Topic 1: India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor
Why in news: Indian Prime Minister announced the launch of the India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor.
About the project:
- The initiative, jointly spearheaded by the US and India, spans connectivity and infrastructure running through India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel and the European Union.
- The rail and shipping corridor is part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII).
- PGII is a collaborative effort by G7 nations to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations.
- PGII is considered to be the bloc’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
- The project will aim to enable greater trade among the involved countries, including energy products.
- What the project will include:
- The corridor will include:
- a rail link
- an electricity cable
- a hydrogen pipeline and
- a high-speed data cable.
- The corridor will include:
- The IMEE EC will consist of two separate corridors:
- East Corridor connecting India to West Asia/Middle East and
- Northern Corridor connecting West Asia/Middle East to Europe.
- It will include a rail line that will provide a reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement the existing multi-modal transport routes.
Need of the project:
- It would increase prosperity among the countries involved through an increased flow of energy and digital communications.
- The project would help deal with the lack of infrastructure needed for growth in lower- and middle-income nations.
- It could help turn the temperature down on turbulence and insecurity coming out of the Middle East.
What is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII)?
- In 2022, during the G7 summit in Germany, the PGII was officially launched as a joint initiative to help fund infrastructure projects in developing countries through public and private investments.
- It was presented as an alternative in response to the infrastructure projects being undertaken and funded by China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at a global.
Need for an alternative
- Working of BRI:
- China began the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 which aims to revive the ancient trade routes crossing to and from China–from Rome in Europe to East Asia.
- Under this, the Chinese government helped in providing loans for infrastructure projects to various countries.
- In many cases, Chinese companies were awarded contracts for carrying out the work.
- This helped China mark its footprints at a global level.
- Criticism of BRI:
- China was criticised for providing unsustainable debts to countries that will be unable to repay them.
- According to a 2019 World Bank report, among the 43 corridor economies, 12 could face a situation where debts were not sustainable, which could lead to public assets being handed over to foreign contractors or China itself.
- India opposed the BRI as it included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connected Kashgar in China with the Gwadar port in Pakistan via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Significance of the project for India:
- For India, this new connectivity architecture could result in an alternative trans-regional commercial transportation route, joining forces in petrochemicals manufacturing by integrating India’s hydrocarbon value chain and creating an innovation corridor for green energy and innovative technology manufacturing value chains.
|China’s Belt and Road InitiativeThe BRI is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world.It is an effort to develop an expanded, interdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high technology economy.The BeltThe Silk Road Economic ‘Belt’ element refers to plans for a revitalized series of ancient overland trading routes connecting Europe and Asia to be built largely with Chinese expertise.The RoadIn 2014 China outlined plans to additionally establish new sea trade infrastructure along the old Marco Polo route – a maritime silk road connecting China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe.This would be a longer route avoiding the Malacca Strait, incorporating fuelling stations, ports, bridges, industry, and infrastructure through Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean.Pakistan is seen as perhaps the most crucial partner country in this effort through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.|
Topic 2: Quote: The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior
Context of this quote
- In The Republic, Plato explains ideas related to Justice, Beauty, what should be the ideal system of governance through dialogues.
- He was a student of the philosopher Socrates and in the book, he presents his arguments through fictional conversations between people, including Socrates.
- One of his arguments is that in a society, only specific people should do certain tasks.
- He criticises democracy (or the limited version of it that existed in Greece at the time).
- Plato is wary of the decision-making power of the common man and instead says that trained people called “philosopher-kings” should only be allowed to rule.
- They are to be taught the matters of statecraft and governance and should also be virtuous apart from being knowledgeable.
Meaning of the quote:
- The purpose of both arts and governing is for the benefit of others.
- No one is willing to govern because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without remuneration.
- Therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of payment, money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.
- Good men are not inspired by the goals of money and honour.
- So, they have to be persuaded by a penalty instead.
- When it is necessary, they must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment of being ruled by someone else in their place.
- Because if they do not rule, “inferior men” will have to do that job.
- The idea of serving other people through public service, then, comes not from a place of personal interests of honour or money but from a fear of someone else failing to do their duty.
What can be interpreted from this quote about public life and duty?
- Plato’s idea of philosopher-kings has been criticised for having dictatorial tendencies, for only allowing certain people to be involved in governance based on narrow, unclear ideas of what being “good” is.
- But the theory that good people are unlikely to be inspired to do something based on only material benefit has some truth to it.
- Many religious teachings also agree that to be good means to do well unto others for the sake of it, not for personal gain.
- To become a part of public institutions should not be guided by one’s own goals.
- Instead of thinking what might be in it for ourselves, we should think of the contributions we can make to improve life for other people, and think about what happens if someone else takes our place – who might not have similarly good intentions.
- In such a case, Plato’s call for active participation can show a path.
- No matter how likely one’s goals are to be achieved, one should still engage in public life for the betterment of society in order to not cede ground to malicious, ill-willed people.
Topic 3: Global Biofuels Alliance
Why in news: India launched the Global Biofuels Alliance on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.
About the Global Biofuels Alliance:
- Besides India, the initiating members include Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Italy, Mauritius, South Africa, the UAE.
- The U.S., Canada and Singapore are observer countries.
- The Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) would help accelerate global efforts to meet net-zero emissions targets by facilitating trade in biofuels derived from sources including plant and animal waste.
- The alliance is aimed at facilitating cooperation and intensifying the use of sustainable biofuels across sectors, including transportation.
- Its focus is primarily on:
- strengthening markets,
- encouraging trade,
- facilitating global biofuel trade,
- developing concrete policy lesson-sharing and
- providing technical support for national biofuel programmes worldwide.
- It will work in collaboration with and complement the relevant existing regional and international agencies, including the Clean Energy Ministerial Biofuture Platform, the Mission Innovation Bioenergy initiatives, and the Global Bioenergy Partnership.
- The GBA would be similar to the International Solar Alliance piloted by New Delhi and Paris in 2015 to bring clean and affordable solar energy within the reach of all.
What is Biofuel:
- Biofuel is defined as any fuel sourced derived from biomass/ organic matter.
- Biofuel is a renewable source of energy which is derived from biomass.
- It can be solid, liquid and gaseous and produced from organic matter in a short period of time.
- This includes any plant or algae material (including wood), as well as animal waste.
- Since these types of fuels are continually being replenished naturally by the cycle of life, they are considered as renewable sources of energy.
- Sources of Biofuel
- Animal fat
- Wood chippings
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Palm oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soya bean oil
- Types of Biofuel
- The primary difference between both biofuels is the process by which they are synthesized.
- Biodiesel is created from the trans-esterification of animal fats or vegetable oils
- Ethanol is majorly synthesized by subjecting plant-based substrates to special fermentation procedures.
Significance for India:
- Easing India’s oil Import bill predicament
- India, which imports over 85 percent of its crude oil needs, is gradually building capacity to produce fuel from such items as crop stubble, plant waste, and municipal solid waste.
- India, as the world’s third-largest consumer and importer of oil, grapples with the enduring challenge of its surging oil import bill.
- This financial burden poses substantial risks to the nation’s economic stability and fiscal health.
- The GBA presents a promising solution by promoting the utilization of biofuels.
- India can diversify its energy portfolio and reduce reliance on expensive oil imports.
- Through technology transfer and support for domestic biofuel production, the GBA could substantially alleviate the fiscal strain imposed by oil imports.
- Ease of use and avaiability:
- Compared to other alternative fuel options, biofuels are easily available and have fewer limitations of geography.
- Biofuel can be stored, burned and pumped the same way as petroleum diesel fuel.
- They can be used in pure forms or blended easily.
- Low cost:
- The cost involved in biofuels is lesser when compared to other sources like petrol and diesel.
- Beneficial for India’s ambitious climate plans:
- India plans to build 12 bio-refineries to produce fuel from items including crop stubble, plant waste and municipal solid waste.
- While India is on schedule to double the mixing of ethanol extracted from sugarcane and agriculture waste to 20 percent with petrol by 2025, it is also setting up dozens of compressed biogas (CBG) plants.
- India is targeting to become carbon neutral by 2070 and is expanding use of biofuel in its transport sector.
Current scenario of India’s oil import or consumption
- India is the world’s third-largest oil consumer at around 5 million barrels a day, behind the US and China.
- The oil demand is growing at 3-4% a year in the country.
- According to the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC), India imported 212.2 million tonnes of crude oil in 2021-22, up from 196.5 million tonne in the previous year.
- India produced a total of 2.50 million metric tonnes (MMT) of crude oil in July 2023 – registering a growth of 2.1 per cent compared to the year-ago period.
- Crude oil imports decreased by 6.3 per cent.
- Technology transfer, especially from the US, may encounter resistance due to concerns about technological secrecy.
- Geopolitical contestation, particularly with China and Russia, could hinder membership expansion.
- Establishing a sustainable funding mechanism and addressing import restrictions on biofuels are also crucial hurdles.
- Environmental concerns, such as water usage and land allocation, must be addressed to ensure the alliance’s sustainability.
- The establishment of the Global Biofuels Alliance heralds a new era in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions.
- Nations worldwide are coming together to champion biofuels, recognizing their pivotal role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
- For India, this alliance offers a pathway to reduce its reliance on costly oil imports, enhance energy security, and foster economic growth.
- Through technology transfers and support for domestic biofuel production, the GBA can significantly contribute to India’s efforts to tackle its oil import bill problem.
- Moreover, the cost-effective production of biofuels has the potential to transform the industry, making it more competitive and attractive to investors.
- As economies of scale are realized, biofuel production can emerge as a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, driving a greener and more sustainable energy landscape.
- This strategic move places India at the forefront of global climate action, reinforcing its position in the fight against climate change.
- Furthermore, the GBA can empower India to enhance biofuel exports and achieve greater energy independence, thereby reducing fiscal deficits and inflation.
- It also offers the potential to create numerous employment opportunities and improve the financial status of farmers, especially sugarcane producers burdened by overproduction.
Topic 4: G-20 Satellite Mission for Environment and Climate Observation
Why in news: India proposed to launch a G-20 Satellite Mission for Environment and Climate Observation, with an aim to help the countries of the Global South.
- The climate and weather data obtained from this will be shared with all the countries, especially the countries of the Global South.
- India invites all G-20 countries to join this initiative.
- India had earlier launched a satellite for the benefit of the Saarc countries, popularly called Saarc Satellite, in 2017 as a part of its ‘neighbourhood first policy’.
- Its aim was to provide crucial information on tele-medicine, tele-education, banking and television broadcasting opportunities to its South Asian neighbours.
- India has also been working with the US on the world’s most sophisticated dual-band NASA-ISRO satellite (NISAR), which will map the entire globe in 12 days.
- It will provide spatially and temporally consistent data for understanding changes in the Earth’s ecosystems, ice mass, vegetation biomass, sea level rise, ground water and natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.
Topic 5: What should be done with electronic waste?
Why in news: A recently released report has talked about changing the outlook on e-waste management.
- The Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) released a report on ‘Pathways to Circular Economy in Indian Electronics Sector,’ following a government effort with NITI Aayog to explore opportunities to harness e-waste.
- The report talks about changing the outlook on e-waste management to build a system where discarded electronics can have a new life, either by themselves, or by reintroducing components and precious metals into new hardware.
- There could be an additional $7 billion market opportunity in harnessing e-waste.
Does India have e-waste management?
- E-waste management is largely informal in India, as in the case of recycling.
- Roughly 90% of collection and 70% of the recycling are managed by a very competitive informal sector.
- The Union Government notified the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022 in order to digitise the process and provide more visibility to the movement of e-waste in the economy.
- The informal sector relies on a number of tools and techniques to stay competitive.
- For instance, ‘cannibalisation,’ a euphemism for repair shops buying whole devices and breaking them down to serve as spare parts for repair.
- As tariffs for finished products are sometimes lower than they are for parts, this works out in the repair shop’s favour.
Significance of a circular economy:
- Demand for electronics is growing across all price segments, even as the production of these devices entails the use of scarce elements and high emissions.
- Instead of merely salvaging these parts, a circular economy seeks to bring them back into the electronics ecosystem.
- Every material as it’s produced on earth is a resource and not waste.
- There needed to be a policy push to encourage manufacturers to reuse old components
- By 2019, China ensured that 5% of their secondary raw material went into manufacturing of new products and by 2030, they are targeting 35%.
How can e-waste be recycled?
- Public-private partnership:
- The ICEA report suggests public-private partnerships to distribute the costs of setting up a sprawling “reverse supply chain,”.
- It is an expensive prospect that envisages collecting devices from users, wiping them clean of personal data, and passing them along for further processing and recycling.
- A database:
- It also suggests launching an auditable database of materials collected through this process, and creating geographical clusters where these devices come together and are broken apart.
- A key recommendation is to incentivise so-called ‘high yield’ recycling centres.
- Facilities that recycle are generally not equipped to extract the full potential value of the products they handle, for instance extracting minute but precious amounts of rare earth metals in semiconductors.
- The IT Ministry launched a scheme to cover 25% of the capital expenditure on such facilities.
- Repair and longevity of products:
- Simply encouraging repair and making products last longer by supporting a right to repair by users is also a policy recommendation that may reduce the environmental burden of electronic waste.
- Hard to manage informal sector:
- The large informal sector is hard to track or hold to environmental norms.
- Consumers unwilling to give out used devices:
- For instance, a whopping 200 million devices are estimated to be lying at consumers’ homes, who don’t hand them in for recycling after they stop using them.
- Many people are concerned about what may happen to the personal data on their devices if they hand them in for recycling.
- Huge costs involved:
- Building recycling plants on a large scale also requires more than the initial capital costs.
- Material is a real challenge for our economic growth as firms don’t have material.
- The materials to stabilise these plants are scattered,.
- Making a circular economy out of e-waste is tempting, especially given the unpredictable supply chains for electronics components.
- Extracting the full value of electronics is capital intensive, and will require better clustering of materials, and a viable business model.
- The challenge is to be able to replicate the success of the informal sector in a formalised and reliable way.
- A shrinking availability of ‘virgin’ components may not be a prospect that can be ignored for too long.
- It is only a matter of time before the country has to focus on how to give a second life not just to products but also to parts.
Topic 6: Online games of chance vs games of skill
Why in news: The Supreme Court ordered an interim stay on the Karnataka High Court ruling that online games like rummy are not taxable as ‘betting’ and ‘gambling’ under the Central Goods and Services (GST) Act, 2017.
- This comes after the Union Cabinet approved the GST Council’s recent decision to hike the GST rate for online games from 18% to 28%.
- The stay indicates that online skill games played for stakes are at par with online gambling when it comes to matters of taxation, as of now.
- It also undoes the Karnataka High Court’s order differentiating games of chance from games of skill and reasoning that the two should be taxed differently.
- Karnataka High Court ruling dealt with the question of whether onlinegames would be considered games of skill or chance under Entry 6 of Schedule III of the Goods and Services Act, 2017.
- It entails that lottery, betting, and gambling are taxable as actionable claims.
- Games of skill attract 19% GST, while games of chance attract 28% GST.
Games of skill vs games of chance
- The Karnataka High Court said that there is a distinct difference between games of skill and games of chance.
- The HC struck down parts of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021, which amended the principal Act of 1963 to treat games of skill on par with games of chance and resulted in the criminalisation of playing or facilitating online games.
- Before this, in 2020, the Supreme Court held that lottery, betting, and gambling can be subjected to tax.
- However, the Karnataka HC in the present case observed that the question of whether a game of skill, either wholly or predominantly, could still be classified as lottery, betting, and gambling remained to be seen.
Topic 7: False promise to marry
Why in news: If a man promises to marry a woman but never intends to, and still has ‘consensual’ sex with her, it will amount to a criminal offence under Section 69 of the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023.
- The Bill, which seeks to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, identifies ‘sexual intercourse on false promise of marriage’ as an offence.
- At present, the offence is not carved out separately in the IPC, but courts have dealt with similar cases through other provisions within the criminal law framework.
- It describes sexual intercourse by employing deceitful means etc.
- Section 69 creates two violations:
- one by deceitful means, and
- one by a ‘false promise to marry.’
- Deceitful means will include:
- the false promise of employment or promotion,
- inducement or marrying after suppressing identity
- The false promise to marry will be attracted only when a man makes a promise to marry a woman, with the intention of breaking it, for the purpose of getting her consent and sexually exploiting her.
- Both offences will extract a penalty of up to ten years of imprisonment.
How has the IPC dealt with cases of ‘false promise to marry’?
- In 2016, a quarter of the total rape cases registered in Delhi pertained to sex under ‘false promise of marriage’, as per Delhi Police data.
- The National Crime Records Bureau in the same year recorded 10,068 similar cases of rape by known persons on a promise to marry the victim.
- These cases happen in one of two ways:
- when rape is committed, the promise of marriage is used to silence the victim, or
- where the promise is made to convince the person into entering a sexual relationship.
- Previously, these cases were dealt with through a joint reading of Sections 375 and 90 of the IPC.
- Section 375, defines rape and consent.
- Consent is defined as an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates a willingness to participate in the specific sexual act.
- Section 90 says consent, given under “fear of injury” or “misconception of fact,”cannot be considered as consent.
- Cases of false promise to marry are dealt with under this, where a ‘misconception’ is used to assess the validity of consent.
- Section 375, defines rape and consent.
Difference between ‘false promise’ and ‘breach of promise’
- The law has distinguished between a ‘false promise’ and a ‘breach of promise’ on the basis of proving if the man intended to marry at the time of engaging in sex.
- The Supreme Court observed that a false promise is given on the understanding by its maker that it will be broken.
- But a breach of promise is made in good faith but subsequently not fulfilled.
- Put simply, if a man can prove he intended to marry the woman before he entered into a sexual relationship, but later is unable to due to whatever reason, it is not legally punishable.
- The Supreme Court in 2022 held that consensual sex on a ‘genuine’ promise of marriage does not constitute rape.
- The court, in such cases, must very carefully examine whether the complainant had actually wanted to marry the victim or had mala fide motives and had made a false promise to this effect only to satisfy his lust, as the latter falls within the ambit of cheating or deception.
- Circumstances are shorthand for social norms that uphold the status quo, reinforcing gender roles, patriarchy and caste lines.
- In its present form, the Bill doesn’t dissolve the confused distinction between ‘false promise’ and ‘breach of promise,’ and overlooks the inherent limitations in criminal law.
- Such applications promote restrictive ideas about women, marriage and consent which hinder women’s autonomy and re-victimise them.
- The vagueness, and discretionary nature of rulings, often power the narrative that these are instances of ‘love gone sour.’
- The law promotes endogamy and shifts the conversation away from the real harm and abuse that women face.
- Without clarity on ‘justifiable intentions’, the Bill would empower a cycle where the consequences of crime are specified, but the consequences of harm, which women bear, are overlooked.