1. What is a smart city? Do you agree that the concept of smart cities has redefined the urban discourse in our country?(GS 3)

 The Hindu

Smart city:-

  • A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents.
  • It would ensure robust IT connectivity and digitisation along with core infrastructure such as water supply, electricity supply, sanitation, public transport, solid waste management and affordable housing ultimately improving the quality of urban life.

Smart cities change the urban discourse in India:-

  • By focusing on cleanliness and hygiene and making general appearance of the city has to be pleasing and clean,it  would make   tourist sector more attractive and it will lead to earn more dollars.
  • Smart cities can improve the efficiency of city services by eliminating redundancies, finding ways to save money and streamlining workers’ responsibilities. The results can provide higher-quality services at lower cost.
  • Perhaps the largest potential benefit from smart cities will come from enhancing residents’ quality of life. The opportunities cover a broad range of issues, including housing and transportation, happiness and optimism, educational services, environmental conditions and community relationships.
  • Efforts along this line can include tracking and mapping residents ,health,using data to fight neighbourhood blight,identifying instances of discrimination and deploying autonomous vehicles   to increase residents’ safety and mobility.
  • Environmental benefits like the array of things project in Chicago which tracks the environment.
  • It will create more jobs for the unemployed youth of India.
  • The cities chosen for smart city development promise a high economic and industrial growth potential and creating housing schemes for the urban middle class would greatly boost the real estate sector.
  • Redevelopment of cities will entail huge requirement of infrastructure growth. This would in turn mean that thousands of acres of land would be converted to industrial and IT parks, commercial office spaces, retail and entertainment zones, and above all, housing schemes creating ample opportunities of investment for the infrastructure and real estate development sector.
  • These smart cities will bring in massive investments. The potential investments will help India maintain its stand among global nations.
  • Going the smart way will mean clean environment and good living standards that can translate to better health and productivity.
  • Living smart will accentuate their wellness factor, make them free from diseases caused from pollution, and generate a feeling of happiness.

No,not all urban challenges are covered under it:-

  • This project is exclusionary in the sense that it majorly focuses on the technological aspects of urban life.
  • The current proposal document of the Smart City Project finds meagre mention of the urban slum. It scantly talks about the upgradation of the slum settlements and straightaway fails to explain how and when this upgradation will be carried out.
  • Migration:-
  • The reason being the Smart City Project is not going to create new urban centres. It also is not going to rebuild the small towns which otherwise could have proved to be small check-posts to stop the migration toward big cities.
  • At  present Smart City Project is mostly based on a top-down approach of making cities smart by ignoring the local needs, requirements and knowledge.
    • In the guidelines for the mission, the role of the local governments was significantly cut short  delegating the decision-making powers to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to be set up to implement the mission.
    • prioritising SPVs as implementing agencies, the mission is invariably neglecting the one lakh elected representatives from the urban local bodies which continue to remain functionally, structurally and financially neglected in the urbanisation debate.
  • The narrow focus of the scheme on the prism of area-based development as it benefits only a small portion of the society.
    • These include longstanding problems with land ownership documentation, developing policies to accommodate new markets and limit the old, and conflicts with vulnerable populations pushed out to make room for new smart city initiatives.

However, the success of smart cities will depend on those who are manning the programme. The cities’ municipal agencies will have to rise to the occasion to be at their effective best and collaborate for effective implementation adhering to timelines.


2. Strong India-USA ties benefit our nations and the world. Discuss.(GS 2)

The Hindu

How strong India us relation benefit both countries:-

  • There are lot of areas of mutual cooperation, of fighting terrorism, and we have a lot of strong people-to-people ties ties.
  • Both India and the US have an overriding interest in securing both societies, and the world, from the forces of terrorism, radical ideologies and nontraditional security threats.
  • The relationship is ripe for additional cooperation in areas such as the development of aircraft carrier technology, space surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber and increased defence manufacturing.
  • Nuclear energy and India’s push for membership in NSG can raise additional benefits in terms of business.
  • To tackle geo political concerns in Indo Pacific ocean and effectively tackle China .

Benefits to US:-

  • Indian firms and investment are key for the rejuvenation of US industrial power.
  • Indian companies are adding value to the manufacturing and services sectors in the US, with total investments of approximately $15 billion and a presence in more than 35 states, including in the Rust Belt.
  • India is a major ally and a buffer state for US to contain and counter China and also a key ally in peace process in Afghanistan.
  • Concerns:-
    • Indian firms and techies are often criticised for the loss of investments and job opportunities in US.

India:-

  • American companies have likewise fueled their global growth by investing more than $20 billion in India,
  • NSS waiver, Civil nuclear agreement,2005 and LEMOA and tag of strategic defense partner

World:-

  • Both the countries have done efforts to find affordable vaccines to joint studies in space research, from establishing norms for cyberspace to providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Indo-Pacific region, and training peacekeepers in, Africa.
  • With climate change becoming a major menace in the world both countries cooperation is significantly necessary especially when US killed out of Paris Agreement.
  • They can play a significant role in global trade and refugee crisis as US is land of immigrants.

Points of contention:

  • Immigration and H1B visa issues
  • Recent protectionist stance of Trump
  • IPR issues, Subsidies
  • US backing out from Paris climate accord
  • US continued aid to Pak and selective posture on Pakistan’s sponsoring of terrorism.

Despite the concerns India –US relationship has evolved over the years and plays a major role in the international arena.


3. Netherlands is aspiring to emerge as India’s biggest partner in Europe following the Brexit-related changes taking place in Europe. Examine.(GS 2)

 The Hindu

Yes it is or reasons which show Netherlands is aspiring to emerge as a major player in Europe with respect to India are:-

  • India is the fastest-growing member among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries and the Dutch remain highly interested in increasing investments into India.
  • 20% of India’s $ 45 billion trade with the EU passes through the Netherlands.
  • Netherlands is the 5th largest investment partner globally and in the last three years it has emerged as the 3rd largest source of FDI for the country.
  • Trade and investment cooperation is a key component of India–Netherlands relationship and has shown satisfactory growth over the years.
  • Netherlands remains among the top 10 partners of India in terms of trade volume with positive balance of trade in favour of India.
  • Presently there are 174 Indian companies based in Netherlands attracted by Dutch taxation system which is transparent, stable, flexible and has no withholding tax on ongoing interests and royalty payments, advance tax assessment certainly and competitive corporate tax rate of 20-25% and no capital tax on contribution of capital.
  • There have been major acquisitions and mergers by Indian companies including that of Tata Corus (now Tata Steel),Apollo-Vredestein,acquisition of Theodoor Gilissen by Hinduja Group and many Indian companies and exploring the possibilities for further tie-ups.
  • The proposal for opening a branch of State Bank of India in Amsterdam is also under way.
  • Dutch SMEs with niche technologies and world class expertise are also actively looking at the Indian market.
  • In the recent Indian PM visit to Netherlands,both the countries signed three MoUs in the fields of social security, water cooperation and cultural cooperation.
  • International:
    • Netherlands helped India in getting the membership of the MTCR
    • It has supported India in membership of global regimes like NSG, MTCR, Australian and wassegner agreement. It has also supported India’s bid for membership of UNSC Security Council.
  • India’s soft power into Europe can enhance by more cultural exchange with Netherland and its ever increasing Indian Origin people.

No it isn’t :-

  • Although relations have flourished after Independence, but it is well below its potential.
  • Non trade related mechanism like Phyto sanitary measures for exports from India, emergence of likes of Bangladesh and Vietnam as an export hub can be a challenge.
  • Lack of comprehensive defence collaboration with India combined with insignificance of Netherlands in South Asian strategic affairs have impeded a full fledged strategic partnership between both nations.

Therefore both the countries can come together in the fields of counter Terrorism,cyber security,flood control  where both the  countries can collaborate on exchanging information and share experiences.


 

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