As the economic figures make a huge turn for the better, it is evident that the Indian economy is gaining momentum. The credit goes to the policies of the government that had a vision to combine the global with the local.
Leaders don’t create followers…they create more leaders.
In what can be called the biggest endorsement of Modinomics, last week, India became the world’s sixth largest economy as its GDP, which stood at $2.597 trillion, surpassed that of France that stood at $2.582. More good news poured in the form of India’s 57th ranking in the Global Innovation Index in a poll covering more than 125 countries across 81 parameters — a massive improvement from the 76th rank in 2013-14. Meanwhile, the BSE-30 Sensex hit a lifetime high last week while the Nifty reclaimed the 11,000 mark, reflecting the overall mood of business optimism and investor confidence. Also, Reliance Industries became the second listed Indian company after TCS to join the $100 billion club in terms of market capitalisation.
The big turnaround in corporate India’s fortunes was best amplified by the June 2018 quarterly results of IT behemoth, TCS, which saw a stellar 23 per cent jump in its net profit driven by a 16 per cent jump in total income and a massive 44 per cent rise in digital revenues. CRISIL said that with a projected revenue growth of 12.8 per cent in the June 2018 quarter, India Inc is expected to see its best-ever quarter in the last three years in terms of top line performance.
The bigger news though is that India is poised to surpass the UK to become the fifth largest global economic powerhouse in 2019 which is a far cry from 2009 when India, which was the ninth largest economy then in terms of nominal GDP, rapidly slid to the 10th rank between 2010 and 2013.
The validation for Modinomics also came from ‘World Poverty Clock’ that said that 44 people are being pulled out of poverty in India every minute and a large part of the credit for this goes to the Jan Dhan, Aadhaar mobile trinity that sees more than seven billion dollars being credited directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries every year sans leakages.
No wonder that the rate of poverty reduction under the Modi Government in the last four years has been faster than what it was between 2004-2014 under the Congress regime. Modi baiters would do well to know that India’s entry into the top six world economies of the world has happened despite a global order that is increasingly becoming stridently xenophobic. What with Trump threatening China with fresh $200 billion worth of tariffs, even as the NATO meeting took place last week between Trump and Germany’s Angela Merkel that ended on a bitter note, with the US accusing Germany of favouring Russia and not making enough defence purchases from America.
Festering political worries in Italy and Spain, problems between Merkel and her allies, the Alternative for Germany and Christian Social Union over entry of immigrants via the porous border Germany shares with Austria and Boris Johnson’s tumultuous exit from the Theresa May led-Government amidst a rocky route to ‘Brexit’ have all led to heightened global tensions with trade and currency wars taking centre-stage.
India, which recently signed 11 Agreements with South Korea to double its bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030, stands out as an oasis of political stability with the BJP-led coalition firmly in the saddle. Coming back to the economy, as if geopolitical tensions were not enough, many emerging markets, including in India which imports 80 per cent of its crude requirements, bore the brunt of crude oil prices going up all the way to $80 per barrel in May-June this year from $48 per barrel in June 2017 though prices cooled off from the recent highs by 6.4 per cent roughly last week.
Despite crude prices moving up from a low of $28 per barrel in 2016, India’s current account deficit (CAD) was a mere 0.6 per cent in 2016-17. And even in 2017-18, it was just 1.9 per cent of the GDP. In 2018-19, if crude prices remain elevated, CAD may be closer to 2.2 per cent of the GDP, which is still a huge achievement from 2012-13 when CAD touched a scary 4.8 per cent of GDP under the UPA regime.
The Rupee, that gained over four per cent in 2017, has had a rough ride this year but even if it were to slide to say to 70 or 72, it will not necessarily mean bad news as it would still be relatively overvalued in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms at those levels. Again, do note that in a bid to push exports, China is willfully allowing the Yuan to depreciate with offshore Yuan hitting an 11 month low last week. Ditto for the Japanese Yen which hit a six month low to 112.17 versus the Dollar last week. Even the mighty Euro which was hitting new highs versus the Dollar last year is struggling today to stay at 1.16 to a Dollar.
The moot point to be noted here is that 2018 will largely be a year of competitive devaluation amidst rising global protectionism and Rupee weakness is not India-specific. In fact, a relatively weaker Rupee, if anything, may be a pragmatic way to manage the balance of payments. Speaking of Modinomics, retail inflation last week inched to five per cent for June 2018 but this was largely driven by fuel inflation at 7.14 per cent versus 5.8 per cent in May 2018.
What came as a huge respite for the aam aadmi though is the fact that food inflation actually came down to 2.9 per cent in June from 3.1 per cent in May 2018. Also, as per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidance, inflation should average 4.4 per cent in the second half of this fiscal once the kharif harvest comes into the market. Most importantly, a five per cent inflation for an economy that grew at 7.7 per cent in the March 2018 quarter is absolutely fine as India is comfortably poised to track a nominal GDP growth of anywhere between 11-14 per cent. The other number that made headlines last week was the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) figure for May 2018 which came in at 3.2 per cent. The soft IIP print should see a big improvement in June 2018 because the Nikkei Manufacturing PMI, which is a lead indicator, hit a six-month high at 53.1 in June 2018 from 51.2 in May 2018 on the back of higher output and new orders. So did the Services PMI for June 2018, that rose to 52.6 from 49.6 in May 2018.
Again, what will boost IIP is also massive infrastructure boost, given that of the 16,400 odd kilometres of national highways proposed to be built this fiscal, work orders for roughly 6,300 kms have already been awarded. Last fiscal, close to 10,000 kms of national highways were built at the rate of 27kms per day, the fastest pace ever in post-Independent India. The aim is to touch 40 kms a day soon.
In fact, if the June PMI numbers are anything to go by, IIP in June 2018 could well surpass six per cent or more, given that manufacturing has 77.63 per cent weightage in IIP. Interestingly, areas that stood out even in the tepid May IIP print were primary goods and mining which grew by a robust 5.7 per cent each, electricity generation rose by a healthy 4.2 per cent and capital goods grew by a solid 7.6 per cent.
It is said that the auto sector is in many ways a leading indicator of the economic momentum. By that logic, Modinomics has a lot to cheer about —with passenger vehicle sales growing by a whopping 37.54 per cent in June 2018 — the fastest monthly growth in nearly 10 years. Sale of utility vehicles grew by a chest-thumping 47.1 per cent. According to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), total 2-wheeler sales in June rose by 22.2 per cent and motorcycle sales by a sound 24.42 per cent, in yet another endorsement of how purchasing power in rural India is alive and kicking, given that over 40 per cent of 2-wheeler sales come from rural areas.
Cargo traffic up by four per cent at major Indian ports in the June 2018 quarter, double-digit air traffic growth for 43 months in a row; with May 2018 growth at 28 per cent, bank credit growth up by a resounding 12.84 per cent in June 2018, driven by retail lending growth of over 16per cent; housing sales up by 23 per cent in NCR and; equity mutual fund inflows driven largely by retail investors from Tier-2 towns, going up by a healthy 15 per cent at Rs 33,000 crore in April-June 2018 quarter, are a ringing endorsement of how Modinomics percolated to virtually every segment of the “pyramid”. Finally, Samsung Electronics set up the world’s largest mobile manufacturing unit in Noida. Spread over 35 acres with a capacity to create 15,000 jobs and manufacture 12 crore handsets annually, the Noida unit is set to become an export hub for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is the essence of Modi’s ‘Make In India. After all, in the final analysis, Modinomics is an idea that transcend borders with a vision that marries the global with the homegrown.
(The writer is an economist and chief spokesperson for BJP, Mumbai)
Writer: Sanju Verma
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Right now, people can only wonder on prevalent public opinions. Only time will tell which party will come forward at the Centre to provide effective leadership to India after 2019 General elections.
India is a vast country consisting of 29 States and seven Union Territories. An estimated population of 1.3 billion people constitutes almost 18 percent of the world’s population, occupying nearly 2.4 per cent of the world’s total land surface area. An immensely diverse country where each State and region is a mini cosmos in itself, cooperative federalism seems to be the key to the development of New India under a politically stable leadership at the Centre. In order to achieve inclusive growth with social justice, all States need to work in consonance and also think alike.
Recently, a no-confidence motion against the Union Government was moved by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the Lok Sabha over its unhappiness at Andhra Pradesh not being granted Special Category status. This incident reinstated a debate on the need for a uniform development of India in a non-partisan manner. With the 2019 Lok Sabha election on the horizon, political parties are already feeling the pressure to fasten their seat belts and prep up to face the poll in a rather democratically fluid environment. This further gets accentuated by the consolidation of regional parties under the umbrella of a loosely held, fragile and informal mahagathbandhan.
At this point in time, one can only speculate and try to analyse the general impression and political perception prevailing all around. Only time will tell whether the coming together of regional parties to form a Government at the Centre under the elected leader from the constituents of the mahagathbandhan, can provide effective leadership to a complex and culturally prolific country like India.
Though the perception infused in the mind is steered towards a big “no”, the backdrop of this sentiment is the victory of the Janata Party (amalgam of the various political parties like Congress (O), Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Lok Dal) in 1977. The party had a landslide victory against the Emergency imposed by the then Congress Government. It signalled the power of the regional parties against the monolithic power of a national party like the Congress and injected a new political paradigm in the democratic character of India.
Unfortunately, the Janata Party developed an intense internal, ideological and a political conflict later on and experienced instability in the Government with Prime Minister Morarji Desai resigning in mid-1979 and his successor Chaudhary Charan Singh failing to sustain a parliamentary majority later on.
This tumultuous political trajectory led to the premature dissolution of Parliament in 1980. Indian polity henceforth remained largely driven by coalition Governments under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Needless to say, these new political formations had a number of regional parties playing significant roles in survival and failure of the Governments.
The emergence of regional parties as major centres of power in India’s political, economic and social structure had been one of the most important developments in the country’s post-Independent history. Now, as the 2019 General Election nears, regional parties seem all set to play a pivotal role in influencing the formation of the next Union Government.
It is even (remotely) possible that India’s next General Election will produce a “third front” (anti-BJP grand alliance) Government headed by the leader of a regional party. Question arises whether regional parties can actually offer a competent leadership at the Centre. Sceptics are of the view that these parties at the State level or even a mahagathbandhan lack the charisma and a competent leadership to take on the formidable stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Contrary to this non-conformist approach, there is a need to analyse the probable faces of the political leadership of these regional parties in the context of equitable inclusive growth of federal india. Irrespective of political leanings, it is without doubt that today we need a powerful leadership at the Centre while looking at the geo-political, social and economic challenges before India. The critical question here is: Who are these regional political leaders of our country that we can bank on? How does one spot them among the opportunists and sycophants who plague the Indian politics? The litmus test is that these leaders should have been exposed to pan-India complexities in their political career.
Here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an exception, who although remaining confined largely to the political and administrative exposure in the State of Gujarat, offered tremendous pan-India leadership. He achieved unprecedented international recognition with his larger-than-life image. Modi has even been ranked among the 10 most influential people in the world by Forbes.
But do we have a parallel or a better alternative leadership emanating from the regional parties today? Certainly, political arithmetics and strategies can determine the leadership if an anti-BJP alliance comes into power in 2019. Who are these leaders? In the past, we have seen Chandrababu Naidu (son-in-law of late NT Rama Rao) emerging in the south. Naidu chaired the National IT panel under the NDA Government and was hailed as one of the “Hidden Seven” working wonders around the world by Profit (Oracle Corporation’s monthly magazine).
Naveen Patnaik (son of late Biju Patnaik), the current Chief Ministers of Odisha and supremo of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) held the position of Union Minister of Mines in the Cabinet of NDA Government under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He has been the Chief Minister for three consecutive terms and comes from an illustrious political family with good educational background.
Other names that resonate in the mind as State level leaders include Nitish Kumar, leader of Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Chief Minister of Bihar since 2017 and Mamata Banerjee, leader and founder of All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) and presently the West Bengal Chief Minister. Nitish Kumar served as the Bihar Chief Minister from 2005 to 2014 and 2015 to 2017. He was also the Union Minister for Railways, Minister for Surface Transport and Minister of agriculture in the NDA Government of Vajpayee. He was admired for the reforms in Railways and is considered to be a competent politician.
Mamata Banerjee, the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal, is one of the exceptional politicians in the country who is self-made. She hails from a lower middle-class family and is well-known for maintaining a consistently austere lifestyle. She clearly stands on a pedestal with her determined and fearless leadership style. High on secular credentials and a scholar of Islamic studies, Mamata is instrumental in the consolidation of the Opposition parties. She served as the first female Union Minister of Railways, Minister of Coal, Minister of State for HRD, Youth Affairs, Sports, Women and Child Development in the Central Government.
Mamata, also known as Didi, pulled off a landslide victory, defeating the 34-year-old Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (Marxist)) led by the Left front. In 2012, Time magazine branded her as one of the 100 most influential persons in the world. She is dynamic with proven administrative and political mettle, and resilience to withstand tough times.
Similarly, there are many other leaders in various States with a Pan-India experience. However, if there is an emergence of new leadership post 2019 parliamentary election, Mamata Banerjee seems to be the best option to lead the nation towards a positive change. Akhilesh Yadav, though extremely competent and popular, is not being considered here, as comparatively, he has less exposure than the aforementioned politicians. Also, since the discussion is restricted to the regional parties, Congress president Rahul Gandhi is also not an alternative however Congress party can surprise by agreeing to the possible consensus candidature of Pranab Mukherjee or Kapil Sibal, if the situation demands because both of them are capable of attracting several regional parties for their respective leadership bid as and when it happens.
The country today needs to shift its focus on a competent leadership to match the robust captaincy of Narendra Modi if the NDA is not able to again form the Government in 2019 (though chances are remote as there seems a very high possibility of a second term for the Modi Government).
The issue is who can bring about inclusive economic, social and political growth of today’s vision of New India. We need to revisit our perception that regional leadership cannot lead the country effectively. In the past also, we have seen Prime Ministers from small parties in comparison to the large national parties like the Congress and the BJP. The election of HD Deve Gowda (United Front) and Chaudhary Charan Singh (Janata Dal) are some of the examples that prove the point. The biggest challenge is to choose a leader who can steer India to become a mature and transparent democracy based on sustainable political governance.
(The writer is a commentator, Bollywood actor and singer)
Writer: Mukesh Tyagi
Courtesy: The Pioneer
India has made great progress towards achieving a low-carbon economy. Further onward movement is contingent on the implementation of plans.
According to the latest World Bank report, India has doubled its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) within a decade which stood at $2.597 trillion at the end of 2017. Amid the Asian bigwigs like China slowing down, India is bending the odds by posting impressive growth. According to a report by The International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s economy is projected to grow by 7.4 per cent this year and 7.8 per cent in 2019. This stellar performance has powered our country ahead of even France which got relegated to the seventh position as per the World Bank report. These developments are heartening and instill pride in us as Indians, but the cost at which this progress is being posted is too steep. The very same cities that are the engines of growth are sinking with crumbling infrastructure and rising emission levels that are slowly rendering places unfit for human habitation.
What ails our cities? Pretty much one would say. According to the report, carbon footprints of 13,000 cities, as of June this year in the National Capital Region of Delhi has the highest annual carbon footprint in the country. In fact, Delhi’s annual Co2 emission of 69.4 million tonne is equal to the Co2 emission of Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai put together. When it comes to per capita CO emission, Chandigarh and Vadodara are far ahead of the rest with 3.9 tonne and 3.5 tonne respectively. Riding on the backdrop of increasing Co2 levels, extreme weather events have already started affecting Indian cities with frightening frequency. The report estimates that a record 360 million people will be exposed to extreme heat in 142 Indian cities by 2050 if rapidly rising Co2 levels and global warming continue. Temperatures in three Indian cities — Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi — in the last five decades have already seen a steady rise. In Chennai alone, temperature has increased by an astonishing 0.9°C since 1960-70.
The link between carbon emission and heating up of the world has been long established. The cities, which will emit more Co2, will see a faster rise in temperature as more Co2 concentration in the atmosphere means intense absorption of solar heat. Given this, the plight of the Indian cities can only get worse from the current position unless some radical measures are taken to drive down the carbon emissions. By 2030, Indian cities will produce 70 percent of the country’s wealth and be home to 590 million inhabitants. This will put additional burden on the environment as carbon emissions will surely rise unless decarbonisation strategies are implemented immediately.
The Government has been aware of the spiralling levels of emission. To curb the same, it has announced an ambitious target to make all new vehicles to be electric by 2030 — starting with taxis, e-rickshaws and buses and eventually, private vehicles. This by itself will reduce vehicular emissions, improve air quality and reduce dependence on foreign oil. But in practice, it sees like a lofty plan that has not accounted for some difficult challenges such as how the cities will negotiate the rise in vehicles with the implications on other urban objectives — such as exacerbated congestion and the need for an increased share of public transit. This proves that policy making and announcements must not dwell upon easier matters at hand. They must strive to solve complex issues and challenges first.
A sector-wise revamp is one method to achieve rapid decarbonisation of our cities. Residential emissions, transport emissions and commercial emissions must be identified and controlled. Limiting the registration of new vehicles or making registration of the same very expensive like Singapore can dissuade new vehicle purchases. Similarly, a cap can be put on how many new models vehicles a manufacturer can launch in the market. This will curtail rampant purchases. Instead, the vehicle manufacturer must be given full freedom and incentive to launch vehicles on renewable energy. These measures alone can contribute majorly towards reduction in carbon footprint.
Similarly, residential sector must be made aware of the grim situation in our cities due to the spiralling emissions. They must be encouraged to adopt energy-efficient appliances and buildings. The process of awareness and eventual adoption of the energy saving measures may take time and seem like an uphill task, but when sufficient traction is achieved, the benefits of the same travelling by word of mouth will themselves turn the decarbonisation drive into a full-fledged movement. A notable aspect here is that most of the people in our cities reside in multi-storied complexes without access to a terrace. This limits the option to set up solar panels for energy generation and hot water. This issue must be solved by the Government and RWAs. They must come together to ensure that every building has a common solar solution installed that provides benefits to all residents and in turn not only uses the idle space of the terraces across the city but also reduces carbon emission by reducing dependence on conventional coal based power.
Solutions towards a carbon emission free environment are many, the intention and implementation have to be present.
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer
I spoke at a discussion, earlier this week, in a committee room of the House of Lords on topics related to Britain, Brexit and India. As i made my speech, I referred to the Indian exasperation of how our country is occasionally depicted as a land of endemic hunger and malnutrition.
David Goodhart, author of the best-selling Road to Somewhere that contributed immeasurably to our understanding of Brexit and other populist revolts in Europe, who was a commentator on the occasion, argued that the Oxfam poster analogy was dated. That view of India, which certainly held sway until the 1970s and which often propelled feelings of compassion, condescension and contempt — sometimes all rolled in one — is, he argued, now history. It has been replaced by the widespread appreciation of the British Asian success story, particularly the success of the Gujarati immigrants to the United Kingdom from East Africa. To add to that was the success of Indian companies, including IT companies, that, together, are said to be creating employment that benefits some 1.3 lakh people. I could even have added the contribution of Indian visitors to the UK, including high-spending tourists, that are said to number nearly five lakhs each year. More would have come had the visa fees not been so exorbitant.
Certainly there is much to be said for the success story of peoples of Indian origin in the UK. When I first came to London in 1975, among the first sights that greeted you was the elderly Punjabi women cleaning the toilets in Heathrow airport. There were, of course, a significant number of Indian doctors in the National Health and the Gujaratis — almost invariably Patels — that ran the corner shops and newsagents, but they were often subsumed, at the level of perception, by the factory workers in the Midlands and London. The Indian community in those days was relatively poor and objects of social disdain. They were also easy targets of racially-motivated attacks.
In 2018, it is a different story. The children of the corner shop owners are now professionals — mainly lawyers, accountants and techies — having secured degrees from Redbrick universities. Many have become mid-sized businessmen and others work in the financial sector in the city of London. There are also a sprinkling of Indian Asians in politics, many of them elected from constituencies where White Britons are in an overwhelming majority. Culturally, Indian Asians are distinct but this distinctiveness hasn’t created tensions. They are seen to be making valuable contributions to the British economy and they are also seen to be extremely hard-working and enterprising. Most important, the Indian Asians are seen to be law abiding, unlike those that trace their origins to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
However, it is also fact that the successes of the Indian Asians, whether from Punjab, Gujarat or East Africa, haven’t quite succeeded in denting official perceptions of the Indian passport. In the past year, holders of Chinese passports have had their visa fees made more cost effective. The same facility wasn’t extended to Indian passport holders, despite the claim that the UK and India are experiencing an “enhanced partnership.”
The reasons have everything to do with what the UK claims is the presence of nearly one lakh illegal immigrants in the UK. These are mainly people who entered the UK on short-term visitor visas, then simply tore up their passports and disappeared into the crowd. The UK insists India should take these people back. In theory, India doesn’t disagree with the principle that Indian citizens who have been expelled from the UK, for whatever reasons, should be returned home. India and UK also have a treaty of extradition — an agreement that is giving the likes of Vijay Mallya sleepless nights.
To be able to deport an illegal immigrant of Indian origin, the British authorities have to prove that the culprit was the holder of an Indian passport. This, however, isn’t possible unless the Indian authorities confirm this is indeed so. Unfortunately — or so Whitehall claims — the Indian authorities lack any sense of urgency and have demonstrated laxity and indifference. Those familiar with India’s local police networks — the ones who will have to provide the verification — will understand the UK’s exasperation. Moreover, it is hellishly difficult to trace pre-biometric passports, especially if some crucial details such as father’s name or village address turn out to be a little different from the ones given in the passport. The British wanted all enquiries to adhere to a timeline. Initially North Block agreed and an agreement was initialled but the Government then had second thoughts and the agreement wasn’t finalised and signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit for the Commonwealth Summit last April.
Both sides have conflicting versions of why things went wrong. Reassuringly, however, both sides are agreed that an agreement is still possible. For India’s sake I hope it is. This is not because the UK is in any ways a top dog but that India should always signal its respect for national laws, on a strictly reciprocal basis. Once governments across the world but particularly in the European Union, the US, Canada, Singapore, the Gulf and Australia — areas that have large concentrations of Indian workers — are persuaded that New Delhi takes ultimate responsibility for its citizens, life will become much easier for the genuine Indian entrepreneur, professional, student and tourist.
At present, there is a mismatch between India’s worth as a rising economic power and an Indian passport. In the past four years the gap has narrowed thanks to the proactive, citizen-friendly initiatives of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, but much more will have to be done before the Indian passport gets the full respect it deserves.
Writer: Swapan Dasgupta
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The forecast for climate change as a global concern paints a grim picture. If people do not act with earnest, it can snowball into a worldwide disaster soon.
According to a report by Archana Jyoti in a recent issue of The Pioneer, the latest World Bank report, titled “South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards”, has an ominous message for India. Defining a “Hotspot” as a location in which changes in average temperature and precipitation will have a negative impact on living standards, the report says that hotspots are necessarily zones where temperatures are higher than those in the surrounding areas and which also reflect the local population’s socio-economic capacity to cope with climate change.
According to the report, by 2050, unchecked climate change, causing high temperatures and poor rainfall, would diminish the living standards of half of the county’s population, particularly farmers in Central India. The report further says that by 2050, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will be the country’s top two States in terms of the number of hotspots in them.
Both are likely to experience a decline of more than nine per cent in living standards, followed by Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, according to the report, would have seven — Chandrapur, Nagpur, Gondiya, Wardha and Yavatmal — of the 10 worst-hit of the country’s hotspot districts.
The report scripts a grim scenario. India’s average temperature is expected to rise by one degree to two degrees centigrade by 2050 even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Without measures, the increase will be between one-and-a-half and three per cent. About 600 million people will be affected if the report’s prediction comes true, the likelihood of which is very considerable. There are other indications that climate change has begun taking its toll on India. The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is one of them.
A joint research of scientists from Kumaun University, Uttarakhand Space Application Centre, Dehradun; and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, have found that the Pindari glacier, which feeds the Pindar River, a major tributary of the Alaknanda River, has retreated cumulatively by 1,569.01 metres over the four decades, which means an average retreat rate of 51.23 metres each year.
A team from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, reported in Annals of Glaciology in 2016, that the lengths of 43 Himalayan glaciers, including the Pindari, had changed between 1850 and 2010. Referring to the Pindari glacier, their report stated that the retreat had amounted to a total of 3.08 kilometres from 1850 to 2010. This indicates an increase of 30 metres each year against the Pindari glacier’s 51.23 metres. Clearly, there has been an acceleration during the last four decades.
Another study by scientists from Indian Space Research Organisation and geologists from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, has shown that the Khatling trunk glacier, which feeds the Bhilangna river, a tributary of the Bhagirathi, has retreated by 4,340 metres between 1965 and 2014, besides increasing the number of glaciers fragmenting from it from 20 to 33. The Himalaya being the source of water in the case of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers has serious implications for water supply and storage in the region.
This, in turn, has serious implications for agriculture in the entire region spanning the basins on both rivers stretching over almost the whole of northern and central parts of the country. What this means for living standards of farmers and all others involved in the distribution of farm inputs (fertilisers, for example) and products hardly needs elaboration.
Nor can there be any doubt that the continuing retreat of the glaciers is a result of global warming. According to the IISER report, the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges have warmed up by 1.5 degrees Centigrade between 1850 and 2010. The question is: What is to be done?
One needs to remember here that climate change is a global phenomenon and the prognosis is grim worldwide. A report titled The Global Climate Change Regime by the United States-based Council on Foreign Relations’ International Institutions and Global Governance Programme, cited, in 2013, the American Meteorological Society as mentioning a 90 percent probability of global temperatures rising by 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius in less than 100 years, with even greater increases over land and the poles.
The consequences would include rising sea levels, drowning of island nations, extreme and volatile weather patterns, desertification, diminishing food production, famine, water shortages the flooding of cities, mass migrations of humans and other living species, creation of climate refugees, extinction of plant and animal life, mass destruction of forests, and a situation in which playing and working in the open could be dangerous for people in the hottest parts of the year. The worst victims would be the poor who would be the hardest hit both by rising food prices following declining production and intensified weather disasters.
The Paris Agreement on climate change raised hopes that at least some action would follow. Unfortunately, the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has dealt a severe blow these. While, one needs to see how damaging its impact will be. India needs to focus on what it can do. Curbing the emission levels of Greenhouse gases is important and efforts in that direction need to be accelerated. The same applies to the transition to more environment-friendly sources of energy like solar power. The civic bodies could play an important role in this by switching over to solar street lighting.
Unfortunately, the most important cause of global warming, increase in human activity, is not being attended to. A survey, published in The Environment Research Letters, found that 97 percent of scientific studies on climate change concluded that human activity, due to the consumption of fossil fuels, was causing global warming. India is sitting on a population bomb. Its population,40.9 crore in 1955, rose to 100.3 crore in 2018 (latest figures). Surpassing China’s as the highest in the world in 2021, it is set to rise to 170.5 crore in 2050.
It is not difficult to visualise what impact increasing population, leading to increasing activity, would have on global warming. Worse, very little is being done worldwide to counter the continuing phenomenal increase in world population, which is set to rise to over 10 billion by 2060.
This is hardly surprising. As early as 1967, Desmond Morris had written in The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal, “At the end of the 17th century the world population of naked apes [humans] was only 500 million. It has now risen to 3,000 million. Every twenty-four hours it increases by another 150,000. ….In 260 years’ time, if the rate increase stays steady — which is unlikely — there will be a seething mass of 400,000 million naked apes crowding the face of the earth.” He adds, “To put it another way, the densities we now experience in our major cities would exist in every corner of the globe. The consequence of this for all forms of wildlife is obvious. The effect it would have on our own species is equally depressing.”
People who do not act against a looming disaster are fated to be consumed by it.
Writer: Hiranmay Karlekar
Courtesy: The Pioneer
India’s biggest cyber and MNC hub has pollution to offer, thanks to the diesel gensets. If the people there are to stay healthy, something needs to change.
A recently released report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that the use of diesel gensets (DG sets) in residential societies across Gurugram was responsible for increasing the air pollution in the city by as much as 30 per cent. The CSE report further stated that PM2.5 and PM10 levels significantly rose due to the use of diesel gensets and lasted up to one hour after they were switched off. It also found that when gensets were used for several hours, the rise in PM10 was 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher than what was registered before these were switched on. Pollutants also reportedly remained in the air far longer.
Sustained use of gensets for eight hours or more in a day led to a situation wherein PM2.5 levels breached the 300-mark while PM10 levels were at 1,900. Thanks to erratic power supply by the State Government and the unfortunate choice of DG sets by residents desperate to bridge the demand supply gap, everybody is doomed as pollution levels have spiked up by nearly 15 times of the safe levels during peak demand period. Ironically, the users of these DG sets, especially in housing societies and multi-storeyed complexes, are also the first one to suffer due to pollution emitted by these DG sets making the children and elderly vulnerable. Those with respiratory problems become risk-prone as well.
Dubbed as the millennium city, Gurugram has always been the example cited for extreme commercial progress in the backdrop of severe infrastructure failure. The residents of the satellite city to Delhi are always on tenterhooks for power and water as the absence of one is usually followed by the disappearance of the other.
A surprising aspect is the attitude of successive State Governments which, in spite of earning good tax revenues, have been unable to channelise anything towards its infrastructure planning and development. All ambitious policies remain confined to paper. As a result the citizens are left to their devices, leading to short-term and quick-fix solutions such as DG sets which are nothing short of an environmental disaster.
For instance, Haryana’s Renewable Energy Department (HAREDA), in 2016, asked large industrial and commercial establishments to install solar panels on their roofs so that they can use the power generated from solar energy instead of diesel sets. However, this order was not applicable to residential buildings. This omission is now costing dearly to the fragile ecology of the region.
Additionally, to make matters worse, the CSE report found that big commercial buildings are not fully compliant with the HAREDA order as only five per cent of commercial establishments followed the directive while the rest 95 per cent are yet to do so.
This means that, in addition to the scores of residential highrises teeming with people that are dotting Gurugram, the balance 95 per cent of commercial buildings are now relying on DG sets to satisfy their power needs.
It is worrisome that there is no foolproof audit mechanism in place for solar power buildings as well. This means that quality and efficiency parameters for solar power set-ups may not be up to the mark, making them just a formality to satisfy the Government regulation and possibly to derive solar power sops and benefits pertaining to property tax filing and so on.
The authorities in Haryana have long taken the benefits of the city that is so well placed geographically with the airport within half an hour reach, making the city a favorite for business houses and multi-national corporations to quickly set up their offices. But this long-term inability of the Government to provide basic power and water to its residents and even motorable roads in some areas is embarrassing for India compared to the international business community.
Attracting foreign investment through jazzy Press events, swish e-portals and apps is not the only thing to do for the authorities. The Government must focus on the experience of the investor as he steps on the ground level.
How well the people live and prosper and how well the environment is taken care of shows the Government’s sensitivity towards the environment and its own people. Even after decades of development, nearly 70 per cent of the people in Gurugram depend on ground water in absence of piped water supply. Add to this the sewage situation is also in dire straits.
These facts prove one thing about India: That it is a country interested in profits and not in the welfare of its people or its environment. This image has to change fast and no one else can do it better than the present Government which has both the resolve and the mandate to undo the damage of decades and turn Gurugram around.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The National Democratic Alliance on Wednesday announced its ambitious plan to reform higher education in the country. The Human Resources Development Ministry, headed by Prakash Javadekar, announced that it has drafted a bill titled ‘Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of UGC Act), 2018’, which plans to scrap the University Grants Commission and replace it with a ‘Higher Education Commission’.
Education is one sector which needs to mutate as knowledge sources and their application become more varied and complex in probing times and the regulatory systems or norms, therefore, need to rise above orthodoxies and become dynamic. The HRD Ministry has done just that by preparing a draft Act that will scrap the UGC with a new all-pervasive Higher Education Commission of India. According to the proposals, which HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has left open to amendments, the new panel would solely look into academic matters and uniformity of standards in providing quality instruction. Monetary grants would be the purview of the ministry so that the expert commission would be free of bureaucratese and instead concentrate on things that matter — mentoring institutions, ensuring meritocracy, encouraging research, standardising the quality of training, identifying bogus institutions, monitor faculty benchmarks and, in short, ensure autonomy of institutions. Higher education in India is indeed in a grave crisis mode as universities in our hinterland, too, have made it to the global index whereas, except IITs, none of our institutions are in the wanted list. If recent entrance test results to advanced courses are any indication, then the meritorious performances are a dismal ratio and need a quick fix. The rote learning method needs to be eliminated and replaced by one that assesses comprehension and application of acquired knowledge. Our students need to be skilled and industry-ready and capable of driving innovation, rather than becoming formulaic clones. Other countries like UK and the Australia have already moved to independent commissions of higher education.
Absolutism of the UGC has had many casualties. Vice-Chancellors have had to be at the beck and call of an official for routine fund clearances, leave aside seeking one for innovations. A performance-linked funding pattern that would encourage competitive scholarship, was never considered. UGC has not quite been able to attract world-class faculty to teach at Indian universities in a visiting capacity. We have not been able to benchmark ourselves internationally as an education hub the way we have in the health sector, medical tourism now being the most sought after. Even China has worked towards evolving a strong university culture that is attracting students from across the world, particularly the region. The UGC’s ad hoc system of rewarding research, based on academic performance, rather than subjecting it to expert reviews, have discouraged path-breaking thought. Besides, there is a multiplicity of authorities for technical education, be it the AICTE and for medical courses MCI, that often run at cross purposes and add to the confusion with overlapping functionalities. Of course, it is brave of the Modi Government to push through well-intentioned reforms that have been in the lab since UPA days. But it has practical challenges to meet. Will the higher education reforms be effective enough without an overhaul of the National Education Policy? This would make the new move look knee-jerk. Then there is the task of keeping it apolitical. By subjecting matters of appointment in leadership positions at all universities, even if they are established under state law, to the panel may invite tendencies of favouritism, which is a thin line to walk. Even if you free up teachers, can politicisation of students be tamed? Most importantly, the assessment system itself has to be graded and appropriate experts brought in to understand premium quality of elite institutions, which need to be given more room for autonomy. Most important though is filling up teaching vacancies in Central universities across the country, including the prized AIIMS. Some varsities in far-flung states have a shocking gap of faculty vacancies by over 50 per cent. Can an ecosystem be developed at institutions set up in backward pockets that will be attractive enough to draw in quality teachers in the first place? These grassroots issues need to be addressed on an emergency basis too.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
India is a land of many tongues. Some say themselves as Bharatiya, some say Hindu and some say Indian. No matter which language we are using, the only thing that need to be understood by all is, we all are talking of one and the same thing.
A few months ago, I met with a Christian family from Agra and they asked a lot of straightforward questions about the RSS. I answered every one of those queries. They attended some RSS programs and had a first-hand experience of the Sangh. Now, when they meet a co-religionist who claims that RSS is anti-Christian, they pose three questions to them:
Invariably, the answers they get are in the negative. During a subsequent routine tour, when I was in Agra, this family insisted I should stay with them. They also arranged my meeting with the Bishop there. We went to the Bishop’s office and the meeting went well. But we can’t expect such openness from the Left-inspired RSS haters.
There is a Marathi poem, roughly translated, which goes: Those who are habituated to say “Yes” do not want to hear any “No”. And those who are habituated to say “No” have no place for a “Yes”. In the same vein:
In our “inclusion” of all we also include these “intolerants”.
But in their (intolerant) tolerance they cannot tolerate us, the “inclusive”.
During his travels, the RSS Sarsanghchalak often meets influential people from all walks of life. During one such interaction, he met with a well-known industrialist who suggested that in place of using the word “Hindu” the Sangh should use the word “Bharatiya”. To this Dr Mohan Bhagwat replied, “For us, there isn’t much difference between the two terms. However, the term Bharat has a territorial connotation while the term Hindu has value-based resonance.” This is the reason why Pakistan-born academic Tarek Fateh refers to himself as Hindu. Hence, you can say Bharatiya and we can say Hindu. Some others may say Indic. We would understand that we are all speaking of one and the same thing. This is what is meant by Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti.
But in the dogmatic worldview of communists these values, so Bharatiya in their essence, hold no significance. Their tribe insists that in the so-called “secularist” lingua franca Hindutva is a pejorative. Should you deviate from this language, then even the right to live is denied. You are not even worthy of being tolerated, let alone be engaged with. In Kerala, the bastion of communist intolerance and a Stalinist enclave, from March 1965 till May 2017, over 233 RSS workers have been killed for the only reason that they were working for the Sangh. Significantly, 60 percent of them were former communists.
As many times as one may try and explain the idea of a Hindu Rashtra in conceptual terms and its true meaning, communists and left-leaning “intellectuals” — sans engagement or debate — will define it only as narrow, divisive and exclusive. They will quote some old letters or an article and copy, paste and reproduce it without any allusion to historical context or deliberation. They will never pay heed to what RSS leaders have been saying during these years and continue to say till today. The reason is simple — it’s their Orwellian response of “two legs bad”!
However, just because they choose to look away and obfuscate at every given opportunity, the irrefutable fact remains that there are Muslims and Christians in the RSS. As Hindus, we do not believe in conversions, hence these Swayamevaks keep following their religious practices freely. In 1998, there was a three-day camp of the Vidharbha Prant (in Maharashtra) where 30,000 Swayamsevanks participated in full uniform, staying in tents. These camps normally take place only over the weekend and a headcount in undertaken of participants to make special food arrangements for those who observe a fast on Saturdays.
During the headcount, it emerged that as it was the holy month of Ramzan and there were 122 Swayamsevaks who were keeping rozas, they needed to break their fast after sundown. Accordingly, arrangements were immediately made to facilitate this. Had it not been the month of Ramzan, no one would have noted that there were Muslims among Swayamsevaks in the camp.
These are stories drawn from real- life experience which do not usually make it to the hallowed pages of mainstream publications. However, if you observe carefully and eschew the rhetoric that is peddled therein, their stark intolerance and fascist approach to heterogeneity of ideas is clearly visible and increasingly stands exposed.
A recurring theme of their commentary in recent days has been that Pranab da has shown the RSS a mirror; well, the Sangh is quite open to looking into the mirror and does so every year at Chintan Shivirs and the Pratinidhi Sabha! In these meetings, a careful examination of the activities undertaken and course correction if necessary is deliberated upon. Such a meeting took place as recently as in the month of April in Pune.
But when will ‘left-liberals’ who stake claim to the progressive values of inclusiveness but display every aspect of intolerance in their actions look in the mirror as see beyond their hatred of the RSS? Whether or not they choose to look into the mirror, their truth is reflected in their actions and the public continues to take note of the rampant hypocrisy, between words and actions.
On a lighter note, one must express one’s gratitude. Had it not been for their shrill display of intolerance, the media would not have turned the lens on a program that is an annual RSS event and always has distinguished guests invited to speak.
Thanks to the intolerance of communists and those inspired by their hollow rhetoric, the general public got to witness live transmission of the programme.
From June 1 to June 6 the official RSS website received an average of 378 hits/requests each day; on the day of the program attended by Dr Pranab Mukherjee we got 1,779 hits/requests. Need one say more?
(The writer is Sah Sarkaryavah, RSS)
Writer: Manmohan Vaidya
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Former President Pranab Mukherjee visit to the RSS headquarters shows the Indian tradition of acceptance without annoyance and appropriation.
Despite the staunch protest by his own party, Dr Pranab Mukherjee remained resolute in his decision to participate in the closing ceremony of the Tritiya Varsh Sangh Shiksha Varg of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). His conviction in the democratic principle of open engagement is worth acknowledging with gratitude. During his visit to Nagpur, the former President visited Dr KB Hedgewar’s ancestral home and offered homage to a man he considered “a great son of India”.
He also paid his respects at Smriti Mandir, dedicated to the memory and service of Dr Hedgewar and Shri Guruji Golwalkar at the RSS headquarters and went on to place his thoughts before the gathered audience with unflinching honesty. Before the program and away from the camera lens there was a meet-and-greet program with senior RSS functionaries and special invitees, in which he participated with endearing simplicity. At the time of personal introductions, he suggested all present introduce themselves and, leading by example, offered: “I am Pranab Mukherjee.” For a man who needs no introduction, his simplicity was heart-warming.
Pranab da had come with a written speech in English whilst RSS Sarsanghachalak Dr Mohan Rao Bhagwat spoke in Hindi. Both speeches, however, met at the confluence of — Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadantior That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names. Furthermore, Pranab Da explained very clearly that the Bharatiya concept of the nation based on a unique, integral view is entirely different from the state-nation concept in the West. He emphasised our 5000-year old civilisational history with eloquence, highlighting the beliefs embedded in our view of life — Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina which are values of diversity, secularism and tolerance that are further enshrined in our Constitution. Dr Bhagwat also expressed the same views in different words. Instead of ‘tolerance’ he used acceptance of all. He emphasised that no Bharatiya can be treated as ‘other’ or alien as we all come from the same ancestors. Both stalwarts emphasised in their speeches that the national life of Bharat did not flourish on the basis of one religion, language or race but on the basis of a spirituality-based integral, holistic view of life and the values that stemmed out from it. Dr Bhagwat also clearly articulated that the “Sangh would remain the Sangh and Pranab da, Pranab da” as this is the Bharatiya tradition of acceptance; neither imposition nor appropriation but acceptance.
This very view of life and value system is reflected in our Constitution. This humane worldview is also our greatest inheritance. Our neighbour Pakistan (which was once a part of Bharat) also gave itself its Constitution at the same time as us. However, its Constitution does not speak of these values that are inclusive; it neither takes note of inherent diversity nor celebrates it. Now the obvious question that arises is that when both were one country and one people, then why did this distinction emerge going forward?
The answer lies in the very spirituality-based, integral and holistic view of life which we have inherited. Former President Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore have described it as the “Hindu View of Life”. Pakistan rejected it and Bharat accepted it. Actually, our Constitution is not the reason for our liberal and inclusive values enshrined in it but the result of our age-old integral and holistic view of life.These liberal, plural values have not come to us from our Constitution but through our Constitution. As Kahlil Gibran writes in his poem Children — Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
Similarly, we are traditionally liberal, secular and inclusive not because of our Constitution but our Constitution has enshrined these values because we have been like this since ages, for at least 5,000 years. Hence, it is our duty to honour and follow the Constitution. The RSS has stayed steadfast in this pursuit. Despite the unfair, unjust ban on the RSS imposed by the then regimes twice, the satyagraha carried out in protest on both occasions was countrywide, disciplined and peaceful; an unparalleled example of protest in the history of independent Bharat, and one that was absolutely Constitutional. No other organisation or party can claim such a history. But consider the dissonance — those who violate every tenet of the Constitution, take the path of violence, attack our own armed forces, and those who support divisive, unconstitutional activities are the ones who preach the virtues of the Constitution to the RSS.
On April 2 this year, the “Bharat Bandh” called only in six BJP-ruled States which witnessed despairing scenes of unprovoked violence was actively supported by Rahul Gandhi and the “secular-liberal” lobby, without any consideration for the Constitutional and democratic values propounded by Dr BR ‘Babasaheb’ Ambedkar and enshrined in our Constitution. After Pranab da’s speech, those who had been anxious about what this engagement might reveal were quick to come up with sanctimonious summations that explained away this engagement. These reactions confirmed that the Left still has influence over the political and intellectual space of our country. This very Left ideology lacks space for dissent, liberty and tolerance — and being non-Bharatiya does have something to do with it. Left intellectuals discarded analysis and commented with farcical haste that Pranab da had shown the RSS “a mirror” by speaking of secularism and Jawaharlal Nehru from an RSS platform et.al.
It is important to note, however, that critics of Pranab da’s visit to Nagpur had nothing to say of Dr Bhagwat’s speech. It’s possible that they didn’t hear his speech; maybe it wasn’t worth their time. After all, that would be in sync with their elitist definition of ‘free speech’ which prescribes that all they say is correct and all else is falsehood. Essentially, they were saying ‘We are right and you are wrong’, on the lines of “Four legs good, two legs bad”, the famous analogy used by George Orwell in Animal Farm to expose the authoritarian tenets and hypocrisy of the communists. Hence, listening to “two legs” would obviously be blasphemy. The inclusiveness of Vasundhara Parivar Hamara (the song recited before the speeches in Nagpur) includes everybody, even those who practice intolerance. But those who believe “four legs only are good” would prefer to reside in the darkness of their ignorance.
In all those negative articles that followed the Nagpur visit, not one writer spoke of his/her own experience of interaction with the RSS as to be in conversation with the RSS is considered blasphemous and results in instant ostracisation by the “liberal left”, an oxymoron if there ever was one. Under such pressure, paying heed to what the RSS Sarsanghachalak says is not even an option.
(To be continued in these columns tomorrow)
(The writer is Sah Sarkaryavah, RSS)
Writer: Manmohan Vaidya
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Learning to drive will still depend on the goodwill of males – but for many Saudi women, the end of the ban offers a first taste of independence. Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women driving. While the few women who have driver’s licenses are thrilled about hitting the road, activists warned that the journey to full women’s rights will be a long one.
The wheels of justice turn slowly but the wheels on their vehicles turned exceedingly well for women in Saudi Arabia who took to the streets in their cars on June 24 after the conservative Muslim Kingdom finally lifted the ban on women driving, seen for a long came as a symbol of the gamut of oppression women in the Islamic world undergo. From the capital city of Riyadh to the most confined areas of Jeddah, women were seen celebrating even as there were bitter moments due to the barrage of vicious comments from many men as they struggled to come to terms with this new reality. Allowing women to drive will mean greater independence for them as it gives them access to mobility independent of male members of their family, create more employment opportunities and allow for a greater, more visible role for women in day-to-day life. The decision to lift the ban on women driving was pushed through by the reformist faction of the Saudi Government led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It follows on a series of decisions taken earlier: Since 2015, women have been allowed to vote and stand for municipal elections, allowed to celebrate in sports stadia and encouraged to enrol in universities across the country which have witnessed more women graduating than men. The reforms that the Saudi King and the Crown Prince have undertaken are to achieve ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ which believes in the economic and social liberation of the Kingdom’s subjects to end the country’s dependence on a foreign workforce and oil. Women are, at least on paper, equal participants in this effort. But let’s not get carried away.
The present move must be seen as a baby step towards ending gender segregation in that country. The biggest hurdle is to repeal the draconian Guardianship System which stipulates that all women in Saudi Arabia must have a male guardian whose consent is essential for any activity undertaken by women — to marry, divorce, travel. study or even get access to medical care. Thankfully, the monarchy has called for a review of the law but there are miles to go before this system is finally thrown into the dustbin of history. Saudi women are still expected in public to be fully covered with an abaya. They are also not allowed to swim, interact with men other than their close relatives or to try on clothes while shopping. Seriously. Sure, let’s celebrate the lifting of the driving ban. But there’s miles to go yet.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The UK and five other nations, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania, have been referred to Europe’s highest court for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution. The European court of justice (ECJ) has the power to impose multimillion Euro fines if the countries do not address the problem swiftly.
The Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, gave the six, also including Italy, Hungary and Romania, a last chance in January to take the required steps to improve air quality after years of warnings.
However, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told a press conference in Brussels the six, which include Europe’s top four economies, had not acted quickly enough.
“The commission had to conclude that … That the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible, and therefore are being referred to court,” Vella said.”We cannot wait any longer,” Vella said, warning that Brussels may end up waiting several more years before the countries put measures in place.
Vella had also given Spain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia a last chance in January to start complying with EU standards and decided to give them a reprieve.
“The measures that are planned or being put in place appear to be able to tackle (exceeded limits) if they are fully and immediately implemented,” Vella said.But he warned the commission was keeping the three under review.
In January, the nine countries were found to regularly exceed emissions limits set to protect Europeans against particulate matter and azote dioxide, both pollutants.The EU estimates that air pollution costs the bloc 20 billion euros (USD 24.7 billion) a year in health costs, but says this could be reduced if member states comply with agreed emissions limits.
Writer: Adil Husain
Courtesy: The Pioneer