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Mechanism of consumer redressal in India

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Consumer protection in India has a rich history with its desirability being felt through ages. Consumer movements in India have evolved over many centuries and were finally institutionalised in 1986 with the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The first and foremost responsibility of the government is to ensure smooth and easy redressal of consumer grievance. If the government is futile in rectifying the atrocities of the consumers it results in consumers moving to courts and forums for their demands. To study the consumer movements in India it is important to look at the mechanism of consumer redressal present in the country which is briefly discussed in the first section of this article.

Consumers are the backbone of the economy of every country and it is the government’s job to keep the producers in check so that the consumers don’t suffer. The consumer protection laws in India are still a little vague and complex that makes them ineffective. To make the laws more effective the consumers should be made aware of their rights and obligations because the major hindrance in effectiveness of consumer protection is consumers’ obliviousness towards their rights.

Consumption has always been an integral part of any society. With the advent of hyper industrialization, there are bound to be some shortcomings that the producers have to address. To effectively make their damage good, people have to mobilize together and speak as a community.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted a benevolent legislation that states the rights of consumers and address the consumer redressal mechanism. It has enabled ordinary consumers to opt for speedy and less expensive redressal of their complaints.[1] Although there has been many legislations protecting consumers before independence like the Sale of Goods Act, 1930, Contract Act, 1872, this is the first time that specific attention has been given to general consumers.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) was set up under Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It’s a quasi-judicial body with a President and eleven members. It has 3 types of jurisdiction i.e. Original, Appellate and revisional.[2] Under the Consumer Protection Act, NCDRC is entitled to entertain cases from Central and State governments because they qualify as “complainant” under section 2(b)(iii) of the Act. The complaints are processed under the supervision of Registrar by officers of NCDRC before placing them before the Hon’ble benches for hearing. The president is the head of the body and can distribute judges at each bench according to his discretion. Under section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act the complainant can file a review petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The discharge of functions is governed under Consumer Protection Rules, 2017. Dept. Of Consumer Affairs allocates budget to NCDRC and the same is reflected in the Demand for Grants of Dept. Of Consumer Affairs. All the information regarding the cases, commission, statutes and workings of the Courts is available on NCDRC’s website in accordance with the Right to Information Act. All the information regarding National Commission is supplied within 30 days.

The NCDRC has the authority to entertain cases where the claimed compensation is above one crore and any appeal against state commission. It can also pass orders against the cases judged by any state commission where it feels that the proper procedure is not followed or where it feels that the court has exercised a power ultra vires.

Role Of NGOs Towards Consumer Protection

Consumer protection is of superlative importance in India as the population if India is ever increasing. They demand variety of goods and services every day, and there is an ever-increasing demand. Here we can see the number of cases filled by the consumers in the year 2017-18. This drastic improvement in the filing of the cases is because the awareness which is being spread through various forums, like advertisements, booklets, rallies, social media, and various other platforms. Here we take a brief look at what consumer protection entails in India.

NGOs have always been an integral part of the consumer movements in India and all over the world. They have paved the path for generating the awareness towards consumer rights violations as well as instilled the sense of justice in the people for claiming compensation for the same. The role of NGOs or consumer organizations is of paramount importance because, a general consumer is not always aware of his rights and even if they are, they don’t have enough means or understanding of the working of the various procedures laid by the law. The Consumer Protection Act 1986 has made it very opportune for the consumers to file cases and claim damages but this is mostly unknown to the actual consumer population, hence keeping them in the dark. NGOs come into play here. There are various NGO throughout India who work toward consumer protection. Some of the famous NGOs are VOICE, Common Cause, Consumer Awareness, Protection and Education Council of Karnataka, Consumer Guidance Society India.The need for NGO and self-regulatory authorities in the implementation of consumer rights is of supreme standing. They are needed because:

Awareness

One of the main reasons for the lack of awareness regarding consumer protection is the lack of education and vigilance. Education facilitates awareness. Due to the lack of education the consumers suffer silently without claiming for the implementation of their rights. The graph of the survey undertaken by CUTS International, depicts the lack of awareness among the consumer population.[3]

A survey was done by CUTS International to test the awareness of the Indian consumer, followings were the findings:[4]

  • Awareness regarding the various government schemes.
  • 20% were aware about the consumer protection act.
  • More than 50% were not even aware of the “Jago Grahak Jago” campaign.
  • 40% were aware about the food safety act.
  • TARI was recognized by 27% of the people, Electricity Regulatory Commission was recognized by 26%.

Urban dwellers are more aware about their rights, hence NGOs should work at the ground level with the villagers to spread awareness regarding their rights.

Research:

For representation of their grievances efficiently in the consumer court, consumers need to have the sufficient knowledge and skill for conducting the research. Many if the consumer grievances can be resolved with various surveys and studies. Now certain organization is researching the lead content in the children toys. These types of studies can only be conducted with proper research and skill. This is a skill which needs practice to be developed. Hence with the help of NGOs consumers can file and contest cases resourcefully. a consumer cannot always conduct various lab tests or advanced research which needs capital as well as the knowledge, here the NGOs can do this and help pace the implementation the consumer rights. In the graph below, it represents the awareness of the consumers regarding various laws in place. Given that the consumers are not well acquainted with any of them comprehensively, the need for NGOs to help them regarding research is imperative. 

Counselling:

The consumers are not always aware of the laws designed for them; with NGOs the legal aid becomes more accessible to the general public. NGOs can find and appoint people who are well conversant with the laws of the land and can represent and help them file cases. Additional to this, they observe the implementation of laws by the local authorities which were passed by the legislators. They can file public interest litigation cases and work towards representing the common sentiment of the people in the court.

Publication and media:

The consumer movement gained traction due to the various awareness drives organized by the NGOs. They pressurize the government on spreading awareness. We see advertisements like “Jago Grahak Jago” on television and we see numerous booklets, reports etcetera. Through these the consumers can communicate their grievances and raise their voice against the mal practices. In today’s digital and tech savvy world they operate blogs and online portals to keep in touch of the ground level reports and encourage the consumers to use this means to contact them for help. They also conduct various public meeting to advocate for consumerism and conduct open negotiations where the consumer community can meet and discuss their concerns. Some sources state that the consumers are more likely to be educated about their consumer rights through the televisions.[5]

Unanimous representation of the NGOs

There are many NGOs in across India. If all the NGOs will unanimously come under a same banner and take the consumer movement forward, then the movement will be more effective than it is today due to the region-specific approach of the NGOs. Along with addressing the problems of the people at the ground level, they should come together and file PILs which will gain traction and impose pressure on the government to take swift action.

PILs filled by the NGOs’:

The most efficient way to make the voice of the consumer heard is through the means of law. There are many cases filled daily, here we will discuss some of the landmark judgments of the PILs filled by the NGOs.

Afcons Infrastructure Ans Ors.v. Cherian Verkay Construction And Ors.– In this case, the court held that arbitration agreement is mandatory for dispute adjudication. At any point in the suit, the court cannot force the parties to go for necessary adjudication. The consent of both the parties is important for arbitration under section 89 of CPC.

Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Ors.– In this case, it was held that doctors will come under the purview of Consumer Protection Act even though they are regulated by Indian Medical Association. So, medical negligence was made inexcusable.

Lucknow development authority v. MK Gupta – In this case, the Supreme Court held that all the functions rendered to consumers come under the definition of Consumer Protection Act. Even if the service is provided by statutory authorities the consumers are entitled to compensation.

Role of the government

The beginning of the consumer movement in India dates back to 1960s and the 1970s when there were rampant practices of unprincipled and unfair trade practices like food shortages, black marketing, hoarding, adulteration of food materials and edible oil. All of it led to a consumer movement being propagated, till then the limited consumer organizations were just involved in writing articles and booklets. There was no legal system in place to hold the seller accountable and the maxim “caveat venditor” has no legal standing. It was always the responsibility of the consumer to be aware of the product or service they are subscribing to. The consumer movement around the world took acceleration and India was behind. Due to the pressure and active pursuing of the NGOs and self-regulating authorities a monumental step was taken by the Indian government and it passed the Consumer Protection Act 1986 in the 1986 Session of the Parliament. This legislation became a milestone in the societal and commercial legislations in the country. In addition to this many laws were legislated to cater to the interests of implementing the consumer rights, some include Standards of Weights and Measures Act, MRTP Act, Essential Commodities Act and Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. But these laws were neither penal nor preemptive in approach and did not make availableprompt trials and disposalof the grievances of the pained consumers.

National consumer chair:

For the first time in history the Ministry of Consumer Affairs of India, Food and Public Distribution, Department of Consumer Affairs Government of India has set up a Consumer chair which is being headed by Prof. Ashok Patil.[6] He will be heading the chair for 3 years. This step, taken by the central government, will be monumental for the prolongation of the Consumer Movement in India. This chair has been set up to provide the consumer an efficient mode to access justice which they are entitled to.

Jago Grahak Jago:

This was an initiative started by the government of India in the year 1983.[7]This was an initiative to spread awareness among the consumers regarding various goods and services they use in their day to day life. Through this portal consumers can register complains. They also showcase numerous advertisements on the television to make the consumers aware of the unfair trade practices. The Jago Grahak Jago campaign was known to 51% of the population, due to its use of media to communicate the various remedies under the Consumer Protection Act.

National consumer helpline

13 years back, on March 2005, as a part of the “JagoGrahakJago” campaign the Department of Consumer Affairs started a consumer helpline to provide assistance to the consumers. This is to make the implementation of COPRA more efficient. The consumers can seek help regarding their grievances by just making a call to the National Consumer Helpline.

Even after much efforts by the self-regulatory authorities and the government intervention the responses received is just 21%. Hence, in India we need more efforts to spread vigilance regarding the consumer rights and their violation and the mode which need to be taken to address the concerns of the consumers. 

This is the breakdown of the areas of various consumer grievances.[8] Most complains registered by the NCH was for the E-commerce sector, 19%. Let’s look at it in detail.

Working Towards Reducing Delays And Improving Consumer Satisfaction:

Among the many items on the agenda of the government, it should also give substantial importance in reducing delays in the Consumer Court. Due to the delays the willingness of the consumers to file complains is deteriorating.

Working towards improving consumer satisfaction

The below graphs depicts the level of consumer satisfaction with the griveance redressal mechanisms, and reflects on their experience in the Consumer forum.[9] A huge proportionate of people are not completely satisfied with the mechanism at place, which gives the government sufficient reason to improve it.

E-commerce grievances

Now a days the grievances regarding the online consumer market is on a high. This is because the 21st century is pacing towards the digital age. The below graph specifies the increase in the consumer complains in the year 2015-16 and 2016-17.[10] The government can set up another helpline which will deal with these cases unambiguously.

We have a case which was filled by the Telecom Watchdog against the online giants Amazon and Flipkart. The approved that these e-commerce giants were violating the Foreign Direct Investment norms. They circumvented the FDI norms by steering popular goods at much discounted rates through proxy ‘controlled sellers’ and this cause the pushing out of the small businesses off the market. The New Delhi High Court has recently issued a notice to the two companies.

Cross National Comparison Of Consumer Attitudes

Different countries have different mechanisms in place to deal with consumer movements. While the more developed economies have an established institution regarding consumer protection, developing countries like India are still in the nascent stages to develop their consumer forums. In this section, we’ll study this same distinction and how it came into being.

The paramount step in ensuring that the rights of the consumers are protected is for the consumers to know what their rights are and how they can be enforced. In this regard, the dept. Of Education, Pennsylvania, U.S. had published a handbook titled ‘Consumer Education Organisation and Implementation’. In the context of the said Consumer Awareness, a very little literature is provided in India.[11] This difference is awareness is of prime importance in regards to improving the consumer culture in India.

Another aspect of difference between U.S. and India is the enforcement of the statutes regarding Consumer Protection. Where in the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission’s sub-unit, Bureau of Consumer Protection, is using latest technology to easily facilitate consumer protection India is still left behind in addressing the complaints. The West has developed a highly developed Artificial Intelligence systems like Robocalls and automated answering protocols that help the consumer file a complaint easily and effectively. This again ties back to the issue of the awareness of citizens about consumer rights.

Disposition of cases is another factor that plays an important role in consumer protection. Speedy disposal of cases is a must in cases of consumer protection so that the consumer doesn’t suffer. While in the United States a lot of stress is placed upon the speedy disposal of cases, in India unfortunately the process is delayed by numerous complexities such as lab tests, unavailability of dates, etc. While the specified period of disposal is three to five months in the statutes, the dates of two subsequent hearings is this much apart in India.

Consumer protection in US focuses on economics of information.  Under right information, competition would force sellers to produce high quality products which meet the safety standards in all the aspects. In India, because the right information about the safety standards is still vague and complex, most of the times there is a conflict between different laws.[12] An instance of dissemination of information is regarding an automobile’s mileage. The manufactures have to disclose the actual mileage that an automobile can give and not the mileage that the automobile would grant in the ideal condition.

Right to choice is another matter of concern for Indian consumer market. Right of choice means the availability of products at the competitive and fair price at all the places. The competitive culture of the west has developed over the centuries while in India it is still in its nascent stages. By 1969 comparative analysis of magazines had become the norm in the west. Consumer reports held a lot of stake in right to choice with led the way in the sales of magazines. In India this revolution is being brought by online platforms where the prices are constantly scrutinized and kept in check.

To maintain the pressure on the government it is important to have some consumer organisations. While there are more than 100000 registered consumer organisations in the US[13], there are about 8000 consumer organisations in India. This shows that India is far behind U.S. in terms of consumer redressal. Because of the gap between the consumer and the redressal system, most of the consumer protection doesn’t get filed. While the consumer organisations in US are making sure that all the aggrieved get justice, for the limited number of organisations in India it is difficult to get all the consumers under the spectrum of consumer protection.

Consumer forums have not been successful in tackling the increasing consumer disputes. More than 4.5 lakh cases are pending in courts that suggests the miserable condition of consumer redressal in India. To tackle this issue, the govt. have to take immediate steps such as keeping vigil on availability of judges, contribute to R&D so that lab tests doesn’t waste time of the courts, establishing more benches in each part of state throughout the country. There have been many landmark cases under the Consumer Protection Act some of which are:

  • Chief Administrator, H.U.D.A. & Anr. v. Shakuntla Devi : In this case the Supreme Court held that for entitlement to compensation it’s necessary to prove damage.
  • Charan Singh v. Healing Touch Hospital and Others: The supreme court held that damages depend on facts of each case. No rigid rule can be set for universal application.
  • Om Prakash v. Reliance General Insurance : The supreme court held that insurance company cannot reject liability on technical grounds.
  • Manjeet Singh v. National Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr.: It was held that insurance company is liable to accept liability for hijacked vehicle.
  • Shri Rajendra Agarwal v. Shoppers Stop Limited: The CCI held that individual consumer grievances cannot be treated as competition concern.
  • New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd.: It was held that the respondent party have to reply within 15 days.
  • Dr. M. Kochar vs Ispita Seal: NCDRC said that No cure is not medical negligence.
  • M/S Emaar MGF Land Limited & Anr. v. Aftab Singh: Supreme court held that arbitration clause does not restrict consumer from filing a complaint with consumer forum.
  • Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v. Ashok Iron Works Private Limited: Supreme Court held that supply of electricity is not considered ‘sale’ under the Act.
  • State of U.P. and Ors. v. All U.P. Consumer Protection Bar Association: Supreme court directed all the states to draft rules and regulations for better implementation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Consumer Movements in different areas

Telecom

Usually, consumer protection in Telecom sector is imposed by licensing arrangements or telecom act. The main provisions of the act aim at improving choices for consumers, to reduce prices, achieve better quality and avoid exploitation. In JK Mittal v Union of India the Delhi high court held that the respondent is not a telegraph authority under the telegraph act, 1885. The Supreme Court had given a broad interpretation in which it said that the consumer protection act is in addition and not in derogation to any law for the time being in force. The high court of Delhi held the suit maintainable in consumer forums. Through this case it was established that the suits against private telecom companies are maintainable in consumer forums.[14]

Health Care

Health care is one of the most controversial sectors where consumer rights have to be protected. In the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 the government of India has removed the word ‘healthcare’ which was added in the draft bill. There was a huge consumer movement about the removal of word healthcare because medical negligence is an integral part of consumerism in India and by removing the word it was being interpreted that the liability of doctors is diminished, but as was expounded in the Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Ors case, the word includes medical negligence in the new definition of services as well.[15]

Food Industry

Food industry is the 5th largest industry in India. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has started the Food Smart campaign to raise awareness among consumers about food safety. The landmark case of Nestle Noodles, Maggie, was a testament to right to knowledge and the right to healthy food. In the case it was reported that the noodles were not harmful to health and the lead content was well within limits.[16] This case serves as an instance where consumer movements are most effective and provide the society a perspective of the justice for consumers.

Conclusion

Through the course of this article we have seen how Consumer Movements have evolved from being just conceptualized to being institutionalized. Consumer Protection is a necessity in a consumer dominated country like India. Consumer Movements go a long way in tacking the problem of consumer protection. When the people of a country stand up against a lazy government only then can the voice of consumers be strengthened.

This article focused on the mechanism of consumer redressal in our country. Different agencies have different roles to play and the government has the duty to duly resolve all the disputes. Studying the consumer redressal mechanism in other countries we saw where we lag behind. Although our government has taken various measures to resolve Consumer Disputes, there is still a long way to go in case of consumer protection.

The role of NGOs in eradicating a social evil is of eminent importance and this is the case with consumer protection also. A lot of NGOs are striving towards providing justice to consumers. To make the work of NGOs more impactful the government has the duty to provide them with necessary funds to do so.

While the government is doing its bit, it is equally necessary for the consumers to be aware of their rights and act on them. The government can’t do anything if the consumers do not take active steps to control the problem of Consumer exploitation. Hence, it is the moral duty of both the government and the consumer to act towards Consumer Protection.


[1] National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, ‘History’ (NCDRC) <http://ncdrc.nic.in/history.html> accessed 29 November 2019.

[2] National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, ‘Details Under Right To Information Act-2005’ (NCDRC) <http://ncdrc.nic.in/rti.html> accessed 29 November 2019.

[3]CUTS International, ‘Report: State of Consumer Affairs India’(CUTS International, 2012) <http://lms.nls.ac.in/pluginfile.php/1146/mod_page/content/8/Report_State_of_the_Indian_Consumer-2012.pdf>accessed 28 November 2019.

[4]CUTS International, ‘Report: State of Consumer Affairs India’(CUTS International, 2012) <http://lms.nls.ac.in/pluginfile.php/1146/mod_page/content/8/Report_State_of_the_Indian_Consumer-2012.pdf>accessed 28 November 2019.

[5] CUTS International, ‘Report: State of Consumer Affairs India’(CUTS International, 2012) <http://lms.nls.ac.in/pluginfile.php/1146/mod_page/content/8/Report_State_of_the_Indian_Consumer-2012.pdf>accessed 28 November 2019.

[6]Apurva Singh,‘Prof. Ashok R Patil, Professor of Law, NLSIU nominated as a member of the Central Consumer Protection Council’ (SSC Online, 19 November 2018)

<https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/11/19/prof-ashok-r-patil-professor-of-law-nlsiu-nominated-as-a-member-of-the-central-consumer-protection-council/>accessed 27 November 2019

[7]Government of India, ‘Jago Grahak Jago complains portal’

<http://www.jagograhakjago.com/register-complaint/>accessed 27 November 2019

[8]Government of India, ‘Consumer helpline’<https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/nch.php>accessed 29 November 2019

[9]CUTS International, ‘Report: State of Consumer Affairs India’(CUTS International, 2012) <http://lms.nls.ac.in/pluginfile.php/1146/mod_page/content/8/Report_State_of_the_Indian_Consumer-2012.pdf>accessed 28 November 2019.

[10]Government of India, ‘Consumer helpline’<https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/nch.php>accessed 29 November 2019

[11] Sanjay Kaptan, ‘Consumer Movement in India: Issues and Problems’ (Sarup & Sons, 1st edn, 2013) accessed 30 November 2019.

[12]Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, ‘Regulation: Analysis and Experience in West Germany and the U.S.A.: A Symposium’ (October 1983), pp. 527-544 accessed 26 November 2019.

[13] Yakoob C., ‘A study on the impact of the consumer protection act 1986 on consumer movement, with special reference to northern districts of Kerala’ (Department of Commerce and Management Studies , University of Calicut, 1998) accessed 25 November 2019.

[14] Ashok R. Patil, ‘Consumer Protection Law’ (Annual Survey of Indian Law, The Indian Law Institute, 2016) pp. 319-346 accessed 24 November 2019.

[15]Dipak Dash, ‘Consumer bill draft removes healthcare from Services’ (Times of India, 2 June 2019) <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/consumer-bill-draft-removes-healthcare-from-services/articleshow/69935129.cms> accessed 29 November 2019.

[16] Samanwaya Rautray, ‘Maggi Controversy: SC revives govt’s case against Nestle India in NCDRC’ (Economic Times, 4 January 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/cons-products/food/supreme-court-revives-governments-case-in-ncdrc-against-nestle-india/articleshow/67363564.cms> accessed 24 November 2019.

Economy

Emerging Global Market: The Arctic on Sale

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The Arctic Region has been on a journey of geographical transformation induced by Climate Change. There has been an unprecedented percentage of what can be called as ‘Arctic metamorphosis’, witnessed as deterioration of climate twice as rapidly as in any other parts of the globe. There has been a decline in permafrost, sea ice, icesheets on ocean and glaciers in Canada, Alaska and Greenland.  There has been a notable decrease in the snow cover that earlier occupied the land. These alarming changes in the physiography were first recorded in the 1980s, and have been on a surge ever since. Around 1 million sq. miles of sea ice has shrunk over the past 50 years, halving the size of Arctic icecap. The transition has been so dramatic that it actually cut the turf to Asia, revealing the fabled North West Passage that European voyagers sought for shipping, for over centuries. As of now, it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ will the Arctic Passageway open for regular marine transportation and when would the exploration of lucrative natural energy-resources deposits be possible.

The regressing ecosystem has been the least of the concerns of our capitalist, market-oriented, energy-hungry world economy. The melting ice caps and glaciers are paving way to access the 13% of globe’s undiscovered oil and 30% of globe’s undiscovered natural gas lying at the Arctic Ocean seabed, a home for world’s largest unexplored hydrocarbon resources. These percentages translate to 1,669 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas and 90 billion barrels of oil. The economic potential for these energy resources exceeds $2.7 trillion for Russian and American Arctic claims alone. Moreover, there are massive reserve potential for rare mineral resources also referred to as “strategic minerals” including palladium, nickel and iron-ore which might prove to be a greater economic driver than the energy resources. Apart from these, Arctic has tremendous new opportunities for high sea fisheries. The Ocean has vast stocks of marine resources including shrimp, pollock, crab, pacific salmon, squid, scallop and halibut. It would prove to be a new arena of industrial-scale commercial fisheries.

Whether the sought resources are hydrocarbon or mineral, they must procure their route via pipelines or shipping routes to the receptive markets. Along with the transitory passageways, there would be need for improved icebreakers, satellite and communication and navigation, deep water ports, double-hulled shipping vessels, operational search and aviation infrastructure development.

An even better incentive would be the inception of new sea-lanes initiated by the great Arctic melt. The shipping shortcuts of Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route would reduce the nautical transit times by days, saving the shipping corporations thousands of miles. The sailing distance between Yokohama and Rotterdam on the Northern Route would be reduced from over 11,200 nautical miles to 6,500 nautical miles, in comparison with the current Suez Canal Route which would amount to the savings of up to 40 percent of shipping expenses. Likewise, the voyage from Rotterdam to Seattle would be trimmed by the North West Passage by over 2000 nautical miles, reducing the distance up to 25 percent in comparison with the current Panama route.

Taking into consideration the fuel costs, canal fees and various other miscellaneous charges that amount to lofty freight rates, these alternative passages will cutback the charges of a single voyage down to at least 20%, saving around $17.5 million, saving billions of dollars per annum for the shipping industry. These savings would be far greater for the megaships that have to sail all the way down to Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope.

The world’s shipyard’s have already started building ice-capable ships, beginning with the groundwork for the navigation through these sea-lanes and for the transport of Arctic’s natural gas and oil. Billions of dollars are being invested by the private sector for the fleet of Arctic tankers. As of now, around 496 ice-class ships have been built worldwide. The gas and oil markets are investing in development of the avant-garde technology and assemblage of advanced ships, possessing double-acting tankers, that have the dual technology of steam bowing through open waters and proceed stern to smash through deep ice. These ships are capable of sailing unobstructed to Arctic’s burgeoning gas and oil fields independent of ice-breakers. These breakthroughs will turn previously unviable commercial projects into booming businesses.

Of all the Arctic States, the largest stakeholder with greatest intrinsic interests in the region is Russia. A significant 20% of Russia’s GDP comes of Russian North, and accounts for 22% of all exports. The resources of Arctic are of strategic importance for Russia; therefore, it has been so far the largest investor in the region. It has invested in the fleet of nuclear-icebreakers, the only of their kind in the world. Further, Russia is planning on increasing this fleet of 4 to 13 with a cost of over $1.5 billion. Moreover, Russia has endeavored to aim for 92.6 million ton of cargo by 2030. These hefty investments indicate the importance of Arctic as a market. Russia aims at charging for providing the sea-routes since it has the largest geographical proximity to the ocean as well as providing shipping and infrastructure in the region. The claims of oil and gas reserves are only an addition to the gains Russia has planned to make.

Considering the economic and strategic importance of Arctic and its potential to add to the world’s oil, gas, minerals, fisheries and shipping reserves makes it an alluring marketplace. The region itself has been divided among the ‘Arctic States’ that include Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and United States. Instead of making efforts to preserve the deteriorating environmental conditions and the physiographic challenges, these states are only in a race of dividing the resources among themselves and reaping as much assets as they can. All domains of Arctic are on sale; including the sea, land, sea-life, mineral resources, and fossil fuels. The world has turned a blind eye towards the environmental consequences for the region of the planet which will surely cost more than the gains. Putting nature’s commodities on sale have never worked in anyone’s favor.

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Economy

Covid-19 and food crisis

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COVID-19 has hit at a time when food crisis and malnutrition are on the rise. According to the most recent UN projections, the pandemic-induced economic slump would cause as many as 132 million people to be hungry. This would be in addition to the 690 million people going hungry now. At the same time, 135 million people suffer from acute food insecurity and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Although the pandemic’s transmission has slowed in certain countries and cases have decreased, COVID-19 has resurfaced or is spreading rapidly in others. This is still a global issue that needs a worldwide solution.

This epidemic threatens both lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 has had a wide-ranging and disruptive influence on the agriculture system. We fear a worldwide food crisis unless we act quickly, which may have long-term consequences for hundreds of millions of children and adults. This is mostly due to a lack of food availability — as wages decline, remittances decline, and in certain cases, food prices rise. Food insecurity is increasingly becoming a food production concern in nations that already have high levels of acute food insecurity.

Agriculture continues to serve a reliable and major part in world economy and stability, and it remains the primary source of food, income, and work for rural communities, even in the face of a pandemic. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural system and sector has been wide-ranging, causing unprecedented uncertainty in global food supply chains, including potential bottlenecks in labor markets, input industries, agriculture production, food processing, transportation and logistics, as well as shifts in demand for food and food services.

The COVID-19 epidemic not only created a new sort of agricultural catastrophe, but it also occurred at a difficult moment for farmers. In most years during the last few years, global commodity output has exceeded demand, resulting in lower prices. In 2013, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicted decreased global agricultural output growth due to limited agricultural land development, rising production costs, expanding resource restrictions, and increasing environmental concerns.

An expanding global population remains the main driver of demand growth, although the consumption patterns and projected trends vary across countries in line with their level of income and development. Average per capita food availability is projected to reach about 3,000 kcal and 85 g of protein per day by 2029. Due to the ongoing transition in global diets towards higher consumption of animal products, fats and other foods, the share of staples in the food basket is projected to decline by 2029 for all income groups. In particular, consumers in middle-income countries are expected to use their additional income to shift their diets away from staples towards higher value products. Meanwhile, environmental and health concerns in high-income countries are expected to support a transition from animal-based protein towards alternative sources of protein.

When people suffer from hunger or chronic undernourishment, it means that they are unable to meet their food requirements – consume enough calories to lead a normal, active life – over a prolonged period. This has long-term implications for their future, and continues to present a setback to global efforts to reach Zero Hunger. When people experience crisis-level, acute food insecurity, it means they have limited access to food in the short-term due to sporadic, sudden crises that may put their lives and livelihoods at risk.

However, if people facing crisis-level acute food insecurity get the assistance they need, they will not join the ranks of the hungry, and their situation will not become chronic

It is clear: although globally there is enough food for everyone, too many people are still suffering from hunger. Our food systems are failing, and the pandemic is making things worse.

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Economy

How Bangladesh became Standout Star in South Asia Amidst Covid-19

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Bangladesh, the shining model of development in South Asia, becomes everyone’s economic darling amidst Covid-19. The per capita income of Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2020-21 is higher than that of many neighbouring countries including India and Pakistan. Recently, Bangladesh has agreed to lend $200 million to debt-ridden Sri Lanka to bail out through currency swap. Bangladesh, once one of the most vulnerable economies, has now substantiated itself as the most successful economy of South Asia. How Bangladesh successfully managed Covid-19 and became top performing economy of South Asia?

In March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared their independence from richer and more powerful Pakistan. The country was born through war and famine. Shortly after the independence of Bangladesh, Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. national security advisor, derisively referred to the country as a “Basket Case of Misery.” But after fifty years, recently, Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary reported that per capita income has risen to $2,227. Pakistan’s per capita income, meanwhile, is $1,543. In 1971, Pakistan was 70% richer than Bangladesh; today, Bangladesh is 45% richer than Pakistan. Pakistani economist Abid Hasan, former World Bank Adviser, stated that “If Pakistan continues its dismal performance, it is in the realm of possibility that we could be seeking aid from Bangladesh in 2030,”. On the other hand, India, the economic superpower of South Asia, is also lagging behind Bangladesh in terms of per capita income worth of $1,947. This also elucidates that the economic decisions of Bangladesh are better than that of any other South Asian countries.

Bangladesh’s economic growth leans-on three pillars: exports competitiveness, social progress and fiscal prudence. Between 2011 and 2019, Bangladesh’s exports grew at 8.6% every year, compared to the world average of 0.4%. This godsend is substantially due to the country’s hard-hearted focus on products, such as apparel, in which it possesses a comparative advantage.

The variegated investment plans pursued by the Bangladesh government contributes to the escalation of the country’s per capita income. The government has attracted investments in education, health, connectivity and infrastructure both from home and abroad. As a long-term implication, investing in these sectors helped Bangladesh to facilitate space for businesses and created skilled manpower to run them swiftly. Meanwhile, the share of Bangladeshi women in the labor force has consistently grown, unlike in India and Pakistan, where it has decreased. And Bangladesh has maintained a public debt-to-GDP ratio between 30% and 40%. India and Pakistan will both emerge from the pandemic with public debt close to 90% of GDP.

Bangladesh’s economy and industry management strategy during Covid-19 is also worth mentioning here since the country till now has successfully protected its economy from impact of pandemic. At the outset of pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions hampered the country’s overall productivity for a while. To tackle the pandemic effect, Bangladesh introduced improvised monetary policy and fiscal stimuli to bring them under the safety net which lifted the situation from worsening. Government introduced stimulus package which is equivalent to 4.3 percent of total GDP and covers all necessary sectors such as industry, SMEs and agriculture. These packages are not only a one-time deal, new packages are also being announced in course of time. For instance, in January 2021, government announced two new packages for small and medium entrepreneurs and grass roots populations. Apart from economic interventions, the government also chose the path of targeted interventions. The government, after first wave, abandoned widespread lockdown and adopted the policy of targeted intervention which is found to be effective as it allows socio-economic activities to carry on under certain protocols and helps the industries to fight back against the pandemic effect.

Another pivotal key to success was the management of migrant labor force and keeping the domestic production active amidst the pandemic. According to KNOMAD report, amidst the Covid-19, Bangladesh’s remittance grew by 18.4 percent crossing 21 billion per annum inflow where many remittance dependent countries experienced negative growth rate. Because of the massive inflow of remittance, the Forex reserve of Bangladesh reached at 45.1 billion US dollar.

Bangladesh’s success in managing COVID19 and its economy has been reflected in a recent report “Bangladesh Development Update- Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to strengthen Competitiveness,” published by World Bank. Bangladesh’s economy is showing nascent signs of recovery backed by a rebound in exports, strong remittance inflows, and the ongoing vaccination program. Through financial assistance to Sri Lanka and Covid relief aid to India, Bangladesh is showcasing its rise as an emerging superpower in South Asia. That is why Mihir Sharma, Director of Centre for Economy and Growth Programme at the Observer Research Foundation, wrote in an article at Bloomberg that, “Today, the country’s 160 million-plus people, packed into a fertile delta that’s more densely populated than the Vatican City, seem destined to be South Asia’s standout success”. Back in 2017, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) report also predicted the same that Bangladesh will become the largest economy by 2030 and an economic powerhouse in South Asia. And this is how Bangladesh, a development paragon, offers lessons for the other struggling countries of world after 50 years of its independence.

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