The modern Indian higher education in its history of 163 years has undergone numerous reforms. The pre-Independence period had a negligible presence of regulatory mechanism. There were only two councils that were in operation during the pre-Independence period. One was the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), set up in 1929, to coordinate agricultural education, and another was the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), set up in 1945 to conduct surveys and coordinating development of technical education. The post-Independence period has witnessed the growth of a number of other councils for laying down norms and standards in different domains of higher education. Indian Nursing Council (INC), Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) and Dental Council of India (DCI) were the first to come up within a period of one year after Independence. Since then, nine more councils have been set up in different areas of study like medicine, homeopathy, rehabilitation, architecture, teacher education, etc.
Education is the sector that will always remain in need of reforms due to its ever-evolving nature. A need was felt soon after Independence to set up the University Education Commission (UEC) in 1948-49 to suggest measures to strengthen and expand the higher education in the country. Pursuant to the recommendations of the UEC, the University Grants Commission (UGC) was set up as an interim commission in 1953, which was converted into a statutory body in 1956 by an Act of Parliament. Since then, the UGC has been in the service of the nation meriting both appreciation for its professional contribution and criticism for its limitations.
The UGC Act, 1956 has been examined twice in the recent past with a view to ascertaining the relevance of the UGC in respect of emerging challenges of higher education arising out of national and international developments. Once, it was examined by the Amrik Singh Committee in 1998 and second time by the R.P. Agrawal Committee in 2014. Interestingly, one of the most vital and common recommendations made by both the committees was about widening the scope and power of the UGC with slight variation in its nomenclature. The external validation by two eminent committees amply justified the relevance and continuation of the UGC. While the Amrik Singh Committee proposed to rename it as Higher Education Commission (HEC), the R.P. Agrawal Committee suggested to call it as Higher Education and Research Commission.
The endorsement of existing role of the UGC by both the committees over a long interval of sixteen years was a stark testimony to its forward-looking design and timeless and enduring potentials. A dispassionate analysis of the UGC Act, even in present times, reveals that it is the finest document ever made in the history of Indian higher education. It is a very concise document with only twenty-eight sections running into sixteen pages. Every provision of the document, except the clause referring to penalties, is so futuristic and comprehensive that regardless of numerous reforms that have taken place in the past sixty-three years, it can address all the concerns of the present-day higher education. One cannot help but experience the deep imprints of the visionary leadership of the time.
There have been suggestions for quite a while to set up an overarching mechanism of various existing regulatory bodies and councils, which could harmonise varying views on policy matters. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in 2006 after analysing the prevailing scenario of higher education alluded that the system was over-regulated and under-governed. It recognised the need to examine the regulatory system of higher education to make it more flexible and transparent. Accordingly, the commission recommended setting up of an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE) by an Act of Parliament to regulate public and private institutions for opening of new institutions, granting of degrees, performance evaluation and accreditation. The idea of the commission was to pass on the regulatory roles of the UGC and all other councils including the MCI, BCI and AICTE to the IRAHE leaving disbursement of grants and maintenance of public institutions with the UGC.
A little later in February 2008, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) constituted the Yash Pal Committee to review the functioning of the UGC vis-à-vis the functional role of other bodies such as AICTE, NCTE, MCI, DCI, etc. The committee, which dealt with a number of issues related to higher education in its report on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education submitted in June 2009, recommended the creation of an all-encompassing National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as a statutory body. The committee recommended the replacement of all the existing regulatory bodies including the UGC, AICTE, NCTE and DEC by the NCHER and suggested that the NCHER alone should be responsible for the regulation of the higher education sector.
The NCHER Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2011. The Bill sought to create NCHER as an independent statutory body with five verticals in the form of General Council, Collegium of Scholars, Board for Research Promotion and Innovation, Higher Education Financial Services Corporation and Qualifications Advisory Councils in Vocational Education. The basic idea of creating five verticals was to avoid overlapping of responsibilities performed by multiple bodies and ensuring more objectivity and transparency. Somehow, the Bill did not find favour with the public representatives and was finally withdrawn by the government in 2014.
The Indian higher education undeniably needs regulations to ensure equity and social justice, planned and coordinated development, quality of education, and more importantly to prevent unfair practices. The multiple areas which require regulations are many like granting permission to establish an institution, permission to operate, introduction of courses, intake of students, levels of students’ learning, issues related to governance, funding and management and monitoring its overall performance. Currently, most of these vital functions are performed by the UGC while there are a few that are looked after by the AICTE and the NCTE.
The idea of a single regulatory body for higher education has been in discussion for decades. Once again it has been reiterated in the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. The NEP has underscored the significance of ensuring objectivity and transparency by making distinction amongst multiple roles performed by a single regulator. The need has been felt, as ever before, for an overhaul of the regulatory system to avoid concentration of power within an organization or in a few related bodies and also to avert overlapping of their role and functions. The NEP has recommended that the functions of regulation, accreditation, funding and academic standard settings should be segregated and entrusted with different agencies. Accordingly, the policy has recommended the creation of an overarching mechanism in the form of Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) with its four verticals as General Education Council (GEC), National Accreditation Council (NAC), National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) and Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC).
It may be worth mentioning here that the principal function of the UGC, as provided for in the Act, is “the promotion and co-ordination of university education and for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in Universities”. The nomenclature of the organisation as “UGC” somehow was a misplaced choice made at the time of its inception, as it does not commensurate with the principal function of the organisation. In fact, its principal function, as stated above, got overshadowed by the grants-giving-auxiliary role. It might have been named that way either due to misjudgement of the legal department at the time of vetting of the Bill or due to British pattern of the UGC. It would have been justly named as Higher Education Commission, but for that slipup. One would now surely look up for some novelty in the present-day approach.
The NEP has envisioned to bring about extensive reforms in higher education. However, the reform initiatives will be more successful only when the policy statements reflect the intents of the policy in an unambiguous manner. In one of its assertions, the policy has envisaged “light but tight” regulatory framework. This leaves some with a sceptical paradox especially when it comes to replacement of three statutory bodies namely the UGC, AICTE and the NCTE by five new organisations. More regulators indisputably are not a good recipe for the growth of the sector. Further, it might cause widespread public concerns about equivalence when NAC takes the role of a meta-accrediting body and starts awarding jobs to multiple agencies for assessment and accreditation of institutions.
Some experts are in a tearing hurry to wind up the current setup since 2005 regardless of the consequences. But there are tangible reasons for cautious optimism. They seemed to have been understood much better by the public representatives, who stalled it, than the specialists. The Indian higher education, indeed, needs regulations to guarantee social equity and quality and all the more significantly to forestall unreasonable practices. But the top-heavy approach is going to be costlier and more burdensome in every aspect of governance than the present one. Moreover, the notion that the existing setup, which has nurtured and brought the system thus far, has completely outlived its utility and is wholly irrecoverable, seems a bit far-fetched. The recommendations made by Amrik Singh and Agrawal Committees are worth a try to save both time and resources that could instead be invested for the advancement of the universities which are starving of funds as a result of sluggish economy and slight weight.
Sometimes it is better to look into the past in order to prepare for a bright future. It may be prudent to keep a sense of perspective and give the regulatory part of reforms a deeper and more thoughtful consideration prior to effecting structural changes of any kind.
The writer is former chairman, UGC. The views expressed are personal.
Education is the sector that will always remain in need of reforms due to its ever-evolving nature. A need was felt soon after Independence to set up the University Education Commission (UEC) in 1948-49 to suggest measures to strengthen and expand the higher education in the country.
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TMC WORKING TOWARDS UPSTAGING THE CONGRESS
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is clearly working on a plan—to replace the Congress as the main Opposition force in the country. To achieve this goal, she is picking up various leaders, even though questions can be raised about her choice. Those who have joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as the party seeks national prominence, do not have any ground presence except perhaps in Meghalaya. By inducting Kirti Azad, who lost the last Lok Sabha elections by nearly 5 lakh votes, and Pavan Varma, who was expelled by JDU and before that was a Rajya Sabha member without any grassroots connect, it is not known what sort of a national presence the TMC is hoping to get. In Meghalaya, 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs there may have joined the TMC, but when it comes to Lok Sabha seats, Meghalaya has only two, and even if Ms Banerjee wins all the 42 seats in Bengal, her tally will go up to 44 if she wins both those seats. So TMC may have become the main Opposition party in Meghalaya, courtesy Mukul Sangma, but there are grave doubts about whether this will have a domino effect and make other Congress leaders from the Northeast make a beeline for the TMC—this could have been an immediate possibility if the TMC had done well in the Tripura civic body elections, but it didn’t. It performed miserably, managing to win 1 out of 334 wards. And in spite of the claims being made by TMC spokespersons as the party emerging as the main Opposition face in Tripura, statistics show that the Left is still ahead of the TMC. The Tripura result was not commensurate with the hype created by the TMC, proving once again that unless there is hard work at the grassroots, no Opposition party can uproot a well-entrenched ruling party. Anti-incumbency is always a factor against any government, but for the Opposition to convert that into a critical mass of votes to overthrow a government depends on a lot of factors, including the severity of the anti incumbency and the grassroots connect of the Opposition. The TMC should have known this, for this is what happened to the BJP in the Bengal Assembly elections earlier this year. It just didn’t have the organisation on the ground to convert the anti-incumbency into votes for it to defeat Mamata Banerjee’s party. From the Tripura results it is anyway apparent that in this case, anti incumbency was not severe against Chief Minister Biplab Deb.
The whole national strategy of the TMC appears to be hinged on breaking other parties—particularly the Congress—and importing their organisation in different states, but for that the electoral performance of the TMC outside its stronghold Bengal will have to be up to the mark. Why else will senior Congress leaders consider replacing the Gandhis with Mamata Banerjee as their leader? The Tripura results would not have inspired confidence in such quarters, for it drove home the point that a stellar performance by TMC against the BJP outside of Bengal is unlikely at this point.
More importantly, a lot will depend on the Assembly elections that will take place next year. If Congress does well in Punjab, then it will be easier for the Gandhis to quell dissension within the ranks and the possibility of defections will recede in the backgroumd. So TMC may have overplayed its hand by name-calling the Congress, refusing to attend meetings called by it, and by defiantly announcing that it is only the TMC, and not Congress, that can take on the BJP.
Strategy is fine, but there is nothing like hard work on the ground and reputation of being a good administrator. It does not help the TMC’s case when Kolkata is named as the worst city in the country for providing jobs and economic growth, as shown by the first Sustainable Development Goals Urban Index released by Niti Aayog last week. Also, how can there be any national leadership role for a regional party without grassroots presence in more than one state? But then the strategy is based on the hope that there will be a fractured mandate in 2024, and a party with 40-45-odd seats will manoeuvre its way to power, upstaging the Congress. Only time will tell how effective this strategy is.
Aggressive TMC to jostle with Congress for Opposition space
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, after her party’s decisive victory in West Bengal Assembly elections, has become aggressive and is now aspiring to dethrone the Congress from playing a leadership role for the entire Opposition.
Parliament’s winter session commenced on Monday. Although it is hoped that the rancours of the Monsoon session would subside since the issues that the Opposition cited for their ire no longer exist, an aggressive Trinamool Congress itching to play a larger opposition role may play spoilsport and create problems of floor management.
There are other parties too that would be keen to send a signal that they are not far behind if it comes to a street fight. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress would use this session to reposition themselves for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh due early next year. All these parties are likely to try to achieve Muslim consolidation by raising related issues.
It would be interesting to figure out if the Parliament can discuss the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) issue. Those who are trying to compare the farm legislations with the CAA are grossly mistaken since this would mean taking away the rights of the people already granted to them. In the case of farm legislations, nothing was being imposed and no section was negatively impacted by withdrawal. If those who wanted to benefit would have come on the streets in favour of the legislations and against those farmers agitating against the three legislations, this would have created a difficult situation.
These parties would also like to keep raking issues related to farmers. With his increasing isolation, Rakesh Tikait is becoming more aggressive. He has been abusive and challenging the government. The opposition parties may find it politically expedient to give fodder to him and keep alive the issue and try to wean away farmers from the BJP. From the perspective of the Opposition, the agitation must continue at least till the Uttar Pradesh elections. From the BJP’s perspective, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already extended the velvet glove by withdrawing the three legislations. Tikait has already said that he would work to defeat the BJP. The government is being challenged to act tough and use force which it has been avoiding.
An interesting discussion would be on the issue of the MSP. Opposition parties have demanded that it should be made legal. Can the government do it? What are the issues impacting this and is it helpful for the country? What is the purpose of MSP and how it should be administered? The government has said that the MSP regime would continue as before. Should we not wait for the Prime Minister’s decision to set up a committee to make the MSP more effective and transparent. What is the hurry? The government has shown its commitment to the MSP by spending more money (about Rs 85,000 crore) than ever before on purchasing Rabi crops (wheat). This time money was sent directly into the accounts of farmers under DBT. A dispassionate debate would make the issue clear for people.
Nobody is in doubt that TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, after her party’s decisive victory in West Bengal assembly elections, has become very aggressive and is now aspiring to dethrone the Congress from playing a leadership role for the entire Opposition. The TMC deciding not to attend a meeting of Opposition parties called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday intended to send this message loud and clear.
Instead, the TMC is holding its national coordination committee meeting at the residence of Banerjee in Kolkata on the same day. During her visit to Delhi last week, she did not pay even a courtesy call to Gandhi and when asked, she asked bluntly if this was needed or compulsory. TMC leaders are certain that now it is Banerjee vs Gandhi tug of war on who would be the Opposition’s face.
Of late, the TMC mouthpiece Jago Bangla has been critical of Congress and its leadership. It has described the Congress as incompetent and incapable and has charged Congress leaders as being interested merely in armchair politics rather than fighting for the people on the street. It spelt out that Banerjee and not Gandhi was the real face of the Opposition.
On the eve of the Winter session, Banerjee gave a wake-up call to the Congress by inducting former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and 11 other Congress MLAs from Meghalaya into the TMC and, thereby, making her party the main opposition in the state. She also welcomed former Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and Congress leader Kriti Azad into the party during her Delhi visit. Already many other Congress leaders have joined the TMC in Goa. Sushmita Dev has joined the TMC in Assam.
One need not be too intelligent to understand the message Banerjee has given to the entire opposition and other Congress leaders who are unhappy with the leadership of the Gandhi family. She is no longer shy of claiming that she and her party can lead the opposition and not the Congress.
This newfound power and assertiveness will force it to flex muscles during the Winter session that has 20 working days. She will chart out an independent course and try to get maximum mileage through her street fighter image and no holds barred fight inside Parliament in full media presence. This is exactly what the TMC had done during the last Monsoon session where TMC MPs were at the forefront in disrupting Parliament functioning. They were involved in pushing and shoving parliament security staff.
The TMC would be more aggressive also to hide its failures in Tripura. Despite the heroics in Delhi last week, the party is bruised because of its abysmal performance in the municipal elections in Tripura. The BJP has won 329 of 334 seats. In Agartala Corporation, the party has won 51 out of 51 seats. Neither the Left nor the TMC could open their account. The Prime Minister has said this is a result of good governance.
TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee drew solace that it had got a substantial percentage of votes but could not explain its failure to give a fight to the BJP. He has alleged that the BJP has “butchered democracy” in Tripura. So sad that the party that has made violence its tool to achieve political supremacy in West Bengal is talking in these terms. The TMC has already sounded out that it would raise the issue in Parliament. The issues that the Opposition claimed provoked them were farmers’ agitation and Pegasus spyware controversy. Both the issues no longer exist. The farmers’ agitation has lost the punch after the government decided to withdraw the three farm legislations. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have already passed the repeal bill on the first day of the winter session as per the promise made by the government.
The issue of Pegasus is being looked into independently by a three-member expert committee under retired Supreme Court Judge RV Raveendran. The committee has been set up by the Supreme Court and hence the Parliament, by standard convention, would do well not to discuss the issue which is being considered by the Court. The government’s stand is clear from day one that there has been no illegal snooping.
At an all-party meeting with the government, opposition leaders showed their inclination to raise various issues such as legal guarantee on the MSP, price rise, divestment of PSUs, CAA, Coal situation, and Lakhimpur violence. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, present from the government side, urged the opposition that leaders should ensure smooth functioning of parliament so that members can have healthy debates.
Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said after the meeting, “There have been many suggestions. The government is ready to discuss all issues under the rule, without disruptions. The government hopes that there will be a good discussion in the Parliament.” The Prime Minister has already said before the start of the session that the government was ready to discuss all issues and answer all questions.
But the healthy debate is the biggest casualty when the opposition tries to create optics for public mobilisation outside. The common man on the street would like to watch the debate and listen to the arguments of both the government and the opposition. This makes them understand whether the government is on the right track. The Opposition also gets a chance to present their arguments and earn support. Parliamentary debates are the opportunities to put the government on the mat.
The crucial issue is whether the opposition will do this or they will fritter away the opportunity by raising demands that the government would not be keen to accept. By creating ruckus or by disrupting proceedings using other means would not help. They must appreciate that the government has the majority to get any legislation passed. An informed debate would help the cause of people. Creating ruckus does not help the Opposition’s cause.
The writer is the author of ‘Narendra Modi: the GameChanger’. A former journalist, he is a member of BJP’s media relations department and represents the party as spokesperson while participating in television debates. The views expressed are personal.
Banerjee is no longer shy of claiming that she and her party can lead the opposition and not the Congress. This newfound power and assertiveness will make TMC flex muscles during the Winter session that has 20 working days. She will chart out an independent course and try to get maximum mileage through her street fighter image and no holds barred fight inside Parliament in full media presence.
CHANNI’S AAM AADMI IMAGE PUSHES AAP ON BACKFOOT IN PUNJAB
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is emerging as the most effective politician in the border state and if he manages to assist the Congress in winning next year’s Assembly polls, he would have joined the big league. The simple but astute politician appears to be giving a tough time to his rivals, and to begin with, he has damaged the prospects of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) more than anybody else. Till a few months ago, most of the surveys considered the AAP as the frontrunner in Punjab but it is evident that Arvind Kejriwal is struggling to put the Congress down, and so far, his efforts have not succeeded. Channi because of his humble background and unwavering determination is synonymous with the image of the Aam Aadmi and through his actions, has pre-empted many promises made by Kejriwal and the company. The Delhi CM had first accused Channi of being a `naqli’ Aam Aadmi but his political jibe did not click. Next, he accused Channi of being `naqli Kejriwal’, while alluding to Channi following his party’s agenda which is again proving to be counter-productive. The proof of the pudding is in eating and what Kejriwal was promising to bring to Punjab, Channi has already implemented what he is calling the Congress programme aimed at helping the common citizen of the state.
The power tariff has been brought down by rupees three, arrears of the poor have been waived off, petrol and diesel prices are down by rupees ten, and the sand is now sold for one-fourth the price it was being sold earlier. Kejriwal has claimed that at least 25 Congress MLAs and two MPs were in touch with him, but Channi has hit back by telling the AAP Boss that why would Congress MLAs be looking towards him when his own flock—11 of the 21 MLAs who won on the AAP symbol—have already switched sides. Channi has asserted that how can he be a `naqli’ Kejriwal and taunted the Delhi CM that he cannot become a `naqli’ Channi either and being an outsider to the state, the common citizen could not identify himself or herself with him. The latest attack on the Congress by Kejriwal is that he is attempting to draw a wedge in the top ranks by praising Navjot Singh Sidhu and lashing out at the rest of the leadership. Kejriwal is a master strategist in many ways and knows he has to do something fast if he has to weaken the grand old party. Congress leadership at the Centre is aware of the maverick ways of Sidhu and has also drawn a contingency plan for the poll preparation which could run parallel to what the former Test cricketer is doing.
There is speculation in political circles that Sidhu could jump towards AAP, closer to the polls, thus giving Kejriwal a popular face and adding momentum to his party’s campaign. The logic being given is that Sidhu realizes that with Channi as the head of the government, he has little chance of becoming a Congress Chief Minister in the immediate future. Punjab is turning out to be a battle between Congress and the AAP with the Akali Dal desperately trying to resuscitate itself. Captain Amarinder Singh’s new political party is yet to take off and is heavily dependent on the BJP to both fund and back it. The BJP on its part is watching the unfolding situation very closely and would want to know the list of Amarinder Singh’s candidates before supporting him. This may take time since the Captain would only be able to provide and finalise his list, once Congress declares its own nominees. Those who do not find a berth, would gravitate towards the former CM, which is the belief with which he is moving ahead. There are conjectures in political circles that his wife, Preneet Kaur, and one more Lok Sabha MP from the State may join Amarinder’s party. Preneet has already been served a show-cause notice by the AICC. On his part, Channi is unruffled by what is happening and in a recent interview to a TV news channel, had a dig at the Captain and also the Badals. He said that earlier people would want to know about the working hours of the former CM.
But now they want to know what were the sleeping hours of the current CM while referring to his tight and strenuous work schedule. He said that he has been functioning without an army of advisers, OSDs and PAs, thereby reducing the load on the exchequer while reiterating that he stood for the common citizen and not for the elites like Amarinder and Badals, who had the resources to look after themselves. The former CM had described Channi as a “good boy’’ implying that he was inexperienced. However, Channi has shown far greater political maturity towards the problems confronting the state and their solutions. The political narrative in the border state is changing at a very rapid pace, and for the Congress, which is imploding everywhere else in the country, Channi could very well be a match-winner they have been looking for.
The saga of COP26: Why we should be concerned
It is because of the flawed approach of UNFCCC and IPCC that Combating Climate Change Movement has not gained the required momentum even after 24 years of the Kyoto protocol.
The 26th Climate Change summit, called COP26 (Conference of Parties) started its proceedings on the 31st of October and continued the discussions up to the 12th of November. After a lot of haggling for two weeks, the conference produced the Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP). The media, as a whole, has dubbed the pact as a weak narrative belying the hopes, aspirations, and ambitions of those who are concerned about the catastrophic future of the earth due to the drastic changes in the climate patterns, leading to the triple problems of floods, droughts, and cyclones as a result of global warming. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, calls the deal “A compromise with welcome steps.” Originally, the conference was called upon to deliberate on three main agendas.
1. That all nations must agree to cut down the consumption of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) to reach the status of Net Zero Emissions (NZE) by 2050. US agreed to abide by the directive to reach the NEZ status by 2050. But China and India agreed to achieve this target by 2060 and 2070 respectively.
2. Both UNFCCC ( UN framework convention on climate change) and IPCC ( Inter-governmental panel on climate change) had discovered that the safe value of the rise of global temperatures to prevent or avoid perceptible changes in climate cycle or pattern was 1.5 C and was likely to reach around 2050. This value of temperature rise can be stabilised provided all nations decide to gradually cut down the present level of consumption of fossil fuels to reach the Net Zero Emissions (NZE) status by the year 2050 after switching on to new renewable or non fossil fuels (nuclear or hydrogen fuel) sources of energy. Accordingly, all nations submitted their updated targets to develop alternate sources of energy by 2030 keeping in mind complete achievement of NZEs status by 2050. Indian targets were declared on the floor of the house by the Prime Minister in person.
The annual consumption of these three types of fossil fuels produces 50 billion tonnes of GHGs; Carbon dioxide being the principal component. China produces 31% emissions followed by US(16%) and India(5%).These three countries together produce 52% of the global emissions while 30 top consumer countries (G30) produce 90% of the global emissions. So it would have been much better if UNFCC and IPCC concentrated on G30 countries and leave the rest 165 who hardly consume 10% of the fossil fuels per year. In fact, many countries like Bhutan have already reached the NZE status and some are about to reach it.
The concept of NZEs does not mean that consumption of fossil fuels will be reduced to zero. It only means the following: The total amount of emissions of GHGs (calculated in terms of CO2 equivalent) from fossil fuels is equal to the amount of CO2 absorbed by the forests, crops, carbon sinks, and by new and old technologies of sequestering CO2 to be used for commercial uses.
The basic mistake made by UNFCCC and IPCC is that both did not calculate the values of the two sides of the equation for individual countries of the G30 group. This calculation would have enabled the major emitters to know the extent to which the consumption levels of fossil fuels by the years 2030 and 2050 needs to be reduced. Consequently, the individual nations could expand the forest areas to maintain a higher value of consumption of fossil fuels. The World Energy Outlook report for the year 2021 indicates that nations will have to cut down the 2019 consumption levels of fossil fuels by 50% to achieve the NZE status in 2050. In other words, China and India will have to phase out 50% of their thermal power plants by 2050 and the global consumption of crude oil would be reduced to 50 mbpd. Oil and gas-producing countries are greatly worried about the arrival of this scenario because their prosperity is entirely based on the sale of crude oil and natural gas.
3. In the 2009 climate summit at Copenhagen (COP 15), it was agreed that developed nations would release a sum of $100 billion every year towards the climate-financing fund to enable underdeveloped countries to switch on from fossil fuel energy sources to alternate sources of energy. This fund never arrived from the wallets of the rich nations and the progress of transition of energy from one side to another never picked up. India was at the forefront to take up the cause of the underdeveloped nations to compel rich nations to contribute the arrears of $ 1.0 trillion towards the climate financing fund.
THE AGREEMENT DRAFT
The Glasgow Climate Pact contains the following three features in response to the three principle issues raised above:
1. All nations agreed to focus on sticking to the Paris conference (CP21) goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 C from the preindustrial levels due to global warming caused by GHG emissions. But the draft is totally silent whether countries like China and India are bound to reach NZE status by 2050 or not. Reaching NZEs by 2050 is the soul or essence of the Combating Climate Change Movement (CCCM) and the COP 26.
2. All major emitter countries of GHGs (read G30 countries) will scale up and resubmit their NDCs (nationally determined contributions) or targets for cutting down the consumption levels of fossil fuels for the year 2030 along with pathways to reach NZE status by the year 2050 in COP27 to be held next year in Egypt. India had declared that it would be able to develop 500 GW of renewable or green energy by 2030. No other country had made such an ambitious announcement.
All countries agreed to phase down the unabated coal power and fossil fuel subsidies in line with the coal use by the poor and vulnerable sections of society. The term ‘phase out coal’ was replaced by ‘phase down coal’ at the instance of India, China, and Iran. India considers this change of terms as a great diplomatic victory though the change of terms does not mean much because the NZE targets do not ask for zero consumption of fossil fuels.
3. Only a perfunctory clause was added in respect of the commitment of rich nations to pay the arrears due to the commitment made in COP9 to contribute $100 billion per year towards the climate financing fund. Now the draft says, “The member nations urge the rich nations to start the contribution fresh from now onwards till 2025 and then double the amount of contribution ($200 billion per year) from that year.” The term ‘urge’ instead of a firm direction makes the draft greatly watered down. It is not understood how the underdeveloped countries agreed to accept this clause without a firm assurance from the rich countries even though they are signatories to this draft as they were in 2009.
FLAWS IN THE APPROACH
Both UNFCCC and IPCC, the two main drivers of the Combating Climate Change Movement, have adopted a flawed approach to take the nations towards the goal of Net Zero Emission status by the year 2050. The key points of the flawed approach are enumerated below:
1. UNFCCC and IPCC should have first concentrated their efforts on reducing the consumption of fossil fuels of G30 countries (who presently consume 90% of the fossil fuels), and also hold discussions with them individually, to find out to what extent each country is really in a position to reduce the fossil fuel consumption without jeopardising the economic growth and then fix the NDCs targets for the year 2030. This exercise will greatly avoid the bickerings during the discussion during the next summit.
2. Combustion of fossil fuels presents three problems simultaneously I.e. air pollution, climate change, and depletion of resources. Air pollution has become the most serious problem at the moment. But both UNFCCC and IPCC never talk about this great health hazard. China is burning 11 million tonnes of coal and 14mbpd of oil daily (half of the global consumption) and people are facing very serious health problems in most of her big cities. India too is facing identical problems of air pollution in big cities due to vehicular emissions and Supreme Court is now taking the Delhi government to task. Likewise, depletion of these vital resources will be a big problem to be faced by the next generations. Chinese coal at the present rate of consumption will not last more than 30 years. Likewise, 60 billion tonnes of extractable coal reserves in India will not last more than 70 years. If all three issues are highlighted simultaneously, all nations will show more promptness to reduce the consumption levels.
3. Every country has its limitations in developing renewable resources of energy. Many G30 countries like Japan do not have hydropower potential. European countries do not have enough clear sky days to generate solar power during the five winter months of the year. India has very scarce potential for generating wind energy. Therefore, the two UN bodies should assess the renewable energy potential while fixing the targets.
4. The COP26 agreement only talks about reducing coal consumption whereas combustion of oil produces very obnoxious gases like SO2, NOx, and lead oxide. The major cause of severe air pollution in the cities with concomitant health hazards is vehicular emissions. Therefore, equal stress should be given to replace the existing fleet of cars and small size trucks with electric vehicles and transfer an appreciable part of the freight and passenger load of trucks and buses to the railways.
5. Use of nuclear power and hydrogen fuel can be good substitutes for replacing fossil fuels. But people do not allow the setting up of nuclear power plants after the explosion in a nuclear power plant in Japan. Research on developing hydrogen fuel is still in the embryonic stage. Therefore, G30 countries need a rethink on the use of nuclear power and should provide more funds to the development of hydrogen fuel.
6. 166 countries with very low consumption of fossil fuels discovered and cried out in the conference that real culprits of triggering climate change are 30 countries (G30) who consume 90% of the fossil fuels and release an equal amount of emissions. But the climate change does not limit the climatic upheavals to these G30 countries alone and sweeps the entire world. So they, G166, are suffering because of the brazen and profligate use of fossil fuels consumed by G30 countries to sustain their prosperous economies and leaving very little for future generations. But their genuine cry was heard and yet ignored.
It is because of this flawed approach of UNFCCC and IPCC that Combating Climate Change Movement has not gained the required momentum even after the 24 years of the Kyoto protocol. The pact reached at Glasgow on 14 November is rightly called an agreement better than no agreement. The only achievement of this conference has been to postpone its three main agendas to the next year’s conference (COP27) to be held in Egypt.
The writer is a retired Engineer-in-Chief of Public Health Department Haryana and has had an illustrious career for 34 years. Views expressed are the writer’s personal.
LEADERS REMEMBER AHMED PATEL, SONIA GANDHI’S TROUBLESHOOTER
Ahmed Patel was without any doubt the most powerful functionary of the Congress in this century. On his first death anniversary on Thursday, several top leaders paid tributes to him, recalling his pronounced role during the presidentship of Sonia Gandhi without mentioning that in fact, he was the de facto chief of the grand old party. This is not an exaggeration that he wielded more influence on the central leadership than anyone before him. Some veterans try and compare his understated but exalted position with that of R.K.Dhawan and Makhan Lal Fotedar, but Ahmed Patel had a much larger say in political matters for a considerable long period. His opponents accused him of being responsible for the decline of the Congress and often claimed that Sonia Gandhi had outsourced the party to him for day-to-day affairs and he did what he pleased, sometimes without the knowledge of the High Command. Ahmed’s grip over the organization started loosening once Rahul Gandhi came on to the political scene and though the entire Gandhi family paid homage to him on his anniversary, it was an open secret that Rahul wanted his role to diminish. The astute and perceptive former political secretary realized this and had shifted his strategy to maintain an extremely low profile while getting his way in crucial matters. In the recent past, the appointment of D.K.Shiv Kumar as the Karnataka State president was engineered by him even though Rahul was not in his favour and because the Vokkaliga community to which he belongs is essentially with H.D.Deva Gowda. Shiv Kumar got the job because he had facilitated the stay of Congress MLAs from Gujarat when Ahmed was contesting for a Rajya Sabha seat facing stiff competition from the BJP whose strategy was designed by Amit Shah. Ahmed was victorious and till this day, some questions have been raised on who was responsible for giving him the additional two votes which he required to retain the seat. These are untold stories of politics. Ahmed also played the most significant part when the Maharashtra government was formed after an alliance between the Congress, NCP, and the Shiv Sena. Like most things good or not so good done by him, he never took credit and allowed others to boast about their achievements.
Ahmed’s USP was that enjoyed cordial relations with top leaders of other parties as well and it was not surprising that after his demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allowed his family to occupy his official residence, 23 Willingdon Crescent for as long as they wished. They finally moved out in July. In sharp contrast, the Congress High Command did not hold even a single prayer meeting for him in the national capital, and according to the political buzz conveyed to the family that there was no need for this in the capital since condolence gatherings had taken place in Karnataka, Maharashtra and some other places.
The problem in Congress is that the leadership has not been able to find a suitable replacement for him. There is nobody close to the Gandhis who is accessible and thus in any position to address the grievances of state functionaries and ordinary workers. There is nobody to even speak to established leaders. Thus, this vacuum is hurting the party which should have by this time given greater responsibility to the likes of Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Ahmed Patel like everyone else had his fault lines as well, but no one can doubt that Sonia Gandhi’s dependence on him was absolute and he was perhaps the only one who could get his way through the complicated decision-making process in the party. The erosion of the Congress started during his lifetime but the party is grappling with its worst phase with no one there to oversee the political road map and its implementation.
Gati Shakti: PM Modi’s masterplan for connectivity
Be it Purvanchal Expressway or the upcoming Jewar airport, the ability to coordinate seamlessly with the state government concerned and translate vision into reality has been the high point of PM Modi’s holistic, development-oriented agenda.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gati Shakti, National Master Plan for multi-modal connectivity, heralding a new chapter in governance, on October 13. Gati Shakti, a digital platform, will bring 16 ministries including Railways and Roadways together, for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure projects. It will incorporate the infrastructure schemes of various ministries and State governments like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN, etc. Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, fishing clusters, and agri zones will be covered to improve connectivity & make Indian businesses more competitive. It will also leverage technology extensively including spatial planning tools with ISRO imagery developed by BiSAG-N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics). This multi-modal connectivity will provide integrated and seamless connectivity for the movement of people, goods, and services from one mode of transport to another. It will facilitate last-mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reduce travel time for people. In line with the goals of Gati Shakti, Mumbai Port Trust, for instance, is undertaking a slew of projects, seeking harmony between the needs of cargoes and ships on one hand and the needs of the city and citizenry on the other. Gati Shakti project is yet another instance of how cooperative federalism is something that the Modi government is fully committed to.
Needless to add, with the resolve of Aatmnirbhar Bharat, the foundation of India for the next 25 years is being laid stoutly and soundly, by the Central government. People of India, Indian industry, Indian business, Indian manufacturers, and Indian farmers are at the centre of this great campaign of Gati Shakti, which is a people-centric, futuristic, mega initiative. What sets the Modi government apart from erstwhile, lethargic, Congress-led regimes, is the fact that we have not only developed a work culture of completing the projects in time, but efforts are underway to complete projects ahead of time. With the whole-of-government approach, the collective power of the Central government is being channelled into fulfilling these infrastructure-oriented schemes. Gati Shakti is an extension of holistic governance, therefore, in more ways than one.
Over the years, the signage ‘Work In Progress’ became the symbol of lack of trust, with cost and time overruns, being the hallmark of all that was wrong with the decrepit Nehruvian model, that was repeatedly flogged for decades together, by successive Congress regimes. But today’s 21st century India, is leaving behind old systems and practices, that emanated from the “Command Economy” model of Nehru and his dynastic proponents. Today’s mantra under PM Modi is: ‘Work For Progress’.
Wealth for progress, plan for progress, and preference for progress, underline the inclusive approach of the Modi government.
The subject of infrastructure in our country was never a priority for most political parties, for decades together. This, even though it is globally accepted that the creation of quality infrastructure for sustainable development is a time-tested way to create a virtuous cycle of economic activities that create employment on a large scale. Due to the wide gap between macro planning and micro implementation, problems of lack of coordination, lack of advanced information, thinking and working in silos— all these factors led to hampered construction and wastage of government resources and budgets. Gati Shakti project will therefore be a force multiplier and working based on this master plan, will result in optimum utilisation of resources.
The first interstate natural gas pipeline in India was commissioned in 1987. After this, till 2014, i.e. in 27 years, only a 15,000 km long natural gas pipeline was built. Today, work is underway on a war footing for a more than 16,000 km long gas pipeline across the country.This pipeline is slated to be completed in the next 5-6 years. Again, in the 5 years before 2014, only 1900 km of railway lines underwent doubling. In the last 7 years alone, more than 9000 kilometers of railway lines have been doubled. In the 5 years before 2014, only 3000 km of railways were electrified. In the last 7 years alone, more than 24000 kilometers of railway tracks have been electrified. Before 2014, the metro rail was running on only about 250 km of track. Today the metro has been expanded up to 700 km and work is going on in the 1000 km new metro route. In the five years before 2014, only 60 panchayats could be connected with optical fibre. In the last 7 years of the Modi government, we have connected more than 1.5 lakh gram panchayats with optical fibre, in a grand testimony to what resolute political will can achieve.
To increase the income of the farmers and fishermen of the country, infrastructure related to processing is also being expanded rapidly. In 2014, there were only 2 mega Food Parks in the country. Today 19 mega Food Parks are functioning in the country. Now the target is to take their number to more than 40. There were just 5 waterways in 2014, today India has 13 functional waterways. Turnaround time of vessels at the ports has come down to 27 hours from over 41 hours in 2014. The country has realised the pledge of One Nation, One Grid. Today India has 4.25 lakh circuit kilometers of power transmission lines compared to 3 lakh circuit kilometers in 2014.
With the development of quality infrastructure, India can realize the dream of becoming the business capital of the world. PM Gati Shakti will be the driving factor. Just as JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile) trinity revolutionized accessibility of government’s welfare schemes to the people, PM Gati Shakti will do the same in the field of infrastructure. With the Gati Shakti National Master Plan, India’s economic growth will find greater traction through major infrastructure upgrades, that will cut logistics costs and enhance efficiency. Essentially, the Gati Shakti project will be an integrated umbrella of over Rs 111 lakh crore worth of projects, under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) for the period 2021-25. This includes reducing the ratio of logistical costs to GDP that has prevailed at over 14%, before PM Modi took charge, to an aspirational level of sub 8%. Reducing vehicular emissions to meet climate change commitments, curtailing input costs on fuel, a fillip to efficiency in port operations, improvement in cargo handling capacity, and cutting vessel turnaround time, will be the added benefits and byproducts of the ambitious Gati Shakti project. The observations in the Economic Survey for 2020-21 underscore the role of active Centre-State partnerships for infrastructure building. Significant delays to projects can often be traced to hostile land acquisition decisions that alienate communities or violate environmental laws.
It is to the Modi government’s credit that environmental integrity has never been compromised and rehabilitation of affected people has always been given utmost priority. The Jewar airport’s strategic location will create over 1 lakh job opportunities for the young from adjoining areas: Aligarh, Hapur, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, and Bulandshahr.
The airport will be spread over 1334 hectares of land and will have a capacity to serve around 1.2 crore passengers, annually. That number will go up to over 7 crore passengers from 2040 onwards. Job opportunities will come not just from work at the airport but also from allied industries like storage, defence, and food. But beyond all these numbers, what stands out is the fact that the UP government spent Rs 4326 crore on the acquisition of land, rehabilitation, and resettlement. Be it Purvanchal expressway or the upcoming Jewar airport, the ability to coordinate seamlessly with the concerned State government and translate vision into reality has been the high point of PM Modi’s holistic, development-oriented agenda.
The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are the writer’s personal
To increase the income of the farmers and fishermen of the country, infrastructure related to processing is also being expanded rapidly. In 2014, there were only 2 mega food parks in the country. Today 19 mega food parks are functioning in the country. Now the target is to take their number to more than 40. There were just 5 waterways in 2014, today India has 13 functional waterways. Turnaround time of vessels at the ports has come down to 27 hours from over 41 hours in 2014. The country has realised the pledge of ‘One Nation, One Grid’.
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