DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |09 Feb 2021| RaghukulCS

9th February News Analysis for Mains

 

An ecologically illiterate Budget. (Source: TH)

Why in News: –The Rs 230-crore reduction in the budgetary allocation to the environment ministry has drawn flak from environmentalists.

Context: – GS-3: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

GS-3: Government Budgeting: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Environment is the basic necessity of good health. The climate change is one of the biggest health factors affecting the communities in the years to come and also has the potential of creating much bigger disasters than COVID-19.

Environment and Budget 2021: –

  • The total budget allocated for the Environment ministry this year is Rs 2,869.93 crore while last year it was Rs 3,100 crore.
  • The government had announced Rs 4,400 crore for clean air, but there is no information on public platform on how this fund was utilized.
  • The budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also reduced the sum allotted to the climate change action plan by Rs 10 crore to Rs 30 crore. 
  • The Budget document mentions that under ‘Control of Pollution’, a total of 470 crore are allocated for 2021-22.

Positive points from Budget 2021: –

  • Athing in the budget that will impact the environment positively is the voluntary vehicle scrapping policy and allocation for waste management to reduce plastic waste.
  • Avoluntary vehicle scrapping policy, to phase out old and unfit vehicles as per which vehicles will undergo fitness tests in automated fitness centres after 20 years in case of personal vehicles and after 15 years in case of commercial vehicles.
  • The minister also proposed to provide additional capital infusion of Rs 1,000 crore to Solar Energy Corporation of India and Rs 1,500 crore to Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.
  • The Budget has the extended of the city gas distribution project to 100 more districts.
  • The city gas project is diversified to include Auto LPG along with CNG which is the current focus which will also be a major boost to efforts to clean up the environment.

Environmental Concerns for India: –

  • According to Greenpeace India’s annual Airpocalypse report 2020, 231 cities out of 287 had PM10 levels exceeding the 60 µg/m3 limits, prescribed under National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) by CPCB.
  • In 2018-19, as many as 2,400 Indians lost their lives to natural disasters such as floods and cyclones, according to the environment ministry.
  • Climate change has led to disruption of ecosystem services, loss of biodiversity and breakdown of traditional livelihood systems across different geographies and regions of the country.
  • While COVID claimed 1.5 lakh lives in 2020, air pollution is responsible for about 18 lakh deaths across India.
  • A recent study by the Central Water Commission found that 42 rivers in India have at least two toxic heavy metals in quantities beyond the permissible limit.
  • The major sources of heavy metals in India are industrial waste from mining sites, manufacturing and metal finishing plants, domestic wastewater and run-off from roads.
  • The World Bank estimates that 21 per cent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and a lack of hygiene. Over 500 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoea alone.

Green India mission

  • GIM was launched in February 2014.
  • The Green India Mission is aimed at “protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change”.
  • It is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Quotes

  • “By reducing the amount, the government is making clear that it is not serious about the environment,” – Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist and the founder of NGO SAFE
  • “The air pollution is a far greater health emergency than COVID-19.” –Founder of the Citizen Movement, ‘My Right to Breathe’,

Way Forward

  • In order to ensure a balanced Budget that not only gives impetus to the economy but also puts a priority on environmental conservation, core urban issues pertaining to pollution need to be addressed first. 
  • The central government and local authorities must come up with a public platform where all actions under ‘control air pollution’ plan are updated and are available.
  • The sector needs a renewed policy that encompasses both tariff and non-tariff barriers, long-term financial support, and direct incentives so that the domestic renewables industry is viable, competitive, and cost-effective. 
  • The Government can consider a five percent interest subvention on long term loans and working capital, upfront Central Financial Assistance of 30 percent of the CAPEX.
  • It should increase the export incentive to eight percent under the Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product. It is time to put the environment front and center.

The long and the short of India’s Naypyitaw dilemma (Source: TH)

Why in News: –The military’s seizure of power in Myanmar and the detention of the head of government Aung San Suu Kyi has notable implications for India.

Context: – GS-2: International relations:  India and its neighbourhood- relations.

The military coup in Myanmar: –

  • The armed forces in Myanmar have confirmed that they have carried out a coup d’etat, their first against a civilian government since 1962.
  • The military takeover in Myanmar follows weeks of tensions between the armed forces and the government.
  • When the parliamentary elections were lost by the army-backed opposition, Myanmar’s military seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders.
  • The delicate power-sharing deal between Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) and civilian leadership led by Aung San Suu Kyi has ‘setback’ for India.

The international reaction been to the coup?

  • The UK, EU and Australia are among those to have condemned the military takeover.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”.
  • US President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions.
  • However, China blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup. The country, which has previously opposed international intervention in Myanmar, urged all sides to “resolve differences”.
  • Neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, have said it is an “internal matter”.
  • The international community has been swift in sensing the possible political upheaval in Myanmar.
  • The US, European Union and several democratic countries have already expressed their concerns and opposed any such moves by the Tatmadaw.
  • The coup throws open a challenge to the Joe Biden administration’s resolve to promote democracy and take sufficient interest in the Southeast Asian region

Implications of Myanmar military coup on India: –

  • The military coup in Myanmar is a devastating setback to the country’s efforts to build an inclusive democracy.
  • India has stepped up its strategic engagement with Myanmar because of insurgent groups from the Northeast which have set up base in Myanmar.
  • The biggest stake of all is Sittwe port in the Rakhine province where India has built a large, deep seaport.
  • A likely pro-China tilt in Myanmar’s foreign policy could erode the influence India had managed to build in recent decades.
  • India will have to deal with the fallout of crackdowns on pro-democracy activists as well as these could prompt a flight of refugees into India.
  • While its foreign policy concerns will direct India to ruffle the feathers of Myanmar’s generals, there are humanitarian concerns and democratic commitments that India must consider.
  • India must push for the restoration of democracy at the earliest.

India-Myanmar relations

  • India’s bilateral interactions with Myanmar is generally based on six major planks or what can be called the 5Cs – Commerce; Connectivity; Capacity-building; Civilizational links; Community – the Indian Diaspora.
  • The amalgamation of perspectives and values of both the countries have helped broaden the horizons of the bilateral relationship.
  • Security cooperation is most prominent among them, getting stronger in recent years in the fight to end insurgency in India’s northeast.
  • India-Myanmar Bilateral Army Exercise (IMBAX) builds and promotes closer relations with armies.
  • India has built personal relationship with the army commander Min Hlaing, who has openly criticised Beijing’s clandestine support to ethnic rebel Arakan Army active in the country’s Chin and Rakhine states bordering Mizoram.
  • Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Myanmar already received 5 million doses of a vaccine supplied by India.
  • Apart from strategic necessity to maintain links with whichever dispensation is in power, India can use its access to military leadership to impress upon them the need for peaceful transfer of power back to the civilian elected representatives through back-room channel.

Quotes

  • “Foreign policy may be occasionally influenced by idealism, but it is definitely shaped by self-interest.”
  • Bilahari Kausikan observes in Asia Nikkei that “the Tatmadaw is strongly nationalist and has no intrinsic affinity with China.”
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the army’s move a “serious blow to democratic reforms”, 
  • An MEA press briefing had called Myanmar India’s “bridgehead to Southeast Asia”.

Way Forward

Myanmar is a neighbour with which we’ve had very ancient, old, strong, emotional, spiritual, cultural ties with India.Whereas India’s nationwide pursuits, underneath the brand new circumstances, would clearly lie in coping with whoever is in energy in Myanmar, India would discover it troublesome to overtly assist the junta given the robust western and American stance.

So far, India’s response has been carefully measured and calculated, clearly showcasing that while it would support Myanmar’s transition back to democracy, New Delhi would not try to impose democracy as a foreign policy agenda. Clearly, a long-drawn battle to bring Myanmar back on track seems on the cards, which would get more complicated with contrasting interests of major stakeholders in the region.

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