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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 14 August 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 14 August 2023


Contents

  1. Climate Change Shows Indian Banks’ Unpreparedness
  2. Democracy in India’s Legacy and Global Evolution

Climate Change Shows Indian Banks’ Unpreparedness


Context:

  • In the year 2022, India experienced 314 out of 365 days of extreme weather, which had a significant influence on the socio-economic structure of the country. A recent report by the Bengaluru-based think tank Climate Risk Horizons, headlined “Still Unprepared,” has highlighted a crucial problem: despite the worsening effects of climate change, major Indian banks are still ill-prepared to deal with climate hazards.
  • This analysis, which focuses on the 34 major banks in India and has a combined market capitalization of Rs 29.5 trillion, identifies severe gaps in the measurement, management, and mitigation of climate-related risks.

Relevance

GS Paper 3 – Environment – Climate Change

Mains Question

What did the Climate Risk Horizons investigation reveal about the main Indian banks’ climate readiness? How does the Indian economy be affected by the financial sector’s lack of readiness to face climate risks? Make suggestions for improving the banking industry in India’s climate resilience. (150 words)


Increasing Climate Issues and Financial Impacts:

India is bearing a significant financial burden as a result of the increased frequency and severity of floods, heatwaves, and other extreme events. Head of Sustainable Finance for Climate Risk Horizons highlights the seriousness of the situation by pointing out that these events have significant financial repercussions for the Indian economy and its investors as well as ecological effects.

India’s Position Regarding Climate Losses Worldwide:

According to a 2021 analysis from Germanwatch, India ranked first in terms of financial losses related to climate change, highlighting the country’s sensitivity to it. Despite the fact that India is now second after China in terms of total financial losses from 2000 to 2019, this just serves to highlight how crucial it is to address climate-related risks in the nation’s financial sector.

Lack of readiness in the banking sector

The analysis finds that Indian banks, both public and private, lack a comprehensive strategy and implementation plan on climate-focused funding despite the urgent need to address climate threats. This issue is acknowledged by a senior bank official from Kolkata, who also emphasises that banks have not yet taken a firm position on financing climate-related initiatives.

Evaluation Standards and Banking Sector Performance

Based on factors including fossil fuel exclusion policies, emissions disclosure, climate scenario analysis, and Net Zero Targets, the Climate Risk Horizons report assesses how well-prepared big banks are for climate change. Notably, Yes Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank stand out as the best at preparing for climate-risk. Nevertheless, in spite of advancements, none of the institutions have carried out climate-related scenario analysis, a crucial step in comprehending and managing potential hazards.

Net Zero Targets: What Are They?

  • This idea, known as “carbon neutrality,” does not mean that a country’s emissions must be completely eliminated. Instead, it describes a scenario in which a nation’s emissions are balanced out by absorbing and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Expanding carbon sinks, like trees, which assist in absorbing emissions, can support this equilibrium. Furthermore, cutting-edge technologies like carbon capture and storage are required for the extraction of gases from the atmosphere.
  • By the middle of the century, precisely by 2050, more than 70 countries have committed to become Net Zero. At the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) conference, India made a commitment to reduce its emissions to net zero by 2070.

Public Banks and the Transition to Clean Energy

Insufficient public bank commitment to India’s essential energy transition, a cornerstone of the country’s climate policy, is highlighted in the report. Despite the pressing need to move away from carbon-intensive businesses, it is shocking that public sector banks only provide less than 8% of the entire financing for the renewable energy sector. The seriousness of the crisis is highlighted by the misalignment with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) acknowledgment of climate concerns as systemic dangers to the Indian economy.

An urgent regulatory framework is required.

Experts stress the urgent need for required recommendations from the RBI for climate-related disclosures and standardised frameworks for addressing climate risks in the absence of significant climate-focused initiatives. The two banks having the greatest exposure to industries that use a lot of carbon are noteworthy State Bank of India (SBI) and HDFC Bank, with SBI’s exposure being mostly driven by investments in coal. Although the RBI published a drafting discussion paper on climate risk more than a year ago, little actual action has been taken to date.

Improved Preparedness Step

Experts stress a number of essential initiatives that banks must take to improve their climate preparation. The development of transition plans for funding fossil fuels, the use of instruments like climate scenario analysis, and proactive disclosure of green finance projects are a few among them. They point out that Indian banks must coordinate their activities with the country’s climate goals and provide funding for both climate-friendly initiatives and people in need of aid due to damages brought on by climate change.

Conclusion:

It is crucial to address climate concerns in India’s banking industry immediately. The banking sector must intensify its efforts to reduce and manage climate-related risks as extreme weather occurrences put increasing pressure on the country’s economy and the RBI recognises climate risks as systemic vulnerabilities. Banks may be a key player in India’s transition to a more resilient and sustainable future by adopting sustainable practises, disclosing emissions, and investing in climate-friendly projects.


Democracy in India’s Legacy and Global Evolution


Context

As India celebrates its 77th Independence Day, billboards in the nation’s capital welcome G-20 participants while proclaiming India to be the “mother of democracy,” igniting a controversy that questions the idea’s Greek origins.

Relevance

GS Paper 1 – History

Mains Question

Discuss how India’s democratic history contradicts the idea that democracy originated in Greece. Give instances from both the Indian and Greek contexts to draw attention to commonalities and historical subtleties that influence the idea of democracy. (250 words)


The Indian View: Contesting the Greek Origin

  • India’s claim defies the prevailing wisdom that democracy’s origins are limited to the ancient Greek city-state of Athens. Both India and Greece may lay claim to democratic foundations with unique historical settings, as opposed to a linear progression.
  • Even though Greece is credited with founding democracy, India’s claims have some merit. India’s ancient history contains hints of democratic government. Ancient religious literature known as the Rig Veda makes references to democratic principles like equitable resource allocation, cordial conversation, and conflict resolution. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar emphasised democratic practises during the Buddhist era, connecting with Greece’s city-states and republics, even if concrete archaeological evidence is missing.

Ambedkar’s Vision: The Foundations of Indian Republicanism

  • Dr. Ambedkar, who is frequently seen as a Westernised supporter of constitutional systems, drew inspiration from traditional Indian democratic institutions, especially Buddhist sanghas. Ambedkar asserted that the foundations of Indian republicanism were strong when serving as the Chair of the Constituent Assembly’s Drafting Committee. He cited examples of republics in ancient India, including the Vajji confederation in Vaishali, the Mallas of Kusinagara, and the Lichhavi reign in northern Bihar and Nepal. Between the sixth and fourth century BCE, independent republics known as gana sanghas grew to greatness.
  • Ambedkar used the Vinay-pitaka, a text from Theravada Buddhism, to highlight current democratic practises. These texts governed discussions, motions, and secret ballot voting in the sanghas of Bhikkhus (monks).

Indian Republics in Snippets: Historical and Literary

  • Despite being written centuries later, Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, attests to the existence of autonomous, democratic republics in ancient India in his book Glimpses of Indian Republics: Historical and Literary Accounts. These republics had a raja (monarch) and an assembly that deliberated on important matters of state. Instead of upholding hereditary monarchy, the gana sanghas controlled administrative, financial, and judicial power and chose their own rajas.
  • Buddhist texts provide a rich portrait of Vaishali in the fifth century BCE, depicting the many organisations in charge of running the city. Some groups, referred to as gana or sangha, were probably economic or military alliances. These associations changed their original connotation of “multitude” to “self-governing multitude.” The more powerful groupings operated as independent governments resembling republics.

Ambedkar’s Complex View: Caste Dynamics in Indian Villages

  • Ambedkar took a cautious position towards Gandhi’s idea of autonomous village republics in his celebration of India’s historical democratic tradition. In this context, he fostered prejudices because he thought that villages may serve as breeding grounds for the continuation of caste-based oppression and societal lag, particularly when it came to Dalits.
  • Ambedkar emphasised a crucial point while accepting Kautilya’s Arthashastra and the historical evidence supporting the existence of village panchayats in ancient India. He made a point of highlighting how the purposeful exclusion of particular social groups—most notably the Dalit community—leaves the structure of Indian village republics fundamentally inadequate.

Comparative Errors: Women’s Exclusion, Greece, and India

Beyond India’s borders, the idea of omission spread to Greece, where participation in democracy resulted in the exclusion of not just slaves and barbarians but also women, who were universally excluded from democratic processes until the 20th century emerged. When the realm of male citizens is examined, it becomes clear that Indian village republics evolved as the carriers of a comparable level of democratic essence, emulating the democratic landscape seen in the city-states of ancient Greece.

A Universal Tenet of Democracy: A Global Evolution

The efforts made to control concentrated political power can be seen in a variety of countries and historical eras, according to the viewpoints of American political historian David Stasavage. This propensity for decentralisation does not only exist in certain social contexts. As a result, the democratic frameworks observed in both the Indian and Greek contexts spontaneously materialised as fundamental forms of government that echo across the entirety of human history. By adopting a wider perspective that sees democracy as a universal idea rather than a fabrication limited to particular cultural boundaries, the widespread application of this governing concept is revealed.

The Fragility of Democracy: A Cautionary Tale by Ambedkar

Ambedkar’s worries persisted despite his repeated expressions of worry about the potential for the democratic system contained in the Indian Constitution to become a dictatorship. His repeated cautions emphasised the idea that a sizable increase in popular support could unintentionally open the door for the slow deterioration of democratic values. His stern statements serve as a poignant reminder that democracy must be strengthened in the midst of the general environment of self-absorption and celebration. It is a gift given to society that calls for a constant attentive eye, recognising its susceptibility to imaginable dangers and necessitating constant care.

Conclusion

  • India is celebrating its 77th Independence Day as it celebrates its 76th anniversary of independence, and a wide array of statements about its democratic legacy are being made. The claim of being the “mother of democracy” is a complex mosaic with many facets, fashioned from the threads of history, philosophy, and administrative principles.
  • The development of democracy in Greece and India coincides, but does not follow a linear narrative due to historical complexities, similarities, and purposeful omissions. Even if the genesis tale from Greece is still largely accepted, acknowledging India’s democratic heritage serves as a moving reminder of how universally applicable democratic ideas are.
  • It is clear that both of these countries have contributed significantly to the advancement of democratic ideas on a worldwide scale, notwithstanding their flaws and exclusions. As we happily commemorate this valued legacy, we have a responsibility to heed the foresight Ambedkar expressed and proactively protect our democratic traditions against intrusions and the dangers of degradation.

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