Daily Current Affairs 06.02.2023( Five new appointments in SC signal that collegium has prevailed over Union govt, India’s just energy transition is more than a coal story, The discrepancies in the latest AISHE report )

Daily Current Affairs 06.02.2023( Five new appointments in SC signal that collegium has prevailed over Union govt, India’s just energy transition is more than a coal story, The discrepancies in the latest AISHE report )


1. Five new appointments in SC signal that collegium has prevailed over Union govt.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud is scheduled to read out the oath of allegiance to the Constitution to five new judges of the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday. The occasion will see the largest number of top court judges taking oath simultaneously in nearly two years.

Monday’s swearing-in is also a sign that the court has prevailed over the government’s continuous attacks on the collegium system. The court has refused to let the disparaging public comments made by government functionaries about the collegium affect it. Instead, the court had used the opportunity to put pressure on the government through judicial orders and collegium resolutions to clear pending appointments. The court has also used the acrimony initiated by the Centre to set down some ground rules for the government while making judicial appointments.

For one, the collegium has given a clear direction that seniority of the names recommended should be kept intact by the government. The Centre should not pick one or two of the names recommended in a batch and appoint them as judges while keeping the rest pending. The government has complied with the collegium’s wishes in the case of the five names.

A collegium resolution of January 31 had specified that the new names should only be appointed after Justices Pankaj Mithal, Sanjay Karol, P.V. Sanjay Kumar, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Manoj Misra, who were recommended on December 13 last year. “The names recommended by the Collegium by its resolution on December 13, 2022, shall have precedence over the two names recommended presently for appointment to the Supreme Court. The appointments of five judges recommended on December 13 should be notified separately and earlier in point of time before the two judges recommended by this resolution,” the resolution said.

Second, the court has made subtle but effective changes in the collegium’s functioning while making it clear that the collegium system is law as of now, and the government is welcome to bring a better one.

Detailed resolutions

Resolutions are no longer a short list of names recommended for judgeships. They have once again become detailed, publishing reasons and discussions undertaken about the candidates. In fact, the extent of the collegium’s transparency has even made Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, an advocate of transparency within the collegium, react that some things should remain secret.

On January 18, the collegium let the public know about the government’s objections concerning the sexuality of Saurabh Kirpal, an openly gay lawyer recommended for the Delhi High Court. “Every individual is entitled to maintain their own dignity and individuality, based on sexual orientation,” the collegium had replied.

2.  Editorial-1: India’s just energy transition is more than a coal story

India’s G-20 presidency is an opportunity for New Delhi to negotiate a deal for itself while also shaping international cooperation on just energy transitions.

Just Energy Transition Partnership (JET-P) is emerging as the key mechanism for multilateral financing by developed countries to support an energy transition in developing countries. This has taken on particular significance following the insertion of the phrase ‘phase-down’ of coal in the Glasgow Pact. After South Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam, India is considered the next candidate for a JET-Partnership. India’s G-20 presidency could potentially be an opportune moment to forge a deal. However, India must develop a coherent domestic just energy transition (JET) strategy in order to negotiate a financing deal that addresses its unique set of socio-economic challenges. So, what would a JET strategy for India look like? What can India offer and seek from a multilateral JET-Partnership?

Issues that concern transitions

Energy transitions could give rise to intra-generational, intergenerational, and spatial equity concerns. Transitions affect near-term fossil-dependent jobs, disrupt forms of future energy access, shrink State’s capacity to spend on welfare programmes, and thus exacerbate existing economic inequities between coal and other regions.

Existing JET-P deals, pay limited attention to intra-generational inequity, such as job losses resulting from a coal phase-down. However, among the three JET-P deals signed so far, only South Africa’s deal mentions a ‘just’ component — funding reskilling and alternative employment opportunities in the coal mining regions — to be financed as part of the initial $8.5 billion mobilisation. The other two JET-Ps ( Indonesia and Vietnam) are focused on mitigation finance for sector-specific transitions.

Initial JET-P negotiations for India last year have reportedly remained stalled over whether and how India should consider coal ‘phase-down’ and how to operationalise India’s just transition. The emphasis by developed countries’ on coal phase-down, without adequate attention to country context, disregards the crucial difference in energy transition between industrialised and emerging economies. Energy transition in the industrialised world involves a natural tapering of energy consumption alongside fuel switching to clean energy sources; India’s transition requires significant simultaneous growth in energy demand. The Central Electricity Authority projects a near doubling of electricity demand by 2030. A country that is likely to multiply its energy demand requires adequate supply from a diverse mix of sources. India cannot afford to put its development on hold while decarbonising.

The path to a clean energy quest

India has signalled a commitment to clean energy with ambitious targets like 500GW of non-fossil, including 450 GW renewable energy (RE) capacity addition and 43% RE purchase obligation by 2030. These targets are supported through complementary policy and legislative mandates (Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act), missions (National Green Hydrogen Mission), fiscal incentives (production-linked incentives) and market mechanisms (upcoming national carbon market). These interventions show India’s serious efforts at energy transition, but additional supplementary measures are needed for a coherent JET strategy.

Here are three sets of actions that could further expedite India’s energy transition while also addressing domestic developmental priorities, and justice and equity concerns.

First, acceleration in RE deployment rates to match the pace of demand growth is critical to India’s JET. While RE deployment has outpaced coal in recent years, in 2021-22, coal power served one-third of the new demand. Meeting India’s 2030 target requires accelerating non-fossil capacity addition from 16 GW a year in 2022 to 75 GW a year by 2030, a 22% year-on-year growth. Despite sustained efforts India missed its 2022 target for 175 GW RE capacity. The gap is largely in decentralised deployment, which is more promising for acceleration.

We suggest two complementary paths to accelerate RE deployment that can have significant developmental co-benefits. A low-hanging option is shifting energy demand patterns in ways that enable faster RE capacity addition: solarisation of agricultural electricity demand; electrification of diesel-powered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); and decentralised RE for residential cooking and heating. Stimulation of energy demand through rural productivity enhancement will further aid RE acceleration as well as help to address the rural-urban economic divide, create rural jobs, and thereby address inter-generational and spatial inequities.

Second, domestic manufacturing of clean energy components is critical to sustain a JET, build energy self-sufficiency, and tap the green jobs promise of 21st century energy. While India has recognised the importance of domestic manufacturing, the challenge is in achieving cost competitiveness — Indian components are 20% costlier than Chinese components. Giving preference to domestic components without addressing cost competitiveness may slow down the pace of deployment. The way around this is to negotiate access to markets outside India as part of a JET-Partnership, to reduce the cost gap through economies of scale.

On coal use

Third, there is a case for re-aligning the current use of coal resources to enhance efficiencies until the period of phase-down. One option is to optimise use of coal-fired power plants closer to where coal is mined rather than based on energy demand in States. This would enable coal to be used more efficiently because transportation of coal is more energy-intensive than transmission of electrons, and also lead to fewer emissions. It would also lead to cheaper power, as transportation accounts for one-third of the cost of coal for power plants; the resultant savings could also help finance much needed emission control retrofits. Finally, and not least, it would indirectly reduce emissions due to more efficient use of coal.

Moreover, by using coal more efficiently, this policy shift opens the door to India considering a future cap on coal-powered generation capacity. Current generation capacity plus plants in the pipeline are adequate to meet India’s projected requirement in 2030. Low capacity utilisation factor (58% in 2022) further allows the possibility of greater use of existing plants to match future demand. By leading to cheaper and more efficient power, the coal re-alignment proposed here helps address energy security concerns, making it possible to even consider a future coal-based power capacity cap.

These measures will not only address equity concerns across various dimensions but also create new job opportunities, achieve emissions reduction and prepare the country for deeper decarbonisation through a future coal phase-down. However, as has been stressed by many, the investment requirements for this transition are beyond the means of domestic mobilisation for developing countries. Any future JET-P deal must consider this broader framework for financing and supporting an energy transition. With India holding the G-20 presidency, it has an opportunity at hand to negotiate a deal for itself while also shaping international cooperation on just energy transitions.

3. Editorial-2: The discrepancies in the latest AISHE report

Significant inconsistencies were observed in population projections and Gross Enrolment Ratio calculations

The recently released All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-21 report had revised the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education retrospectively for the previous four years, by recalculating it based on population projections as per the 2011 Census. Previous reports had used projections based on the 2001 Census.

GER, expressed as a percentage, is calculated by dividing the total enrolment in higher education courses by the projected population in the 18-23 age group. Based on these retrospective revisions, the GER of most States and India went up or down between 2016 and 2019. However, a comparison of the population projections used in the AISHE 2020-21 report with the Census of India (CoI)’s Report by a Technical Group on Population Projection, released in July 2020, shows variations. The CoI report is used by various ministries. In fact, the Education Ministry, which released the AISHE report, has ascertained the population in the 18-23 age group using the CoI report. The same is on its website.

Chart 1 shows Tamil Nadu’s population projection used in the AISHE 2020-21 report between 2016 and 2020 and the population projection based on the CoI report. For the first four years, there are sharp deviations between the two projections. The figures based on the CoI report show a gradual decline between 2016 and 2020, whereas the population figures in the AISHE 2020-21 show an increase for the first four years and a sharp drop in 2020.

Despite both the reports using the 2011 Census for population projections, the numbers vary widely. Given that the projected population forms the denominator in the GER calculation, that figure too changed significantly.

Chart 2 shows Tamil Nadu’s GER in higher education according to the AISHE 2020-21 report based on the 2011 Census and the State’s GER according to the AISHE 2019-20 report, based on the 2001 Census. Across all the years, GER was revised downwards in the recent report. Specifically, according to the old report, in 2019-20, Tamil Nadu’s GER had crossed 50%, which was marked as a key achievement by a major State. This has been revised to 49% in the latest report (2020-21).

Notably, even if the population projections given in AISHE 2020-21 were used to calculate GER, the numbers do not match with the ones given in the report.

Table 3 calculates GER using the population projections (B) and the enrolment figures (A), both taken from the AISHE 2020-21 report for Tamil Nadu. The calculated figures (C) by the data team do not match with the ones stated in the report (D).

Moreover, in Himachal Pradesh, the projected population in the 18-23 age group for 2019 was revised upwards by 6% in the AISHE 2020-21 report compared to the AISHE 2019-20 report. However, despite this revision, the State’s GER for 2019 remained the same (40.8%) in both the reports.

Though Tamil Nadu was used as an example to highlight these discrepancies in the latest AISHE survey, as shown in Graphs 4A and 4B, such variations in population projections and GER calculations were recorded in other States as well. For instance, as shown in Chart 4A, the difference in population numbers between the latest AISHE figures and the CoI’s numbers for 2016 in Uttar Pradesh was more than 8 lakh. As shown in Chart 4B, a difference of 2.3% points was observed between the calculated GER and the GER stated in the latest AISHE report in Himachal Pradesh for 2019.

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