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UNION BUDGET : HISTORICAL FACTS AND DISCUSSION

Education plays an important role in accelerating socio-economic development. The most important area of government intervention in the country is the public provisioning of education. As education mentioned in the list of the Constitution, both Union and state government share the responsibility towards education. A look at how the Budget deals with the subject.

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India is the seventh largest country in the world with the total area of 3.287 million km square. India is also the second most populous country in the world with the total population of 1,380 million in 2020 . The reason of high population is either due to greater birth rate than death rate or due to absence of population policies/ measures.

Indian economy is a developing market economy. India is a largest democratic country in the world. It is the world fifth largest economy by nominal GDP . It is the third largest by Public Purchasing Parity (PPP). In 2020, India ranked 142nd by GDP (nominal) and 124th by GDP (PPP) on the basis of per capita income by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The growth rate of Indian economy remains positive due to young population and low dependency ratio, investment rates and healthy savings. For the development policy, education has been accorded as a high priority in most of the country. In India, expansion of education is slow as compared to other developing countries.

Education plays an important role in accelerating socio-economic development. The most important area of government intervention in the country is the public provisioning of education. So, for the provisioning of foreign and quality education resources are requiring. In India, there is a number of concern not only regard to the public resources for education but also public spending in the education sector. As education mentioned in the concurrent list of the Constitution, both Union and State government share the responsibility towards education.

To manage, control, operates and regulate the proper functioning and management of India we have different types of public institutions which have their own function under the control of government.

Some of the Ministries of India headed by central Government are as follows:

1. Ministry of Agriculture

2. Ministry of Civil Aviation

3. Ministry of Coal

4. Ministry of Commerce and Industry

5. Ministry of Communication and Information Technology

6. Ministry of Culture

7. Ministry of External Affairs

8. Ministry of Home Affairs

9. Ministry of Defence

10. Ministry of Finance

11. Ministry of Education

And many more

MINISTRY OF FINANCE

The Ministry of Finance was formed in 26 October, 1946 . It is one of the important ministries of government of India which is concerned with economy, Indian Treasury Department. It is concern with the State finances, Union Budget, financial institutions, capital markets, financial legislations, and taxation.

Union Budget is prepared by the Financial Minister with the member of Ministry of Finance. This ministry is related to the financial working of institutions. This ministry also planned how our economy is growing? And all the matters related to economy.

UNION BUDGET’S

INTRODUCTION

This is the Annual financial report of India. It includes income and expenditure of government on a periodic basis of one year. Article 112 of the Indian Constitution makes the Union Budget as the compulsory task for the government. The first budget after independence was presented by RK Shanmukhan Chetty on 26 November, 1947.

India’s financial year starts from April. So, Union Budget of India presented on the first day of February before the beginning of new financial year.

Morarji Desai has presented ten union budget of India followed by P. Chidambaram’s nine and Pranab Mukherjee’s eight.

TIME OF BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENT

Till the year 1999, Budget was announced on the last working day of February at 5:00 P.M. The practice of presenting budget continued till British rule. The reason of budget to announce in evening is that seems to raise the taxes. So, the budget gives producer and the tax collecting agencies to work out the change in prices.

DATE OF BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENT

According to the British era budget was presented on the last working day of February in 2016. In 2016, Arun Jaitley Finance Minister of Narendra Modi government said that from now new budget will be presented on February 1. Also, 92 years separate Rail Budget, merged with Union Budget.

HALWA CEREMONY AND BUDGET BRIEFCASE

After presenting the budget in the Parliament, it takes roughly a week of the printing of budget announcements. ‘Halwa Ceremony ’ Halwa is a sweet dish. As Halwa is prepared in large quantities and served to the officers, ministers and other officials who are involved in budget making. The Financial Minister served the halwa. The halwa is a part of Indian tradition to having some sweet before any important work.

Finance Minister carried budget in leather briefcase till 2018. This tradition was started by the first Finance Minister of India Mr. R.K. Shanmukham Chetty. In the last Union Budget 2020-21, Financial Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had taken a new way of carrying budget in a Bahi- Khata. In that budget 2020-21 Financial Minister wear yellow saree like a Goddess Laxmi and take budget in hand wrapped with red cloth.

PAPERLESS BUDGET: FIRST TIME IN INDIAN INDEPENDENCE HISTORY

Due to the COVID- 19 Pandemic, Financial Minister decided not to print the budget document. The 2021 budget was presented on 1st February, 2021. This was a first paperless budget in independent history. Both the Houses of Parliament permitted to present the paperless budget . The printing process includes several people to stay at the press for around a fortnight among the Coronavirus fears. The budget 2021 was printed in printing press of House of Finance Ministry.

This year Halwa Ceremony was also not taken place small function organized with small or limited gathering. The function started around 20th January attended by all people who involved in budget making. Until the presentation of budget by the Finance Minister, all the printing staff stayed inside the press. Only High – graded officials were allowed based on special identity card. The entire facilities like loading, unloading and transportation are managed by the Special Forces.

This is not the first time that there was a change in the tradition of the presentation of budget under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ji. In the last Budget 2020 she carry budget in a brief case titled budget as ‘Bahi Khata’ wrapped with a red cloth and tied with a string.

UNION BUDGET 2020-21

Nirmala Sitharaman ji in her speaking of budget 2021 stated that Today’s India has one of the lowest rate of death of 112 per million population and also has the lowest active cases of coronavirus about 130 per million. This resulted in a restoration to our economy. This is a digital budget. When we look into the Part A of the budget 2021, Finance Minister highlights that will build up the Sankalp of nation first like doubling the income of farmers, proper infrastructure, healthy India, good system of government, opportunities for the youth, education for all, women empowerment and so on. This Budget also lay down some vision of AtmaNirbhar Bharat .

IMPACT OF UNION BUDGET 2021-22 ON THE EDUCATION AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT SECTOR

The total provision for the educational sector stood at Rs. 54,873.66 Crore for school education and Rs. 38, 325.15 Crore for higher education in Budget of 2021 . The Budget 0f 2021 is basically divided into six pillars including;

1. Health and Well being

2. Physical & Finance Capital and Infrastructure

3. Inclusive Development for Aspirational India

4. Reinvigorating Human Capital

5. Innovation and R&D

6. Minimum Government and Maximum Governance

The fourth pillar of the Union Budget of Fiscal Year 2021-22 is deals with the educational sector of India. There is an increment of Rs. 93, 224 Crore in education sector declared by Finance Minister. The Cabinet presented the National Education Policy in July 2020. The Human Resource Development Ministry renamed as the Ministry of Education . With the New Education Policy 2020 the Indian Government loosened the regulations which boost the worldwide policies in educational partnership and for the higher learning of students. This New Education Policy will be totally different from the National Education Policy 1986 by Rajiv Gandhi.

The Budget 2021 provides several steps for improving the human resource in the Educational sector of India and also provides equal and excellence education to all. The National Education Policy 2020 announced recently has had good reception.

SCHOOL EDUCATION

· 15,000 Schools will be set up conditionally across the country and worked as ideal school in that area. Based on qualitative guide given by these institutions, school of these areas enhances the standard of education. Also set up to include all components of National Education Policy.

· 100 new Sainik Schools will be set up in collaboration with private schools, NGO’s and States. These Schools will set up in India where part of education for all mentioned by Finance Minister.

· To enhance the standard for school teacher, The National Professional Standard for Teachers (NPST) will be expanding.

HIGHER EDUCATION

· In the previous budget 2020- 21, the Finance Minister mentioned to set up Higher Education Commission of India. This year the legislature will be introducing the Commission for implementation. It will be a body like sunshade consists of four separate vehicles for Standard- setting, qualification, guideline, and aid.

· Many of the cities in India have many research bodies, Universities and Colleges that are supported by the Indian Government. In Hyderabad, there are about 40 such major educational bodies. In about 9 cities, such institute will be established for better cooperation and also maintain internal autonomy.

· Central university will be set up in Leh for higher education.

SCHEDULED CASTES AND SCHEDULED TRIBES WELFARE

· About 750 Eklavya Model Residency School will be built up in the tribal areas. The value of each of these schools will be increased from Rs. 20 Crore to Rs. 38 Crore and for the hilly and difficult areas increases to Rs. 48 Crore. These is one of the most important steps to strong the infrastructure for tribal students.

· The Finance Minister also announced Post- Matric Scholarship Scheme to Scheduled Castes for the welfare with central assistance. Allotting Rs. 35, 219 Crore for the period of 6 years to benefit about Crore Scheduled Castes Students.

The budget expanded the scope for the privatization of public schools and also increases the PPP models controlling system of education in India. The aim of Finance Minister is to develop the Indian Schools and provide quality education in tribal region. It will be mandatory to look for the support from the private sector in providing quality education and infrastructure and skillset workshops to the faculty.

INITIATIVE ON EDUCATION AS PART OF NEP 2020

Annexure V of the Budget includes the steps taken on education as a part of National Educational Policy 2020. There are following steps mentioned below:

· Toys are both a method of learning and expression of children. Pedagogy will be developed for all levels of school education. This will leads to better and understandable way of learning with joyful engagement of children.

· For the education planning, governance and administrative functions of the State and Union Territories, The National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) will be established within the context of a Digital First Mindset. Here Digital Architecture also supports teaching and activities of learning.

· For the children who having the problem in hearing, the Indian Government will introduced more Indian sign language across the world and provide materials for their use.

· Now the senior and retired teachers will trained the newly school teachers and researcher through virtual or offline support on subjects, methods and way of learning.

· During the COVID- 19 Pandemic, The Government trained about 30 lakhs teachers of elementary schools by the way of digitalization. In 2021- 22, more than 56 lakhs teachers will be trained by the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers for Holistic Advancement. (NISTHA) .

· Before every CBSE exam our Prime Minister talked to students to help them to overcome stress and tension. So, CBSE Board Exam forum will be introduced from the 2022- 23 academic sessions in NEP 2020.

Exam will more away from routine- learning and students shall be examining based on their analytical skills, clarity, interest and knowledge about real life situation.

· To promote enhanced academic collaboration with higher foreign educational institution, it is requested to put in place a monitoring machinery to allow dual degrees, joint degrees, linking arrangements and other such mechanisms.

SKILLING

· The Government of India had launched the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme in 2016. The government proposes to amend the Apprenticeship Act with an aim to enhance training opportunities for the youth. We will rearrange the current scheme of National Apprenticeship Training Scheme to provide earlier- education training, graduates training and holders of diploma in Engineering. About Rs. 3,000 Crore will be provided for the scheme.

· A development is in underway, in collaboration with the UAE, to level skill qualification valuation and authorization, accompanied by the arrangement of certified workforce. The partnership Training Inter Training Programme (TITP) between Japan & India also takes place to enable Industrial and Professional skills, technique and knowledge. We will take forward this initiative with many other countries.

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Policy & Politics

India attracts $67 billion FDI in Apr-Dec 2020

Tarun Nangia

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India attracted total FDI inflow of US$ 67.54 billion during April to December 2020;

FDI equity inflow grew by 40% in the first 9 months of F.Y. 2020-21 (US$ 51.47 billion . Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a major driver of economic growth and an important source of non-debt finance for the economic development of India. It has been the endeavor of the Government to put in place an enabling and investor friendly FDI policy. The intent all this while has been to make the FDI policy more investor friendly and remove the policy bottlenecks that have been hindering the investment inflows into the country. The steps taken in this direction during the last six and a half years have borne fruit, as is evident from the ever-increasing volumes of FDI inflows being received into the country. Continuing on the path of FDI liberalization and simplification, Government has carried out FDI reforms across various sectors.

Measures taken by the Government on the fronts of FDI policy reforms, investment facilitation and ease of doing business have resulted in increased FDI inflows into the country. The following trends in India’s Foreign Direct Investment are an endorsement of its status as a preferred investment destination amongst global investors:

• India has attracted total FDI inflow of US$ 67.54 billion during April to December 2020. It is the highest ever for the first ninth months of a financial year and 22% higher as compared to the first ninth months of 2019-20 (US$ 55.14 billion).

• FDI equity inflow grew by 40% in the first 9 months of F.Y. 2020-21 (US$ 51.47 billion) compared to the year ago period (US$ 36.77 billion).

• FDI inflow increased by 37% in 3rd Quarter of 2020-21 (US$ 26.16 billion) compared to 3rd quarter of 2019-20 (US$ 19.09 billion).

• FDI inflow showed positive growth of 24% in the month of December, 2020 (US$ 9.22 billion) compared to December, 2019 (US$ 7.46 billion)

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FIRST EXPORT CONSIGNMENTS OF ‘RED RICE’ FROM ASSAM TO UNITED STATES FLAGGED OFF

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to India’s rice exports potential, the first consignment of ‘red rice’ was flagged off today to the USA. Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer. The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food.

The red rice is being sourced by leading rice exporter – LT Foods. The flagging off ceremony of the export consignments was carried out by APEDA Chairman Dr M. Angamuthu at Sonepat, Haryana. As the exports of ‘red rice’ grow, it would bring enhance incomes of farming families of the Brahmaputra flood plains.

APEDA has promoting rice exports through collaborations with various stakeholders in the value chains. The government had set up the Rice Export Promotion Forum (REPF), under the aegis of the APEDA. REPF has representations from rice industry, exporters, officials from APEDA, ministry of commerce and directors of agriculture from major rice producing states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

During the April – January period of 2020-21, the shipment of non-Basmati rice witnessed an impressive spike. The non-basmati rice exports was Rs 26,058 crore (3506 US$ Million) during April-January, 2021 against Rs 11,543 crore (1627 US$ Million) reported during April-January, 2020 period. The exports of non-Basmati witnessed a growth of 125 % in Rupee term and 115 % Dollar terms.

The sharp spike in rice exports especially during a phase where globally the COVID19 pandemic has disrupted supply changes many commodities, has been attributed to the government taking prompt measures to ensure exports of rice while taking all the COVID19 related safety precautions. “We took several measures in terms of ensuring safety and hygiene because of the operational and health challenges posed by COVID19, while ensuring that rice exports continue uninterrupted,” M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA has said.

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CONSULTATIVE APPROACH OF THE GOVERNMENT IN FORMING POLICY FOR CHEMICALS AND PETROCHEMICALS SECTOR: SADANANDA GOWDA

Tarun Nangia

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Mr DV Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India today emphasized that the government is working on a consultative approach in forming the policies for India chemicals and petrochemicals sector.

Addressing a webinar on ‘Implementation Strategy of Budget Announcement 2021-22’, organised by the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, Govt of India and FICCI, Mr Gowda said that the Prime Minister’s intention is to see that the implementations of the Budget announcements be given more importance. “Implementations of the Budget announcements cannot be done only by the government. We should take our industry in confidence so that implementations can start from first week of April. The challenge for the govt is to now match the suggestions of the industry with the implementation part,” he added.

Gowda further said that Budget 21-22 has provided a nearly 200 per cent boost to the Indian pharmaceutical sector as the government sets around INR 124.42 cr for initiatives aimed at the development of the industry. “The big push for the pharma sector is being seen as an attempt to discourage the imports of raw materials that are widely used in local manufacturing,” he emphasized.

During the COVID-19 slowdown there has been noticeable production and consumption shift towards Asian and South Asian countries. The Speciality Chemical sector in India has been one of the few sectors that has remained largely unfazed by the ongoing slowdown, he added.

Highlighting the importance of R&D in the sector, Gowda said that a balanced approach through resource mobilization, key government initiatives in the sector and developing technological capabilities shall spur growth. This will also enable us to overcome the pandemic situation and make the sector stronger and more competitive.

Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State (IC) for Ports, Shipping and Waterways & Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India said that the government is working to introduce PLI scheme for the Chemicals sector to increase domestic production. There are immense opportunities for the industry and the government is working to ensure to provide all necessary support. “The government decides on policies after a thorough research on ground and wants to make the industry competitive. We have to encash the opportunity,” he added.

Mandaviya further said that India has both the potential and the manpower to deal with the pandemic. The result of medicine diplomacy has been such that the entire world now wants to procure vaccines from India. After supplying medicines to 120 countries, no country has complained of inferior quality medicine. The Indian industry, its entrepreneurs and the Made in India stamp have set a benchmark globally, he noted.

Yogendra Tripathi, Secretary, Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India said that the global petrochemical market is estimated to be $ 453 bn in 2020 and in the current decade is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 6 per cent. “In the Indian context, the growth of petrochemicals and chemicals is going to beat the global trends,” he added.

Deepak C Mehta, Chairman, FICCI Chemicals Committee and CMD, Deepak Nitrate said that the budget did give some corrective measures for the duty structures particularly in places where there was inverse duty. The budget has given us many newer signals that are more on macro level but are very particular to the chemical industry, he added.

Kamal Nanavaty, President, CPMA said that as the world moves from conventional mobility of internal combustion engines to electric and hybrid vehicles, we will have the refining assets really become available to build new petrochemical base.

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A lurking air pollution emergency amidst farmers’ agitation

It is surprising that dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit.

Sudhir Mishra

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By imposing fines that were as high as Rs 2000 for not wearing masks, the Government of the NCT of Delhi demonstrated that when words do not work, restrictions become necessary. One cannot help but wonder where are these restrictions when it comes to protecting the air in and around Delhi.

The Central Government promulgated new farm laws/ ordinances in India during 2020 to protect the interests of farmers and also, to save the environment. Over the last few months Indian farmers have put up a strong resistance to the farm laws introduced by the Central Government in more ways than one. Since the highlight of their protest is their non-negotiable demand to repeal the three farm laws and a legal guarantee of MSP, some other demands of the farmers have gone unnoticed by the national media and especially the people of Delhi. 

A crucial part of their demand, apart from rolling back the three farm laws has been dispensing with the fine imposed on stubble burning. It is surprising that such a discussion on dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the Government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit. The air pollution in Delhi has been the focus of the entire world for the last one decade with Delhi topping the list of the most polluted cities around the world. Needless to say, little has been done to address the issue effectively. On the contrary, conflicting stands have been taken by governments for the ‘state’ of Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for example, openly supports the agitation against the farm laws, while he had previously been very critical of the farmers in Punjab and Haryana for stubble burning. All his Press campaigns on the issue of air pollution in Delhi during 2019 had centred squarely on stubble burning, which he had blamed for the foul air in Delhi. Sadly, not even once did the Delhi Government suggested the stakeholders during the farmers’ crisis that stubble burning needs to be regulated and discouraged. In fact, during the ongoing farm agitation, stubble burning increased many folds and the capital city choked yet again, in the absence of any state protection whatsoever.

The Delhi Government has time and again identified stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana as the main contributor to air pollution in Delhi. The Central Government recently passed the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR Ordinance, 2020 to tackle this issue. Through this ordinance, stubble burning was to be penalised which was hopefully an effective step towards curbing the menace. However, the farm protests may even compel the Central Government to concede to the demand to exclude the penalty clause for stubble burning from the laws. In this sticky situation of blame-game, concessions and vested interests, the Delhi’s air emergency is once again pushed to the backburner. 

Personally, my fight for clean air in Delhi is on since 2015 before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter titled as ‘Sudhir Mishra vs Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ors.’ in W.P. (C) 2115/2015 tagged with a suo-moto matter of the High Court. Unfortunately, I suffer serious demotivation when I see professed global climate change crusader activists like Greta Thunberg supporting farm laws and not the right of the children of Delhi to breath in clean air. At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, I had again moved to the High Court of Delhi to somehow control air pollution in Delhi, which was being adversely affected by stubble burning. However, the court was advised by the Central Government that it would soon bring a law to penalise stubble burning. And now here we are, back to square one, with the likelihood of the law or ordinance that could have penalised farmers for stubble burning being sacrificed, while climate change activists protest in favour of the farmers and their historical ways. In fact, we also know the deplorable condition of ground water and that it›s brazen extraction for water intensive farming in Punjab and Haryana is detrimental to our hopeful climate goals. 

In October, 2020, the Supreme Court of India had indicated that it would study the stubble burning ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said ordinance, the Government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi. While climate change activists share toolkits and enhance international camaraderie around the laws, they fail to raise a climate change question supporting clean air for Delhi. 

Arguments have also been made by many distinguished environmentalists that the farmers’ protests for repealing the three farm laws are a smokescreen to arm-twist the Government into allowing the other demands made by the farmers, and here we see that the environmental concerns have gone for a toss in this tug-of-war between the farmers and the Government. To top it, the opposition is fighting tooth and nail to maybe gain political advantage, which is a point of concern for actual climate change warriors. The massive vote bank in areas of Punjab and Haryana have probably motivated political parties to single-handedly parrot the farmers at the cost of middle-class taxpayers of the National Capital of Delhi, who inhale smoke-filled foul air. 

In the entire maze of confusing discussions over the new farm laws controversy, somewhere the taxpaying middleclass of the capital city of Delhi have been the most neglected. Not only are the state borders closed and movements of Delhi residents restricted, but their lungs too are choking on account of the air quality in Delhi. The entire city is in a hostage situation and we are going to see sustained stubble burning in future as well, as farmers continue to be instigated to persist with their stir.  What is even more uninspiring is that while Delhi bears the brunt of this farm law crisis, there is no encouraging talk or message for Delhi citizens to build their faith in improved air quality in Delhi. Instead, people governing them have abandoned their responsibility and are looking the other way for a considerable period of time now. Global Climate Change Activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers agitation against the farm laws, ostensibly for the climate has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi.

While it is desirable that the farmers concerns are resolved soon, but does it have to be at the cost of health of so many owing to the Air Emergency?

The author is Founder and Managing Partner, Trust Legal, Door Tenant at  No5 Barristers’ Chambers, United Kingdom and Climate Change Lawyer. 

In October 2020, the Supreme Court had indicated that it would study the stubble burning Ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said Ordinance, the government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi.

Global climate change activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws, ostensibly for the climate, has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi. 

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Entire rail network to be fully electrified by December 2023, says Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Govt of India today said that the government is working to ensure that the entire rail network will be fully electrified by December 2023 and the entire rail network will run on renewable energy by 2030. Addressing the virtual session ‘Investment Opportunities in Andhra Pradesh’, during the‘Maritime India Summit 2021’, organized by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, jointly with FICCI, Goyal said that India has had a glorious maritime history and we are on the path to build an even greater maritime future. “In the last 6 years, the capacity of our major ports has almost doubled. We have developed smart cities and industrial parks and integrated ports with the coastal economic zones. Integration of Road, Rail & Waterways can truly make India ‘One Nation, One Market, One Supply’,” he added. Mr Goyal further said that we need to reduce our logistics cost so that the international and domestic freight costs will reduce from 13-14% cost of goods to a more acceptable international benchmark of 8%. “Bringing down the logistics cost is the need of the hour today. India cannot be competitive as long as our logistics cost remains so high. We are working on multi-modal logistics solutions to bring down the cost of transportation & increase supply chain efficiency. It’s time that we plan our port sector in such a manner that we can have modern and efficient ports, the turnaround time of ships can be brought down significantly. A more competitive spirit will help to keep the cost in freight and at port low,” he said. Maritime India summit 2021, he said will be the beginning of our victory against high freight costs, our victory to be an international player in maritime sector, our victory in ensuring jobs. “Under PM’s leadership, the country has had a very rapid V-shaped recovery. This Maritime India Summit 2021 will be the beginning of our victory to be an international player in the sector,” he added. Highlighting the potential in Andhra Pradesh, Goyal said that the government is working closely with the Govt of Andhra Pradesh to further develop road, rail and port infrastructure and promote dedicated freight corridor as both for encouraging economic activities and bring manufacturing activity & promote industrial parks in the State. “I would urge industry captains to let us build industry at sea. We on our part will ensure ease of doing business. We will work in partnership with States for enhancing ease of doing business at state and local level. He further stated that the maritime sector is a very critical sector for Atmanirbhar Bharat. We are working to turn our coastal region into a role model for ease of living and ease of doing business. He added that the government is working on 3 mantras for the infrastructure sector in the country – Upgrade, Create, Dedicate. “If we re-invent with technology driven solutions like robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, our sector is SAFE- Sustainable, Agile, Futuristic, Efficient. I appeal to all stakeholders to utilize this opportunity to transform from being ‘service provider’ to ‘knowledge provider’,”Mr Goyal asserted. Mr R Karikal Valaven, Special Chief Secretary Industries, Investment & Commerce, Govt of Andhra Pradesh said that the state of Andhra Pradesh is a natural choice for any investor to come and invest because of a very vibrant coastline. He further said that it is the endeavour of the state government to reduce the cost of doing business. “The state has a very good network of roads and railways and now with port infrastructure, the maritime economy is going to thrive. We are developing multimodal logistics parks to facilitate transportation,” he added. Highlighting the State’s industrial policy, YSR AP1,Mr Valaven, said that it is a one stop shop for investors providing all solutions, handholding, facilitation, market support and all support required for doing business. He further stated that the state government is also planning to promote maritime tourism. “Tourism is an area of our interest. All sea ports and fishing harbors will be connected through cruise tourism. We are aiming at inclusive growth for the state,” added Mr Valaven. MrK. Rama Mohana Rao, Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust MrNP Ramakrishna Reddy, CEO, AP Maritime Board;Lt Cdr Ravindra Reddy, Dy. CEO, AP Maritime Board and Mr Durgesh Dubey, Deputy Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust also shared their perspective during the session.

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Despite umpteen ceasefire agreements, Pakistan continues to provoke us

Another chance for Pakistan to mend fences with India.

Vijay Darda

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This is not the first time that India and Pakistan have signed a ceasefire agreement on their borders to give peace a chance. After the fierce Kargil War of 1999, there was peace on the border for sometime, but it was short-lived. By 2003, when the situation went from bad to worse, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the two countries. Now, India and Pakistan’s Director Generals of Military Operations have agreed to fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit and to ensure that the ceasefire agreement will not be violated by both the sides and peace will be restored along the border from Rajasthan to Kashmir! Will it really happen?

The world rests on hope and it reinforces trust. Therefore, the supporters of peace should hope for peace and efforts should be continued for achieving this objective. However, the 2003 ceasefire agreement also did not last long and in 2018 a similar agreement had to be reached once again. Interestingly, within the next three years, a ceasefire agreement has had to be signed again. The question is, once the agreement is reached why is it violated? Blame lies at the door of Pakistan. Our army does not fire needlessly. Our army responds when Pakistani army fires bullets and lobs mortars at innocent villagers or its snipers fire at our jawans.

This is indeed an act of noble-mindedness on the part of India that it has agreed for the latest ceasefire with its recalcitrant neighbour. Pakistan always tries to spoil the relationship. When India responds, it starts propaganda about the Kashmir issue around the world. Right now that its condition is bad, it wants to get some relief at the border because our army has kept a tight vigil over the region. Seeing the retreat of the Chinese army, the Pakistani establishment is feeling demoralised. Since India has always been in favour of peace, it is giving one more chance to Pakistan to mend its ways.

I also want to mention that the people of Pakistan also want good relations with India. The problem is their army. Enmity with India is its staple diet. Given that relations between India and Pakistan have reached such a nadir, the question in everyone’s mind is what drove Pakistan to opt for this ceasefire agreement?

In a significant shift of tone, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa seemed to have softened his approach towards India on February 2 when he announced that, “The time has come to extend a hand of peace and friendship in all directions.”

Consequent upon this statement, the firings from across the border have started to decrease. India replied in the affirmative to this gesture. Even Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aircraft on the way to Sri Lanka was allowed to pass through the Indian airspace, whereas Pakistan’s attitude has always been negative. Even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft was not allowed to pass through Pakistani airspace. India would have given a befitting reply but it was not done because India wants to improve relations with its neighbouring country.

An effort to restore peace was also made by the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee but Pakistan responded with the Kargil War. By the way, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been in favour of the fact that relations with Pakistan should be normal. After the 2008 Mumbai bomb blasts, all relations were frozen but in 2015, Narendra Modi broke the ice by paying a surprise visit to Pakistan and meeting the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif also wanted to normalise relations, but a few days later there was a terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. Pakistani terrorists were involved in it, which the army there had trained and radicalised them for this terror attack. When Imran Khan became the Prime Minister, he also tried to thaw the frozen relationship, but the army took him under its wings. Pakistan keeps sending consignments of arms and ammunition for terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. It should be kept in mind that those who play the game of blood are the enemies of democracy and the misfortune is that many invisible hands are always active to aid and abet those who do so.

Whatever may be the reason for the ceasefire agreement, it cannot be denied that peace on the border is very vital for both the countries. If the daily skirmishes on the borders cease and the relationship between the two nations becomes normal, then peace and harmony will prevail which will be beneficial for both of them. If there is peace and mutual understanding, it will surely be good for the people on both the sides. Both the countries are spending crores of rupees on war preparations. The amount of expenditure incurred by Pakistan is not known, but India spends about Rs 7 crores every day to maintain its troops on the peaks of Siachen Glacier. Pakistan is on the lower peaks there, so it may be spending less but that amount will also run into crores.

Apart from this, huge expenditure is also incurred in guarding the borderline of about 2900 km. Just think how good it will be if this money is spent on basic needs like health services and education for the common people! If that country gives up the path of terrorism, it will stand to gain immensely. We are a strong country, we are eliminating terrorists and we will destroy them root and branch. Pakistan should not even try to dream of snatching Kashmir. It has got an opportunity now to mend its ways and improve relations with India. The ball is in Pakistan’s court now.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

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