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Daily Current Affairs 29.09.2021 (Germany as a development actor in a post-Merkel era, How to grease the wheels of justice)

Daily Current Affairs 29.09.2021 (Germany as a development actor in a post-Merkel era, How to grease the wheels of justice)

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1.Germany as a development actor in a post-Merkel era

The new Chancellor must enable global cooperation policies for a sustainable future with India and the world

The era of Angela Merkel, as Chancellor of Germany for the past 16 years, is coming to an end while the battle of a number of global crises is at its peak. The federal elections, on September 26, that mark the end of the Merkel-era, have given rise to a currently unforeseeable political future. So, how will Germany define its role as an important international agent in the fight against global challenges, including climate change, and fostering global sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations?

Climate change, resource destruction and species extinction are limiting development opportunities and global scope for action more than ever before. Major emerging economies, including India, and regional powers are, besides the ‘old’ countries of the West, since long shaping the economic, political and cultural interdependencies of a more complex, dynamic, accelerated world. And it is now time to act: to battle climate change and biodiversity loss, rising social inequalities and poverty, defend democracy and secure peace.

Key roles soon

In this, Germany and India take on core roles in the coming two years: Germany, as the second biggest bilateral development donor globally (the United States is first), takes over the G7 presidency in 2022. India presides over the G20 in 2023. These offer an opportunity to mutually strengthen the processes of club governance and foster a focused dialogue among our political leaders and policy-making for a common future.

There is a shift now

Yet, Germany’s ability to live up to this responsibility depends on the outcome of the recent elections and coalition negotiations. The field of international cooperation for sustainable development has, over the past 16 years, moved from the Millennium Development Goals of the UN that were formulated in New York as standards to be reached by low- and middle-income countries, to the understanding that poverty alleviation and fighting rising inequalities go hand in hand with combating environmental and climatic change processes. ‘Development’ was redefined as ‘sustainable development’ and thus, as a challenge to be addressed by all countries, and in all societal and economic sectors. An important instrument for achieving sustainable development is — as has become clearer than ever before — international and transregional cooperation on an equal eye-level, geared towards a global common good.

Today, six years after the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement were formulated and one and a half years into a global pandemic, we need radically transformative structural policies for the global common good and in line with the 2030 Agenda of the UN. Germany as thethird biggest economy, in terms of its share in global trade, has to live up to its responsibility and set the course for these transformative changes. Yet, it can only do so in partnership, and especially in partnership with the big transition economies, including India. We need structural policies that foster the global common good. Core fields of action include reducing social inequalities, overcoming poverty and ensuring social justice, promoting social peace, political participation and cultural diversity, creating a climate-neutral and stable economic system, vehemently advocating for healthy ecosystems, stable climate and biodiversity.

The key policy areas that need urgent attention have been highlighted again by the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to make financial markets, digitalisation and the economy sustainable; social protection, food and health systems need to be more robust; strengthen education, science and innovation, inclusive institutions for social cohesion, and promote rules-based, regional and multilateral governance.

Equitable cooperation

This type of policy-making rests on cooperation on equal eye-level: between countries, social groups and living environments; between politics, business, science and society, and between ministerial departments. United and driven by the common goal of the global capacity to act. It is a global cooperation policy for our common sustainable future. Changing internal and external structures in a way that self-determination, political and economic participation and social peace are possible for all people in the future requires continuous dialogue around the identification and shaping of common values and preconditions for the future.

This also means that a global cooperation policy for a sustainable future requires a strong governance architecture. It can only be realised through the interplay of domestic and externally-oriented departments, different decision-making levels from local to global, and politics, business and society working together. However, strategic leadership and coordination must be anchored at the cabinet level, in a ministry whose political logic does not focus only on economic growth or poverty reduction, security or climate protection, but lays emphasis on stronger global cooperation for the global common good. The reduction of social inequalities must be addressed in conjunction with climate protection, political participation and economic prosperity.

The focus must be on the dynamics between the global megatrends of our time; not on ministry-specific single transformational steps. Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development brings the necessary experience to this task. But it needs the will to innovate now, has to develop a strategic vision, and requires the necessary decision-making powers and resources. The partners of cooperation for global transformative change are transition and high-income countries just as much as low-income countries. The multilateral level of cooperation must thus move to the centre, supported by bilateral and European cooperation on all continents.

Glasgow meet as opportunity

The cooperation with India is of key importance — as a transregional player — in fighting social inequalities and addressing climate change. The global differences in combating the COVID-19-pandemic with COVID-19 recovery funds amounting to 16% of GDP in high income countries, 4% in middle income and only 1% in low-income countries, meet the continuous increases in greenhouse gas emissions. The upcoming COP26 in Glasgow thus serves as an important platform to negotiate investments into the greenhouse gas neutral transformations of India’s energy and transport sectors just as much as into the social security systems enabling societal capacities to live with the crises ahead.

A global cooperation policy for a sustainable future must adopt a planetary perspective with a focus on the dynamics between social, ecological and economic change processes, cultivate dialogue across departmental boundaries and systematically shape transformative structural policy for the global common good. Germany in a post-Merkel era requires wise leadership in the Chancellor’s office that turns its attention to younger generations and to the world, recognises the urgency of global cooperation policies for a sustainable future with India and the world, and supports them at the cabinet table. The elections have to pave the way accordingly.

Group of Seven (G7)

  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975.
  • The bloc meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security and energy policy.
  • The G7 countries are the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.
    • All the G7 countries and India are a part of G20.
  • The G7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.

Key Points

  • Build Back Better for the World Project:
    • It is aimed squarely at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which has been widely criticised for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt but has included even G7 member Italy since launching in 2013.
    • It will collectively catalyse hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries (in Asia and Africa) and offer a values-driven, high-standard and transparent partnership with G7.
  • Democracies 11:
    • Signed off on a joint statement (Democracies 11) by G-7 and guest countries on “open societies” that reaffirm and encourage the values of freedom of expression, both online and offline, as a freedom that safeguards democracy and helps people live free from fear and oppression.
      • The statement also refers to politically motivated internet shutdowns as one of the threats to freedom and democracy.
      • While the statement is directed at China and Russia, India has been under scrutiny over Internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir even as the Government is locked in a face-off over its New IT rules 2021 with tech giants.
    • Democracies 11 is facing threats to freedom and democracy from rising authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion, manipulation of information, including disinformation, online harms and cyber attacks, politically motivated internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Carbis Bay Declaration:
    • The G7 signed the Carbis Bay Declaration. It is aimed at preventing future pandemics.
    • The G7 also pledged over 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses for poorer nations with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.
      • 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022.
    • The doses would come both directly and through the international COVAX program.
  • Climate Change:
    • Renewed a pledge to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of USD 100 billion a year to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions.
    • Promised to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
    • Pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Against China:
    • The G-7 statement which was not signed by India and other outreach countries hit out at China on “human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang (Uyghur Muslims) and Hong Kong, and the unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea.
    • It also called for a transparent and timely World Health Organization’s Covid origins study in China.
      • India had also called for the same in a statement during the World Health Assembly.
  • India’s Stand:
    • India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion.
    • Expressed concerns that open societies are particularly vulnerable to disinformation and cyber-attacks.
    • It sought the support of the grouping to lift patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines. 
    • Planet’s atmosphere, biodiversity and oceans cannot be protected by countries acting in silos, and called for collective action on climate change.
      • India is the only G-20 country on track to meet its Paris commitments.
    • Developing countries need better access to climate finance, and called for a holistic approach towards climate change that covers mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, climate financing, equity, climate justice and lifestyle change.
    • Highlighted the revolutionary impact of digital technologies on social inclusion and empowerment in India through applications such as Aadhaar, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar- Mobile) trinity.

2.How to grease the wheels of justice

The problem of pendency of cases in courts across the country can be tackled with a few measures

Speaking at an event organised by the Karnataka Bar Council, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana quoted a former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Warren Burger, “The notion that ordinary people want black robed judges, well-dressed lawyers in fine courtrooms as settings to resolve their disputes is incorrect. People with problems, like people with pains, want relief and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” He made a plea to ‘Indianise’ courts to make them responsive to the needs of the Indian citizens.

The Chief Justice of India has the historic opportunity to make this happen. At present, despite good intentions, the nation’s judiciary is hurtling towards a disaster and needs immediate attention. A measure of the justice delivery system is the pendency of cases in courts across the country. We have seen a significant deterioration in this aspect as shown in the table.

More than 40% of cases are decided after three years in India, while in many other countries less than 1% of cases are decided after three years. If India does not act decisively and quickly, this percentage will keep increasing. The rich, the powerful and the wrongdoers have a field day by getting their cases expedited or delayed as they wish. The increase in corruption and crime is a direct fallout of the sluggish justice delivery system. This severely impacts the poor and marginalised. For them, the judicial process itself becomes a punishment. Data show that about 70% of prisoners in India are undertrials and are mostly poor citizens.

Filling vacancies

Two measures can be implemented within two years to tackle this issue. First, reduce the pendency of cases by filling sanctioned judicial positions. Analysis shows that between 2006 and 2019, the average increase in pendency was less than 2% per year whereas the average vacancy in sanctioned judicial positions was about 21%. If the sanctioned positions had been filled, pendency of cases would have gone down each year.

The nation neither needs 70,000 judges, as claimed by former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, nor does it need to double the present number of judges. It needs to add about 20% of judges. This is in line with the sanctioned strength. This figure has been endorsed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, Justice R.C. Chavan and 100 IIT alumni. The responsibility of selecting judges is largely with the judiciary itself. The responsibility of appointments in the subordinate judiciary lies with the State governments and their respective High Courts. The responsibility of ensuring near-zero vacancies should be with the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Justice of India and they should be held accountable for the same. Right now, nobody believes that they are accountable, and filling judicial vacancies is not considered a matter of priority.

Filling all vacancies may result in a requirement of about 5,000 courtrooms. A simple solution would be to run 5,000 courts in two shifts.

Use of technology

The second is to improve working with the use of technology. The e-Committee of the Supreme Court has been in existence since 2005. It has made three outstanding recommendations which are not being followed. One, computer algorithms should decide on case listing, case allocation and adjournments with only a 5% override given to judges. It said all rational reasons and limits should be put on adjournments; case listing should give main weightage to ‘first in, first out’; and case allocation should take into account logical criteria. This would be a big step in reducing arbitrariness and the unfair advantage that the powerful enjoy.

Two, the courts should focus on e-filing. The e-Committee made detailed SOPs on how petitions and affidavits can be filed and payment of fees can be done electronically without lawyers or litigants having to travel to the courts or use paper. This should be implemented in all seriousness and would also save about three lakh trees annually.

Three, it focused on virtual hearings. COVID-19 prompted the courts to adopt virtual hearings. However, virtual hearings were held only in some cases while physical hearings were held in most. In pre-COVID-19 years, the increase in the pendency of cases in all courts used to be about 5.7 lakh cases a year. In 2020 alone, it increased to an astonishing 51 lakh. It appears that if a hybrid virtual hearing model is not adopted, the backlog of cases could cross 5 crore in 2022. The dysfunctional justice system will be perpetually overwhelmed.

All the courts in the country must switch to a hybrid virtual mode immediately and start disposing cases. Even after the COVID-19 crisis ends, it would be beneficial to continue hybrid virtual courts. This will make access to justice easier for litigants, reduce costs, and also give a fair opportunity to young lawyers from small towns. The required hardware is available in all courts.

No change in laws

All the recommendations — e-filing of petitions, affidavits and payment of fees; algorithm-based computerised listing, roster, case allocation and adjournments with only a 5% override to be given to judges; hybrid virtual hearings; filling judicial vacancies; and holding Chief Justices responsible for ensuring that vacancies in judicial positions are less than 5% — are based on the Supreme Court’s various decisions and the e-Committee’s recommendations. These would require no changes in laws. At a conference, High Court Chief Justices and the Chief Justice of India and the government could make decisions on all of this.

If all this is done, India’s judicial system can rank among the 10 top countries of the world. These changes would make India the preferred nation for international investments and also fulfil the fundamental right to speedy justice of citizens.

3.‘Lockdowns slowed green energy push’

Increased capacity could have met demand surge after economic reopening, says IEEFA report

The lockdowns slowed renewable energy installations in the country and the pace of such installation is lagging India’s 2022 target, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a research think tank.

As part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, India has said that it would install 175 gigawatts (GW) of green energy by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030 but only 7 GW of such capacity was added in the financial year 2020-21, Vibhuti Garg, report author and energy economist, said.

A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts.

100-GW target

Data from the Central Electricity Authority independently shows that India was to have installed 100 GW of solar energy capacity by March 2023 — 40-GW rooftop solar and 60-GW ground-mounted utility scale.

The country has managed to install only 43.94 GW till July 31, 2021.

In its analysis of monthly volumes and prices at the largest power exchange in India, Indian Energy Exchange (IEX), the IEEFA study found that the amount of power traded increased by 20% over 2020, by 37% from the 2019 figure and by 30% over 2018.

This led to prices on average increasing by 38% from the 2020 rates, by 8% from the 2019 figure and by 11% over 2018.

“Clearly as economic growth revives, electricity demand grows and average prices at the exchange increase,” Ms. Garg says.

Had there been more access to renewable energy, particularly wind and hydropower, it could have contributed to lower energy prices, the report says.

Coal stocks

The IEEFA’s analysis shows coal stocks hit a new record high of 1,320 lakh tonnes at the end of 2020-21 and exceeded the monthly averages of the previous five years. Having reduced its reliance on imported coal and replaced it with domestic coal, Coal India Ltd., India’s largest coal producer, had about two months’ supply.

However, an analysis of the daily coal stock position exhibited a “deterioration” as more plants reported supplies were critical. On August 1, 23 plants with an installed capacity of 33 GW had critical coal supplies. By September 9, this increased to 92 with an installed capacity of 112 GW and by September 22, 102 with installed capacity of 123 GW.

“Most plants had coal stockpiles for one to five days. However, the requirement for thermal power plants is to maintain coal supplies for 21 days or at least 15,” Ms. Garg says. “In most cases, the issue of supply was at the thermal power producer end, rather than the issue of coal stock shortage at CIL end.”

Imported coal prices have been rising in the past few months because of resurgent demand after the pandemic — especially in emerging Asian markets such as China and India, but also in Japan, South Korea, Europe and the U.S.

“Greater reliance on coal imports will increase thermal power prices in India, leading to higher prices for the ultimate consumers,” Ms. Garg says.

Flexible solutions

The IEEFA notes that the challenge of India’s growing daily peak demand does not require investment in excess baseload thermal capacity. Instead, the electricity system needed “flexible and dynamic generation solutions” such as battery storage, pumped hydro storage, peaking gas-fired capacity and flexible operation of its existing coal fleet.

“Government should accelerate deployment of such sources to help meet peak demand and also balance the grid at a lower cost,” says Ms. Garg.

Their prices were falling and so would be cost effective and a buffer against very high prices at the power exchange during peak demand.

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