There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Thirty Ninth Edition we are covering the following news:
- Explore Utilisation of fly ash in cement plant: NGT
- The global angle to the farmer protests
- India-Bangladesh bilateral ties in 2020
- Why India should hold its ground before China
- China’s 5G Approach To Control the World
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed a Faridabad based thermal power plant to explore utilisation of fly ash in cement plants and also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to monitor whether covering of the ash dump meets scientific environmental norms.
There are two aspects here, one is utilization of fly ash for which the ministry of environment also has norms laid down and secondly the scientific filing of the fly ash pond and the degraded land is extremely important because fly ash has toxic substance in it which is dangerous for environment.
To understand the relevance and importance of this step, let’s understand fly ash first. Fly ash is produced by thermal power plants which use coal as fuel, and the Indian coal has a high ash content due to which this environmental hazard becomes a serious issue for a nation like India. Depending upon the source and composition of the coal being burned, the components of fly ash vary considerably, but all fly includes substantial amounts of- Silicon Dioxide, Aluminium oxide and calcium oxide.
Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 and black carbon. It becomes air borne, and gets transported to radius of 10 to 20 kms. It can settle on water and other surfaces. It will contaminate water and soil systems. Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal. The wet disposal of Fly ash results in leaching of toxic heavy metals in ground water system. The destruction of mangroves, drastic reduction in crop yields are a bi-product of this ash.
We cannot stop thermal power plants and hence production of fly ash. Indian coal has much more ash content than other countries quality-wise. Diverse approaches that can be implemented include washing coal at its origin, promoting R&D for increasing efficiency of power plants to help reduce ash generation and 100% efficient utilization of fly ash.
It can also be used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement contents of concrete. In view of its alkalinity and water absorption capacity, may be used in combination with other alkaline materials to transform sewage sludge into organic fertilizer or biofuel. Fly ash is used as an agent for acidic soils, as soil conditioner. It is also used for stabilization of soft soils.
To facilitate 100% ash utilization by all coal based thermal power plants, a web portal for monitoring of fly as generation and utilization data of Thermal Power Plants and a mobile based application titled “ASHTRACK” has been launched by the Government that will help to establish a link between fly ash users and power plants executives for obtaining fly ash for its use in various areas.
It is not just domestic firms that are potential beneficiaries of the new farm laws; foreign agribusinesses are a danger too.
Diversion of land away from food crops to commercial crop and thus it could affect India’s food security. It could also expose the Indian farmers to the exploitation by the global MNCs. It would weaken the procurement and distribution of food grains and thus lead to income poor support for the farmers.
It’s in one way a conspiracy by the developed countries to break the public procurement infrastructure of developing countries because they cannot grow tropical grains which are in high demand in their countries, so they want it to be imported from developed countries. They want to get into contract farming and for them the doors are getting open additionally there is a question on agriculture subsidy, the agricultural product of developed nations are highly subsidised because there are less number of farmers and it takes only less than one percent of total government expenditure in india and other developing countries government subsidy is a large portion of government expenditure but since large population is involved in agricultural activity, the subsidy do not come anywhere near to what is given to the farmers of developed nation.
The ongoing farmers’ protest against the Modi government’s new agricultural laws isn’t just a battle to secure a legal guarantee for minimum support price, or seek repeal of the three legislations. The battle is also to stop India’s rich capitalists from smuggling out farmers’ labour power without paying the cost – and there are several reasons why farmers from the Sikh community are at the forefront.
The Sikh farmers of Punjab were the first to grasp the danger when Parliament passed the three controversial bills in a great hurry, without a discussion or taking farmers’ unions into confidence.
A major diplomatic achievement of Bangladesh in 2020 was the further consolidation of bilateral ties with India. Indian Prime has described Bangladesh as a “key pillar” of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy during a virtual summit on December 17. The two leaders inaugurated a key rail link between Haldibari and Chilahati, which was defunct since the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and with this new development, tourists from Bangladesh will be able to visit places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, with ease. At the end of the summit, in a joint statement, Modi assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India.
Bangladesh was apparently upset following the roll out of the NRC in Assam. But it was assured that the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will have no implications for Bangladesh, asserting that it is a process that is entirely internal to India.
The political landscape in 2020 was largely dull unlike the usual scenario in previous years in the highly polarised South Asian nation of Bangladesh. However, the relationship between Bangladesh and China developed further in 2020, especially on the commercial and economic fronts. At the same time, India’s commitment to promptly deliver to Bangladesh the COVID-19 vaccines and to remove non-tariff barriers reset the positive course of bilateral ties which both the capitals have repeatedly called “rock solid”, have also contributed to stronger ties between the nations.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down Bangladesh’s economic growth it was able to escape a contraction in 2020. The global health crisis also affected Bangladesh’s garment industry, which accounts for 11% of the country’s GDP and employs around 4.4 million people.
The year 2021 will be a significant one for Bangladesh as it will celebrate the 50th year of its independence. Prime Minister Modi is likely to visit Dhaka in March 2021 to join the celebrations that also marks 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
During the summit, both prime ministers expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and other unique commonalities that characterize the partnership and they emphasised that bilateral relations are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership. If China is trying to gain any sort of traction with Bangladesh then it helps India to have strong bilateral ties with her.
The pandemic has caused anti-China sentiment to soar worldwide and as such the rivalries got enhanced. It has also highlighted the need for diversified sources of vital supplies such as pharmaceuticals and rare earths, prompting countries to accelerate geo-political realignments and develop new supply chains.
For India especially, in 2021 proficient diplomacy accompanied by a firm resolve not to yield ground on issues of sovereignty and national interest will be necessary because an aggressive China, a hostile China-Pakistan relationship and the growing strategic cooperation between Russia and China will all be central to India’s strategic policy.
How the China-US relationship, most crucial today, evolves during Joe Biden’s term will be minutely watched. If US eases any of the policies followed by the earlier two US administrations, then it’ll make China more aggressive. Biden and his nominees have also indicated that with China they would prefer talks to confrontation to which Beijing has responded positively. It would appear that they wish to repair Sino-US ties even though the differences undoubtedly exist. Thus far, China’s aggressive foreign policy, its efforts to establish dominance over the South China Sea and the degree of military pressure, is limited by US policy. Additionally, Beijing is upgrading relations with Moscow to form a strong pro-China power bloc in Asia.
Capitals in Asia, and some in Europe, will also closely watch if America reduces its security presence in the Indo-Pacific or decreases engagement with the Quad, and whether it dilutes support to Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines on security issues. Many Chinese experts believe that Beijing wields considerable influence among the US power elite, which will again be revived and apparently, China is establishing contacts with persons close to the Biden camp and point to Beijing’s longstanding financial links with the Democrats.
For India, China is the biggest military, diplomatic, economic and environmental challenge, encroaching on India’s strategic space to establish itself as the pre-eminent power in Asia. China’s leadership will increasingly harden India’s position and pressures, like the ongoing military confrontation, will continue until Beijing perceives India is willing to bow down to its decree. Beijing will also try to persuade Biden to soften US policy towards Pakistan.
As India strives to ensure good relations with the US and Russia and revive its economy, it’s important that it does not yield ground to China and assertively raises issues impacting its national interests.
The world stands at an important threshold today, the year is about to end, we have found a cure for the Coronavirus and even though there is a new strain of the virus, the war against the virus might finally have a solution. While one war seems to have found an end, we might be getting ready for a different war and this too might be in unchartered territory-the 5G war. Nations are ready with 5G technology and many of them are ready to invade markets where 5G has not been heard of yet, no doubt the advent of this new technology will bring out many benefits but it also carries with it many hidden hazards primarily to data privacy and security.
The recent news of China and Nepal agreeing to increase the height of Mount Everest by three metres reveals that it could lead to an invasion by Chinese 5G technology. Such capability has the ability to control Nepal’s mountaineering and tourism industry. The launch of 5G in Nepal would mean that Nepal’s business interests could pass into Chinese control. Real-time information on weather, routes, map/terrain details, logistics and rescue programmes, etc, could be based on Chinese 5G, thus making locals or visitors to Nepal dependent on it. China is also a major stakeholder in Mount Everest since it lies on their common border. A related development of infrastructure along the borders, where most mountaineering sites are, could make Nepal’s borders vulnerable and damage its tourism industry. With lower incomes, the tourism industry might get lured into Chinese cheap loans, leading to a strategic debt trap. The ramifications of such developments for India can only be imagined.
Chinese companies have made huge investments across the world to spread a 5G network that will encompass the planet — a “digital encirclement of the world”. Combined with the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), this encirclement would be complete. Intrinsic to the BRI is the fact that Chinese companies will build the digital infrastructure. Militaries who do not have indigenous 5G capabilities for IOT platforms and who allow Chinese 5G, could then become hostage to Chinese technology, as seen during the pandemic. The CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is a clear example of how easy it is to encircle a country. Pakistan is today a virtual vassal state of China.
With this China furthers its control of the world and deepens its ability to cause disruptions to the global economy with all of the world’s data at its fingertips. It becomes essential that India gets its timing right, the implementation of 5G in India could make India a good alternative to China.