Weekly Current Affairs Mains ( 9th to 15th September, 2018)

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Weekly Current Affairs Mains ( 9th to 15th September, 2018)

 

Topic: UN Political Declaration on TB

TOPIC in syllabus: GS II

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

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Why in news

  • After decades spent battling the scourge of tuberculosis (TB) in developing countries, 2018 might be the year that it is finally accorded the gravitas it deserves.
  • On September 26, the UN General Assembly will, for the first time, address TB in a High-Level Meeting and likely release a Political Declaration, endorsed by all member nations, to galvanise investment and action to meet the global target of eliminating TB worldwide by 2035.

About TB

  • The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium causes TB. It is spread through the air when a person with TB (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks.
  • TB is, by and large, easily diagnosable and curable. It is unacceptable that it nevertheless remains the leading causes of death from any single infectious agent worldwide.
  • Each day, thousands of people with TB die, often because of inequitable access to quality diagnosis and treatment.
  • In addition, the rapid emergence of drug-resistant forms of TB (DR-TB) in many countries brings a fresh set of needs including new and comprehensive diagnostic tests and second-line TB drugs, and health systems trained anew to manage DR-TB.

TB in India

  • India not only accounts for a fifth of the world’s TB burden, it also has the largest number of people living with multidrug-resistant TB.
  • India has fought to retain its status as a maker and distributor of generic medicines, thereby protecting the right to health of people in developing countries.
  • Indian patent law contains important provisions that help protect and promote public health goals — for example, by overcoming bids by big pharma to evergreen patents of old drugs, through compulsorily licensing for certain drugs, and by permitting pre- and post-grant opposition to patents to challenge unfair patenting practices by big pharma.

Meaning of Elimination of a disease

  • Elimination means reducing the number to one case per million people per year.
  • It will be impossible without universal, equitable access to affordable, quality TB diagnostics and treatment for anyone who needs it.

Omissions in Political Declaration

  • Countries may avail of the various flexibilities under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights;
  • Countries may invoke the Doha Declaration to compulsorily license drugs for use in public health emergencies.
  • The option to de-link the pricing of new TB drugs from the costs incurred in their research and development.

Criticism of Political Declaration

  • Due to above mentioned omissions; the latest draft is a watered-down version of the original that actively committed to upholding access to affordable generics for all.
  • Much to the disappointment of global civil society, issues around access to diagnostics and drugs have been considerably diluted in the most recent draft of the Political Declaration.

Conclusion

  • India aims to eliminate TB by 2025, ahead of the global targets. These targets cannot be achieved without access to affordable, quality diagnostics/ drugs.
  • Unless India assumes a leadership role to restore every possible option to protect universal access to TB drugs in the Political Declaration, 2018 may end up being just another brick in the wall.

 

Sample Question:

Q. TB remains one of the leading causes of death from any single infectious agent worldwide. Comment on the national and global efforts to eliminate the disease by 2035.


 

Topic: Climate change – need and measures to deal with it

TOPIC in syllabus: GS III

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
  • International efforts for protection environment and mitigation of degradation

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Why in news:

  • The conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bangkok was to draft a rulebookfor the Paris Agreement ahead of a crucial international conference in Poland in December, ran into predictable difficulties over the issue of raising funds to help poorer nations.
  • Some developed countries led by the U.S.have rejected the agreement and are unwilling to commit to sound rules on raising climate finance.

Till now, Emissions by Developed Countries:

  • Those emissions raised living standards for their citizens but contributed heavily to the accumulated carbon dioxide burden, now measured at about 410 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, up from 280 ppm before the industrial revolution.
  • If scientific estimates are correct, the damage already done to the West Antarctic Ice Sheetis set to raise sea levels; a 2° Celsius rise will also destabilise the Greenland Ice Sheet.
  • Failed agriculture in populous countrieswill drive more mass migrations of people, creating conflict.
  • A deeper insight on all this will be available in October when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its scientific report on the impact of a 1.5° C rise in global average temperature.

India and China: should take Leadership Role:

  • There is international pressure on China and India to cut GHG emissions. Both countries have committed themselves to a cleaner growth path.
  • India,which reported an annual CO2 equivalent emissions of 2.136 billion tonnes in 2010 to the UNFCCC two years ago, estimates that the GHG emissions intensity of its GDP has declined by 12% for the 2005-2010 period.
  • As members committed to the Paris Agreement, China and India have the responsibility of climate leadership in the developing world,and have to green their growth.

Background:

  • At COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015, Parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.
  • Under the pact concluded in Paris, rich countries pledged to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and aid populations to cope with extreme events such as floods, droughts and storms.
  • However, Mr. Trump in June last year announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris deal, saying the accord would have cost America trillions of dollars, killed jobs, and hindered the oil, gas, coal and manufacturing industries.
  • United States of America (USA) is the second largest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitter presently.
  • However, if cumulative historical emission is considered, USA would be largest GHG emitter.
  • So, its withdrawal will affect control of cumulative global GHG emissions. It will also affect the availability of international funds for climate change, as USA was a contributor to climate finance.

India’s Contribution to reduce GHGs:

  • In the pre-2020 period, India announced its voluntary goal to reduce the emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 20-25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
  • Government of India is implementing the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which includes eight national missions being implemented by various Ministries in specific areas:
  • Solar Energy, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic knowledge for Climate Change.

India’s Measures for Tackling Climate Change:

Under the Paris Agreement, India has submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC outlining Eight (8) targets for 2021-2030, including

  • To reduce Emission Intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level,
  • To achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF),
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • The other targets pertain to sustainable lifestyles; climate friendly growth path; climate change adaptation; climate change finance; and capacity building and technology.

Way forward

  • Obstructing the transition to a carbon-neutral pathway and preserving the status quo is short-sighted, simply because the losses caused by weather events are proving severely detrimental to all economies.
  • Developing countries need a supportive framework in the form of a rulebook that binds the developed countries to their funding pledges, provides support for capacity building and transfer of green technologies on liberal terms.
  • Incremental changes along with increasing contributions from renewables and improvements in energy efficiencies would not be sufficient.
  • There should instead be major changes in technological innovation, behaviour, values and governance. This is an unprecedented challenge for humanity.
  • This is the time for the world’s leaders to demonstrate that they are ready to go beyond expediency and take the actions needed to avert long-term catastrophe.

 

Sample question:

Q. In the wake of recent developments in climate change efforts, discuss the need and measures required at national and global level to tackle the problem of climate change?


Topic : Low female workforce participation in India

TOPIC in syllabus: GS I

  • Social Empowerment
  • Role of women and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies 

GS III

  • Economic growth
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

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Introduction

Marriage is a career stopper for the majority of Indian women and this cultural abhorrence towards women working is a not-so-subtle way of ensuring that the escape routes out of a marriage are minimised, if not entirely closed.

Female workforce in India

  • India’s female workforce participation is among the lowest in the world.
  • The Economic Survey 2017-18 revealed that women comprise only 24% of the Indian workforce.
  • In fact, as India grows economically, the number of women in workplaces is declining steadily.
  • Though the enrolment of girls in higher education courses is growing steadily — to 46% in 2014 from 39% in 2007.

Causes of Low women workforce

  • In India’s leaking pipeline of women employees, the first and most significant drop-off point is between the junior and middle management levels.
  • A survey by Catalyst, a management consultancy firm, pegged this number at a whopping 50%, compared to 29% in other Asian economies.
  • When plotted against life milestones, this often corresponds to the time women choose to get married.
  • The cultural baggage about women working outside the home is so strong that in most traditional Indian families, quitting work is a necessary precondition to the wedding itself.
  • The richer the family is, the lower the chances that they allow women to pursue a career. In low-income families, economic pressure sometimes trumps social stigma.
  • Childbirth and taking care of elderly parents or in-laws account for the subsequent points where women drop off the employment pipeline.

Consequences

  • On the macroeconomic level, this suggests that we’re giving up on a 27% boost to the country’s GDP.
  • At the individual level, without any recourse to financial means, women stay tethered to the family.
  • Ending a marriage is such a daunting task — socially and legally — that even the thought of embarking on it without financial independence is terrifying.

Conclusion and way forward:

  • Having grave consequences at macroeconomic and societal levels, unemployed women suffer at individual level too.
  • The Supreme Court has set a benchmark of 25% of a husband’s net salary as a “just and proper” amount for alimony, leaving divorced women with full custody of the children at a quarter of the family income.
  • Much credit for India’s low divorce rate goes to this Stockholm syndrome-like situation of Indian marriages.
  • Financially independent women are need of the hour for strong economy as well as egalitarian society.

 

Sample question

Q. With the rise in per capita income, women workforce participation in India is declining. Elucidate.


Topic: Rising fuel prices

TOPIC in syllabus: GS III: Indian Economy, inflation, taxation

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Introduction

From last six months, petrol and diesel prices continuing to rise. There are many causes of it, some local and other global.

Causes

  • In June 2017, India’s state-run oil marketing companies switched to a dynamic pricing approach to set pump prices of petrol and diesel on a daily basis.
  • The move was aimed at helping ensure a market-driven approach to fuel pricing by enabling oil firms to factor in day-to-day fluctuations in crude oil prices as well as movements in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the rupee.
  • As a result, with both crude oil and the dollar becoming significantly dearer over the last six months, petrol and diesel prices have remained on a steady upward trajectory countrywide.
  • According to the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), petrol hit a record high of Rs. 88.26 per litre on September 11 in Mumbai, where fuel prices are the highest among India’s four major metros. At that level, the cost of petrol to consumers had climbed 8.4% in this fiscal year.
  • Besides the cost of crude oil and the exchange rate, the incidence of Excise Duty (levied by the Centre) and VAT (charged by the respective States), along with a nominal dealer commission that the oil companies pay to fuel pump owners, ends up approximately doubling the final price consumers pay.
  • To illustrate: a consumer in Delhi paid Rs. 79.15 for a litre of petrol that was delivered to the dealers in the city at a cost of Rs. 39.21.

Major consequences :

  • Diesel is used to transport goods and commuters and therefore has a direct pass-through impact on retail inflation.
  • When consumers end up facing higher fuel bills for using their petrol-powered two-wheelers or cars, and are also unsure of how the overall increase in the cost of living is going to impact their monthly budgets, they are likely to curtail non-essential consumption expenditure.
  • Thus, even as inflation accelerates, consumer spending, a key driver of economic growth, could start to soften.

Way forward:

  • Given the extent to which Central and State taxes inflate the final fuel prices paid by consumers; the governments have the option of trimming excise duty and VAT. This would entail foregoing some revenue in the short-term.
  • In the longer term, policymakers must look at more enduring structural solutions including ways to reduce the dependence on crude oil imports.

 

Sample question:

Q. Consumer goods prices and in general inflation are affected by highly volatile fuel prices. Do you think, bringing down fuel imports will stabilize prices in general? Elaborate alternatives to fuel imports.


Topic: The state of democracy in South Asia, especially India

TOPIC in syllabus: GS II 

  • Constitution, Democracy, Governance and issues related to it
  • Polity; India and the world

Government policies and issues arising
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Why in news:

The world celebrates the 11th International Day of Democracy (15 September) in pursuance of a UN resolution.

Rise of Democracy

  • The world saw a huge wave of democratisation after World War II.
  • The newly-liberated states in Latin America, Africa and Asia adopted democratic forms of government after centuries of colonial subjugation.
  • Today more people live under various forms of democracy than ever before.
  • More than 120 of the 192 countries in the world have some form of democracy — only 11 parliamentary democracies existed in 1941.
  • This indicates the appeal of democratic ideas and systems.

Current scenario and challenges

  • Despite the democratic upsurge, there are significant challenges like poverty, inequality, gender injustice, nepotism and corruption.
  • Elected despots and authoritarian leaders are weakening democracies across the world. Political experts have argued that democratic values are on the decline, especially in the West.
  • People are losing faith in democracy because of corruption, nepotism and unemployment. This often leads to people disengaging with key public policy issues, which in turn makes those in power less accountable.
  • Transparency in political processes, accountability of elected representatives, basic freedoms for all citizens, equal rights for women and minorities and high rates of voter participation are the things which contribute to the popularity of democracies.

State of democracy

  • The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an inter-country organisation, tried to evaluate the state of democracy in the world in the light of such worrying claims.
  • The Global State of Democracy Index (GSoD) looks at the trends in democratisation from 1975 to 2017.
  • With the help of a set of 98 indicators, IDEA aims to study the factors which threaten democracy throughout the world and those that make it strong and resilient.
  • The study covers a variety of important indicators such as representative government, fundamental rights, checks on the government, impartial administration and participatory engagement. These have many sub indicators for an in depth indices-based analysis.

Democracy in South Asia

  • South Asia is home to 3 per cent of the world’s area and 21 per cent of the world’s population.
  • It’s significant that 50 per cent of the world’s population living under some form of democratic rule resides in this region.
  • When it comes to representative government, India and Sri Lanka have maintained relatively high scores. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have had periods of non-elected regimes. The general trend in South Asia in this respect has, however, been positive.
  • With respect to ensuring fundamental rights, the region’s score matches that of Asia Pacific but it is slightly below the global average.
  • At the country level, Afghanistan and Nepal have seen the most improvement. Sri Lanka and Pakistan saw a slight decline in the 1970s and 1980s. India’s score has been stable since the late 1970s. However, a decline has been observed since 2015.
  • South Asia shows a steady improvement on the yardstick that measures gender equality with Nepal standing out.
  • India’s score was better than the world average till 2003 but there has been a dip in the country’s performance on the gender equality yardstick since then.
  • When it comes to checks on government, South Asia has shown a steady increase from 1975 to 1994.
  • Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan have shown the most improvement. Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have remained relatively stable with scores in line with the global average.
  • In the yardstick on impartial administration, South Asia follows both the regional and global trends with no significant change, except in Nepal, which has seen a significant improvement.
  • However, the “absence of corruption” sub-indice within the “impartial administration” category shows a worrying tendency in South Asia. The region has the lowest scores in the world despite a slight improvement between 2012 and 2015.
  • A robust civil society is essential for deliberative decision making.
  • Civil society participation has increased in India by leaps and bounds between 1978 and 2012 after which it declined drastically to fall below the average of Asia Pacific and that of the World. In 2017, it was the lowest since 1975.
  • In 2017, the gap between the Indian score and the world average in the yardstick that measures “personal integrity and security” was the widest since 1977. This is worrying.
  • In the past 10 years, South Asia’s scores for electoral participation are in line with the global average but slightly below the Asia Pacific average.
  • Recently, there has been a decrease in voter participation in Bangladesh but a slight increase in India and Sri Lanka.

Democracy in India

  • The GSoD report analyses India’s performance on all the above-mentioned indicators and shows that the country has done moderately well.
  • On yardsticks such as elected government, effective parliament and impartial administration, the country’s scores hover around the world average.
  • In the last decade, there has been a significant dip in the country’s record on civil liberties, personal integrity and security, freedom of association, media integrity, gender equality and basic welfare.
  • India’s performance on the yardstick to measure media integrity was better than the global and South Asian average between 1994 and 2012. However, the country’s score has fallen below the global and Asia-Pacific average in 2017.
  • Given that a free and fair media is crucial to a meaningful democracy, this is a worrying tendency.
  • The Election Commission has played an important role in conducting free and fair elections in the country. The Commission’s Systematic Voters Education for Electoral Participation Programme role has been crucial in this respect.
  • An independent judiciary is another reason for the resilience of democracy in India. The apex court has given judgments that keep a check on the government and ensure a transparent and accountable system.

Conclusion and way forward:

  • Democracy does not merely mean voting rights for people, it means empowering people by granting them equality. It also means the creation of mechanisms to resolve differences through dialogue and with mutual respect and understanding.
  • India does have the highest rating among South Asian democracies. But its performances on several yardsticks makes it a flawed democracy. If we want the largest democracy to count among the world’s greatest, there must be serious introspection among all stakeholders.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the democratic values of India and the current state of democracy in India


Topic : Fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs

Topic in syllabus: GS II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

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Why in news: 

The government has prohibited the manufacture, sale or distribution of 328 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs for human use with immediate effect.

The health ministry’s ban on FDCs included painkillers, anti-diabetic, respiratory and gastro-intestinal medicines, covering 6,000 brands.

Causes leading to ban:

The expert panel probing the efficacy of 349 banned FDCs, after considering these drugs “irrational”, cited safety issues and lack of therapeutic justification, and recommended continuing the ban. It also found that many FDCs were formulated without due diligence, with dosing mismatches that could result in toxicity.

What are FDCs?

An FDC is a cocktail of two or more active drug ingredients in a fixed ratio of doses. According to US healthcare provider IMS Health, almost half the drugs sold in India in 2014 were FDC, making it a world leader in combination drugs.

Why are they popular in India?

FDCs’ popularity in India is due to advantages such as increased efficacy, better compliance, reduced cost and simpler logistics of distribution. FDCs have shown to be particularly useful in the treatment of infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, where giving multiple antimicrobial agents is the norm. FDCs are also useful for chronic conditions especially, when multiple disorders co-exist.

The raison d’etre behind FDCs is to improve adherence, simplify therapy and/or to maximise benefit for the patient courtesy the added effects of the multiple medicinal products given together. Popular FDCs, now banned, include the painkiller Saridon, the skin cream Panderm, antibiotic Lupidiclox and combination diabetes drug Gluconorm PG.

For instance, several FDCs pack a combination of nimesulide and paracetamol and are sold under different brand names as an anti-pyretic, or medications to control fever.

Is there a flipside to FDCs?

Given that there is not much data available on drug-drug interaction and side-effects in FDC, India’s system for collecting data for problematic drug reactions is weak. When multiple drugs from the same therapeutic group, like antibiotics, are clubbed together, it may lead to resistance. A lot of FDCs sold in India are unapproved, given the lack of coordination between state and central regulators. A study published in the journal of Public Library of Science (PLOS) in May found that over 70% of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) combinations, which are used as painkillers, were being marketed in India without central government approval.

 

 Sample question:

Q. IN the wake of recent ban on the manufacture, sale or distribution of 328 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs for human use, Discuss the need for regulation of pharmaceutical sector in India.


 

Topic : ‘Exporting Corruption Report’

 Topic in syllabus: GS II: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

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Why in news: 

The 2018 edition of the ‘Exporting Corruption Report’ has been released by anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. The classification of enforcement is based on the convention countries’ enforcement actions in the period 2014-2017.

Highlights of the report:

  • In this 2018 report, China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore –- all with 2% or more of world exports, but not parties to the OECD (Anti-Bribery) Convention –- are classified for the first time and all fall into the lowest level (little or no enforcement).
  • This poor performance argues for these countries’ accession to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. They are, however, parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, which also calls for enforcement against foreign bribery. Transparency International urges them to join the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

Performance of India:

India is among four countries with “no or little enforcement” mechanism to check foreign bribery. The report asks India to criminalise foreign bribery and introduce effective legislation to protect whistleblowers in the private sector.

The report notes that:

  • The Indian government does not publish statistics on its foreign bribery enforcement and does not disclose such statistics on request.
  • The authorities do not disclose any information about unpublished cases related to bribery of foreign public officials by Indians.
  • India is also not clear whether the governmental enforcement and investigative agencies collect information related to foreign bribery, separately or not.
  • There are also inadequacies in implementation of Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Treaty. The translation of documents into foreign languages is a major factor slowing down the MLA process.

Challenges ahead:

As foreign bribery is not yet criminalised in India, the adequacy of the enforcement system in relation to this specific offence cannot be assessed. However, certain shortcomings in the enforcement system, in particular those evident from current enforcement of domestic corruption, are also a concern for foreign bribery enforcement. In particular, while the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act prescribe criminal and civil liability for domestic corruption, the reality is that actions taken against the perpetrators have been few.

Concerns expressed by the report:

If China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore do not enforce hard-won international standards for conducting business, competitors from countries that do enforce will find themselves disadvantaged. This may lead to a reduction in enforcement, destabilising the global marketplace. The real losers will be the global economy and people in countries affected by exported corruption, especially grand corruption.

OECD Anti-Bribery Convention:

The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention was adopted in 1997 to address the supply side of international corruption.

  • Its aim is to create a level playing field between OECD countries by subjecting countries to the same criminal standards. Before the OECD Convention, the US was the only OECD country that prohibited its companies from bribing foreign officials. The OECD Convention does not address private (business-to-business) bribery.
  • There are now 44 parties to the convention, 36 of them members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Highlights:

  • Criminalisation:Prohibits the bribery of foreign officials.
  • Enforcement:Includes an obligation to prosecute companies suspected of bribing public officials abroad.
  • Cooperation:Encourages enhanced collaboration between the law enforcement agencies of signatory countries.
  • Tax Deductions:Bans the tax deductibility of bribes to foreign public officials.
  • Whistleblowing:Recommends the establishment of effective whistleblowing mechanisms.
  • Monitoring:The OECD carries out rigorous peer-review examinations monitoring the level of implementation of the OECD Convention and OECD recommendations.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss various measures taken by the Government in the recent time to control corruption. Comment on the enforcement of the anti-corruption laws and rules.


 

Topic: International Solar Alliance

Topic in syllabus: GS-II – International Relations, GS III- Energy

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Why in news:

Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has been selected by the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to facilitate implementation of 5,00,000 Solar Water Pumping Systems.

Background

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was jointly launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France in 2015 at UNFCCC CoP 21 Paris, France.
  • In March 2018, the first meet of International Solar Alliance was held in New Delhi, India

What is International Solar Alliance (ISA)?

  • ISA is partnership of solar resource rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on development of solar energy resource
  • It is an intergovernmental body registered with the United Nations under Article 102 of the UN Charter.
  • The ISA is open to 121 countries, most of them located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. However, ISA is now considering to open the membership to all countries.
  • 68 countries have joined the alliance and 44 countries have ratified the framework agreement.

Need for the Alliance

  • There had been no specific body in place to address the specific solar technology deployment needs of the solar resource rich countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn
  • Most of the solar rich countries have been relatively underexploited, and represents a large market for solar technology.
  • Many countries face gaps in the potential solar energy manufacturing eco-system.
  • Further, these countries despite having large potential of solar energy suffer from lack of universal energy access, energy equity and affordability
  • A coalition of these countries for solar energy development and solar technology applications would help in addressing the special energy needs of these countries, and in the long run, reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Aim:

To create a collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy security & sustainable development and ensure equitable access to energy

Objectives:

  1. Promote solar technologies and investment in the solar sector to enhance income generation for the poor and global environment
  2. Formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications
  3. Develop innovative Financial Mechanisms to reduce cost of capital
  4. Build a common Knowledge e-Portal for sharing of policy development experiences and best practices in member countries
  5. Facilitate capacity building for promotion and absorption of solar technologies and R&D among member countries

Target:

  • The ISA has set a target of 1 TW of solar energy by 2030, which would require $1 trillion to achieve.
  • India has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar energy

Focus Areas:

  • Grid connected solar power: Solar parks, solar thermal projects, Rooftop solar projects, Canal top projects, Solar on water bodies
  • Off-grid and decentralised applications: Village electrification and mini-grids, Solar lanterns, Mobile chargers, Solar powered telecom towers, Milk chilling centres, street lights, Solar pumps etc

Programmes launched:

  1. Scaling solar applications for agricultural use: It intends to employ common procedures for solar applications in the agricultural and rural areas such as installing solar water pumps instead of diesel pumps for irrigation to benefit both farmers and the environment. The coalition has planned to roll-out a global tender for 500,000 solar pumps for farmers. India plans to set up 100,000 pumps, Bangladesh 50,000 pumps, and Uganda 30,000 pumps.
  2. Affordable Finance at Scale: It aims to adopt finest practices required for setting up common credit enhancement mechanisms. Additionally, it also intends to facilitate ties with the International financial institutions like World Bank for financial aid and to help de-risk investments.
  3. Scaling Solar Mini Grids:This programme was launched for large-scale decentralized solar deployments through mini, micro and nano-grids focusing significantly in the least developed and small island countries.
  4. Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism:It is a multilateral market platform designed to leverage billions of impact capital to catalyse $1 trillion of domestic and international private institutional capital for achieving the target of 1TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030 in low and middle-income countries. The mechanism has been developed by a taskforce comprising the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Terawatt Initiative, The Currency Exchange Fund (TCX), the World Bank and the Confederation of Indian Industry

International solar alliance and India

  • The ISA has given India the opportunity to position itself in a key global leadership role in the arena of climate change (Under the Paris Agreement, —India stated its proposed commitments to address climate change as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which was submitted for 2015–30), renewable energy (RE) and sustainable development
  • The ISA is not only expected to increase innovation in the renewable energy sector but also help make India a technological hub with independent manufacturing capabilities of RE equipment like solar panels through initiatives like ‘Make in India’
  • Further, the establishment of ISA headquarters in Gurugram has diplomatic significance for India
  • India has a special responsibility in ensuring the success of ISA and its success would help India present acollaborative, equitable, practical, and sustainable model of development

Government Initiative

Issues and Challenges with ISA

  1. Many critics are of the opinion that the alliance is more a platform for some countries to showcase their technologies and programmes.
  2. Many of the member countries of ISA have poor technical capabilities, therefore they do not know how best to leverage the platform
  3. The cost of solar installations remains high in many of the ISA countries. Most African countries have a high most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs for photo voltaic (PV) cells, modules and semi-conductor devices. This is aggravated by their lack of manufacturing capacities and high tariffs. The Pacific island countries have the highest MFN applied rates for solar products. High tariffs are detrimental to cost-effective solar development
  4. Capital cost is the biggest obstacle to solar deployment. An important challenge for ISA is attracting investments
  5. There has also been perception that the International Solar Alliance has not become a global institution. Further, there’s a lack of clarity on what exactly the ISA does and what its role in the future would be.

Way forward

  1. There should be greater clarity and better communication so as to convey the purpose of the alliance
  2. ISA should focus on its core goals—aggregating demand, technical collaborations, financial assistance for achieving its target of TW of solar energy by 2030. There should be dedicated focus with deadlines and milestones in order to measure progress
  3. ISA should create awareness among the masses with regard to the use and benefits of solar energy. It further needs to ensure that solar benefits are clear and tangible to users.
  4. ISA should demonstrate business models that are viable for users, suppliers and financiers. Further, the alliance should support member countries in implementing policies to fasten adoption of these business models
  5. ISA should open its membership to all countries across the geography. The inclusion of new members, like US and China, would help member countries have access to more advance technology and finance

Sample question:

Q. What is International Solar Alliance? Highlight the role of India in achieving the targets of the alliance?