The Manipur government’s decision to extend net shutdowns lacks merit
The Manipur High Court, on Tuesday, granted limited Internet access in designated places in the State after a petition seeking the restoration of net access. Shutdowns began following the violent conflagration on May 3 and there were extensions of restrictions since then, the last one being an extension order on Wednesday, till June 25. The request made is legitimate as shutdowns have a crippling effect on many an economic activity and livelihoods. Citizens have been unable to access vital services such as e-commerce-related activities, except for those who can get exemptions from the shutdowns with government permission. Violent incidents have occurred in the State since May 3 and relations between Meiteis and Kukis remain tense. But the orders seeking to extend the shutdown cite threats to “law and order” and the role of “anti-social elements” — a euphemism for extremists indulging in violent acts or the posting of violence-promoting material — rather than explicitly seeking to retain these bans because of a public emergency or in the interests of public safety, as required by Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, 1885 and Telegraph Rules. The Manipur government also told the High Court that the shutdowns were needed to block websites where inflammatory material could be published, but such a sledgehammer approach is clearly problematic.
The Supreme Court, in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India (2020), had held that an indefinite suspension of Internet services was in contravention to the law as freedom of speech and the freedom to carry out commercial work using the Internet was a fundamental right. It also held that such suspensions should adhere to the “principle of proportionality and must not extend beyond necessary duration”. Continuing a dragnet suspension in Manipur in this fashion suggests that the government is merely using the shutdown as a substitute for enforcing law and order — another ploy that the Court had come down heavily upon in this judgment. The situation in Manipur can be tackled effectively by a regime that seeks to restore the confidence of all stakeholders, engages with civil society actors in restoring inter-community dialogue, isolates the extremists and pursues a step-by-step approach towards restoring peace and normalcy. But with a beleaguered Chief Minister at the helm — a leader who has lost the confidence of many of his colleagues — and the intransigence of many community representatives and their inability to rise above their ethnic identities to pursue peace, sporadic violence continues even as those displaced are unable to return home. This, however, does not lend to the continuation of the Internet shutdown that has been in place for over a month-and-a-half, and which must end.
Heat and state
Poor living conditions have exacerbated the effects of heatwaves
In the brutal heatwave beating down on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, one district in U.P., Ballia, reported the most deaths. The medical superintendent at the local government hospital was reportedly transferred after ascribing the deaths to the heat, followed by a visit by a State-appointed team to assess the local conditions. A member later told journalists that the team had expressed its doubts about the heat being a factor since the toll due to the same heatwave was lower in districts nearby. The member’s statement is a timely reminder that a heatwave is only half heat, the other being bad public infrastructure and social security. Ballia’s toll could be high because of, as the team suspects, contaminated water, or because the local people could not cool themselves. Heat’s deadliness depends on an individual’s general well-being, acclimatisation, physical exertion, comorbidities, location, relative humidity, and extent of heat exposure. But for all the complexity the interplay of these factors augurs, the fight against this mode of the climate crisis, which India is expected to suffer more often, can benefit considerably from some literacy and access to resources. Literacy needs to be rooted in a simple fact: heat is deadly when our bodies are unable to shed it as quickly as it accumulates. This can happen due to poor living conditions, adherence to caste- and gender-based strictures, or even in overcrowded hospitals. Amenities that can help include access to drinking water, indoor ventilation, health care, regular work breaks, and protections against wage loss. If a person dies in a heatwave, it is only fair to ask whether he/she was able to access these amenities.
If U.P. and Bihar are to forge a better way forward vis-à-vis their heat response, they need to register all heat-related deaths, assign the cause, ensure the medical certificates of the cause of death (MCCDs) follow the proper codes of the most recent revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, and issue them. Next, the Office of the Registrar General should compile and release MCCD data every year to facilitate independent research and policy input and to prevent time-wasting disputes over official versus actual figures. However, the office has not released the corresponding reports for 2021 and 2022. In the 2020 report, which was uploaded only last year, Bihar assigned causes to just 3.4% of registered deaths — the worst among States. Not everyone who dies during a heatwave has died due to the heat, but only if good living conditions have been the norm. If they have not, the state is as much to blame as the heat.
Amit Shah to launch 6-day yatra as part of tribal outreach in M.P.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday to launch the six-day ‘Veerangana Rani Durgavati Gaurav Yatra’, an initiative of the State government to honour the legacy of 16th century queen of Gondwana kingdom.
As part of this, five yatras will originate from as many places and pass through mostly tribal-dominated belts of the State, before culminating in Shahdol in eastern Madhya Pradesh on June 27 at the ‘Veerangana Rani Durgavati Balidan Diwas’ event, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Apart from Mr. Shah in Balaghat, elected representatives from the ruling BJP in the State will flag off the yatras at other points of origin. Betul MP D.D. Uikey will flag off the yatra from Chhindwara, which has a significant tribal population and a bastion of State Congress president and former CM Kamal Nath.
The route of the yatra covers tribal belts of the Vindhya and Mahakoshal regions where the Queen Durgavati is revered. Tribals constitute 21% of the State population and 47 out of the 230 Assembly seats are reserved for them. Of these, the BJP won in only 18 seats in 2018, a fall from the 37 it won in 2013 Assembly election.
While the Congress, which won 31 seats in 2018, enjoyed a short stint in power, Mr. Chouhan, since his return to the helm in 2020, has made continuous efforts to woo the tribal population.
What is the New Collective Quantified Goal?
What was the earlier commitment by developed countries to developing nations? Was that target achieved? Why do we need a fresh process/target for climate financing?
The story so far:
The recently-concluded Bonn climate conference in Germany, expected to outline the political agenda for the crucial end-of-year Conference Of Parties-28 (COP28) in Dubai, was critical for reviewing and reforming the climate finance architecture. The conference has, according to Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International’s Global Lead on Climate Justice, “exposed a gaping hole in the funding needed to pay for climate action”. This comes from a long standing impasse between developed and developing countries, over where money for climate change policies should come from and in what form.
What is the NCQG?
A commitment of ‘$100 billion per year till 2020’ to developing nations from developed countries was a target set at the Conference of Parties (COP) in 2009. But estimates since then show addressing climate change may cost billions, and even, trillions of dollars. Therefore, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement agreed on setting a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCGQ) for climate financing prior to 2025 — a reference point which accounts for the needs and priorities of developing nations. The NCGQ is thus, termed the “most important climate goal”. It pulls up the ceiling on commitment from developed countries, is supposed to anchor the evolving needs and priorities of developing countries based on scientific evidence and should respond “to the ever-increasing sums of funding necessary for Loss and Damage in response to failed and/or delayed financial support”, climate groups note.
Why do we need a new finance goal?
Out of the promised $100 billion per year, developed countries provided $83.3 billion in 2020, as per a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. These figures may be misleading and inflated by as much as 225%, an Oxfam analysis found, as “there is too much dishonest and shady reporting”. Moreover, the $100 billion target set in 2009 was seen more as a political goal, since there was no effort to clarify the definition or source of ‘climate finance’.
The economic growth of developed countries has come at the cost of high carbon emissions, and thus they are obligated to shoulder greater responsibility. While funds available for climate finance have quantitatively increased, they are inaccessible, privately sourced, delayed and not reaching countries in need. A recent study by the Centre for Science and Environment found roughly 5% of climate finance comes from grants; the rest through loans and equity which burden developing countries with a “debilitating” debt crisis. Countries most in need of finances have to wait years to access money and pay interest high rates, thus increasing their debt burden.
What do developed countries say?
Developed countries argue that NCQG must be viewed as a “collective goal” for all developed and developing countries. Experts worry this argument pushes the “net zero” pathways onto developing countries, which cannot feasibly pay for mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, along with sustainably developing key elements of infrastructure. Countries also argue for mobilising private-sector investments and loans as the critical component of climate finance. The Global Stocktake at COP28 will chart a pathway for the long road of climate action.
What is at stake in 2023?
Countries are on a tight deadline to agree upon the NCQG ahead of 2024. There’s no official number yet, but a global transition to a low-carbon economy requires investments of at least $4 trillion to $6 trillion a year, as per last year’s Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Some argue that instead of identifying a single aggregate figure, the NCQG could also set separate targets (or sub-goals) for focus areas such as mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. The aim is to focus on scaling up concessional financing, stopping debt creation and allowing NCQG to be more of a “process” rather than a goal towards equitable and people-led transition.
The recently-concluded Bonn climate conference in Germany was critical for reviewing and reforming the climate finance architecture.
While funds available for climate finance have quantitatively increased, they are inaccessible, privately sourced, delayed and not reaching countries in need.
The NCGQ is thus, termed the “most important climate goal”. It pulls up the ceiling on commitment from developed countries and is supposed to anchor the evolving needs and priorities of developing countries based on scientific evidence.
Senate Caucus to push for ‘NATO plus five’ status for India
Timed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Washington, the U.S. Senate’s India Caucus Co-Chairs, Mark Warner (Democrat, Virginia) and John Cornyn (Republican, Texas), will introduce legislation to give India ‘NATO plus five’ defence status.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, however, had already rejected the framework for India.
The arrangement currently exists between the U.S, its NATO partners and five countries: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Israel. The Warner announcement follows a recommendation from a U.S. House of Representatives committee on China that India be included in the club.
“Senator Cornyn and I … will be introducing this week, both as a standalone Bill and as an amendment to the defence authorisation, an effort to upgrade India-US defence ties,” Mr. Warner told presspersons on a Tuesday press call.
“What we propose is adding India to the so-called ‘NATO plus five’ arrangement, where the United States is able to transfer with as little bureaucratic interference as possible defence equipment in a very strong way,” he said.
Mr. Jaishankar had said on June 9 that while he appreciated the Congressional panel’s sentiment of wanting “to do more with India”, the template it was proposing did not apply to the country. This is something the Biden administration (the Executive, which is separate from the U.S. Congress) understood “very, very well”, according to Mr. Jaishankar.
“A lot of Americans still have that NATO treaty construct in their heads,” Mr. Jaishankar had said, suggesting that it was the only template with which Americans looked at the world.
‘Increase defence trade’
Mr. Warner defended his move on Tuesday saying one of the most effective ways to improve India’s defence capabilities (he cited the threat from China) was to increase defence trade between the U.S. and India. On the Modi government’s human rights record, Mr. Warner said that individuals at the State Department would raise the issue with their counterparts this week and he hoped that Mr. Modi would reaffirm his commitment to democracy.
“I think India is one of the most powerful nations in the world. I hope that we will hear from Prime Minister Modi a reaffirmation of his commitment to democracy and all that entails,” Mr. Warner added.
Citing the example of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a far-right mob, the Senator said there were forces in the U.S. as well who questioned the country’s democratic principles.
“I think together these two great nations both need to make sure we are totally committed to democracy and human rights, freedom of belief and freedom of expression,” he said.
Mr. Warner said he was looking forward to welcoming Mr. Modi to Washington and wanted to move the India-U.S. relationship beyond common descriptions applied to it such as the world’s “oldest democracy” and the world’s “biggest democracy” to a “full-fledged partnership”.
India climbs eight places to 127 in global gender index: WEF report
India was ranked 127 among 146 countries in gender parity — up eight places from last year’s place — in the Gender Gap Report, 2023 of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
India was ranked 135 in 2022. The country had improved by 1.4 percentage points from then, marking a partial recovery towards its 2020 parity level, the report said.
India had closed 64.3% of the overall gender gap, the report said. However, it underlined that India had reached only 36.7% parity in economic participation and opportunity. The country had attained parity in enrolment across all levels of education, it said.
The index ranked Pakistan at 142, Bangladesh at 59, China at 107, Nepal at 116, Sri Lanka at 115 and Bhutan at 103. Iceland is the most gender-equal country for the 14th consecutive year and the only one to have closed more than 90% of its gender gap, the report said.
In India, while there had been an uptick in parity in wages and income, the share of women in senior positions and technical roles had dropped slightly since the last edition, the report said.
On political empowerment, India has registered 25.3% parity, with women making up 15.1% of MPs.
Of the 117 countries with available data since 2017, 18 — including Bolivia (50.4%), India (44.4%) and France (42.3%) — have achieved women’s representation of over 40% in local governance.
The report comes after Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani earlier this year said the WEF recognised the need to enumerate women’s participation in local government bodies after the government raised the issue with it in Geneva.
For India, the 1.9 percentage point improvement in sex ratio at birth had driven up parity after more than a decade , the report said.
“Compared with top scoring countries that register a 94.4% gender parity at birth, the indicator stands at 92.7% for India,” it said. Overall, the Southern Asian region has achieved 63.4% gender parity, the second-lowest of the eight regions.