the successful setting-up of EV infrastructure in India is the healthy condition of discoms. Discoms in India has been facing heavy debts, which in FY2022 is in the tune of Rs. 6 trillion. To correct this massive debt, the government of India launched the “The Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY scheme)” in November 2015. UDAY envisioned that state governments are taking over seventy-five per cent of the utilities’ debts, thus reducing the interest burden on the discoms. In turn, the discoms were to progress their monetary and operative parameters through various reformative measures and turn out to be financially healthy companies.

However, the objectives of UDAY were never fulfilled as the debts of the discoms decreased. Until now, only seven states, including HP, AP, TN, Gujarat, Kerala, Telangana & Goa, have enumerated losses under 15 %, and the remaining states have been unsuccessful in accomplishing even these numbers.

UDAY also necessitates income to lower the gap amongst “average cost of supply and average revenue realised to zero.” Instead of dropping the opening, most states like the then J&K, Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Goa — have widened the gap in the previous few years. A study shows that even after four years of the implementation of the Scheme, the debts of these discoms companies were as of that of pre-2015 level. Most studies have concluded that the Discom scheme was a failure. The Ministry of power, in March 2020, has announced the formulation of the revamped system, UDAY 2.0, for yet again resurrecting the Discoms. Still, as of March 2021, no new constructive steps have been taken by the central government in that regard.

VI. REFORM OR PRIVATISE: A WAY AHEAD

Instead of reforms in discoms, the government has intended to privatise them to increase their efficiency. However, this push for privatisation has been met with stiff opposition by State governments, employees and opposition parties.

The Ministry of power has introduced a Standard Bidding Document (SBD) which envisions permanent privatisation of Discoms in India. The contentious terms of the SBD are:

a. “Employees of the existing distribution licensee shall be transferred to the successor entity.”

b. “Assets of the existing distribution licensee, other than land, will be transferred to the new entity at Net Asset Value. Land owned or in possession of the existing distribution licensee shall be provided to the successor entity on the right to use basis at nominal charges.”

These terms proposed in the SBD for the privatisation of income directly contradict many Supreme court’s (SC) judgements.

InBCPP Mazdoor Sangh & Anr v. NTPC, wherein the employees of NTPC were transferred to the BALCO (which was being privatised), the SC held: “It is clear that no employee could be transferred without his consent from one employer to another. The government or its instrumentality cannot alter the conditions of service of its employee.”

In Jawaharlal Nehru University v. K.S Jawatkar, it was observed that “the position in law is clear, that no employee can be transferred, without his consent, from one employer to another.”

In H.L Trehan v. Union of India, it was held, “It is now a well-established principle of law that there can be no deprivation or curtailment of any existing right, advantage or benefit enjoyed by a Government servant without complying with the rules of natural justice by giving the Government servant concerned an opportunity of being heard. Any arbitrary or whimsical exercise of power prejudicially affecting the existing conditions of service of a Government servant will offend against the provision of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.”

Therefore, the provision by the government in the SBD wherein the employees will be transferred to the transferee company unilaterally by the government violates the tenets of natural justice and is violative of the SC mandate.

Further, under Sec.131 (2), “Electricity Act 2003”, it specifies that: “Provided that the value of the transfer of any assets transferred hereunder shall be determined, as far as may be based on the revenue potential of such assets….” Consequently, any rule by the government in which the assets shall be sold at “Net Asset Value” and the Land assets will be sold-off at minimal charges is violative of the provisions of the “Electricity Act, 2003.”

Furthermore, under Sec. 22 (2)(m), “The Electricity Regulatory Commissions Act, 1998”, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) is mandated by parliament to assess the net value of the assets of the Discoms. However, as stated, the power sectors in every state are running into losses to the tune of thousands of crores. By looking at the contemporary times, mainly due to the COVID-19 recession, the states will face extreme financial hardships to assess the net worth of the discoms.

VII. ANALYSIS OF INDIAN SOLAR POLICY

Paris Declaration on the ISA 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former French President Francois Hollande announced the launch of the International Solar Alliance at the 21st session of the UN climate change conference of the parties (COP-21) to promote and promote solar energy efficiently. ISA is a treaty agreement of solar-rich nations between the tropic of cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The funding is received from members of ISA, partner countries, the private sector and the UN. As of now, eighty-nine countries have signed the agreement, and seventy-two have submitted their instruments of ratification. The primary goal of the framework agreement is to bring down the solar cost and mobilise more than $1,000 billion by 2030. In the Energy investment meeting an expo 2020, PM had urged global investors to join the production linked incentive scheme for manufacturing high-efficiency solar power modules in the county.

India’s Dependence on China (a Hostile Neighbour) for Solar Equipment

India’s solar sector is heavily dependent on China to import solar equipment. Solar modules account for 60% of any solar project’s cost, and Chinese firms supply about 80% of such solar modules to India. “India is dependent mainly on China for 80-90 per cent of the solar equipment required for meeting the ambitious target by 2022,” i.e., out of total import worth $1.5 billion, $1.2 billion is imported from China. For FY20, the aggregate value of the solar cell or photovoltaic imports stood at $1,525.8. Low prices, as stated above, is one of the reasons why India’s heavily relied on supply from Chinese companies. As the Minister of renewable energy, RK Singh, said, “The solar panels or modules imported from China are generally cheaper than those produced by domestic manufacturers”.

Such heavy dependence on a county with which we do not have cordial diplomatic relations poses a threat to the very aim of India’s solar power mission. Narendra Taneja, an Energy expert, observed, “it is not smart that India should be dependent upon imports”. He raised concerns regarding 40 GW of the capacity that is bid out or auctioned; the process involves investments of about Rs. 2 lakh crore for acquiring the solar modules.

It is always unsettling to see India’s contemporary discourse, and it is nothing less than trouble for policymakers. “It is an ever-growing power asymmetry, the uncertainty of future intentions and a fluid geopolitical context that surrounds the relationship”. India lags on every primary material indicator – or comprehensive national strength as the Chinese call it – by a margin that is not surmountable in the foreseeable future. This differential of power has widened in the past decade, which might explain a part of the crisis in the relationship and China’s reluctance to adopt a different Indian policy in the absence of any compelling reason to do so. If we look at what Chinese strategists say, there is an unwillingness to bet on India’s future foreign policy. The dominant belief among Chinese scholars seems to be that India has already chosen the other side or has crossed a tipping point. There is a massive power gap between the two counties, “there is probably no international example of a modus vivendi under such circumstances where one rising power has raced substantially ahead of another rising power”. That being mentioned, the contentious territorial issues only worsens the situation and increase apprehension.

With this amount of apprehension and lack of confidence, entirely depending on our Power policy on imports from China that too without any alternate recourse in or backup, is nothing short of a policy blunder. It is essential to mention that China has neither ratified the ISA nor signed it. Therefore, India has no legal protection or recourse if a crisis arises between the two countries.

As far as India’s domestic manufacturers are concerned, Adani Green, Vikram Solar, Waare Energy, Tata Power Solar etc., have a capacity of appx 8 GW to manufacture modules which is the main component of solar equipment. Most companies have a meagre manufacturing capacity and are dependent on imports from China. The solar power market sees widespread developments in the technology, which prevents local manufacturers from investing in advanced research and development to offer upgraded production standards due to lower returns.

Government’s Plans to Switch to Alternative Sources

The minister informed that the solar industry would switch to alternate sources or domestic suppliers following the coronavirus outbreak and was not compelled to import from china. Further, the government is promoting solar equipment manufacturing by domestic suppliers through schemes such as M-SIPS, PM-KUSUM, CPSU scheme, grid-connected rooftop solar programme, and by setting up photovoltaic manufacturing units.

Increasing the essential customs duty (BCD) looks like an effective recourse given the anti china mood in the country. JMK research finds “with ongoing border issues; 20% of the BCD will likely be applicable on imported solar modules instead of 10%”. Therefore safeguard duty can bring a drop in imports from China.

To further decrease import dependence on china and boost domestic manufacturing, India had imposed a 25 % SGD on Solar imports from China and Malaysian 2018, which was reduced to 20% and 15% in the years 2020 and 2021, respectively. Additionally, to lower the cost of interest charged to the developers of domestically manufactured equipment, financing from IREDA( Indian Renewable energy development agency), REC (rural electrification corporation) and Power finance corporation will be structured.

VIII. CONCLUSION

The government of India has ambitious policies regarding the embracing of EVs in India and becoming a world leader in the renewable energy sector. This can be stipulated from the fact that India is facing rising environmental and energy concerns. India is an energy-hungry nation, with most of its current energy requirements fulfilled by imports. The adoption of EVs shall improve the balance of payments for India, which suffers quite a drain due to energy imports. However, Discoms will play a crucial role in this development. As discussed in this paper, the government’s current policies for the revival of discoms are ineffective at best and unsuccessful at worst. Further, the government’s policies in promoting EVs rely heavily on the discoms. Hence, it is suggested that the government reformulate and restrategise its policies towards the functioning of discoms. A financially weak and inefficiently functioning discom industry shall play a massive hurdle towards the government’s ambitions to develop the EV industry in India.

The solar policy and mission of the International solar alliance will not be an overstatement to say that this policy will be nothing short of a blunder because of its heavy dependence on imports from China, which is a hostile neighbour and cannot be trusted. Entirely basing so big a project on a fragile diplomatic relation poses a threat to India’s credibility at both national and international levels. It is suggested that the government must divert all its efforts and resources in boosting the manufacturing capacity of domestic developers to reduce its dependence on China significantly. Further, unless the alternatives are put in place, the government must execute an agreement with China to have legal recourse in crisis cases.

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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar

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The newly established National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) has received authorization to export 14,92,800 tonnes of non-Basmati rice to 16 countries and 50,000 tonnes of sugar to two countries, as disclosed by Cooperation Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Functioning under the ambit of the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, the NCEL, registered in January this year, operates across agriculture, allied activities, handloom, and handicraft items. With an objective to double its revenue by 2025 from the present Rs 2,160 crore, the entity has actively enrolled numerous cooperatives, garnering 2,581 membership applications from 22 states and Union Territories.

Minister Amit Shah emphasized that NCEL’s primary objective is to create an export-friendly environment, particularly for agricultural commodities, leveraging India’s comparative advantage in these sectors. The cooperative body welcomes the participation of cooperative societies, from grassroots to apex levels, interested in engaging in export activities.

The key focus of NCEL remains on utilizing the surplus available within the Indian cooperative sector by accessing global markets. This strategic expansion aims to enhance the demand for Indian cooperative products on an international scale, ensuring better price realizations for these goods and services.

NCEL’s operational scope encompasses a comprehensive ecosystem to promote exports, spanning procurement, storage, processing, marketing, branding, labelling, packaging, certification, research and development, and trading across all goods and services produced by cooperative societies.

Moreover, the cooperative export body intends to facilitate cooperatives in availing benefits from various export-related schemes and policies curated by different ministries, streamlining and enhancing their export endeavours.

The establishment of NCEL underscores a concerted effort to leverage cooperative strengths in India’s export landscape, promising to amplify market reach and economic returns for agricultural commodities and allied sectors through strategic global engagements.

The initiative by the Cooperation Minister, Amit Shah, signifies a concerted push to empower cooperative societies in India’s export realm. By extending export permissions for substantial quantities of non-Basmati rice and sugar, the National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) is poised to facilitate a significant leap in the global market for agricultural produce.

This move aligns with India’s broader objective to bolster its global trade footprint, leveraging the competitive edge of its agricultural sector. Through NCEL, the aim is not only to foster increased export volumes but also to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic gains, channelling the benefits back to the grassroots level of cooperative societies.

Moreover, the strategic focus of NCEL on diverse export-related activities, including procurement, storage, branding, and research, speaks volumes about the comprehensive approach taken to fortify the entire export ecosystem. This encompassing strategy, coupled with NCEL’s commitment to guiding cooperatives in navigating export-related policies and schemes, underscores a forward-thinking approach aimed at creating a conducive environment for cooperative-driven exports.

The enthusiasm surrounding NCEL’s permissions signals a transformative phase for India’s cooperative sector. By leveraging cooperative strengths and fostering a global market presence, the initiative not only aims to boost export figures but also promises to uplift local communities, thereby enhancing the socio-economic fabric of the country.

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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968

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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968

Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022

In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.

As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.

This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.

It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.

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Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh

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Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh

The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.

Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.

The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.

Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.

Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.

Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.

Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.

Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.

The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.

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DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH

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DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.

Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.

Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.

The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.

The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.

A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.

Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.

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Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity

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Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity

The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.

The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.

Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.

Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.

Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.

Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.

The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.

While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.

Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.

In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.

The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.

Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.

In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.

Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.

Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.

The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.

Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.

Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.

For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.

The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.

Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.

Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.

India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.

Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.

Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.

His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.

Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.

Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.

Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.

Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.

Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.

After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.

Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.

Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.

Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.

He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.

He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.

Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.

“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.

Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.

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