Dilemmas of India’s great power ambitions
“What kind of a global power will India be?” There are those who argue that India should aspire to be a great power and assert its growing power internationally; others argue that India should focus on the uplift of millions of its people above the poverty line, improve governance and reconcile within the country before venturing into making a better world.
It is a false binary. Notwithstanding the (equally faulty) hyper-nationalist and deeply-pessimistic narratives, the story of the rise of India, and the attendant challenges, must be proactively and critically engaged — for the kind of power India would become will not only define the future of the world in important ways, but, most definitely, shape the destiny of its 1.4 billion (and growing) citizens.
Ignoring or dismissing the global consequences of a rising India’s power is unwise, but doing so without being rooted in the realities of the country’s inherent limitations would be a strategic blunder.
Power and its consequences
Let us start with the India of 1991 — a weak, poor, and deeply beleaguered country with a foreign exchange reserve of $5.8 billion and a nominal GDP of $270.11 billion. For a population of 846 million, around 50% of whom were poor, those were miserable figures. Despite efforts to diffuse fears of a nuclear war, prospects of an India-Pakistan clash loomed, and violence in Kashmir was at its peak. The collapse of India’s trusted partner, the Soviet Union on the one hand, and strained relations with the United States on the other further weighed on the country’s ruling elite. American officials kept a close watch on India and Pakistan and their nuclear plans, and occasionally travelled to the subcontinent to counsel the cantankerous neighbours.
Fast forward three decades to 2023. India’s foreign exchange reserve has grown to around $600 billion, and a war with Pakistan is not something Indian leaders lose sleep over — China has taken that place though — and there is a general sense of foreign policy optimism. The reforms initiated after the 1991 economic crisis not only led to higher GDP growth but also significant poverty reduction.
Ranked as the world’s fifth largest economy, India’s nominal GDP could soon touch $4 trillion; it has one of the largest militaries in the world with over a hundred nuclear weapons. The U.S. is now one of India’s closest friends, and New Delhi enjoys strong relationships with several powerful states around the world. The visionary investments made over the past several decades are now beginning to bear fruit with a permissive external atmosphere for the country’s rise.
India is also one of the pivotal swing powers of the contemporary international system, strategically located, and often playing both sides with great elan. The great power politics around the Ukraine war brought renewed focus on India’s role in world politics. The U.S. and the wealthy West want India to be on their side. An embattled Russian Federation is doing everything it can to ensure India does not turn its back on Moscow. There are serious suggestions that India should mediate between Ukraine and Russia to bring an end to the war.
New Delhi, increasingly, uses the language of mediation in global crises and being a bridge between the north and south and east and west, indirectly indicating that it is a major ‘pole’ in world politics. Although tens of millions of people in India still live in poverty, the country’s national power has increased dramatically, making it a force with system-shaping capabilities and intentions. Whether New Delhi is actually punching above its weight or not is something only time will tell.
Other side of the great power story
Despite being the fifth largest economy in the world, its GDP per capita was $1,947 in 2021 whereas that of Bangladesh, at $2,227, was more than that of India even though Bangladesh is only the 40th largest military in the world. The argument from this comparison is a well-known one: GDP and military strength do not equal the well-being of a country’s citizens. But at the same time, the well-being of a country’s population does not equal to the gross material power that a state can bring to bear in its foreign and security policies.
India is also beset with major infrastructural and governance issues: ease of doing business may have improved, but starting a business without a bribe is still not easy. A few days of rain brings the national capital to its knees, year after year. Regional, caste, ethnic and religious divisions run deep. India’s domestic challenges will continue to distract the attention of its political leaders from attending to global problems. For the Indian politician, foreign policy is a luxury she/he cannot afford.
One of the most pressing concerns for India’s political class is to reduce poverty and improve the well-being of millions of Indians living under the poverty line, a task that is bound to divert its attention from serious external engagements. When the political class gives scant attention to the country’s foreign and security policy, as it usually happens in the case of India, it is managed by career bureaucrats who usually do not diverge from precedents and avoid taking even remotely risky decisions. Without political will, foreign policy tends to be on autopilot.
The presence of a weak economy also tempers the Indian elite’s appetite for external engagement. Over time, the appetite has grown, but that does not change the fact that the political class can only allocate so much attention to foreign and security policies if the country is economically weak and large sections of the population are living in poverty.
More so, a weak domestic economy prevents politicians from allocating adequate resources for foreign policy objectives. For instance, the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs (2022-23) observed that “despite an increase in the overall budget allocation of the Government of India, the allocation made to MEA [the Ministry of External Affairs] in percentage terms has witnessed a downward turn during the last four years and during 2022-23 it is only 0.44% of the Government of India’s overall Budget.” The committee further said we “do not find such allocation in consonance with the country’s rising aspirations and growing global stature”. Perhaps the country is simply unable to do so.
The combined effect of such domestic challenges is likely to be a political elite distracted by more immediate domestic considerations rather than the grandeur of great power status.
So, should India refrain from shaping the global order until its domestic challenges are resolved, as the pessimists would have it? Or should India continue to assert its place in the world and aspire to be a great power?
Even though India’s domestic inabilities will continue to moderate its ability to influence the world order befitting of its size and ambition, being unwilling to engage and shape it would be a strategic blunder. If you are not a rule shaper, you are a rule taker. India has no choice but to influence and shape the global order to meet its foreign policy objectives which would have significant impact on its economic growth, security environment and geopolitical and geo economic interests. Be it debt restructuring, climate change, global trade or non-proliferation, New Delhi can ill afford to let someone else make the rules and abide by them. Whether it likes it or not, India’s impact on the world order is a given, and, in a globalised world, the relationship between a state’s global influence and domestic growth is an unavoidable one.
India’s ability to shape international politics must also be a reflection of its domestic context, and its global engagement must necessarily be geared towards the well-being of its people. Neither is strategic autarky an option nor is India’s assertiveness on the global stage a matter of nationalistic hubris or officious vanity.
Even though domestic inabilities will continue to moderate New Delhi’s ability to influence the world order, being unwilling to be a ‘global rule shaper’ would be a strategic blunder.
On ED’s power to arrest and seek custody
Why was Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthilbalaji arrested by Enforcement Directorate officials? Are ED officials the same as police officers? Why has the Supreme Court cautioned against continued judicial interference in money-laundering cases?
The story so far:
In a major setback to Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthilbalaji, the Madras High Court on July 14 upheld the legality of his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and his subsequent remand in judicial custody in a money-laundering case linked to a cash-for-jobs scam. Justice C.V. Karthikeyan, in his order as the third judge after a two-member Bench gave a split verdict, ruled that the ED can subject any person accused in a case booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, to custodial interrogation and that the Minister can be taken into custody even after the expiry of 15 days from his arrest. Mr. Balaji and his wife have since then moved the Supreme Court to challenge the HC verdict upholding his arrest.
What did the High Court rule?
The central question of the case was whether the ED has the power to seek custody of a person arrested. The judge accepted senior advocate Kapil Sibal’s argument on behalf of the petitioner that ED officials are not police officers as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary versus Union of India (2022). However, he noted that the sessions judge remanded Balaji to judicial custody as per Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Since Section 65 of the PMLA stipulates that the provisions of the CrPC shall apply subject to the condition that the same are not inconsistent with those of the PMLA, Section 167 CrPC should be applicable mutatis mutandis (making necessary changes without altering the essence) and that the word ‘police’ has to be read as Investigating Agency or the Enforcement Directorate.
It was also observed that the Court designated ED officials to not be police officers only for the reason that the statements given to the latter in any criminal case would not be admissible in evidence before the trial court under the CrPC, whereas statements given to the former were admissible in evidence under the PMLA. However, this observation could not be stretched to the extent of denying the ED an opportunity to subject the accused to custodial interrogation for unearthing crucial facts related to the alleged crime, the judge added.
The court also took into consideration the Supreme Court’s ruling in Y. Balaji versus Karthik Desai (2023) where the court refused to discharge Mr. Balaji in the cash-for-jobs scam in May this year by stating that when the accused and the complainant arrived at a compromise, they also compromised on ‘justice, fair-play, good conscience and the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence.’
What has the SC held in the past about the PMLA?
In its landmark 2022 ruling on Vijay Madanlal Choudhary versus Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld various provisions of the PMLA which relate to the powers of arrest, attachment, search, and seizure conferred upon the ED. The court was of the opinion that all the provisions under PMLA have a reasonable nexus with the objects sought to be achieved by the Act to effectively prevent money-laundering.
Section 19 of the PMLA lays down the manner in which the arrest of a person involved in money-laundering can be effected. The provision had been challenged on the ground that it confers unequivocal power of arrest without a warrant. Dismissing such a contention, the court ruled that the provision has been structured with inbuilt safeguards that prevent the possibility of abuse of power by ED officials. The court added that, ‘The purposes and objects of the 2002 Act… is not limited to punishment for offence of money- laundering, but also to provide measures for prevention of money- laundering. … This Act is also to compel the banking companies, financial institutions, and intermediaries to maintain records of the transactions and to furnish information of such transactions within the prescribed time in terms of Chapter IV of the 2002 Act. Considering the above, it is unfathomable as to how the authorities referred to in Section 48 can be described as police officer.’
Furthermore, in P. Chidambaram versus Directorate of Enforcement (2019), the Supreme Court rejected a prayer for anticipatory bail with respect to an offence of money-laundering and proceeded to grant custody to the ED. The court reasoned that in a case of money-laundering which involves many stages of placement and layering of funds, a ‘systematic and analysed’ investigation is required which would be frustrated if pre-arrest bail is granted.
The court also cautioned that it must only exercise its inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC to interfere in an investigation into a cognisable offence if it is convinced that the power of the investigating officer is exercised mala fide or where there is an abuse of power and non-compliance with the provisions of the CrPC.
“It is not the function of the court to monitor the investigation process so long as the investigation does not violate any provision of law. It must be left to the discretion of the investigating agency to decide the course of investigation,” the court added.
The Madras High Court on July 14 upheld the legality of Minister V. Senthilbalaji’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and his subsequent remand in judicial custody in a money-laundering case linked to a cash-for-jobs scam.
Section 65 of the PMLA stipulates that the provisions of the CrPC shall apply subject to the condition that the same are not inconsistent with those of the PMLA.
In P. Chidambaram versus Directorate of Enforcement (2019), the Supreme Court rejected a prayer for anticipatory bail with respect to an offence of money laundering and proceeded to grant custody to the ED.
Facts about the News
Functions of Enforcement Directorate (ED)
The functions of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are listed in the table below:
|Sr No||Functions of Enforcement Directorate (ED)|
|1||Investigating violations of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) laws and provisions.
|2||Investigating offences of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) laws and provisions.
|3||Processing cases of fugitive/s from India under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
|4||Adjudicating show-cause notices issued under the repealed FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973).|
|5||Sponsoring cases of Preventive Detention under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (COFEPOSA) with respect to FEMA violations.|
|6||Rendering cooperation to foreign countries in matters related to money laundering and restoration of assets under the PMLA provisions.|
Enforcement Directorate- Judicial Interpretation on Powers
- The question central to the debate was whether the ED has the power to seek custody of a person arrested.
- The High Court court ruled that the ED can subject any person accused in a case booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, to custodial interrogation.
- It also added that the person can be taken into custody even after the expiry of 15 days from his arrest.
- The court highlighted that the judicial custody was remanded as per Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- It was further highlighted that Section 167(2) CrPC enables the remand.
- This section does not specify whether it has to be ‘police custody’ or ‘judicial custody’.
- Supreme Court also had similar opinion in the landmark ruling of Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v. Union of India in 2022.
- The Supreme Court upheld various provisions of the PMLA which relate to the powers of ED.
- The court was of the opinion that all the provisions under PMLA have a reasonable nexus with the objects sought to be achieved by the Act, i.e. to prevent money-laundering effectively.
A look into The Prevention of Money Laundering Act
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) forms the core of the legal framework put in place by India to combat money laundering.
- Director, FIU-IND and Director (Enforcement) have been conferred with exclusive and concurrent powers to implement the provisions of the Act.
- To prevent and control money laundering.
- To confiscate and seize the property derived from, or involved in, money-laundering.
- To provide punishment for offence of money-laundering
- To appoint the Adjudicating Authority and Appellate Tribunal
- To put obligations on banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries to maintain records.
- To deal with any other issue connected with money laundering in India.
- The Money Laundering Act, 2002 extends to the whole of India.
– Directorate of Enforcement is under Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, GoI.
– The statutory functions of the Directorate include enforcement of following Acts:
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA)
- The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA)
- The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA)
– Initially, a ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed in the Department of Economic Affairs.
- The objective then was to handle Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 (FERA ’47).
– The Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’ in 1957.
– In 1960, the administrative control of the Directorate was transferred from the Department of Economic Affairs to the Department of Revenue.
– The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) was enacted and ED was entrusted with its enforcement in 2005.
– Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA) was passed in 2018 and ED is entrusted with its enforcement from 2018 itself.
Climate targets are becoming outdated: India needs its own
The target in the Paris Agreement, to keep the planet’s surface from warming by 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, has been touted as a monumental goal. However, despite negotiations for more than two decades, global carbon emissions have not slowed. Also, the target was not derived scientifically
The 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target has received considerable press along with the El Niño this year. Reports claim that the planet could soon cross this temperature threshold due to this natural climate phenomenon.
But even if the world’s average surface temperature warms by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius for a year, nothing dramatically different may happen – other than the heatwaves, floods, droughts, and similar events that are already happening. The bigger question is: where is all the end-of-the-world messaging coming from?
Humankind might do well with less hyperbole about the climate crisis.
It is a serious challenge today, yes, but a constant drumbeat of alarmist messages may only exacerbate climate anxiety and leave people feeling helpless – especially the young ones, who should be dreaming about saving the planet (or space travel) instead.
A questionable target
The target agreed to in the Paris Agreement, to keep the planet’s surface from warming by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, has been touted as a monumental achievement, and it may well be if we actually manage to achieve this goal by 2100. But we must bear two things in mind.
First, despite negotiations among the representatives of the world’s countries for more than two decades, global carbon emissions have shown no signs of slowing down.
Second, the 2 degrees Celsius target was not derived scientifically. The economics Nobel laureate William Nordhaus cautiously noted in the 1970s that a warming of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level could render the planet warmer than it has ever been in several hundred-thousand years.
He followed this claim up with a model of the socioeconomic impacts of crossing this threshold.
Some European politicians found this round number to be appealing as something to aim for in the 1990s, followed by climate scientists retrofitting their projected climate impacts to this warming level.
Indeed, no sooner was this figure enshrined in the Paris Agreement than the Alliance of Small Island States demanded that it be lowered to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Once again, the climate community, now together with the socioeconomic-modelling community, retrofitted future scenarios to meet this so-called “aspirational” target.
Bringing science to serve society is a very noble goal, particularly when government officials demand scientific inputs for their decision-making. But many governments’ planned reliance on bioenergy and carbon-capture technologies to accomplish these goals do not consider the potential consequences of climate change on food and water security, for example – let alone the possibility that such promises have a long way to go before becoming viable.
Earth system models
It is also not entirely clear whether the earth system models (ESMs) that scientists use to prepare climate projections can reliably reproduce the consequences of a world that has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius but at the scale of the Indian subcontinent.
As of today, they certainly cannot do so accurately at scales smaller than the subcontinent, particularly for rainfall. So the question automatically arises: can they really distinguish between worlds warmer by 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius? The answer is ‘no’, at least at the scales required to inform climate adaptation policy.
The uncertainties in climate projections will be dominated by ESM deficiencies for the next decade or two. For the decades beyond two, the assumed scenarios for radiative forcing, resulting from greenhouse gas emissions and socioeconomic choices, determine the warming levels and rates.
Uncertainties for India
This brings us to the next point: the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made it abundantly clear that it is very difficult for us to imagine all the possible socioeconomic and geopolitical events that matter to the well-being of our world, including its people.
Even population projections may not hold considering China’s population is currently peaking and India is en route.
The physicist Niels Bohr once said that prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future.
The best-case scenario, against this quote, is that climate projections cover all eventualities as well as all technological promises pan out, dragging the world’s emission rates down considerably by 2030, giving us a reasonable chance of staying below the 2-degree mark by 2100.
The inherent uncertainties, however, leave India, and the economically developing world, with some tough choices.
This group of countries needs to develop its own tools to determine the crisis’s local impacts, especially for adaptation plans that deal with unavoidable consequences.
India’s engagement with the international community on climate mitigation, to try and avoid the unmanageable, should also keep an eye on any Frankenstein’s-monster experiments by richer countries, such as spraying dust in the upper atmosphere (a climate geoengineering solution that scientists know carries an unreasonable risk of droughts and crop losses).
India in front
More importantly, India should continue its leadership role by demanding that the community centred on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) be prepared to improve projections that quantify impacts at local scales.
The IPCC and India must also track climate change and its consequences continuously at the socially relevant timescale of a few years.
There is a real threat here of India ‘agreeing’ to colonise the future with imperfect models and unrealistic scenarios – especially when the paths to certain outcomes are based on technical and economic feasibilities and dubious concepts like “negative emission technologies”.
The country must consider non-market goods such as equity, well-being, and biodiversity more deliberately.
As things stand today, reducing emissions as a paradigm for tackling climate change has essentially failed. Decarbonising the system is more likely to save us from ourselves.
India can cash in on these opportunities and grow its economy by focusing on green technologies to decarbonise the future.
Raghu Murtugudde is a visiting professor at IIT Bombay and an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland.
The economics Nobel laureate William Nordhaus cautiously noted in the 1970s that a warming of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level could render the planet warmer than it has ever been in several hundred-thousand years.
It is not clear whether the earth system models (ESMs) that scientists use to prepare climate projections can reliably reproduce the consequences of a world that has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius but at the scale of the Indian subcontinent.
India should continue its leadership role by demanding that the community centred on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be prepared to improve projections that quantify impacts at local scales.
Telling time with geology
WHAT IS IT?
Our planet is more than four billion years old – a staggering amount of time for humans to contemplate. To ease this task, experts have divided earth’s history into pieces of time, called aeons, eras, periods, and epochs.
These divisions in earth’s geological timescale demarcate key geologic events and the appearance (or disappearance) of notable forms of life. It all began with the creation of the earth’s crust and continued with the appearance of plants, birds and animals, their ceaseless evolution making a mark in some way on their time.
Broadly, there are four geological eras. The Precambrian Era began 4.6 billion years ago, with the formation of our planet and the emergence of the first life forms.
The Palaeozoic Era lasted from 541 million to 252 million years ago, and was characterised by the evolution of complex life, including fish, plants, insects, and amphibians.
The Mesozoic Era came next, lasting from 252 million years until 66 million years ago. This was the age of dinosaurs, together with the first appearance of birds and flowering plants towards the denouement. Finally came the Cenozoic Era, which began 66 million years ago and continues to this day, distinguished by the rise of modern animals.
Today, scientists around the world are locked in a debate about whether we are currently in a new geological time period, dubbed the “Anthropocene”, marked by the oft-devastating effects of human presence on earth.
Facts about the News
- he geological time scale (GTS) divides and chronicles earth’s evolutionary history into various periods from the beginning to the present based on definite events that marked a major change in earth’s physical, chemical and biological features.
- Major changes in earth’s physical and biological history stretch over several millions of years and hence in GTS all the divisions are expressed in ‘million years (mya – million years ago).’
- The primarily defined divisions of time are eons, the Hadean, the Archean, the Proterozoic and the Phanerozoic. The first three of these can be referred to collectively as the Precambrian supereon.
- Each eon is subsequently divided into eras, which in turn are divided into periods, which are further divided into epochs.
- The Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
- The word Anthropocene is derived from the Greek words anthropo, for “man,” and cene for “new,” coined and made popular by biologist Eugene Stormer and Nobel prize winner chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000.
NIA files chargesheet against nine accused linked to BKI and Khalistan Tiger Force
The NIA on Saturday filed a chargesheet against three “listed individual terrorists” and six others associated with banned terror outfits Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).
Among those arraigned are alleged gangsters-turned-terrorists, drug smugglers and suppliers.
It is alleged that Harwinder Singh Sandhu, alias Rinda, and Lakhbir Singh Sandhu, alias Landa, of BKI; and Arshdeep Singh, alias Arsh Dala, of KTF, have been operating from overseas, where they have created their own networks of operatives. They have close contacts with drug smugglers and pro-Khalistan operatives in Pakistan and other countries.
“Through this complex network of operatives based abroad, they have been recruiting, motivating, and handling their associates in India to carry out terrorist activities, extortion, and cross-border smuggling of weapons and drugs into India. They also have links with major gangs operating in north India, including local gangsters, and organised criminal syndicates and networks,” the agency said.
The NIA has also unearthed a complex mechanism of fundraising for BKI and KTF. The funds were being routed to India-based associates through informal and formal channels via layering and fund provisioning. Various means of money transfer were being used in a way that the identity of the real sender or receiver of funds was masked, the NIA said.
The agency is also probing the links of 16 other absconding and arrested accused associated with BKI and KTF. A former “gangster”, Rinda is now a key BKI member and pro-Khalistan operative. In 2018-19, he had fled to Pakistan. He is involved in offences such as smuggling of arms, ammunition, explosives and drugs into the Indian territory from Pakistan, and recruitment of BKI operatives, the NIA said.
The agency has also unearthed a complex mechanism of fundraising for the banned outfits.
Facts about the News
– In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, which shocked the entire world, the then United Progressive Alliance government decided to establish the NIA.
- In December 2008, former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram introduced the National Investigation Agency Bill.
– The agency came into existence on 31st December 2008, and started its functioning in 2009. Till date, the NIA has registered 447 cases.
– The NIA is the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency of India mandated to investigate all the offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India. It includes:
- Friendly relations with foreign states.
- Against atomic and nuclear facilities.
- Smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders.
- The offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations,its agencies and other international organizations.
– It was constituted under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008.
– The agency is empowered to deal with the investigation of terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states under written proclamation from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
– Headquarters: New Delhi
– The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country.
– Persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted.
– Persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be.
– Persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affecting the interest of India.
Farmers’ protest brings water to Chambal canals after 2 decades
Following a fortnight-long padaav (stay) by farmers in front of the Chambal Command Area Development office in Kota, water was released after two decades into the dried-up irrigation canals between Gandhi Sagar Dam and Kota Barrage earlier this week. Irrigation water from the Chambal river will facilitate sowing of traditional kharif crops, including rice, soybean, and sugarcane, in Kota and Bundi districts.
The farmers’ agitation, led by Hadoti Kisan Union, highlighted the agrarian crisis caused by the lack of water supply in the canals, which had affected over 700 villages in eight panchayat samitis of the region. Agricultural production in the command area, measuring 2.29 lakh hectares, was earlier valued at an estimated ₹10,000 crore annually, when water was supplied through the canals during the two main rabi and kharif crop seasons.
Farm production reduced significantly in the years after 2001, when the water supply was stopped for some technical reasons. Rajasthan’s only agriculture-based cooperative sugar mill, set up in 1970 and situated at Keshoraipatan in Kota district, also went defunct in 2004 because of financial losses, affecting thelivelihood of sugarcane farmers and agricultural labourers.
Farmers of the Hadoti region were mobilised on these issues for the agitation, during which several farmer leaders observed a hunger strike. Hadoti Kisan Union’s general secretary Dashrath Kumar told The Hindu that the release of water, starting from the Left Main Canal for Bundi and Kapren, would help revive agricultural activities earlier carried out with ground water and rain water.
“The total losses incurred by farmers during the last 20 years are estimated at ₹80,000 crore. The agrarian crisis was aggravated by crop losses and debt burden, because of which a large number of farmers left their traditional vocation and migrated to the cities in search of livelihood,” Mr. Kumar said.
‘Rivers were drying up’
Farmer leader from Bharatpur, Mohan Singh Gujjar, said rivers like Banganga, Gambhir and Ruparel in eastern Rajasthan were gradually drying up, while Chambal river water was flowing into the sea. “The Chambal waters from the Kota Barrage were denied to the command area’s farmers without any justification. The authorities have finally accepted the farmers’ demand, which will help revive irrigation of crops,” he said.
The Kota Barrage is situated upstream of Kota city. Water released after power generation at Gandhi Sagar Dam, Rana Pratap Sagar Dam and Jawahar Sagar Dam was earlier diverted by the Kota Barrage for irrigation in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh through canals on the left and the right sides of the Chambal river.
Mr. Kumar said the farmers of the Hadoti region were mobilised on the issues crucial for them during the padaav, and a political leadership would emerge among them in future to protect their interests. The gates of the canals were opened after an announcement was made by Kota Divisional Commissioner Pratibha Singh.
Farmers in the region began the cultivation of garlic, a labour-intensive crop, after 2012. It gave profits in the initial years, but its uncontrolled production has led to a price crash during the recent years. The Hadoti region, comprising Kota, Baran, Bundi and Jhalawar districts, has also benefited from the Congress government’s loan waiver scheme after 2018.
Demand to reopen mill
Farmers have also stepped up the demand for restarting the cooperative sugar mill and granting national project status to the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project.
Mr. Kumar said the farmers would now be in a position to undertake profitable cultivation of sugarcane with the availability of water and it could be supplied to the mill. The sugar mill had a crushing capacity of 1,250 metric tonnes per day at the time of its closure.
To manage the water flow of the Chambal River, which is located between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, a cooperative project was created in 1954. The project intends to address soil erosion prevention.
- The Chambal Canal Irrigation project is related to the Yamuna Basin.
- Perennial in nature, the Chambal is a major tributary of the river Yamuna. It forms a part of the Gangetic drainage system and flows through the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
- It is formulated for rational utilization of the water resources for
2.Generation of Hydro-electricity
3.Conservation of Soil
- The dams that are a part of the Chambal Canal Irrigation project are;
Gandhi Sagar Dam, Rana Pratap Sagar Dam, Jawahar Sagar Dam and Kota Barrage.
– The Chambal river Valley Development Project in 1951 was a part of the First Five-Year plan launched by the Government of India.
Will generic supply of bedaquiline be accessible?
Is tuberculosis still a global health threat? How has Johnson & Johnson been trying to hold on to its patent of the TB drug after it expired last week? How was India able to reject J&J’s hold over the drug?
The story so far:
Bedaquiline has now become the cornerstone to cure drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB). Last week, a major barrier for drug resistant TB care ended, when Johnson & Johnson’s patent on bedaquiline expired on July 18. This long-awaited expiry will allow generic manufacturers to supply the drug, but J&J appears intent on maintaining its monopoly over the bedaquiline market.
What has J&J done?
J&J has filed secondary patents over bedaquiline till 2027, which were granted in 66 low-and middle-income countries. It includes 34 countries with high burden of TB, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and TB/HIV. Over the past week, J&J has faced public outrage for seeking to extend its patent on bedaquiline. A first of its kind deal between J&J and the Global Drug Facility (GDF), a non-profit distribution agency housed in the WHO, could expand access to the drug. Researchers estimate that, with the introduction of competition from India, the price of bedaquiline will reduce in the range of $48-$102 for a six-month treatment course — which is three to six times lower than the current globally negotiated price paid by countries ($272) when it is procured through the GDF.
What is the threat from tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis was the world’s deadliest infectious disease, as declared by the WHO, before COVID-19 swept the world. Each year, nearly half a million people develop drug-resistant TB and nearly 10.4 million people develop drug-sensitive TB. One-third of the world’s population has latent TB, a version of the disease that can turn active as immunity falls. Nearly 2.8 million patients, the most in the world, live in India making it a national public health emergency. Globally, DR-TB is a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance and continues to be a public health threat.
Who made bedaquiline?
Janssen Pharmaceutical (a subsidiary of J&J) made bedaquiline around 2002. Several of the phase I and II clinical trials — where the safety and efficacy of the drug is established before the drug’s registration—were sponsored by public and philanthropic organisations such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the TB Alliance. Following the 2012 approval of bedaquiline based on phase II data, several research institutes, treatment providers, including national TB programmes and medical humanitarian organisations, have put in resources in additional trials, operational research, and pharmacovigilance to further document the safety, efficacy and optimal use of bedaquiline in DR-TB regimens. The recent WHO recommendation of bedaquiline being a core drug for the treatment of DR-TB is largely based on the evidence produced through these collective efforts. However, J&J has claimed sole ownership of it, protected by its aggressive patenting strategies.
Will the drug be available in India?
Other DR-TB drugs like linezolid have decreased in prices by over 90% with generic competition once Pfizer’s patent expired in 2015. Therefore, national TB programmes are waiting for the generic supply of bedaquiline from Indian manufacturers to reduce prices.
In India, a ‘pre-grant opposition’ was filed by a patient group and two TB survivors — Nandita Venkatesan from India, and Phumeza Tisile from South Africa — both of whom had to endure the more toxic DR-TB treatments that lasted up to two years and caused excruciating side effects: they both lost their hearing. As a result of their legal challenge, in a landmark decision before World TB Day, the Indian Patent Office rejected the U.S. corporation J&J’s secondary patent which would have extended its monopoly for four more years. Indian manufacturers will now be able to supply affordable, quality assured generic versions of bedaquiline in India as the primary patent expired on July 18.
Vidya Krishnan is a health reporter and Leena Menghaney is Global IP Advisor to the MSF Access Campaign.
Last week, a major barrier for drug resistant TB care ended, when Johnson & Johnson’s patent on bedaquiline expired on July 18.
J&J has filed secondary patents over bedaquiline till 2027, which were granted in 66 low-and middle-income countries. It includes 34 countries with high burden of TB, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and TB/HIV.
In India, a ‘pre-grant opposition’ was filed by a patient group and two TB survivors. As a result of their legal challenge, in a landmark decision before World TB Day, the Indian Patent Office rejected the U.S. corporation J&J’s secondary patent.
Facts about the News
Why was the Patent Application Rejected?
- J&J’s patent application was for a fumarate salt of a compound to produce bedaquiline tablets.
- It was argued that J&J’s method to produce a “solid pharmaceutical composition” of bedaquiline doesn’t require an “inventive step”.
– According to the Indian Patent Act 1970 Section 2(1) (ja), an ‘inventive step’ is an invention that is “not obvious to a person skilled in the art”.
- The current application drew significantly from a previous patent, which discussed a similar compound on which bedaquiline is based.
- The Patents Act, 1970 has imposed certain ‘restrictions’ on patentability.
– A patent cannot be granted on ‘mere use of a known process, machine or apparatus unless such known process results in a new product or employs at least one new reactant’.
– Section 3(d) of the Act does not allow ‘evergreening’ of patents to prevent innovator pharma companies from extending the patent beyond the stipulated period of 20 years, to ensure that the monopoly does not extend forever.
- As of now it is still a patented product and there are no generic versions. However, after the expiry of the Bedaquiline patent, the drug makers can make the generic versions per the law.
Evergreening of Patents
- The evergreening of patents is a practice of tweaking drugs in order to extend their patent term and thus their profitability.
- The Indian Patents Act 1970 introduced many provisions to prevent the mischievous practice of “evergreening” of patents.
- This is to aid millions of people who can’t afford the expensive modified drugs, as well as the development of the domestic generic drugmarket.
About Tuberculosis (TB):
- Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.
- It mainly affects the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body, including the tummy (abdomen), glands, bones and nervous system.
- TB is a potentially serious condition, but it can be cured if it’s treated with the right antibiotics.
About Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR):
- Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitic – are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
- As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.
– As of 2017, India accounted for around one-fourth of the world’s burden of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB and of extensively-drug-resistant (XDR) TB.
- MDR TB resists treatment by at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two frontline drugs in TB treatment.
- XDR TB resists these two drugs as well as fluoroquinolones and any second-line injectable drug.
– XDR TB is rarer than MDR TB – There were 1,24,000 cases of MDR TB in India (2021) versus 2,650 cases of XDR TB (2019).
– TB incidence in India has been on the decline, but MDR TB and XDR TB endanger initiatives to locally eradicate the disease.
How is Drug-resistant TB Treated?
- TB can be treated by strictly adhering to the doses and frequencies of drugs prescribed by a physician. Deviations from this schedule can lead the bacteria to become drug-resistant.
- Yet they happen because the drugs often have side effects that diminish the quality of life and/or because patients haven’t been afforded access to the requisite drugs on time.
- Drug-resistant TB is harder to treat. One important option for those diagnosed with pulmonary MDR TB is Bedaquiline.
- Bedaquiline, sold under the brand name Sirturo, is a medication used to treat active tuberculosis.
- Unlike second-line treatment options that are injected and can have severe side effects, like permanent hearing loss, bedaquiline is available as tablets and is less harmful.
- Studies until 2018 found that it may be toxic to the heart and the liver. This is part of why it is recommended only when other treatment options for MDR TB have failed.
CERT-In cautions against ransomware ‘Akira’ attack
An Internet ransomware virus ‘Akira’ that steals vital personal information and encrypts data leading to extortion of money from people has been reported in cyberspace, the country’s federal cybersecurity agency said in the latest advisory. This computer malware is targeting Windows and Linux-based systems, it said. “Akira is reportedly active in cyberspace. This group first steals the information, then encrypts data on their systems and conducts double extortion to force the victim into paying.”
Facts about the News
Ransomware is advanced software used by hackers to block the access of users to crucial databases.
- These cyber criminals demand money in lieu of unblocking data to the respective users.
- In the recent cyberattack on the AIIMS database, the hacker demanded ransom in cryptocurrencies.
Some examples of recent ransomware attacks:
- Bad Rabbit
What is Akira?
Akira is a new family of ransomware, first used in cybercrime attacks in March 2023.
The primary objective of Akira ransomware is to steal vital personal information from its victims. This sensitive data can include financial records, personal identification details, and confidential documents. The attackers then leverage this information to extort money from the victims.
Targeting Windows and Linux-Based Systems
Akira ransomware is not limited to a specific operating system. It targets both Windows and Linux-based systems, making it a potent threat for a wide range of users.
Double Extortion Tactics
One of the most alarming aspects of Akira ransomware is its utilization of double extortion tactics. The ransomware group first encrypts the victim’s data, rendering it inaccessible. They then threaten to release this stolen data on their dark web blog if the victim does not pay the ransom.
Accessing Victim Environments through VPN Services
The ransomware group behind Akira is known to access victim environments through Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. This is particularly effective in cases where users have not enabled multi-factor authentication, making them vulnerable to attacks.