DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |07 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS

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DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |07 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS

UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


1) Editorial (The Indian Express)

Title: A new map for the end of Oil Age

Written by: Vikram S Mehta (chairman, Centre for Social and Economic Progress)

Topic in the syllabus: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This article is inspired by Daniel Yergin’s, latest book “The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations.”

What does book say about energy transition?

  • It does not provide a clear direction.
  • They suggest instead that the energy transition will unfold in different ways in different countries and over different time periods.
  • This is because they will be influenced not just by economics and technology, but also by politics and public activism.

The “new maps” raise several questions for India:

  • How might they impact its objective to provide reliable, affordable, clean and universal access to energy?
  • Who will bear the costs of the transition — in particular, the costs of retrofitting industrial infrastructure and upgrading the grid to manage the intermittent flows of solar and wind energy?
  • How can it prevent the “perfect storm” of high unemployment (viz laid-off coal workers), stranded assets (thermal power plants), slowed economic growth and environmental degradation?
  • All in all, how realistic is a green transition for an economy almost totally dependent on fossil fuels?

Suggestions given in the book:

  • The “new maps” do not provide answers to such India-specific questions. They do, however, provide a framework for deliberating policy options. Specifically, they throw up three policy initiatives set along the twin axes of fossil fuel and renewables.
  • On the fossil fuel axis, the book suggests the government leverage its buyer (“monopsonistic”) strength to secure “most favoured” terms of trade for crude supplies. In this regard, they bring out one development that plays to India’s advantage — the onset of “peak oil demand” (that is, demand will plateau before supply depletes).
  • On the renewable axis, the “new maps” would suggest two policy initiatives:
    • India must develop its own world-scale, competitive, manufacturing systems for photovoltaics (PVs) and battery storage.
    • If not, it will find itself on the horns of a dilemma. It will not be able to provide affordable solar units unless it accepts the further deepening of dependence on Chinese imports. Currently, China manufactures 75 per cent of the world’s lithium batteries; 70 per cent of solar cells; 95 per cent of solar wafers and it controls 60 per cent of the production of poly silica.
    • It is also looking to secure a chokehold over several strategic minerals (cobalt, nickel).
    • India must prepare a clean energy technology strategy. Technology is the answer to the energy transition. That is what will bring the system to the tipping point of radical change. China recognises this fact. It has placed clean energy R&D at the forefront of its “Plan 2025”.
    • The India strategy should identify relevant “breakthrough technologies”, establish the funding mechanisms and create the ecosystem for partnerships (domestic and international).

2) Editorial (The Indian Express)

Title: In a new climate

Written by: Manjeev Singh Puri (Distinguished Fellow, TERI, former ambassador and DPR of India to the UN and former lead negotiator for India at climate change negotiations)

Topic in the syllabus: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about why India must forge coalition with like-minded nations on climate change.

Introduction:

  • The Paris Agreement on Climate Change seeks to limit global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels with a striving to keep this rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • All countries, including the largest GHG emitters, China, the US and EU, came on board with nationally determined commitments (NDCs). The agreement was touted as a major triumph for the US as it weakened the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which had placed the onus for GHG reductions on the developed countries. Yet, within six months of taking over, Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the pact.

Why Trump left the agreement? & It has benefitted china?

  • Trump blamed President Barack Obama for allowing the US to be tricked into economic actions that would diminish it in comparison to China and others in the developing world.
  • While this may have served Trump domestically, internationally it slackened global pressures on climate change and gave space to the Chinese, the largest emitters in the world, to try and position themselves as climate leaders.

Are NDCs effective?

  • Analyses indicate that an aggregation of the NDCs of countries do not add up to keep temperatures within the 2 degrees C limit.

Performance of India:

  • India has committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving 40 per cent non-fossil-fuel installed electricity production capacity.
  • It also established the International Solar Alliance with France.
  • India is one of the few major climate stakeholders on track to over-achieve the targets it had committed.

Effect of GHG on India:

  • With civilisational links to nature, India is a strong proponent of global action on global warming. Such action is also critical, for India is acutely vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change.
  • The link between GHG emissions, energy usage and GDP is, however, such that even with energetic induction of cleaner technologies and newer fuels plus renewable energy in the economy, India’s growth and development, which are an absolute must for a better quality of life for 17 per cent of humankind, cannot be decoupled from rising GHG emissions — at least in the short run.

The way forward:

  • The UN Secretary General has recently spelt out his intention to seek a goal of net-zero emissions of GHGs by 2050, with the central objective of the UN in 2021 to establish a Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality.
  • For India, engagement in global climate negotiations must be imbued with a strategic perspective and informed by the building of a GREEN (Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature) coalition of countries with development imperatives and climate perspectives.

2) Editorial (The Hindu)

Title: A mirage sold as a panacea for the unorganised sector

Written by: Mohan Mani (a researcher with the Centre for Labour Studies at the National Law School India University) & Babu Mathew (Professor and Director, Centre for Labour Studies at the National Law School India University)

Topic in the syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how the labour codes will only better India’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking instead of improving conditions of employment.

Introduction:

  • In an interview the Union about Minister claimed that the four labour codes would generate employment and secure the basic rights of the workers.
  • He also claimed that the labour codes seek to universalise the right to minimum wage of workers and social security entitlements.

Issues regarding universal social security:

  • The codes mandate benefits of Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) and Provident Fund (PF) only for workers belonging to establishments employing 10 workers or more.
  • This leaves out nearly 80% of all Indian workers — the informal sector — from the ambit of these benefits.
  • In 2016, the ESI covered 2.1 crore workers; this increased to 3.6 crore by March 2019.
  • The ESI coverage follows the map of industrial growth in the country. Thus, in industrialised
    States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the ESI covered around 20% of the population as beneficiaries in 2016; the corresponding figure was just 0.7% for Bihar.

What does ESI coverage mean for the remaining 20% of the workers?

  • The ESI employed around six doctors per one lakh beneficiaries in 2016, as against the World Health Organization norm of 100 doctors; the proportion of doctors to beneficiaries would have further fallen with the expanded membership.
  • The ESI would have needed to urgently increase doctor and paramedical strength, for which it
    would need more resources.
  • However, in the interest of ‘ease of doing business’, the employer plus employee contribution to the ESI was reduced from 6.5% to 4% from July 2019.

How government doing away other welfare schemes?

  • Government also did away with a number of existing cess ­based welfare schemes.
  • These included the Beedi Workers Welfare Board, covering an estimated five lakh home­based women workers.
  • The workers also had access to free dispensation in the hospitals run by the Board.
  • With the new codes, the beedi workers will forego these facilities in exchange for an undefined promise of universal social security.

Issue of the minimum wage:

  • The government’s remedy in the codes is to include a floor wage covering all workers.
    • Labour Minister announced a floor wage of ₹178 per day in 2019; and more recently the Finance Minister announced ₹202.
    • This is only a little more than half the ₹375 per day recommended by the Labour Ministry’s Expert Committee on Wage in 2019; and also lower than the poverty line family expenditure estimated by the government­ appointed Rangarajan Committee in 2011, corrected for inflation.
  • This ‘floor wage’ should more aptly be called the below poverty line, or BPL wage. It can only
    serve to pull down wages, far from shoring up the wage level.

The way forward:

  • These codes, which also include various measures restricting the unions’ right to strike and relax norms for factory closure, serve to improve the ‘ease of doing business’ ranking instead of improving the conditions of employment.
  • Workers have to be satisfied with a promise of some special schemes for them in their as yet
    undefined future.
  • They may also be allowed access to underutilised Employees’ State Insurance Corporation hospitals.

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