N.S.Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

A Case for “Soft Demonetisation” Now in India

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2 mins read

Prime Minister Modi launched massive demonetization measures in 2016, which was praised by the pledged admirers of Modi and criticized by the sworn critics of Modi. In any case, after a few years now, the overall view towards the demonetization strategy has changed, with the consensus view emerging that the objective of the demonetization measures was positive and well-intentioned, though the strategy for implementation could have been better fine-tuned.

The principal objectives claimed for the then demonetization measure was to eradicate corruption, eliminate black money circulation and identify and remove the fake currency.  Of course, it was even then said that the demonetization exercise was the first step to eradicate corruption and it would be followed by several other measures.

Now, after around six years of demonetization exercise, it appears that the situation is back to square one.

According to present data, notes in circulation in terms of volume rose to 13053.3 crore pieces from 9026.6 crore pieces between the end of March 2016 and March 2022.  Similarly, the value of the currency in circulation went up to Rs. 31.05 lakh crore from Rs.16.41 lakh crore.

Further, it is also reported that the counter currency seized in the country between 2016 and 2020 surged to over 8.35 lakh from 2.81 lakh.  The value of fake notes seized went up to Rs. 92.17 crores from Rs. 15.92 crores. Obviously, the benefits of the demonetization measure achieved in 2016 have been effectively undone now, by a huge increase in the volume and value of currency circulation in the country.

In recent times, there has been much-repeated news appearing in the media about the enforcement directorate and Income tax department seizing large value of currency notes during raids, which on several occasions exceeded more than rupees one crore in several such raids.

The huge money in circulation is directly contributing to the generation of black money in the country and consequent hoarding of goods and properties as well as evasion of tax.  The large circulation of currency is also one reason for enabling corruption at many levels in transactions.

During the demonetization discussions, the government said that rapid digitalization would eliminate cash transactions and curb corruption to a significant extent. While digitalization has taken place, it is still at an insignificant level compared to the overall transactions in the country today.  Perhaps, large currency in circulation has become a disincentive for digital transactions.

The huge currency in circulation could also be a contributor to the price rise and inflation in the country to some extent.

It seems that the government has indiscriminately printed currency notes in the country in the last few years in the post-demonetization period, to provide cash subsidies to the vulnerable section of society during the COVID period. This strategy appears to be short-sighted and counterproductive, as is evident from the consequences leading to the present fiscal situation in the country.

To curb corruption and black money and fake currency, what is urgently required is that the currency in circulation should be brought down steadily to the level achieved during the demonetization period in the year 2016.

Obviously, if the Government of India were to choose to reduce the currency in circulation, it would be scary to use the term demonetization, as the term demonetization has become controversial and much misunderstood now.

The government can still do it by resorting to what can be termed as “soft demonetization”, by slowly and silently reducing the high-value currency notes in circulation and not replacing the damaged ones and at the same time increasing the low-value currency notes such as Rs. 10, Rs. 20 and Rs. 50.

Of course, this would lead to complaints about a shortage of currency circulation in the market but this would force people and organizations to go for digital transactions in an increasing way.  Less currency in circulation will not and need not have an adverse impact, as digitalization which has already become a byword in the country will elegantly keep the economy moving in a much cleaner way than at present.

With the present Aadhar linkage in bank transactions and a greater amount of digital transactions, there would be a positive impact on reducing corruption in the country as well as black money generation and fake currency circulation.

 In effect, the difference between the 2016 demonetization and the soft demonetization suggested now is that all currency would continue to be legal tender and with much less currency in circulation, leaving no scope for “political controversy”.

Islam Respects Womanhood – Let It Remain So

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3 mins read

Woman as mother commands great respect in Islam. The Holy Quran speaks of the rights of the mother in a number of verses. It enjoins Muslims to show respect to their mothers and serve them well. The Prophet states emphatically that the rights of the mother are paramount.

The ongoing protest in the Islamic Republic of Iran by Iranian women against the country’s strict rules on Muslim women wearing hijab head scarfs has caught the attention of the world community.

. It is reported that more than 75 protesting people including women have died in the Iran government’s crackdown after the death of woman activist Mahsa Amini, on September,16, following her arrest for allegedly breaching the country’s strict rules on hijab head scarfs. . This news has made many ardent admirers of Islamic religion think whether the noble thoughts of Holy Quran on respect for women and their sentiments have not been adequately understood by section of menfolk belonging to Islam religion.

The underlying cause for protest against the insistence on Muslim women wearing hijab headscarf is that this compulsory use of head scarfs by women amounts to restricting the rights of Muslim women to lead a life of their own choice in appearance and public movement.

In Afghanistan, Muslim women are not permitted to go to schools beyond the 6th Standard. A year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, teenage girls are barred from school and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, with only their eyes showing. Hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led government There have been reports of many Afghan women tearfully protesting against such restrictions on women’s education.

There are so many other practices by which the rights, liberty and sentiments of Muslim women are not recognised by the clergies and religious heads of Islam in some places. There are practices such as Muslim men being permitted to become the husband of several women at the same time, the practice of triple talaq where a husband can disown his wife by repeating this word three times, property rights for women, dress code for women and even driving licence being denied to Muslim women in some places. Even with regard to offering prayers in mosques, there are some restrictions on Muslim women.

What is noteworthy here is that while so many restrictions are imposed on Muslim women which are insisted by menfolk, there is practically no restriction on the behaviour and practices of Muslim men.

Such situation gives the impression that in several Islamic countries, Muslim women are being looked upon as second-rate people compared to the menfolk.

Of course, it is very necessary to point out that there are a few Muslim countries where such restrictions on women are not enforced anymore in letter and spirit but this is not so in all Muslim countries as seen in Afghanistan and Iran.

There is a number of Muslims including women living all over the world, who understand the tenets of principles enunciated in the Holy Quran and remain religious people, even as they involve themselves in professional and social activities in different walks of life and enjoy liberty and freedom. But, they can do so, only in regions where they are permitted to do so.

All said and done, one cannot but admit that liberty and freedom for a considerable population of women in a few Islamic countries remain restricted. This should not be so. Certainly, Holy Quran does not want this.

The Muslims have to join the mainstream of worldly life in tune with the prevailing civilised practices in the world, which are gradually getting fine-tuned over the years in tune with the scientific and technological development and progressive social thoughts, that insist on harmony with everyone and goodwill for all. When Muslim women who face restrictions, see other women getting themselves well educated, taking up jobs, involving themselves in business pursuits and occupying top positions in government and politics, they too naturally aspire for such conditions when they can realise their potential.

Muslim women in Iran and Afghanistan have now raised their voices demanding freedom, which should be seen as a positive trend and encouraged by the top leadership of the countries. The leadership should realise that Holy Quran insists on respect for womanhood in toto and the demand of women are in tune with the sayings in Holy Quran.

World opinion should assert itself and extend all support for the liberty-craving Muslim women in Afghanistan and Iran. and other places The leadership of these countries should recognise and respond to the women’s sentiments positively.

It is now gratifying to hear that the Taliban deputy foreign minister in Afghanistan has called for reopening schools for girls in Afghanistan, saying clearly that there is no valid reason for such insistence One is not sure, whether Taliban government leadership has reacted positively to the suggestions.

The ball is clearly in the court of Islamic leadership and they have to recognise the ground realities and, move with time and restore the glory of womanhood, as proclaimed by the Holy Quran.

Energy Security and Zero Emission Target in India

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3 mins read

India presently imports around 80% of its crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements. As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern.  This is particularly so since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating/increasing in the global market due to geo-political factors, which are beyond the control of India.

 India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which means that the level of emission has to start declining at a slow and steady rate from now onwards.

It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and   natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur dioxide gas, the storage and transportation of natural gas cause methane emission.

India has to simultaneously tackle energy security issues and also has to reduce the emission level at same time. Is this possible in the present circumstances?  Are the strategies being adopted to tackle these two issues contradictory?

Limitation of the strategies:

The strategies for India to reduce emission and import dependence on crude oil consist of blending ethanol with petrol, promotion of electric vehicles, increase in renewable energy generation as well as promotion of hydrogen as fuel and feedstock.

In the case of renewable energy, a total of 144 GW capacity excluding hydro power has been installed as of June,2022. Besides, renewable energy projects of 60. 66 GW capacity are under various stage of implementation and 23.14 GW capacity are under bidding.  While the progress is laudable, the fact is that the impact of renewable energy project in reducing crude oil import dependence would not be significant, since renewable energy generation is seasonal and climate dependent and the capacity utilization of renewable energy project is only at around 20%.

In the case of electric vehicle, Government of India aims at ensuring that 30% of all new vehicles are electric by 2030. While good progress is being made and electric vehicles can reduce emission, it should not be nullified by using electric power for charging batteries if the power were to be generated by burning coal, which is a fossil fuel generating emission.  There is no way that the power requirement of electric vehicle would be completely provided by renewable energy in the foreseeable future.

Government of India has fixed 20% target to blend ethanol with petrol by 2025 and good progress are being made to boost ethanol production. However, this would make short supply of ethanol for other industrial purposes, as ethanol is an important feedstock for chemical industry. Further, it is estimated that 20% ethanol blending with petrol would result in 70 million tonne of greenhouse gas emission, due to physical transportation of 1016 crore litre of ethanol per year by trucks using petroleum fuel.

In the case of hydrogen energy, renewable hydrogen industry is still in development stage across the world. Impressive progress is being made in utilizing hydrogen abroad like hydrogen fuel based railway project costing Rs. 737 crore implemented in Germany. However, as of now, such hydrogen used is not   green hydrogen. In India too, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle plants have been announced including one at Chennai.  However, these projects would use blue hydrogen or grey hydrogen and not green hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

Obviously, the above strategies which are progressive, would be totally insufficient to reduce India’s import dependence of crude oil and natural gas to any significant level in the foreseeable future.

Dependence on coal:

While government of India is implementing the above strategies, it is also increasing the production of coal, which is a fossil fuel.

To increase the production of coal to around 1000 million tonne per annum from the present level of 700 million tonne per annum, Government of India has now auctioned 10 coal mines for commercial exploitation.

Obviously, boosting coal production and greater use of coal as fuel to reduce import dependence on crude oil, will cause emissions and obviously, this would nullify the   emission reduction strategies of Government of India.  This appears to be a contradictory policy.

Need for new strategies:

In recent months, when global crude oil price has steeply increased, Government of India somehow managed the situation by buying crude oil from Russia at a discounted price.  However, this strategy can essentially be a short-term measure.

In such circumstances, apart from the strategies adopted already, India has to think about more imaginative solutions which could be the following.

Promotion of algae crop and algae biofuel for which the requirements such as tropical conditions, availability of wasteland, requirement of sunshine and carbon dioxide etc. in India provide an ideal situation for promoting algae crop/biofuel.

India imports around 2.2 million tonne of methanol per annum, as India does not have competitively priced natural gas which is the feedstock for methanol production. Commercial plants are operating abroad for the production of methanol from municipal solid waste. India should have no hesitation in exploiting this methanol investment opportunity from municipal solid waste.

From methanol, dimethyl ether can be produced, which is an eco-friendly fuel that can replace petroleum-based LPG in a big way.

Further, it is necessary to boost domestic production of ethanol to meet increasing percentage of ethanol blending with petrol. For this, ethanol production from beet sugar should also be promoted in India in a big way as ethanol from beet sugar has even more advantages than ethanol from sugarcane as it is less water consumption.

Tamil Nadu: Time to Tame Hate Campaign

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3 mins read

For the last several decades, there have been hate campaigns against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not-so-subtle manner.

Initially, it was a hate campaign against Brahmins and the Brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked.  Fearing such conditions, many Brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad.  Now, the Brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against Brahmins were responsible.

 Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared Brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. 

For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view.

However, in the last eighteen months in Tamil Nadu after the new government has taken over, the hate campaign against Hindu religion has resumed with full vigour and now it appears to be at the peak.

Even during one of the earlier regimes, when Tamil Nadu was ruled by the same party as at present, the then chief minister called Hindus as thieves and questioned the claim of   Hindu God Ram constructing the Sethu bridge and derisively asked as to in which engineering college Hindu God Ram studied.  In spite of such obnoxious remarks, Hindus really did not react in any significant way then.

Now, the worst has happened with a member of parliament who belongs to the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, publicly stating that Hindus are children of prostitutes.

What is particularly shocking is that the Tamil Nadu government has not taken any action against this man. By remaining silent, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his colleagues appear to give an impression that they agree with the statement of this man.  This is unfortunate.

We know that in the case of Christians or Muslims if anyone were to make an objectionable remark against their region and practices, Muslims and Christians will rise as one man and protest. Of course, the Tamil Nadu government would have immediately taken action against the persons who criticize Islam or Christianity. This is as it should be.

The disturbing question is as to why in the case of Hindu religion, the Tamil Nadu government allows the anti-Hindu hate campaigners to go scot-free.

Though the present Tamil Nadu government claims that it is secular in outlook, several recent actions of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices appear to give a contrary impression,  that it may not really be secular, in letter and spirit as far as the Hindus are concerned.

In the last eighteen months, after the present government has taken over in Tamil Nadu, one of the focus points of the government is Hindu temples.   With the claim of protecting the interests of Hindu temples and with the claim of “reforming” the Hindu religious practices, there has been gross interference in the affairs of the Hindu temples.  For the first time, archakas (priests) in Hindu temples are being appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu after providing some sort of “training” for a short period. These appointed priests do not know several procedures in Hindu temples and in the process, several well trained Hindu archakas serving for long years have lost their jobs.

The government is taking over the gold, silver and other assets of the temples and is melting them, though these silver and gold have been donated to temples by devotees in the last several decades. Tamil Nadu government behaves as if it is the owner of the Hindu temples and seem to assume that it can do anything  as far as Hindu temples are concerned.   So many other acts of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices can be readily cited. 

One striking practice that cannot be ignored by anyone is that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his ministers would not greet Hindus during their festivals but would inevitably greet Christians and Muslims on the occasion of their festivals. Why is this?

The situation has now reached an alarming level that any Hindu hate campaigner can write or say anything against Hinduism and can get away with it without being hauled by the authorities. Dangerous and chaotic conditions are now developing in Tamil Nadu,  where Hindu religion, with more than 80% of the Tamil Nadu population being Hindus,  is targeted,  criticized, abused day in and day out, with the  Tamil Nadu government watching the scenario as if it has not heard them. 

Hindus in Tamil Nadu are known to be very tolerant and peace loving and perhaps, this is why such anti Hindu campaign are being conducted, taking the reactions from Hindus for granted. However, with the hate campaigner going to the extent of calling Hindus as children of prostitutes, the breaking point has been now reached. This situation should not be allowed to continue.

Whatever may be the personal view of the Chief Minister and ministers in Tamil Nadu government and the leaders of some of the alliance parties with ruling party, Tamil Nadu government should stop this hate Hindu campaign forthwith and put down the hate campaigners with an iron hand.

 If Tamil Nadu government were to fail to do this, the consequence would be too severe to imagine.

Certainly, Tamil Nadu deserves better.

Asia Cup Victory: Morale Booster for Sri Lanka

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2 mins read

The victory of Sri Lankan cricket team in the Asian Cup tournament is very significant for Sri Lanka for more than one reason.

 There is no “superstar” in the present Sri Lankan cricket team, unlike the so-called superstars in Indian and Pakistan cricket teams.  Nobody expected that Sri Lankan cricket team would beat India and Pakistan so convincingly and decisively.

While Sri Lankan cricket team do not have some world-ranking players now unlike the earlier days, the remarkable success of the Sri Lankan cricket team is due to the team effort and high level of confidence in their own capability. In the final match, even as   Sri Lanka lost five wickets for less than 60 runs, the remaining players did not lose heart and fought with determination while facing the experienced front line bowlers of Pakistan.

During the last several months, Sri Lankans have been undergoing tremendous stress due to economic hardships and political uncertainties. Massive agitations were organised by small section of Sri Lankans, while majority of Sri Lankans did not participate in the agitations and observed the scenario helplessly.

Many Sri Lankans felt that Sri Lanka could have become a laughing stock in the eyes of the world when agitators entered the President’s house and occupied it, with the President of Sri Lanka fleeing from the house and later on fleeing the country.  Even the Prime Minister’s house was attacked, with international media publishing such bad news extensively.  Certainly, many enlightened Sri Lankans felt that Sri Lanka deserve better.

Today, Sri Lanka has been driven to a situation where the debt commitment could not be honoured and countries like India have to rush essential goods and fuel to Sri Lanka to ensure that the Sri Lankans would atleast have the minimum requirements met.

Further, Sri Lanka is now heavily dependent on The International Monetary Fund to keep the Sri Lankan economy in shape. To add insult to injury, the Human Rights Commission is discussing the human rights violation in Sri Lanka during the ethnic war. Sri Lankans know that it was a war where the terrorists have to be necessarily eliminated and some bloodshed is unavoidable. Sri Lanka was really fighting to protect its territorial integrity and any government in any country would have behaved in the same way in such situation.

Such developments as above have brought down the morale of Sri Lankans considerably.

While Sri Lanka has several inherent strength and can bounce back to reveal its full potential, what is needed now is that the morale of the people should be kept high and they should gain the confidence that they can do whatever that is needed in the present juncture.

In the last few months, there have been no developments in Sri Lanka that could make Sri Lankans proud and Sri Lanka desperately need to hear some success stories.  This is what the Sri Lankan cricketers have given to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan cricketers have shown that with grit, determination and unity of purpose, they can achieve great aims, even when no one expects them to do so.

Let this morale-boosting victory be the starting point for revival Sri Lankan economy and public life, forgetting the unsavoury past in the last few months.

Counter Productive Media Report on Nano Urea Fertiliser in India

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4 mins read

Nano Urea, a fertilizer patented and sold by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), has been approved by the Government of India for commercial use because of its various benefits.

Unfortunately, a counter productive media campaign has been levelled against nano urea, ignoring the merits of nano urea.

When extensive field trials have been carried out on more than 94 crops across 11000 farmer fields in different parts of the country by several organisations , research institutions putting their efforts together and results have been proved as per the claims , it is counter productive that some controversial views appear in the media, which cause only sensation and nothing more than that.

Product details :

Nano Urea is about a billionth of a metre in surface area and contains nitrogen particles of 20 -50 nanometres.

The average thickness of conventional urea particle is 2.8 mm, which is equal to around 55,000 nano urea particles in size.

Chemically, conventional urea has 45% nitrogen content ,which means a 45 kg urea bag contains about 20 kg of nitrogen. In contrast, nano urea sold in 500 ml bottles has 4% nitrogen (or around 20 gm)

The process for nano urea uses organic polymers that keeps the nano particles of nitrogen stable and in a form that can be sprayed onto plants.

Liquid nano urea is sprayed directly on the leaves and gets absorbed by the plant.

Urea in nano form provide a targeted supply of nutrients to crops, as they are absorbed by the pores found on the epidermis of leaves.

IFFCO advises that 2-4 ml of nano urea should be mixed in a litre of water and sprayed on crop leaves at active growth stages.

Due to the ultra-small size and surface properties, the nano urea liquid gets absorbed by plants more effectively when sprayed on their leaves.

With 40,000 milligram per litre. of nitrogen in a 500 ml nano urea bottle can be sufficient for providing nitrogen to one acre of the field with crops compared to 2.5 bags of urea.

One bottle of 500 ml costs Rs.240 whereas the conventional subsidized urea is sold at Rs.266.5 per 45 kg bag.

Over 3.6 crore bottles of this urea have been produced by IFFCO , of which 2.5 crore have been sold.

The question :

The critics have raised the following questions about the wisdom of introducing nano urea as substitute for conventional area in agricultural operations,

• Chemically,conventional urea has 45% nitrogen content , which means a 45 kg urea bag contains about 20 kg of nitrogen. On the other hand, nano urea sold in 500 ml bottles has only 4% nitrogen (or around 20 gm). How can this compensate for the kilogrammes of nitrogen normally?

• “Urea is highly water soluble and already reaches the lowest form of concentration when absorbed. How nanoparticles can increase the effectiveness of nitrogen uptake by being still small in size?.

• Not all the nano urea sprayed on leaves can be utilised by the plant.

Merits of nano urea :

Because nano particles are so small and numerous, they have a lot more surface area relative to their volume, compared with the millimetre-size grains of urea that plants are exposed to .

Unlike the conventional urea which are coarse particles that farmers normally throw onto the soil during sowing, the nano particle form of nano urea, when applied on to the leaves, stimulates a range of enzymes, like nitrase and nitrite reductase, which helps plants metabolise nitrogen

Upon penetration, these nanoparticles reach plant parts where nitrogen is required and release nutrients in a controlled manner, thereby reducing usage while also reducing wastage into the environment.

Small size (20-50 nm) of nano urea increases its availability to crop by more than 80%.

Liquid nano urea has a shelf life of a year, and farmers need not be worried about “caking” when it comes in contact with moisture.

Field trials and results :

IFFCO says the product has been tested on more than 94 crops across 11,000 farmer fields in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendras of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-KVKs), research institutes, state agriculture universities, and progressive farmers. “The trials began in November 2019

According to a release from IFFCO, field trials have shown that a 500 ml bottle of nano urea can replace one bag of conventional urea, as it has 40,000 ppm of nitrogen, which is equivalent nitrogen nutrient provided by one bag of conventional urea.

Nano urea has also been tested for biosafety and toxicity according to norms followed in India and the international guidelines developed by OECD, which are adopted and accepted globally.

Comparison of conventional urea and nano urea :

As of now, just 30-50 per cent of nitrogen from conventional urea is utilised by plants in farms , while the rest goes waste due to quick chemical transformation because of leaching, which contaminates soil and water bodies, and volatilisation that causes emissions of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere — leading to air pollution and global warming along with low nutritional efficiency for the crop.

While conventional urea is effective just for 30-50 per cent in delivering nitrogen to plants, the effectiveness of the nano urea liquid is over 80 per cent.

A major reason for this increase in efficiency of nano urea is because of the fact that nanotechnology, which is the base of this new form of urea, enables designing ultra-small particles that offer higher surface-mass ratios, and help in the controlled delivery of plant nutrients.

Approval :

According to critics, nano urea is yet to be fully tested despite having been fast tracked for commercial application.

According to the critics, normally, three seasons of independent assessment by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is required for approving a new fertiliser, but in the case of nano urea this was reduced to two.

The above stand of the critics is not logical and acceptable, since nano urea is not different from urea in chemical constituent and the difference is only in the form and particle size.

Therefore, there is no need to consider conventional urea and nano urea as separate products for approval by the authorities , particularly since extensive field trials have been carried out with nano urea and the results have been announced which are positive and are proven to be beneficial.

Views expressed are personal

India: Modi Should Meet Dalai Lama

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1 min read

It is reported that respected the Dalai Lama has now reached Delhi after visiting Lhasa.

It is surprising that Indian Prime Minister Modi has not met His Holiness the Dalai Lama for more than three years now. Some months back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh, which connects the key Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. Kushinagar is believed to be the final resting place of Gautam Buddha and therefore, is an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination A large contingent of Buddhist monks from different countries were invited for the inaugural programme of Kushinagar airport. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the renowned Buddhist monk, was not invited to the meeting.

Obviously, Mr. Modi has not met the Dalai Lama for several years and has not invited him to the Kushinagar airport inauguration programme, fearing China’s reaction. In viewing these incidents, one gets an impression that Mr. Modi does not want to displease China, in spite of China’s grave injustice to Tibetans and brutal aggression against Tibet by China

However, Mr. Modi has sent birthday greetings to the Dalai Lama recently, even though similar birthday greetings were not sent earlier. One is not sure as to whether Mr. Modi has decided to change his Tibetan policy in any way.

China killed thousands of Indian soldiers in 1962 Indo-China war and in several other subsequent wars and skirmishes on the border. China has made several insulting remarks against India in many world forums and China is known to support terrorists who have attacked India in the past. China is occupying area in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is claimed by India as its own. It is still occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and is claiming Arunachal Pradesh in India as its own.

In such circumstances, it would not be in the interest of India or in fairness, if Mr. Modi would think that China must be kept in good humour at all costs.

Millions of Indians think that India has done harm to the interest of Tibet, by not protesting against the occupation of Tibet by China and by approving that Tibet’s occupation by China is legitimate. With regard to Tibet policy, millions of Indians think that India has erred.

In any case, by avoiding meeting with the Dalai Lama, should India go to the ridiculous extent of fearing China’s criticism?

The Dalai Lama is the most respected and senior Buddhist monk in the world. He is applauded everywhere for his advocacy of peace and harmony and hatred for none. He was awarded the Nobel prize for peace

India should consider itself honoured to have the presence of the Dalai Lama on Indian soil for so many years.

If Mr. Modi were to continue to refrain from meeting the Dalai Lama, many people would consider that it would be a case of showing disrespect to the great Buddhist monk by the Indian Prime Minister and against India’s culture, tradition and value system.

Will Global Zero Emission Target Go For a Toss?

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4 mins read

In the recent COP 26 Glasgow Climate Meet,  all the Prime Ministers and Presidents of various countries who participated in the meeting expressed deep concern about global warming and pledged to limit the emission of carbon dioxide and other noxious gases in their regions,  to save the global climate from possible disaster.

Different countries promised and pledged that they would bring the emission to zero level in their regions with different target dates.

 United States has set a goal of 100% clean electricity by the year  2035, which would result in a crucial foundation for net-zero emissions no later than the year 2050  in the USA.  China informed the UN General Assembly that it would aim for peak carbon emission before 2030 and would reach carbon Net Zero by 2060.   Japan declared that by 2050, Japan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.     The Russian government has drafted a new decarbonisation strategy that sets a 2060 net zero emissions target.  Indian Prime Minister had announced India’s zero-emission target to be achieved by 2070

 At the end of the Glasgow meeting, looking at the commitments made by the leaders from different countries, many people around the world thought that zero-emission would happen in the coming decades.

However, the subsequent developments in the geopolitical scenario in the world and consequent energy issues have created doubts and apprehension as to whether the zero-emission target would be achieved at any time.

Impact  of climate change

The adverse impact of global warming and climate change has already become evident across the world.

 In Europe,  drought has threatened to make the  Rhine river, which is a crucial waterway for German, Dutch and Swiss trade for centuries, extremely difficult to be used. In several European countries, drought conditions have created severe water shortages and the countries are now considering plans to curtail the use of water in all possible ways. In several countries, heavy unseasonal rains and floods are throwing life out of gear for people.  China has now issued a warning regarding possible drought conditions in the country and some regions in China are reported to be suffering from heat waves. 

The significant regional warming leads to continued loss of sea ice, melting of glaciers and of the Greenland ice cap. The Arctic is warming three times as fast as the global average.

These conditions are alarming by any stretch of the imagination.

Primary requisites

The primary requisite to achieve zero emissions in the world is that the use of coal as fuel should be completely eliminated.  Further, the methane emission during storage and transportation of natural gas also needs to be totally eliminated. Apart from these steps, the sulphur dioxide emission from vehicle exhaust also needs to be brought to zero level.  These are some of the essential requisites which have to be done.

To eliminate the use of fossil fuel completely, the remedial measures that have been identified are the massive boost for the production of renewable energy from wind, solar and hydro projects and also large-scale production and use of green hydrogen as an energy source and feedstock source.

While there has been a high focus on renewable energy projects, the ground reality is that the world over, such focus on renewable energy has failed to meet the energy needs caused by the recent developments.

It appears that dependence on renewable energy as an important strategy to move towards low emission will not have a significant impact,  in view of the fluctuating seasonal climatic conditions and low capacity utilisation of the renewable energy sector., as well as a large quantity of power required to produce a massive quantity of green hydrogen that would be required in the world.

While all over the world,  there is a lot of focus on hydrogen energy which is green energy, what is needed is the massive production of green hydrogen at an affordable cost. Considering the various technological and infrastructure issues and constraints such as storage and transportation and production cost,   green hydrogen as the ultimate energy source to achieve zero emission in the world appears to be a little too optimistic at this stage.

Target may become difficult  due to world conflicts:

The Ukraine – Russia war has led to serious questions the world over on whether the zero-emission targets would be attainable.

Consequent to the Ukraine-Russia war and with  NATO countries and the USA imposing various sanctions against Russia, the availability of crude oil and natural gas from Russia to NATO countries is rapidly going down.  In such a desperate situation,  to tackle the scenario, several countries like Germany are restarting the coal-based thermal power projects and are planning to restart the nuclear power plants which were closed earlier.

Many countries have started mining coal and boosting crude oil/gas production in their countries. The adverse impact of this shift towards coal, oil and gas on meeting the global emission reduction targets is too glaring to be ignored.

India’s dependence on coal:

In 2021-22, India produced 778 million tonnes of coal compared to 716 million tonnes in the previous year.  India has now set a target of increasing coal production to 1000 million tonnes per annum. The government of India has announced that in the financial year 2023, coal production in the country is likely to record 900 million tonnes.

The use of coal in India will certainly not reduce but it would only increase in the foreseeable future if India were to maintain the industrial and economic growth and GDP growth of more than 8%.per annum.  Coal will remain the permanent baseload option for India for a long time to come.

Strife-ridden political scenario:

If the countries behave responsibly by avoiding war, which causes huge emissions due to bombing and shooting and missile attacks and energy-related issues then there could be some hope that the efforts of scientists and technologists to find a  way to achieve zero emission would be fruitful.

Geopolitical conditions do not look like improving to ensure a strife-free world. 

Ultimately, one can say that the challenge of achieving zero emission should also be fought in the minds and hearts of men and women, where war and conflicts and the use of arms would become a thing of the past. Will it ever happen?

Cost of China’s Miscalculation

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5 mins read

Signals from China clearly indicate that the Chinese government has evolved a strategy and action plan, to be partly implemented in medium term and the rest to be implemented in long term and emerge as the most dominant country in the world.  Obviously, its aim is to emerge as the sole superpower in the world, effectively dislodging the USA from the present superpower status and significantly reducing the influence of Russia and the European Union in the world.

One cannot but miss the fact that China’s methodology for implementing its strategies have two approaches. One approach is to economically bring several underdeveloped and developing countries under its heels. The additional approach is to use its military force to invade the territories in the nearby regions to expand its territorial base

Territorial expansion plans under execution:

China occupied Tibet using its military force several decades back and China’s aggression was not challenged effectively by any country. This Tibet aggression gave confidence to China that there would not be any strong opposition to China’s aggressive military acts, so long as China would remain economically strong with a strong industrial and agricultural base.

When the United Kingdom meekly gave away Hong Kong to China, much against the wishes of the Hong Kong citizens, China’s confidence about achieving its territorial ambition increased multifold.

After the 1962 war with India, China is occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and also is claiming Arunachal Pradesh province in India as its own. The fact that India is not talking anymore about recovering the thousands of kilometres of Indian territory occupied by China, has emboldened China more in implementing its territorial adventures.

Apart from China’s claim on Senkaku islands and the South China Sea where China has already established a military base without being challenged, China’s immediate target is to occupy Taiwan.

China is now ramping up its military, diplomatic and economic coercion of Taiwan. The Chinese military has staged air and sea exercises in the Taiwan Strait, without being challenged.  China entering and occupying Taiwan may soon happen and in all likelihood, the USA and West European countries may react to the situation only verbally and not wanting to risk war with China. This is what China really expects to happen.

Economic domination plans of weak countries under execution:

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, China’s total engagement in different countries is around $ 932 billion in construction contracts and the rest in other investments.

This year, China has signed BRI documents with 149 countries with an investment volume of over 1 trillion Yuan ( $ 147 billion), flagging the China –Laos railway, bridge in Serbia and Gwadar port as landmark projects that had been well implemented.

In the first half of 2022, China’s engagement through financial investments and contracts in 147 countries amounted to $ 28.3 billion, up by 47% from the previous year.  Of this, $ 11.8 billion was through investments and $16.5 billion through project contracts.

China’s short and medium-term assistance to countries, that are underdeveloped with weak economies and some of which are reeling with rising debt levels, is increasing.

The aim of BRI is clearly to bring down a large number of underdeveloped countries in China’s economic control and these countries together are located in a major part of world territory.  The clear trends of BRI are to ensure a growing role for Chinese state-owned enterprises and control the industrial and economic base of these countries, which are made to become debt-ridden to China.

In the past five years, China gave nearly $26 billion in short and medium-term loans to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  With Economic Corridor Project and with a huge debt to China, Pakistan is now clearly under China’s control.  In the same way, by handing over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease by debt-ridden Sri Lanka, China is now firmly present in Sri Lanka and the ongoing visit of China’s dual-purpose research or spy ship Yuan Wang 5 docking at Hambantota Port clearly indicate that China would assert itself in dealing with the debt-ridden countries like Sri Lanka, in spite of Sri Lanka’s initial reluctance to permit it.

China’s miscalculation:

China seems to be under the impression that by economic domination and making the weak countries debt-ridden to China and ensuring that China will have a firm and inevitable place in the economic and industrial sphere of a large number of underdeveloped or developing countries, China would emerge as an economic superpower, with no other country matching it.

Further, by occupying the territory of nearby countries and regions using military force and with other countries such as the USA and European Union unwilling to risk a large-scale war with China, China would bring a large region under its control. The ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and the unwillingness of USA and NATO countries to engage in a war with Russia to defend Ukraine clearly reassure China that its aggressive stance will not be met by an equally aggressive stance by the USA and European Union.

The question is whether China’s strategies would work in the way that China expects.

A few centuries back, countries like Britain, Belgium, France, and Portugal brought several countries in the world under their control by initially entering the countries as traders and in course of time becoming the rulers of these countries. Such strategies worked well at that time since most of these occupied regions were poor with little literacy and education amongst the people and under the rule of local chieftains.

However, at the present time, such conditions in many underdeveloped countries do not exist due to the spread of communication and people becoming aware of their rights and having an intense love for freedom.

While China can economically and militarily control the targeted countries, it cannot manage the protest from the local people who would not relish dominance by another country.  China is already seeing such conditions in Pakistan and a few African countries and it is said that China is now considering proposals to send its military to these countries to protect the interest of the Chinese people and Chinese investment.

Massive protests from the local people in countries, occupied by China economically or with military force, against China’s control, will force China to take several steps backwards.

Will become costly for China:

Today, China has a number of countries which are totally opposed to China or deeply suspicious about its objectives and aims of China.

China is now claiming the territories of Taiwan, and India and is already occupying Tibet. China is also challenging the claims of Japan in the Senkaku islands and that of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and a few other countries in the South China Sea.

China is increasingly creating an impression around the world that it believes in force and coercion to achieve its ends and often uses crude methods unbecoming of a developed country.

The internal situation in China also has a lot of issues such as human rights violations by China with regard to the Uyghur community where several thousands of Uyghurs are said to be under detention.  In Hong Kong, China is really controlling the region by using force against the protesters, The Tiananmen Square massacre is an indication of the state of things in China due to a totalitarian regime.

As the world is realising that China’s words and actions are deeply destabilizing, there is bound to emerge a scenario where protests by people in different countries that are sought to be occupied by China, would become too hot for China to handle.

With a totalitarian Chinese government in power in China and with people’s protests in a few countries opposing China’s domination and its military stretched out in defending territories occupied by China, it is likely that China will pay a big price for its miscalculation in the coming years.  Certainly, China will not have the last laugh.

India’s Impressive Progress in 75 Years – Could it Have Been Even Better?

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4 mins read

As India is now completing 75 years after attaining independence from British rule and celebrating its 75th year of Independence on 15th August, a careful review of the scenario in 1947 and in the year 2022 in a holistic manner will certainly convince a discerning observer that India’s achievements and progress have been substantial, significant and praiseworthy.

In 1947, when India forced Britishers to give freedom, India was an underdeveloped country with a low literacy level, a high level of economic disparity and a large percentage of countrymen living below the poverty line.

All such deprived conditions have changed considerably in the last seventy-five years with significant industrial development, growth in agricultural production and productivity, significant improvement in literacy level and public health and reasonably good advancements in technology and particularly in digital media and information technology. The improved figures and data are well known and are in the public domain.

The question is that given India’s landscape, different climatic and soil conditions, irrigation potential, mineral deposits, long coastal belt and several other advantages, should one conclude that India should have done better than what it has achieved?

The best way of answering this query would be to compare India’s growth with a few other countries facing similar conditions in 1947.

Japan & Germany :

India attained independence in 1947 and during this period, Germany and Japan remained battered and virtually paralysed after facing defeat during the second world war.

Both these countries have made remarkable progress during the last seventy-five years and today remain as amongst the most developed countries in the world with a high level of prosperity index.

However, both Germany and Japan had a reasonably strong technology base before 1947 compared to India, as a result of which both these countries could take part in the second world war and they exhibited their technological and military capability of a high order.

While credit should be given to the governments and people of Germany and Japan for their remarkable progress subsequent to the second world war, India’s technological and industrial base in 1947 was at a much lower level. India had to virtually start from scratch.

Therefore, comparing the growth of Germany and Japan to that of India during the last seventy-five years may not be appropriate.

China:

In 1947, both India and China were nearly on par as far as technology, industrial and agriculture base are concerned. In the last seventy-five years, China has grown phenomenally and is now claiming superpower status in the world.

China is only 15% of the global economy in size but now contributes 25 to 30% of global growth. Assuming that we don’t count the European Union as one economy, China is the second largest economy in the world. China’s share of world output has gone up from 6.3% in the year 1996 to 17.8%, in the year 2020. China contributed as much as around 70% of the growth in the share of developing economies in world GDP in the last two decades.

Today, the size of the Indian economy is much smaller than that of China. What is the reason for this sharp difference in the growth profile of India and China?

One can say that China is a totalitarian country and therefore, the Chinese government has been able to implement any project as it deems fit without resistance from any quarters. However, the mere totalitarian rule cannot be attributed as the reason for China’s success, since several other totalitarian countries have not progressed to any reasonable level.

The reason for China’s growth is the strong government and policy of the government to liberally cooperate with the developed countries in industrialisation and technology acquisition. Many multinational companies are now operating in China with large industrial capacities, substantially contributing to China’s technological growth and economy. Chinese companies have gained a lot by having joint ventures with multi-national companies in China.

The credit must be given to the Chinese government and the people of China for this phenomenal growth.

Indian Scenario

India could have done better in the last seventy-five years if the following issues have been tackled adequately.

India’s population in 1947 was around 347 million and the population is 1400 million at present. The mouths to be fed have multiplied several times and India’s economic growth, though impressive, has not been adequate enough to match the population growth. In the next year, India would emerge as the most populous country in the world. China too is a populous country but the Chinese government has admirably controlled the population growth by its one-child family policy, which India has not been able to do due to several reasons.

Unlike China, India is a democratic country with freedom of speech and personal freedom remaining at a very high level. As a result, several projects announced by the government have been criticised and resisted by a section of activists and several political parties with India emerging as the noisiest democracy in the world. Several well-meaning schemes could not be implemented and good projects have been forced to close down due to the protests by the so-called activists and some political parties. The latest example is that of the Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu. Due to the closure of this plant, India has become a net importer of copper, whereas India was a big exporter of copper when the Sterlite Copper plant was operating. Another example is the very important and technologically significant Neutrino project, which has been stopped by political groups. So many other examples can be readily pointed out.

Another major issue is the rapidly developing dynastic politics in India, where family groups are holding a vice-like grip over several political parties all over India. Except for BJP and communist parties, all other political parties in India today are dynastic parties under family control. In this scenario, due to the development of a situation where the family groups are ruling several states and with vested interests developing, administrative standards have deteriorated and in several states, political corruption has reached an unacceptable level. Committed people with proven competence are unable to win elections based on their merit. Such conditions have become a drag on the overall growth of the country.

What scenario for the coming years?

During the last eight years, Prime Minister Modi has elevated the quality of governance to a higher level and has introduced several imaginative schemes, keeping in view the requirement of the people at a lower economic level as well as the compulsive need to forge ahead in terms of technology and productivity. Even in the present post-COVID period where several countries in the world including developed countries are facing serious issues of inflation and recession, the Indian economy is doing much better. This fact has been recently confirmed by a report from International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Though several opposition political parties and some activists have been opposing and criticising Modi’s governance in severe terms, the overall view amongst the cross-section of the countrymen appear to be that Prime Minister Modi has done a reasonably good job and this trend should continue.