India’s Arctic Policy, titled ‘India and the Arctic: Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development,’ was recently unveiled by the Ministry of Earth Science.
As an observer, India holds one of the Arctic Council’s 13 seats.
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental organisation that promotes research and facilitates cooperation among Arctic countries on issues concerning environmental protection and the long-term development of the Arctic region.
India’s involvement with the Arctic began in 1920, when it signed the Svalbard Treaty in Paris with Norway, the United States, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, as well as the British overseas Dominions and Sweden, concerning Spitsbergen.
Spitsbergen is the largest island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
Spitsbergen is Svalbard’s only permanently inhabited island. Year round, more than half of the land is covered in ice. Mountains and fjords, in addition to glaciers, define the landscape.
Since then, India has been keeping a close eye on all developments in the Arctic region.
In 2007, India launched its Arctic research programme, with a focus on climate change in the region.
The goals included researching teleconnections between Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon, characterising Arctic sea ice using satellite data, and estimating the effect on global warming.
India also conducts research on the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers, as well as sea-level changes, as well as an assessment of the Arctic flora and fauna.
Its goal is to improve national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region.
Through inter-ministerial coordination, it seeks to strengthen institutional and human resource capacities within the government as well as academic, research, and business institutions in pursuit of India’s Arctic interests.
It aims to improve understanding of the impact of Arctic climate change on India’s climate, economic, and energy security.
It aims to promote better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of Arctic ice melting on India’s economic, military, and strategic interests in global shipping routes, energy security, and mineral wealth exploitation.
It aims to investigate the connections between polar regions and the Himalayas, as well as to strengthen cooperation between India and Arctic countries through various Arctic forums, drawing on scientific and traditional knowledge.
The policy also aims to increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and to improve understanding of the Arctic’s complex governance structures, relevant international laws, and geopolitics.
The importance of the Arctic region stems from the shipping routes that pass through it.
According to a study published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the Arctic’s negative effects are not only affecting the availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, but are also changing global shipping routes.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India can contribute to ensuring the stability of the Arctic.
The region is of enormous geopolitical importance because the Arctic is expected to be ice-free by 2050, with world powers rushing to exploit the region’s abundant natural resources.
The Arctic is a polar region in the far north of the Earth.
Snow and ice cover the land in the Arctic region vary seasonally.
The Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden make up the region.
India’s Arctic Policy is timely, and it is likely to provide policymakers in India with guidance on the contours of India’s engagement with the region.
It is the first step in developing an all-government approach to India’s engagement with the region.
The Policy is also expected to raise awareness about the Arctic in India and vice versa through the implementation of programmes, seminars, and events in both India and the Arctic.
However, India must also appoint a ‘Arctic ambassador/representative’ to represent and voice India’s views on Arctic issues.
The formation of a dedicated expert committee to plan, monitor, steer, implement, and review India’s Arctic policy may aid in streamlining the country’s approach.
The government recently prepared a draught national tourism policy focusing on green and digital tourism, which was distributed to industry partners, state governments, and other allied ministries for feedback before being submitted for approval.
Previously, the Ministry of Tourism developed three draught strategies with roadmaps for promoting Medical and Wellness Tourism, Rural Tourism Development, and the MICE Industry in India.
To encourage investment in the tourism sector, the document mentions granting the sector industry status as well as formally granting infrastructure status to hotels.
In the next ten years, there will be a strong emphasis on five key areas: green tourism, digital tourism, destination management, skilling the hospitality sector, and supporting tourism-related Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Relief Measures and Tax Breaks: The industry, which has suffered the most in the last two years of the pandemic, has made numerous requests to government representatives for relief measures as well as tax breaks.
The draught policy does not address specific operational issues, but rather provides framework conditions to assist the sector, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The overall mission and vision are being developed in order to improve the experience of both foreign and domestic tourists.
About: Historically, India drew a large number of visitors due to its fabled wealth. Hieun-visit, tsang’s a devout Chinese Buddhist, is an example of this.
Pilgrim travel gained traction when Emperors such as Ashoka and Harsha began to construct pilgrim rest houses.
The ‘Arthashastra’ emphasises the importance of travel infrastructure for the state, which has historically played an important role.
Tourism has always been a part of the Five Year Plans in the post-independence period (FYP).
Following the seventh FYP, various forms of tourism such as business tourism, health tourism, and wildlife tourism, among others, were introduced in India.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2019 report, India’s tourism ranks 10th in terms of its contribution to global GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
The contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in 2019 was 6.8 percent of the total economy, or Rs. 13,68,100 crore (USD 194.30 billion).
As of 2021, India has 40 sites on the ‘World Heritage List,’ ranking sixth in the world (32 cultural, 7 natural, and 1 mixed site).
The most recent are Dholavira and Ramappa Temple (both in Telangana).
In FY20, the tourism sector in India employed 39 million people, accounting for 8.0 percent of total employment in the country. It is expected to account for approximately 53 million jobs by 2029.
Service Sector: It stimulates the service sector. With the expansion of the tourism industry comes an increase in the number of businesses engaged in the service sector, such as airlines, hotels, and surface transportation.
Foreign Exchange: Foreign travellers assist India in obtaining foreign currency.
Foreign exchange earnings increased at a CAGR of 7% from 2016 to 2019, but fell in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preservation of National Heritage: Tourism contributes to the preservation of National Heritage and the environment by highlighting the significance of sites and the need to preserve them.
Renewal of Cultural Pride: The appreciation of tourist destinations around the world instils pride in Indian residents.
Infrastructural Development: To ensure that travellers do not encounter any difficulties, multiple-use infrastructures are being developed at a number of tourist destinations.
It aids in putting India on the global tourism map, earning appreciation and recognition, and initiating cultural exchange.
Tourism, as a form of soft power, aids in the promotion of cultural diplomacy, people-to-people connections, and thus friendship and cooperation between India and other countries.
Inadequate Infrastructure: Tourists in India continue to face numerous infrastructure-related issues such as inadequate roads, water, sewer, hotels, and telecommunications, among others.
Safety and security: The safety and security of tourists, particularly foreign tourists, is a major impediment to tourism development. Attacks on foreign nationals cast doubt on India’s ability to welcome visitors from distant lands.
Another challenge for India’s tourism industry is a lack of skilled labour.
Absence of basic amenities: At tourist destinations, there is a lack of basic amenities such as drinking water, well-maintained toilets, first aid, cafeterias, and so on.
Seasonality in tourism, with the peak season lasting six months from October to March, with a heavy rush in November and December.
Under this scheme, the Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for the development of infrastructure for 13 identified theme-based circuits.
The Ministry of Tourism launched the National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive: PRASAD Scheme in 2014-15 with the goal of holistic development of identified pilgrimage destinations.
Buddhist sites in Bodhgaya, Ajanta, and Ellora have been identified as Iconic Tourist Sites (with the goal of increasing India’s soft power).
Every other year, the Buddhist Conclave is held with the goal of promoting India as a Buddhist destination and major markets around the world.
The Way Forward
The need for faster development of all types of infrastructure (physical, social, and digital) is urgent.
Tourist safety is a top priority. For tourists, an official guide system could be established.
Indian residents should be encouraged to treat tourists well in order to avoid any type of fraud.
To address the issue of seasonality, other forms of tourism such as medical tourism, adventure tourism, and so on should be promoted. Another option is to make a concession during the off-season.
India’s vast natural, geographical, cultural, and artistic diversity provides enormous opportunities. The Indian tourism industry should capitalise on this opportunity.
The Disaster Management Plan of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj was recently released by the Union Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (DMP-MoPR).
It was created with a broader perspective of community-based planning in mind, beginning with the village and progressing to the District Panchayat level.
Every Indian village would have a “Village Disaster Management Plan,” and each Panchayat would have their own Disaster Management Plan, according to the Plan.
The goal is to build disaster resilience among Panchayats at the grassroots level and to establish a framework to align disaster management measures in rural areas with those of the National Disaster Management Authority.
It incorporates many innovations while also complying with the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the National Disaster Management Policy of 2009, and National Disaster Management Authority guidelines.
It covers a wide range of topics, including institutional arrangements for disaster management.
Analysis of Hazard Risk, Vulnerability, and Capacity
Disaster Risk Management Coherence Across Resilient Development and Climate Change Action
Preventive and Mitigation Measures for Disasters-Responsibility Framework
Integration of Community-Based Disaster Management Plans for Villages and Panchayats, among other things.
Because of its unique geo-climatic and socio-economic conditions, India has been vulnerable to many natural and man-made disasters to varying degrees.
Earthquakes, floods, landslides, cyclones, tsunamis, urban flooding, and droughts are all examples of natural disasters.
Man-made disasters can be nuclear, biological, or chemical in nature.
Different parts of the country are extremely vulnerable to cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, and other natural disasters.
Helpful in Disaster Management Comprehensively:
Convergent and collaborative efforts to envision, plan, and implement community-based disaster management plans would be a game changer in disaster management.
All stakeholders, including Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), elected representatives and Panchayat functionaries, would be involved in the plan’s planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
The community’s involvement is a critical component of any disaster preparedness strategy, and active community participation is required to carry out and sustain disaster management activities in rural areas.
Ensure Participatory Planning Process: This plan would be extremely useful for ensuring a participatory planning process for DMPs that is integrated with the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) for addressing disasters across the country and ushering in a new era of community-based disaster management, convergence, and collective action with programmes and schemes from various Ministries / Departments.
Formation of the National Disaster Reaction Force (NDRF):
India consciously developed DM as a holistic approach, incorporating disaster preparedness, mitigation, and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into plans and policies rather than simply reacting after a disaster.
India has become increasingly adept at mitigating and responding to all types of disasters, including the formation of the National Disaster Reaction Force (NDRF), the world’s largest rapid response force dedicated to disaster response.
India’s Role in Foreign Disaster Relief: India is an emerging donor that has provided significant amounts of foreign disaster relief and foreign development assistance to other countries.
India’s foreign humanitarian assistance has increasingly included military assets, with naval ships or aircraft primarily used to deliver aid.
Many of the recipient countries have been in the South and Southeast Asian region, in accordance with its diplomatic policy of “Neighborhood First.”
Over the last two decades, India has provided bilateral foreign humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, among others.
Contribution to Regional Disaster Preparedness: India contributes to regional disaster preparedness and capacity building efforts as part of its neighbourhood development efforts.
India has hosted DM Exercises as part of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), allowing the NDRF to demonstrate to counterparts from partner states the techniques developed to respond to various disasters.
Other NDRF and Indian Armed Forces exercises have brought India’s first responders together with those from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Managing Climate Change-Related Disasters: Over the last two decades, the majority of disasters have been climate-related, with floods being the most common type of disaster and storms being the second most lethal (surpassed by earthquakes).
India has ratified the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, all of which emphasise the links between disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation (CCA), and sustainable development.
India is a member of a number of multilateral organisations that deal with these and other issues that benefit from multinational cooperation.
Maharashtra is the latest state to threaten to leave the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yogna (PMFBY) if the changes suggested by it are not implemented.
Because of low claim ratios and financial constraints, Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Jharkhand have opted out of the scheme.
It is a central-state scheme that was implemented in the 2016-17 kharif season.
Its goal is to protect farmers from crop losses.
The central and state governments pay more than 95 percent of the premium amount, while the farmer pays 1.5-5 percent.
Farmers are required to fill out loss reports online, which are validated by insurance companies before the compensation amount is paid directly into their accounts, due to the extensive use of technology in settling farmers’ claims within a specified time period.
Prior to 2020, the scheme was mandatory for farmers who used institutional financing, but it was changed to make it voluntary for all farmers.
State Financial Constraints: The financial constraints of state governments, as well as the low claim ratio during normal seasons, are the primary reasons for these states’ failure to implement the Scheme.
States are incapable of dealing with a situation in which insurance companies pay farmers less than the premiums collected from them and the Centre.
State governments failed to release funds on time, causing insurance payouts to be delayed.
This undermines the scheme’s very purpose, which is to provide timely financial assistance to the farming community.
Many farmers are dissatisfied with both the amount of compensation and the length of time it takes to settle their claims.
Insurance companies play a significant role and wield significant power. In many cases, it did not investigate losses caused by a localised disaster and, as a result, did not pay the claims.
Implementation Issues: Insurance companies have shown no interest in bidding for crop-loss-prone clusters.
Furthermore, it is in the nature of the insurance industry for entities to profit when crop failures are low and vice versa.
Identification Issues: Because the PMFBY scheme currently does not distinguish between large and small farmers, the issue of identification arises. Small farmers are the most vulnerable segment of the population.
Maharashtra has proposed a share of premium collected from insurance companies during a non-payout or normal year.
It called for the Beed model, which was first tested during the kharif 2020. Under this model, insurance companies provide coverage up to 110 percent of the premium collected.
If the compensation amount exceeds this, the state government will make up the difference.
If the compensation amount is less than the premium collected, the company will return 80 percent of the funds to the state government while keeping the remaining 20 percent for administrative costs.
The model was implemented by the Agricultural Insurance Company, which is run by the government.
Insurance Company Accountability: The state has also sought greater accountability from insurance companies.
Farm leaders have asked for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place while the scheme is implemented, as well as the use of technology to help eliminate human interference.
Insurance companies should bid on a cluster for three years to give themselves a better chance of dealing with both good and bad years. Bids should be submitted before the start of the kharif/rabi season.
Instead of providing subsidies, the state government should invest the funds in a new insurance model.
The Beed model will reduce the state’s subsidy burden, but it remains to be seen whether it will benefit farmers.