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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

24-February-2024

1. A war of attrition

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this analysis provides a comprehensive overview of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, highlighting the strategic implications, global ramifications, and regional instability caused by the conflict.
Context:
  • The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has reached a critical juncture with Russian forces capturing Avdiivka, a pivotal city along the Ukrainian defensive line in the Donetsk region.
  • This development underscores a significant shift in the dynamics of the stalemated conflict, now entering its third year.
  • Despite the uncertainty regarding the ultimate outcome, the evolving nature of the conflict suggests a transition from a war of maneuver to one of attrition.
  • This analysis delves into the strategic and geopolitical implications of recent events, examining the military strategies, international support dynamics, and broader global ramifications.
Shift in Military Strategy
  • Russian forces have adopted a patient and methodical approach aimed at exhausting Ukrainian political will, economic strength, and military capacity.
  • This strategy capitalizes on Russia’s superior resources and gradually wears down Ukrainian capabilities.
  • The adaptation of battlefield tactics and the support from an expanded defense industry have contributed to Russia’s military advantage.
  • However, Ukraine maintains substantial military potential and continues to bolster its defenses, indicating a protracted conflict ahead.
International Support Dynamics:
  • Ukraine’s dependence on external support has become increasingly apparent as its position weakens.
  • Despite significant assistance from the EU, delays and divisions within the US Congress highlight challenges in sustaining international backing.
  • The shifting priorities in Washington and growing skepticism towards European reliance underscore a broader trend towards reevaluation of global alliances.
Geopolitical Ramifications:
  • The conflict’s repercussions extend beyond Europe, affecting global energy, food, and financial markets.
  • Russia’s retaliatory actions, such as undercutting French influence in Africa, and the resurgence of Russia-North Korea relations demonstrate the conflict’s far-reaching consequences.
  • Moreover, the erosion of traditional arms control agreements and the rise of nuclear proliferation threats pose significant challenges to global security.
Strategic Implications:
  • The prolonged conflict between Russia and Ukraine exacerbates geopolitical tensions and undermines regional stability.
  • China stands to benefit from the resulting power imbalance, exploiting uncertainties in America’s global strategy.
  • The potential ramifications for India include weakening Russia, European security concerns, and complicating US global realignment efforts.
  • Consequently, there is a pressing need for a concerted effort to de-escalate tensions and pursue a sustainable resolution that incorporates Russia into the broader European security framework.
Conclusion:
  • As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, the need for a comprehensive and pragmatic approach becomes increasingly evident.
  • While military strategies evolve and international dynamics shift, the imperative for dialogue and cooperation remains paramount.
  • A lasting settlement requires recognition of Russia’s role and a commitment to trans-Atlantic security that addresses the root causes of insecurity.
  • In navigating this complex geopolitical landscape, a balance of competence and common sense is essential to chart a path towards stability and peace.
About Avdiivka
  • The now-destroyed city of Avdiivka covers only some 12 square miles. But for the better part of a decade it carved a bulge in the front line that undermined crucial Russian logistical operations. It sits only a few miles from the city of Donetsk, which Russia has occupied since 2014.
  • Avdiivka is situated in the Donetsk Oblast (province) of Ukraine, approximately 15 kilometers north of the regional capital, Donetsk. It lies close to the contact line that separates government-controlled territory from areas held by separatist forces.
  • Avdiivka is known for its industrial significance, particularly its large coke plant, which is one of the largest in Europe. The city’s economy relies heavily on the mining and metallurgical industries, including coal mining and steel production.
Everything You Need To Know About
Practice Question:  Discuss the evolving dynamics of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, focusing on strategic shifts, international support dynamics, and the broader geopolitical ramifications. Analyze the implications of the conflict and suggest possible strategies for resolving the crisis and fostering sustainable peace in the Eurasian region. (250 words/15 m)

2. Design of a subsidy

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the analysis delves into the effectiveness of a flagship government program, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), which aims to provide LPG access to low-income households.
Context:
  • India’s efforts to promote the usage of LPG among low-income households, through initiatives like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), have faced challenges despite significant investment.
  • While the PMUY aimed to provide LPG access to millions of low-income households, the uptake of LPG refills has been lower than anticipated.
  • This analysis explores the reasons behind the low consumption of LPG refills among PMUY beneficiaries and proposes solutions to enhance the effectiveness of LPG subsidy programs.
Challenges in LPG Refill Subsidy Policy Evolution:
  • The evolution of India’s LPG refill subsidy policy has been marked by rapid changes, from universal subsidies to targeted subsidies for PMUY households.
  • While schemes like Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh (PAHAL) have helped reduce subsidy leakage, the current design may not effectively address the refill purchasing behavior of low-income PMUY consumers.
  • The upfront payment of the unsubsidized price poses a significant liquidity constraint for these households, impacting their ability to purchase refills regularly.
Analysis of Refill Consumption Data:
  • Analyzing refill consumption data from 2018 and 2019 reveals distinct patterns in the behavior of PMUY and non-PMUY consumers in response to market prices and subsidy transfers.
  • Despite subsidy deposits through PAHAL, PMUY consumers show a decline in refill purchases as market prices increase, indicating sensitivity to subsidy timing and amount.
  • Liquidity constraints play a significant role, with even a modest increase in refill subsidy leading to a substantial rise in consumption among PMUY households.
Importance of Targeted and Upfront Subsidies:
  • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) provides insights into the effectiveness of upfront subsidies in promoting LPG usage among low-income households.
  • The temporary provision of free refills under PMGKY resulted in a significant increase in consumption, suggesting that targeted and upfront subsidies can lead to habit formation and sustained usage of clean fuels.
Proposed Solutions:
  • To address the liquidity constraints faced by PMUY beneficiaries, innovative fintech-based solutions are proposed.
  • These include electronic payment of subsidy amounts to dealers at the point of refill purchase, using digital rupee (e-RUPI) vouchers, or utilizing RUPAY debit cards for advance subsidy transfers.
  • These solutions not only reduce the financial burden on consumers but also mitigate concerns about subsidy diversion.
Conclusion:
  • Shifting to on-time subsidy transfers and leveraging digital technology can significantly improve the effectiveness of LPG subsidy programs, particularly for low-income households.
  • By addressing liquidity constraints and ensuring timely access to subsidies, these initiatives can promote the sustained adoption of clean cooking fuels, leading to significant health and environmental benefits for vulnerable populations.
  • Collaboration between the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Ministry of Finance is essential to implement these solutions effectively and maximize the impact of LPG subsidy programs.
What is Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)?
About:
  • The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG), introduced the ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ (PMUY) as a flagship scheme with the objective of making clean cooking fuel such as LPG available to the rural and deprived households which were otherwise using traditional cooking fuels such as firewood, coal, cow-dung cakes etc.
  • Usage of traditional cooking fuels had detrimental impacts on the health of rural women as well as on the environment.
Objectives:
  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning fossil fuel.
Features:
  • The scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households.
  • Along with a deposit-free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 will provide the first refill and a hotplate free of cost to the beneficiaries.
Benefits of PMUY:
  • The eligible beneficiaries receive a free LPG connection.
  • The beneficiaries also receive a subsidy on the first six refills of 14.2 kg cylinders or eight refills of 5 kg cylinders.
  • The beneficiaries can opt for an EMI facility to pay for the cost of the stove and the first refill.
  • The beneficiaries can also join the PAHAL scheme to receive the subsidy amount directly in their bank accounts.
Phases of PMUY: Phase I:
  • The scheme was launched on May 1, 2016.
  • The target under the scheme was to release 8 Crore LPG Connections to the deprived households by March 2020.
  • The release of 8 Crore LPG connections under the scheme has also helped in increasing the LPG coverage from 62% on 1st May 2016 to 99.8% as on 1st April 2021.
Ujjwala 2.0:
  • In the Union budget for FY 21-22, provision for the release of additional 1 crore LPG connections to the eligible households by March 31, 2022.
  • The target of releasing additional 1 crore LPG connections under Ujjwala 2.0 was achieved in January 2022.
  • Subsequently, it was decided to release additional 60 lakh LPG connections under Ujjwala 2.0. OMCs have achieved the target of releasing 1.6 Crore LPG Connections under Ujjwala 2.0 on 31st December 2022.
Practice Question:  Analyzing the utilization patterns and challenges of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), discuss the efficacy of government initiatives in promoting LPG usage among low-income households in India. (250 words/15 m)

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