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The Hindu EDITORIAL

2-April-2024

1. India’s solar industry must grow without compromising on quality.

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Infrastructure – Energy

Crucial for UPSC as it covers India’s renewable energy policies, economic implications, and strategic considerations in international relations.

Context
●     The article discusses India’s policy to curb reliance on imported solar panels, mandating certification for domestic manufacturers to meet ambitious solar energy targets.

 

Introduction:

  • The Indian government has implemented a policy aimed at discouraging reliance on imported solar panels, requiring module makers to undergo inspection by the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE).
  • Being listed as an ‘approved’ manufacturing facility certifies companies as genuine solar panel manufacturers, enabling them to compete for government tenders, including the PM solar rooftop scheme.

Background:

  • The policy aims to curb imports from China, which dominates 80% of the global supply, amidst strained diplomatic relations.
  • India has ambitious plans to source 500 GW, nearly half its electricity requirement, from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, with at least 280 GW from solar power, necessitating the addition of 40 GW of solar capacity annually until 2030.
  • Despite claims of being on track, the country has struggled to add sufficient solar capacity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with installations barely crossing 13 GW in the last five years.

Challenges Faced:

  • Meeting targets requires more panels and component cells than the domestic industry can supply, leading to a reliance on imports.
  • Domestic panel manufacturers face the dilemma of paying for certification while losing orders to cheaper Chinese panels.

Implementation of the Approved List:

  • The government has postponed the implementation of the approved list but has now decreed its enforcement from April 1.
  • Success is measured by meeting 2030 commitments while ensuring affordable solar power for most Indians.

Quality Checks and Cost Considerations:

  • Domestic manufacturers should undergo stringent quality checks to maintain competitiveness.
  • Emphasis should be on maintaining cost and quality standards, avoiding compromises on nationalistic grounds.

Balancing Growth and Export Potential:

  • The Indian solar industry must grow while maintaining high-quality standards to become a reputable exporter.
  • It should tread cautiously, avoiding shortcuts that may compromise quality or affordability.

Conclusion:

  • The implementation of the approved list signifies a significant step towards reducing reliance on imported solar panels and promoting domestic manufacturing.
  • However, the success of the policy depends on balancing quality, cost, and competitiveness to achieve long-term sustainability in India’s solar energy sector.
 Challenges in domestic solar panels manufacturing in India:

Need for shift to solar energy:

Renewable Energy Potential: India has abundant solar resources, with high solar insolation levels throughout the country.

● Energy Security: Shifting to solar energy reduces dependence on imported fossil fuels, enhancing energy security.

Climate Change Mitigation: Solar energy is clean and emits no greenhouse gases, aiding in mitigating climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

●  Cost-Effectiveness: Declining solar technology costs make it increasingly cost-effective compared to conventional energy sources.

● Rural Electrification: Solar energy enables electrification of remote and rural areas, bridging the energy access gap and improving livelihoods.

● Job Creation: Solar energy deployment creates jobs across the value chain, contributing to economic growth and development.

Challenges in Domestic Solar Panels Manufacturing in India:

High Capital Investment: Establishing solar panel manufacturing units requires significant initial investment in infrastructure and technology.

●  Competition from Imports: Indian manufacturers face tough competition from cheaper imported solar panels, particularly from countries like China.

●     Lack of Skilled Manpower: There is a shortage of skilled manpower with expertise in solar panel manufacturing processes.

●  Limited Access to Finance: Many domestic manufacturers struggle to secure financing for their operations due to perceived risks and lack of supportive financial mechanisms.

● Inconsistent Government Policies: Fluctuating policies and regulatory uncertainties create an unstable environment for domestic manufacturers, hindering long-term planning and investment.

Infrastructure Bottlenecks: Inadequate infrastructure, including transportation and power supply, adds to the operational challenges faced by domestic manufacturers.

● Quality Control and Standards: Ensuring high-quality standards and certifications for domestically manufactured solar panels is essential to compete in the global market.

Way Forward for Domestic Solar Panels Manufacturing in India:

●  Government Support: Provide financial incentives, subsidies, and tax breaks to promote domestic manufacturing and attract investments.

●  Skill Development: Invest in skill development programs to train a skilled workforce for the solar panel manufacturing industry.

Streamlined Policies: Establish clear and consistent policies to provide a stable regulatory framework for domestic manufacturers.

●  Research and Development: Encourage research and development efforts to innovate and improve solar panel technology, enhancing efficiency and reducing costs.

● Infrastructure Development: Improve infrastructure facilities to support the growth of domestic manufacturing, including transportation and power supply.

●  Partnerships and Collaborations: Foster partnerships with international manufacturers and research institutions to access technology and expertise.

● Quality Assurance: Implement stringent quality control measures and standards to ensure the reliability and performance of domestically manufactured solar panels.

PYQ: India has immense potential of solar energy though there are regional variations in its development. Elaborate. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2020)

To what factors can the recent dramatic fall in equipment costs and tariff of solar energy be attributed? What implications does the trend have for the thermal power producers and the related industry? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2015)

Practice Question:  What are the key challenges and implications of India’s policy to promote domestic manufacturing in the solar energy sector? (150 Words /10 marks)

2. The PMLA — a law that has lost its way

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity

Understanding the PMLA’s evolution and implications is crucial for comprehending legal frameworks and challenges in combating financial crimes.

Context
●     The article discusses the evolution and controversial aspects of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), focusing on its widening application beyond drug trafficking.

 

Background of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA):

  • The PMLA, 2002, aimed to combat the laundering of proceeds from drug trafficking, posing threats to the global economy.
  • It was influenced by UN conventions, FATF recommendations, and resolutions urging member countries to enact anti-money laundering laws.

Evolution of PMLA:

  • Enacted in 2002, it initially focused on drug money laundering, aligning with UN resolutions.
  • However, subsequent amendments broadened its scope to include various offences beyond drug-related crimes.
  • These amendments expanded the schedule of offences, deviating from the original intent of combating drug money laundering.

Issues with PMLA Application:

  • Despite its original purpose, the PMLA now encompasses offences unrelated to drug trafficking, such as corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • Its draconian provisions, intended for hardcore drug traffickers, are now applied uniformly across scheduled offences, lacking proportionality.
  • The presumption of guilt until innocence is proven, contrary to fundamental legal principles, leading to prolonged incarceration without trial.

Controversial Bail Provision:

  • Section 45 of the PMLA denies bail unless the accused proves innocence, reversing the presumption of innocence.
  • The Supreme Court initially deemed it unconstitutional in Nikesh Tarachand Shah vs Union of India (2018), citing violations of Articles 14 and 21.
  • However, Parliament swiftly reinstated the provision with amendments, upheld by the Supreme Court in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary vs Union of India (2022).

Judicial Perspectives on Bail:

  • The current judicial approach to bail in PMLA cases appears technical, prioritizing legislative policy over individual rights.
  • Contrastingly, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer emphasised personal liberty under Article 21, cautioning against casual denial of bail.

Conclusion:

  • The PMLA’s evolution from targeting drug money laundering to encompassing a wide range of offences raises concerns about its proportionality and adherence to legal principles.
  • While the bail provision remains contentious, balancing the objectives of the Act with individual rights remains a challenge in judicial interpretation.
 Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA):

●  Introduction to PMLA: Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) enacted in 2002 as a legislative framework to combat money laundering in India.

● Objective: To prevent money laundering and provide for the confiscation of property derived from, or involved in, money laundering.

● Definition of Money Laundering: Process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses.

●     Key Provisions:

  • Criminalizes money laundering activities.
  • Establishes authorities like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to investigate and prosecute money laundering offences.
  • Provides for the attachment, seizure, and confiscation of proceeds of crime.
  • Requires reporting entities like banks, financial institutions, and intermediaries to maintain records and report transactions above specified thresholds.

Amendments: PMLA has been periodically amended to enhance effectiveness and address emerging challenges.

International Cooperation: Aligns with global efforts to combat money laundering, including cooperation with international organizations and mutual legal assistance agreements.

Enforcement: Enforcement Directorate (ED) is the primary agency responsible for enforcing PMLA provisions.

● Impact: PMLA has contributed to strengthening India’s anti-money laundering regime and enhancing financial integrity.

● Challenges: Implementation challenges, evolving money laundering techniques, and ensuring compliance by reporting entities.

Future Directions: Continued vigilance, capacity building, and alignment with international standards to effectively combat money laundering.

PYQ: Money laundering poses a serious threat to country’s economic sovereignty. What is its significance for India and what steps are required to be taken to control this menace? (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2013)
Practice Question:  How has the scope of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) evolved since its inception, and what are its implications? (150 Words /10 marks)

3. AI in elections, the good, the bad and the ugly

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Critical for UPSC as it reflects the integration of emerging technologies into electoral strategies, shaping India’s democratic processes.

Context
●  The article discusses the Bharatiya Janata Party’s use of AI to translate Narendra Modi’s speeches into multiple languages, potentially marking India’s first “AI election” in 2024.

 

Introduction:

  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) to translate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches into eight languages for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
  • The 2024 elections in India are anticipated to be the “first AI election,” marking a significant shift in electoral strategies due to technological advancements.

Evolution of Electoral Strategies:

  • Over the past three decades, India’s electoral landscape has evolved with the integration of emerging technologies.
  • The utilization of phone calls, mass mobile phones, holograms, and now AI has transformed electoral campaigning.

Significance of Social Media:

  • Social media platforms played a crucial role in the 2014 Indian elections, with BJP leading in digital campaigning.
  • Research shows a positive correlation between social media engagement and electoral outcomes, highlighting its significance in influencing voter sentiment.

Emergence of WhatsApp:

  • The 2019 general election was labelled as the “first WhatsApp election,” indicating the platform’s increasing influence in political messaging and mobilisation.
  • WhatsApp’s targeted delivery of information and organisational capabilities proved effective in influencing voter behaviour.

Global Elections and AI:

  • The 2024 elections globally are dubbed as “AI elections,” with instances of AI manipulation observed in various electoral processes.
  • AI-generated content, such as deepfakes, poses challenges to electoral integrity, as seen in instances from Argentina and India.

AI’s Role in Campaign Strategies:

  • AI is reshaping campaign strategies by enabling data-driven micro-targeting and real-time analytics, enhancing the effectiveness of political messaging.
  • Its application ranges from voter identification to content development and delivery, revolutionizing the political landscape.

Regulatory Responses and Concerns:

  • Governments and tech giants are taking measures to combat AI-generated disinformation, such as outlawing AI-generated robocalls and pledging to counter deceptive content.
  • However, concerns remain regarding the potential impact of AI on voter turnout and the spread of misinformation, highlighting the need for robust regulatory frameworks.

Future Outlook:

  • The efficacy of AI in shaping electoral outcomes is expected to increase, posing both opportunities and challenges for future elections.
  • While technological advancements offer new possibilities, uncertainties surrounding AI’s deceptive effects necessitate continuous vigilance and adaptation.

Conclusion:

  • The intersection of AI and electoral politics heralds a new era of campaigning, characterized by innovative strategies and heightened concerns over misinformation.
  • As technology continues to advance, stakeholders must navigate the evolving electoral landscape while safeguarding democratic principles and electoral integrity.
Practice Question:  How has the integration of Artificial Intelligence impacted electoral strategies in India? Discuss with reference to recent developments and its implications. (150 Words /10 marks)

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