1. India remains a ‘bright spot’, to contribute 15% of global growth in 2023: IMF
India continues to remain a relative “bright spot” in the world economy, and will alone contribute 15% of the global growth in 2023, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.
While digitisation pulled out the world’s fifth-largest economy from pandemic lows, prudent fiscal policy and significant financing for capital investments provided in the next year’s Budget will help sustain the growth momentum.
“India’s performance has been quite impressive. For this year, we expect India to retain a high growth rate, 6.8% for the year that ends in March. For FY 2023/24, (April 2023 to March 2024) we project 6.1%, a bit of slowdown like the rest of the world economy, but way above the global average. And in that way, India is providing about 15% of global growth in 2023,” Ms. Georgieva said in an interview.
That is the fastest growth rate among major economies.
India remains a bright spot at a time when the IMF is projecting 2023 to be difficult with global growth slowing down from 3.4% last year to 2.9% in 2023, she observed.
“Why is India a bright spot? Because one, it has done really well to turn the digitalisation that has been already moving quite well into a major driver of overcoming the impact of the pandemic and creating opportunities for growth and jobs,” she noted.
“Second, because India’s fiscal policy has been responsive to economic conditions. We have seen the new Budget presented, and it signals the commitment to fiscal consolidation, while at the same time provides significant financing for capital investments. And three, because India didn’t shy away to learn the lessons from the pandemic and to implement very strong policies to overcome what has been really a difficult time for a number of months,” Ms. Georgieva said.
“I particularly noticed how much attention India is paying on investing in the green economy, including renewables with potential to shift the country towards clean energy and keep growth going. What we see as potential for the future is to translate this fiscal responsibility into a medium-term framework that gives even stronger anchor to India’s public finances,” Ms. Georgieva said.
According to Ms. Georgieva, India has taken “a very brave step with the digital ID” that put the foundation for digitalisation on the scale we see today. And COVID played the role of a trigger for advancing digitalisation because it made it both necessary and possible to deliver public support to households and to businesses using digital platforms, she noted.
2. Mohiniyattam artiste Kanak Rele no more
Classical dance legend Kanak Rele passed away on Wednesday in Mumbai. The Mohiniyattam exponent was awarded the first Guru Gopinath National Puraskaram of the Government of Kerala.
Born to Shivdas and Madhuri in 1937, Dr. Rele, 85, spent her childhood in West Bengal’s Santiniketan.
At the age of seven, Dr. Rele was initiated into Kathakali by Guru Karunakara Panicker. The Gujarat-born crossed many obstacles as she was initiated into the male-dominated world of Kathakali. During her training, a nagging pain in her leg at the age of 10 was diagnosed as polio. But she overcame it with her dedicated dance practice.
In 1973, Dr. Rele established the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya offering undergraduate, post-graduate and Ph.D. degrees affiliated to the Bombay University.
In 2022, Dr. Rele released the book, Me and My Mohini Attam, which gave a peek into her life with biographical narrations by her niece, Radha Khambati.
Dr. Rele created another record for herself by earning her Ph.D. in dance, the first in India, in 1977. Her doctoral thesis was titled, ‘Mohini Attam: All Aspects and Spheres of Influence’.
In 2013, Dr. Rele was conferred the Padma Bhushan.
Maharashtra Governor Ramesh Bais in a condolence message said: “Padma Bhushan Dr. Kanak Rele dedicated her entire life to the cause of promotion, propagation and research of Indian classical dance forms. She was one of the finest exponents of Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. In her demise we have lost a great Nritya Tapaswini”.
3. Who do voters credit (or blame) for the provision of health services?
Electoral accountability for the delivery of services requires responsibility. If voters do not think that a government is responsible for the functioning of a particular service, then they have no incentive to hold them accountable for whether that service is delivered well or not.
Providing health facilities, whether it is good hospitals, medicines or availability of doctors and other medical facilities is the responsibility of the State government.
Findings from the survey indicate that most citizens are also aware that the provision of health facilities is the responsibility of the State government, even if many States do not fulfil the requirement of spending 8% of the total budget on health as laid down by the National Health Policy drafted in 2017.
But the survey also indicates a sizeable number of people think health services are the responsibility of the Central government and some believe that it is the responsibility of all levels of government. This may potentially blur lines of electoral accountability.
However, when it comes to specific health programmes a clearer picture emerges. This suggests a level of awareness that different schemes originate at different levels of government. Large numbers of Indians give credit to the Central government for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, popularly known as Ayushman Bharat – the flagship national health insurance policy initiative which is funded by both the Central and State governments.
People also give credit to the State government for State-run health insurance schemes. Yet opinion was divided on where responsibility lay for the mission Indradhanush Yojana.
4. Who is responsible for healthcare in India: the government or individual?
Although India has a large privately managed healthcare system, most people still believe that the government should be responsible for providing healthcare services. Only a small proportion of voters, close to one in ten, feel that healthcare is a private matter that should be left to individuals themselves. Moreover, there is not much difference in this view between those who use government hospitals and those who use private hospitals.
Nonetheless, there are some noticeable differences among the States. People in Uttar Pradesh (96%) and Rajasthan (93%) are particularly likely to say that the government should be responsible for providing healthcare services.
In terms of the kinds of services that people want the government to improve, close to two in five (37%) said the government should improve public healthcare by improving the facilities available at government dispensaries and government hospitals; compared to just under a quarter (23%) who said that the government should provide health insurance to people through which they can get access to treatment at private hospitals. However, nearly a third of people thought the government should do both.
What type of service individuals want from the government is related to how they have personally experienced using healthcare services. For instance, individuals who have used public healthcare facilities are more likely to say that the government should improve dispensaries and government hospitals than those who have used private healthcare facilities (44% vs. 32%). However, those who have used private hospitals were more inclined to say that the government should help access to these hospitals by offering health insurance (28% vs. 18%).
5. ‘Dickinsonia fossil’ found in Bhimbetka is old beehive
Hopes belied: The fossil believed to be of Dickinsonia, found at the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters near Bhopal in 2021.
Fossils of an extinct species of animal that scientists reported in a sensational discovery from India’s Bhimbetka Rock Shelters in 2021 have been found to be belied hopes.
Gregory Retallack, the lead author of the February 2021 paper that reported the discovery, has acknowledged to The New York Times that they are planning to correct their paper after a closer look at the site revealed the apparent fossil to really be wax smeared on a rock by a beehive. In March 2020, Dr. Retallack, a Professor of palaeontology at the University of Oregon, and some other researchers were given a tour of the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, in Madhya Pradesh, by members of the Geological Survey of India when they had flown to India to attend a conference.
There, according to The New York Times, they spotted by chance what looked like a 44-cm-wide fossil of Dickinsonia, an animal that lived at least 538 million years ago, in a cave.
Dickinsonia fossils in other parts of the world have indicated it was circular or oval in shape, somewhat flat, with rib-like structures radiating from a central column.
Dr. Retallack and his peers took photographs of the rock feature, since they were not carrying their tools, and determined them with further analysis to be Dickinsonia fossils. They published a paper describing their findings in February 2021.
But when Joseph Meert, a Professor of geology at the University of Florida, visited the same Bhimbetka cave in December 2022, he found some discrepancies with the other fossil finds.
Eventually, he was able to conclude that “the impression resulted from decay of a modern beehive which was attached to a fractured rock surface”, as he wrote in his paper published in January 2023. When Dr. Retallack was notified of these findings, he decided to have his paper corrected.
While the fossils were believed to be legitimate, they suggested that the youngest Upper Vindhyan sediments were 540 million years old; the rock shelters are located in this area.
But now that the finding has been overturned, Meert et al. wrote in their paper, “The age of the Upper Vindhyan … remains contested.”
6. Only children above 6 must get Class 1 admission: govt.
Formative years: Primary school children playing on their school premises at Gunadala in Vijayawada.
Reminder after several States continue old practice despite the NEP; new rule was implemented for Kendriya Vidyalayas last year following which some parents challenged it in Supreme Court
The Education Ministry on Wednesday reiterated its direction to the States and the Union Territories that children must be provided Class 1 admission at the age of “six-plus” instead of the earlier “five-plus”.
The reminder is in line with the government’s emphasis on improving foundational learning under the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 by bringing early childhood care and education under formal schooling and moving it from the aegis of the Women and Child Development Ministry to the Education Ministry.
Until the NEP, children in the age group of three to six were not covered in the 10+2 structure as Class 1 begins at age six. In the new five (foundational) plus three (preparatory) plus three (middle) plus four (secondary) structure, a strong base of early learning from age three is included, which is “aimed at promoting better overall learning, development, and well-being”, reads the NEP document.
The Education Ministry, in a press statement, said the Department of School Education and Literacy of the Education Ministry has reiterated directions to all the State governments and U.T. administrations to “align their age to admission with the policy and provide admission to Grade-I at the age of 6+ years”. It added that under the NEP, the foundational stage consists of five years of learning opportunities for all children (between three and eight years) that includes three years of pre-school education and two years of early primary: Grades 1 and 2.
“This can only be done by ensuring accessibility to three years of quality preschool education for all children studying in anganwadis or government/ government-aided, private and NGO-run preschool centres,” the Ministry said.
The government’s reminder comes at a time when several States and schools follow disparate formula for Class 1 admissions.
Last academic year, the new rule was implemented for Kendriya Vidyalayas following which a group of parents challenged the order before the Supreme Court, which quashed their petition on the ground that the decision was based on the NEP.
7. Editorilal-1: A clean gamble
Carbon trading should help India to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuel
The Centre is expected to clarify, later this year, the specifics of a carbon trading market in India. An amendment to the Energy Conservation Act, passed in 2022 and, separately, approval by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change via the Paris and Glasgow agreements ensured that carbon markets (where ‘carbon credits’ and ‘emission certificates’ can be traded) have acquired greater global currency. ‘Carbon markets’ are a catch-all term and need clarity, especially in the Indian context. A decade or more ago, they meant stock-market-like exchanges that traded in ‘carbon offsets’ made legitimate under the Clean Development Mechanism. Here, industrial projects in developing countries that avoided greenhouse gas emissions were eligible for credits that, after verification, could be sold to European companies that could buy them in lieu of cutting emissions themselves. Alongside are the EU-Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) where government-mandated emission limits on industrial sectors such as aluminium or steel plants require industries to either cut emissions or buy government-certified permits from companies that cut more emissions than required or were auctioned by governments. Carbon credits became valuable because they could be used as permits in EU-ETS exchanges. Such permits are a ‘right to pollute’ and being tradeable on an exchange, akin to shares, are expected to fluctuate in value depending on a company’s need to balance profitability and comply with pollution norms.
The objective of such markets is to incentivise investments in renewable energy sources. While India has maintained its right to grow its carbon emissions in the near future, it has committed to cutting the emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) of its growth by 45% (of 2005 levels) by 2030. It has been doing this, partly, via the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, where around 1,000 industries have been involved in procuring and trading energy saving certificates (ESCerts). Since 2015, various cycles of the PAT have shown emission reductions of around 3%-5%. The European Union, which runs the oldest emission trading scheme since 2005, had cut emissions by 35% from 2005-2019 and 9% in 2009, over the previous years. Whether carbon trading can meaningfully lead to emissions reductions in the Indian context is a question that can be answered only decades later. It would, however, be a victory in itself, if it is able to mobilise domestic finance and accelerate the shift away from fossil fuel. With that end in mind, the government must intervene to bring in the right amount of pressure on industry to participate in the market but not ignore proven non-market initiatives to achieve greenhouse gas reductions.
8. Editorial-2: India can become a biodiversity champion
The sum and variation of our biological wealth, known as biodiversity, is essential to the future of this planet. The importance of our planet’s biodiversity was strongly articulated at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada. On December 19, 2022, 188 country representatives adopted an agreement to “halt and reverse” biodiversity loss by conserving 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, known as the 30×30 pledge. India currently hosts 17% of the planet’s human population and 17% of the global area in biodiversity hotspots, placing it at the helm to guide the planet in becoming biodiversity champions.
Programmes with potential
In response to this call, the Union Budget 2023 mentioned “Green Growth” as one of the seven priorities or Saptarishis. The emphasis on green growth is welcome news for India’s biological wealth as the country is facing serious losses of natural assets such as soils, land, water, and biodiversity.
The National Mission for a Green India aims to increase forest cover on degraded lands and protect existing forested lands. The Green Credit Programme has the objective to “incentivize environmentally sustainable and responsive actions by companies, individuals and local bodies”. The Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes (MISHTI) is particularly significant because of the extraordinary importance of mangroves and coastal ecosystems in mitigating climate change. The Prime Minister Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment, and Amelioration of Mother Earth (PM-PRANAM) for reducing inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is critical for sustaining our agriculture. Finally, the Amrit Dharohar scheme directly mentions our biological wealth and is expected to “encourage optimal use of wetlands, and enhance biodiversity, carbon stock, eco-tourism opportunities and income generation for local communities”. If implemented in letter and spirit, Amrit Dharohar, with its emphasis on sustainability by balancing competing demands, will benefit aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services. The recent intervention by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to stop the draining of Haiderpur, a Ramsar wetland in Uttar Pradesh, to safeguard migratory waterfowl is encouraging.
Must be science-based
It is critical that these programmes respond to the current state of the country’s biodiversity with evidence-based implementation. A science-based and inclusive monitoring programme is critical not only for the success of these efforts but also for documentation and distillation of lessons learnt for replication, nationally as well as globally.
New missions and programmes should effectively use modern concepts of sustainability and valuation of ecosystems that consider ecological, cultural, and sociological aspects of our biological wealth. With clear system boundaries, prioritisation of the benefits to ‘resource people’, and fund-services (rather than stock-flows) as the economic foundation for generating value has enormous potential for multiple sustainable bio-economies.
The future of our wetland ecosystems will depend on how we are able to sustain ecological flows through reduction in water use in key sectors such as agriculture by encouraging changes to less-water intensive crops such as millets as well as investments in water recycling in urban areas using a combination of grey and blue-green infrastructure.
As far as the Green India Mission is concerned, implementation should focus on ecological restoration rather than tree plantation and choose sites where it can contribute to ecological connectivity in landscapes fragmented by linear infrastructure. Furthermore, choice of species and density should be informed by available knowledge and evidence on resilience under emerging climate change and synergies and trade-offs with respect to hydrologic services.
Site selection should also be carefully considered for the mangrove initiative with a greater emphasis on diversity of mangrove species with retention of the integrity of coastal mud-flats and salt pans themselves, as they too are important for biodiversity.
Local community involvement
Finally, each of these efforts must be inclusive of local and nomadic communities where these initiatives will be implemented. Traditional knowledge and practices of these communities should be integrated into the implementation plans. Each of these programmes has the potential to greatly improve the state of our nation’s biodiversity if their implementation is based on the latest scientific and ecological knowledge. As a consequence, each programme should include significant educational and research funding to critically appraise and bring awareness to India’s biological wealth. In response to this need, we hope that the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Wellbeing, already approved by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC), will be immediately launched by the government. This mission seeks to harness the power of interdisciplinary knowledge — for greening India and its economy, to restore and enrich our natural capital for the well-being of our people, and to position India as a global leader in applied biodiversity science.