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PoK faces eco issues due to resource exploitation

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Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is facing serious environmental challenges due to rampant exploitation of natural resources and deforestation by Islamabad. Locals in occupied territory have raised concern over the indiscrimi nate felling of trees for timber as it is leading to environmental degrada tion and unusually warm temperatures in the illegally-occupied region. Former administrator of Muzaffarabad District Council Khursheed Hussain Ki yani blamed the rampant destruction of natural resources that left the already frag ile ecology on a brink, but the Pakistan government has continued to ignore their plight. “The conservation of trees is important. The felling of trees is leading to hot temperatures. The tree felling should be stopped. It is the most important issue to preserve the forests,” he said. “Lot of promises were made that the government will create artificial lakes in the region, but no lakes were constructed,” he added. Kiyani also voiced concern that the government has failed to make provi sions for accommodation and other facilities to attract tourists to the region. Locals blame it on the poor power supply and bad roads, and the tourism sector in the region has failed to realize its true potential under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan has unrestrainedly misused the natural resources of the occupied region and has constructed several dams and diverted the natural flow of rivers. It has even allowed the timber mafia to operate openly in the region and cut trees rampantly. The local residents have even protested against the discriminatory policies of Islamabad for misusing the region’s natural resources for its own gain. Western territories of Jammu and Kashmir was occupied by Pakistan on October 26, 1947, and the former Gilgit Agency, which used to be a province of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now known as Pakistan-occupied GilgitBaltistan was also occupied on November 1, 1947. They are legally Indian territories since on October 26, 1947, the Maharaja of the State of Jammu Kashmir, Hari Singh, signed an instrument of accession with India. For the past 73 years, the Pakistani military establishment in collaboration with Pakistani top bureaucracy, multinational corporations and now China, and with the cooperation of local facilitators in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan (PoGB) have been plundering the natural resources of Indian territories which till this day remain under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. A brief survey of the scale of the pillage of the natural resources of PoJK and PoGB by Pakistan would reveal the size and volume of the robbery. Let us begin by examining the theft of our water resources. Construction on the Upper Jhelum Canal in the state of Jammu and Kashmir began in 1913 and was completed in 1916. Right up to the day that Indian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, the British were paying the state of Jammu and Kashmir yearly ‘abiyana’ or water revenue. However, since Pakistan occupied our territory in 1947, not a single paisa has ever been paid to the so-called Azad Kashmir government. In 1967, Mangla dam was constructed on the river Jhelum. By 1975, it has recovered the cost of the construction of the dam. According to a Kashmiri research scholar, Dr Shabbir Chaudhary, by 2010 Mangla dam had produced 250 billion units of electricity but not a single paisa in revenue collected by Pakistan has ever been shared with the government of the occupied territory of PoJK. The dam was built on the most fertile lands of Mirpur district thus depriving us of our breadbasket. Mangla dam produces around 1400 megawatts of hydropower electricity and at the time of its construction, we were promised 300 megawatts free electricity to meet our needs. However, in reality, we in the PoJK pay more per unit than those in Punjab who consume our electricity generated by our waters. On top of that, the irony is that we are not allowed to build small dams of our own in order to cater to our power and electricity needs. Dr Chaudhary informs us that at the time of partition, the total land covered with forests in PoJK was estimated at 1.6 million acres which were 42 per cent of the total landmass. Today our forests have shrunk to less than 14 per cent. Our prime trees are cut down vigorously by the timber mafia which in actuality is an extended arm of the Pakistani military. 

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India’s well set as fastest growing major economy, schemes changing common lives: FM

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday strongly underlined India’s steadfast position as the fastest-growing major economy, with inflation averaging around 5.5 per cent during 2014-15 to 2023-24, manufacturing sector registering highest growth of 13.9 per cent in Q2 this year and execution of the Government’s new schemes making significant difference to the lives of the common man

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Winter session of Parliament, Sitharaman pointed out that since 2014, retail inflation has never breached the 8 per cent mark. In contrast, between 2004 and 2014, the average inflation was 8.1 per cent. Also between 2009 and 2014, the average inflation was in double digits at 10.4 per cent, she told the House. Drawing attention to India’s growth performance, Sitharaman emphasised that India’s second quarter growth was highest in the world as India continued to be the fastest-growing economy. “The 3rd & 4th largest economies have contracted as well as emerging economies. In comparison, India’s over 7 per cent growth is significant,” the Finance Minister asserted, adding that over the past eight years, India has ascended from being the 10th largest economy to the fifth largest, showcasing remarkable economic progress

The Finance Minister referred to UPA’s various ‘naam ke vaaste’ schemes which were launched but not executed properly and hence didn’t reach the common man whereas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Government has not only implemented new schemes but executed them in such a way that they have made a huge difference to the lives of the common man. She highlighted the basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts Scheme launched in 2005, the 24.3 crore BSBDA bank accounts opened in 2014, the Jan Dhan Yojana launched in 2014 which by December 2023, saw 51 crore accounts which were opened in just nine years. Sitharaman also said that the ‘Swavalamban’ scheme launched in 2010, garnered 29 lakh accounts in 2014 and the Atal Pension Yojana launched in 2015, had 5.95 crore subscribers
by December 2023.

The Finance Minister reminded the House that before Raksha Bandhan, the Government brought down the price of LPG cylinders by Rs 200. Similarly, under PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, free food grains are being given to 81.35 crore beneficiaries. She compared this with the states which didn’t reduce the prices of petrol and diesel despite the Centre reducing the duty on the same. “Some of those states were lost by the then-ruling dispensations because they kept the prices very high. Some Opposition-ruled states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh even raised the prices, going against the well-being of the poor. They question us but why haven’t they reduced the fuel prices when the Centre has done it,” Sitharaman observed.

The Finance Minister informed the House that direct tax collection witnessed a growth of 21.82 per cent until 9 November 9 this year, and monthly GST collections have stabilized at Rs 1.6 lakh crore — a  positive indicator of economic growth.

 

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India primed for 8% growth, NITI Aayog VC Bery bets

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Renowned economist and NITI Aayog vice chairman, Suman Bery, expressed India’s potential for an 8 percent growth trajectory, underlining the country’s abundance of labour resources and the institutional stability of its democratic framework. Speaking at the Global Economic Policy Forum 2023 organized by CII and the finance ministry, Bery emphasized the need for continuous political management to sustain this growth rate, particularly considering regional disparities within India.

Acknowledging the historical disparity between the northern and southern regions of India, Bery cautioned that such differences could potentially strain the country’s federal structure. He stressed the necessity of adept political management to navigate these disparities for sustained growth, highlighting the imperative role of equitable economic growth in a diverse nation like India.

Highlighting India’s unique development trajectory, Bery noted the nation’s distinct advantage of not being constrained by labour shortages amid a global trend of increasing constraints. He emphasized India’s institutional maturity as a functioning democracy, citing recent state elections as a testament to the established rules for the peaceful transfer of power.

While affirming the significance of economic growth, Bery highlighted its role as a tool to elevate living standards and fortify India’s strategic and institutional economy. Despite being the fastest-growing major economy globally, Bery noted India’s position with the lowest per capita income among G20 countries, underscoring the need for sustained growth to enhance living standards across the nation.

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India’s carbon footprint expected to rise 8.2% in 2023

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An international study forecasts an 8.2% surge in carbon emissions for India and a 4% increase for China in 2023. Conducted by a consortium of over 120 scientists, including the University of Exeter, UK, the research highlights a global rise in emissions from coal, oil, and gas by 1.1%, 1.5%, and 0.5%, respectively. Conversely, projections suggest a decline in the EU by 7.4% and the USA by 3%.

The report, titled the Global Carbon Budget, represents an annual, peer-reviewed assessment integrating established methodologies. It anticipates a total global carbon dioxide (CO2) emission of 40.9 billion tonnes in 2023. Of this, 36.8 billion tonnes stem from fossil fuels, marking a 1.1% increase from 2022.

Atmospheric CO2 levels are expected to average 419.3 parts per million in 2023, surpassing pre-industrial levels by over 50%, as indicated in the forthcoming report for the journal Earth System Science Data.

However, the report underscores the limited efficacy of current technology-based Carbon Dioxide Removal methods, estimating their impact at about 0.01 million tonnes CO2. This figure remains significantly smaller than ongoing fossil CO2 emissions and excludes nature-based approaches like reforestation.

Researchers emphasize that roughly half of emitted CO2 continues to be absorbed by land and oceans, while the remaining portion remains in the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change concerns.

Regarding the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets, the study expresses scepticism, estimating a 50% likelihood of consistently exceeding the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within the next seven years if current emission rates persist. Pierre Friedlingstein, leading the study from the University of Exeter, stresses the urgency for COP28 leaders to prioritize swift cuts in fossil fuel emissions to salvage the 2 degrees Celsius target and avert overshooting the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

Furthermore, the study’s projections raise significant concerns about the ability to meet the temperature objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. The findings suggest a looming probability of overshooting the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, a pivotal threshold in climate change mitigation efforts. If current emission patterns persist, there’s a looming estimate that global warming could consistently surpass this critical threshold within approximately seven years.

Pierre Friedlingstein, leading the study from the University of Exeter, underscored the imperative for urgent action during the upcoming COP28. He emphasized the necessity for world leaders to swiftly implement substantial reductions in fossil fuel emissions to sustain any hope of adhering to the 2 degrees Celsius target. The urgency to curb emissions and recalibrate climate strategies has become more pronounced than ever, considering the imminent risk of surpassing agreed-upon thresholds for limiting global warming.

The report’s implications echo the pressing need for an accelerated transition towards sustainable energy practices and heightened global efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The urgency to curtail reliance on fossil fuels and bolster investments in renewable energy and carbon-neutral technologies emerges as a critical imperative to avert the impending climate crisis. The forthcoming COP28 meeting gains heightened significance as it underscores the critical juncture at which decisive action needs to be taken to mitigate climate change’s catastrophic impacts.

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India’s digital economy to drive 20% of GDP by 2026

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Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, while addressing the ‘Startup Conclave 2023’ organized by the Gujarat government, emphasized India’s digital transformation and its burgeoning role in the global tech landscape. Chandrasekhar projected that the digital economy is poised to contribute 20% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2026, a substantial increase from its current 11% and a significant leap from 4.5% in 2014.

Highlighting the impact of the ‘Digital India’ program launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chandrasekhar credited the initiative for reshaping India’s economic and innovation landscape. He noted that India has shifted gears from being a technology consumer to a producer of devices, products, and platforms for the world.

The minister underscored the transformation of India’s economy, moving from a scenario dominated by a few segments to becoming highly diversified. He lauded the country’s status as the fastest-growing digital economy globally, crediting Prime Minister Modi’s leadership for the remarkable strides made in the innovation and technology sector.

Chandrasekhar painted an optimistic picture for the future, asserting that the forthcoming decade will offer unprecedented opportunities for startups and innovation. He deemed the current era as the most exciting phase in independent India’s history, particularly in terms of technological growth and innovation.

The ‘Startup Conclave 2023’, orchestrated by Gujarat’s Education department, aims to unite startup innovators and investors, fostering idea exchanges and opportunities. The event’s agenda includes sessions, masterclasses, and networking platforms, facilitating collaborations and nurturing the startup ecosystem, as highlighted by Higher and Technical Education Minister Rushikesh Patel.

Chandrasekhar’s assertions and the efforts initiated by the conclave in Gujarat underpin India’s ambitious aspirations in the digital realm, striving to propel the nation as a global leader in technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

Chandrasekhar’s vision aligns with India’s steadfast pursuit of digital innovation, which has witnessed a transformative trajectory over the past decade. The country’s evolution from a technology-consuming market to a thriving hub of tech innovation and production echoes its commitment to carving a distinct niche in the global digital landscape.

India’s digital journey, propelled by initiatives like ‘Digital India’, has fostered an environment conducive to fostering startups and technological advancements. The emphasis on diversification and innovation in the economy reflects the government’s proactive measures to create an enabling ecosystem, amplifying opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and tech-driven enterprises.

The ‘Startup Conclave 2023’ in Gujarat stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts aimed at nurturing and empowering the burgeoning startup culture in the country. By fostering dialogue, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities, such initiatives pave the way for inclusive growth, fostering a robust ecosystem that fuels India’s march toward a digital-centric economy.

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Nigeria, Philippines, Argentina eye Indian fighter jets: HAL

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The Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), CB Ananthakrishnan, revealed on Wednesday that Nigeria, Philippines, Argentina, and Egypt have expressed keen interest in procuring India’s indigenously-developed Tejas Light Combat aircraft. Ananthakrishnan shared that ongoing discussions were underway with these nations regarding potential procurement deals.

Specifically highlighting Nigeria, Philippines, and Egypt’s interest in acquiring the Tejas Light Combat aircraft, Ananthakrishnan stated that talks were progressing positively, indicating the enthusiasm these countries hold for the Indian-made fighter jets.

However, Ananthakrishnan acknowledged the potential complication regarding the supply of Tejas jets to Argentina, given that the aircraft includes components sourced from the United Kingdom. The UK’s historical embargo on military sales to Argentina following the 1982 Falklands War might pose hurdles in supplying hardware manufactured in the UK to Argentina, raising challenges for India in facilitating such transactions.

Notably, in July, Argentina’s defence minister visited India, focusing on strengthening defence industrial partnerships. HAL had previously entered an agreement with the Argentinian Air Force to provide spares and services for its two-tonne class helicopters, showcasing the budding defence ties between the two nations.

India’s defence relations with the Philippines have witnessed an upsurge, notably culminating in a substantial deal worth USD 375 million in January for the procurement of BrahMos cruise missile batteries. These developments highlight the growing interest and collaboration in defence engagements between India and various nations.

The Tejas, known for its capability as a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft, is designed to operate effectively in high-threat air environments. It serves diverse roles, including air defence, maritime reconnaissance, and strike capabilities, positioning itself as a pivotal asset for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Having already inducted nearly 40 initial variants of the Tejas, the IAF continues to strengthen its fleet, with a Rs 48,000 crore deal finalized in February 2021 for the procurement of 83 Tejas MK-1A jets. Furthermore, an initial approval was granted by the defence ministry last month for the procurement of an additional batch of 97 Tejas jets, underscoring India’s commitment to bolstering its air force capabilities.

India’s Tejas aircraft has been a focal point of the country’s indigenous defence manufacturing prowess, drawing interest from diverse international quarters. The inclination of countries like Nigeria, Philippines, Argentina, and Egypt towards procuring the Tejas underscores India’s growing stature as a reliable supplier of cutting-edge defence technology.

However, the intricacies linked with the UK-sourced components in the Tejas pose a potential hurdle, particularly in supplying to Argentina due to historical embargoes. This challenge prompts a need for diplomatic and strategic solutions to navigate potential restrictions and ensure seamless supply chains for the aircraft.

The burgeoning interest in India’s Tejas aircraft reflects not only its advanced capabilities but also the collaborative potential between India and various nations in strengthening defence ties and fostering technological cooperation, signifying a broader evolution in global defence alliances and engagements.

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FM calls developed countries’ move to levy border adjustment tax ‘morally wrong’

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday put to rest any speculation over “spectacular announcements in the forthcoming Budget on 1 February, 2024 with general elections scheduled next year. “I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but the 1st February Budget is just a vote on account. The regular Budget will be in July and you will have to wait till then,” she said, addressing the CII’s Global Economic Policy Forum 2023. The vote on account is an interim budget through which an incumbent Government seeks Parliament’s approval for expenditure required to run till the new administration takes over.

Sitharaman also lashed out at developed countries’ move to levy a border adjustment tax to fund their own green commitments. “This is not moral at all and is against the concerns of developing nations,” she said. “I want to make my industry green so I will impose on you a certain tax because you are coming up with non-green products and with that money I will make my industry green. Border adjustment tax logic just goes against the concerns of the global south,” Sitharaman told industry and various global stakeholders at the Forum. The comments come in the backdrop of the European Union’s announcement to impose carbon tax on imports from certain sectors.

The Finance Minister noted that every country would have to have resources generated to meet with demands so as to adjust to the green commitments made globally and highlighted the inclusion of the African Union in G20 during India’s presidency which showcases G20’s will to act. “With this kind of background, if ‘thought engines’ have to exist somewhere, they can’t be in one corner of the world where the Global South doesn’t reach. Noting CII’s role in initiating a process which was needed if the Emerging Market Economies (EMEs) were going to be growth engines, Sitharaman emphasised that the learnings from the G20 India presidency indicate the need for greater discussion and a global engagement to understand where the world will have to move from where we are today, for the next 20 -25 years.

The Finance Minister stressed on bringing more women in policy-making, businesses, board rooms, shop floors, etc. “India is supplying drones and related technology to women in rural hinterland for sustainable agricultural practices. These ‘Drone Didis’ are going to take care of Mother Earth, help produce more crops and master the technology of maintaining as well as operating the drones for agricultural purposes,” the Finance Minister said.

Sitharaman noted that India was rapidly moving in the renewable energy space, particularly in solar, and was in talks with many countries for grid connectivity across the world by the International Solar Alliance members. As base energy requirements of a country cannot be filled by renewable energy sources, she called for thinking in terms of spreading renewable energy in such a way that individual participation is ensured.

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