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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 July 2024

  1. The Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Plan has got off on the Wrong Foot
  2. A Law around Low-Carbon Climate Resilient Development


Context:

In 2023, the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament, marking a significant step towards promoting research in India, particularly within its universities and colleges. The 2019 National Research Foundation (NRF) project report highlighted that one of ANRF’s top priorities is to enhance the outstanding research cells already present in State Universities. The scientific community welcomed the Bill, hoping it would offer Indian academia the much-needed freedom from bureaucracy, increase funding, and foster collaboration with industry partners.

Relevance:

GS3-

  • Government Policies and Interventions
  • Growth and Development

Mains Question:

Discuss the relevance of the Anusandhan National Research Foundation in the current landscape of science and technology in India. What can be done to ensure that it doesn’t become just another government department. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Associated Challenges:

Lack of Representation:

  • Recently, it announced a 15-member Governing Board and a 16-member Executive Council, both of which lack representation from the organizations the ANRF intended to support and facilitate.
  • Despite the ANRF’s goal to strengthen the research infrastructure of universities and the fact that over 95% of students in India attend State universities and colleges, there are no members from Central or State universities or colleges on these boards.
  • The Principal Scientific Adviser is joined by individuals typically found on high-powered government committees, including Secretaries from all science departments (such as the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research), as well as representatives from earth sciences, agriculture, health research, atomic energy, new and renewable energy, electronics and information technology, higher education, and defense research and development.
  • Additionally, the boards include directors from the Indian Institute of Science and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Chair of the Indian Council of Historical Research, a Princeton mathematics professor, a science administrator and former Director of the United States National Science Foundation from Brown University, and a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur.
  • However, the board and council need members who understand the bottlenecks within the current system, particularly in universities, and who can implement solutions effectively on the ground rather than just providing advice.

Multiple Committees Creating Confusion:

  • To avoid confusion from having multiple committees, it is crucial for the ANRF to create a single committee dedicated to formulating and implementing strategies.
  • This focus on practical, ground-level experience among committee members should reassure the research community and stakeholders that the ANRF’s decision-making process will be informed, competent, and timely.

The Lack of Adequate Industry Representation:

  • The lack of adequate industry representation and diversity is a significant oversight in the current board and council, especially given that the ANRF aims to raise more than 70% of its funding from non-government sources and industry.
  • The sole industry representative is Romesh T. Wadhwani, an Indian-American businessman based in Silicon Valley, while the only woman representative is the Secretary of the DSIR.
  • There is no representation from Indian industry, local entrepreneurs, or eminent academics from Central and State universities on the committee.

R&D Underfunding:

  • India currently underfunds research and development. To enhance research and make innovations from Indian organizations globally competitive, the research and development budget needs to be increased to 4% of GDP, and the existing funding system requires a significant overhaul.
  • To achieve this, the ANRF must be properly staffed, implement a robust grant management system, establish an internal peer-review system with incentives for reviewers, ensure timely disbursal of research grants and student fellowships with a turnaround time of less than six months between application and fund disbursal, and create a system free from bureaucratic hurdles at both the funding body and grantee institutions.
  • Additionally, the ANRF should allow flexibility in spending money without adhering to the government’s stringent general financial rules (GFR) and permit purchases without using the Government e-marketplace (GeM) portal.

Conclusion:

The ANRF must operate differently from current government science departments. It should include a more diverse representation of practicing natural and social scientists from the university system, with a focus on including more women and young entrepreneurs in its committee. Moreover, the future CEO of the ANRF should have a background in both industry and academia, be capable of raising funds for the ANRF, and understand the global innovation ecosystem. A complete overhaul is necessary for the ANRF to avoid becoming like any other government department and to bridge the gap between research and teaching in universities.



Context:

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India recently recognized the right to be “free from the adverse impacts of climate change” in M.K. Ranjitsinh and Others vs Union of India, deriving it from the right to life and the right to equality. In a previous article on this page, “Court on climate right and how India can enforce it” (July 1, 2024), we argued that while this is a significant step in establishing climate jurisprudence in India, it raises the critical question of how this right will be protected.

Relevance:

GS3- Environmental Conservation

Mains Question:

Addressing climate change is about more than limiting emissions. Discuss in the context of tailoring a climate legislation suited to the Indian context. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Tailoring Climate Legislation for the Indian Context:

Law to Inform Development Choices:

  • Preparing India to mitigate the risks of climate change and address its impacts necessitates re-orienting development towards low-carbon and climate-resilient futures.
  • Any law aimed at this must ensure these objectives are embedded in routine decision-making at all levels of development.
  • Because climate change disproportionately affects the vulnerable, and an energy transition must be just, the law must prioritize advancing social justice.
  • While the concept of climate law is often associated with a top-down approach of setting and achieving targets, this approach is limited in a developing country.
  • Addressing climate change involves more than just limiting emissions; it requires a careful, ongoing consideration of each developmental choice and its long-term synergies and trade-offs with low-carbon and climate-resilient futures.
  • To achieve this, the substantive right to protection against the adverse effects of climate change must be realized through well-defined legal procedures applicable across all levels of government.
  • Climate action becomes more credible when a well-designed institutional structure is in place to strategize, prioritize, troubleshoot, and evaluate policies behind the scenes.

Framework Climate Laws:

  • Many countries (67 according to one estimate) have experimented with ‘framework climate laws’ designed to build governance capacity to address climate change.
  • These umbrella laws define government-wide goals and reinforce them with processes and accountability measures, making climate action a central government priority.
  • However, these laws vary, and India’s approach must be tailored to its unique context. Starting from a low base of per capita emissions—less than half the global average—India’s emissions are still growing.
  • The objective should be to maximize development benefits from each ton of carbon while avoiding high-carbon futures.
  • Additionally, given India’s high vulnerability to climate impacts, building climate resilience must be a key element of the new law. Social equity considerations should also be central to meeting these objectives.
  • Thus, India’s law must promote development in a low-carbon direction while enhancing resilience to pervasive climate impacts.
  • This law should guide developmental choices, enabling thoughtful decision-making towards achieving a low-carbon, resilient society.
  • For instance, as Indian cities grow and change rapidly, the law should help envision low-carbon, climate-resilient cities of the future and identify the levers to shape them.
  • It should also guide city planning to minimize risks from floods and heatwaves, address transport needs through technology shifts like electric vehicle adoption, and emphasize public transport and lifestyle changes.

Establishing a Low-Carbon Development Body:

  • A framework climate law should establish an institutional structure capable of developing viable solutions to climate-related questions.
  • Our ongoing work at the Sustainable Futures Collaborative suggests creating a knowledge body within the government that can rigorously analyze policy options and their potential outcomes.
  • We recommend an independent ‘low-carbon development commission’, staffed with experts and technical personnel, to provide practical solutions for achieving low-carbon growth and resilience to both national and state governments.
  • This body could also serve as a platform for inclusive decision-making. Vulnerable communities and those adversely affected by technological changes need to be systematically consulted.
  • Listening to their concerns and incorporating their ideas could lead to more sustainable policy outcomes.
  • A comparable example is South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission, which focuses on a just transition based on stakeholder inputs.
  • Effective climate governance requires the ability to set directions, make strategic choices, and encourage the integration of low-carbon options and climate change considerations within line ministries.
  • The law could establish a high-level strategic body, termed a ‘climate cabinet’, comprising key ministers and representatives from the Chief Ministers of States, tasked with driving climate strategy across the government.
  • Globally, climate policy often fails due to fragmented decision-making; this approach aims to address that issue.

Implementing a Whole-of-Government Approach:

  • A whole-of-government approach will require dedicated coordination mechanisms for effective implementation.
  • While the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change should continue to play a central role, it needs to be supported by higher-level coordination.
  • The pre-existing Executive Committee on Climate Change, composed of senior bureaucrats from multiple ministries, offers a useful template but needs to be reinvigorated with clearly defined legal powers and duties.

Engagement with the Federal Structure:

  • The law must also consider India’s federal structure. Many areas crucial to reducing emissions and improving resilience—such as electricity, agriculture, water, health, and soil—fall under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. Climate impacts are first and most viscerally felt at the local level.
  • To protect the Court’s newly established climate right, any institutional structure or regulatory instrument must meaningfully engage with subnational governments.
  • First, the law should establish a channel for subnational governments to access national scientific capacity, potentially through the low-carbon development commission, addressing the issue of insufficient local climate scientific capacity.
  • Second, it should articulate ways to finance local action, such as aligning centrally-sponsored schemes with climate goals or requiring national departments to tag expenditures towards local climate resilience.
  • Third, the law should establish coordination mechanisms that facilitate consultation between the Centre and States on major climate decisions.
  • It could also mandate periodic updates of medium-term climate plans built around unified goals, and encourage states to develop complementary institutions to those at the Centre, providing knowledge, strategy-setting, deliberation, and coordination functions.
  • The proposed framework law, which facilitates and catalyzes action across national ministries and the federal structure, should not be the sole legal tool in the country’s regulatory toolkit.
  • Complementary sectoral laws and amendments may also be necessary, but they should be informed by the approach outlined in the framework law.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in M.K. Ranjitsinh opens the door to legal and governance changes that could establish a actionable right against the adverse effects of climate change. However, to fulfill this potential, this opportunity must be seized by enacting a climate law tailored to the Indian context. Such a law would guide Indian development choices towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient future while promoting justice.


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