1. The private sector boost in India’s space industry
How does a strong space sector contribute to overall development? Why are private players being encouraged to invest?
Principal Scientific Adviser Ajay Kumar Sood stated earlier this month that the government would soon come up with a new space policy to increase private sector participation in the industry. Consultations have already been held and the final version of the policy would soon be referred to the Empowered Technology Group for further examination.
Enhancing space technology would be beneficial to bolster connectivity and combat climate-related implications through a more secure and effective means.
Private sector’s involvement in the long term, as with other commercial sectors, is believed to help spur investment and expertise in the realm which is capital-intensive and demands high technology.
The story so far: Principal Scientific Adviser Ajay Kumar Sood stated earlier this month that the government would soon come up with a new space policy that could initiate the rise of India’s own “SpaceX-like ventures”. Mr. Sood stated that the proposed move would increase private sector participation in the industry. Consultations have already been held and the final version of the policy would soon be referred to the Empowered Technology Group for further examination. According to Mr. Sood, India has not tapped into its complete potential in this sector. “In 2022, the space sector is witnessing what the information technology sector experienced in the 1990s. We will have our own SpaceX (SpaceX is Elon Musk’s private space transportation company) in the next two years,” he said.
Why is development in the space sector important?
Enhancing space technology would be beneficial to bolster connectivity and combat climate-related implications through a more secure and effective means.
Satellites provide more accurate information on weather forecasts and assess (and record) long-term trends in the climate and habitability of a region. For example, by monitoring the long-term impact of climate change at regional, territorial, and national scales, governments would be able to devise more pragmatic and combative plans of action for farmers and dependent industries. Additionally, they can also serve as real-time monitoring and early-warning solutions against natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, wildfires, mining etc. Real-time tracking can also serve multiple purposes in defence.
As for connectivity, satellite communication can reach more remote areas where conventional networks would require a heavy complimenting infrastructure. Additionally, as to reliability, the World Economic Forum had stated (in September 2020) that satellite communication can help connect 49% of the world’s unconnected population. In this light, it must be noted that satellite communications, which are used to facilitate telecommunication services, are among the major categories for investment in the space technology sector. Other prominent categories include spacecraft and equipment manufacturing.
What essentially needs to be remembered is that the space avenue is an integration of the aerospace, IT hardware and telecom sectors. It is thus argued that investment in this arena would foster positive carryover effects to other sectors as well.
Where does India stand in the global space market?
As per SpaceTech Analytics, India is the sixth-largest player in the industry internationally having 3.6% of the world’s space-tech companies (as of 2021). U.S. holds the leader’s spot housing 56.4% of all companies in the space-tech ecosystem. Other major players include U.K. (6.5%), Canada (5.3%), China (4.7%) and Germany (4.1%).
The Indian Space Industry was valued at $7 billion in 2019 and aspires to grow to $50 billion by 2024. The country’s standout feature is its cost-effectiveness. India holds the distinction of being the first country to have reached the Mars’ orbit in its first attempt and at $75 million — way cheaper than Western standards.
Most companies in the sector, globally, are involved in manufacture of spacecraft equipment and satellite communications. The Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Dr. Jitendra Singh had stated earlier this month that of the 60-odd start-ups that had registered with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a majority of them were dealing in projects related to space debris management. As space becomes more congested with satellites, the technology would thus help in managing ‘space junk’ (debris of old spacecraft and satellites).
U.S. and Canada were the highest receivers of space-related investment in 2021. A scrutiny of SpaceTech data puts forth that U.S. alone has more companies in the sector than the next 15 countries combined. Forbes pointed out in May 2021 that, “…it helps when your country’s government budget in the realm is six times larger than its nearest competitor.” Its space budget was $41 billion in 2021, $23.3 billion of which was focused on NASA. The spur in research and innovation driven by government-led spending could also be attributed to the global concentration of considerable number of private investors in the country.
India’s total budgetary allocation for FY2022-23 towards the Department of Space was ₹13,700 crore. Further, as per Tracxn data, funding into the sector’s start-ups (in India) nearly tripled to $67.2 million on a year-over-year basis in 2021.
How is the private sector’s involvement regulated in India?
In June 2020, the Union government announced reforms in the space sector enabling more private players to provide end-to-end services.
An announcement for the establishment of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) was made. It was mandated the task of promoting, authorising and licensing private players to carry out space activities. As an oversight and regulatory body, it is responsible for devising mechanisms to offer sharing of technology, expertise, and facilities free of cost (if feasible) to promote non-government private entities (NGPEs). . IN-SPACe’s Monitoring and Promotion Directorate oversees NGPE’s activities as per prescribed regulations and reports back in case any corrective actions or resolutions are required. ISRO shares its expertise in matters pertaining to quality and reliability protocols, documentations and testing procedure through IN-SPACe’s ‘interface mechanism’.
Additionally, constituted in March 2019, NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL), is mandated to transfer the matured technologies developed by the ISRO to Indian industries. All of them are under the purview of the Ministry of Defence.
Private sector’s involvement in the long term, as with other commercial sectors, is believed to help spur investment and expertise in the realm which is capital-intensive and demands high technology.
Dr. Singh had tabled in a written reply to the Lok Sabha in June 2021 that the space sector reforms were made with the intention to provide a “level playing field” to private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services.
The central idea was to bring forth a predictable policy and regulatory environment for them and additionally provide access to ISRO facilities and assets to improve their capacities.
2. The latest guidelines on arrests and bail orders
Why have fresh provisions been issued by the Supreme Court? What are the directions ordered with respect to undertrial prisoners?
A division bench of the Supreme Court in Satender Kumar Antil vs CBI has laid down fresh guidelines on arrests in order to have strict compliance of the provisions of Section 41 and 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Section 41 provides for the circumstances in which arrest can be made by the police without a warrant. Section 41A provides for the requirement of a notice to be sent by the investigating agencies before making an arrest in certain conditions.
The High Courts have also been directed to undertake the exercise of finding out the undertrial prisoners who are not able to comply with bail conditions.
G.S. Bajpai Anubhav Kumar
The story so far: On July 11, a division bench of the Supreme Court of India in Satender Kumar Antil vs CBI laid down fresh guidelines on arrests in order to have strict compliance with the provisions of Section 41 and 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. These guidelines are in addition to the earlier ones which the apex court had already laid down in the case of Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014). The Court in the present case has also emphasised upon separate legislation on the law relating to bail and has also issued specific directions in this regard. On July 16, even the Chief Justice of India (CJI) cautioned against “hasty and indiscriminate arrests”. He further commented on the delay in bails and the plight of undertrial prisoners.
How is a person arrested?
Arrest in its simplest form is defined as, “when one is taken and restrained from his liberty”. The police has wide powers to arrest under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In the Joginder Kumar (1994) verdict, the Court had stated that “arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person”. Further, in the case of Arnesh Kumar, the apex Court had rightly observed that “arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and cast scars forever”. In recent times, there have been several controversies regarding the arrest and subsequent bail of accused persons.
With regard to the Satender Kumar Antil case, the Court has issued specific directions and has also called for a compliance report. The Court said that the investigating agencies and their officers are duty-bound to comply with the mandate of Section 41 and 41A and the directions issued in the Arnesh Kumar case.
What are Sections 41 and 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure?
Section 41 of the Code provides for the circumstances in which arrest can be made by the police without a warrant and mandates for reasons to be recorded in writing for every arrest and non-arrest. Section 41A of the Code provides for the requirement of a notice to be sent by the investigating agencies before making an arrest in certain conditions prescribed by the Code. The Court stated that any dereliction on the part of the agencies has to be brought to the notice of the higher authorities by the court followed by appropriate action. The Bench further said that the courts will have to satisfy themselves on the compliance of Section 41 and 41A. Any non-compliance would entitle the accused for grant of bail.
What are the guidelines with respect to bail?
Regarding bail, the Court has made a specific observation in the form of an obiter that the Government of India may consider the introduction of a separate enactment, in the nature of a Bail Act, so as to streamline the grant of bails.
As part of the new guidelines, it is clearly stated that there need not be any insistence on a bail application while considering the application under Sections 88, 170, 204 and 209 of the Code. The Court said that “there needs to be a strict compliance of the mandate laid down in the judgment of this court in Siddharth” (Siddharth vs State of U.P., 2021). It is a clear direction of the Court that bail applications ought to be disposed of within a period of two weeks except if the provisions mandate otherwise — the exception being an intervening application. The Court also said that “applications for anticipatory bail are expected to be disposed of within a period of six weeks with the exception of any intervening application”.
What steps need to be taken for compliance of these orders?
The State and Central governments will have to comply with the directions issued by the Court from time to time with respect to the constitution of special courts. The High Court in consultation with the State governments will have to undertake an exercise on the need for special courts. The vacancies in the position of Presiding Officers of the special courts will have to be filled up expeditiously. The CJI has also raised the issue of vacant positions and infrastructural requirements in the judiciary.
What about undertrial prisoners?
The High Courts have been directed by the apex court to identify undertrial prisoners who cannot comply with bail conditions. After doing so, appropriate action will have to be taken in the light of Section 440 of the Code, facilitating their release. Under Section 440, the amount of bond shall not be excessive, and high courts and sessions courts may reduce the amount prescribed by the magistrate or a police officer. An exercise will have to be done similarly to comply with the mandate of Section 436A of the Code, under which a person imprisoned during investigation or trial shall be released on bail on completion of half of the jail term prescribed for that offence.
3. Studying menstrual disturbances post COVID-19 vaccination
While changes to menstrual bleeding are not uncommon or dangerous, attention to these experiences is necessary to build trust in medicine
The paper, “Investigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination”, investigates instances of of excessive or unexpected menstrual bleeding after the COVID-19 innoculation.
The paper states that dismissal by medical experts to investigate such instances fuelled the anti-vaccine lobby as they began conflating the possibility of short-term menstrual changes with long-term harms to fertility.
Earlier studies have proved that the typhoid vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, and HPV vaccine were also associated with menstrual irregularities.
Katharine M. N.Lee et al, ““Investigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination”, Science Advances, July 15, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abm7201
When the Science paper “Investigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination” dropped mid July, one could have heard a collective sigh from women across the world. Women who had felt the brunt of the vaccination in their monthly cycles felt vindicated as the paper established a definite connect between COVID-19 vaccination and excessive bleeding.
Anecdotally, chat rooms and informal support groups that women tend to form as a sorority had been buzzing with chatter about how the COVID-19 vaccine had wreaked havoc on their monthly cycles. However, the hesitation of the larger research and medical community to address it adequately only strengthened the hand of the anti-vaccine lobby. In the predicament of menstruating women, unsupported by investigations, this lobby found sufficient grist for their mill.
Observations from the study
The paper, by Katharine M. N. Lee et al, U.S.-based researchers, followed up on the chatter and the complaints of excessive or unexpected menstrual bleeding after the COVID-19 inoculation. They investigated this emerging phenomenon of changed menstrual bleeding patterns among a convenience sample of currently and formerly menstruating people using a web-based survey.
In this sample, 42% of people with regular menstrual cycles bled more heavily than usual, while 44% reported no change after being vaccinated. Notably, even among respondents who typically do not menstruate — 71% of people on long-acting reversible contraceptives, 39% of people on gender-affirming hormones and 66% of post-menopausal people reported breakthrough bleeding. The authors recorded, “we found that increased/breakthrough bleeding was significantly associated with age, systemic vaccine side effects (fever and/or fatigue), history of pregnancy or birth, and ethnicity.”
The authors go on to drag the actual issue in to the open — while, generally, changes to menstrual bleeding are not uncommon or dangerous, attention to these experiences is necessary to build trust in medicine. Systems and processes are not geared to study these kind of side effects, as the paper pointed out that typical vaccine trial protocols do not monitor for major adverse events for more than seven days. Additional follow-up communications do not inquire about menstrual cycles or bleeding.
“Therefore, manufacturers had no way of addressing the extent to which this observation was a coincidence or a potential side effect of the vaccines. In media coverage, medical doctors and public health experts hastened to say that there was ‘no biological mechanism’ or ‘no data’ to support a relationship between vaccine administration and menstrual changes. In other cases, experts declared that these changes were more likely a result of ‘stress’,” the paper said.
It went on to state, “unfortunately, dismissal by medical experts fuelled greater concerns, as both vaccine-hesitant and anti-vaccine individuals and organisations conflated the possibility of short-term menstrual changes with long-term harms to fertility.” Further as the vaccine became available to adolescents, parents worried about getting them the dose, wondering about its effect on the fertility of their wards.
Truth be told, this is not the first time that the subject was the focus of a scientific paper. In September 2021, the British Medical Journal proposed that a link between COVID vaccination and excessive bleeding was plausible and should be investigated. Though changes to periods and unexpected vaginal bleeding are not listed as side effects, “primary care clinicians and those working in reproductive health are increasingly approached by people who have experienced these events shortly after vaccination.”
In March this year, another paper in the International Journal of Women’s Health — “A Cross-Sectional Investigation in the MENA Region” by Nadia Muhaidat et al — sought responses from 2,269 female respondents in West Asia and North Africa. It reported that “66.3% of women experienced menstrual abnormalities after vaccination. Of those, symptoms appeared after a week in 30.5%, and within a month in 86.8%. Furthermore, in 93.6% the symptoms resolved within two months. The majority (46.7%) had the symptoms after the first dose, while 32.4% after the second dose and 20.9% after both doses.” The type of the vaccine that had been administered did not seem to make a difference.
The Science paper lists “multiple plausible biological mechanisms to explain a relationship between an acute immune challenge like a vaccine, its corresponding and well-known systemic effects on hemostasis (stopping bleeding) and inflammation, and menstrual repair mechanisms of the uterus.”
No harm to long-term fertility
Lee and others go on to explain “how the uterine reproductive system is flexible and adaptable in the face of stress to weather short-term challenges in a way that leaves long-term fertility intact.” For instance, they argue, running a marathon may influence hormone concentrations in the short term, but leave long term fertility untouched; or short term calorie restriction that results in an impact on the cycle can be resolved by resuming normal diets.
“Less severe, short-term stressors can, and do influence menstrual cycling and menstruation, and this has been established over 40 years of cycle research,” they explain. Additionally, they point out the difference between the immune response invoked by a vaccine and the sustained immune assault of COVID-19 infection. Studies and anecdotal reports are already demonstrating that menstrual function disruptions are a long COVID-19 complication.
Earlier studies have proved that the typhoid vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, and HPV vaccine were associated with menstrual irregularities. Lee et al argue that ‘the speed and coverage of the current COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination campaign may have inadvertently highlighted a previously under-recognised side effect of especially immunogenic vaccines administered in adulthood’.
It is essential to gain on-ground data on the phenomenon and study it consistently in order to understand emerging health concerns.
The scientific and medical community recognising the problem is the first step in addressing the concerns of women, and not dismissing them as anecdotal, or even worse, imaginary.
4. Editorial-1: A global order caught up in a swirl of chaos
The Ukraine-Russia conflict is only one of the many strands altering the contours of world governance
Adrift at the end of the 20th century, the world of the 21st century is proving to be highly chaotic. Geopolitical experts in the West confine their findings at present solely to the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, believing that this alone would determine not only war and peace but also other critical aspects as well. This tends to be a myopic view, for the Ukraine-Russia conflict is only one of the many strands currently altering the contours of world governance. Significant developments are also taking place in many other regions of the globe, which will have equal if not more relevance to the future of the international governance system.
What the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said in June 2022 at the end of a three-day gathering of G7 leaders in the Bavarian Alps, sums up the prevailing mood overall, viz., “a time of uncertainty lies ahead of us. We cannot foresee how it will end”. In this case possibly, the German Chancellor was referring only to the fallout from the Ukraine-Russia conflict, for he clearly did not reckon with the fact that many other momentous changes were taking place outside Europe, and which are already beginning to dictate the new order of things. The obsession in the West over the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, giving it an importance overriding all else, is indeed misleading.
Europe may be rudderless
European leaders tending to look inwards is, perhaps, not surprising. Europe has been undergoing several major changes in recent months. Germany, which has steered European politics for almost two decades under Angela Merkel, now has a Chancellor (Olaf Scholz) who has hardly any foreign policy experience. Without Germany’s steadying hand, Europe would be virtually adrift in troubled waters. Emmanuel Macron may have been re-elected the President of France, but his wings have been clipped with the Opposition now gaining a majority in the French National Assembly. This has damaged his image, and Mr. Macron can hardly be expected to provide the kind of leadership that Europe needs at present. The United Kingdom is in deep trouble, if not disarray. Consequently, at a time when actual and moral issues require both deft and firm handling, Europe appears rudderless.
Compounding this situation is the negative economic impact of the war in Ukraine. This is being felt not only in Europe but also across the globe. What is evident already is that apart from the spiralling cost of energy, food and fertilizers, quite a few countries confront the spectre of food scarcity given that Ukraine and Russia were generally viewed as the granaries of the world. Apart from this, nations do face several other problems as well, including, in some cases, a foreign exchange crisis. Many of these problems may have existed earlier but have been aggravated by the ongoing conflict. The impact is being felt now well beyond Europe.
Six months into the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the topology of geopolitics also appears to be undergoing major changes. It is occurring in directions that were not envisaged previously. The instruments employed by the West against Russia, such as sanctions, have not had the desired impact as far as the latter is concerned. It would be a serious error of judgment if the West were to imagine that the unity and the strength displayed by the European nations (backed by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on this occasion), has been a win-win situation. The situation in Europe is still to be decided, but what is also becoming obvious is that outside Europe, the conflict is beginning to take on a different dimension, leading to the emergence of new patchworks of relationships.
A China-Russia link
A churn in global politics is evident. China and Russia, for instance, appear to have further cemented their relationship and the situation is fast veering towards a formal alliance. Russia’s growing closeness to China — further intensified by the Ukraine-Russia conflict — has revived memories of the 1950s Sino-Soviet alliance, and their bonhomie during the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, this had been described as a ‘lips and teeth’ relationship.
Meanwhile, China’s growing influence in the Pacific region, including in the Indo-Pacific, and further strengthened by the entente with Russia, may hardly be a by-product of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, but it has induced fresh energy into a possible conflict between two rival power blocs. Not all the efforts of the United States, including the AUKUS (Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.) and the Quad (the U.S., India, Australia and Japan), or the launch of another Indo-Pacific entity, viz., ‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’ (comprising the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Japan) can hope to effectively stem the winds of change sweeping across the Pacific and the Indo-Pacific. Understanding the changing nature of relationships in Asia, and considering that most Asian nations appear unwilling to take sides in the event of a conflict, is important. Unlike the unity and the strength displayed by European nations — backed by the U.S. and NATO — to checkmate Russia, and diminish its image, there is no evidence of any such unity of purpose in the event that China was to launch a conflict with Taiwan.
India and its neighbourhood
In the prevailing atmosphere, India does find itself wedged into a difficult situation. It cannot ignore the situation created by the stronger bonds between Russia and China. While relations with China may continue to remain uncertain and unsatisfactory (for some time at least), India will need to determine whether Russia can be expected to play a role as a ‘trusted friend’ of India’s. Again, it would be too much to hope that in dealing with China, India can expect the same kind of support it may need from the Quad. China, however, seems intent on establishing its dominance and also sidelining India in Asia, which New Delhi would have discerned in the course of the virtual BRICS Summit hosted by China in June. China’s newfound confidence and its attempt to hijack the situation as part of its preparations for a new world order was very much in evidence on that occasion.
Apart from China, India also urgently needs to come to terms with a Taliban Afghanistan. Its attempt to devise a working relationship with a Taliban Afghanistan without having to compromise with its previous policy of ‘no truck’ with the Taliban is as yet in a very nascent stage. Time is, however, of the essence.
At this time, the democratic upsurge in Sri Lanka which has resulted in the removal of the Rajapaksas from power, presents India with a fresh set of problems. India’s relation with the previous regime could at best be termed correct, rather than cordial, but in a situation where ‘rage’ and ‘anger’ are the dominant sentiments, there is every reason for concern that even governments that have maintained a ‘hands-off’ relationship could become targets of the new forces emerging in Sri Lanka. There are also aspects of the Sinhala ‘Janata Aragalaya’ that need to be carefully studied, to ensure that its advent does not result in the emergence of an anti-India atmosphere in Sri Lanka.
Churn in West Asia
In the 21st century, among other major developments taking place, is the kind of churn that is continuing in West Asia. The Abraham Accords in 2020, which brought about the entente between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, has been the harbinger of certain new trends in the tangled web of relationships among countries of West Asia. But even as the U.S.’s relations with Arab nations in West Asia appear to weaken, Russia and China are beginning to play key roles, with Iran as the fulcrum for establishing new relationships. Russia’s forays into West Asia have taken a quantum leap. Relations with Iran have been firmed up. China continues to steadily build on its connections with the region, and with Iran in particular.
For its part, India has been making steady progress in enlarging its contacts and influence in West Asia. While the India-Israel relationship dates back to the 1990s, the India-UAE relationship has blossomed in the past couple of years. India-Iran relations, however, seem to have reached a stalemate of late. India has, however, been inveigled into joining a U.S.-based group, the I2U2, comprising India, Israel the UAE and the U.S. The U.S. has indicated that this body could become a ‘feature’ of the West Asian region, just like the Quad was for the Indo-Pacific. Details of the new arrangements are unclear, but it is evident that the target is Iran, as China is for the Quad, injecting yet another element of uncertainty into an already troubled region.
Finally, and in the wake of western allegations about the possible use by Russia of tactical/battlefield nuclear weapons, concerns are beginning to be expressed by U.S. academics — many with close connections to the establishment — of an existing gap between India and China in terms of India’s nuclear deterrent capability. The argument being adduced is that a wide gap exists today in regard to China and India’s nuclear deterrent capabilities, and implicitly blames India for its voluntary ban on testing and its ‘no-first-use’ doctrine from making progress in this arena. What is also implied is that India could overcome the lacuna by seeking the assistance of western nations which have such capabilities and knowledge. It is unclear, as of now, whether this has any traction among officials in the West, but it is important for India to guard against such pernicious attempts at this time to undo its carefully negotiated and structured nuclear policy and doctrine, and be inveigled into any anti-China western move on this front.
5. Editorial-2: Learning lessons
India must step up research and prepare adequate defences against monkeypox
The World Health Organization, for the second time in two years, has declared a viral outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). With four cases confirmed in India and around 14,500 cases globally, monkeypox outbreaks have triggered international consternation in a world that is yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. After a split verdict at the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meeting — on whether monkeypox deserves to be termed a PHEIC — it fell on WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, to take a call. A PHEIC is just one step short of a ‘pandemic’ classification. Following the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, WHO had come under criticism for not responding with alacrity on the public health threat that the coronavirus pandemic portended. It had termed the COVID-19 crisis as a PHEIC on January 30, 2020 when global cases were around 7,500, or about half the levels now reported for monkeypox. The following February was the pivotal month that compelled WHO to elevate threat levels and push the world into territory that it had not navigated since the 1918 influenza pandemic. Though monkeypox is caused by a virus that is endemic in a few African countries, the world took note only after it was first reported in the U.K. on May 6, 2022. Within a month-and-a-half, it spread to 63 countries, with Spain, Belgium and the U.S — historically non-endemic for the virus — beginning to report a spike in cases. In Africa too, transmission has been historically limited and there is uncertainty over the events that have caused such a global spike.
Monkeypox, for now, has more visible manifestations such as rashes and blisters and is said to be over-represented in men who have sex with men. It is believed to spread only through close contact and is fatal only to the extremely immunocompromised. WHO has recommended that countries step up surveillance, amplify public awareness campaigns, governments work towards not stigmatising the disease, and health infrastructure be primed towards producing diagnostic kits. The experience from the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that governments implement measures to avoid ‘panic’ but are often opaque and vague with the information necessary to quell it. While it is unclear how the monkeypox outbreak will play out in the months to come, the Government must begin coordinated action with the States to accurately summarise and disseminate the extent of the threat. Until now, monkeypox fell under the category of neglected tropical diseases. Related to the eradicated smallpox virus, monkeypox is suspected to have amplified due to reduced immunity against the smallpox virus. Indian labs and biotech companies must step up research and mine their arsenal to prepare adequate defences if the need arises.
6. Editorial-3: Backsliding on climate action
Western nations have started reinterpreting the Paris deal and look to downgrade their commitments
Countries in Europe led by Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are cranking up their coal plants again. Coal exports to Europe are surging. Fossil fuels are making a comeback and countries are rejecting the European Union (EU)’s plan to reduce natural gas consumption by 15%. Dutch, Polish and other European farmers are protesting against emission cuts from agriculture. Renewables are nowhere near meeting the rising power demand in summer or winter, with record high temperatures now. Hasty and ill-conceived EU climate policies are coming home to roost. While the current problems are being blamed on the Ukraine conflict, and more specifically Russia, they actually started when power prices began surging well before anything happened in Ukraine. Europe is staring at a recession and its appetite for climate action is waning.
In the U.S. too, the Senate and the Supreme Court have struck blows to climate action. And in the U.S. too, prices of fuel started increasing last year, not just this year. This is causing inflation. Energy security is nowhere near. Fossil fuels are making a quiet comeback, since the strength of the U.S. is its oil and gas industry. That is why we have just witnessed a ‘re-calibration’ of U.S. policy towards the Gulf. The U.S.’s choice is between concentrating on its economy and getting it on track for its people or fighting hard against climate change and facing an irate electorate in November. The choice is clear.
So, coal, oil and gas are not going anywhere in the developed world; they are, in fact, making a comeback. It was foolish to think that the world would miraculously transition, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to renewables. The West had rushed to draw down on fossil fuels even before technology for renewables were in place. Many developing countries are also facing unrest due to skyrocketing energy prices, which are threatening their governments. The United Nations, unsurprisingly, continues to pillory coal. In this scenario, we may do well to remember that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made ambitious pledges on climate change last year in Glasgow at the Conference of the Parties (COP). Further, when India fought to make the COP language closer to our current energy-mix reality by calling for a ‘phase down’ of coal rather than a ‘phase out’, the COP President supposedly ‘struggled to hold back tears’.
With countries of the developed world almost sure to renege on their 2030 Paris Agreement commitments, countries of the developing world must do everything to hold the countries of the developed world to their commitments and not get unwittingly drawn into their game. In fact, the EU Commissioner of Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, helpfully signalled that the U.S. can downgrade its pledge under the Paris deal. G-7 leaders met to only backtrack on their pledges. If they all start downgrading pledges, which seems almost inevitable, who do they expect will compensate? The Global South, of course.
And so, the game is on. The Western nations have already started reinterpreting the Paris Agreement and look to downgrade their commitments. If they pull back, what will happen to the Paris deal aim of limiting global warming to below the 2°C limit (leave alone 1.5°C)? More importantly, what can the developing countries do to stop this backsliding by the developed world?
To begin with, we need to understand how the concept of net zero is being cleverly misinterpreted. To bring this to the attention of the Global South, India, China and eight other countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America made a cross-regional statement on ‘global net zero’ on June 7 at the UN on World Environment Day. I take the liberty of referring to it at some length.
Article 4 of the Paris Agreement defines ‘Global Peaking’ thus: “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties.” The cross-regional statement by the 10 countries says, “We believe that the word ‘global peaking’ is a conscious and considered insertion in the Paris Agreement text with full recognition of the fact that peaking will take longer for developing countries. The developed countries, given their historical emissions, will have to peak first. That’s why the reference is to ‘global peaking’ and not ‘individual peaking’. From this, it logically follows that when developing country parties peak later than developed countries, they will also achieve net zero later than developed countries. Consequently, it is the logical conclusion of the Article 4 of the Paris Agreement that when we consider net zero, we should only consider ‘global net zero’ and not ‘individual net zero’ for 2050. Any other interpretation will be contrary to Article 4…”
The statement further says, “It becomes clear that a global net zero, where developing countries take longer to reach net zero, can only be achieved if developed countries reach net zero earlier than 2050. Therefore, developed countries must reach net zero well before 2050 in order to achieve overall global net-zero target by around mid-century…” The statement, therefore, calls on developed countries to “do a net negative” on mitigation by 2050 rather than just “net zero”, if they are serious about fighting climate change. In effect, the West needs to do a net minus and not just net zero. To claim that by achieving net zero in 2050, they will keep the temperature within the 2°C limit is a chimera.
Thanks to the efforts of India, the phrase used in the 2021 summit-level declarations at both G-20 and Quad is ‘global net zero’. We need to build on this understanding.
Holding their feet to the fire
But the back-sliding has begun. One of the prime ministerial candidates in the U.K. said recently that the net zero plan “musn’t clobber people”. This is another way of saying, let’s forget about it for the present, shall we? We can’t forget about the present or the future. The “global stocktake” of the Paris Agreement will be done in 2023 to assess the world’s collective progress towards achieving the long-term goals (Article 14). In the current scenario, this stocktake may well provide the developed countries the right forum to shift the burden of their mitigation commitments on developing countries, knowing well that they will not be able to meet theirs by 2030.
And what is happening to the plan of developed countries mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries? Can the Global South transition to renewables without genuine transfer of credible technology? India stands as beacon of hope in renewables. It is time for all developing countries, especially the small island developing states, to make sure that the developed world doesn’t backslide on its commitments on mitigation yet again. COP 27 in Egypt gives us that opportunity to hold their feet to the fire. It is time for the developed world to make net minus pledges. If we don’t collectively push for it, we will be collectively pushed back.