AN ANALYSIS OF KARNATAKA’S MINIMUM WAGES POLICY: HOW THEY ARE NOTIFIED, CONTESTED AND UPHELD
The procedure of setting minimum wages in India is a balance between legislative statute and policy regulation, the understanding of which requires vigilance and careful study from the lawyers, academics, activists and union leaders who are actively engaged in contemporary labour questions. These wages build a paradoxical economic issue – while the interests of workers and their unions seem antithetically opposed to those of their managers and company owners, they are actually more closely intertwined. To appreciate the current situation, one must follow two trends: tracing the history of the minimum wage as a political and judicial issue and understanding the statutory procedure by which administrative notifications are prepared. But it is also necessary to lay focus on the fact that it is through institutions such as courts, labour departments and civil society groups that the beneficiaries of minimum wage policy are served amidst corruption or administrative negligence.
History of the Minimum Wage Policy
In any discussion of the legislative and policy implications of the minimum wage in India, 1948 is a crucial year. It involved the passage of the Minimum Wages Act and the appointment of the Tripartite Committee on Fair Wages, which drew distinctions between three conceptual levels of wages – the living wage, the fair wage and the minimum wage. Of these, the first is arrived at on the basis of meeting basic needs, the second is calculated with regards to the industry’s ‘Capacity to Pay’ and the third is the statutory mandate.
As these dimensions were laid out and efforts were made to navigate the tensions between them, the 15th Annual Labour conference was held in 1957. In this conference, it was argued that minimum wage should be fixed in a scientific and needs-based manner – an idea that became hugely influential within the minimum wage discourse. They recommended that the minimum wage should sustain a family (estimated at three consumption units – one man, one woman and two children) for their requirements of food, clothing, rent, fuel and miscellaneous expenses.
The events discussed so far are negotiating processes, where administrative and political actors gathered to establish a legal infrastructure for minimum wages. However, their policy recommendations were not easily accepted by industries, which challenged them through an array of cases:
- Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd vs. State of Ajmer, 1954
This petition was filed by the Mill owners challenging the right for the “appropriate government” to mandate a minimum wage, citing the Fundamental Right to freedom of trade or business (Art. 19(1)(g) and was dismissed.
- Crown Aluminium vs their Workmen, 1957
Crown Aluminium Works was dissatisfied with the verdict of an Industrial Tribunal set up to adjudicate a dispute between them and their workmen. After a wage was agreed upon, Crown filed an appeal and then this petition, arguing that certain “economy measures” had to be taken. Since the revision of the fixed wage structure was due to the employer’s financial difficulties, both filings were dismissed, recasting minimum wage as the market price of the factor. Industries could either hire workers at the wage or not at all.
- U. Unichoy and Others vs. State of Kerala, 1961
A group of tile factory owners in Kerala argued that the minimum wage notification actually denoted a fair wage and was arrived at in an unfair (and non-procedural) manner. After examining the case, the court rejected their petition, showing that the wage was properly fixed through the procedure established by the Act.
In each of these cases, the legal institution of minimum wage and the established statutory process of notifying it were protected. However, in recent years, we have seen more successful challenges, both due to a dysfunction within the State Labour Departments and a shift towards more flexible labour regulations.
Procedure to Notify Minimum Wages and Contemporary Challenges
It is worth noting that since Minimum Wage is a labour issue that appears on the Concurrent List, it is the States that set the notifications according to areas of employment enumerated in the Central law’s Schedule. States are hesitant to revise minimum wages too high, fearing that employers will move to other states with more favourable wage regimes. This stress is only more acute for exporters, who put pressure on the State Labour Departments to loosen restrictions.
After considering all advice and representations, the Government must notify the new minimum wage by scheduled area of employment. Under the Article 3(1)b, wages must be reviewed and if necessary, revised every 5 years – a practice that most states do not keep up with.
In October 2015, the High Court rejected Karnataka Labour Department’s Minimum Wage notification for automobile and foundry workers, citing “glaring lapses and gross dereliction of duty.” Going on to attack public servants for their “carelessness and negligence”, the Court ordered an enquiry into the Department and for all those responsible for incurring penalties. After months of delays, when the case finally came before the court, the Labour Department could not show that their decision was based on recommendations from the Advisory Board, a major procedural lapse that forced Justice Venugopala Gowda to accept the petitions and quash the wage notifications. Lawyer-activists such as Clifton d’Rosario of Manthan Law Chambers, who routinely deal with the Labour Department maintained that this lacklustre work is its general culture. The Court additionally ordered the Government to issue proper notifications by the end of November and directed companies to pay 75 percent of the higher wages in the interim.
This push-and-pull of institutions that fight against and also for, set minimum wages is seen not just in Karnataka, but in other states with developed industries such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal. These occurrences are due to successful interactions of social justice actors, but it is just as important to remember that the minimum wage is a limited policy. It fails to cover workers in the unorganised sector as well as any sector not included in a particular State’s Schedule. Moreover, non-compliance of employers tends to increase due to intersectional identities of the workers – young, unmarried, lower caste women employed in the garment sector are some of the greatest victims of partially implemented minimum wage policies.
(Smita is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at email@example.com)
Eastern Book Company. 2016. Minimum Wages Act, 1948 [Act 11 of 1948]. 28th . Lucknow: EBC Publishing (P) Ltd.
Express News Service. 2016. “Revise auto, foundry workers’ wages by November 30: Karnataka HC to the government.” The New Indian Express Online. October 29. Accessed December 2016. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2016/oct/29/revise-auto-foundry-workers-wages-by-november-30–karnataka-hc-to-government-1532986.html.
Sampath, G. 2016. “Do we need a minimum wage law?” The Hindu Online. September 1. Accessed December 7, 2016. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/Do-we-need-a-minimum-wage-law/article14616002.ece.
Supreme Court of India. 1954. “THE EDWARD MILLS CO. LTD., BEAWAR, AND OTHERS Vs. THE STATE OF AJMER AND ANOTHER.” Judgment Information System (JUDIS). Accessed December 2016. http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgs1.aspx?filename=889.
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The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 recognises the need to create a sensitive and vigilant legal regime to protect children who are the victims of sexual assault, however, its implementation has been patchy and relied on a vast and uncoordinated network of actors who bear responsibility towards the victims.
The Centre for Child and the Law (CCL) in National Law School of India University recently conducted a two-day consultation on the law which looked at how its provisions were being carried out within the Indian court system and whether the rights and interests of children were truly being protected. The participants were stakeholders drawn from various spheres of policy making such as the researchers, journalists, advocates and judges of city civil courts, Member of Parliament, Member of NCPCR, Joint Secretary of Women and Child Development Ministry, CWC Chairperson, social workers, police and public prosecutors. They discussed various facets of the legal regime including perspectives from the judiciary on POCSO, recommendations based on empirical studies, implementation and bottlenecks in the Act, intersectionality and vulnerability to child sexual abuse, efforts of National Commission and State Commission for Protection Child Rights, rehabilitation and shelter homes, studies on best practices and expectations of lawyers from each other while discharging the role of defence, prosecutor, or the lawyer of the victim.
Recently, Kripa Alva, the Chairperson of the Child Rights body in Karnataka (Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights or KSCPCR) who was also present at the consultation, reprimanded the print and social media for violating Section 23 of the POCSO Act. This provision specifies that no reports shall disclose the identity of a child, including name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child. Such action would attract a minimum of six months of imprisonment. This onslaught came after the public in Bangalore protested in the streets to demand a complete investigation and filing of the charge sheet within 30 days, recording the statement of the sexually abused minor victim at the playschool within next four days in front of a magistrate and charging the school management under Section 16 of the POCSO Act.
The deliberations of the consultation on POCSO highlighted how disorganised activities of the police, courts and the prosecutors can amplify the mental agony of the child rather than acting in tandem to bring about justice. Sexual abuse can scar the psyche of the affected child for their entire life and possibly lead to suicidal tendencies. In many cases, the offender is a family member or a known acquaintance. A better understanding of the overlapping vulnerabilities that put children in danger is needed as well as broader awareness of child protection laws and more stringent implementation of Child Protection policy in schools. The lack of awareness coupled with institutional apathy is a deadly combination. There is also an inbuilt ‘conspiracy of silence’, accepted as a norm, that may be seen from the families of economically weaker backgrounds. The rape of tribal children and Dalit children are often handled in a discriminatory fashion. The victims are antagonised, denied fair trial and dignity, and carry the risk of character assessment if the offender hails from an influential background. One of the critical reasons for the conspiracy of silence is the courtroom ordeal the victim dreads to face. Hence, the conviction rate itself is dismally low. It is strongly expressed that the weakest link in the chain of the judicial trial is the role of the prosecutor who needs to be trained in child specific issues in bringing the evidence to the court. Sensitization of Sakshi guidelines, protection of the child from the perpetrator, the creation of a child-friendly environment, the presence of psychologists during the pre-trial and trial, frequent breaks during the trial are yet to be enacted. Convergence of laws and holding the enforcement authorities accountable is the most important recommendation of the POCSO consultation.
The state of Goa has implemented the Criminal Justice Victim Assistance Unit, wherein a victim appearing at the center as a witness of a murder, crime, sexual abuse or verbal abuse, etc the victim is immediately provided with Social Legal Support and Counseling as well as Medical Examination and Statement Documentation in front of an advocate. The VAU in Goa is not financially supported by the government but is the result of the higher Court’s intervention that led to its creation.
The consultation, therefore, emphasised the need for such VAU’s in every State, strengthening the role of District Trauma team with all the support staff and enforcing the NALSA Scheme that provides for a child welfare person at every police station. Most importantly, the anarchism of media must be put in check. The Media must be encouraged to act as a responsible platform for mass sensitization and sustained social responsibility. The victims that POCSO caters to are among the most vulnerable members of society and we must ensure the system works to deliver the justice they deserve.
(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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The discourse on violence against women and marital rape
Centuries ago, in a much more conservative world driven by monarchy and totalitarianism the British Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale said, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband, whom she cannot retract” (Rath n.d.). In the same context, in 2015 Maneka Gandhi who is the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development while answering a question at the Rajya Sabha said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc” (Roy 2016). After years, of being conditioned by modernisation in all spheres the deep-rooted patriarchal beliefs have remained unchanged. This statement has not only led to a considerable amount of disappointment but also validates the existing customs and beliefs which legitimise the rape of a spouse.
Background to the controversy
Almost one out of two women falling within the age group of 15-49 have experienced domestic violence of mental and physical form at the hands of their husbands. It has been reported that almost 19 percent of women have faced lifelong episodes of sexual violence (Shagun Sabarwal n.d.). In the present day, studies indicate that between 10 and 14 percent of married women are raped by their husbands: the incidents of marital rape soars to 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women. Sexual assault by one’s spouse accounts for approximately 25 percent of rapes committed. The UN Population Fund states that more than 2/3rds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49 years have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. In 2005, 6787 cases were recorded of women murdered by their husbands or their husband’s families. 56 per cent of Indian women believed occasional wife-beating to be justified. The wife’s role has traditionally been understood as submissive, docile and that of a homemaker. Sex is an obligation in a marriage and a taboo in the society hence there is a chronic lack of awareness among the people as people do not talk about it. In a fast modernising society the one which is building by imitating the west, the idea of casual sex is a monopoly of the patriarch. Women engaged in casual sex are regarded as filthy and impure. The status of women is contentious to the norms set by the society which any woman should conform to in order to be accepted in society such has been the sermon of the existing patriarchy.
In India, the 2013 amendment to the Criminal Law increased the age of consent to 18 years which means that any sexual advances over a minor within or outside marriage, with or without consent will be considered as rape. It is true that in rural India girls get married in their early teens and this trajectory stems from the conception that a girl child is a curse on the family. Research in this area also indicates that the husband’s reaction towards dowry during marriage often lead to a situation of physical violence in the marriage. Three important characteristics of the husband which determine their character are years of schooling completed, alcohol use and reaction to the dowry (Shagun Sabarwal n.d.). In pockets where these indicators show less progress are the areas prone to accepting and practising social violence. In the case of women, it was found that factors like financial status, freedom of movement and level of autonomy in the household. Financial autonomy assessed whether or not the respondents was allowed to set aside money for their use or had the power to make decisions regarding household expenditure. Freedom of movement indicated whether or not the person had the liberty to travel on her own or needed permission in order to venture out. For household decision-making autonomy, three items were considered. Respondents were asked whether they took decisions on the following, seeking health care, purchasing, and visiting relatives and friends. In most cases the responses were negative. Sneha’s Crisis Counselling Centre, an NGO in Dharavi, Mumbai, recorded 664 cases of domestic violence in 2015, 159 women also reported among other issues, marital rape. At the counselling centres at KEM and Sion hospitals, among the 218 cases of domestic violence received in 2015, 64 women said that they faced marital rape (Srivastava 2016).
A study was conducted with eight states: Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. It covered 9,205 men and 3158 women aged 18-49 and the sample was representative across caste, religious and income groups. The National Family Health Survey report showed that vast sexual violence was reported by women within their marriage. The trend of marital rape in India has been catastrophic and the worse has been since there is no law criminalising the act.
Debate over Marital Rape
Marriage is still perceived as a carte blanche of sexual intercourse in India. Most marriages in both rural and urban India take place against the will of the two individuals. In a country like India which is a manifestation of diverse culture and religion, there is a constant clash between the uniformity induced by the state and the diversity generated by the various social groups. Despite being divided on customs and tradition, the status of women is derogatory across religious and caste/class boundaries. Except for certain tribal groups which are matriarchal societies and follow the matrilineal path of property transfer, the status of women is repressed. Thus in the main land mass of India, the story is different. Marriage in India is a sexual contract. It gives the man an implied consent to enter into such a contract with the woman engaged. Does the woman have a say in it? Is the woman’s right to reject sexual advances from the man accepted and respected? Is marriage a license to rape? The answers to above questions are in negative. Marriage, the way it is perceived in the Indian context is about giving ownership rights to the man over the woman and consequently over her body. The woman is treated as a property transferred from the house she was born in the house where she shall serve. And the act of dowry establishes the legitimacy of such a concept. This denies the woman any agency over her body, its sexuality and its reproductive function (Roy 2016). In a very conservative society like India where sex outside marriage is penalised and sex, in general, is a tabooed word, people are less aware of it and barely comfortable to express their woes of any kind related to sex. The taboo revolving around sex often forces men to enter into a bond of marriage for free access to physical consummation which puts women under threat. There is also a constant need by our society to induce within our minds an elevated value system which we should subscribe to. This elevated value system is far from reality, internalises moral policing, and disregards healthy interaction between opposite sexes. These factors contribute to the repression of feelings and emotions which further culminates in violence in the cruellest form.
Refusing to criminalise marital rape is to accept that the sexual coercion against a woman, so long as it is within a marriage will be endorsed by both the Government and society. If women are to wrest control of their lives they have to have the right to say no their husbands without being socially penalised for it. The myth of the ‘wifely duty’ and the ‘conjugal right’ must end because marital sex as all sex must be with mutual consent.
Our religion is not only conservative but also regressive. It does not allow women to visit a place of worship (especially mosques and temples) or be involved in any sacred rituals while she is menstruating, which demeans the status of women. These acts of disgrace propagate the power of masculinity and ownership by the male over society. In Islam women are not allowed to step inside a mosque, men are allowed to engage in a polygamous way of life which puts women from the first marriage at a vulnerable position with negative security in terms of finance and shelter. In Hindu religion, a woman is considered impure if widowed, she is forced to wear a number of symbols to prove to the world that she is married and the fact that she is another man’s property comes candidly, very well hidden under ‘marriage’. The constitution provides for equality before the law but there is a clash between the provisions of the constitution and the oppression of the religious fanatics. The existence of right-wing politics and the newly elected extreme right-wing political party legitimises the sanction of the religious fanatics.
The fate of Draupadi in Mahabharata as a woman who was never asked for her consent but married to the five brothers is narrated as an illustrious example of marital rape. The heroic act of winning the battle rinses the Pandavas off of the heinous crime they committed over their own wife because marriage is considered a sacred sanctity of love and respect. A society which draws from such myths is in itself the manifestation of patriarchy. The woman is supposed to understand and accept and play a limited role. Any woman who raises her voice and puts across her opinion is rebuked by the society till she has lost her voice or her ability to raise it.
Rape law reforms in India
In 1972, a 16-year-old tribal girl named Mathura was allegedly raped in a police station. Mathura’s family lodged a criminal complaint against two officers. The Supreme Court eventually threw out the case, saying Mathura’s body bore no outward signs of rape. The ruling sparked protests by women’s groups across the country. The movement led to amendments, in 1983, to the criminal law that dealt with rape. The changes included a new category of rape for offences committed when a victim is in custody of the state. In such a situation, the law said a court should presume a woman who says she did not consent is telling the truth. Previously the law was silent on the matter of rape in detention. The amendments also ruled that rape trials should be conducted as closed proceedings and banned the publication of victims’ identity. After the Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi, the rape laws became strict but marital law exemption has still not been abolished by the State.
The Indian State passed the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. The definition of ‘domestic relationship’ is broad enough to cover all sorts of household structures. For example, live-in relationships when the couple is not married. The inclusion of this, as well as relationships which fall under categories of fraudulent or bigamous, has increased the ambit of the act extending protection to all those who are victims of sexual violence. In the twenty-first century, the definition of relationship has undergone a change, every relationship does not snowball into marriage. The fact that a piece of paper which declares two individuals married in front of the society cannot be the sanction behind providing immunity against sexual assault and rape. With regard to live-in relationships itself, in a distinctive judgement passed in the case of Bharata Matha & Ors v. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors on 17th May 2010, it was decided that a child born out of a live-in relationship is entitled to property (the property owned by the parents, but not ancestral property) (Ravi 2016). Although this has more relevance to property ownership and the Hindu Marriage Act, it is gratifying to know that children born out relationships which are not akin to marriage can also have property rights. Furthermore, the Act also provides relief to domestic violence committed by both male and female relatives of the husband. This extensive reform in the laws for protection of women against domestic violence does not extend protection to particular victims of marital rape per se because not criminalising marital rape specifically means extending sanction to the concept that husbands have the ownership right over their wives and thus are at liberty to consummate conjugal relationship at their own discretion without the wife’s consent and on return the wife is expected to accept.
An attempt to reduce the suffering of women and relieve her from the painful environment is given under chapter XX-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Chapter XX-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860, refers to ‘cruelty by husband or relatives of husband’ and includes section 498-A. (Sharma n.d.) It states that if the husband or relative of the husband, subjects the woman to cruelty, it shall be punished with the imprisonment for a term extendable to three years and also be liable to fine.
Is Section 498 a shield or weapon? Explanation- For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means-
(a) Any wilful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with view to coercing her or any person related to her meet any unlawful demand for any person related to her to meet such demand” (Sharma n.d.)
This section was enacted to combat the menace of dowry deaths. It was introduced in the code by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983). The main objective of section 498-A of I.P.C is to protect a woman who is being harassed by her husband or relatives of husband but it still fails to draw a clear distinction between consensual sex in marriage and rape in marriage.
After the Delhi gang rape, petitions on the safety of women were made. These petitions established the need to make marital rape a criminal offence. It was recommended that forced sexual intercourse within marriage should be brought within the ambit of rape under Section 375 I.P.C. by deleting Exception 2. Similar reforms have been suggested but have been in the pipe for too long. (Srivastava 2016)
The law which gives immunity to women against harassment have become stronger then why is it still that the woman has to prove her innocence in order to find the guilty? The law definitely provides legal immunity to the victims but is helpless in front of the society. In this context the urban society might have undergone a change but the women in the rural part of the country live in darkness and despair. They need more economic power and political power. One way of giving them economic power is to legalise the dowry money and transform it from being an excessive amount paid to the groom’s family for marrying the girl to the girl’s security money which shall be used by her in times of need. Women, especially in the rural area need economic power not only because that will give them security against violence but because economic power is the right of every citizen. It is true that marriage is a bond built on trust and affection it is a social institution which provides legitimacy to the existing structure of society because society is built on institutions of family and marriage and to deny the existence of any of the institution would violate social norms. But that is not an explanation for a society to fail to look through the atrocities caused by these institutions. A social institution like marriage is not the end to the means. It is only a mean to provide a structure where law and order can function properly and the law is responsible for protecting its people. By not recognising marital rape as a crime the rule of law fails to protect the people and thus lose its legitimacy. Unless a crime like marital rape is criminalised under the Indian administration, development is marred by the iniquity of the society.
(Trisrota is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at email@example.com)
Rath, Priyanka. “India Law Journal.” India Law Journal. n.d. http://www.indialawjournal.org/archives/volume2/issue_2/article_by_priyanka.html.
Ravi, Malavika. The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Blog, Feminism in India, 2016.
Roy, Vaishna. The Hindu. March 19, 2016. http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/woman-uninterrupted-the-marital-rape-debate/article8370439.ece (accessed January 4, 2017).
Shagun Sabarwal, K.G Santhya, Shireen J Jejeebhoy. “Economic Political Weekly.” Determinants of Marital violence, n.d.
Sharma, Richa. Section 148 IPC. Online Law Journal, Legal Service India, n.d.
Srivastava, Roli. Marital rape: the statistics show how real it is. Newspaper report, Mumbai: The Hindu, 2016.
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“Paris Agreement is not ambitious enough since it has only given effect to soft obligations,” says Mr. Raman Mehta, an expert on climate change.
In his special lecture with Public Policy students, the batch of 2016-18, he spoke on “The Science of Climate Change: Feeding into the politics of Climate Change and Paris Agreement” on 10th and 11th of January 2017. He gives a glimpse into the seriousness of India in integrating climate change concerns into development strategies, plans, and programs. In the past, Mr. Raman Mehta has worked on the issues of forests and wildlife at The Indian Institute of Public Administration, Department of International Development at the British High Commission, on conservation and management of protected areas at World Wide Fund for Nature – India, on developmental issues, climate change, social inclusion and public policy at ActionAid – India. He is currently the Policy head at Vasudha Foundation. He works on demystifying the different facets of sustainable development and climate change through an umpteen number of research work and presence at international conferences.
The design of Climate pledge
Paris Accord glorifies the bottom-to-top approach giving the freedom for all the countries to design their own INDC’s (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) justifying on how the contribution is fair and ambitious towards achieving the objective of the UN’s climate convention and the approach regarding the calculation of the Green House Gas emissions. This means each country can show a different base year from which emissions will be reduced which obliterates the historical responsibility of largest producers of industrial carbon emissions from leading the cause. The developing countries feel this is the cheating point. The Agreement will have the legal force when countries accounting for 55 per cent of global GHG emissions deposit their instrument of ratification, the threshold which was achieved on 5th October 2016. Even though large emitters like US, China, EU, India have ratified the accord, the challenge is to see how strong and full-flavored the countries walk the talk apart from their announcements to move ahead. Speaking on this, Mr. Raman Mehta observed that only the clauses which deal with the reporting of GHG emissions are legally binding. Hence, except for the progressive nature of INDC’s, there seem to be no other pressure points.
The call for Climate Justice
Food security is a common sensitive challenge. Deficit rainfall and natural disasters worsen poverty and hunger as vulnerable economies are bearing the brunt of climate change rapidly. More socio-economic issues directly related to the climate changes are encountered on a day-to-day basis which is irrevocable in nature. India reformulated the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ by adding ‘respective capabilities’ (CBDR – RC) calling it the bedrock of collective enterprise. This is to clearly indicate that equitable carbon and development space are straightforward requirements of developing countries. Therefore, the commitment to combat climate change is purely under the capacity of such countries whose development is invariably tied to a proportional increase in GHG emissions as history shows. However, in certain sectors like transport, China and India are decoupling by building metro rails in their busiest cities. Affordable and zero carbon emissions in the mass public transport sector of low and middle-income countries is the need for millions of low-income families who can save time and money.
Unattained Climate migration and environmental refugees
The Paris Agreement missed the crucial aspect of providing relief and alternative to those who are affected by climate change induced migration, which is expanding every day. The section on
‘Loss and Damage’ makes recommendations for setting up a task force for addressing climate migration. However, the task force has no binding authority and its operations, functions, funding sources are not clear because of which the problem of migration will not be considered as the first priority. The ‘Loss and Damage’ is, therefore, a mere deliberation process under the Warsaw Conference of 2013. Furthermore, the draft of Paris Agreement which contained provisions for Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility intended to secure emergency relief, target organised migration and planned relocation of displaced people, compensating for those displaced does not feature in the final text of the Accord.
Concern regarding the Climate Finance
The most contentious issue of the climate change agreement is regarding the investment. Mainly the funding and disbursement processes for efficient technology transfer to enable green transition and carbon peaking of developing economies. The developed countries are hesitant with this responsibility and are often unclear and silent on the ways to enable the processes like sources of funding, terms of funding, purpose of funding, the agencies (public sector or private sector) of funding and the kind of funding. Most often the use of political ambiguous language of financial compensation and the rehabilitation is spoken about extensively. Mr. Raman Mehta reflects on the fact that ‘compensation paradigm’ of the Paris Agreement has caused immense pressure and anxiousness among the developed countries which is inhibiting the cooperation for seamless flow of finance from the developed to the developing countries. This diluted mindset is a threat and a menace as it can stall the process of implementation of clean energy systems, which are undoubtedly expensive, leading to disproportionate burden on the developing countries.
The common thread for the all the countries
So far as the extreme weather changes are concerned and maintaining the balance between inclusive economic growth and social development, the policy matrix in developing countries is stratified with priorities of Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to eradicate poverty and ‘leave no one behind’.
India’s two major international efforts in launching the International Solar Alliance to form a group of 107 sunshine countries to enable them to switch to a low-carbon path by solar power utilization and ratifying the Paris Agreement on 2nd October 2016, on the International Non-Violence Day expresses its aspiration to tackle climate change with a forethought to internalize the principles of Mahatma Gandhi in all its endeavours. However, the local urban environment in India tells a different story in the efforts to switch to low-carbon path. In the year 2000, New Delhi mandated the use of CNG in all public vehicles to mitigate vehicular air pollution showing improvement in air quality, yet in the past two years Delhi is among the top cities in the world highly affected by air pollution. The lack of constant innovation, increased urban sprawl, growth of personal vehicles, biomass burning, lack of pollution checks on the industries in rapidly growing cities have negated the gains of focused policies on curbing sectoral air pollution. India must therefore invest in comprehensive planning, legislation and finance the grassroots level of governance on recycling, renewable energy sector, integrate critical infrastructure with technology, engage in community centric territorial planning that control rural-urban continuum.
Mr. Raman Mehta explained how the process of climate change leads to dangerous feedback loops – increased number of warm and cold days accompanied by extreme weather fluctuations, heavy precipitation and submergence of deltaic regions and islands, mass displacement of ice sheet and melting of glaciers such as the recent breaking of massive ice block in Antarctica and the rift that grew by 18 kilometers. He further said, this has put a focus on the need to look for innovative mitigation measures more intensely than the adaptation measures, as the latter is finite and limited.
It is often understood that climate change is only part of the problem, there are other factors like human led land use changes and deforestation that pose immediate and deeper problems affecting daily life. Humanitarian crisis related to civil unrest like migration and military conflict influenced by climate change are becoming more prominent, such as the ongoing Syrian crisis which illustrates the culmination of agricultural drought, with political failure and willpower to mitigate the challenges of dwindling resources. Therefore wide-spread negotiations continue to be focused on climate change on the principle of equity and shared vision. These have in the past lead to formulation of initiatives like international emissions trading, clean development mechanism, joint implementation. More recently, carbon capture sequestration has emerged as a niche effort in energy sustainability. The cornerstone is to invoke global solidarity in action plans without the vested business and diplomacy of trying to pressurize the finance receiving nations to manipulate their national economic policies. Policy decisions which require adequate assessment of nature’s resilience capacity, conserving forest wealth, disaster management and rural livelihood security are immediately required to be chartered out with expertise and institutional capacities indigenous to each economy.
(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama delivered a lecture at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore on 15th December 2016.
We are often confronted with questions like ‘What will save the world? What is the purpose of life? What is the source of happiness? Which Dharma to follow? What will seal our fate as humanity is outreaching its own limitations in the Twenty-first century?’
The words of the Dalai Lama invoke us into understanding the pursuit of happiness, secular ethics of compassion and forgiveness, and religious harmony for inner and world peace!
Most of us know of The Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader who is the face of the non-violent struggle in Tibet for democracy and sovereignty. It was surprising to also see his humorous side, accompanied by a charming smile and mesmerising humility. According to him, kindness is a religion to be followed as a way of life by one and all. He said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”. He spoke of profound values in a simple language and the need for benevolence in our daily lives. He made it possible for us to be in sync with him throughout and in no time we had become very fond of him.
While narrating the history of Buddhism in Tibet, he acknowledged India for its long history of the religious harmony existing alongside diversity in custom, tradition and language. He reasoned that occasional disturbances are inevitable. Therefore, we must work hard to build unity wherever we go and embody universal human values.
The Nalanda tradition of Buddha Dharma of India which reached Tibet in the eighth century permits a great deal of investigation and experimentation. It is not followed as a blind faith but rather invites both scholars and followers to ponder over its principles in a scientific manner and either accept or reject them. For this reason, the studies of the monks in the disciplines like psychology, cosmology and physics are welcomed all over the world for its merit in observing rigorous thinking and the art of embodying questioning in their practices. The Buddhist meditation technique of Vipassana, meaning analytical meditation, focuses on inquiry and the need to suppress one’s sense of anger and attachment.
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama proposed that the real purpose of life is happiness and the world is in misery today because we give too much emphasis on narrow-minded, superficial differences. He expressed his concern for the current trend in suicides, saying that the modern education system is missing the values and consciousness which are crucial for learning, rather it has induced more anxiety and stress. We must not lose hope, but have a better understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, which is an effective remedy to the problems.
In the political sphere, Dalai Lama pressed that the protection of Tibet and its Buddhist culture is crucial. In 2011, he voluntarily retired from his political role within Tibet, transforming a tradition of four centuries in favour of a more democratic system. In his interaction with National Law School students, when questioned about the principle of non-interference in the affairs of the country, he said that one must always choose a middle path. This is based on the philosophy that we are all human beings, who cannot be blind to the reality nor can we act beyond reason. It is for the same reason that he supports Marxism, as it is concerned with redistribution of wealth but disapproves what Lenin believed in. He issued a call for the youth of the Twenty-first Century to be united in the face of a global crisis which is confronted with a rapid pace of moral decadence like never before. Rising intolerance, attacks on innocents, the spread of greed, money and weapon need to be combated by a resurgence of kindness and virtue – a philosophy of humanism which shall unite, rather than divide us. He ended the note with a strong message saying that the Twenty-first Century should be a peaceful century where violence should be replaced by discussion and exchange, thus leading to a Century of Dialogue!
(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at email@example.com)