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Plan To Tackle Climate Change Requires Mention in India’s Electoral Politics Agenda

Add to that a proposal to build a clean energy future from the bottom up and you have a good starting point for the race to change India's climate in a meaningful and measurable way. It is a race that must be won for the future of India, its people and indeed the world. 

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pollution
Now, it looks as if the race for Prime Minister is up for grabs. What should not be up for grabs is the need to develop an integrated master plan for changing and dramatically improving India's environmental, economic and electoral climate. Pixabay

By: Frank F. Islam

India has a national election in April-May. This election is critically important because of the climate change consuming the country. Most people think of that change as being the sorry condition of Indias environment. And, it is. It also includes, however, several other important areas — most notably the economy and the electorate.

India’s current environmental, economic and electoral climates are extremely problematic. These three climate change areas must be addressed holistically and with an increasing sense of urgency over the next decade if India is to maintain the trajectory it has established to moving from being a developing country to be a developed country.

Environmental climate change is not unique to India.

To date, 196 world leaders have acknowledged that global warming is an international problem by signing the Paris Agreement adopted at the 21st Conference of the UN’s Framework Convention in December of 2015.

In October last year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) warned that the environment is worsening at a faster pace than originally projected and that unless major changes are made by 2040 there will be disastrous consequences.

The compressed timeline for climate change is scary for the world. The timeline for India is even scarier. The World Bank observes that “India is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change”. It asserts that, “by 2020, pressure on India’s water, air, soil and forests is expected to become the highest in the world”.

This is a frightening picture. More frightening is the effect that pressure will have on the Indian people and its economy.

elections
“The question which remains to be answered is whether there is enough political will to aggressively fight the health emergency India faces today and move away from polluting fuels and practices,” said Pujarini Sen, spokeswoman for Greenpeace in India. Pixabay

A World Bank Report released in June 2018 said that climate change could reduce India’s GDP by 2.5 per cent and lower living standards of nearly half the country’s people by 2050. The UNIPCC report states that a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in the global temperature would have the most serious impact on “disadvantaged and vulnerable populations” in areas such as food insecurity, lost livelihood opportunities, and adverse health impacts.

India’s disadvantaged and vulnerable population is huge in size. They and India in general are already experiencing serious consequences. As Dr. Arvind Kumar, a surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi notes: “Newborns in many of our cities become ‘smokers’ from their very first breath.”

Because of increasing floods and droughts, numerous poor farmers no longer have the small plots on which to toil and earn a living. Almost one-half of the Indian workforce is self-employed and over 80 per cent work in the informal sector which provides no security or benefits if income is lost or reduced due to climatic factors.

The indisputable fact is that the fate of India’s environment and economy going forward are inextricably intertwined. Up until just a few years ago, the Indian economy at the macro-level was growing steadily and successfully. This growth has slowed substantially but more importantly has never trickled down to the poor.

This, along with other factors, has caused India to rank 133 out of 156 countries on the UN’s 2018 World Happiness Index — 11 spots lower than 2017. The stagnant economic milieu and general unhappiness of so many in the rural and poor regions where almost two thirds of Indians live is also no doubt partially responsible for this year’s combative and competitive electoral climate.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014, it appeared that he would be unbeatable in the future. This perspective was reinforced as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased the number of Indian states that it ran from six to 21 out of 29 states between 2014 and early 2018. Then, in elections held in December, the Congress party won three key states.

Now, it looks as if the race for Prime Minister is up for grabs. What should not be up for grabs is the need to develop an integrated master plan for changing and dramatically improving India’s environmental, economic and electoral climate. This should and must be a top priority for whoever wins the elections. Because time is absolutely of the essence. The climate change master plan must be developed quickly. Fortunately, there are numerous ideas and individuals that can be called upon to create that plan.

Narendra Modi
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014, it appeared that he would be unbeatable in the future. Pixabay

Among the best that I have seen is the following set of five opportunities for India’s growth and transformation put forward by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2016:
1. Acceptable living standards for all.
2. Sustainable urbanization.
3. Manufacturing for India, in India.
4. Riding the digital wave.
5. Unlocking the potential of Indian women.

Also Read: It Should Be The Responsibility of The BCCI To Unearth Cricketing Talent

Add to that a proposal to build a clean energy future from the bottom up and you have a good starting point for the race to change India’s climate in a meaningful and measurable way. It is a race that must be won for the future of India, its people and indeed the world.

“The question which remains to be answered is whether there is enough political will to aggressively fight the health emergency India faces today and move away from polluting fuels and practices,” said Pujarini Sen, spokeswoman for Greenpeace in India. (IANS)

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Top Investment Options for Beginners in India

The most important thing that guarantees high returns on your assiduous earnings is safety

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Time and Money
"Money can't buy happiness". A group of researchers believes the opposite with scientific backing. Pixabay

Investing your savings is a good idea. You just cannot keep saving money because of two main reasons.

Firstly, the savings will not grow. Most of the times they stay the same unless you count the nominal savings account your bank keeps adding half-yearly or yearly. Secondly, some need or the other arises, and you will be inclined to spend the money out of your savings than going for a loan.

We cannot stop some need. Now and then, some appliance in your house needs a repair or replacement, same goes good with your vehicles, kids, spouse and so on.

So locking away your savings so that you will not use them at convenience and letting them grow in the meanwhile is a good strategy.

Only if you knew how, when and where?

Most of us are good at working hard, slogging it out and earning the few extra bucks, but when it comes to investing and make money grow, we have neither the expertise nor the time for it.

As the famous billionaire and investor, Warren Buffet put it – “Unless you are making money while you are sleeping, you will keep working till you die”.

Safety First

Let us explore some of the investment options for people who are planning to invest.

  1. Public Provident Fund (PPF)

For a change, the Public provident fund or PPF as it is more popularly known as needs no introduction. Every employee working in a limited company or a governmental organization knows of this.

PPF is also one of the main reasons behind most of the Indians growing lazy and not trying to look for other investment options unless your wall in the above average or the top bracket. At an interest rate of 7.9% and dual contribution from the employee and the employer, PPF is the lifeline for all employees, especially if they keep contributing until retirement without withdrawing.

There is a facility to withdraw the money if you are jobless for a particular time or you can even avail three-year loans. However, mostly PPF is looked at as a post-retirement benefit than an investment option during your working years.

But an investment nonetheless.

You can save anywhere between ₹ 500 to ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year, and we all know why it is the favorite – These savings exempt from tax, However, if you choose to invest more than ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year in your PPF, the excess amount will neither earn interest or tax benefits. Minimum lock-in period is 15 years.

Fixed Deposit Scheme, India
Fixed Deposits are one of the more common and preferable investment schemes in India. Pixabay
  1. National Savings Certificate (NSC)

At an interest rate of 8% per annum, backed by the Government of India and the convenience of obtaining one (your nearby post office), a National savings certificate or an NSC can be not ignored.

Though it has a minimum lock-in period of 5 years, (the other option is 10-year lock-in period), the guaranteed good yields make it a preferred investment option by quite a few. But this is also the most ignored option by many for some reason.

Investment up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs is exempted from tax. The interest rate is revised quarterly, and the amount is compounded annually.

Another advantage is that the investments in NSC are accepted as collaterals by many banks and NBFCs (non-banking finance corporations). However, you cannot touch your amount for a minimum period of 5 years.

  1. Equity Linked Saving Scheme (ELSS)

Shorter lock-in periods and high-interest rates are the USP of the equity-linked saving schemes (ELSS).

In the ELSS, the minimum lock-in period is three years, and you can choose to make your earnings as regular dividends through the three years or receive a lump sum at once after your lock-in period ends. Therefore, this is a plan that lets you draw the amount within your investment period and gives you a chance to earn more than the rest – 15-18% returns. A near 11% interest offered by NPS (the national pension scheme) is a distant second. In addition, you do not need to invest the entire amount at once. You have an option called SIPs (systematic investment plans) by way of which you can invest as low as ₹ 500 a month.

Investments up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs are exempt from taxation, but returns are taxable. The LTCG or long-term capital gains from ELSS are taxable if they are above ₹ 1 lakh.

There is a fair amount of risk involved, and your investment may not end profitable every time. However, you can take the help of fund managers (or mutual funds) and play it safe.

  1. Recurring and Fixed deposits

Most of the nationalized and private banks offer you this facility at different interest rates and deposit lock-in periods.

In a fixed deposit (FD) scheme, you make a deposit lump sum, which will mature at the end of the pre-determined period, and if you do not have the capital to start with, you can choose a recurring deposit (RD), where you can add a fixed amount every month, which can be withdrawn at the end of the maturity period.

The interest earned with a recurring deposit may be less than that of a fixed deposit, but in case of an RD, you are creating an investment with your savings. Not all of us may have the luxury of investing a lakh or five lakh rupees to start with.

Again, investments up until ₹ 1.5 lakhs in 5 years fixed deposits are exempt from taxation, but returns are taxable. Recurring deposits and fixed deposits for a period of less than five years are not exempt from income tax.

  1. National Pension Scheme (NPS)

Many, after the introduction of 2-tier system, look upon another government-backed scheme, NPS, as a useful option.

Under the Tier I NPS, one has to contribute a minimum of ₹ 6,000 per year to keep the account active. The money cannot be withdrawn till you reach 60 years of age (partial withdrawal allowed in exceptional cases) and if you choose to exit the scheme mid-way, 80% of your savings have to be invested in an annuity plan (which will be returned to you as monthly pension payments after retirement).

The Tier II NPS is a non-retirement scheme, which is more like a savings account and allows you to withdraw money when you want. There is no lock-in period, but government employees can avail tax exemption if they lock-in their savings for a minimum period of 3 years. You need to have an active Tier I account to open a Tier II account. However, this scheme is not looked at as a long-term investment due to certain limits on investments, as you cannot invest more than 50% of your savings in stock markets, etc.

Interest rates are high at 12-14% and investments up to ₹ 1.5 lakhs a year and an additional ₹ 50,000 per year can be exempted under subsection 80 CCD.

Also Read: Online Games: What Risks Do They Pose To Children?

Though there are many more private and non-governmental schemes whit flexible options which offer you a lot of conveniences and promise higher returns, it is always wise to think about safety first when it comes to investments.

It is hard-earned money, and we cannot earn it again. So, it is always safer and wiser to go with a trustworthy scheme which may offer fewer returns than a fancy scheme which gives you a lot more.

The most important thing that guarantees high returns on your assiduous earnings is safety.