Environment and Society in India – The Challenges Ahead

In this article, the authors provide an overview of the environmental challenges that India faces and how the civil society has stood up to the challenge. 

by Tamanna Adhikari and Anusha Ghosh, 11th November, 2013

Society and environment are intricately intertwined, linked together by societal habits that determine the relationship between a certain community and the environment. With growing urbanization India has witnessed an increase in environmental problems such as land degradation, deforestation, air and water pollution and climate change. Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased between pre-industrial period and 2005. Air quality data has shown that air pollution and its resultant impacts can be attributed to emissions from vehicular, industrial and domestic activities. Air quality has been, therefore, an issue of social concern in the backdrop of various developmental activities. The total forest cover of the country, as per the 2005 assessment, constitutes 20.60 per cent of the geographic area of the country. Between 2003 and 2005, the total forest cover had decreased by 728 sq. km. With resource needs having remained unchanged, forests have come under increased pressure of encroachment for cultivation, and unsustainable resource use rendering the very resource base unproductive.

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An Attempt to Discover India – Chapter 1

InPEC presents to you the “Discovery of India” log of Kartik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. In this post, he presents the story about a village in India which “has been forgotten by both the political and administrative executive of the country.”

Place : Aalapalayam (50km North of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 25th June, 2013

By Kartik Radhakrishnan, 10th July, 2013 (republished)

In the past few months, I have often asked myself the question “What do I consider to be a privilege in my life?” The answer seemed to be obvious “food, shelter and education.” Now that I think about it, this might have been a very shallow response from a guy sitting inside an AC room, oblivious to the actual hardships of the world. How about eating your food without the stench of an exposed drainage that runs around your house? How about a house whose roof falls on your head with every rainfall? How about the absence of an avenue to dispose your dead ones? Continue reading

Can India Deliver on its Clean Energy Promises?

The Editor of InPEC – Siddharth Singh – attended the Clean Energy Ministerial that took place in Delhi on the 17th and 18th April, 2013. The Prime Minister of India, while inaugurating the summit, reiterated several clean energy promises that the Government of India has made in the past. In an article on RTCC (Responding to Climate Change), Siddharth analyses whether India has the capacity and will to keep up with these goals. 

By Siddharth Singh, 24th April, 2013

On a recent RTCC article, I begin,

“(The Prime Minister made…) bold promises about India’s commitment to the cause. These include a goal to double India’s renewable energy capacity from 25000 MW in 2012 to 55000 MW by 2017.

This in turn includes, for instance, the National Solar Mission which has an objective of developing 22000 MW of solar capacity by the year 2022. These are a part of India’s commitment to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020.”

I present a few reasons why India may find it hard to keep up with these promises. Two of these are, 1. general delays in project implementation and 2. the overbearing fiscal deficit.

“(…) it is commonplace to find projects delayed across sectors. According to a study by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, as of May 2012, 42% of the infrastructure projects in consideration were delayed.

Another issue is the precarious fiscal situation of the government.(…) The impact of this may go either way for the renewables sector. On the one hand, lowering fossil fuel subsidies and the rise of overall electricity prices (by the ways of a loan restructuring arrangement with state electricity companies) may make renewables more competitive with traditional sources.”

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

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Can Money Solve India’s Education Woes?

In this essay, Rithika Nair looks at the under-performing education sector in India. She exaplains that sheer finance alone will be unable to rectify the structural problems of the system and that development will need to play a larger role in the future of India if it is to become a true world power for decades to come.

By Rithika Nair, 5th October, 2012

“Can an increase in allocation in the education budget, guarantee better quality of education?”

India is under-performing in education.  Earlier this year, when the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee (who is now India’s President) declared the budget for the year 2012-2013, there rose a tumultuous wave of applause, and with that a tirade of  criticism, as he allocated a budget of $11.9 billion (Rs. 61,407 crore) to education – an increase of 18% when compared to last year’s budget.1 The better part of the budget was in favour of primary education, with a relatively meagre amount of $2.9 billion (Rs. 15,438 crore) for the benefit of higher education.

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United Nations Security Council: Prospects for Reform

In this essay, the author examines the current composition of the UN Security Council and discusses prospects for reform.


By Anna Rabin, 18 Jan, 2012

Established as one of the principle organs of the United Nations (UN), the Security Council bears the ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.’[i] The Council’s mandate, outlined further in Article 24 of the Charter, coupled with its ability to make legally binding decisions, makes the Security Council arguably the most powerful organ of the UN. The Council has retained its importance in international relations and is arguably of increased importance as a result of heightened international co-operation in the post-Cold War era.[ii] The lack of reform since its creation, has however led to doubts over the Council’s legitimacy and effectiveness in contemporary politics. One observer even referred to its lack of reform as ‘one of the most successful failures in the history of the United Nations.’[iii] The most commonly debated areas for reform revolve around the veto power, the size of the Council and in the event of an enlargement, the powers and selection of new members.

Currently, the Security Council is comprised of five permanent members, referred to as the P-5,[iv] and ten non-permanent members, each elected for a two-year term. In addition to having a permanent seat on the Council, Article 27 of the UN Charter grants the P-5 a veto power. Reform of the Council requires support from two-thirds of the General Assembly and all of the P-5. Whilst reform is not impossible, as seen by the successful 1965 reform that enlarged the Council from eleven to fifteen members, consensus on necessary reform is hard to achieve.

With a seat of the Council seen as ‘a proxy for global influence on peace and security issues’[v] competition for the ten non-permanent seats is high. The size of the Council is therefore a key concern for member states. With the Italian delegation pointing out that 77 countries have never had a seat on the Council and 47 have sat just once,[vi] questions over the Council’s size have been raised. This disparity is due to the fact that, having increased in size just once since its formation, the size of the council is no longer proportionate to the size of the General Assembly. At its formation, the number of member states compared to seats at the Council was 11 to 51, representing a ratio of 1 to 4.6. In spite of the increase in the number of seats on the Council from eleven to fifteen, the dramatic increase in the General Assembly, largely as a result of decolonisation and the break up of the Soviet Union, has seen this ratio increase, reaching 1to 12.[vii]

The significant increase in the number of States in the General Assembly indicates that enlarging the Council is a necessary reform. Enlarging the Council, however, must not hinder efficiency.[viii] The majority of proposals for an increased Council have therefore varied between the low to high twenties. Proposals such as ‘In Larger Freedom’[ix] [x] and ‘Uniting for Consensus’[xi] [xii] for example, recommended an increase to 24 and 25 seats respectively, aiming to enhance ‘both the legitimacy and the efficiency of the Council.’[xiii]

Whilst referred to as ‘the apex body of the United Nations’[xiv] the Council’s current composition is no longer representative of the values of the General Assembly. Formed in the aftermath of World War II, the Council’s composition has not adapted to reflect contemporary political realities, notably decolonisation. The stagnant nature of the Council in turn undermines its legitimacy as according to Hurd, social institutions derive their power from their perceived legitimacy. This means that a reformed Council ‘will find compliance with its rules more easily secured, than in the absence of legitimacy.’[xv] Unlike the large consensus that surrounds calls for the increased size of the Council, plans such as ‘In Larger Freedom’ that call for an increase in permanent members have led to fierce debate. Vocal calls for inclusion as permanent members of an increased Council have largely come from the G4 countries[xvi] and developing countries.

The G4 members states, in particular Japan and Germany, the second and third largest financial contributors to the Council respectively, argue their case for permanent membership on the grounds of Article 23 (1) of the Charter. The Article states that selection to the Council must take into account the country’s commitment to the ‘maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization’ and ‘geographical distribution’.[xvii] This argument is supported by advocates of the functionalist perspective such as Schwartzberg, in what he refers to as the ‘entitlement quotient’ for entry into the Council.[xviii] Under a functionalist framework, such as Schwartzberg’s, Japan for example would be a more favourable candidate than Nigeria. Whilst Japan contributes more to the UN, this approach does not take into account the fact that Japan has a 4.91 trillion dollar economy and that an Asian country is already a member of the P-5. Nigeria on the other hand is Africa’s most populous country and although home to the most UN members, no African country has a permanent seat at the Council. Whilst taking a more literal approach to Article 23 (1), a purely functionalist perspective places too much emphasis on the financial capabilities and neglects geographic distribution.

The financial requirement of the functionalist perspective also gives preference to developed countries, therefore ensuring the continued underrepresentation of the developing world. It is important to note that the majority of population growth is occurring in the developing world with predictions that in fifty years, the populations of India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia and Nigeria will exceed four billion.[xix] Representation by region would minimize this disparity and give increased geo-political legitimacy to the Council by rewarding both contribution and ensuring regional representation.

The existence of the veto power is possibly the most contentious feature of the Council. Whilst arguably an inevitable reaction to the failure of the League of Nations, the P-5 no longer represents the great powers in international relations. The two-tiered structure of the Council reinforces the notion that ‘some states are more equal than others’[xx] resulting in entrenched institutional elitism within the UN. Whilst ‘a splendidly egalitarian idea’[xxi] to abolish the veto, with the P-5 eager to ‘cling fiercely to their veto privileges’[xxii] and reform requiring unanimous P-5 support, debate surrounding the abolishment or expansion of the veto is largely redundant.

Whilst reforming the veto is unlikely, enlarging and altering the composition of the Council would significantly increase its legitimacy and ensure it remains of contemporary relevance. Although a country’s contribution to the Council is important, the exponential growth of the developing world indicates that regional representation in an enlarged Council is imperative to ensure legitimacy.



[i] David M. Malone, ‘Security Council’, in Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws (eds), The Oxford Handbook on The United Nations, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.117.

[ii] ibid., p.131

[iii] Terraviva Europe, ‘United Nations: Security Council Reform Remains Deadlocked’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 6 August, 2009, p.1.

[iv] The P-5 members of the UN Security Council are the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France.

[v] David M. Malone, The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, 2007, p.132.

[vi] W. Andy Knight, ‘The future of the UN Security Council’, in Andrew Cooper et al., (eds), Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, Tokyo, UNU Press, 2002, pp.24-25.

[vii] M. J. Peterson, ‘General Assembly’, in Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws (eds), The Oxford Handbook on The United Nations, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.106.

[viii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’,  (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[ix] In Larger Freedom offers two different plans. Plan A would create six additional permanent members and three non-permanent members. Plan B would create eight new members, each of which would hold a four-year renewable seat, and one non-permanent seat.

[x] In Larger Freedom, ‘V. Strengthening the United Nations’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), p.1.

[xi] Uniting for Consensus would increase the number of non-permanent seats on the Council to 20.

[xii] Press Release GA/10371, ‘United for Consensus’ Group of States Introduces Text on Security Council Reform to General Assembly’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 26 July, 2005, p.1.

[xiii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’, (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[xiv] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.19.

[xv] ibid., p.24

[xvi] The G4 countries are Germany, Japan, Brazil and India.

[xvii] Global Policy Forum, ‘Pros and Cons of Security Council Reform’,  (accessed on 24 March 2010), 19 January, 2010, p.1.

[xviii] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.27.

[xix] W. Andy Knight, Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a new diplomacy, 2002, p.26.

[xx] Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man, London, Penguin Books, 2006, p.52.

[xxi] Paul Kennedy and Bruce Russett, ‘Reforming the United Nations’, in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 5, Oct. 1995, pp.56-71.

[xxii] Terraviva Europe, ‘United Nations: Security Council Reform Remains Deadlocked’,  (accessed on 30 March 2010), 6 August, 2009, p.1.



Look East, Prime Minister Singh

By Siddharth Singh, 7 Aug, 2010

In his second term, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has taken up the challenge of improving India-Pakistan relations in line with his conviction that a nation which wishes to see itself as a global power must move beyond regional rivalries with a small neighbour. Consequentially, the Government of India has spent considerable time and effort into building this relationship in the face of public skepticism at home following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

While this effort is laudable, evidence does not seem point towards a possible success in this initiative. The recently leaked Afghanistan war dossier confirmed what was long known in the policy circles: there is no unified face of the Pakistani leadership as groups and individuals within the administration are working towards different goals. These goals include helping jihadi groups that intend to establish control of Afghanistan once the NATO – ISAF forces led by the USA leave the region, and those that intend to fight India in Kashmir.

The popular opinion among Indians after 26/11 has not been accommodative of any dialogue with Pakistan, at least not until action is taken against the perpetrators of the attacks in Mumbai. Such a single minded focus of Indian foreign policy on terrorism is not acceptable to Pakistan, as it wishes to see issues – particularly Kashmir – to be discussed and resolved too. As a result of this mismatch, a rather ugly public falling out took place in Islamabad recently between India’s foreign minister Krishna and his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Furthermore, it is unlikely that popular opinion in Pakistan will become receptive of any concessions made by their government towards India.

The memories of the bitter history between the two nations cannot be undone easily; at least not at the current juncture when the uncertainties of the Afghanistan war are encouraging the Pakistani administration to keep its options open. This hasn’t stopped Dr. Singh from insisting on the continuance of the talks even in the face of strong political opposition in India.

On the other hand, the Indian government is missing out on a golden opportunity to once and for all bury a petty regional rivalry between Bangladesh and India. The circumstances surrounding this relationship are such that if proper time and effort are invested, India and Bangladesh could bury the hatchet and move towards a stable South Asia.

Only recently, a military led caretaker government in Bangladesh was replaced by a coalition led by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League. This government has shown the will to have strong relations with India. Bangladesh is the 7th most populated nation and has shown larger increases in the HDI index than Pakistan has in the past few years. It is expected to show a real GDP per capita growth rate of 6.8% in 2010. The Grameen Bank is playing a great role in poverty reduction in the country. They have also shown a steady improvement in the Corruption Perception Index.

Most importantly, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh recently reinstated a ban on religion in politics, implying that Islamist parties can no longer use religion to garner votes. The unifying identity in Bangladesh isn’t religious; it is linguistic and cultural.

India’s relationship with Bangladesh hasn’t been great historically for a variety of reasons, and this is holding back both countries to varying degrees. Bangladesh blames India of faulty water management (principally, the building of the Farakka Dam) on India’s sides of the borders that causes flooding and water shortages at different times of the year in Bangladesh. Additionally, The Border Security Force (BSF) of India is blamed for killing ‘innocent cattle traders’ from across the border frequently (The BSF maintains that they only fire in retaliation to the cattle ‘smugglers’, as cattle trade isn’t legal between the two nations). India is also accused of treating Bangladesh as an inferior state that is supposed to be obliged and indebted to India for the help that India gave during her freedom struggle.

India’s principal issue of conflict is a result of Bangladesh’s ‘sheltering of anti-India insurgents’. This claim is being countered as the new government has shown resolve to readily arrest and hand over anti-India insurgents to Indian authorities. The political right wing of India also speaks out against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who cross over and do paltry jobs. Additionally, one incident that won’t be easily forgotten in India is the case where 16 BSF soldiers were killed by rogue Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) soldiers in 2001 (2 BDR soldiers were killed too).

However, India needs Bangladesh as much as Bangladesh needs India. For one, states and regions in India’s North East get completely cut off from the rest of the country in the face of local agitations, as was seen recently. This gives China a strategic advantage in the region, and this is critical given China’s claim over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. India needs Bangladesh as a transit route to easily access its North Eastern states. Bangladesh needs peace with India to keep its focus on development and political stability rather than be distracted by military concerns.

There exist several advantages in the scenario surrounding India and Bangladesh that simply don’t exist in the case of India and Pakistan. For one, India’s opposition leaders are in favor of having better relations with Bangladesh, while they have a hawkish stance against Pakistan. Secondly, there is no ‘natural’ flashpoint such as Kashmir in the case of India and Bangladesh which could independently derail talks. Thirdly, Bangladesh shows the potential of having economic and political stability in the decade to come and the government has a united face.

Hard work will be needed by India to woo Bangladesh’s opposition, however. This is where Dr. Singh’s task is cut out. He has to go the extra length to bury the bitter history between the two nations. India must start treating Bangladesh as an equal in the region and must unilaterally offer economic concessions and access to its markets. Being in a better position economically, India can afford to do this. Bangladesh might eventually trust India enough to reciprocate. India must also resolve the water management issues that affect the average Bangladeshi. In turn, India must demand transit to its North Eastern states.

Dr. Singh also needs to convince the opposition in India to support the development of Bangladesh, for only a prosperous Bangladesh will lead to a fall in illegal immigration. The Prime Minister can also mull over immigration reforms to allow Bangladeshis to legally work in labour deficit regions in India.

China continues to woo Bangladesh in its attempt to create a chain of China-friendly states around India’s border for obvious strategic purposes. It is time India swallows its pride and get real by engaging Bangladesh. Proactiveness and conviction by Dr. Singh will get India much more than what Pakistan feigns to offer. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s recent trip to Bangladesh is a good start, but a lot more is required.  The time and effort being expedited on Pakistan must be replicated and overshadowed by India’s effort on Bangladesh. The timing for such an endeavor couldn’t be better.


The author can be followed on Twitter @siddharth3