Cities are increasingly seen as sites of strategic action on clean energy and climate change. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals includes an explicit urban goal for the first time, and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement enables new spaces to promote climate outcomes in national development contexts. The attention on cities in the energy-climate nexus is particularly timely for India, which is projected to account for a quarter of the rise in global energy use by 2040. This growth is driven in large part by the country’s ongoing economic and social transitions.
India in Transition
India needs its roads. Our road network is essential to the free flow of goods and people across the country and connects rural villages to the rest of the nation. India’s roads, together with the railways, make us one. The question that should be asked, however, is how many roads does India need? It is obvious that there is an upper limit to the area that any nation can allocate to its road network. Aside from the fact that building roads is expensive, the opportunity cost must also be considered; the land given over to building a road can now no longer be used for other purposes.
Every year, the Indian government spends considerable resources on public infrastructure programs designed to provide citizens with access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, and roads. Although such efforts have the potential to greatly improve the standard of living of ordinary citizens, these programs have been widely criticized for being mired in political influence. But how does political influence actually shape the implementation of public infrastructure programs in India?
The Indian Constitution ensures certain protection for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. However, which groups should be accorded that status has been contentious. Getting ST status means that members of the group have access to highly desired tangible benefits such as political representation, reserved seats in schools, and government jobs. Over the years, social and political mobilization has led to the number of STs growing from 225 in 1960 to 700 today (with overlapping communities in more than one state).
It has been nearly one year since India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued its draft drone guidelines. Given the criticality of these regulations in shaping a relatively young industry in India, several industry bodies and start-ups had provided feedback and pushed for timely action. That drones have tremendous practical applications can no longer be disputed. Some of India’s start-ups are revolutionizing drone applications in areas as diverse as disaster management, precision agriculture and crop insurance, mining, infrastructure projects, and land records.
Bangladesh-India relations are perhaps the most complex bilateral relations in the subcontinent. Despite its role in Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, India is often perceived as serving its own self-interests against Pakistan. With the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1972, the two countries attempted to improve their relations to no avail. As a result, decades-old issues concerning land, water, illegal migration, and border security still remain, as does Bangladesh’s seeking of favorable access to Indian markets, particularly for its widely exported garment products.
In a televised address to the nation on November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a spectacular announcement. At the stroke of midnight, rupee notes in the denomination of ₹500 and ₹1,000, corresponding to an estimated 86 percent of all cash (₹15 trillion) in circulation, would cease to be legal tender. Currency holders were asked to exchange or deposit the demonetized notes in the bank by December 30, 2016.
In February 2014, shortly before he became India’s National Security Advisor, former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval proclaimed a major policy shift via a long public speech. Pakistani support for separatist and extremist groups in India was declared a strategic threat to be met with disproportionate retaliation in kind, up to and including detaching Balochistan.
On December 30, 2016, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chairman of the Samajwadi Party, expelled his son, Akhilesh Yadav, from the party. Just one day later, the expulsion was rescinded and Akhilesh Yadav was reinstated. Akhilesh Yadav, the charismatic Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), had begun to throw his weight around in the party, something to which the party elders—Akhilesh Yadav’s own family members—took strong exception.
The strength of India-Afghanistan relations was on full display at the 6th Heart of Asia Conference held in Amritsar on December 4, 2016. Criticizing Pakistan for providing a “safe haven” to “terrorists” associated with the Afghan centric Haqqani Network and the India centric Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, New Delhi and Kabul successfully used the platform to isolate and humiliate Islamabad. The two countries also discussed the possibility of an air cargo corridor bypassing Pakistan, which has consistently denied Afghanistan access to Indian markets and vice versa.