The News Editorial Analysis 8th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 8th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 8th Dec 2021

Nagaland seeks AFSPA repeal, scraps ongoing Hornbill Festival

The News Editorial Analysis 8th Dec 2021

Shutdown observed in Mon district; two injured in Army firing still critical

Mon district in Nagaland observed a shutdown on Tuesday in protest against the killing of 14 civilians by the security forces, while the State Government called off a major ongoing festival as a mark of respect to the deceased.The State Cabinet also decided to write to the Union Government to immediately repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, now in force in the State.Government spokesperson and State Planning Minister NeibaKronu said the Cabinet, at an emergency meeting in Kohima on Tuesday, discussed the botched operation by the Army in Oting village of Mon district on December 4. “The Cabinet decided that the special investigation team headed by an IGP should complete its probe into the Mon incident and submit its report within a month. It also decided to write to the Government of India for repealing the AFSPA immediately from the State,” he told reporters.Mr. Kronu added that the Cabinet had decided to cancel the ongoing Hornbill Festival in view of the mourning announced for the deceased and to express solidarity with the bereaved families. The 10-day annual marquee festival that attracts tourists from all over began on December 1, marking the day Nagaland attained statehood in 1963. The Tourism Department has been asked to wind up the festival — barring the entrepreneurial activities — with a short, solemn closing ceremony.Mr. Kronu said two persons injured in the firing were still in a critical condition in a hospital in Dibrugarh and six others were under treatment in Dimapur. Twenty-two persons had been discharged,he added.

Omicron wave may be milder, report suggests

Analysis of cases in S. Africa indicates fewer deaths, lower oxygen dependency

Two weeks since the emergence of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus in Gauteng province of South Africa, it appears that the variant is linked to a smaller proportion of deaths compared with the previous waves of COVID-19.A much smaller fraction of those admitted to hospital required supplemental oxygenation than during the earlier three waves, according to an analysis of patient records by researchers at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).Though yet early, and with a caveat that the situation may change “significantly in the next two weeks”, Fareed Abdullah, author of the analysis, noted: “The main observation that we have made over the last two weeks is that the majority of patients in the COVID wards have not been oxygen dependent.” The report is not a peer-reviewed medical study but a “news feature” on the official SAMRC website.India so far reported 23 Omicron cases, most of them passengers with a history of travel to Africa. Nearly all of those infected reportedly have mild symptoms. The SAMRC researchers compared case rates and corresponding death rates over the four waves of COVID-19. When the case rates at the peak of the first Alpha wave (July 2020) touched 18 per 1,00,000 population, the death rates approached two per million.During the Beta wave (January 2021), the case rates hit 15 per 1,00,000, with a death rate peak of a little over two per million. The Delta wave (July 2021) saw the highest peak of 35 cases per 1,00,000 population, and a death rate of around four permillion.In the ongoing fourth or Omicron wave, the case rate has crossed 30 per 1,00,000 population — though the peak is yet to come — but the death rate per million is little over zero or even less than the Alpha wave.Tshwane district, in Gauteng, has been the global epicentre of the Omicron outbreak, with the weekly number of cases reaching 8,569 between November 21 and November 27, and jumping to 41,921 by December 3.The scientists analysed 166 new admissions between November 14 and 29, 2021 at the Steve Biko Academic and Tshwane District Hospitals (SBAH/TDH) complex, which makes up 45% of all Tshwane district admissions in the public sector, and 26% of all admissions in both the public and private sectors for the same period. There were ten deaths in the SBAH/TDH cohort in the past two weeks, making up 6.6% of the 166 admissions. Four deaths were in adults aged 26-36 years, and five deaths were in adults over 60 years.A snapshot of the 42 patients in the ward on December 2, 2021 suggested that 29 (70%) were not oxygen dependent. These were patients who did not have threatening respiratory symptoms and did not need supplemental oxygen.

A robust friendship

India and Russia have to navigate a complex geopolitical landscape while deepening ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin has concluded a short summit meeting with Prime Minister NarendraModi in New Delhi, highlighting the “all-weather” partnership between the two countries despite trying global circumstances. Not only does the President’s visit come as the world faces the grim prospect of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also follows years of growing proximity between New Delhi and Washington, a potential irritant to Moscow. Simultaneously, the China factor has been steadily pulling the India-Russia bilateral tango in all the wrong directions. While Russia relies on cordial ties with China to stabilise its interests in an unstable Afghanistan post the U.S.’s exit, New Delhi and Beijing have scarcely seen eye-to-eye on border tensions and geo-political rivalry across the Asia region. Notwithstanding these reasons for possible strategic dissonance, India and Russia reaffirmed the strength of their abiding deep, multi-decade ties, building further confidence in each other through substantive defence agreements. Moscow has agreed on a 10-year military-technical plan that includes technology transfer to India. And trade received a fillip through an agreement for India to produce more than 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. For India’s part, despite resistance from Washington through its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, New Delhi will proceed with purchasing the S-400 missile defence system from Moscow.The challenges facing Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin in terms of maintaining this momentum in bilateral exchanges are multidimensional. First, and most imminently, the pandemic has periodically crippled the growth of both economies and the threats to public health remain despite considerable progress with vaccinations. Second, Russia-U.S. ties are showing signs of fraying yet again, this time over U.S. President Joe Biden’s intention, reportedly, to warn Mr. Putin that Russia will face “economy-jarring sanctions” if it seeks to occupy Ukraine, a fear that has grown in the U.S. as Russian troops massed near the Ukraine border. India has so far held firm to its mantra of ‘strategic autonomy’ in a multipolar world, but South Block will have to work hard to manage the tightrope act between Moscow and Washington. Third, India and China have forged an uneasy truce across their Himalayan border in the aftermath of the Galwan valley exchange in 2020, yet there are numerous potential flashpoints that could send ties into a spiral again, including China’s historically provocative actions in the South China Sea and its thinly veiled insecurity about India joining the Quad for Indo-Pacific security. Moscow has adroitly managed to remain friends with both its mega-neighbours, but it will require a robust focus on confidence-boosting cooperative initiatives if India and Russia are to safely navigate the complex geopolitical landscape that they occupy.

A monumental mistake fomented by impunity

The anguish over the Nagaland killings is inadequate, especially as there is no gesture to recommend the end of AFSPAThere are no words to express the outrage and grief over the killing of 14 civilians (the toll so far) in Mon district of Nagaland, home of the KonyakNagas. They lost their lives in firing by para commandos of the Indian Army based in Jorhat. According to information available, this was intended as an ambush on what Army intelligence had indicated was a group of insurgents moving in the area. This intelligence, or the fact that the Army commandos would be responding to it, was not communicated to either the local police or the Assam Rifles based in the area. It was in this sense, a continuance of the culture of ‘surgical strikes’ hyped up after the Pulwama incident in Jammu and Kashmir, and in the context of the North-east, the ambush by a combined group of militants led by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) in Chandel district of Manipur in 2015. The NSCN-K then was not as fragmented into factions as it is now.While the earlier ‘surgical strikes’ are understandable — though their success has been disputed — the Mon ambush is completely beyond comprehension. First, unlike the earlier strikes, which were in response to grave provocations, and the targets were outside Indian territory, the scenario was markedly different in the present. The ambush was unprovoked, and the target was well within India. This would have meant assault resources were much more in abundance. Again, an ambush — as those in the North-east with a history of violent insurgencies will understand — is the combat tactics of an inferior force against a far superior one; for this reason it is also often summarised as hit-and-run warfare.

Options that were missed

The important question is, even if there was intelligence available about the movement of insurgents, why was this tactic resorted to? Why was no attempt made to have the targeted men who were in a single pickup truck, surrender to be captured alive, even if these men were insurgents and armed? From a superior pre-mediated position, and force strength precalculated to overwhelm, there should not have been much difficulty to block off the truck making its way along a winding narrow hill road, put the men in it in a hopeless position and force them to surrender.The intent obviously was to destroy and eliminate as would be done to hated enemies. But, as it turned out tragically, the victims were all innocent unarmed villagers; six of them were killed on the spot. More casualties resulted after outraged Konyak villagers attacked the ambushers first and then an Assam Rifles post later. One army trooper was also killed in the violence.The truth is that long decades of violent insurrections and draconian counterinsurgency laws, in particular the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958, have ensured a climate of impunity among those fighting insurgency.Inneighbouring Manipur, this became evident even in a pocket where AFSPA had been removed after public agitation following another atrocious rape and murder of a woman insurgent suspect in 2004. Fake encounter killings soared in the area in the years that followed. The intuitive understanding of those tasked with counterinsurgency duty has come to be that action towards this cause will have little or no legal consequence. What happened at Mon is new evidence of this. It too reeked of the attitude that in these wild lawless territories, mistakes, even if they spell immense losses to civilian life, are part of the game.

There must be ownership

In an invisible way, this mindset seems to have pervaded among a larger section of the population nationwide, other than just the combatants directly engaged in counterinsurgency duty. Hence, there have been a flood of expressions of anguish. These include messages from Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and more. But many have also brushed off the tragedy as collateral damage — an inevitable part of any conflict scenario. Obviously, it was a mistake, but an unpardonable one that culminated out of the uniquely oppressive climate of impunity which has been allowed to normalise.What is called for then is something beyond the expression of anguish or condemnation. It must instead be about repentance and ownership of responsibility for the tragedy. Therefore, it is about sharing the tragedy, represented by deeds and sacrifices that also pinch the giver; not just about buying truce at affordable prices. According to a report from Kohima, the central government has agreed to pay ₹11 lakh as ex gratia to each family of those killed. The State government is to pay ₹5 lakh each.Thoughcommendable, this gesture would hardly make for a true language of repentance. If for instance the gesture was for ₹11 crore each, that would have been closer to saying sorry. It would also have sent out the message to those likely to commit them again that such mistakes come at immense costs. Saying sorry could have also been accompanied with a gesture such as declaring AFSPA, which has come to be seen as a symbol of oppression across the region, abrogated.

The ceasefire structure

What is also intriguing is the nature of the intelligence which led to the ambush. Almost all insurgent factions that matter in Nagaland are in ‘ceasefire agreement’ with the Government of India and engaged in peace talks. If there were still perfidies committed by these groups, such as extortion and intimidation, they should have amounted to breaches of ceasefire ground rules; not challenges to the Indian state. Obviously then, the Naga underground faction noted in this report must have been one which had still to enter into the ceasefire agreement. Reports indicate this is the faction led by Yung Aung, the nephew of NSCN-K founder, the late S.S. Khaplang. But Yung Aung’s support base is in Myanmar. So could he still have been seen as a threat to India’s integrity?In a nutshell, when insurrection began in Nagaland, there was only one group — A.Z. Phizo’s Naga National Council. This group entered into a peace agreement with the Government of India in 1975 as the Shillong Accord. A group calling itself the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), broke away in protest, in 1980. But the NSCN also split into two, violently, in 1988, with S.S. Khaplang, a Myanmar Naga, leading one faction and the other led by ThuingalengMuivah and IsakChishiSwu. While the latter remains more or less cohesive, the Khaplang faction splintered a number of times.

Road to peace

The pattern of these splits is also interesting. In all cases, the separations were broadly between the Indian and the Myanmar Nagas; the Indian Naga factions end up entering the ongoing ceasefire making observers suspect the influence of the Indian intelligence to be behind these splits. This is understandable too, for India could not have entered into any truce with Myanmar nationals. The last of these splits, in 2018, followed this pattern. After Khaplang’s death in 2017, the leadership mantle of the NSCN-K passed on to KhangoKonyak, an Indian Naga. Then, in a bloodless coup in 2018, KhangoKonyak was impeached and Yung Aung took over leadership. The former returned to India and entered the ongoing ceasefire.The question now is whether the tragic development would have any lasting impact on the ongoing peace talks now presumed to be in its final stage. Considering the combat fatigue of the Nagas, maybe not. But this would also depend greatly on the Indian state’s ability to say sorry from the heart and not just bargain for just another quid pro quo truce in the present tragedy.

Health account numbers that require closer scrutiny

The reduction of out-of-pocket expenditure that the NHA highlights is essentially due to a decline in utilisation of careLow public spending on health in India has meant that people depend heavily on their own means to access health care. It causes rich-poor, rural-urban, gender and caste-based divides in access to health care, pushes people to poverty, and forces them to incur debt or sell assets. As a result, our health outcomes are worse than in many neighbouringcountries.In this context, the National Health Accounts (NHA) report for 2017-18 is being celebrated widely as it shows that total public spending on health as a percentage of GDP has increased to a historic high of 1.35% of GDP, finally breaking through the 1%-1.2% mark of GDP. Out-of-pocket expenditure as a share of total health expenditure has come down to less than 50%. An increase in public spending and decline in out-of-pocket expenditure, if actually realised, are welcome steps forward to achieve greater financial protection. However, the NHA numbers need to be carefully scrutinised before jumping to conclusions.The NHA capture spending on health by various sources, and track the schemes through which these funds are channelised to various providers in a given time period for a given geography. Multiple data sources are combined to produce the estimates. Out-of-pocket expenditure, the biggest part of NHA estimates is captured using “Household Social Consumption in India: Health” survey of National Sample Survey Organisation. Public spending on health by various departments of the Union and State governments, major urban local bodies, and social security schemes are captured from Budgets. Various sources are also used to capture insurance premiums, expenditure estimates from firms, non-governmental organisations and foreign entities.Various sources are also used to capture insurance premiums, expenditure estimates from firms, non-governmental organisations and foreign entities.

Spending is one of the lowest

India’s total public spending on health as a percentage of GDP or in per capita terms has been one of the lowest in the world. There has been a policy consensus for more than a decade now that public spending has to increase to at least 2.5% of GDP. However, there has not been any significant increase so far. Despite several pronouncements, it has continued to hover around 1%-1.2% of GDP.The Union government traditionally spends around a third of the total government spending whereas the majority is borne by the States. The increase shown in NHA 2017-18 is largely due to increase in Union government expenditure. For 2017-18, the Centre’s share in total public spending on health has jumped to 40.8%. However, if we study the spending pattern of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of AYUSH, we see that expenditure increased to 0.32% of GDP from 0.27% in 2016-17 — insufficient to explain the overall jump.Much of this increase has actually happened on account of a tripling of expenditure of the Defence Medical Services (DMS). Compared to an expenditure of ₹10,485 in 2016-17, it increased to ₹32,118 crore. During this period, expenditure on the National Health Mission increased only by 16% to ₹25,465 crore. Though the increasing spending for the health of defence personnel is a good thing, such spending does not benefit the general population. Clearly, the health of women in the reproductive age-group and children below five years, who constitute a third of our population, have been accorded lesser priority compared to the around 64 lakh families covered under the DMS. The other thing to note is that the share of current health expenditure has gone down to 88% of THE compared to 92.8% in 2016-17. Within government expenditure, the share of current health expenditure has come down to 71.9% compared to 77.9% a year ago. This essentially means, capital expenditure has increased, and specifically in defence.

Capital expenditure

There is a problem in accounting capital expenditure within the NHA framework. Equipment brought or a hospital that is built serves people for many years, so the expenditure incurred is used for the lifetime of the capital created and use does not get limited to that particular year in which expenditure is incurred. Counting the capital expenditure for a specific year leads to severe over-counting. Considering this, the World Health Organization proposes to leave out capital expenditure from health accounts estimates, instead focus on current health expenditure. However, in NHA estimates in India, in order to show higher public investment, capital expenditure is included; thus, Indian estimates become incomparable to other countries.If we take out the capital expenditure, current health expenditure comes down to only 0.97% of GDP. This is only a marginal increase from 0.93% in the previous year.

More a sign of distress

The NHA estimate also shows that out-of-pocket expenditure as a share of GDP has reduced to less than half of the total health expenditure. Over the last few years, the share of out-of-pocket expenditure has been declining. For the year 2017-18, out-of-pocket expenditure has declined not only as a share of total health expenditure but also in nominal and real terms. Is it a welcome development? Does it mean improved financial protection? Has it declined because public spending has increased?NSSO 2017-18 data suggest that during this time period, utilisation of hospitalisation care has declined compared to 2014 NSSO estimates for almost all States and for various sections of society. The decline in out-of-pocket expenditure is essentially due to a decline in utilisation of care rather than greater financial protection.

The experience of various developing countries suggests that as public spending on health increases, utilisation of care increases because there is always a lot of latent demand for health care which was hitherto unrealised as people could not afford health care. With increased public investment as health care becomes cheaper, people tend to access care more. Since it is very unlikely that peoples’ need for health care has declined, and current government health expenditure has not increased much, a decline in out-of-pocket expenditure could be due to lower utilisation of care — a sign of distress rather than a cause of celebration.Actually, the NSSO survey happened just after six months of demonetisation and almost at the same time when the Goods and Services Tax was introduced. The disastrous consequences of the dual blow of demonetisation and GST on the purchasing power of people are quite well documented. As purchasing power declined, health care would have become more unaffordable, forcing people to forgo care. Though more people have moved towards subsidised public services to some extent, this has not been enough to offset the decline in utilisation.Another plausible explanation is linked to limitations in NSSO estimates. The NSSO fails to capture the spending pattern of the richest 5% of the population (who incur a large part of the health expenditure). Thus, out-of-pocket expenditure measured from the NSSO could be an under-estimate as it fails to take into account the expenditure of the richest sections.To sum up, one may argue that much of the increased public spending is not going to benefit the common people as it is mostly a one-time investment for defence personnel. The reduction of out-of-pocket expenditure is a sign of distress and a result of methodological limitations of the NSSO, rather than a sign of increased financial protection.

Indranil is a Health Economist and Associate Professor with O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana

Mediation Bill: Not getting the Act together

While it contains many pluses, the Bill needs improvement in some crucial places

over the last 15 years, the dispute resolution landscape in India has undergone significant change with the advent of mediation. To house this consensual creature in the same stables as thoroughbreds of adversarial litigation and arbitration was a challenge, and even more to ensure that they got on reasonably well, working in tandem in inventive ways like arbitration-cum-mediation and vice versa.It seems to be the way of the world that when something becomes prominent, there must be a law to regulate it. And so with mediation. While scattered mention was made of its use in several statutes, including commercial and consumer disputes, there was no comprehensive statute providing for all dimensions of the mediation process and its practice. Such a need was articulated in several quarters, notwithstanding doubters and dissenters who insist that regulation will kill the free spirit that mediation embodies. A group of senior mediators was set up by the Supreme Court Committee in charge of court-annexed mediation process, and over a period of several months, a draft Bill emerged which then started to make its way through the labyrinthine processes of governmental and legislative mandarins. The resultant Bill titled the Draft Mediation Bill 2021, slated for presentation now to Parliament, bears no resemblance to the original in some crucial places. It reminds the mediation community of an old Clint Eastwood film — the Good, the Bad, and the Sad (tweaked).

The good

The Bill recognises that mediation has come of age and needs to be treated as a profession, which is a huge improvement over the part-time honorarium basis it has in the court-annexed mediation schemes. The Bill acknowledges the importance of institutes to train mediators, and service providers to provide structured mediation under their rules. It provides for pre-litigation mediation. This is quite a remarkable step, but is designed to be easy to implement. Parties are required to have at least one substantive session with the mediator where the process is explained to them. Thereafter they are free to continue or terminate the mediation and follow the litigation path if they so decide. Further, if any urgent interim order is needed, they can bypass mediation at the first stage and return to it after resolving the interim relief issue.Another plus is that the Bill does away with the confusion emanating from using both expressions “mediation” and “conciliation” in different statutes by opting for the former in accordance with international practice, and defining it widely to include the latter. It recognises online dispute resolution, a process that is going to move mediation from the wings to centre stage in a world that COVID-19 has changed. It provides for enforcement of commercial settlements reached in international mediation viz between parties from different countries as per the Singapore Convention on Mediation to which India was a notable signatory. The Convention assures disputants that their mediation settlements will be enforced without much difficulty across the world, unlike the fresh headaches that the litigative decree or arbitration award present at the time of enforcement.

The bad

Leading in from the last point, it is expected that this Bill would make India a hub for international mediation in the commercial disputes field, and indeed institutions are being opened for this purpose. Exactly the reverse may happen. This is because the Bill unwisely treats international mediation when conducted in India as a domestic mediation. The settlement under the latter is given the status of a judgment or decree of a court. Now, that is excellent for cases between Indian parties, but disastrous when one party is foreign. The reason is that the Singapore Convention does not apply to settlements which already have the status of a judgment or decree. Ergo, if you conduct your cross-border mediation in India, you lose out on the tremendous benefits of worldwide enforceability. In sum, go to Singapore or Sri Lanka or anywhere else other than India to conduct your mediation. If this drafting mismatch is not remedied, dreams of our robust hubs and ease of doing business in India are neatly nipped in the bud.Then comes the governing mechanism, the Council. It has three members: a retired senior judge, a person with experience of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) law and an academic who has taught ADR. This is an all-powerful body which regulates, certifies, accredits, plans, governs, etc., and it doesn’t have a single mediator. Judging from the fact that these are full-time members, it is clear that none of them will be active practitioners. Most likely we are looking at sinecures for the bureaucratic and academic world. Certainly this Bill will be unique where a profession is being regulated without a single professional on the regulator. Try doing that to lawyers, doctors and accountants. And one more lapse — this is the field of dispute resolution, the judiciary’s domain, so how come the Chief Justice of India is not in the picture for making appointments?Then there is a long list of disputes which should not be mediated. Some of them look understandable at first sight but unnecessary at second. Fraud, for example. It is standard practice in litigation to make as many and as serious charges as possible; that doesn’t prevent parties from settling, and these accusations are disposed of by retraction or apology or simply ignored. In cases involving minors or persons of unsound mind, the law provides for the court to pass orders to protect them. All that is necessary is to provide that any settlement of disputes involving them needs the court’s approval, not to deny the possibility of a beneficial mediated settlement. Patents and copyright cases settle on commercial terms leaving untouched the validity of the grant, so why deny this possibility and consign the parties to litigative longevity? In the case of telecom, why can’t manufacturers and service providers and consumers be allowed to talk and resolve issues?

The sad

Why can’t we get our act together to get the Mediation Bill in good shape? Why can’t all the stakeholders get this Bill together? Mediators, lawyers, judges have applied their minds to a considerable degree. To be fair to the government, it did call for comments on the draft Bill. What is missing is the element of focused and engaged discussion after comments are sent. It is as though a wall has been erected and no one knows what is going to emerge. We all have a common purpose: to place mediation strongly in our legal landscape, and place India prominently in the world’s mediation landscape. Even if it takes more discussion and consideration amongst all stakeholders, let that be done. It is for Parliament now to do the needful. We should not settle for less.SriramPanchu is Senior Advocate and President, Mediators India.

Being free of old waste

The Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 guidelines have an important dimension focused on solid waste management

The recently released Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) 2.0 guidelines continue to take forward the aims of the SBM launched in 2014, but add an important dimension focused on solid waste management. This goes beyond the efficient collection and transportation of waste and brings focus on processing all types of waste like plastic, construction and demolition waste, as well as providing budgetary support for remediating old waste disposed in all dumpsites across 4,372 cities in India before March 2023. Its components include source segregation; door-to-door collection of waste; separate transportation of different types of wastes; processing of wet waste, dry waste, and construction and demolition waste.

Urban local bodies (ULBs) in several States had prepared detailed project reports (DPRs) for setting up waste processing systems for wet and dry waste as part of SBM which were approved, but the process of setting up these facilities was delayed due to lack of funding and techno process knowledge, and delayed DPR approvals. This resulted in unprocessed waste being dumped in several sites, which needs to be processed through bioremediation before space can be created for new waste processing plants.

Bioremediation of old waste is the process of dismantling old waste heaps, sieving the material to recover bio earth (enriched soil) and refuse-derived fuel which can be used as heating material in cement kilns. As per the SBM 2.0 guidelines, the total quantity of waste generated by urban areas in India is about 1.32 lakh tonnes daily. This adds up to 4.8 croretonnes per annum. Of this only about 25% is being processed; the rest is disposed of in landfills every year. Given that the waste dumpsites have been operational since the early 2000s, more than 72 croretonnes of waste need to be processed. In Karnataka, all the 200-plus municipalities had planned to take up bioremediation over the last two years, but the projects did not kick off due to lack of funds. This is where SBM 2.0 could be an important intervention.

Funding from SBM 2.0

The total funding dedicated for implementation of SBM 2.0 is ₹1.41 lakh crore of which about ₹39,837 crore is set aside for solid waste management. This mission commits to providing financial assistance to set up fresh waste processing facilities and bioremediation projects across all the ULBs. Financial assistance to to set up construction and demolition waste processing facilities is limited to a chosen 154 large cities such as Bengaluru, Mysore, Davanagere, Hubli, and Kalaburagi which have a population of over 5 lakh.The financial assistance committed by the mission varies by State. The commitments made by the Government of India (GoI) for solid waste management projects are as follows: 90% for ULBs in the Northeastern and Himalayan States; 100% for ULBs in Union Territories without legislature; 80% for ULBs in Union Territories with legislature; 25% for other ULBs with more than 10 lakh population; 33% for other ULBs with more than 1 lakh but less than 10 lakh population; 50% for other ULBs with less than 1 lakh population. The remaining project cost will be paid from the 15th Finance Commission grants.SBM was providing 35% funding from the GoI irrespective of the population size of cities. About 23.3% of the project cost was funded by the State governments and the remaining 41.6% was to be funded by the ULBs. The funding was provided to buy efficient vehicles for door-to-door collection and transportation of waste, provide bins for segregation of waste at source, and set up waste processing facilities. SBM 2.0 allocates funding only to set up waste processing facilities; requests for buying vehicles for collection of waste, issuing bins for source segregation or modernising the collection and transportation system are not in its scope.

Achieving the target

Lack of funds was one of the main reasons for the partial success of SBM in solid waste management. Now, since SBM 2.0 is committing to paying a significant portion of the project cost, the ULBs are likely to take up projects by matching the shortfall with their reserved funds, thereby hoping to achieve the GoI target of waste disposal sites being free from old waste by March 2023. Also, the transformation of waste disposal sites to processing sites is likely to produce 72 lakh tonnes of organic compost per annum from 4.8 croretonnes of waste generated across all ULBs in the country. Organic compost recovered from the wet waste, which is 60% of the total waste, can be used to enrich the soil quality and can meet about 10-12% of the country’s fertilizer demand. That will reduce the amount of chemical fertilizer imported and save about ₹2,600 crore of subsidy paid by the government.Pushkara S.V. is with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements

One per cent Indians own 20 per cent of national income:

The gap between the haves and have-nots in India widened further in 2021, according to the World Inequality Report 2022, released on Tuesday.Authored by Lucas Chancel, co-director of the World Inequality Lab, and coordinated by famed French economist Thomas Piketty, the report notes that the top 1% of India’s population owns more than one-fifth of the total national income and the top 10% owns 57% .In contrast, the bottom half owns just 13%.“India stands out as a poor and very unequal country, with affluent elite,” said the report by the World Inequality Lab, which does work through evidence-based research on inequality worldwide.According to the report, the average household wealth in India is Rs 9,83,010, with the bottom 50% owning almost nothing as their average wealth is a paltry Rs 66,280.The middle class is also relatively poor, with an average wealth of Rs 7,23,930. At the same time, the top 10% of the population owns around Rs 6,354,070, while it’s a massive Rs 32,449,360 for the top 1%.The report notes that India’s liberalisation policies have led to one of the most extreme increases in income and wealth inequality observed in the world.While the top one per cent has largely benefited from economic reforms, growth among low and the middle income groups has been relatively slow and poverty persists.Gender inequalities are also very high in the country. The female labour income share is equal to 18%. This is significantly lower than the average in Asia, excluding China, at 21%.

Billionaires’ wealth soars

The share of global wealth held by billionaires registered a record surge during the pandemic. Around 2,750 billionaires own 3.5% of the world’s wealth now, up from just 1% in 1995



The News Editorial Analysis 7th Dec 2021

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