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Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 28th September 2016

Municipal Solid Waste Management; Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status; Asylum Law; JNNSM and DCR issue.
By By IT's Editorial Notes Team
September 28, 2016

Contents

Environment & Ecology

  • Cities at Crossroads

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Revoking Pakistan’s MFN tag will only be symbolic
  • Uniform Asylum Law
  • A case for accepting the WTO ruling

 

Environment & Ecology

GS (M) Paper-3: “Environmental pollution and degradation”
GS (M) Paper-1: “Urbanization”

Cities at Crossroads

Introduction:

Rapid urbanisation will bring with it new challenges. One of the most prominent would be waste management.

iastoppers-waste-management

We refer to garbage generated in our cities as “municipal solid waste” and we talk of its “management” — collection, segregation, recycling, processing to recover value and scientific disposal.

Lessons from megacities around the world:

  • Reduction of waste and recycling of waste received as much emphasis in their scheme of things as resource recovery from waste and its scientific disposal.
  • Intense campaigns to win people’s support in reducing the waste generated and also in segregating waste at its source of generation into categories such as wet (biodegradable) waste, dry waste, plastic, paper, glass, etc. to facilitate recycling.

How India tackles its municipal waste?

  • Municipal corporations, Municipal committee et al. are mainly responsible for “solid waste management (SWM)” and sewer lines. However, they did not deliver as per expectations, and bereft of political will our cities started choking.
  • JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission) made a long overdue start in addressing the challenges of water and sanitation in Indian cities, and this agenda is being carried forward by Swachh Bharat (Clean India) and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • Swachh Bharat addresses one half of the problem — solid waste management, freedom from open defecation, and street cleaning. The other half — drainage and sewerage networks and waste water treatment — comes under AMRUT.

Suggestions:

  • People should be made aware of the connection between SWM and health; unscientific solid waste management, poor drainage, dumping of untreated sewage into drains which are meant to carry storm water during rains.
  • We need integrated planning and implementation of solid waste management, drainage, sewerage and decentralised septage management networks for Clean India.
  • Swacch Bharat Kosh in the Ministry of finance, which seeks to attract CSR funds for this purpose, must be leveraged to acquire capital for expanding infrastructure.
  • We need to strengthen our institutions of service delivery if the funds are to be utilised properly.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

GS (M) Paper-2: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”

Revoking Pakistan’s MFN tag will only be symbolic

Introduction:

The government is building a case for scrapping the most-favoured nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan amidst Uri attack. But this might not deliver the aspired results which India is seeking.

iastoppers-most-favoured-nation

What does MFN status mean?

  • MFN status, in principle, means WTO members should “treat all the others in the grouping equally as most-favoured trading partners”.

Why it would be ineffective?

  • Paltry trade with India- $2.6 billion in 2015-16 — tilted largely in India’s favour.
  • So, any decision to revoke the MFN status will be nothing more than a symbolic – and political – gesture. India had accorded the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996 as a friendly gesture, and it has not been reciprocated.

Does MFN status impact the trade?

  • Yes, it does. If the status is granted by Pakistan to India, then close to 2004 items which India cannot export to Pakistan could have been exported, getting an easy market access. Some of these products are now routed via Dubai to Pakistan. Items such as machine tool, textiles, etc have good demand in Pakistan but go via Dubai instead of going directly from India.

Conclusion:

  • Scrapping the status is no big deal, considering that the trade volume is so low and Pakistan hasn’t reciprocated India’s gesture so far.
  • However, it remains to be seen whether India will go to the extent of invoking a security exception under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT) to deny Pakistan the MFN status.
  • Member states are empowered to invoke the relevant section to protect security interests in rare situations. Continual cross-border terrorism is a serious security situation, sighting it such measures can be taken under the UN charter for maintenance of peace and security- as stated in Article 21(b)(iii) of GATT.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

 

GS (M) Paper-2: “Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests”

Uniform Asylum Law

Introduction:

As the Home Ministry examines Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s asylum claim, India stands poised to make one of the most critical decisions with respect to its refugee policy, but without a domestic asylum law and without having signed the UN Refugee Convention of 1951.

iastoppers-uniform-asylum-law

Implications:

Legal aspects:

  • International refugee law only states that a person needs to be outside his/her own country to seek asylum; it is silent on whether the person needs to be physically present in the territory of the country where s/he hopes to receive asylum or whether s/he can make such an application from a third country.
  • Having allowed Mr. Bugti to seek asylum from Switzerland, it is unclear whether India has made an exception in this case or is now open to asylum applications without physical presence within its national borders. This question needs to be settled.

Humanitarian grounds:

  • Bugti’s party was placed in terror watchlist by Pakistan, hence Switzerland declined to grant asylum.
  • The civilian character of a refugee populace is paramount, and active combatants are excluded from the same. Therefore, Mr. Bugti’s activities as a Baloch leader need to be thoroughly examined.

Future implications:

  • India’s approach towards the larger Baloch refugee community in the future is yet to be addressed. Does India intend to grant asylum to Mr. Bugti alone or to other Baloch asylum-seekers as well, or on a case-by-case basis?

What India should do?

  • The most pragmatic way to address these legal issues would be for India to adopt a uniform asylum law for all refugee communities. It would allow for the codification of India’s best practices with respect to asylum.

Conclusion:

  • Since Indian law does not even mention the term ‘refugee’, there are no clearly defined rights and duties for refugees. Multi- pronged approaches towards different communities as evident in Srilankan-Tamils, Tibetans etc. is not good and needs to be resolved.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

GS (M) Paper-2: “Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests”

A case for accepting the WTO ruling

Introduction:

The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Appellate Body has declared certain domestic content requirements (DCRs) in India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) illegal.

What’s the JNNSM and DCR issue?

  • JNNSM is an initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote renewable energy, especially solar power.
  • The objective of the National Solar Mission is to establish India as a global leader in solar energy, by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible.
  • The government enters into long-term electricity purchase contracts with eligible solar power developers (SPDs), assuring them guaranteed prices for 25 years. This government-procured electricity is then sold to distribution companies who, in turn, sell it to consumers.
  • However, only those SPDs who source certain types of solar cells and modules domestically are eligible. The objective evidently is to favour domestic solar cells and modules over imported ones.
  • It was this DCR measure that the U.S. challenged in the WTO.

Legal issues:

  • The WTO treaty prohibits countries from discriminating against goods based on origin or destination.
  • This core non-discrimination commitment is given effect through several legal provisions, including the one that outlaws domestic laws that make it necessary for an enterprise to purchase or use products of domestic origin to obtain an advantage.

India’s arguments:

India argued that its DCR measures should be excused because they fall under three exceptions:

  1. The first is under Article III.8 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that renders the rule against discrimination inapplicable to government procurement. It was rejected by the appellate body
    • It held that for a measure to fall under Article III.8, the product procured should be in acompetitive relationship with the product being discriminated against.
    • Since the government procured electricity while the discrimination was against solar panels, this test of competitive relationship is not satisfied.
  1. The second is under Article XX (j) of GATT that allows a country to adopt measures ‘essential’ to the acquisition or distribution of products in general or local ‘short supply’.
    • India argued that since the domestic production of solar modules is limited, these products are in ‘short supply’.
    • The Appellate Body disagreed and held that whether a product is in ‘short supply’ has to be determined by looking at supply from all sources, not just domestic.
  1. The third is under Article XX (d), which allows countries to adopt measures ‘necessary to secure compliance with laws or regulations’ that are not inconsistent with GATT.
    • However, India failed to show a domestic law or an international legal norm with direct application in India, compliance with which necessitated the DCR.

Does this ruling stifle India’s efforts to move towards clean energy?

  • No, because the ruling is not against JNNSM but only against use of DCR measures- government can continue with JNNSM by allowing the SPDs the free choice to either import solar cells and modules or buy from domestic industry.

Does this ruling reflect WTO’s bias towards free trade over environment?

  • No, because Article XX of GATT clearly recognises a country’s sovereign right to regulate not just for environmental objectives but also for health, public morals, and so on.
  • However, the WTO treaty limits the policy choices available to WTO members as to how to achieve these goals

How will it affect Indo-US trade?

  • Today, India-U.S. trade stands at over $100 billion annually. Both countries aspire to increase this to $500 billion – sought by decreasing trade barriers.
  • However, the solar panel case along with four more disputes at the WTO between the two countries, paint a different picture.
  • This can lead to further counter litigation which is bound to hamper trade between the two nations.

Suggestions:

  • The solar panel case is a sober reminder that India should not pursue protectionist measures outlawed by the WTO under the garb of pursuing clean energy goals. India should comply with this ruling. Else, under WTO law, the U.S. will erect new trade barriers against India.
  • Compliance will be in India’s interest because mandatory domestic sourcing irrespective of costs might make solar power generation unfeasible, thus impairing India’s own objective.
  • India should not commit the mistake of replacing the illegal DCR measures with WTO-prohibited subsidies to safeguard solar manufacturing, as the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has indicated, because these subsidies might trigger more WTO cases against India.
  • Interests of domestic solar companies need to be divorced from clean energy goals.
[Ref: Business Line]

 

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