The News Editorial Analysis 11th November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 11th November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 11th November 2021

Eight districts in T.N. brace for severe rain, put under red alert

Police, fire and rescue services, NDRF gear up for contingencies; several international flights cancelled or rescheduled at Chennai airport; cyclone warning in sea ports

Normal life remained disrupted for the fourth day in many parts of Chennai and coastal districts following rain and waterlogging on Wednesday, even as the north coastal regions in Tamil Nadu braced themselves to face the forecast of severe rainfall on Thursday.

The India Meteorological Department announced the weather system has intensified into a depression and would cross the north Tamil Nadu coast close to north of Puducherry by Thursday evening.

The department has issued red alert for eight districts — Chennai, Tiruvallur, Ranipet, Vellore, Salem, Kallakurichi, Tirupattur and Tiruvannamalai — on Thursday as extremely heavy rainfall measuring above 20.4 cm is expected in one or two places and very heavy to heavy rainfall in a few places. Rain may be of heavy to very heavy intensity over 11 districts including Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri and the Union Territory of Puducherry. Many other places may record rainfall of varying intensity.

The police, fire and rescue services and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have geared up to meet contingencies. The NDRF teams reached Puducherry and Cuddalore on Wednesday. Several international flights were cancelled or rescheduled at the Chennai airport and cyclone warning was hoisted in key sea ports.

Central help

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, who continued to inspect the affected areas in Chennai wearing raincoat and gumboots, said the State would assess the impact of the rain over the next two days before reaching out to the Centre for funds.

The heavy rain spell ensured that waterbodies received copious inflow in many parts. The combined storage of reservoirs in the State was 199.165 tmcft. — around 89% of the capacity of 90 reservoirs.

According to the IMD, the depression lay centred over southwest Bay of Bengal, about 430 km east-southeast of Chennai and 420 km east-southeast of Puducherry, on Wednesday evening. It is very likely to move west–northwestwards and reach near north T.N. coast by Thursday early morning. It may then move west-northwestwards and cross north T.N. and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts between Karaikal and Sriharikota close to the north of Puducherry by Thursday evening.

On Wednesday, intermittent rainfall continued over many parts of the State. The Ennore port recorded 5 cm, Cheyyur in Chengalpattu district (4 cm), Nungambakkam (3.3 cm), MRC Nagar, Villivakkam and Anna University (3 cm) and Meenambakkam 2 cm between 8.30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Rain pounded several places the previous night. During the past 24 hours ending 8.30 a.m., Nagapattinam and Tirupoondi in Nagapattinam district received a whopping 31 cm of rainfall. In areas closer to Chennai, rain was relatively mild. While Mamallapuram and Chennai recorded 3 cm, Anna University and Meenambakkam received 2 cm each during the same period.

  1. Balachandran, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Chennai, said as of now, there are not much chances for the weather system to intensify further and the system is being monitored for its movement. Strong surface winds of 30-35 kmph are likely over the north coastal districts from Thursday morning.

On another system brewing over the south Andaman sea and predicted to form around November 13, he said the system is still far away and is being monitored for its impact over Tamil Nadu. The department has also issued warning for fishermen not to venture into sea on Thursday due to squally winds.

State gets 50% more rain

Tamil Nadu has already received 50% more rainfall than its seasonal share since October 1. It has recorded nearly 38.4 cm of rains against its average of 25.5 cm. Similarly, Chennai district has registered 50% excess rain than its average of 41 cm so far, he added.

The Chief Minister said the Government would finalise its request to seek financial support from the Government of India for the losses incurred only after the next two days when heavy rains are predicted,.

Interacting with reporters after visiting the rain-affected areas in T. Nagar, Chennai, Mr. Stalin said the poor implementation of the Smart City project by the erstwhile AIADMK Government has resulted in T. Nagar facing major civic issues during the heavy rains.

“Under the Smart City project, they [the AIADMK Government] have received bribe. T. Nagar is affected much because of that,” Mr. Stalin said.

On being asked what he wanted to tell the people, Mr. Stalin said: “We will deliver on what objective and principle and mission, we came to power. We are prioritising the most-affected areas and undertaking relief work and work continues to be implemented.”

Alleging that the previous government had not undertaken any civic development work during the past 10 years, Mr. Stalin said ever since his party was elected to power six months ago, it had been identifying areas prone to waterlogging and taking corrective action. “We have completed about 50-60%. And there are more. Once the rainy season is over, we will resolve it permanently.”

Medical camps were being organised by the Government in relief camps and medical officers have been deputed there. The CM also visited the Sathiyamurthi school campus on the G.N. Chetty Road, Viswanathapuram, Rangarajapuram among others and reviewed the works to drain water.

Earlier, Mr. Stalin visited the State Emergency Operation Centre in Ezhilagam complex on Kamarajar Salai where helpline services were being handled. He also attended a few calls from the general public and directed officials to help them, an official release said.

It said 1,548 people have been housed in temporary camps by the Greater Chennai Corporation and over 4.40 lakh food packets have been distributed.

The government nominated 10 IAS officers to supervise and take preventive measures in coordination with the district administration in as many districts. The coordinators will update the Chief Secretary on a daily basis.

First Indian layman to be conferred sainthood

Pope Francis to canonise Blessed Devasahayam Pillai

Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu converted to Christianity in the 18th Century, will become the first Indian layman to be conferred sainthood by the Vatican.

Pope Francis will canonise Blessed Devasahayam Pillai together with six other Blessed during a canonisation mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on May 15, 2022, Church officials said here on Wednesday. The announcement was made by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican on Tuesday.

With the completion of the process, Pillai, who took the name Lazarus after embracing Christianity in 1745, will become the first layperson from India to become a saint, the Church said.

‘Lazarus’ or ‘Devasahayam in the local language means ‘God is my help.’

Stood for equality

“While preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences. This aroused the hatred of the higher classes and he was arrested in 1749. After enduring increasing hardships, he received the crown of martyrdom when he was shot on January 14, 1752,” a note prepared by the Vatican said.

Life and martyrdom

Sites linked with his life and martyrdom are in the Kottar diocese in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012 in Kottar, 300 years after his birth. He was born into a Hindu Nair family at Nattalam in Kanyakumari district, which was part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom, on April 23, 1712.

Coringa set for fishing cat collaring project

The exercise involves study of its habitat, feeding habits, threats and movements

Conservation biologists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, will begin collaring 10 fishing cats (Prionailurusviverrinus) in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Andhra Pradesh next week. The country’s first such project will be led by principal investigator Bilal Habib.

In Asia, a similar project had been done in Bangladesh. The project, planned in 2020, had to be postponed due to COVID-19.

The State Forest Department had already released ₹45 lakh of the ₹75 lakh total project cost being entirely funded by the Vedanta group.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had also permitted the project.

“Our team of researchers will begin the fishing cat collaring project next week in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. The project begins with enumerating the fishing cat before selecting the animals for collaring,” Dr. Habib told The Hindu over phone on Wednesday.

“The project involves the fishing cat estimate and collaring, and how it survives in the sanctuary,” Dr. Habib said.

“The three-year project will also study its habitat, feeding habits, threats and movements,” he added.

The 2018 census had recorded the existence of 115 fishing cats. A significant portion of the Coringa mangrove ecosystem had recently been disturbed because of the clandestine manufacturing of ID liquor in the Godavari estuary.

There is, however, no scientific study on the impact of the illegal activity on the wildlife in general and the fishing cat in particular.

The sanctuary spreads above 235.7 square km. In October, 177 square km area surrounding the sanctuary was declared as eco-sensitive zone.

“The collars are imported,” said C. Selvam, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Rajahmundry.

The sanctuary is yet to be declared as a Ramsar site despite facing various threats to its ecology.

Climate finance is insufficient, says Glasgow draft document

The document urges the developed countries to ‘urgently scale up’

The News Editorial Analysis 11th November 2021

A draft document of the agreement that countries, including India, are negotiating in Glasgow, Scotland underlines that the promised climate finance by the developed countries is “insufficient to respond to the worsening climate change impacts in developing countries” and urges the developed countries to “urgently scale up.”

The provision of finance for mitigation and adaptation of the impact of global warming is one of the key sticking points. The United States, Canada, several countries of the European Union, the United Kingdom and others have dragged their feet on a commitment to provide $100 billion annually by 2020. India, along with several other developing countries, has for years pointed out that not providing this money implies that the developed countries’ demand to coerce major developing countries into a net-zero commitment by mid-century is unjustified. It also violates the core principle of equity and climate justice, they aver.

India’s commitment

Last week, in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to India reaching net zero by 2070, two decades after 2050. Updated reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that the earth’s best shot at keeping temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C by the end of the century is most nations achieving net zero by mid-century. Net zero is when a country’s greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Mr. Modi also said nearly a trillion dollars in finance was needed from the developed countries.

The countries debating the agreement at the ongoing 26th Conference of Parties (COP) must have a final document in place by Friday, the concluding day of the summit. The draft document also says that it “recognises that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030, relative to the 2010 level, and to net zero around mid-century.” It also called upon the nearly 200 countries which are part of the negotiations to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.”

Though Mr. Modi has committed to dramatically increase the use of renewable energy by 2030, India is likely to double its use of coal in the interim given how it sees the economy growing in the years ahead.

“The funds necessary for adaptation must increase,” said Bhupender Yadav, Environment Minister. “Our consistent stand has been that developing countries such as India need transparency in terms of what kind of market mechanism will be in place. This is necessary to ensure that the developing and developed countries are on a level playing field.”

The draft document also “welcomed” the contributions [of $413 million] to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). The LDCF is for a group of countries, several of them island nations, that have the least carbon emissions but also are at greatest risk. Since 2001, it has provided $1.7 billion for projects that help buffer the impacts from warming.

Independent commentators appeared unimpressed. “The decision does not recognise strongly enough the extremely urgent need to close the huge 2030 emission gap, and to establish a high-level political process in 2020 to do so. At this stage, the draft only urges parties which have not yet submitted new or updated commitments to do so before 2022, yet many have submitted NDCs that are not at all improved or enhanced and/or are nowhere near sufficient for the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C limit,” said Bill Hare, Founder, Climate Analytics.

“The UN Secretary General should be invited to convene world leaders at the end of 2022, specifically to address closing the 2030 mitigation and finance gap. If this is pushed off until 2023 then the process will really only be addressed here commitments for 2035, nearly 15 years away, leaving the massive gap in 2030 unaddressed,” said Mr. Hare.

Union Cabinet brings back MPLAD Scheme

MPs to get ₹2 cr. each instead of previously approved ₹5 cr.

Citing economic recovery, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday restored the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) that was suspended in April 2020 subsuming the funds for the scheme in the consolidated fund of India.

The scheme was suspended for two financial years (2020-21 and 2021-22) but the Government on Wednesday announced a partial rollback. The MPs will get ₹2 crore instead of the annual approved ₹5 crore.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said, “I am happy to state that since we are on the road to economic recovery, with many sectors reporting a positive growth, the Union Cabinet has decided to restore the MPLAD Scheme for the remaining part of the financial year 2021-22.”

When the suspension was announced last year, the Government had claimed that ₹8,000 crore that would have otherwise been spent under the scheme will go to the consolidated fund of India and will be used for fighting the pandemic.

Opposition leaders pointed out that the Government so far has not given a record of how it spent the savings from suspending the scheme for a year.

DMK’s Rajya Sabha member P. Wilson pointed out that the Centre, by way of suspending the MPLAD Scheme, withheld funds for the States during the peak of pandemic when they were battling with financial strain themselves.

NSA meet seeks urgent help for Afghans

Dialogues must not complicate situation: Russia

The Third Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan held here on Wednesday called for “urgent humanitarian assistance” to the Afghan people. The call was given in the meeting chaired by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who urged close cooperation and consultation among the regional countries over the Afghan scenario. Russian representative Nikolai P. Patrushev said multiple dialogue mechanisms “should not complicate” the unfolding situation in the Taliban- controlled Afghanistan.

A joint statement titled the ‘Delhi Declaration’ issued after the meeting called for “collective cooperation” against terrorism and drug trafficking in the region and “expressed concern over the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and underlined the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan”.

The statement emphasised that the aid should be provided in an “unimpeded, direct and assured manner” and that the help should be distributed across the country in a “non-discriminatory manner across all sections of the Afghan society”.

New online certification system puts exporters in a fix

Many reporting outages on the DGFT portal

After crossing $30 billion for seven successive months, India’s merchandise exports have hit a home-grown stumbling block in the first 10 days of this month — a new system mandating online issuance of Certificates of Origin (CoO) for every outbound consignment from November 1 that has put exporters in a tizzy.

Several small exporters are facing challenges in registering on to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) portal which requires high-quality digital signature certificates, with many reporting outages on the portal that was earlier used only to issue CoOs for shipments to countries with whom India had a preferential trade pact.

“For the last four days, we have been trying to register on the platform and get a CoO issued for a consignment,” said a Mumbai-based exporter, adding that the process used to take much less time earlier.

Patent granted to DRDO CoE

Advanced Centre of Research in High Energy Materials (ACRHEM), a DRDO Centre of Excellence at University of Hyderabad (UoH), has been granted a patent titled “Process for the Synthesis of 4-(dimethylsilane)- alkylferrocene”.

Ferrocene and its derivatives are important for use in catalysis, nanomaterials, pharmaceutical industries etc. Tushar Jana (School of Chemistry, UoH and adjunct faculty, ACRHEM) and Bikash Kumar Sikder, a post-doctoral fellow in ACRHEM are the inventors of the patent.

The case of demonetization in India

Five years on, the trajectory of the policy demonstrates that popular narratives can trump economic facts

Popular narratives play a much bigger role in economic policymaking than economists and policymakers acknowledge. If, indeed, these narratives are grounded more in myth than reality, the impact of such policy can be devastating. The demonetisation of high-value currency in India in 2016 is a classic case of policy based on faulty narratives. Paradoxically, the failure of the policy does not appear to dent the narrative and, consequently, there is very little price to pay for its failure.

Across time, the impact

Narratives are often intertwined in the cultural belief systems of the society. Thus, the Great Depression of the 1930s came to be associated with the excesses of the “roaring twenties”, though many economic factors were responsible. The Weimar hyperinflation of 1921-24 is so deeply embedded in the German consciousness, that even now, nearly 100 years after the event, German society treasures financial stability and distrusts public debt. Fiscal conservatism remains the dominant narrative and has inhibited the post-2008 recovery in Europe. Though the recent novel coronavirus pandemic crisis has led to Keynesian remedies on steroids in many countries, there is already a murmuring of fiscal imprudence fuelling inflation.

Indeed, narratives in economics, as in other social sciences, create myths which endure despite rational appeal to facts. The demonetisation story in India is also based on popular myth, the folklore of black money and its association with physical cash. The idea of demonetising large denomination currency as a tool to flush out undeclared hoards of cash was not new. It was done on two previous occasions, in 1946 and 1978, with poor results. But, unlike the limited impact of the previous events, the demonetisation in 2016 caused widespread disruption in the economy, whose costs are still to be properly reckoned.

Five years later, most observers have concluded that this policy was a failure. Very little of its declared objectives — of eliminating black money, corruption, moving towards a “less cash and more digital economy”, or increased tax compliance — were achieved. Expectations of windfall gains of some ₹2 trillion-3 trillion failed to materialise as more than 99.3% of the cancelled notes returned to the banks. If black money had existed as stockpiles of illegal cash, clearly all of it was very efficiently laundered. If the objective was to register a permanent upward shift in the tax base, it failed miserably. Perhaps the most telling evidence of the failure is that the cash-in-circulation has now exceeded pre-demonetisation levels.

Touching a chord

And, post-COVID-19, reliance on cash is much higher, and with more higher denomination notes in circulation. By every measure, demonetisation as economic policy was a gross failure. But, as a narrative, it was presented and received in an altogether different light. Despite its manifest failure, the power of the narrative was such that it succeeded in creating a favourable or positive view of the policy.

The folklore of black money and the vivid imagery that accompanies it is easily recognised and understood by the common people, who witness corruption in daily life and see it play out in the cinema, newspaper stories or in daily conversation over the years. The very term, black money, is a loaded phrase, where the specie itself acquires a symbolic and a substantive form. The wealth, representing ill-gotten gains, is perceived to be accumulated invariably in stacks of currency notes and gold, hoarded in safes, boxes, or ingeniously concealed cupboards.

The idea of dramatic action and the striking of a powerful blow against this wealth is deeply satisfying psychologically. It is the stuff of epics. The spectre of black money has been invoked frequently in Indian politics, sometimes truthfully and more often cynically. The narrative of black money is almost always couched in deeply moral terms.

It does not matter, as repeatedly emphasised in several economic studies, there is nothing to distinguish black or white money, except in the way it comes into being. Although income from corruption or criminal activities is by definition black money, most black money is earned through perfectly legal activities though not declared to the tax authorities. More importantly, black money is not really kept in cash except in small quantities but mostly accumulated through real estate and other assets. However, the way the narrative was framed made it hard for critics to explain their opposition. To denounce it outright would suggest that they have a vested interest in defending black money and corruption.

When it became clear that the cancelled currency was being returned to the banks in larger numbers than expected, the narrative changed focus from black money and fake currency to digital/cashless payments, the latter being elevated to some higher purpose than what it actually is, a mere technological change.

Linked sub-themes

A key point in selling the story was to introduce complementary sub-themes to reinforce the main narrative and, at times, to obscure the facts on the ground. Virtue signalling was key: appeals to nationalism and patriotism are always handy, while modernity and change are implied as means to progress towards some form of technological utopia.

The call to sacrifice has deep resonance in India, as elsewhere. The act (of demonetisation) was an act of collective sacrifice. The people in long queues were reminded of the sacrifices of the soldiers guarding the nation’s borders and not to think of their own suffering. Indeed, there was satisfaction in being told that the rich had it worse. In reality, the sacrifice called for was somewhat skewed in its impact, and the suffering of the poor was disproportionately greater.

The real irony lies in the fact that the moral high ground claimed by the demonetisation narrative worked better than contesting narratives of observed reality. It worked because it understood the nature of the moral economy of the poor. For the poor, long used to being at the receiving end of the state and its representatives, the impact of demonetisation would be one more blow in a series of blows with which they had to perforce deal. At least in this instance, there would seem to be a measure of justice if the rich really did suffer more.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, five years after the event, the Government does not acknowledge any failure, or have even a smidgeon of doubt. Noticeably, however, there have been no tall claims of success either.

A self-inflicted shock

Most of the studies, opinion polls, media reports and anecdotal evidence showed an overwhelming support for the policy. Despite personal hardship, long queues, and the loss of income and savings, there was a degree of ambiguity in criticising the decision. Most tended to distinguish the intention from the reality. That the policy was good but perhaps not implemented well seemed to be the main theme. This effectively insulated the original sin — that the very design of the policy ensured its outcome.

The case of demonetisation demonstrates that popular narratives can trump economic facts.

It is clear that where narratives succeed there is very little political cost. A failed policy that carries no cost is likely to generate more such policies. Unlike most economic shocks, which could be traced to endogenous or exogenous causes, demonetisation was an entirely self-inflicted shock, which was very likely carried out as much in a sincere belief in the narrative as in cynical political calculation.

Kaushik Jayaram is a former central banker who worked for many years in an international financial organization

The red truth of China’s ‘Common Prosperity Discourse’

Rather than making a radical break and realigning social relations, it seems intended to sustain the existing system

From a regulatory crackdown on tech unicorns to clampdown on private tutoring, from exhorting the rich to redistribute wealth to fintech companies forming unions for their workforce, a series of verbal assertions and administrative measures have been upending people’s lives in China over the last few months. The common thread binding these disparate actions together is the term, Common Prosperity (gongtong fuyu).

From start to present

Common Prosperity is not an entirely new term, having figured in all political reports at different congresses of the Communist Party of China (CPC) since 1992. However, it has acquired momentum under China’s President Xi Jinping as a special campaign. He unveiled its action plan in his speech at the 10th meeting of China’s Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs in August this year; its text was published in the CPC’s theoretical journal, Qiushi, in October. Like with Mr. Xi’s various signature political concepts, the theoretical design for this ‘New Deal’ — as has been characterised in some quarters — is believed to have been provided by Wang Huning, member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC.

The top-down campaign is aimed at engineering a “profound transformation” of the country, in achieving prosperity for all people in their material and spiritual (and moral) lives. It seeks to tame the excesses generated by the over four decade-long Reform and Opening Up (gaige kaifang). Despite achieving industrial transformation and technological growth, widening inequality (income, wealth, and region-based) and unbalanced, or inadequate development are characterised as negative by-products that need fixing. China’s Gini coefficient as per available figures, have remained between 0.46 and 0.49 for the last two decades. Being abreast of happenings around the world, the Party-state is anxious about social disintegration and political polarisation, which would end up destabilising its authoritarian rule and question its legitimacy.

Roots in CPC congress

The building blocks for this campaign lie in Mr. Xi’s political report at the 19th Congress of the CPC in 2017, where he identified the change in the principal contradiction in Chinese society from earlier years — between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. In fact, several aspects mentioned in the speech on Common Prosperity also figure in that political report — rather, Mr. Xi has chosen to give some extra push to a few of them to hasten results (such as a proposed law on property tax to regulate the highly speculative real estate sector; the first step in that direction is the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China authorising the State Council to initiate pilot experiments for five years before national implementation). This drive desires to tighten the Party-state’s control over monopolies, regulate the private sector, expand the size of the middle class, and check wealth accumulation. There is an emphasis on equalising access to basic social services but going by past experiences, its effectiveness remains uncertain.

Redistribution and labour

Parsing through the speech, it is notable that the commitment to State-led capitalism is intact, and the pursuit of larger economic goals also remains steadfast. There is little to no criticism of the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption. Mr. Xi continues to encourage people getting rich albeit in a more controlled manner as dictated by the Party-state. Though he wishes to divide the cake well, he is silent on simultaneously increasing its size. He specifies that the action plan should not be equated with egalitarianism, and that excessive guarantees be not provided even if China reaches a higher level of development and acquires stronger financial resources in the future. In doing so, he has signalled that the government would continue its non-intervention in substantive welfare redistribution. In highlighting the need to avoid welfarism, which he views as a trap for nurturing lazy people, Mr. Xi’s positioning is in sync with the neoliberal logic that views redistribution as anathema to economic growth.

Laying emphasis on the requirement of high-quality workers for high-quality development, Mr. Xi’s prioritisation of the development and upgradation of human capital for productivity is indicative of the Party-state’s calculated relationship with labour that is rooted purely in the extraction of value. In fact, this is also an extension from his political report at the 19th Congress of the CPC: ‘build an educated, skilled, and innovative workforce, foster respect for model workers, promote quality workmanship, and see that taking pride in labo[u]r becomes a social norm and seeking excellence is valued as a good work ethic’. Putting the onus on the workers for self-improvement, these formulations are reminiscent of the vocabulary used in the corporate human resources management ecosystem. In imparting such a vision, the Party-state elides its responsibility for workers-centric reforms at a systemic-level. 

On the margins still

Once again, the long-pending reform of the household registration system (hukou) — to integrate rural migrant blue-collar workers into cities and giving them access to urban services — may very well continue to remain unfulfilled given the strong pushback from city officials. Despite being the backbone of China’s economic metamorphosis, the rural migrant labour (nongmingong) will continue to negotiate their second class, lonely existence in unfamiliar cities and workplaces, in the process, confronting mental challenges that accompany their physical dislocations from home. Further, his criticism of ‘involution’ and ‘lying flat’ — recent popular phenomenon, of rejecting the hypercompetitive culture of overwork by tech workers and urban youth — reveals the discouragement of and intolerance against the online resistance of white-collar workers against the gruelling ‘996’ work schedules (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week).

In a nutshell

That the success of the Chinese economic development model is built on labour repression is a grim reality. The top-down authoritarian system offers concessions from time to time to mitigate unrest but severely cracks down on any bottom-up workers’ self-organising (even the recent guidelines allowing unions among gig workers, it is the tech companies who are forming them rather than through any initiatives of workers). Mr. Xi has identified Common Prosperity to be a long, arduous, and complex process. However, from the perspective of redistribution and labour — as evidenced by the increasing precariousness of workers and their continued political disfranchisement — this (Red) “New Deal” looks more rhetorical than being substantive. Rather than making any radical break and realigning social relations, it appears to be intended to strengthen and sustain the existing system.

Does India have a right to burn fossil fuels?

Chalking out a greener path to development will help India rather than arguing for more coal production

There has been quite a lot of debate on India’s dependence on coal against the backdrop of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) meeting. While the coal lobbyists may have obvious interests in continuing that dependence, it comes as a surprise when the progressive circles also provide theories to justify this. Despite the Environment Minister adopting a similar position on the eve of the COP26, the Government of India has, for the first time, made a commitment to achieve the net zero target by 2070. It remains to be seen whether the government will indeed walk the talk since the experience on this count (or other issues) does not necessarily inspire that confidence.

The crux of the theoretical argument is that India needs to develop, and development requires energy. However, since India has neither historically emitted nor currently emits carbon anywhere close to what the global North has, or does, in per capita terms, it has no reason to commit to declining dependence on coal, at least in the near future. If anything, the argument goes, it should ask for a higher and fairer share in the global carbon budget. There is no doubt that this carbon budget framework is an excellent tool to understand global injustice but to move from there to our ‘right to burn’ is a big leap. It is like arguing that since India was colonised, it has a right to do the same and stopping the country from doing that is injustice.

For development, do the countries in the global South necessarily need to increase their share in the global carbon budget? Thankfully the answer is ‘no’ and it does not come at the cost of development, even in the limited sense as development is defined generally.

The question of development

One, there is no doubt that economic development requires energy but that does not translate into energy by burning coal. If there are other cleaner forms of energy available, why persist on the usage of coal? Normally the argument in favour of coal is on account of its cost, reliability and domestic availability.Recent data show that the levelised cost of electricity from renewable energy sources like solar (photovoltaic), hydro and onshore wind has been declining sharply over the last decade and is already less than fossil fuel-based electricity generation. On reliability, frontier renewable energy technologies have managed to address the question of variability of such sources to a large extent and, with technological progress, it seems to be changing for the better. As for the easy domestic availability of coal, it is a myth. According to the Ministry of Coal, India’s net coal import went up from ₹782.6 billion in 2011-12 to ₹1,155.0 billion in 2020-21. India is among the largest importers of coal in the world, whereas it has no dearth of solar energy.

Two, why should the global South be aping the North in the development model it wants to follow? During the debates of post-colonial development in the Third World, there were two significant issues under discussion — control over technology and choice of techniques to address the issue of surplus labour. India didn’t quite resolve the two issues in its attempts of import-substituting industrialisation which worsened during the post-reform period. But it can address both today. The abundance of renewable natural resources in the tropical climate can give India a head start in this competitive world of technology. South-South collaborations can help India avoid the usual patterns of trade between the North and the South, where the former controls technology and the latter merely provides inputs. And the high-employment trajectory that the green path entails vis-à-vis the fossil fuel sector may help address the issue of surplus labour, even if partially. Such a path could additionally provide decentralised access to clean energy to the poor and the marginalised, including in remote regions of India. So, it simultaneously addresses the issues of employment, technology, energy poverty and self-reliance.

Types of injustice

Three, the framework of addressing global injustice in terms of a carbon budget is quite limiting in its scope in more ways than one. Such an injustice is not at the level of the nation-states alone; there is such injustice between the rich and the poor within nations and between humans and non-human species. A progressive position on justice would take these injustices into account instead of narrowly focusing on the framework of nation-states. Moreover, it’s a double whammy of injustice for the global South when it comes to climate change. Not only is it not primarily responsible, but the global South, especially its poor, will unduly bear the effect of climate change because of its tropical climate and high population density along the coastal lines. So, arguing for more coal is like shooting oneself in the foot. It is true that mitigation from the South alone will not make the difference required to stop this catastrophe but burning more coal will not necessarily solve the problem either.

But none of this answers how the wrongs of the past will be righted, the basic premise we started with. We have argued in this very newspaper that one of the ways in which this can be done is by making the global North pay for the energy transition in the South. Chalking out an independent, greener path to development may create conditions for such negotiations and give the South the moral high ground to force the North to come to the table, like South Africa did at Glasgow. The current lack of action against climate change both in the North and South has been maintained by dividing the working classes of these two regions — the North justifying operating coal mines since the South continues to emit more and the South negotiating for a higher share in carbon budget based on the past emissions of the North. This is a deadlock. The need of the hour is a global progressive agenda that does not pit the working class of the North against the South but the working people of the world as a whole resisting the global ruling elite in its aggressive and dangerous model of competitive emissions. Even if one is pessimistic about this path of righting the wrongs of the past, at the very least, it is better than the status quo.

Rohit Azad teaches economics at JNU, New Delhi, and Shouvik Chakraborty is a research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute, Amherst, U.S.

Online certificate mode puts exporters in a fix

The Government said the move was to improve the ease of doing business in line with its “Digital India” focus, but industry bodies from several States have flagged concerns with its implementation. Most critically, existing export facilitation intermediaries such as customs house agents (CHAs), who handle most of the export paperwork, have not been able to share data on exporters’ behalf, as the DGFT has not shared the API (Application Programming Interface) for the new system.

“For CoWin and Aadhaar, we have an API-sharing system so that information can be shared. Unfortunately, this facility is not there and we have flagged the issue but there hasn’t been a favourable response,” said an industry representative. The Commerce and Industry Ministry which oversees the DGFT, entrusted with formulating and implementing the foreign trade policy, told The Hindu that the online CoO portal had a simple registration process and its design allowed the principal user or the exporter to provide access rights to the other secondary users such as the CHAs.

The Ministry did not respond to a query on whether API-sharing is being considered, but said 85 agencies were “now enabled on the portal”. On hardships faced by exporters in registering to the online system, it said, “No problem has been reported on this account based on our experience with the preferential exporting community.” “ Many exporters are facing issues and we have sent emails to the DGFT and called on their call centre, but to no avail,” countered an exporter, adding that the problem is particularly acute for micro, small and medium exporters in smaller towns.

Separate payments

Even larger exporters, with multiple shipments heading out at a time, are facing challenges due to a norm that stipulates separate payments for each certificate issued. “Issues relating to bulk fee payment, etc. are areas which can be looked at in a phased manner based on the extent of interest shown by various users,” the Ministry said.

The Federation of Indian Exporters’ Organisations said that while the new digital portal was a step in the right direction that would address a number of concerns of exporters and importing countries, teething challenges needed attention and permitting API integration would facilitate faster on-boarding of the exporting community into the new system.

Over seven lakh preferential CoOs have been issued from the online DGFT portal since its launch in September 2019, the Ministry said. With all merchandise exporters now required to use the same platform, the volumes to be handled by the portal have gone up. Asked if the portal’s capacity has been enhanced accordingly, the Ministry said the portal had scalability and was hosted on a cloud server.

“All IT systems being dynamic in nature, can be tweaked to accommodate the larger concerns of a majority of users based on the exporter feedback. In fact, a number of changes were implemented recently in October 2021 based on the exporter feedback and user experience of authorised agencies,” it said.

Nashik-based Santosh Mandlecha, president of the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, told The Hindu that exporters, including those dealing with perishable farm produce consignments, had been facing challenges since November 1 for myriad reasons, including difficulties in registering their digital signatures on the DGFT portal.

“The online certificates are a good idea but the Government must consider allowing both offline certificates and online certificates till the on-boarding challenges are resolved. We have been taking this up with the Ministry for a few months now,” said Mr. Santosh Mandlecha.


The News Editorial Analysis 10th November 2021


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