1. Europe’s concerns about the U.S. IRA
What are the provisions of the new Inflation Reduction Act of the United States? Why has the French President described the Act as ‘super aggressive’ toward European companies? Are the EU’s fears about the new legislation valid? How has the Biden administration responded?
French President Emmanuel Macron during his two-day visit to the U.S. questioned Joe Biden about clean energy subsidies in the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which European countries believe are discriminatory to non-American companies. Addressing lawmakers at the Library of Congress, Mr. Macron described the IRA as “super aggressive” toward European companies. The EU has asked for a resolution of its concerns before the Act kicks in on January 1 next year.
What is the U.S. IRA?
Signed into law on August 16, the IRA is a $430 billion package of federal spending, tax breaks, credits, and levies, aimed at fighting climate change, reducing healthcare costs, and making large corporations pay their “fair share” in taxes. The Act is a scaled-down version of Mr. Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better plan that did not get the Senate’s approval in 2021. Besides its goal of bringing down inflation, the Act is the biggest climate action package in U.S. history — earmarking $370 billion for climate-focused funding and investments aimed at cutting emissions by around 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. The IRA combines climate action goals with industrial policy, aiming to transition to clean energy by incentivising local manufacturing of renewable energy components. It also seeks to reduce American reliance on China for materials and components for the clean energy industry.
In order to bolster clean energy development in the U.S., the IRA provides consumer and industry-side incentives. To promote the use of electric vehicles (EV) and to secure domestic supply chains for their manufacturing, the federal tax incentive policy for EVs has been changed. Now, only passenger EVs assembled in North America are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit incentive. Those who buy used EVs will be eligible for a $4,000 tax credit if 40% of the critical minerals used in the car batteries are extracted, processed and recycled in North America or a country having a free-trade agreement with Washington.
Additionally, the Act offers $10 billion investment tax credit to build clean technology manufacturing facilities, two billion dollars in grants for refurbishing existing auto manufacturing facilities to make zero-emission vehicles, and up to $20 billion in loans to build new EV manufacturing facilities across the country. It also offers billions in federal procurement to American-made clean technologies.
What are Europe’s concerns?
Europe’s high energy dependence on Russia led to energy shocks in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, leading to energy shortages, skyrocketing power prices, and a harsh winter. The 27 member countries of the EU fear that the IRA tax credits and subsidies to EVs and other green product makers in North America and free-trade partner countries put European companies at a disadvantage and may push these companies to move critical parts of their supply chains to America. The EU’s own new green plan ‘Fit for 55’ is targeting to cut CO2 emissions from cars by 55% and vans by 50% by 2030 and all emissions from cars by 2035. For this, it will need to significantly increase its uptake of EVs. Although China dominates the EV purchasing market, Europe has also been posting high growth in EV demand vis-a-vis the total auto demand, even faster than the U.S. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nine of the top 10 countries by share of EVs in the total car stock are in Europe. To meet its emissions targets, the EU will benefit from its local automakers ramping up manufacturing, but the IRA raises fears of automakers moving to the U.S. Mr. Macron in November hosted several European CEOs of energy, auto, and pharma companies to convince them to not move manufacturing to America. Europe’s fears may not be unfounded as several automakers, battery makers and energy companies have already made announcements or shown interest in setting up shop in America. South Korea and Japan have also raised similar concerns. For instance, Reuters reported that Swedish battery maker Northvolt was set to establish a lithium-ion battery factory in Germany, Europe’s top car manufacturer, but after the IRA, the company’s CEO Peter Carlsson said that it could get up to 800 million euros ($836 million) in U.S. state subsidies, which was nearly four times what the German government was offering. EU members claim that around 200 billion euros of the subsidies are for locally produced content provisions, which they say potentially violates the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
What is the U.S.’s stand?
At a joint press conference during Mr. Macron’s visit, President Joe Biden said that there was room for “tweaks” in the IRA to “make it easier for European countries to participate” and that it was “never intended” to exclude cooperating countries. However, he stressed that the “U.S. makes no apology” for promoting American manufacturing and would continue to create jobs for its people.
2. How is TRAI proposing to help callers identify spammers?
What is the new feature the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is planning to introduce? What is its function? What are the concerns?
On November 29, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) floated a consultation paper seeking comments about the potential introduction of a Calling Name Presentation (CNAP) feature. The feature would provide an individual with information about the calling party (similar to ‘Truecaller’ and ‘Bharat Caller ID & Anti-Spam’). The idea is to ensure that telephone subscribers are able to make an informed choice about incoming calls and curb harassment by unknown or spam callers. Comments for the consultation paper are invited until December 27.
What is its purpose?
Existing technologies present the number of the calling entity on the potential receiver’s handset. Since subscribers are not given the name and identity of the caller, they sometimes choose not to answer them believing it could be unsolicited commercial communication from unregistered telemarketers. This could lead to even genuine calls being unanswered.
Additionally, there have been rising concerns about robocalls (calls made automatically using IT-enabled systems with a pre-recorded voice), spam calls and fraudulent calls. Truecaller’s ‘2021 Global Spam and Scam Report’ revealed that the average number of spam calls per user each month in India, stood at 16.8 while total spam volumes received by its users were in excess of 3.8 billion calls in October alone. Smartphone users, at present, rely on in-built features or third-party apps to mark and tackle spam calls. However, as per the regulator, their reliance on crowd-sourced data may not be reliable.
Are there concerns about privacy?
Isha Suri, a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), opines that, notwithstanding the utility, it is not particularly clear how the CNAP mechanism would balance the caller’s right to remain anonymous, an essential component of the right to privacy. To put it into perspective, an individual may opt to remain anonymous for multiple reasons, for example, whistle-blowers or employees being harassed. She observed that because customers accord consent only to their operators when completing the prerequisite KYC formalities for a connection, it would be ideal that a framework for the feature is developed along those lines rather than asking a centralised database operated by a third party to host and share data (one of the proposed models). “You have to see it in parallel with The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill (2022) which has a clause on deemed consent lacking adequate safeguards including sharing of data with third parties,” Ms. Suri said.
Would the provisions be enough?
Previously, telemarketers were required to be registered as promotional numbers, making it easier to identify and block them. However, CEO and Founder of LocalCircles Sachin Taparia told The Hindu, that marketers have started deploying people who are not necessarily part of the entity’s set-up, but rather “at-home workers” to whom work is being outsourced. They are given SIM cards not registered to a particular company, but rather to the individual themselves. Mr. Taparia says, “Just by showing the identity would not mean much, once the system (to identity and mark spammers) gets built and hundreds of people are able to utilise the system, only then would the system have a meaningful impact.” Ms. Suri adds that the government must also invest in digital literacy, skilling citizens to navigate and use the tech better, ensuring they do not share their data indiscriminately and are informed about dangers such as financial frauds and spoofing.
3. New labour codes give a free hand to employers: unions
International workers’ groups criticise Centre’s policies at ILO regional meeting in Singapore, say workers demand a new social contract
International workers’ groups criticised the Centre’s labour policies, including the four new labour codes, at the 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which began here on Tuesday.
India’s new labour codes violate the tripartite agreements — among workers, employers and the government — and give a free hand to employers, alleged Felix Anthony, workers’ representative in the APRM and senior leader of the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC).
Speaking at a session of the APRM, Mr. Anthony added that trade unions in India had been opposing such policies.
The power of inspection has been left with employers through the new codes, and it will threaten the tripartite system in the country, he said, adding that the workers are asking for a new social contract. “A contract with governments and employers, particularly at the national level. A contract which is based on the availability of decent jobs for all; respect of rights for all; fair wages including minimum wage; adequate and easily available social protection; respect for equality; inclusiveness and no forms of any discrimination,” he said.
Hiro Matsui, vice-president of the International Organisation of Employers’ Asia chapter, said that declining productivity growth had a negative impact on workers, on the sustainability of enterprises — especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises — on economies, and on communities.
Intervening in a discussion on the report tabled by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, Minister of State for Labour Rameswar Teli said India had the largest youth population in the world and it was observing a technological and entrepreneurial boom with start-ups and small businesses mushrooming across the country.
He said that 90% of the workforce belonged to the unorganised sector and there were persistent challenges of low-paid jobs and poor working conditions.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
The ILO was established as an agency for the League of Nations following World War I.
- It was established by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
- Its founders had made great strides in social thought and action before the establishment of the organization itself.
- It became the first specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) in the year 1946.
- The ILO has played a significant role in promoting labour and human rights. It had held a significant position during the Great Depression (1930s) for ensuring labour rights.
- It played a key role in the decolonization process and in the victory over apartheid in South Africa.
- The organization got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969, for its efforts to improve peace amongst the classes, and for promoting justice and fair work for the workers.
The ILO is the only tripartite U.N. agency. The ILO is a meeting point for governments, workers and employers of ILO’s member States to set labour standards, improve upon policies and create programs that promote decent work for people. The four strategic objectives at the heart of the Decent Work agenda are:
- To develop and effectuate standards, fundamental principles, and fundamental rights at work.
- To ensure that men and women have equal access to decent work while enhancing opportunities for the same.
- To magnify the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for everyone.
- To strengthen Tripartism and social dialogue.
The basis of the ILO is the tripartite principle. The ILO comprises the International Labour Conference, the Governing Body, and the International Labour Office.
- International Labour Conference:
- The progressive policies of the ILO are set by the International Labour Conference.
- The Conference is an annual event, which happens in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference brings together all the representatives of the ILO.
- Function: It is a panel for the review of the important issues regarding labour.
- Governing Body:
- The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Organization.
- The governing body meets in Geneva. It meets three times annually.
- The Office is the secretariat of the Organization.
- It is composed of 56 titular members, and 66 deputy members.
- Makes decisions regarding the agenda and the policies of the International Labour Conference.
- It adopts the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference.
- Election of the Director-General.
- International Labour Office:
- It is the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization.
- Functions: It decides the activities for ILO and is supervised by the Governing Body and the Director-General.
- The ILO member States hold periodically regional meetings to discuss the relevant issues of the concerned regions.
- Each of the ILO’s 183 Member States has the right to send four delegates to the Conference: two from government and one each representing workers and employers, each of whom may speak and vote independently.T
The ILO plays an important role in the formulation of policies which are focussed on solving labour issues. The ILO also has other functions, such as:
- It adopts international labour standards. They are adopted in the form of conventions. It also controls the implementation of its conventions.
- It aids the member states in resolving their social and labour problems.
- It advocates and works for the protection of Human rights.
- It is responsible for the research and publication of information regarding social and labour issues.
- The Trade Unions play a pivotal role in developing policies at the ILO, thus the Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the secretariat is dedicated to strengthening independent and democratic trade unions so they can better defend workers’ rights and interests.
- The ILO also assumes a supervisory role: it monitors the implementation of ILO conventions ratified by member states.
- The implementation is done through the Committee of Experts, the International Labour Conference’s Tripartite Committee and the member-states.
- Member states are obligated to send reports on the development of the implementation of the conventions they have approved.
- Registration of complaints: The ILO registers complaints against entities that are violating international rules.
- The ILO, however, does not impose any sanctions on the governments.
- Complaints can also be filed against member states for not complying with ILO conventions that have been ratified.
- International Labour Standards: The ILO is also responsible for setting International Labour Standards. The international labour conventions which are set by the ILO are ratified by the member states. These are mostly non-binding in nature.
- But once a member state accepts conventions, it becomes legally binding. The conventions are often used to bring national laws in alignment with international standards.
- ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work: The formation of an ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work marks the second stage in the ILO Future of Work Initiative.
- The Commission outlines a vision for a human-centred agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work and decent and sustainable work.
- It also describes the challenges caused by new technology, climate change and demography and appeals for a collective global response to the disturbances being caused in the world of work.
The ILO’s mission is to promote decent work for all workers. This is accomplished by promoting social dialogue, protection, and employment generation.
- The ILO provides technical support along with the support of development partners to multiple countries in order to achieve this mission.
Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
The Declaration was adopted in 1998, and it mandates the member states to promote the eight fundamental principles and rights. The Fundamental Principles and Rights are categorized into four classes. They are:
- Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining (Conventions 87 and 98)
- Elimination of forced or compulsory labour (Conventions No. 29 and No. 105)
- Abolition of child labour (Conventions No. 138 and No. 182)
- Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Conventions No. 100 and No. 111).
- As part of the Follow-up to the Declaration, the ILO Director-General also submits a Global Report on one of the four categories of fundamental principles and rights at work to the tripartite International Labour Conference.
The eight fundamental conventions form an indispensable part of the United Nations Human Rights Framework, and their sanction is an important sign of member States’ commitment to human rights. Overall, 135 member States have ratified all eight fundamental conventions.
- The eight-core conventions of the ILO are:
- Forced Labour Convention (No. 29)
- Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No.105)
- Equal Remuneration Convention (No.100)
- Discrimination (Employment Occupation) Convention (No.111)
- Minimum Age Convention (No.138)
- Worst forms of Child Labour Convention (No.182)
- Freedom of Association and Protection of Right to Organised Convention (No.87)
- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No.98)
- The conventions are highly relevant due to the economic challenges faced by workers all around the world.
International Labour Organization and India
India is a founding member of the ILO. It became a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body in 1922. The first ILO Office in India was inaugurated in 1928.
- India has ratified six fundamental conventions.
- India has not ratified Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
- As the two conventions involve the granting of certain rights that are prohibited under the statutory rules for government employees.
Labour Movement in India
The growth of the trade union movement in India was an organic process. It started towards the tail end of the nineteenth century and has had a parallel development to India’s industrial development. The difficulties of the workers’ lives came into light during the 1850s. The labour movement in India can be categorized into two phases: the first phase lasting from the 1850s -1918, and the second from 1918- till Independence.
- The origin of the labour movements in India can be traced back to the 1860s, however, the first agitation occurred only in 1875.
- The actions of the working class in the earliest stage were sporadic and disorganized in nature and hence were mostly futile.
- It was only from the second decade of the twentieth century in Bombay, that serious attempts were made for the formation of associations that could lead an organized form of protests.
- The second phase witnessed the sporadic protests obtain an organized form. During this phase, Trade Unions were formed on modern lines.
- The first labour tumult occurred in Bombay, 1875 under the leadership of S.S Bengalee.
- It concentrated on the plight of workers, especially women and children.
- This agitation led to the appointment of the first Factory Commission, 1875.
- The first Factories Act was passed in 1881 consequently.
- In 1890, M.N Lokhande established Bombay Mill Hands Association. This was the first organized labour union in India.
- The 1920s was significant in this regard. Congress and the Communists made serious attempts to mobilize and establish a connection with the working class.
- The first attempt to form an all-India organization was also made in the 1920s.
- Features of the labour movements in this era:
- Leadership was exemplified by social reformers and not by the workers themselves.
- The movements in this era mainly concentrated on the welfare of workers rather than asserting their rights.
- They were organized, but there was no pan India presence.
- A strong intellectual foundation or agenda was missing.
- Their demands revolved around issues like that of women and children workers.
4. Editorial-1: Scenarios for the future of India, and the world
Making predictions of the economic growth of nations — long term, annual, and quarterly — is a lucrative industry employing many economists, researchers, analysts, and commentators. The fast growth of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) economies was forecast by economists at the turn of the millennium. The prediction had a large impact on the public imagination and on corporate investments.
A tale on forecasting
Some industry leaders in the World Economic Forum (WEF) were wary. They recalled that economists in the 1980s, extrapolating the remarkable post-war performance of Japan, had predicted that the 21st century would be Japan’s century. Few economists then had predicted the quick collapse of the Soviet Union or foresaw China’s remarkable ascent. In the next decade, Japan’s growth was limping, the Soviet Union was history, and China was the country investors were being directed to. China was the economic powerhouse in the BRICS projection: India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa were the other four.
Whereas economists’ forecasts do not compute the effects of social conditions and domestic politics on economic policies, strategic thinkers in the Shell Oil company, using methods of “scenario planning”, had forecasted the collapse of the Soviet Union and integration of the Russian economy with the West. Shell redirected billions of dollars of investments beforehand and gained a strategic advantage over its competition.
Responding to its members’ needs, WEF commissioned a “scenario planning” exercise for the BRICs countries in 2004. WEF collaborated with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to prepare scenarios for India’s growth because CII had supported a similar exercise internally in 2000 and knew the methods of scenario planning.
The foundational discipline of scenario planning, which distinguishes it from conventional forecasting and planning, is “systems thinking”. Scenario planning does not begin with the data. It starts with listening to diverse points of view about what is going on within a complex system at present to understand the undercurrents that will surface and disrupt predictions of economists’ models. Scenarios depict shapes that a country’s economy may take in the future depending on changes in social and political conditions with economic growth. Systems’ scenarios include subjective perceptions of poverty and inequality, and also mistrust in institutions of governance, which are “externalities” to economists’ quantitative models.
The WEF/CII report, ‘India and the World: Scenarios to 2025’ (published in 2005) projected three scenarios of India’s future depending on the country’s economic policies. India was in an “India Shining” mood at that time: it was celebrated as “the world’s fastest growing free market democracy” to tempt western investors away from autocratic China’s even faster growing economy.
The first scenario looked deeper within India’s current reality at that time. Evocatively labelled “BollyWorld”, the scenario revealed forces which would dampen growth in the future if not responded to in good time. The opening of India’s economy had created more opportunities for private enterprises and rapid increases in the wealth of the top 1%. Millionaires were multiplying. The imported cars they owned, the expensive clothes they wore, and the champagne they drank in their parties were celebrated on “page 3” of daily papers. While entrepreneurial spirits were unleashed and young people aspired to become wealthy, signs of their increasing frustration were also visible. Violence was not restricted to rural, “Naxal” areas; petty urban crimes, many violent, were also increasing. Glamour and violence can be mixed for the entertainment of viewers of Bollywood movies. However, India’s “BollyWorld” economic growth is a real story that was becoming painful for millions of citizens living in it.
The second scenario was called “Atakta Bharat”. It showed how increasing inequality and insecurity could compel the government to impose controls on politics for security, and also compel it to play a larger role in the economy without adequate resources. A heavy-handed government would dampen India’s democracy and stall its economy. In both scenarios, BollyWorld and Atakata Bharat, the “theory of change” is top-down. Change is led by leaders on top of large organisations in government and businesses. Fortunately, a third, and more attractive scenario was also visible. Here, the changes that people need are produced by them: by local leaders of women’s self-help groups; cooperatives for water conservation, and farming and dairying; and profitable business enterprises based on local production and consumption. Such “enterprises by the people for the people”, using local resources and local energies, are more sustainable than top-down, large-scale programmes. The scenarists projected that if India’s policymakers pursued this model of change, economic growth would be more inclusive, more environmentally sustainable, and faster too. They called this scenario “Pahale India”.
The rise of reactionary forces
These scenarios were made in 2006 before the global financial crisis, to recover from which governments of the G-7 took actions to save the “too large to fail” financial institutions. The G-7 enlarged to the G-20 to stabilise global financial and economic institutions. There are tensions within the “BollyWorld” model of top-down, and wealth driven, economic growth the world has pursued in the last 30 years. Increasing inequality and insecurity around the world, rising along with “free market” globalisation, have resulted in reactionary forces in many countries, including China and Russia amongst the BRICs. They have appeared in India too.
Inequalities have further increased; top-down solutions to the global environmental crisis are producing only more hot air. Violence between powerful countries deploying the latest technologies is harming millions of innocent people around the world. The Indian scenarists had pointed to a choice before public policymakers when societal tensions increase in a “BollyWorld”-like scenario the world seems caught in. One choice is concentration of power in governments and large business monopolies for imposing more security and pushing faster GDP growth. This leads to further unrest and “Atakta” (stalling) economies. The other choice revolves around local systems solutions for environmental and economic problems, cooperatively implemented by communities. This model solves global systemic problems; it also creates a more harmonious world.
India must promote this model in the G-20 it is hosting this year. It must also adopt this “Gandhian” approach more determinedly to make “Pahale India” a reality for all Indian citizens.
5. Editorial-2: Delhi choking, but do not blame stubble burning alone
Every year around Deepavali, and like clockwork, Delhi’s air quality makes it to the headlines. But there is a problem. You would have noticed that the noise on TV channels and even newspapers over the issue dies down after one ‘strong wind speed day’ and blows the debate away. Next winter we are back to expressing outrage again. As firefighters we are doing well, but as planners doing very little. While nature will not change, emissions can be reduced.
Increasingly polluted air is a hazard and a health crisis in the making, In fact, it is already one. India now reports 2.5 million air pollution-related deaths annually. Pollution not only makes our throats and eyes burn but is much more insidious. Some pollutants are so small that they are able to enter the bloodstream with ease, impacting almost every organ in the body and leading to the onset of health issues such as stroke, heart diseases, respiratory diseases and cancer, to name just a few serious health problems. It is not just about good air. It is about life.
While a lot has been written and said about Delhi’s air quality, the question that still has to be answered is this: why is nothing changing after all these years?
The same orders again
A principal reason is that year after year, we are doing the same things to try and address the problem without actually trying to evaluate why those measures are not effective. The Government formed the Commission for Air Quality Management, which, unfortunately, did not offer anything new. This body essentially issued the same orders the Ministry and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority used to, with just a slight change in the language used. Every year schools are closed, people are advised to to stay indoors, or carpool and work from home, bans on firecrackers are reinforced, construction stopped, trucks and cars not allowed to enter the city, and industries running on fuel shut. These measures, and several others, are akin to dressing a bullet wound with bandaid. Stopping people from going about their regular work is plain bad governance.
Why Delhi’s air is bad
As the haze descends over Delhi, the blamegame begins — with stubble burning in the neighbouring States being identified as the main culprit. However, the reality is that Delhi’s air is bad even when stubble is not being burnt. The burning of biomass in and around Delhi, if audited properly, would be the same as stubble burning in other States. Unfortunately none of the bodies, be it the municipal body or the government’s Public Works Department, is willing to take responsibility for this or address and find a solution to the problem. This is not to say that stubble burning is not a problem. Some solutions have been tried out over the years, but with little success. What is required is a fundamental shift in agricultural patterns, which needs someone to make a bold political call. Unless farmers are adequately compensated, the problem is unlikely to go away. The ‘Happy Seeder’-based solution has sadly not been a happy experience. We need to acknowledge that the problem is not just Delhi-centric. For some strange reason we all talk about the airshed approach but do not spend the rest of the year trying to solve the problem. Delhi chokes on its own dust and industrial activities. Who is ensuring compliance with the rules relating to the handling of construction and demolition waste? Delhi started with much enthusiasm about roadside greening and cover. But is anyone monitoring this? Everyone seems to be looking at the data of PNG in industry, but is anyone looking at the unauthorised industries, which are a large emitter? Vehicles are another source of pollution in the city and we need to introspect why, despite an expanding fleet of public transport, citizens who primarily use two-wheelers have not moved to using the public transport system — buses and the metro. I feel the reasons for this include last-mile connectivity, the problem of crowding in buses and metros, and the inability to reach and navigate narrow lanes that two-wheelers can. The state of maintenance of buses could be another reason as well.
A no to silo functioning
We have to be creative and look beyond the measures that have already been tried and proved they are at best a short-term solution to a recurring, long-term problem. Even then a core issue that needs to be addressed is the governance system. There needs to be a single entity that takes responsibility for air quality management. We cannot operate in silos where one system of governance is responsible for thinking, a second issues orders and a third is responsible for implementation. Without an efficient system that works in a coordinated way, we will find ourselves to be in the same position years later.
The reality also is that Delhi is not the sole offender. There are many other cities in India where safe levels of air quality are breached regularly. Air quality is a problem on most days but becomes an issue around Deepavali and when stubble is being burnt. We need to take more comprehensive, long-term measures throughout the year and not just in the days and weeks when it begins to make news.
6. Editorial-3: In Pakistan, a new army chief and old issues
Lieutenant-General Asim Munir has replaced General Qamar Bajwa as Pakistan’s army chief. The delay in the announcement, an unstable political situation in Islamabad, the continuing militancy in the western provinces, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) revoking the ceasefire, and tensions with the Taliban should be the immediate concerns for him. What is being projected as the ‘Bajwa legacy’ is likely to be his primary challenge. Lt. Gen. Munir is inheriting the old issues plaguing civil-military relations as well as those that crept up during Gen. Bajwa’s tenure.
The Imran Khan challenge
There are six significant challenges for Lt. Gen. Munir. The first is Imran Khan. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Mr. Khan would not have succeeded in the 2018 elections had it not been for the establishment. ‘Project Imran’ should have been set in motion after Gen. Bajwa took office in November 2016 and after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif following the Panama Papers expose in 2017. The establishment should have decided to back the PTI as a replacement for the Sharifs’ Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Many believe that the rise of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), its violent protests in Faizabad in 2017, and its subsequent political participation were a part of political engineering in Punjab. The TLP cut into the PML-N’s traditional support base in Punjab, providing political space to the PTI. The 2018 election result was stunning: Mr. Khan won Punjab and formed the government in Islamabad. The establishment should have been elated by the removal of the PML-N from Islamabad and Punjab. However, despite proclaiming to be on the same page, Mr. Khan seemed to be on a different page. The delay in extending Gen. Bajwa’s tenure in 2019 and the differences between the army and government over choosing the new Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief in 2021 showed their differences. Finally, in April 2022, Mr. Khan had to leave after failing to prove a majority against the collective political onslaught of the Pakistan Democratic Movement. He blamed the establishment and a foreign conspiracy. The fallout with the general headquarters (GHQ) was complete when the Director-General-ISI and the DG-Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan denounced Mr. Khan’s anti-establishment narrative at a press meet. Mr. Khan said the denouncement was foolish and later accused a military officer of being part of a plot to assassinate him. How will the new army chief deal with Mr. Khan? In 2017, Mr. Khan did not have a wide support base outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Punjab. However, the recent results of the bypolls should hint at a new populist Khan.
Second, the PML-N and the PTI are polarised within and outside Parliament and in the main provincial assembly – Punjab. Mr. Khan has been threatening to upset political stability with yet another long march demanding early elections. So far, the Shehbaz Sharif government has failed to address the rising power and energy prices and provide flood relief. Pakistan needs a stable government. Mr. Khan wants the establishment to pressure the government to yield to early elections. However, Lt. Gen. Munir would like to have some time before the next polls as Gen. Bajwa did before the 2018 polls.
The third challenge relates to the establishment’s political engineering projects in Punjab and Sindh. In Punjab, Gen. Bajwa’s efforts have provided space to the PTI and the extremist TLP. The TLP undermined the PML-N vote bank to ensure that ‘Punjab minus PML-N’ materialises. In the forthcoming elections, the TLP is likely to participate in Punjab and Sindh, eating into the PML-N’s share rather than the PTI’s. Will Lt. Gen. Munir be able to put the TLP genie back? In Karachi, during Gen Bajwa’s tenure, the establishment broke the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). The MQM stands factionalised today and there are already discussions about bringing the factions together before the next elections. While it was easier for the outgoing army chief to stay out of politics, this is unlikely to be an easy call for the new chief.
The fourth challenge is to repair the establishment’s image. Earlier, the intelligence agencies could control and manipulate the media, but now individual news portals and those on social media question the establishment’s control. A case in point is the recent expose about Gen. Bajwa and his family’s economic fortunes. Despite brazen attacks on them, some journalists and media houses have been questioning the role of intelligence agencies in disappearances and attacks against them.
The last two challenges are from the western provinces and the Durand Line. The political protests in Gwadar in Balochistan are linked with the Baloch middle class’s fears about the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor than with ideological violence led by the Baloch militants. The TTP continues to operate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as seen from the recent violence in Swat Valley. On November 28, the TTP finally announced withdrawing from the ceasefire and has asked its cadres to carry out attacks whenever and wherever. Addressing militancy and a ceasefire with the TTP should have become two primary legacies of Gen. Bajwa; now, they stand as a challenge to Lt. Gen. Munir. The return of the Taliban in Kabul has not made the Durand Line easier for the establishment. The closures in the border points underline the uneasy GHQ-Taliban relationship.