In spite of the risks it poses, the climate crisis is yet to get political resonance in India

Context: The 26th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow, Scotland may not have a significant outcome as yet in sight.

Matters on the table initially in the summit:

  • The Net Zero Emissions: Prior to the summit, there was a frantic attempt by leaders of western countries, particularly the US and summit host the UK, to have most countries agree on a mid-century net zero goal, or when emissions dip to near zero or are balanced out by taking out an equivalent from the atmosphere.
  • Climate Justice & Equity: The Net zero pitch had put China and India, both major greenhouse gas emitters, on the defensive. They stressed more on the issues such as climate equity and justice instead. Their argument was that the climate crisis is largely due to the West because of over a century of unmitigated carbon dioxide emissions, and so those countries must bear the lion’s share of reparations in the form of finance and access to clean technologies.
  • Net zero target by Asian Giants – China and India -announced: While China has indicated a 2060 net zero year, India surprisingly agreed to a net zero year of 2070 as well as more initiatives by 2030 to move towards having a significantly larger share of its energy needs met by renewable energy.

India’s contributions viz-a-viz, the world:

  • Inadequate target, prima facie: The target year 2070 is far from 2050, by when scientific consensus says, emissions must decline to zero for earth to have a fighting chance to keep temperatures at manageable levels. India’s 50-year deadline(from now) will unlikely help prevent temperatures from rising beyond the danger mark.
  • However India has ambitious targets for 2030 – The Panchamrit Targets: India’s 5 announcements at Glasgow:
    • India to enhanced its installed renewable energy capacity target to 500GW from 450GW by 2030.
    • The share of non-fossil fuel energy in India’s total energy mix now aimed to reach 50% by 2030 instead of 40% earlier.
    • India would bring down its emission intensity or emissions per unit GDP by at least 45% by 2030 from the 2005 levels, instead of 33 to 35% earlier.
    • India finally accepted to reach a net-zero emissions target by 2070.
  • India to  reduce emissions by one billion tonnes.

India’s contention:

  • India needs a trillion dollars, by 2030, from developed countries.
  • Indian Ambition: It is a $2.87 trillion economy(2019) and expects to be a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 and close to $10 trillion by 2030. Though the novel coronavirus pandemic has made it unlikely to achieve the 2025 target.
  • Unfulfilled promises by developed countries: Developing countries were collectively promised, nearly a decade ago, $100 billion annually until 2020 and only a small fraction has been realised. If this sum is realized, India and other developing countries would surely achieve its goals.
  • The conundrum of global warming is that irrespective of how irrefutable the evidence is, it is unlikely that elected representatives of developed countries will impose punitive taxation on their citizens for climate reparations.

Way forward: However, a quicker transition to renewable energy sources may be made by enabling greater sharing of technology and at fora where countries discuss tariff barriers that impede better, cleaner technology from being adopted faster than they should be. In spite of the risks it poses, the climate crisis is yet to get political resonance in India. Unless it appears on electoral platforms, the push away from fossil fuel will not happen; and India might not have a realistic chance at adapting to disasters at minimal cost.


2. The enduring relevance of Nehru’s legacy: That each day, Indians govern themselves in a pluralist democracy is testimony to his deeds and words.

Context: 14th November, tomorrow is Nehru’s birth anniversary, which is celebrated as Children’s day.

  • He was a privileged child, the unremarkable youth, the posturing young nationalist, and the heroic fighter for independence are all inextricable from the unchallengeable Prime Minister and peerless global statesman. In so many roles his legacy is unbounded with both appreciation and fierce critique.

Four men embodied the vision of free India in the 1940s — Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar.

  • Gandhi’s moral rectitude, allied to Jawaharlal Nehru’s political passion, fashioned both the strategy and tactics for the struggle against British rule.
  • Sardar Patel’s firm hand on the administration integrated the nation and established peace and stability.
  • Ambedkar’s erudition and legal acumen helped translate the dreams of a generation into a working legal document that laid the foundations for an enduring democracy.

India’s unique way:

  • While the world was disintegrating into fascism, violence, and war, Gandhi taught the virtues of truth, non-violence, and peace.
  • While the nation reeled from bloodshed and communal carnage, Ambedkar preached the values of constitutionalism and the rule of law.
  • While parochial ambitions threatened national unity, Patel led the nation to a vision of unity and common purpose.
  • While mobs marched the streets baying for revenge, Nehru’s humane and non-sectarian vision inspired India to yearn again for the glory that had once been hers.

Differences between Gandhi and Nehru:

Gandhi’s idea of a democracy was spiritualized. He envisaged a society without hypocrisy and corruption. To attain that, a society was to be made where property and position had no importance. Manual work was to be the basis of such a society.Nehru believed in a parliamentary democracy. He had faith in the institutions. For him, the basis of such a democracy was universal adult suffrage.
For a self-sufficient economy, cottage industry (hand spinning, hand weaving, Khadi) was an idea of Gandhi.Nehru as his ideologies followed democratic socialism. He believed in massive industrialization, scientific and technological advancement, etc. for a strong economy for India.
International affairs: Gandhi believed India should not interfere in the affairs of other countries.Nehru believed in having good relationships with other countries and helping the world as much as one could. He believed this was essential to uplift India in the world.
Idealist: He never compromised with his principle of truth, non-violence and purity.Pragmatist: If the situation demanded, he was ready to compromise.

The pillars of his imprint

  • Democratic institution-building  Upon the Mahatma’s assassination in 1948, his death could have led Nehru to assume untrammelled power like many other nations which turned to dictatorship. However, he spent a lifetime immersed in the democratic values Ambedkar had codified, trying to instil the habits of democracy in his people — a disdain for dictators, a respect for parliamentary procedures, an abiding faith in the constitutional system. “He must be checked,” he wrote of himself. “We want no Caesars.”
  • Staunch pan-Indian secularism — His secularism did not mean indifference to religion. It only means that the state as such is not identified with any particular religion but tolerates, appreciates and respects all religions. He used every single opportunity to express the danger of mixing religion and politics. He was a vehement critic of communalism and fundamentalism of both Hindus and Muslims. 
  • Socialist economics — At Independence India chose a mixed economy with Soviet like Central planning. It sought an alternative to extreme versions of capitalism & socialism; Sympathising with social outlook – combining its best features without its drawbacks. Industrial policy Resolution of 1948 and the DPSPs of the Constitution reflected this outlook.
  • A foreign policy of non-alignment — In 1946, six days after Nehru formed the national government, he stated, “we propose… to keep away from the power politics of groups aligned against one another… it is for One World that free India will work.” His opposition to alliances was justified by American weapons to Pakistan from 1954 and the creation of western-led military blocs in Asia. Non-alignment was the least costly policy for promoting India’s diplomatic presence, a sensible approach when India was weak and looked at askance by both blocs, and the best means of securing economic assistance from abroad. India played a lone hand against colonialism and racism until many African states achieved independence after 1960.

Conclusion: The American editor, Norman Cousins, once asked Nehru what he hoped his legacy to India would be. “Four hundred million people capable of governing themselves,” Nehru replied. The numbers have grown, but the very fact that each day over a billion Indians govern themselves in a pluralist democracy is testimony to the deeds and words of the man whose birthday we commemorate tomorrow.




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