Trade Dark Spot in the Solar World :-
A call for liberalising trade and that too on solar, could be interpret as idealistic, given the increasing protectionism across the globe. Nevertheless, if we are serious about leaving behind a habitable world for future generations, we must challenge protectionism in solar trade. Climate change is enveloping all of us, be it the developed or developing world.
ISA – International Solar Alliance :-
India along with France has launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA) during the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris in November 2015.
An analysis of the 121 member economies of this Alliance located in the sunshine belt between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, reveals that :-
- In 2014, only 27 of these countries were providing 100 per cent electricity access.
- In the case of 49 countries, mostly in Africa, the access rate was less than 70 per cent.
- India which has set a target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 has been embroiled over the last few years in a dispute over imposing safeguard duties which is detrimental to cost-effective solar deployment.
Objectives of ISA :-
- The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
- Another objective of ISA should be to undertake joint efforts to reduce the cost of finance and technology besides mobilising more than $1 trillion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy.
Therefore, there is huge potential for ISA to translate the initial intent into actually making a world a better solar-lit place by facilitating movement of solar energy goods and services at zero or near zero tariffs.
Solar tariffs are high in ISA economies because of lack of manufacturing capacity and high tariffs on solar PV products. For example :-
- Most African economies have higher most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs for PV cells, modules, and semi-conductor devices.
- Island countries have among the highest MFN applied rates for solar-related products, such as photosensitive devices and solar heaters.
- Some of the countries across regions have tariffs as high as 35-40 per cent.
What should be done by ISA members to promote the free trade of solar energy equipment ?
- ISA members can voluntarily reduce import tariffs and non-tariff barriers on solar-related products and related services.
- Members could also agree on gradual reduction of tariffs over a period of time to take into account concerns of domestic producers, if any.
What would be the effect of reducing tariffs ?
It would result in a Pluri-lateral voluntary trade deal on solar energy goods and services among ISA members, bringing real benefits to trade and the environment. In this case the committed economies will be able to take advantage of global solar supply chains and economies of scale, while allowing massive deployment of affordable solar energy among ISA countries.
A Pluri-lateral agreement is one where a group of economies come together to move forward with liberalisation in select areas.
What would be the effect of this plurilateral trade initiative ?
- Firstly, applied tariffs along the solar supply-chain would come down fairly fast without the need to wait for the conclusion of a binding trade agreement such as the Environmental Goods Agreement.
- Secondly, such a deal would reduce chances of disputes over what goods to include or exclude in the final ISA trade agreement. This is because there would be a good degree of agreement among trade delegates of 121 ISA economies on what goods and services are important for the solar supply chain.
- Finally, opportunities to integrate into global solar value-chains may be opened up for developing countries. They could partner with developed ones and over time develop state-of-the-art technologies and equipment for its domestic market, as well as sell to many ISA countries with similar needs. Devising investment norms, facilitating technology know-how, and bettering trade objectives could be considered by ISA.
An agreement to reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers on solar products and services should not be viewed as end in itself. But it can certainly be one of the solutions to achieve ISA’s own objective of scaling up solar power.
Protecting Couples from Mob :-
- The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011 have been in consultation among states & So far only 23 States have responded to the Bill with suggestions & the other six have not responded yet.
- The Supreme Court has now stepped in to fill this legislative vacuum and is expected to frame guidelines in a judgement to protect adult couples from the fury of the mob.
What does this Bill will do ?
The proposed law, drafted by the Law Commission of India, is meant to penalise honour killings and uphold the right of adults to marry persons of their own choice without unlawful interference from caste panchayats or persons and relatives intent on harming the couple.
Features of the Bill :-
- In the proposed law, the Law Commission has concluded that honour killing does not require a separate provision. The definition of murder in Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code would suffice “to take care of the situations leading to overt acts of killing or causing bodily harm to the targeted person who allegedly undermined the honour of the caste or community.”
- The 2011 Bill defines “unlawful assembly” as a group of persons who congregate with the “view or intention to deliberate on or condemn any marriage on the basis that such marriage has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.”
- “Marriage” under the draft legislation includes “proposed or intended marriage.”
Punishments under Bill :-
- Participating in any unlawful assembly is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but which may extend to one year and is also liable to a fine of up to ₹10,000.
- Making exhortations that endanger the liberty of a couple is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to two years and is also liable to a fine of up to ₹20,000.
- Criminal intimidation of the couple or their relatives or supporters is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to three years and is also liable to a fine of up to ₹30,000.
- The maximum punishment in case of actual harm or injury caused shall extend to seven years of imprisonment.
The Other Half :-
International Women’s Day on 8th March was a day to take stock of the progress the world has made in treating women as men’s equals and of the measures taken to empower women financially, politically and socially. It was also a day to celebrate achievements, individual and collective, of women, and to pledge to continue the efforts to get women a better deal.
But there is still serious political and legislative intervention is required to supplement the efforts of civil society and the women’s movement in this direction.
Situation of women working in India :-
- Just about a quarter of all women in the working age group in India are engaged in any work outside their homes compared to three-quarters of men.
- Some have chosen to be stay-at-home mothers and home-makers for want of support systems to look after young children or ageing parents.
- Others have left their jobs due to stressful conditions at work.
- Safety at the workplace and during their commute is a major concern that discourages women from venturing out to take up work.
What steps have been taken by Govt to encourage the participation of women in economic activity ?
- First, the changes to the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 will help working women with young children return to work.
- Second, Ujjwala scheme for providing LPG connections liberates poorer women from some of their everyday drudgery.
- Third, The construction of toilets in schools has helped reduce drop-out rates among girl students.
What possibly measures can be taken by Indian govt to enhance women participation ?
- Political empowerment of women, for instance, is one area where parties need to build a consensus. Ensuring greater representation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies through statutory reservation is one such measure that must be legislated at the earliest.
- Financial inclusion and empowerment of women is another area that needs to be addressed. An overwhelming 80 per cent of women entrepreneurs depend on their own funds to finance their ventures while less than five per cent get institutional support. India Inc also needs to pave the way for women to play a greater leadership role.