India, Bangladesh, and Nepal recently signed an enabling memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the long-stalled Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA).
Background: The project was conceived after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) failed to reach an agreement on a regional motor vehicle agreement at a summit in Nepal in 2014, owing primarily to Pakistan’s opposition.
The BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal, and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between the four countries was signed on June 15, 2015, during a transport ministers’ meeting in Thimpu.
Objective: By completing the Passenger and Cargo Protocols, the MVA will be operationalized, allowing the BBIN countries to realise the full potential of trade and people-to-people connectivity by fostering greater sub-regional cooperation.
Bhutan’s Reluctance: Bhutan temporarily opted out of the BBIN project in 2017 after failing to obtain parliamentary approval for the MVA.
The three other countries decided to proceed with the agreement at the time.
Foreign funding: The Asian Development Bank has provided funding for the project as part of its South Asian Subregional Economic Cooperation programme, and has been asked to prioritise approximately 30 road projects worth billions of dollars.
The World Bank, which estimates that the implementation of the MVA will increase traffic-regional trade within South Asia by nearly 60%, has also expressed interest in supporting infrastructure.
Persistent Issues: Some agreements are still holding up the final protocols, such as insurance and bank guarantees, as well as the size and frequency of freight carriers into each country, which they hope to finalise this year before operationalizing bus and truck movements between them.
Bhutan’s objections are about sustainability and environmental concerns.
In 2020, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering stated that joining the MVA would be impossible given Bhutan’s “current infrastructure” and top priority of remaining a “carbon-negative” country.
As a result, the Bhutanese parliament decided not to support the plan.
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar-Bangladesh (BCIM) Kaladan Trilateral Highway Corridor India-Myanmar-Thailand Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT)
Many female soldiers were recently training to be part of a United Nations Peacekeeping mission.
For over a decade, the United Nations (UN) has advocated for greater female participation in conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding, and peacekeeping.
The United Nations Security Council authorised the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East in 1948.
UN Peacekeeping assists countries in navigating the difficult transition from conflict to peace.
It deploys troops and police from all over the world, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to address a variety of UN Security Council (UNSC) and General Assembly mandates.
Background: In 2007, after a civil war ravaged the African nation, India sent an all-female Formed Police Unit (FPU) to Liberia for the first time in UN peacekeeping history.
Intention: Recently, at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Indian officials called for greater female participation in public life and the abolition of violence against women as a prerequisite for promoting global peace.
Significance: In a profession still dominated by men, and in a country riddled with gender violence, these female police officers from India are breaking stereotypes to represent their country on the global stage.
Women are deployed in all areas – police, military, and civilian – and have had a positive impact on peacekeeping environments, including supporting women’s roles in peacebuilding and protecting women’s rights.
According to the UN, women will make up 4.8 percent of military contingents, 10.9 percent of formed police units, and 34 percent of justice and corrections government-provided personnel in UN Peacekeeping missions in 2020, out of approximately 95,000 peacekeepers.
Initiate of the Global Effort: The UN Police Division launched ‘the Global Effort’ to recruit more female police officers into national police services and UN police operations around the world.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) has called for an expansion of women’s roles and contributions in UN operations, including uniformed women peacekeepers.
Initiative Action for Peacekeeping (A4P): The UN Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative sees the Women, Peace, and Security agenda as critical to improving the performance of peacekeeping operations.
This can be accomplished by encouraging women’s full participation in peace processes and making peacekeeping more gender-responsive, including increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women serving in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions.
Improved Operations And Performance: Greater diversity and a broader skill set lead to better decisionmaking, planning, and results, which leads to increased operational effectiveness and performance.
Better Access: Women peacekeepers can gain better access to the population, including women and children, by interviewing and assisting survivors of gender-based violence and violence against children, generating critical information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.
Building Trust and Confidence: Women peacekeepers are critical enablers in fostering trust and confidence in local communities, as well as assisting in improving access and support for local women.
Interacting with women, for example, in societies where women are forbidden from speaking to men.
The Union Cabinet recently approved the establishment of the National Land Monetization Corporation (NLMC) as a wholly owned Government of India company.
In the Union Budget 2021-22, the Finance Minister announced plans to establish a special purpose vehicle for this purpose.
The Indian government will launch the National Monetisation Pipeline in August 2021. (NMP).
About: As an agency function, the NLMC will undertake surplus land asset monetisation and will assist and provide technical advice to the Centre in this regard.
NLMC was established with a Rs 5000 crore authorised share capital and a Rs 150 crore paid-up share capital.
The NLMC Board of Directors will be made up of senior Central Government officials and eminent experts to ensure the company’s professional operations and management.
The Chairman and non-Government Directors of the NLMC will be appointed on the basis of merit.
Benefits: This will allow for the productive use of underutilised assets, resulting in private sector investments, new economic activities, a boost to the local economy, and the generation of financial resources for economic and social infrastructure.
NLMC is also expected to own, hold, manage, and monetize surplus land and building assets of CPSEs that are being closed, as well as surplus non-core land assets of Government-owned CPSEs that are being strategically disinvested.
This will hasten the closure of CPSEs and smooth the strategic disinvestment of government-owned CPSEs.
Among the key challenges that NLMC may face are a lack of identifiable revenue streams in specific land assets, a dispute resolution mechanism, various litigations, a lack of clear titles, and a lack of investor interest in remote land parcels.
The National Land Management Corporation (NLMC) will monetize surplus land and building assets of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and other government agencies.
CPSEs are companies in which the Central Government or other CPSEs own 51 percent or more of the stock.
Currently, CPSEs have significant surplus, unused, and underutilised non-core assets in the form of land and buildings.
NLMC will also advise and assist other government entities (including CPSEs) in identifying and monetizing surplus non-core assets in a professional and efficient manner to maximise value realisation.
The National Land Monetization Center (NLMC) will serve as a repository for best practises in land monetization, as well as assist and provide technical advice to the government in the implementation of asset monetization programmes.
It is the process of generating new revenue streams for the government and its entities by releasing the economic value of idle or underutilised public assets.
India requires more infrastructure, but the public sector lacks the resources to build it. There are two options for a response.
To build new infrastructure, consider bringing in the private sector with a contractual framework outlining what it must do, and then allowing it to bring its own resources.
Recognize that there are more risks during the construction stage, and it may be preferable to let the public sector build the asset before selling it to private players, or if not an outright sale.
Building new infrastructure has two constraints for any country, including India: access to patient, predictable, and low-cost capital, and execution capability, in which government and private agencies can take on multiple marquee projects at the same time.
There are no discernible revenue streams in any of the assets.
Slow pace of privatisation in government-owned enterprises.
Furthermore, the lacklustre bids in the recently launched Public-private partnerships (PPP) initiative in trains show that attracting private investors’ interest is not easy.
In gas and petroleum pipeline networks, capacity is underutilised.
Tariffs in the power sector are regulated.
Investors have little interest in national highways with fewer than four lanes.
The Way Forward
The success of the infrastructure expansion plan would be contingent on other stakeholders playing their respective roles.
State governments and their Public Sector Enterprises, as well as the private sector, are among them.
In this regard, the Fifteenth Finance Commission has proposed the formation of a High-Powered Intergovernmental Group to review the fiscal responsibility legislation of the Centre and States.
Maintaining transparency is essential for adequate asset realisation.
Recent experience suggests that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) now involve transparent auctions, a clear understanding of the risks and payoffs, and a level playing field for all interested parties.
As a result, the value of PPP in greenfield projects cannot be overstated.
The Virtual Smart Grid Knowledge Center (Virtual SGKC) and Innovation Park were recently launched by the Union Minister for Power.
The Virtual Smart Grid Knowledge Center (Virtual SGKC), located within the powergrid centre in Manesar (Haryana), is the Union government’s first initiative of its kind.
As part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav Programme, the initiative will be one of the world’s leading Centers of Excellence for fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and research in smart grid technologies.
POWERGRID established it with support from the Union Ministry of Power and technical assistance from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for the demonstration and advancement of cutting-edge smart grid technologies.
SGKC aspires to be one of the world’s leading Centers of Excellence for smart grid technology innovation, entrepreneurship, and research, as well as to build capacity in the power distribution sector.
It will enable a digital footprint of the physical setup of SGKC, which was felt to be necessary during the Covid-19 pandemic.
About: A smart grid is an electrical grid equipped with automation, communication, and information technology systems that can monitor power flows from points of generation to points of consumption (even down to the appliance level) and control the power flow or curtail the load in real time or near real time to match generation.
Smart Grids can be realised through the implementation of efficient transmission and distribution systems, system operations, consumer integration, and renewable integration.
Smart grid solutions assist in real-time monitoring, measurement, and control of power flows, which can contribute to the identification of losses and, as a result, appropriate technical and managerial actions can be taken to arrest the losses.
Vision for India: With the active participation of stakeholders, transform the Indian power sector into a secure, adaptive, sustainable, and digitally enabled ecosystem that provides reliable and quality energy to all.
T&D loss reduction, peak load management, improved QoS and reliability
Power purchase costs are reduced.
Improved asset management.
Grid visibility has been improved, and grids are self-healing.
Integration of renewable energy and access to electricity
Options such as ToU tariffs, DR programmes, and net metering have been expanded.
Customers who are satisfied and utilities that are financially sound, for example.
Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (SAUBHAGYA): Providing rural and urban households with reliable and affordable electricity.
The Green Energy Corridor (GEC) is a project that connects grid-connected renewable energy to India’s national transmission network.
The National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) and the Smart Meter National Programme (SMNP) are transforming India’s power sector into a safe, adaptive, sustainable, and digitally enabled ecosystem.