News & Editorial Analysis 3 February 2023
The Hindu News Analysis
1 – CITES:
GS III Topic Environmental Conservation
There have been 28 cases of Red Sanders being kidnapped, seized, or wild specimens being smuggled from India, according to a factsheet produced by TRAFFIC, a global organisation that monitors the wildlife trade. The Convention on International Trading in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established to make sure that the international trade in wild plant and animal specimens would not put the species’ existence in jeopardy.
These consignments were exported to China (53.5%), Hong Kong (25.0%), Singapore (17.8%), and the United States (3.5%), per the factsheet, between 2016 and 2020. The Eastern Ghats of India are the only place where red sandalwood, also known as Pterocarpus santalinus, is an indigenous tree species. According to reports, illegal logging and harvesting pose a serious threat to one of India’s most exploited tree species, the Andhra Pradesh-based variety that grows to heights of 10 to 15 metres. Red Sanders cannot be imported into India due to export restrictions and the country’s foreign trade policy.
What exactly is CITES?
States voluntarily ratify the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as do regional economic integration organisations (CITES).
CITES was established in 1963 as a result of a choice made by the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Only governmental and commercial sector organisations are members of the IUCN, which is a membership organisation.
It provides information and resources needed for the cohabitation of economic development, environmental preservation, and human advancement to public, private, and non-governmental organisations.
CITES went into effect in July 1975. Right present, there are 184 Parties (include countries or regional economic integration organizations).
Goal: To ensure that the international trade in wild animal and plant specimens does not endanger their conservation.
The CITES Secretariat, which is situated in Geneva, Switzerland, is operated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
It supports the Convention’s operations in the areas of coordination, advising, and service (CITES).
The Conference of the Parties to CITES, the highest decision-making body of the Convention, is composed of all of its Parties.
In 2016, the seventeenth CoP was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The third CoP was hosted by India in 1981.
CITES is a contract that must be followed by all Parties, although national laws are still in effect.
Instead, it provides a structure that each Party must follow to make sure CITES is implemented at the national level. To achieve this, each Party must create its own domestic law.
World Wildlife Day has been observed annually on March 3 since 2013.
The chosen date coincides with the day the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was signed in 1973. (CITES).
The UNGA (General Assembly) resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the coordinator for the global observance of this special day for animals on the UN (United Nations).
Which functions does the Convention perform?
The CITES works by placing limitations on the international trade in specimens of specific species.
Any import, export, re-export, or introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention requires the employment of a licencing mechanism.
Every Party to the Convention shall designate one or more Management Authorities to oversee the licencing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to offer scientific guidance on the effects of trade on the status of the species.
Lists of the species that receive varying levels or types of protection from overexploitation are included in Appendices I, II, and III of the Convention.
2 – MGNREGA:
GS II Topic Government Policies and Interventions
According to the Economic Survey 2022–23, which was published on January 31—the day before the Union Budget—6.49 crore households requested employment through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). 6.48 crore of them received job offers from the government, and 5.7 crore of those households accepted them. The poll concluded that the system had a positive impact on household income, agriculture productivity, and production-related expenses. It was stated that this helped with “income diversification and strengthening rural livelihoods.”
In 2005, the Ministry of Rural Development launched MGNREGA, one of the world’s largest labour guarantee programmes.
The basic objective of the programme is to offer every adult resident of a rural home who is willing to engage in unskilled physical labour for the benefit of the public 100 days of guaranteed work per fiscal year.
As of 2022-2023, 15.4 crore people are MGNREGA-eligible workers.
Lawful Ability to Work: This act uses a rights-based framework, in contrast to earlier employment guarantee programmes, to address the underlying causes of chronic poverty.
At least one-third of the recipients must be women.
The Minimum Wages Act of 1948 mandates that salaries be paid in accordance with the state’s statutory minimum wages for agricultural labourers.
Demand-Driven Approach The MGNREGA’s legislative guarantee that any rural adult will obtain job within 15 days of requesting it is its most important design element. If this guarantee is broken, a “unemployment allowance” must be supplied.
Worker self-selection is possible under the demand-driven system.
Decentralized planning: The goal is to further decentralise the process by giving Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) a greater role in organising and carrying out these initiatives.
According to the law, Gram Sabhas must recommend projects to be taken on and must execute at least half of those projects.
What Issues Arise in the Implementation of the Scheme?
Delay and Insufficiency in Funds Disbursement: The MGNREGA mandate that wages be paid within 15 days has not been met by the majority of states. Workers are also not compensated for late wage payments.
The programme has consequently became supply-based, and employees have begun to lose interest in working for it.
There is currently no lack of evidence to support the claim that financial shortfalls are the root cause of wage payment delays, including a statement from the Ministry of Finance.
Separation based on caste: By caste, the delays varied greatly. While just 26% of payments for non-SC/ST employees were completed within the necessary seven days, 46% of payments for SC (Scheduled Caste) employees and 37% of payments for ST (Scheduled Tribes) employees were.
Caste-based segregation had a negative impact that was most noticeable in underdeveloped States like West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
PRI’s role is ineffective: Grame Panchayats are unable to put this act into effect quickly and efficiently due to their restricted autonomy.
There are several unfinished projects because MGNREGA-funded projects have taken longer than anticipated to complete and because project inspections haven’t always been thorough. The MGNREGA’s asset development and work quality are also problematic.
Fabrication of employment cards: The creation of phoney employment cards, the use of fictitious identities, the absence of entries, and late entries are all issues.
How to Proceed:
The method used to distribute and analyse the work, as well as the several government entities, need to work together more effectively.
There are several compensation variances that must also be managed. In this field, women typically earn 22.24% less than men.
Every town needs to start doing public work, and state governments need to make sure this happens. As soon as possible after arriving on the job site, workers should be assigned tasks.
Local authorities must actively interact with migrant workers who have been quarantined or repatriated and help those who need it acquire job cards.
Grame Panchayats must be given enough resources, power, and responsibilities to approve projects, complete work on demand, and permit salary payments in order to avoid payment delays.
It is vital for MGNREGA to converge with other government initiatives. For instance, the Green India Initiative and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
3 – New Start Treaty:
GS II Topic International Relations
The Kremlin accused Washington on Wednesday of “killing” arms control accords after the United States asserted that Russia was violating the provisions of their last surviving weapons agreement, the New START treaty.
Tensions between the two countries were already at breaking point when Russia sent forces to Ukraine in February of last year, but they have since gotten worse.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was the last arms control pact between the two former Cold War adversaries. It set a limit on the amount of nuclear weapons that Russia and the United States of America may deploy.
The agreement goes into force on February 5, 2011.
It continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing the strategic nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia by restricting each side to 700 strategic launchers and 1,550 operational warheads.
It was initially only supposed to last for ten years, or until 2021; however, it was given an additional five years, or until 2026.
What are the many Treaties involving the US and Russia?
Both parties agreed, as part of the Interim Agreement, to refrain from constructing new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos and from materially increasing the size of existing ICBM silos. This agreement went into effect in 1969. The number of submarines that can launch SLBMs and SLBM launch tubes was also agreed upon.
In accordance with the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty-1 (START), extra delivery trucks were to be destroyed. An intrusive verification method was used to implement this requirement, and it involved on-site inspections, regular information exchange (including telemetry), and the use of national technology tools (i.e., satellites).
The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which was signed in 2004, lowered the strategic arsenals of the United States and Russia to 1,700–2,200 warheads each. Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty-2 (SART-2): Signed in 1993, this agreement prohibited the use of destabilising multiple-warhead land-based missiles and required strategic arsenals to be reduced to 3,000–3,500 warheads.
Under the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which also establishes a cap of 800 on both deployed and nondeployed launchers, ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers are only permitted to carry 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 strategic delivery systems.
Why did Russia halt the inspection?
It is difficult for Russia to undertake inspections on American soil because of Western sanctions, such as the closure of airspace to Russian aircraft and visa restrictions.
Additionally, it showed that the incidence of coronavirus in the US had recently increased.
4 – Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojna:
GS II Topic Government Policies and Interventions
Prior to the 2024 general elections, the Narendra Modi administration’s final comprehensive budget was presented on February 1 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In addition to updated income tax brackets and customs duty rates, the Minister also presented a number of fresh initiatives, including exemptions for sustainable energy transition and agriculture.
In the Union Budget 2023–24 paper, increasing funding for essential welfare programmes that promote socioeconomic growth was also emphasised. Here is a breakdown of how the budgetary allotments for some of the key initiatives have changed throughout time.
What does PMAY-G stand for?
Launch: In order to achieve the aim of “Housing for All” by 2022, the previous rural housing programme Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) was reorganised as Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) taking effect from April 1, 2016.
It involves the Ministry of Rural Development.
All rural households that are homeless, living in kutchas, or in dilapidated dwellings will have access to a pucca house with basic amenities by the end of March 2022.
In order to help rural residents who are Below the Poverty Line (BPL) create new housing units and renovate their antiquated kutcha homes, support will be provided in the form of a full grant.
The SC/ST community, liberated bonded labourers, non-SC/ST groups, widows or next-of-kin of deceased service members, former service members and retired paramilitary personnel, individuals with disabilities, and members of minority groups are among the beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries are selected using a three-stage validation process that uses geotagging, the 2011 Socio Economic Caste Census, and Gram Sabha.
Cost-Sharing: For plain areas, the Central and State Governments split the cost of unit aid 60:40; for hilly and North Eastern states, the proportion is 90:10.
The intended target was to construct 2.7 billion dwellings.
According to the Union Rural Development Ministry’s database, 1.8 crore homes have already been constructed.
This accomplishes 67.72% of the target.
What does PMAY-U stand for?
The project, which was started on June 25, 2015, intends to provide homes for everyone in urban areas by 2022.
Implementation is under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ control.
The initiative addresses the housing shortage in cities by providing a pucca house to the urban poor, especially those who live in slums.
The entire urban area, including Statutory Towns, Notified Planning Areas, Development Authorities, Special Area Development Authorities, Industrial Development Authorities, and any other State-authorized agency in charge of urban planning and regulation, is included in the Mission.
Every PMAY(U) residence has access to basic amenities such a bathroom, kitchen, water supply, and electricity.
By enabling female members to own homes on their own or with other members, the Mission promotes women’s empowerment.
Additionally, preference is given to the elderly, individuals with disabilities, people from minority groups, single women, transgender people, and other weaker and more vulnerable segments in society.
It was begun with the goal of constructing 1.2 crore homes.
According to the most recent statistics from the Union Urban Development Ministry, just 60 lakh units have been completed to date.
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The Hindu Editorial Analysis
A Budget That Signals Growth With Stability
According to an economic survey that was provided to Parliament prior to the introduction of the budget for 2023–24, India has achieved a remarkable broad-based recovery to return to the level of income that existed before the advent of the new coronavirus epidemic.
Growth and the fiscal deficit’s shadow:
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the sanctions the West imposed on Russia in response, the slowdown and recession that occurred throughout much of the world, the rise in inflation that caused sharp increases in interest rates, the flight of capital, and pressure on the exchange rate were all shocks that came after the pandemic, which was the initial shock.
Although the economy has recovered and income levels have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, GDP is still drifting 7% below pre-pandemic levels, therefore growth must be supported by stronger public investment.
Because the overall budget deficit (Centre and States) and inflation remain above the upper tolerance limit, which is between 9% and 10% of GDP, macroeconomic stability necessitates ongoing fiscal consolidation.
As a result, the government must choose between reducing the fiscal deficit and accelerating growth by increasing public investment. When interest payments make up 40% of the Center’s net revenues, there is little space for complacency.
The Finance Minister pledged in the 2020–21 Budget to bring the fiscal deficit down to 4.5% by 2025–26. As a result, during the next three years, the deficit must be reduced by 1.9 percentage points. Accordingly, it is anticipated that in 2023–2024, the fiscal deficit will drop to 5.9%.
A balancing act:
The Finance Minister’s decision to enhance infrastructure spending while maintaining financial restraint has required careful balancing. The trend of increasing funding for infrastructure projects has continued under her leadership, and the budgeted capital expenditure is increasing from 2.7% of GDP to 3.3%. Private capital investment should increase as a result of the substantial “crowding in” effect of capital expenditures.
The depressing investment climate should be improved by capital expenditures, which, according to the Reserve Bank of India, have a multiplier effect of 1.2. The investment environment should continue to improve and the nation’s total investment-to-GDP ratio should stop declining with deleveraged balance sheets and a rise in commercial lending by banks.
Additionally, continuing to offer States an interest-free loan to supplement their capital expenditures should encourage States to boost their capital investment. If infrastructure spending rises as anticipated, the Economic Survey’s 6.5% growth rate for 2023–24, which was widely seen to be overly optimistic, might actually materialise.
Grouping of subsidies:
It is recommended that the fiscal adjustment be made mainly by limiting revenue expenditure, which, if put into practise, will increase the standard of public expenditures. Just 1.2% more money than originally planned is set aside in the budget for revenue expenditures in 2023–24. The amount of subsidies has been greatly reduced.
The estimated reduction in the fertiliser subsidy from 2.87 trillion to 1.87 trillion will be 90 000 crores. With the end of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), which began dispensing 5 kg of foodgrains beginning in April 2020 in addition to the foodgrains distributed under the National Food Securities Act, this policy was already formed in December 2022.
Similar to this, it is expected that the subsidy for fertiliser will be cut by 50,000, primarily as a result of declining fertiliser prices. Additionally, it is predicted that funding for programmes supported by the central government will drop by about 20,000 crore, but that the overall transfer to the states will stay the same at 3.3% to 4.0% of GDP.
On the tax side, customs tariff changes have been made, but the underlying protectionist stance has not changed. There have been attempts to induce taxpayers to move to the new system of personal income taxes, which includes lower rates and no tax credits. However, the increase of the tax bracket structure raises several concerns. It could have been better to move to the new tax structure with fewer brackets.
This Budget is typically well drafted, but how effectively it is implemented will determine how effective it is.
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The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
India’s G20 Presidency
Last year saw the onset of the first truly global energy crisis, which presented problems for individuals, businesses, and governments due to volatile markets and unexpected price hikes.
India has experienced the crisis less severely than many other countries, yet it has nevertheless had an effect. Given the serious concerns of climate change and air pollution that the world is currently confronting, the most recent crisis has led many people to reconsider how they utilise energy.
The steps done to improve the energy efficiency of everyday items, from cars to home appliances, will have a significant impact on making the world’s energy consumption more sustainable. These steps are crucial, along with adjustments to routines and behaviour.
Initiative Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE) in India:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the LiFE project in October 2022 to support both private and public environmental preservation initiatives.
Energy prices, carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, and inequities in energy use could all be decreased thanks to this vital platform.
This entails making sensible choices on a personal level, such as using public transit more frequently, switching to electric cars from gasoline or diesel models, installing energy-efficient equipment in homes, and many other things.
Thus, LiFE encourages environmentally friendly ways of living and consuming worldwide, highlighting India’s position as a global leader. The programme could be able to help put both mature and emerging economies on a more sustainable path.
According to a recent IEA study, the world’s carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by more than 2 billion tonnes by 2030 if all countries adopted the kinds of policies recommended by LiFE.
This would be enough to reduce emissions by around one-fifth of what is necessary for the globe to achieve net zero emissions by the end of this decade. Additionally, the adjustments would result in a $440 billion annual reduction in energy bills for consumers globally.
LiFE’s main goal is to make better use of energy:
The project supports strict restrictions that will promote renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen more quickly.
We need to take a number of steps at once to solve the environmental problems the world is experiencing while making sure that everyone has access to dependable and affordable electricity.
Thus, the concepts of LiFE can be a helpful addition to more established policies.
Hard-to-decarbonize industries like steel and cement, for example, might benefit from LiFE by implementing strategies that use energy and other resources more efficiently. Increased use of recycled steel can reduce the amount of steel that needs to be decarbonized. It makes the difficulty of the task more manageable.
India’s strategy works because it combines individual accountability with governmental action. This is crucial. We all need to make the right decisions when it comes to the environment and sustainability, but frequently these decisions are not supported by the appropriate infrastructure, incentives, or knowledge.
For example, public transit needs to be more efficient and available in more locations if we want to convince people to leave their cars at home.
To allow individuals to live closer to their places of employment and amenities that reduce commuting times and encourage walking and cycling, urban design must be optimised.
In this context, policies are essential because they actively offer alternatives, enabling sustainable choices. India’s Ujala plan, which offers extremely affordable LED bulbs, is a notable example.
It has transformed the lighting industry in India by educating people about the benefits of making an environmentally friendly decision.
LiFE will help improve people’s quality of life:
According to the IEA’s study, as people strive to improve their standard of life, there will be an increase in the demand for energy in developing economies.
Diverse strategies are required to ensure that nations prosper while advancing their decarbonization initiatives. LiFE’s recommendations can bolster this.
Although it shouldn’t, LiFE should be limited to India and emerging markets. Because its lessons are generally relevant, the advanced economies may be where they have the biggest influence.
Evidence suggests that the global energy crisis is reviving interest in behaviour change and energy efficiency, particularly in wealthier economies that have been badly damaged.
For instance, the European Union set an aim to reduce its natural gas use by 15% in response to the crisis. It finally outperformed forecasts, with the demand for gas in buildings dropping by over 17% in 2022 despite an increasing economy.
Technology may motivate individuals and businesses to take action. Although the circumstance was extreme, it shows that consumers are prepared to take accountability for the energy they use for the greater good.
By providing other leading economies with a forum to exchange knowledge and comprehend the potential impact that LiFE’s recommendations can have in the fight against climate change, air pollution, and prohibitively high energy costs, India’s G20 Presidency presents an exceptional opportunity to expand the LiFE initiative globally.
Around 80% of the world’s energy demand is met by the G20, therefore any changes made by its members might have a big effect. The IEA supports such programmes as a result and hopes that other countries will learn from some of India’s LiFE experiences.
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