1.Indira Gandhi and her legacy (Live Mint)

2.Decision on agriculture comes through at Bonn climate talks (Down to Earth)

 

1.Indira Gandhi and her legacy (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the Indira Gandhi and history associated with her. (GS paper I)

Overview

  • Indira Gandhi’s 100th birth anniversary is coming up on 19 November. Her long and eventful stint as India’s prime minister barring a three-year gap between 1977 and 1980, she served continuously from 1966-84 has ensured that a lot of current debates continue to be informed by her policy choices.
  • But any attempt at a dispassionate analysis of Gandhi’s legacy is immensely difficult given the polarizing figure that she was. The highs of the 1971 military victory over Pakistan have to be reconciled with the lows of the Emergency. Her various other moves like bank nationalization and Operation Blue Star continue to evoke strong views.

Early years

  • Many of her decisions can be traced to her early years of flirtation with radical socialism. Her exposure to radical ideas in England, and the inheritance of a socialist state from her father Jawaharlal Nehru, meant that the new reformist current sweeping East Asia could not make much of an impact in India.
  • While the state-led import substitution model was broadly in line with the intellectual climate of Nehru’s years in power, the Gandhi years coincided with a liberalization trend in many East and South-East Asian countries.
  • Even Lal Bahadur Shastri Gandhi’s immediate predecessor had realized the need for liberalization to overcome the chronic shortages that the Indian economy was constantly dealing with.

Inclination towards left

  • Shastri’s death and Gandhi’s admiration for the Soviet model of political centralization and planned economy postponed India’s tryst with economic freedom by a couple of decades. Gandhi’s responses to economic and political crises at least in her first stint in office (1966-77) were also informed by her leftist centralizing instincts.
  • Take the period of 1966-71, for example. Even as the Indian economy recovered from the blows of two wars, successive years of drought turned the food situation precarious. Due to pressure from the US government, which was supplying foodgrains to India, and some nudging from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Gandhi accepted a 35% devaluation of the Indian rupee. The move was met with a strong domestic backlash. Moreover, the promised US aid did not materialize.
  • Gandhi’s criticism of American adventures in Vietnam did not help matters. Amid all this, the Congress party did not put up a good show in the 1967 election. Gandhi responded by lurching to the left. A number of sectors, including coal and bank, were nationalized. By moving to the left, she also effected a split in the Congress party. The new party (Gandhi’s faction) ran from New Delhi as the regional leadership was completely undermined. The tactics worked and Gandhi was able to revive the fortunes of her party in the 1971 election on the back of populist slogans like “garibi hatao (remove poverty)”.
  • The imposition of Emergency was another example of Gandhi centralizing power in her hands when faced with crises on multiple fronts. While her garibi hatao plan was never going to work, the economic situation worsened due to another monsoon failure in 1972, followed by the rise in oil prices a year later owing to the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War.
  • Inflation spiralled out of control and a number of protests culminated in what we know as the JP movement (led by the socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan). The Allahabad high court verdict which nullified her election to Parliament was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Economic front

  • India’s growth averaged 3.9% during 1966-77. In contrast, the countries which embraced reforms were growing much faster. South Korea, for instance, was galloping at around twice the rate of India. Her second stint in office (1980-84) was somewhat different. Economic growth replaced redistribution as the primary aim of the government. Utpadan badhao (increase production) replaced the earlier agenda of garibi hatao.
  • What followed was the easing of price controls, reduction in corporate taxes, and a focus on efficiency in public sector enterprises. The results were decent: The rate of investment, total factor productivity and economic growth (5.8% in 1980-90) all registered a marked improvement.
  • Gandhi’s reforms, however, did not go the distance. The system of licences, controls and quotas was decisively thrown out only in 1991. There are some scholars who argue that India’s growth take-off happened during Gandhi’s tenure a full decade before the 1991 liberalization but they too make a distinction between the pro-business reforms of the 1980s and the pro-market reforms of the 1990s.
  • The reforms in the 1980s also did little to increase the government’s ability to raise revenue. Her centralized political administration increased the frequency and magnitude of, and therefore the fiscal costs of handling, regional turbulences. To sum up, not much was done to avert the possibility of another balance of payments crisis.

External front

  • On the external front, Gandhi was an astute practitioner of realpolitik. When the Soviet Union started cosying up to Pakistan after the 1965 war, she responded by maintaining neutrality during the Sino-Soviet border clashes of 1969.
  • The Soviet Union quickly made amends. And in 1971, when Gandhi saw Beijing and Washington both aligning with Pakistan, she signed a treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union that would prove crucial in the war that began less than four months later.
  • Unlike her father, a Fabian socialist, Gandhi believed in the ruthless exercise of power. Gandhi’s radical inclinations shaped her approach during her first stint in office and perhaps put limits to her dalliance with economic reforms during the second.

Question– What are the legacies associated with the regime of Indira Gandhi. Also throw light on her economic legacy?

2.Decision on agriculture comes through at Bonn climate talks (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the initiatives regarding agriculture that have taken place at Bonn. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • After years of failure to arrive at a consensus, the member states finally reached a decision on how to deal with climate actions in agriculture at the 23rdsession of the Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.
  • Consensus on the text of the decision was reached at the last minute; just before the final meeting on the subject was convened even as parties feared that another year would pass without anything substantial being agreed upon. It was only recently (November 11), as parties failed to reach any agreement, dismayed members of the Africa Group of countries reportedly walked out before the meeting was even concluded.

The decision

  • The decision, drafted after years of consultation, has relied heavily on the draft document prepared by the G77 and China group of countries that was presented by Uruguay on behalf of the group last week for discussions and consideration.
  • The final decision was also read out to the group of negotiators and observers who were present by the representative from Uruguay and was met with congratulations and jubilation across the table.

What’s next?

  • Parties are now required to submit views and recommendations on the modalities for the implementation of outcomes from five workshops held on matters related to agriculture during the years of negotiations.
  • Parties have been invited to submit adaptation assessment methods for improvement of soil health, soil carbon and soil quality as well as considerations for the improvement of nutrient use and manure management.
  • Finally, the members will also have to report on socio-economic and food security dimensions of the impact of climate change on agriculture. 

Finance remains a matter of concern

  • Actions on the above subjects have been listed as subject to availability of finance, which remains a huge question mark, while it has been decided that stock taking on actions undertaken in agriculture will be done during the 26thsession of COP due to be held in 2020. The decision is being touted as a historic one in the often-neglected and slow-moving subject of agriculture.
  • More than anything, there is a sense of relief among all parties. This has been many years in the making and it is natural for this relief to set in said one negotiator from a developing country where agriculture has been a major talking point. Although the negotiator was quick to add that the decision is simply a small step in the right direction and a lot of work is still required to carry forward the agricultural agenda.
  • It is not difficult to see what the delegate means, as the final text of the draft decision does not mention assessment of risk and vulnerability, the development of early warning systems, differentiation based on tradition, geography and ecology or the matter of transfer of technology or the explicit consideration of gender in dealing with the subject all of which had found space in the draft document scripted by G77 and China.

Way ahead

  • Despite this, the decision is being viewed as a small but significant victory, especially for South Asian and African nations which have been reeling from agricultural losses due to unpredictable extreme weatherand successive droughts over the past decade. “Although some matters have not been mentioned, they will continue to be discussed at SBSTA meeting on the work plans when specifics on such matters, which have been left out, can be thrashed out,” said one negotiator.
  • Although there are shortcomings, one outcome that people in developing countries like India can be happy about is that agriculture, from a predominantly adaptation-oriented perspective, has finally found a place on the map of climate negotiations and action.

Question– What are the important developments regarding agriculture that have taken place in Bonn conference?