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13th July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Solar power
  2. The sum and substance of the EU’s China dilemma
  3. Smart Cities Mission
  4. EC’s power to hold elections

Solar power

Why in news?

Prime Minister recently restated the importance of solar power in restarting the economy and moving towards sustainable development.

Government efforts towards solar power.

inauguration of a 750 MW photovoltaic project at Rewa, in Madhya Pradesh

  • India expanded its solar generation capacity 8 times from 2,650 MW in May, 2014 to over 20 GW in January, 2018, and 28.18 GW in March, 2019.
  • The government had an initial target of 20 GW of solar capacity by 2022, which was achieved 4 years ahead of schedule.
  • In 2015, according to Paris climate deal, India agreed to the target of 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022

Challenges

domestic solar manufacturing industry that delivers increasing volumes of quality photovoltaic cells, modules and associated equipment is missing

How import dependent is India yet?

  • According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (2018), India has an annual solar cell manufacturing capacity of about 3 GW.
  • But markedly, the average annual demand is 20 GW.
  • The shortfall is met by imports of solar panels.
  • The government is a near monopsonistic buyer (the market condition that exists when there is one buyer) in solar sector.
  • India is regarded by the global solar industry as one of the most promising markets.
  • But the low-cost Chinese imports have undercut India’s ambitions to develop its own solar technology suppliers.
  • Imports, mostly from China, accounted for 90% of 2017 sales, up

What give China its edge over India?

  • Core competence – It takes time for companies to learn and put in action new technologies.
  • The 6 largest Chinese manufacturers had core technical competence in semiconductors well before starting solar cells manufacturing.
  • In contrast, Indian companies had no learning background in semiconductors when the solar industry in India began to grow from 2011.
  • State governments need to support semiconductor production as part of a determined industrial policy to develop this capacity.
  • Government policy – The Chinese government has subsidised land acquisition, raw material, labour and export, among others.
  • None of this is matched by the Indian government.
  • Perhaps even more important is commitment by the government to procure over the long run.
  • This is crucial for investment in building up the design and manufacturing for each of the 4 stages of production of solar power equipment.

What should India’s priorities be?

  • Remaining dependent on imports only leads to short-term benefits for India.
  • Substituting for imports requires human capabilities, technological capabilities and capital in the form of finance.
  • Making input components locally instead of importing them and putting the modules together here are essential for covering the entire supply chain.
  • Public procurement should be promoted with high priority.
  • The government is still free to call out bids for solar power plants with the requirement that these be made fully in India.
  • This will not violate any World Trade Organization (WTO) commitment.
  • If the bids are large enough with supplies spread over years, then bidders will emerge and local manufacturing can begin.
  • This is because it will give enough time for a green field investment to be made for manufacturing in India.
  • In all, India needs a solar manufacturing strategy, perhaps like the Automotive Mission Plan (2006-2016).
  • [The Plan is credited with making India one of the largest manufacturers of two-wheelers, three-wheelers, four-wheelers and lorries in the world.]

The sum and substance of the EU’s China dilemma

Why in news?

European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, publicly proclaimed that “China is without doubt one of the key global players and its crucial for EU to engage with CHINA.

He added that, Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around COVID­19 in the EU

Present state of European Union

  • The European Union, in any case, is a divided because of Brexit and economic distress
  • Several of the southern European countries are in a very weak economic position, and these countries are trying to attract Chinese investments including Italy and Germany
  • China settled all their boundary problems with all their Central Asian states because they were able to give them a lot of good money and setup infrastructure linkages, gas pipelines, etc.
  • Chinese are trying to become the number one power in the world by 2050. The Europeans have now lost their clout in world affairs. America is not willing to pay more for NATO’s security any longer, thus the European countries are now being made to pay more for their own security.

China – EU cooperation

  • According to the global Office of the International Comparison Program at the World Bank,

China and the European Union (EU) jointly account for nearly 35% of global GDP in PPP terms

  • Europe championed China’s case for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and China supported the ‘European Project’.
  • In March 2019, the EU Commission published “A Strategic Outlook”, describing China as, simultaneously, a cooperative partner,  an economic competitor and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.
  • The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, after the virtual Summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on June 22, 2020, said that Europe’s relations with China are “simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging that we have
  • The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China in its  Business Confidence Survey 2020, that most European businesses are chiefly “in China, for China”. European companies still hope that China’s President Xi Jinping will use this pandemic to make fundamental reforms to promote engagement.
  • pandemic has also triggered calls for diversifying European businesses away from an overreliance on any single market

Cause for disappointment

  • China’s efforts to cultivate separate European ­ groupings like the 16+1 Format with the Central and Eastern European States, and meetings with the Nordics and the Southern Europeans angered EU.
  • The sailing of the PLA Navy into the Baltic Sea for joint exercises with Russia in 2017
  • Cross ­sectoral hybrid threats including information operations in European countries
  • Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean
  • its targeted acquisition of key high technology companies such as Kuka in Germany or key ports like Piraeus in Greece, began to raise red flags In Europe.
  • China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, on the Line of Actual Control with India, and in Hong Kong, among others, have also caused disappointment

What is expected out of China

  • One would expect Chinese to be more responsible.
  • The Chinese are a permanent member of the UNSC. World would like to particularly like them to control the behaviour of the Pakistani state and make them work against the terrorist elements that are operating from Pakistani soil

Concerns

  • stealing of IPR, and China’s assertive approach to the security, resilience and stability of digital networks.
  • The retreat of the U.S. from global leadership is providing the Chinese with the means to take
  • advantage, even when they no longer deem it in their strategic interest
  • The United States, Europe and Japan have common interests in curbing China, but China, Europe and Japan also have much to gain in tapping the potential of their relations

India’s role

  • Political conditions are favourable especially after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom. The Europeans recognise India’s role in helping provide peace and prosperity in the Indo­ Pacific.
  • Great potential in working together on technologies and issues of the future.
  • Broad ­based Trade and Investment Agreement should be put back on track

Smart Cities Mission

The ‘Smart Cities Mission’, a flagship programme of the government, completed five years, in June 2020.

Highlights of mission

  •  The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”.
  • Cities are being developed under “Area-Based Development” model.
  • Under this model, a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment.
  • Many of the projects undertaken under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ are behind schedule.
  • According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, only 1,638 projects have been completed.
  • In terms of expenditure, of the total investment of ₹2,05,018 crore, only projects worth ₹26,700 crore have been completed.

Public health and Smart Cities Mission

  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has given little importance to basic services such as public health. An analysis shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure.
  • These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost.
  • Hence, public health seems to be a major blind spot in India’s smart city dreams.
  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.
  • Further, public health is an essential local government function in India’s constitutional scheme.

Strengthening Local Governments

  • Success of Kerala in containing the COVID 19 has demonstrated, how a decentralised system can be more effective. It is important to strengthen local government capacities.
  • Greater Investments in urban public health systems is essential. Government needs to promote the programmes that improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
  • Programs such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Health Mission, need to be strengthened.

Focus on Urban Employment

  • It is time to consider the introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme.
  • Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010.
  • States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

EC’s power to hold elections

Why in news?

  • recently as March this year, elections to 18 Rajya Sabha seats were postponed by the Commission due to the COVID19 pandemic.

More about elections

  • The EC is mandated under law to hold elections at any time within six months before the five-year term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly expires.
  • The polls are timed in a way that the new Assembly or Lok Sabha is in place on the day of the dissolution of the outgoing House.
  • In the case of early dissolution, EC has to ensure, as far as possible, a new Lok Sabha or Assembly is in place within six months of the dissolution.

Powers to delay

  • Only in exceptional cases, the election can be postponed or even scrapped after its announcement
  • Under Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, the poll panel can “extend the time” for completing an election, But such extension should not go beyond the date of the normal dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.

More about Election Commission

  • The Election Commission is a permanent and an independent body established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution states that, the  EC is in charge of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India and the office of vice president of India
  • It is common to both the Central government and the state governments.

COMPOSITION

  1. The Election Commission consists of the chief election commissioner and those many number of other election commissioners as the president decides.
  2. ECE and other EC’s are appointed by president.
  3. The president appoints regional commissioners to assist election commission
  4. The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election  commissioners and the regional commissioners are determined by the president.

Thank you!

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