Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Guide to political harakiri

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

After watching Narendra Modi in action as Prime Minister for 19 months, it is difficult not to marvel at the conflicting qualities, and ambiguity, in him! A reference to “Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is unavoidable. Narendra Modi, as a matter of fact, appears to be a strange combination of a karmayogi, the strong man of action, and a picture of indolence. This dichotomy in Modi that has paralysed most of his ministers and bureaucracy so soon after his stunning electoral victory in May 2014. And now, as the curtain is about to drop on yet another washout session of the parliament, the astonishing mismanagement of affairs at the top has, ironically, turned the table on the Congress, last year’s loser. The smart cookie of yesterday now seems pitiably outsmarted.

The swings in Modi’s fortunes are just mind-boggling. Earlier last week, he and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, after signing billions of dollars worth agreements, went to Varanasi where the two watched aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat to the chant of “har har Mahadeo” and “Modi, Modi” by the crowd. And, before the week ended, another crowd was yelling “Modi teri tanashahi nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi”, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi marching down the road to the Congress headquarters and later to the Patiala House court which granted them bail in the National Herald asset-grab case. In just a few days, the Congress, reduced to a mere 44 seats in the Lok Sabha last year, seems to be turning the table on the ruling party.

Ironically, most of the ‘credit’ for it rests with none other than Modi’s ministers. Whenever abroad, Modi has performed like a rock star. Be it at New York’s Madison Square Garden or in Silicon Valley on America’s west coast, he has etched India’s signature on the mindscape of the US in big bold letters. Among the Indian diaspora everywhere, he is a cult figure. Among western leaders—be it America, Europe or Japan—he is a reliable ally. And, increasingly, even hostile neighbours in Beijing and Islamabad are finding in Modi the Indian leader they could perhaps do business with. 

But Modi in inexplicably unable, or unwilling, to synchronise the political actions closer at home. His reputation at home, as it were, rested on a host of future expectations, the most critical of them being that the drought of jobs begun from the second UPA spell would finally disappear. But the economy reached a tipping point, and job creation was conditional upon a new generation of reforms, most of which required cooperation of the state governments and the Council of States, or Rajya Sabha. Job creation depends on investment—both public and private. Investment began drying up after 2010 as reforms were stalled, mostly because of the obduracy of BJP, the then chief opposition party. And now is BJP’s payback time. The Modi government is being accused by the Congress and assorted opportunity-seeking parties of “vendetta”, but vendetta requires two sides, not one.

The fact that Congress would stonewall every move initiated by the BJP-majority Lok Sabha was obvious from day one. But Modi refused to recognise this elephant in the room. There was no major progress in fulfilling Modi’s electoral pledge to ensure development of every sector; yet the fringe elements of his party started behaving as though they’d been mandated to set their own agenda, and that they were free to spew venom. Neither the BJP and nor the Modi government learnt any lessons from the humiliating defeat in Delhi in January 2015. No wonder that the BJP got routed in the Assembly election in Bihar in November 2015.

Liberal in his conduct abroad, Modi, however, maintained his brooding ill-humour in his own dealings with the Indian minorities and the Opposition parties particularly when the Parliament session is on and he is keen to get his reform agenda through. The trust deficit recently escalated beyond all bounds. While Modi met Sonia Gandhi to get the GST bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, he looked the other way when the charges against the Gandhis for alleged criminal irregularities in the transfer of ownership of Associated Journals Limited, the company owning National Herald, the Congress newspaper, were being pressed by a private complainant. Initially, the BJP took the stand that it had nothing to do with it. But soon the entire bandwagon of the ruling BJP started swimming with Dr Subramanian Swami. What added fuel to the fire was the allotment of a government bungalow in the Lutyen’s Zone by the Modi Cabinet. It was a political blunder by the hardliners in the Modi government because Finance Minister Arun Jaitley publicly maintained that he had not seen the National Heral case documents. But it gave Sonia Gandhi a grand opportunity for staging some sort of an action replay of the game that the late Indira Gandhi had played in 1978 by turning a foolish detention of her by the police under the then home minister Charan Singh into a nationwide cry to bring her back to power. “Indira lao, desh banchao”. Small wonder, then, that Sonia Gandhi has not forgotten to remind the nation that she is “Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law”.

As if this face-off was not enough, the NDA government stepped up the offensive at all levels. At Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP-appointed Governor spun a web of conspiracy patently aimed at replacing the Congress government by a BJP government through age-old horse-trading of MLAs. And, in the midst of it all, a CBI team of investigators raided the office of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s chief aide, triggering a volley of personal abuses for Modi from Kejriwal. It escalated as Arun Jaitley, regarded as the most liberal face in Modi’s inner circle, was dragged into controversy for alleged corruption in the Delhi Cricket Association when he was in charge.

Modi is a very calculative, sharp and has a fore-sight. He has learnt it hard way during his 13 years in office in Gujrat. Either he is playing to a plan and his ministers and party has no clue or he is still an outsider to the Lutyen’s Zone. But he must also know that politics is essentially adversarial and it is not an arena for giving a bloody nose back to the guy who gave you a bloody nose before the last election. It is not an endless circle in which two parties are engaged in the sport of getting even with each other.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The odd man out

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

The NDA government was elected to office last year sailing on a slogan as promising as sab ka saath, sab ka vikas. The embarrassing fact is that, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's jet-setting foreign schedules and his skill at selling dreams (or may be schemes), like bullet trains, the economy has not shown signs of recovery as yet. Ironically, most of Modi's ministers are proving unexpectedly inept, incompetent and arrogant. A group of motor-mouth ministers is enough to do the rest.The Congress under the Gandhi family is anything but a responsible Opposition. The National Herald case, which indeed carries the first whiff of a corruption scandal against the family, is being resisted by the party with an unprecedented rancour, as if it is blasphemy.

While people are coming to terms with putting it down to fate, the biggest surprise came last week from the most unexpected quarters. While Delhi's politicians were fighting their selfish battles, the city became inhabitable due to two reasons: its poor air quality, and congestion of its roads due to unchecked growth of vehicular population. Delhi's air is declared by the WHO as the worst in the world, with denser concentration of tiny particles than Beijing, the worst offender till recently. The tiny particulate matters invade the alveoli of the lungs, which are the tiny pulmonary chambers in which blood receives oxygen from the air we breathe. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal jolted the conscience of the city when he tweeted a picture released by eminent heart surgeon Naresh Trehan showing the ominously sooty profiles of lungs of two residents of the city, one of them a child and the other a 55-year-old. Tragically, they were equally rotten.

But tiny particles have rustic origin, like burning of post-harvest plants. Automobiles, on the other hand, are killer emitters of carbon dioxide, the main culprit for global warming, apart from poisonous carbon monoxide and the nitrous oxides that diesel engines emit. Delhi has India's largest vehicular population, about 7.6 million (2012) including 2.2 million passenger cars (the rest are mostly two-wheelers). These numbers are in excess of the combined number of vehicles in Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai, the next three cities with high vehicular population. Though Delhi has the largest road length (30,000 kilometres), every square inch of its surface is occupied by standing cars during office hours on the working days. In fact driving in Delhi is a serious menace to health. Bumper-to-bumper traffic movement is multiplying drivers' cardiac problems. Besides, usually driving on the lower gears, the city's cars, most of which have diesel engines, emit more noxious gases than a couple of super thermal power plants.

Kejriwal, as a politician, is considered light-weight, who has a powerful electoral base in Delhi, and increasingly in Punjab, but leaders of the big parties are usually envious and contemptuous of him. He sprang a surprise on them with the announcement of a dramatic plan to ration road space by allowing cars with odd and even numbers as last digits on their licence plates on alternate days. To be launched from the first day of 2016, the plan will serve as a pilot project for 15 days. Thereafter, learning lessons from the experience, the road rationing plan may be fine-tuned to give it a permanent shape.

The idea is neither novel nor fool-proof. In Paris, where it began, it had to be abandoned for a combination of reasons, one of them being the readiness of Parisians to flaunt a second car when the first car's number does not match the date. Delhiites too have the same spirit and the Kejriwal formula may finally end up enriching automobile makers' pocket, without seriously denting the crowding of cars on roads. In fact it may cause traffic to grow. Besides, sifting from the flow of cars the CNG cars, and those in the exempted categories (carrying patients, or being driven by women alone), may invite a 'police raj' on streets on an unprecedented scale. It could have been a better idea, perhaps, to follow the London model in Delhi. In London, a standard congestion charge of 11.5 pounds is levied on each car entering central London between 7 am and 8 pm.

About 54 per cent of Londoner households have at least one car (in Delhi it is very much less), but congestion charge is one reason why they leave car at home, often for the homemaker wife to do shopping at the nearby Tesco. There are still many who cannot but take the car into the inner city. Their money, about two billion pounds (` 20,000 crore) a year, has given London a world class public transport system - an underground-overground metro which makes news when it fails or falters, and a bus service so punctual that passengers at bus stops set their watch by their arrival timings.

The Kejriwal formula falls short as it fails to show a way of generating revenue to expand Delhi's public transportation infrastructure. With a length of only 185 kil a The Kejriwal formula may end up enriching automobile makers' pocket, without seriously denting the crowding of cars on roads. Besides, sifting from the flow of cars the CNG cars, and those in the exempted categories may invite a 'police raj' on streets. on an unprecedented scale. It could have been a better idea, perhaps, to follow the London model in Delhi. In London, a standard congestion charge of 11.5 pounds is levied on each car entering central London between 7 am and 8 pm.

About 54 per cent of Londoner households have at least one car (in Delhi it is very much less), but congestion charge is one reason why they leave car at home, often for the homemaker wife to do shopping at the nearby Tesco. There are still many who cannot but take the car into the inner city. Their money, about two billion pounds (Rs 20,000 crore) a year, has given London a world class public transport system—an underground-overground metro which makes news when it fails or falters, and a bus service so punctual that passengers at bus stops set their watch by their arrival timings.

The Kejriwal formula falls short as it fails to show a way of generating revenue to expand Delhi’s public transportation infrastructure. With a length of only 185 kilometeres, the Delhi metro is woefully short of giving citizens a substantially enhanced mobility. It costs a king’s ransom to add a single kilometre to it. The 6000 new buses to be added to DTC fleet each one costing Rs 85 lakh along with 20000 auto-rickshaws and 10000 taxis will surely add to more chaos.

But what could Kejriwal do under the circumstances? If he were to generate revenue for public transportation, there could be opposition from powerful quarters. A new restriction on diesel cars may be enforced by Supreme Court but it is too big an issue. However, Kejriwal, despite his limitations, has taken a gigantic step. He dares to take risk and knows the pulse of the people. His steps are hailed by the poor and the rich find it difficult to criticize either. He knows how to hog the limelight and steal the thunder in the midst of big battle being fought between the BJP and the Congress.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Nitish Kumar working for Grand Alliance in Assam

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


Nitish Kumar working for Grand Alliance in Assam
Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Dec 10

A grand alliance is being worked by all like-minded parties against the BJP in Assam. A beginning was made on Thursday by Janata Dal (U) leader and chief minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar when he held detailed consultations with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) president Badruddin Ajmal.

Talks are also afoot with Prafulla Mohanta faction of the AGP. The Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee is also keen to enter into an electoral understanding with other secular forces.

Nitish met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and other leaders separately on Thursday. The subject was how to sew an alliance against the BJP in every state. 

When Lokmat contacted Badruddin Ajmal, he said, "We fought against the Congress all through. But times have changed. We need to stop the BJP. Lets see how it can be done."

Ajmal's party has a large following in the state and won 18 seats out of 126 in the state in 2011 Assembly polls. The AGP won ten while TMC secured one seat. But if these parties come together, they may be a formidable alternative alliance to the Congress rather than allowing the BJP to gain credence. The BJP had won 5 Assembly seats only in 2011. But in May 2014 due to Modi wave, the BJP won seven Lok Sabha seats.

Since Assam is a do or die battle for the BJP after two major setbacks in Delhi and Bihar assembly polls, secular parties including Congress are also working out modalities to keep BJP at bay.

The TMC has already thrown broad hints of going with the Congress in West Bengal and modalities are being worked out. But in Assam, the situation is somewhat different as these secular parties do not want the state to be divided on communal lines.

The state unit of Congress in Assam and chief minister Tarun Gogoi is also keen that AIUDF, TMC, JD (U) and AGP may contest separately. However, a final decision is yet to be taken. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Efforts for truce with Cong begin

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Government washes hands off with Dr Swamy
I-T not proceeding in the tax exemption case

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Dec 8

The Winter Session of Parliament may not be a washout as predicted by many after a huge confrontation witnessed in Parliament in the National Herald case. 

Last ditch efforts are being made to restore calm in the Parliament session ending on December 23. Since the magistrate hearing the National Herald case has posted the matter for December 19 and the Congress leaders have decided to fight judicially and politically as well, disruptions in Parliament may not continue for long either.

All eyes are set on the massive wedding reception to be held on Wednesday for Union finance minister Arun Jaitley's daughter Sonali with Jayesh. The presence of Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi on the occasion may give a clue of melting the ice. The aggression on the part of Congress may also subside during the next couple of days as it would revert to the debate on intolerance rather than on corruption.

The government has conveyed explicitly to the Congress leadership that it has no hand whatsoever in courts in the National Herald case. In fact, senior advocates appearing for the Congress had pleaded before the high court that the case should be heard by the same judge who was hearing it earlier. The registry had changed the case from one judge to another after the festival break. The Congress plea was accepted by the court and the Congress got the same judge it wanted.

Secondly, the Income Tax department has not proceeded against the Congress party for giving ` 90 crores as interest free loan to Associate Journals Limited. The Income Tax exemption of the Congress can be withdrawn merely on the ground of diversion of funds under the existing rules. The department has been moving at a snail's pace after issuing one notice. It was stated by the government that the BCCI's tax exemption was withdrawn by the UPA government when it gave ` 25 crores for the promotion of Football to Football Association. The department said that BCCI cannot transfer funds for the promotion of football as exemptions are given only for the promotion of cricket. These exemptions have not been restored for several years. Therefore, the government has no political vendetta against the Congress party. Rather it is trying to help the Congress in the case.

It was also explained to senior leaders of the Congress by the government that Dr Subramanian Swamy may be a member of the BJP. But the current ruling establishment has nothing to do with him as he had fired salvos at the ruling party as well in the past.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Corporate fear, opposition scream

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group


With the first week of the parliament's winter session over, what are the odds its 'political climate' will change? Punters are not very cheerful. A meeting some days back between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Manmohan Singh, was a picture of woodenness. Its fate became obvious when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi soon upped the ante as much as he could in his Lok Sabha speech on intolerance. It was a frontal attack on Modi, holding him directly responsible for almost every ill in the society.

It is not difficult to fathom why the Opposition is using the ruling BJP's lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha to ambush every bill awaiting clearance including the GST, the much-needed amendments to prevention of Corruption Act, and even the Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Bill. These have all appeared like done deal at the committee level but politics is taking its toll in the Upper House.

With the passage of time, the opposition's hatred for Modi is getting visceral. As the Jungle lore goes, it is likely that the king of the forest is on the prowl. In the Indian context, if politicians are to be compared to the night birds, corporate mandarins are the lion. In Lutyen's Delhi, lazy pensioners grew the habit of projecting Modi as a buddy of the moneybags from Mumbai or Gujarat. But his actions since May last year tell a rather different story.
RIL chief Mukesh Ambani, for that matter, was often referred to as Modi's favourite. Facts are somewhat different. Prior to the fall of UPA government, it had a dispute with RIL over the price for gas produced from the Krishna-Godavari basin off the Andhra Pradesh coast. To resolve the dispute, a committee was set up under economist R. Rangarajan which opined that RIL should get a price of 8.4 US dollars per MMBTU (unit) of gas. But the then petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy insisted that RIL should make up for the gas supply assurance on which it had reneged.

As Modi assumed office, instead of government readily paying RIL higher rates, things got a worse turn. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs tweaked the Rangarajan formula to finalise the price at $6—6.5 per MMBTU, much less than what RIL expected, but it levied a fine of $579 million for failure to meet gas production target in 2013-14. In other words, RIL must deliver 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas at $4.2 per unit to qualify for the new government rate. But there were further problems as in connection with another dispute between the government and RIL and BG, its partner, a probe was ordered into possible cosy nexus between the parties and the arbitrator. On the other hand, a complaint by the public-sector explorer ONGC that its gas had been pilfered by RIL which works a neighbouring block in K-G Basin has been corroborated by a reputed global consultancy. The complaint was lodged in 2013 but under the Modi dispensation, far from being put in cold storage, it is heading for its logical climax. So much for the alleged "Modi-Mukesh" links!

There are several other instances where the Modi government's shifts in stance are sending shivers down the spine of the domestic behemoths; all these years, the Mumbaiwalas' had played all tricks in the book to keep competition away. Post-facto taxation on Vodafone is an example. When Bombay High Court struck down an Income Tax Appellate Tribunal claim of Rs 8,500 crore against Vodafone in a transfer pricing case, with other global majors like IBM, Shell and Nokia caught in identical cases, the Modi administration set an example by deciding not to appeal against the order in the Supreme Court. The move no doubt jolted domestic monopolists in telecom and oil sectors.

Further, the government has given no extra weight to its own income tax department either. I-T department earlier issued notices to 160 foreign portfolio investors to pay tax from April 1 this year under Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) from which firms without any permanent establishment in India were exempt. The government soon appointed a committee under Justice A. P. Shah which found that MAT was unwarranted and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley readily accepted the recommendation.

 "Providing certainty in the tax law is the function of the government", Jaitley said. "India pulls back from $6.4 billion tax raid on foreign investors", gleefully reported the Financial Times. In public sector banks, there is a three-fold increase in legal action against defaulters, to 6,000, in two years. That takes care of the likes of Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher, Subrata Roy of Sahara and Venkatram Reddy, all darlings of opposition politicians.

Gautam Adani (Adani group), Dalip Sanghavi (Sun Pharma), Anil Ambani (ADAG group) and Sajan Jindal who are considered on the right side of the regime, are equally struggling to grow and prosper. They may be rubbing shoulder with the PM during his foreign visits. But they continue to be in despair There is no visible windfall gai b Side by side, the Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojana has made a good start, with nearly 200 million new accounts by now. But they are a powerful bulwark against a network of politicians and swindlers that robs ordinary people of their hard-earned savings through chit fund businesses. That’s what happened in the Saradha case of West Bengal, in which Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal chief minister and yet another PM aspirant, now finds her cabinet colleagues and MPs marooned. While opposition politicians scream, the Indian corporate czars are watching Modi’s reforms with trepidation.  


Monday, December 7, 2015

To break the GST logjam, FM meets Anand Sharma

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat


Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Dec 6 :
The Central government established its first contact with the Congress for the smooth passage of the long pending GST Bill when Union finance minister Arun Jaitley met the deputy leader of the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha  Anand Sharma. The meeting lasted for nearly an hour on Saturday and Jaitley took time out in between the marriage ceremony functions of his daughter.

This was the first meeting between the BJP and the Congress leaders after the Chief Economic Advisor Arvind  Subramaniam"s report was submitted on Friday signalling a forward movement on the GST Bill. While the Subramaniam Committee has already met one of the crucial demands of the Congress and dropped the 1% inter-state tax for the benefit of manufacturing states, no solution could be found on the ticklish issue of mentioning of standard tax rate in the Constitution Amendment Bill. Another issue that cropped up during the Jaitley-Sharma meeting was exclusion of alcohol, real estate, electricity and petroleum from the GST regime. The Congress wants them to be included at the outset of the GST regime.

But the Subramaniam panel has suggested that these can be brought under the GST within 3-5 years time-frame. The GST regime can be strengthened gradually rather than going whole hog and implement the same in one go on April 1, 2016. The final draft of the GST Bill will be presented to the Rajya Sabha only after these discussions are taken to a logical conclusion. While Anand Sharma will brief his senior party leaders of the proposals made by the government, Jaitley will have to work hard to bring states on board. The GST Bill may have been listed for the week beginning Monday in the Rajya Sabha but it will take some shape only on Thursday and the final decision on the Bill only in the third week of December. Besides, both sides agreed that steps be taken to ensure creating a congenial atmosphere in Parliament and way out be found on the Gen. V K Singh issue. The Congress has already decided not to allow minister of state for external affairs Gen. V K Singh to speak in Parliament.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Govt climbs down, willing to drop 1% tax

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Dec 3
The government has signaled its willingness to climb down from the high horse on the GST bill and accept some of the suggestions given by the Congress. With Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramaniam holding prolonged discussions with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley after returning from the USA today, indications are that the government may accept Congress suggestion not to impose one per cent extra tax for the manufacturing states of Gujrat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu & Karnataka. The Centre will meet the revenue loss up to one per cent of these states after accepting the Congress demand.

Jaitely indicates Centre may accept a "Band rate" (18-20%) instead of 18% fixed at present; discuss other issues with Oppn

With regard to fixing a Cap on GST rate, the government has signaled that it is willing to discuss the issue.  Instead of a fixed tax rate, the government may accept a "Band rate" (18-20%) instead of 18% fixed at present.The third proposal relating to dispute redressal mechanism being entrusted to GST Council as proposed in the Bill, the government is ready to evolve an alternative mechanism.

Jaitley told journalists today that the government is striving hard to ensure the smooth passage of the GST Bill and will shortly discuss the same with the Congress leadership. But the problem is that the government's proposals are not ready formally as yet and neither Sonia Gandhi is in town. With both houses of Parliament functioning smoothly today after a week, the business is proceeding as per schedule. In fact, the Lok Sabha passed two bills today and the Rajya Sabha also took up one bill for the passage. Now the matter will come up for discussion sometime on Monday next.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

GST Bill runs into rough weather

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Sonia returning on December 8■ Centre's report not ready yet ■ Rahul Gandhi goes on the offensive
Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Dec 2 :

The prospects of early passage of the GST Bill during the Winter Session have receded if the developments within the government and the Congress party are any indication.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A costly clean-up

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

The ongoing Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris in search of an agreement on climate change is different from a meeting for trade agreement. It is rather like inmates of a building planning a strategy when a fire is about to engulf their house. If unchecked, the continuing warming of the oceans will lead, among other things, to near effacement within this century of coastal cities like Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Vizag due to relentless rising of the sea level. It will take the cycle of drought and storm to such intensity that it can render next to impossible the task of sustaining agriculture in its existing form. Besides, the damage to environment caused by greenhouse gases due to human activity is increasing at a differential rate. If sea water rose by a few inches in the previous century, it will rise by several feet before the present one closes. Therefore, over the years, and with increasing acceleration, it will cause human migration across the country on an unprecedented scale, with all its agony and bitterness.

India has a special role as it is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases though it emits only 5% while four big developed nations' share is more than 50%. India cannot reduce it any time soon as it remains halfway through the transition from an agrarian society to urban. More than half the people live in villages where energy-driven gadgets are limited. Over 300 million people live without electricity.

However, despite its limitations, the Indian government has, much before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's arrival in Paris, submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The document is interesting in its forthrightness—it says coal will continue to dominate power generation in future—but, at the same time, it pledges giant strides towards regulating emission. India has promised to step up its solar capacity to around 100 GW (100,000 Mega Watt) and double its wind capacity to 60 GW by 2022. Side by side, it has promised to increase the nuclear capacity to 63 GW by 2030. Its professed goal is to generate 175 GW of renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, bio-mass) by 2022. If India can honour its pledge, 40 per cent of its power generation will be sourced from renewables by 2030. Contrary to popular belief that the cost of solar energy is prohibitive, and its storage tricky, evolving technology is actually changing its parameters. From Rs 19 a unit of solar energy in India ten years ago, it has come down to less than five rupees today. And Tesla, a storage company in Silicon Valley, California, with which Modi had elaborate discussion during his recent visit to the US west coast, is revolutionising energy storage by extending battery life.

The Indian INDC promises to reduce the country's emission intensity (emission per unit of GDP) by 33-35 per cent in 2030 measured at 2005 level. The emission will still remain higher. But there is no doubt that the government has put brake on its growth. Besides, conscious about the need for more thermal power, India has proposed a 'carbon sink' which implies that as it releases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (as in coal-based thermal plants) it will grow proportionate forest area to cleanse the pollution.

The focus of the Paris talks is on defining targets, but there is not 
an iota of contrition in evidence in the nations whose centuries-long road to riches is marked untold savagery to the planet.

The focus of the Paris talks is on defining targets, but there is not an iota of contrition in evidence in the nations whose centuries-long road to riches is marked untold savagery to the planet. Polar ice caps are melting away, coral reefs are bleached, hundreds of marine species have disappeared because of rising ocean temperature, and so on. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar made an impassioned plea to the West in New York to "walk the talk" and make the Paris summit a success. The summit seeks a global assurance that the Earth's temperature will not rise more than 2 degree Celsius by 2100 from what it was when it was first recorded in 1880. But most climatologists fear that the planet's temperature at the turn of this century will go up at least 2.7 degrees C, which is way beyond the sustainable limit. It makes Javadekar's warning all the more poignant.

India's cost of implementing its IMDC commitments will be a staggering $2.5 trillion at 2014-15 prices; it is a little over the country's GDP today. In fact the government has begun putting money into the slot, its budget allocation for facing climate change situations for 2013-14 being Rs 76,000 crore ($13 billion). But the bill is too tall and it is a long way to go. There has been little clear thinking globally on how could the cost be met. After the last Kyoto Protocol (signed in 1997), carbon trading became fashionable. But it did not work as carbon footprint is difficult to compute. If you buy a hybrid car in India which is made in China, the car may be clean to drive in Mumbai but it is China that had to bear the burden of its carbon debris.

The finance part of the story was downplayed at Kyoto. But the top 20 or 25 rich nations are to pay $100 billion to save the planet and they have contributed just $178 million so far. French President Francois Hollande  who said that “if the developed nations do not finance, the climate summit may fail.” Modi has also been insisting on transfer of technology. He knows that talent, Technology and money can combine to work wonders. But innovation in climatology can’t bring instant profits. It requires states’ largesse. The question is; Who will foot the bill.