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Photo by Kartikeya Kaul. Source:Creative Commons

India is now over 50 days into a stringent national lockdown. With cases continuing to rise and a WHO envoy predicting a peak in end-July, the country is in a tight spot. On the one hand, economists have argued that a continued lockdown will severely damage the economy and harm the poor. On the other, public health experts have struck a note of caution over a potential second wave of infections if the lockdown is lifted too soon.

In this fog-like situation, there are only difficult choices ahead for policymakers. Many have urged the government to focus on evidence-based decision-making…


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Photo by Silvinson. Source: Creative Commons

Climate change has always seemed like an existential threat. But the drastic impact of this pandemic has woken up many citizens to the consequences of environmental degradation and climate inaction. The Lancet and WHO have stated that climate change will increase the incidence of infectious disease outbreaks. Climate inaction therefore heightens the risk of future pandemics.

Some have found hope for the planet in the viral images of nature rebounding while humans remain in lockdown. Indeed, China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 25% over a month while its cities remained in lockdown. Other cities around the world — from…


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Photo by Dewang Gupta from Unsplash

As India enters its second phase of a national lockdown, the social and economic toll is starting to mount. The national unemployment rate is estimated to have risen to 23% in April. Migrant workers who were shifted to relief camps after trying to return home, have rebelled in Surat and Mumbai over the lockdown extension. Not to mention a rise in mental health issues — of which we’ll have a clear estimate only once the lockdown is over. The IMF has unsuprisingly lowered India’s growth forecast to 1.9% for 2020–2021.

The central government has announced some concessions for reviving economic…


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Olectra — BYD Electric Bus at RGIA, Hyderabad. Source: Wikimedia Commons

India’s recent economic slowdown appears to have taken an unexpected victim — the Indian government’s electric vehicle (EV) ambitions. Faced with weak exports, declining car sales and widespread layoffs in the automotive sector, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government appears to have backtracked on its EV agenda.

Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari confirmed this by stating that the national government was not setting a specific timeline for the switch to EVs, and would let market forces determine the speed of the transition.

The NITI Aayog (government think-tank) had previously drafted an ambitious proposal to ban the sale…


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Photo by Sean Riley. Source: Creative Commons

The Gujarat state government’s implementation of a cap-and-trade programme is an important milestone in India’s war against air pollution. Although the pilot project specifically targets particulate matter (PM) pollutants in Surat’s industrial belt, it has wider ramifications for the country.

The scheme is a departure from the traditional command and control approach to environment regulation. The past approach failed to curb emissions and instead bred a culture of non-compliance among companies. The pilot’s success could lead to the adoption of market-based approaches in tackling India’s other environmental challenges.

Indeed, China has already launched a national cap-and-trade programme for carbon dioxide…


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Photo by Daniel Bachhuber. Source: Creative Commons

From the balcony of an old Portuguese house in Goa that’s been converted into a guesthouse, I see a water tanker outside our gate, spilling water onto the road while filling the underground water tank. Our proprietor says his well has run dry and the municipal water supply has become increasingly erratic. He is now forced to rely on expensive private tankers.

The tanker has been here thrice over the past week. Its driver tells me that Goa’s wells are running out of water, even though it’s only spring and the hot, dry summer is yet to come.

Many have…


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Photo by Christian Haugen. Source: Creative Commons

One out of every eight deaths in India in 2017 was caused by air pollution, according to a study. That’s almost twice as many deaths caused by cancer. This is a grim warning to India’s policymakers.

No longer just a middle-class inconvenience in the winter, air pollution has become a year-round health emergency across India. Delhi experienced only two ‘good’ air days over two years, between May 2015 and October 2017. Moreover, the WHO’s air quality database (as of 2018) showed that all 126 Indian cities exceeded the recommended guidelines for particulate emissions.

Despite numerous warnings from scientists and much…


It may be the key to unlocking Modi’s vision of a ‘New India’ by 2022

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Photo by Austrazil. Source: Wikipedia

Four years ago, India was enamoured by the Gujarat model of development. The state of Gujarat had experienced breakneck economic growth from 2002 to 2012 under the stewardship of then chief minister Narendra Modi, and many believed that his elevation to Prime Minister in 2014 would transform the nation’s economy. Although the jury is still out over the BJP’s macroeconomic performance, the country has struggled to achieve rapid economic growth, and familiar shortcomings in Gujarat have surfaced at the national level, in the form of under-investment in education and healthcare.

As Modi’s term in power comes to a close with…


According to a BNEF report, India will only achieve 7% of its electric vehicles target by 2030, based on its current policies

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Photo (with modifications) by Tony Hall. Source: Creative Commons

India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced in February that the BJP government was abandoning the idea of a national electric vehicle (EV) policy, in the hope that market forces and new technologies would offer a better alternative to government regulation. However, hindered by a combination of policy uncertainty and lack of charging infrastructure, India’s domestic EV industry lags far behind that of China and many developed nations, prompting the need for the BJP to take a more active role in supporting the sector.

In order to ensure that India doesn’t fall further behind in the EV industry…


Although the new telecom policy is forward-thinking, a more ‘disruptive’ reform is needed to revive the sector.

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Photo by Mani Babbar. Source: Creative Commons

From the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel the allotment of 2G spectrum licenses in 2012, to the price war instigated by the aggressive entry of Reliance Jio in 2016, disruption has been the only constant in India’s telecom industry. In keeping with this theme, the BJP government released the draft of an ambitious new telecom policy — the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 — on 1st May, which seeks to:

  1. Provide universal broadband coverage with minimum 50 Mbps speed to every citizen.
  2. Boost the deployment of emerging technologies like 5G spectrum, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IOT) and Robotics.
  3. Enhance…

Siddharth Goel

Public policy consultant specialising in the South Asia region. Master of Public Administration, Columbia University. Contact: siddharth.goel@columbia.edu

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