ARTICLE 1: The three farm laws were never a solution

Context: The recent announcement by the Prime Minister that the Union Government would seek to repeal the three Farm Laws in the winter session of Parliament has prompted diverse reactions.

Troubling aspects of three farm laws

  • Non democratic creation of law: Little is known to the public even today on who authored these laws or who was consulted before their introduction as ordinances.
  • Buldozing passage of law in parliament: These were passed in Parliament in haste by voice vote, in what is viewed by experts as a violation of established procedures.
    • Passage of Acts with serious ramifications for States without deeper discussions even within Parliament, let alone with specific inputs from stakeholders and experts, is bewildering.
    • Opaque processes followed during passage of law increase the likelihood of poorly framed laws.
  • Negatively affect Centre-State agri-relations: Via APMC Bypass Act, the Centre essentially wrested control of market areas outside ‘market yards’  yards of respective APMCs, now called ‘trade areas’, from the States.
  • Deregulation of agricultural market environment to regulations of a whimsical Centre: APMC Bypass Act particularly hurt States that had the most deregulated systems.
    • Eg. A State that had no APMC Act, suddenly found that all deregulated areas within the State would now come under the Centre’s regulatory ambit and control, subjecting private players operating freely in that areas.
    • Past efforts of central government like One Million Ponds, 10,000 FPOs and One District One Product are often disconnected from local needs for robust and sustainable solutions for agriculture.
    • By absolving private players from adhering to any State law in agricultural marketing, it effectively nullified the power of States to shape the nature and functioning of agricultural markets.
  • Centralisation of authority to influence the functioning of trade areas: But, systematic evidence suggest that the Centre was not  informed and  equipped to regulate agricultural markets.
  • Eg. Barely weeks after the ECA was amended, the Centre imposed restrictions on stocking, in October 2020 for onions and July 2021 for a range of pulses, apparently undermining the purported spirit of the reformed ECA .
  • Analysis of COVID-19 lockdown management in the agricultural sector  found that the Centre was always a step behind, implementing relief measures for agricultural marketing reactively rather than proactively.
  • Acts facilitate consolidation of big business: As underlying premise of these three Acts was that freedom to operate in agricultural markets would attract capital-rich private players to a sector in sore need of rejuvenating investments.
  • But concerns from various sections is that Acts load the dice in favour of corporates with deep pockets who would now use this freedom, to sidestep competition to gain control over supply chains at the expense of the farmers.
  • Fears of consolidation have been further stoked by recent MoU that the GoI has signed for building data stacks with various companies to grant them  limited access to data from the federated Farmers’ database” for specific areas.
  • A “trade” area under full control of the central government would potentially offer big business a digital data consolidation route to controlling supply chains.
  • Acts failed to address the central national challenge that different States have different regulations and a different pace of reform in part due to the political stakes involved in tackling trader collusion in these markets.

Way forward: True agricultural reform rests with local governments, and States need to go back to the basics and expert suggestions

  • Incorporate local concerns for robust and sustainable solutions: While the Centre has the capacity to make landmark changes, true reform and action rests with local governments. 
    • States are better placed to assimilate and respond to the diversity of institutional and socio-economic contexts and agroclimatic regions. 
  • Implement suggestions of  many expert committees like  delinking the regulatory and operational roles of the APMCs.
  • Centre’s focus should be on offering a stable and predictable policy environment vis-à-vis imports and exports, the functioning of national commodity exchanges and futures market.
    • Providing inclusive platforms for discussions on State-level market reform, public procurement and price support.
    • Designing safeguards against consolidation of corporate interests and framing data policies.

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Digital data consolidation; Centralisation of authority; Federated Farmers’ database;

GS Paper 3: Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers; Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices.
ARTICLE 2: A launch window for India as a space start-up hub

Context: The space sector in India is in an embryonic stage and there is scope to build a feasible business model.

Hurdles in Indian space economy

  • India, a very marginal player in space economy: India is having less than 2% share in the space economy sector.
    • While total early-stage investments in space technologies in FY21 were $68 billion.
    • India was on fourth place with investments in about 110 firms, totalling not more than $2 billion.
  • Extensive brain-drain, which has increased by 85% since 2005 making it difficult for private space ventures to find right talents.
  • Bottlenecks in policies which create hindrances for private space ventures and founders to attract investors, making it virtually non-feasible to operate in India.
    • Absence of a framework to provide transparency and clarity in laws is the reason for the lack of independent private participation in space.


Way forward: 

  • Transparent and clear laws: The laws need to be broken down into multiple sections, each to address specific parts of the value chain and in accordance with various international treaty like 
    • Outer Space Treaty, United Nations resolution, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, etc.
  • Division of space activities into upstream and downstream space blocks that will allow legislators to provide a solid foundation to products/services developed by the non-governmental and private sectors within the value chain.
  • Licencing space business: As there are various technicalities involved in space business, timelines on licensing, issuance of authorisation and continuous supervision mechanism need to be defined into phases.
    • Eg. In France, where there are four obtainable licences in addition to case-by-case authorisation, with lack of clarity surrounding costs.
  • Insurance and indemnification clarity in case of a mishap: In several western countries with an evolved private space industry, there is a cap on liability and the financial damages that need to be paid. 
    • Eg. In Australia, space operators are required to hold insurance of up to AUD$100 million under Australian space law.
  • Private entities should be part of the system: Indian space private companies need to generate their intellectual property for an independent product or service (e.g. satellite-based broadband).
    • Mature space agencies such as the NASA , CNSA, and  Roscosmos  seek support from private players such as Boeing, SpaceX and Blue Origin for complex operations beyond manufacturing support, such as sending crew and supplies to the International Space Station.
  • Building a space ecosystem and with ISRO being the guiding body: India can now evolve as a space start-up hub for the world.

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 Brain drain; Bottlenecks in policies; Next “new-age” boom; Democratise space usage; Space economy; Commercialisation of Indian space; Space law;

  • GS Paper 3: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology; Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights
ARTICLE 3: Boosting green hydrogen

Context: India’s recent announcement on aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 at COP26.

Significance of Green Hydrogen

  • Crucial weapon: To fight climate change.
  • Improves capacity: The long-term energy storage capabilities of renewable energy.
  • De-carbonise: Sectors like cement, steel, and refineries that depend on coal.
  • Solution for over a fifth of final energy demand by mid-century — contributing a cumulated reduction of 80Gt of CO2.
  • Reduce annual import bills: Developing a value chain for hydrogen from its production to its diverse applications thus reducing dependency on fossil fuels/oils.

Challenges before India

  • Dependency on Coal and Oil: 75% of India’s energy demand is met by coal and oil, including imports. This is again expected to increase.
  • Production of Green Hydrogen: 70% of the investments required to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis goes into generating renewable energy.

Way Forward 

  • Synergy between renewable energy and green hydrogen: It must be tapped to tackle the dependence on fossil fuel and take greater advantage of India’s solar capacity.
  • Increase the solar capacity: The 3000 times increase in past decade to be repeated. The cost can be reduced further from Rs.2/kWh. This enables smooth generation of Green Hydrogen at less cost.
  • Funding: Government funding and long-term policies that attract private investments within the standards and a progressive compliance framework.
  • Mandated use & support: The dependency on Green Hydrogen shall be made mandatory with government support to sectors.
    • First, key sectors with low transition costs, such as refineries, fertilizers and natural gas.
    • Second, steel, cement and road mobility. Heavy-duty vehicles should receive State and Central incentives.
  • Policy initiatives: To inspire the private sector to invest more in green hydrogen and give the boost it requires in its nascent stages.
  • Grey to Green Hydrogen: India’s should replace current grey hydrogen production of six million tonnes per annum, which is 8.5% of global annual production.
    • Reduce dependence on imported ammonia.
    • It should aim to produce 4-6 million tonnes of green hydrogen per annum by the end of the decade and export at least 2 million tonnes per annum.

Conclusion: With its abundant and cheap solar energy, India has the upper hand to tap into these investments and lead global efforts in transitioning to green hydrogen. 

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 Policy initiatives; Green Hydrogen; Grey to Green hydrogen;

  • GS Paper 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.