Amitabh Kant en Fri Feb 23 13:08:58 IST 2024 indian-cuisine-a-beacon-of-our-soft-power-on-global-stage <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Indian cuisine stands as a beacon of our soft power on the global stage. Fuelled by our vast diaspora, Indian food has transcended borders, captivating hearts and palates worldwide. Behind this culinary revolution are immensely talented chefs, crafting extraordinary dining experiences in highly acclaimed restaurants that elevate Indian cuisine to new heights. No longer confined to the familiar, Indian fare now embraces the intricacies of regional cuisine, offering a delectable journey through diverse flavours and traditions. As ambassadors of taste, these chefs are not only satisfying appetites but also bridging cultures, fostering understanding and showcasing the richness of India’s culinary heritage to the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In recent years, regional Indian cuisine has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity on the global culinary stage. From the aromatic spices of Tamil Nadu to the rich flavours of Punjab, the diverse regional cuisines of India are being relished by food enthusiasts worldwide. This culinary renaissance is not only due to the impeccable taste of Indian dishes but also due to the pioneering efforts of Indian chefs who have taken their expertise to international platforms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One such chef who has left an indelible mark on the global culinary landscape is Vikas Khanna, who hails from Amritsar. Khanna’s journey to becoming a Michelin-starred chef is nothing short of inspiring. His culinary prowess, combined with a deep appreciation for traditional Indian flavours, has earned him acclaim across continents. Khanna’s restaurants in New York City and Dubai have become destinations for food aficionados seeking an authentic taste of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From London to Singapore, Indian chefs are redefining haute cuisine with their innovative interpretations of traditional dishes. Their success is a testament to the richness and diversity of Indian culinary heritage, which encompasses a myriad of flavours, spices and cooking techniques. Vineet Bhatia, Hemant Mathur, Gaggan Anand, Manish Mehrotra and Garima Arora are more such pioneers taking delectable Indian cuisine to the world, earning Michelin stars in the process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the factors driving the global popularity of Indian cuisine is its ability to cater to diverse palates. Whether it is the fiery curries of south India or the creamy gravies of the north, Indian food offers something for everyone. Moreover, the rise of social media and food tourism has provided Indian chefs with unprecedented opportunities to showcase their talents on a global scale.</p> <p>Sowndra Rajan Palanisamy, president of the Tamil Association of New Zealand Inc, in collaboration with the Arasan New Zealand Trust, is spearheading the Auckland Kari Virunthu 2.0 event, set to showcase local Indian cuisine in New Zealand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Semma in New York City emerges as another bold exploration of southern Indian heritage cuisine, unveiling culinary treasures seldom seen beyond local homes and neighbourhoods. Chef Vijay Kumar, hailing from Tamil Nadu, channels the soulful essence of farm-life and his ancestral land onto the plate, infusing each dish with explosive flavours and regional ingredients. From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the vibrant lanes of London, Dishoom has captivated hearts with its rendition of Mumbai-style street food. Also nestled in the heart of London, Chourangi embodies the spirit of Kolkata cuisine, steeped in a legacy of recipes spanning over three centuries. Rasa by chef Das Sreedharan is a restaurant taking vegetarian recipes from the kitchen gardens of Kochi, Kerala, to the United Kingdom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Across the globe, countless Indian chefs have journeyed abroad, ascending to the pinnacle of their craft and becoming culinary luminaries in their own right. India must harness this formidable resource by partnering with these chefs to promote Indian food through curated events and festivals. Recognised and supported by the Indian embassies, Indian chefs abroad can serve as esteemed ambassadors of their nation, leveraging their years of experience to champion Indian cuisine in foreign lands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the vast landscape of global gastronomy, modern and traditional interpretations of regional Indian cuisines emerge not only as a feast for the senses but also as a testament to the power of food to unite, inspire and celebrate the richness of our culture and diversity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat May 18 15:23:44 IST 2024 lessons-from-bengalurus-water-crisis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Once upon a time, Bengaluru was called the city of lakes. Today rampant urbanisation has decimated the lakes and the city is staring at an alarming water management crisis. Bengaluru, historically reliant on its lakes and reservoirs due to its challenging geography and scarce rainfall, is now grappling with its worst drought in 40 years. The city’s rapid expansion has ironically led to the destruction of the very water bodies that fuelled its growth, with the number of lakes plummeting from 1,000 to under 100. This crisis, affecting 7,000 villages, 1,100 wards and 220 talukas, is a stark reminder of the consequences of unplanned urbanisation. The combination of dwindling green spaces, vanishing water bodies, and a falling groundwater table paints a grim picture as the city braces for an even hotter summer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Bengaluru’s lakes are facing two significant challenges: direct encroachment and diminishing interconnections. This trend has not only increased the city’s susceptibility to drought but has also heightened the risk of flooding, exemplified by the events of 2023. Consequently, Bengaluru now requires Rs2,800 crore to repair a drainage network damaged by uncontrolled urbanisation-induced flooding, highlighting the level of financial damage such crises entail. Furthermore, lakes and stormwater drains have transformed into repositories for sewage discharged from nearby buildings and catchment areas. This has exacerbated their inability to effectively capture rainwater or stormwater, thereby compounding both the ongoing drought crisis and the flooding incident of 2023.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What Bengaluru is currently experiencing is a result of extreme mismanagement of water resources, because of reducing green spaces and a rapidly expanding concrete jungle. The city has seen a 1,055 per cent increase in the built-up areas in the past few decades, shrinking the water surface significantly. The water spread has fallen by a sharp 70 per cent in the last 50 years. Of the few remaining water bodies, a staggering 98 per cent has fallen victim to encroachment, with 90 per cent of them contaminated by untreated sewage or industrial effluents. This has had adverse effects on groundwater recharge rates, exacerbated by the substantial reduction in water coverage. These factors lie at the heart of the current crisis confronting the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exodus of tech professionals from Bengaluru to their hometowns is on the rise as the water crisis in India’s tech hub reaches critical levels, making life in the city unsustainable for many. This massive infrastructural defect, where access to water is limited, can further significantly affect the investments Bengaluru attracts in the future. This can also damage Bengaluru’s reputation as a tech-driven economy, with the potential to affect the real estate market. With more than 50 per cent of borewells now dried up alongside plunging groundwater levels, real estate developers are facing a dilemma, whereby uncertainty surrounding water availability is hampering investor confidence, impacting project timelines and profitability, especially with restricted construction permits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The city needs to redesign and reinstate water recycling and rainwater harvesting mechanisms. At present, only one-third of the city’s wastewater is repurposed externally, replenishing groundwater and surface water reservoirs. The rest flows into lakes or downstream rivers, representing a vast, unused water resource. This wastewater, if rightly utilised, could substantially reduce freshwater consumption and enhance the city’s water resilience if properly treated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the next five to six decades, we will see millions relocating to cities as a consequence of urbanisation. Effective water management should sit at the heart of sustainable urbanisation. Bengaluru’s water crisis is an alarm bell highlighting the vital role of efficient water management in sustainable urbanisation and should be taken as a lesson by other cities. Mindless urban development made Bengaluru steer towards options that weren’t as valuable in the long term while allowing more sustainable, already existing options to wither away. Thus, balancing our development ambitions with the changing climate around us will be key in the years to come as India urbanises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat Apr 20 11:36:28 IST 2024 rise-of-indian-soft-power <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Soft power has never been more powerful. In an increasingly interconnected world, where borders are porous and technology has facilitated the seamless, real-time dissemination of vast amounts of information, influence is no longer geographically bound. In fact, at the most micro level, hundreds of individuals have made entire careers out of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the global stage, the potency of soft power holds the ability to sway the perceptions of communities—strengthening cross-cultural understanding, shaping aspirations. The resurgence of the Global South, in recent years, underscored the impact of convening power in nations. As emerging economies assert their influence and challenge traditional power structures, the ability to shape narratives and cultivate positive perceptions becomes increasingly vital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ascendancy of soft power heralds a paradigm shift in the dynamics of international relations, and India’s rise as a global superpower serves as a perfect case-study of the benefits of institutionalising influence. The 2014 general election marked a pivotal moment for Indian foreign policy, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ushering in a new era defined by the strategic use of soft power on both regional and global fronts. Through the adoption of digitally savvy communication strategies, the consistent engagement of the Indian diaspora, and the formal and active commemoration of India’s diverse culture, the Modi government has made significant strides to convert an ad-hoc approach to intentional, state-driven cultural dispersion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our startup ecosystem is flourishing, propelling India to the forefront of global innovation. As of October 3, 2023, India has emerged as the third largest ecosystem for startups worldwide, boasting over 1,12,718 startups recognised by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade, spread across 763 districts. Increasingly, homegrown startups in emerging technologies and sunrise sectors like blockchain, AI, fintech, space tourism, green energy, and semiconductors will play a key role in our ability to push for favourable global policies and regulations around new technology and data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the former tourism secretary of Kerala, I witnessed first-hand the potential of cultural diplomacy in elevating the state from obscurity to acclaim on the global tourism map. Through a combination of innovative marketing strategies and public-private partnerships, we rebranded Kerala as 'God's Own Country’, showcasing its rich traditions of art, cuisine, and natural beauty to audiences worldwide. From highlighting Kathakali and Kalaripayattu to reinventing Ayurveda as a holistic wellness regimen, we knew that the region’s cultural heritage was an untapped resource that could change its perception, create jobs, boost the local economy, catalyse infrastructure development, instil civic pride, and lead to the conservation of its natural ecosystems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2023 was declared the International Year of Millets by the UN at the behest of Modi. This allowed India to share the benefits of the highly nutritious and climate-smart superfood with the world, both through substantive discussions during negotiations on sustainable agricultural solutions, and by integrating it in every official menu so that foreign delegates could experience its benefits first-hand. Soft power, embodied through the influence wielded by Modi in diplomatic circles, resulted in the fostering of international cooperation towards shared environmental and food-security goals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century geopolitical landscape, the imperative of harnessing both hard and soft power becomes increasingly apparent. In the case of India, the integration of these two spheres is particularly crucial given its diverse cultural heritage, economic prowess, and strategic significance in the global arena. As a nation with a rich history and a rapidly growing economy, India's soft power assets, including its cultural exports, diaspora influence, and diplomatic outreach, play a pivotal role in shaping its global image and fostering international cooperation. However, to safeguard its interests and defend against potential threats, India also relies on a robust defence apparatus and strategic alliances, demonstrating the necessity of hard power capabilities. By harmonising its soft power initiatives with a strong military presence and strategic partnerships, India can effectively navigate geopolitical challenges while leveraging its cultural and economic strengths to promote peace, stability, and prosperity on the world stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat Mar 23 16:30:48 IST 2024 expansion-of-cities-calls-for-measures-to-make-them-disaster-resistant <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India, being the third most affected country by climate-driven natural disasters, faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities in the realm of climate resilience. The country’s extensive coastline, home to a significant portion of its population, is particularly vulnerable. Rapid urbanisation, dense population centres, and economic activities along the coastline have heightened the risk of climate impact. Thus, balancing our efforts between adaptation and mitigation is not just necessary but time-sensitive, given the escalating climate crisis within our region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over 40 Indian cities are among the world’s most vulnerable to climate and environmental threats, highlighting the need for urgent action to safeguard these urban centres and their socio-economic contributions. Collectively, the nine coastal states attract over 60 per cent of India’s foreign direct investment, underscoring the importance of protecting them from climate-induced phenomena such as sea-level rise, flooding and cyclones.Over the next 50 years, India is poised to witness a dramatic shift in its demographic landscape, with projections indicating that more than 500 million people will inhabit urban areas. This translates to an astonishing rate of urban migration, where every minute, approximately 30 individuals move from rural to urban settings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This paradigm shift necessitates integrated planning that encompasses not only the physical infrastructure but also the social and economic frameworks of urban areas. It calls for innovative solutions that enhance the sustainability and livability of cities, such as green buildings, efficient waste management systems, renewable energy sources, and water conservation practices. The rapid expansion of Indian cities, particularly those along the coast, urgently requires measures to make them disaster-resistant. Investing in low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure is crucial, with an estimated need of $700 billion for Indian urban areas from 2021 to 2031. This investment aims to mitigate climate risks, safeguard lives and livelihoods, and avert significant economic damages. Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are pivotal in this context, offering cost-effective and sustainable methods to enhance our environmental resources while tackling issues like climate change, poverty, and resource efficiency. These solutions not only contribute to disaster-risk reduction, carbon capture, reducing urban heat, enhancing water and food security, and improving public health but also prove economically beneficial by creating an average of seven to 40 jobs for every $1 million invested. NbS encompasses a wide range of applications, from small-scale projects like vertical gardens and green roofs to larger initiatives such as wetland conservation and mangrove restoration, demonstrating their versatility and significant impact on urban resilience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian government has recognised the importance of NbS, implementing various schemes to promote such interventions across cities. These include the Smart City Mission, AMRUT, the Nagar Van Scheme, Amrit Dharohar Yojana and MISHTI scheme among others. These low-cost, sustainable strategies not only address climate change and other societal challenges but also provide numerous benefits, including disaster risk reduction, carbon sequestration, and improved water resilience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the face of escalating climate challenges, Kerala stands at a critical juncture, necessitating urgent action to bolster its coastal and urban resilience. The state, known for its picturesque landscapes and rich biodiversity, is increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. With the largest coastline in western India, Kerala is home to millions of people who live in close proximity to the sea, making them particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. The Kerala government has already taken steps to promote NbS and climate-resilient infrastructure. Financing these climate-resilient initiatives, however, poses a significant challenge. With the global need for urban climate projects estimated at trillions of dollars, attracting climate finance requires clear strategies and engagement with the specific vulnerabilities of each region. Kerala must enhance transparency, accountability, and access to climate finance through simplified mechanisms and leveraging blended financing options.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s path to resilience involves tapping into both domestic and international capital, prioritising nature-based solutions, and ensuring community involvement at all levels. By focusing on climate-proofing infrastructure and enhancing access to finance and technology, India can build a sustainable and resilient future for its urban centres, especially those in coastal states, safeguarding the well-being of its people and the economy against the looming threats of climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat Feb 24 15:13:43 IST 2024 why-100-per-cent-electrification-by-2030-is-critical <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India’s EV (electric vehicle) sector is witnessing substantial growth, positioning the nation as a major global market for electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Ten years ago, electric vehicles were perceived as an overly ambitious idea with slim prospects compared with conventional vehicles. However, in 2023, and now into 2024, they have emerged as one of the most rapidly expanding segments in India’s automotive industry. Supported by a range of government initiatives and private-sector-led transformative and sustainable business models, EV adoption has witnessed notable surges and the demand for economical and eco-friendly transport is expected to skyrocket in coming years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Transformation of India’s automotive sectors is key; it contributes seven per cent to its GDP, 35 per cent to manufacturing GDP and over eight per cent (or $35 billion) to total exports. India has the third-largest global auto market, is the largest producer of three-wheelers, the second-largest manufacturer of two-wheelers and buses and the fourth largest of passenger cars. India is also making remarkable strides in the export of EVs; the EV export market grew 246 per cent in the first seven months of 2023. These remarkable statistics form the bedrock of India’s electric mobility revolution and the time has come to capitalise on this sunrise sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India must replicate the success of its ICE (internal combustion engine) industry in the electric vehicle ecosystem. India’s strategy with EVs in the 21st century should draw parallels with Japan’s strategy with ICE vehicles in the 20th century. By developing its EV market, India should mirror Japan’s historical success in breaking into global markets with strong domestic demand and significant export potential. Specific component-level manufacturing, battery production, and a holistic approach to the value chain, including charging infrastructure and recycling, are critical elements for achieving this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Electrification of two and three-wheelers has been a remarkable achievement, but achieving 100 per cent electrification by 2030 is critical to becoming the world’s automobile champion. A similar trajectory for electric buses is pivotal in further greening and expanding India’s public transport networks, as India will see more than 500 million citizens getting into the process of urbanisation in the next few decades. Addressing road transport emissions is key; it accounts for 11 per cent of India’s energy-related CO2 emissions and this share is expected to significantly increase as India develops and urbanises. To meet its 2030 target for EVs, India needs to adopt millions of EVs, demanding battery capacities in hundreds of Gwh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and battery manufacturers should swiftly expand production and establish new battery manufacturing centres, recognising that batteries constitute around 40 per cent of EV costs. Conventional OEMs should align with swiftly changing customer and market preferences through technological advancements to maintain competitiveness. Embracing a collaborative ecosystem is essential for a thriving market amidst this current tide of the EV revolution, and Indian companies have carried themselves positively in these waves of change. Collaborative innovation between electricity producers, energy storage providers, recyclers of critical components and EV manufacturers is extremely pivotal to building a sustainable, reliable and cost-effective EV ecosystem in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s EV sector is observing a significant number of collaborations, partnerships, merger and acquisition transactions, the rise of promising start-ups, and the unveiling of substantial projects by automotive giants. The EV industry is also drawing significant FDI. VinFast, a Vietnamese EV giant, recently unveiled a $2 billion project in Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the right time to enable a transformational revolution in India’s automotive sector and accelerating adoption of EVs sits at the heart of this revolution. This strategic move not only aligns with global trends but also presents a unique opportunity for India to shape the future of mobility for itself and the world. India can position itself as a trailblazer in sustainable transport. This not only addresses environmental concerns but also contributes significantly to economic growth and global competitiveness. As the automotive landscape evolves, the acceleration of EV adoption emerges as the catalyst that propels India into a future where innovation, sustainability, and economic prosperity converge in a harmonious and sustainable automotive ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat Jan 27 15:29:45 IST 2024 cop28-move-beyond-rhetoric <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As the world continues to grapple with unprecedented climate disasters, the recently concluded COP28 in Dubai marked a significant milestone in global efforts to address climate change. The two-week summit saw more than 190 nations agreeing to a text known as the Global Stocktake, which, for the first time, urges countries to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. And the science is sobering—urging us to act now, act big, and act fast. The urgency reflected in this call is a direct reflection of the compelling scientific consensus on the precarious state of our planet’s climate. Striving for net zero emissions by 2050 means aiming to balance the amount of greenhouse gases we release with what we remove—aligning with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This target is crucial because it helps prevent severe and irreversible damage to the environment and our communities, as agreed upon in the Paris Agreement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the world is significantly off-course from this target. As nations continue to grapple with the complexities of transitioning away from fossil fuels, the truth remains that our carbon emissions are depleting the Remaining Carbon Budget (RCB) of 250 gigatonnes of annual CO2 emissions at an alarming rate. This budget, likened to a finite allowance of greenhouse gas emissions, is on track to be exhausted by 2029 at the current annual rate of 40 GtCO2, underscoring the urgency for immediate and substantial actions. The global community is at a crucial juncture where the gap between our aspirations for a sustainable future and the reality of our current trajectory demands a radical and collective rethinking of our approach to climate action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The G20’s commitment to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 is a commendable step, yet the emphasis on substantially scaling up climate finance from billions to trillions is crucial for enabling developing nations to transition away from fossil fuels. This financial commitment recognises the immense resources required for these nations to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and achieve the ambitious targets set in the Paris Agreement. In addition, the focus on inclusive economic growth and development, with an emphasis on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development (LiFE), reflects a commitment to addressing both supply and consumption-side challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s insistence on including the climate-vulnerable African Union as a permanent member of the G20 speaks of the importance of global solidarity. Decolonising decarbonisation—i.e., addressing historical inequities in climate action by prioritising justice, inclusivity, and empowering marginalised communities—is the key to unlocking a future that is fair, inclusive, and sustainable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the face of promising developments at COP28, challenges and loopholes persist in the global climate agenda. The transition away from fossil fuels encounters hurdles such as resistance from oil-producing nations, policy inertia in some regions, and the economic constraints faced by developing nations. Further, while international agreements outline targets and aspirations, they often lack effective enforcement mechanisms. For instance, the Paris Agreement relies on voluntary commitments without imposing binding obligations, allowing some nations to set ambitious targets without facing tangible consequences for non-compliance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Corporate influence, ambiguous commitments, inadequate monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and a lack of financial accountability, all point to a pressing need to strengthen international frameworks, establishing clear and enforceable guidelines, and fostering a culture of accountability and transparency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As COP28 concludes, the world stands at a crossroads. The urgency of climate action is clear, and we need to move towards implementation on ground. One per cent of the global companies account for 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The stock markets need to hold them accountable and punish them. The challenge now lies in ensuring that the global community moves beyond rhetoric, addresses loopholes, and takes concrete steps to transition away from fossil fuels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Fri Dec 29 15:00:44 IST 2023 fourth-estate-must-evolve-to-meet-the-demands-of-ai <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the crowded landscape of our digital age, where every piece of information is just a click away, the role of media has never been more crucial. The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in this sphere brings forth both unprecedented opportunities and daunting challenges, shaping not just how we consume news, but also our perception of reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this era of infinite choices, we find ourselves confronted with the dual conundrum of limitless information and increasingly limited attention spans. The compounding effect of this is large, resulting in widespread decision fatigue, a culture of divisive silos and oversimplification, burnout, and the erosion of deep reflection. In such a moment in history, it becomes imperative to recognise that the media plays an indispensable role in the fabric of our democracy. As citizens and consumers of news, we are confronted with a concerning predicament: amidst the information avalanche, how do we filter what we focus on? How much do we consume, and how do we engage with it?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth estate must evolve to meet the demands of the digital age by recognising its commitment to a journalism that is not only free, but also responsible. As powerful authorities behind the making of ‘truth’ for large sections of the public, the media’s engagement with modern information technology, especially the rising potential of AI, presents a dual-edged sword.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the one hand, AI engagement with media has been ground-breaking, introducing innovations like big data journalism. Media organisations have embraced AI, transforming news consumption experiences. From AI-generated anchors like Lisa on OTV to AI Kaur on News18 Punjab Haryana, Hindi and regional news channels are actively incorporating AI with notable enthusiasm. Malayala Manorama’s digital arm Manorama Online has also used smart AI to tailor a comprehensive reading experience to viewers, including new multimedia to provide audio and video content, besides text. This technological integration has the potential to rejuvenate investigative and documentary journalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking ahead, the integration of AI promises immersive experiences through AI-crafted audio and video pieces, as well as virtual and augmented reality. However, as we celebrate these remarkable strengths, it is essential to remain acutely aware of the significant harm that unchecked AI usage might introduce to our democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One significant concern is the potential for AI to exacerbate the echo chamber effect, limiting exposure to diverse viewpoints. As algorithms tailor content to individual preferences, there is a risk of reinforcing existing biases and narrowing the scope of information available to the public. Striking a delicate balance between personalised content and the need for a well-rounded, unbiased information diet becomes paramount in safeguarding the democratic ideals that underpin journalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The allure of curating personalised news with AI assistance risks creating echo chambers. Moreover, the rise of deepfake technology poses a threat to distorting reality itself, raising grave ethical conundrums about accountability when an AI model goes astray. To navigate this complex terrain, specific measures must be adopted. First, media organisations must embed transparency as a core ethos, clearly communicating when news artefacts are AI-generated to ensure citizens are aware of the content’s source. Second, humans must remain in the loop, with AI deployed responsibly and collaboratively with human journalists to guarantee accuracy and integrity. Third, journalism education must incorporate AI into its curriculum, ensuring journalists not only master AI tools but also delve into the ethical and legal nuances accompanying its integration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In navigating the evolving intersections of AI and media, it is evident that a multifaceted approach is essential. Media organisations must not only harness the innovative potential of AI but also commit to ethical considerations, transparency, and collaboration with human journalists. This collaborative effort, coupled with a focus on educating journalists about AI’s nuances, is integral to steering the course towards a media landscape that is both technologically advanced and ethically grounded. The media must strive to create a unified space where all can converge to debate, discuss, dissent, and collectively determine our path ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In embracing the future, let us remember that it is as much human as it is artificial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Author is G20 Sherpa. He is ex-CEO, NITI Aayog.</b></p> Sat Dec 02 13:14:30 IST 2023 government-should-identify-the-top-10-deep-tech-sectors-for-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India, with its vast human capital and burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, has the potential to emerge as a global hub for deep tech innovation. Deep tech, which encompasses advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, robotics, and quantum computing, can drive groundbreaking changes in various sectors, from health care to agriculture. Traditionally, India’s tech landscape was dominated by IT services and business process outsourcing. In the last decade, there has been a tectonic shift. With the rise of the startup culture, driven by incubators, accelerators, and a supportive government ecosystem, India has transitioned from being a service-oriented tech hub to a hotspot for innovation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Five years ago when I was posted as CEO of NITI Aayog, we had already drafted the national strategy for artificial intelligence, recognising that AI and deep tech are the next big disruption the world was going to witness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is already home to more than 3,000 deep tech startups, witnessing a growth rate of over 53 per cent annually in the past 10 years. These startups represent 12 per cent of the Indian startup ecosystem, with a third focusing on enterprise technology and the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A deep tech ecosystem will drive innovation, economic growth, and social progress through deep tech research and development, supporting growth of existing deep tech startups. The deep tech sector has the capability to contribute $450 billion to $500 billion to India’s economy by 2025. However, the sector is complex and has high entry barriers. It requires patient capital, a strong IP regime and a longer time-to-market. With the right strategy, it has the potential to put India on a high-growth trajectory for a sustained time period. With appropriate policy and investments, it can prove to be a game-changer for India. In order to boost innovation in the deep tech space, a number of measures must be taken in a time-bound manner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government should, in consultation with industry associations, identify the top 10 deep tech sectors for India. These should be high-potential, high-growth and high-impact sectors that can bring about a multiplier impact. Potential areas of prioritisation can include AI interface layers, home and industrial automation, advanced semiconductor design, quantum computing, non-invasive cancer treatment, natural language processing, DNA-based medicines, ultra-thin and flexible photovoltaic panels, molecular imaging technologies, new generation agrochemicals, robotic process automation and big data, besides others. Priority areas should ideally be a mix of high-growth (like semiconductor design) and high-social impact (like language processing). These should receive access to policy and monetary support from the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deep tech sectors require convergence of policy support at both central and state levels. For instance, while the ministry of electronics and information technology may be concerned with AI from a regulatory perspective, AI usage will span across all ministries—ministry of health and family welfare in the case of AI for health care, ministry of home affairs for cyber security and so on. A national deep tech task force needs to be created to bring convergence across all ministries. Such a mission shall be responsible for administering tools and should ideally draw resources from across ministries but also from industry associations. It should also work with states to help them evolve their policy measures for deep tech. The best example of this has been India’s electric vehicle ecosystem where central efforts also led to states evolving their own EV policies, ensuring an ecosystem approach.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Centres of excellence must be established. The government needs to ‘signal’ to the private sector its interest in promoting innovation in the deep tech space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India stands at the cusp of a deep tech revolution, poised to redefine and amplify its global tech footprint. As the landscape rapidly transforms, it is imperative to harness the nation’s vast potential in leading innovations that drive economic prosperity, social betterment, and global recognition. A fitting blend of strategic initiatives, robust policy frameworks, and dynamic entrepreneurial energy can usher in a golden era of deep tech innovation in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kant is G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.</b></p> Sat Nov 04 11:23:52 IST 2023 indias-G20-presidency-has-been-transformative <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Global South, a hub of global dynamism, is poised to drive most of this century’s global growth. The International Monetary Fund forecasts affirm this shift, with over two-thirds of worldwide growth expected from the Global South. Home to 80 per cent of the world’s population, this region offers a growing labour force and investment opportunities abundant enough to shape the world’s economic landscape. However, these countries face disproportionate climate vulnerability, worsened by post-Covid recovery challenges, rising debt, and food and energy insecurity. Addressing these issues requires global effort and substantial financing, ensuring the Global South’s rise benefits all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recognising the Global South’s pivotal role, India’s G20 presidency echoes its aspirations, emphasising that development should not force countries to choose between alleviating hunger and protecting the planet. At its core is a human-centric vision balancing economic progress, environmental sustainability, and social well-being, calling for global cooperation and shared responsibility to leave no one behind. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, setting the tone for this presidency, envisioned it to be “inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive”. Today, as we reflect on our journey, we can proudly say that it has lived up to those expectations. From climate diplomacy to economic growth discussions, India’s leadership demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Global South, fostering consensus among major economies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the beginning, India advocated for the African Union (AU) to attain G20 permanent membership, bringing 55 African countries into the fold and making G20 representative of 80 per cent of the world’s population. Additionally, we extended an open invitation to countries such as Mauritius, Egypt, and Nigeria, alongside the African Union chair from Comoros and representatives from AUDA-NEPAD. In January, we hosted the first ‘Voice of the Global South Summit’, with 125 countries and 18 heads of state, discussing common challenges like energy security, justice, sustainable transition, and the food, fuel, and fertiliser crises. This inclusive approach enriches the forum’s diversity. India has remained dedicated to driving tangible economic progress in these regions by leveraging digital solutions and innovation. Our focus on digital public infrastructure (DPI) has been a pivotal part of that vision. So far, we have signed MoUs with eight countries to collaborate on integrating and innovating DPI components in their governance, allowing us to share our best practices for a digital revolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it comes to climate action, India has stood firm in its commitment to climate justice and equity, calling for substantial support from the Global North. The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (NDLD) seeks an ambitious, transparent, and trackable New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) of climate finance, starting at $100 billion, by 2024. We have also urged developed countries to double their collective allocation of adaptation finance compared with 2019 levels by 2025. This comes on the back of a seismic shift in perspective. For the first time in history, major developed economies have recognised the monumental scale of resources needed—precisely $5.9 trillion by 2030—for developed nations to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Moreover, an additional annual $4 trillion is needed to drive the adoption of clean energy technologies. This acknowledgment puts the colossal needs of the Global South in the spotlight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recognising this need for substantial financing, India has pushed for better, bigger and more effective Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). Measures like currency exchange guarantees and disaster clauses in debt repayment are helping us rebuild an international development finance system capable of addressing the challenges facing developing countries. Our presidency has been transformative, not only in the climate arena but also in the development sphere. The NDLD presents an action plan for accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and emphasises the importance of data for development. It also highlights food security and nutrition, especially through the promotion of millets and ancient grains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a world where faith in multilateralism is fading, the spirit of <i>Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam</i>—one earth, one family, one future—has succeeded in ushering in a renaissance for global cooperation. We have laid the foundation for a new era of global cooperation, one that is characterised by inclusivity, ambition, and a commitment to building a sustainable and equitable future for all. It is through the visionary leadership and global standing of Prime Minister Modi that forging consensus on these critical issues was possible. It has been a privilege to serve as his G20 Sherpa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kant is G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.</b></p> Sat Oct 07 11:14:35 IST 2023 shaping-liveable-cities <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India’s urban landscape has undergone significant transformation since gaining independence. Urbanisation has emerged as a crucial driver of economic growth, necessitating a reimagining and reshaping of Indian cities to ensure their sustainability and liveability. With the projected population reaching 1.5 billion by 2036, and an estimated 50 per cent of Indians residing in cities by 2050, addressing the complexities and challenges of urbanisation is paramount. Diving into the realm of urban planning, management and finance, there arises a pressing demand for all-encompassing reforms that can give rise to cities capable of nurturing economic growth, safeguarding the environment and elevating the overall well-being of their residents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Urbanisation plays a pivotal role in India’s economic growth, with cities contributing over 70 per cent of the country’s GDP, despite occupying a mere three per cent of its land. However, the focus on urban functionality and liveability has been insufficient until recent years. Initiatives such as the provision of basic amenities like water supply and sanitation, implementation of technology-driven solutions and ensuring housing for all have been introduced. However, the impact of these interventions depends on effective grassroots planning for the coming decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rapid urbanisation in India has brought forth a myriad of complexities and challenges, starting with the ambiguous distinction between urban and rural areas. Nearly half of the 7,933 designated urban towns in India were classified as census towns in 2021 and continue to be governed as rural entities. This problem persists, and has led to unplanned urbanisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, approximately 52 per cent of statutory towns lack proper master plans, with most developmental focus directed towards metropolitan cities and class I towns. Smaller and medium-sized towns, collectively constituting 26 per cent of the population and contributing over 44.2 per cent to the urban area, require equal attention from the states. Interestingly, class V and VI towns experienced significant population growth during 2001-2011, serving as intermediaries in the rural-urban continuum. Due to capacity deficits, these towns often lack sufficient attention, resulting in potential higher expenditure for infrastructure provision and corrective measures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is imperative to streamline the categorisation of urban areas and align their governance accordingly. Comprehensive master plans should be prepared for all towns, including census towns, taking into account their unique needs and growth potential. This would ensure balanced and sustainable urban development throughout the country. In my years of service, I have been fortunate to play a key role in driving urban development initiatives in India, and my experiences have reaffirmed the belief that strategic and planned urbanisation is crucial for the country’s sustainable growth. Throughout my career, I have witnessed the transformative power of well-designed urban policies and initiatives. As the CEO of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), I spearheaded the ambitious project that aims to create globally competitive industrial hubs and smart cities along the Delhi-Mumbai corridor. The Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC), India’s first greenfield industrial smart city as part of the DMIC, exemplifies the immense potential of planned urbanisation.My time as CEO of NITI Aayog further reinforced my faith in citizen-centric urban development. During this period, we launched transformative initiatives that aimed to empower cities to become more liveable, sustainable, and technologically advanced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s G20 presidency is driving a transformative agenda for sustainable and inclusive urban infrastructure development through focused multilateral deliberations. Recognising the critical role of cities in global economic growth and sustainable development, India’s presidency has championed initiatives that prioritise the advancement of resilient and future-ready cities of tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By embracing sustainable urban planning, strengthening governance structures, and addressing the complexities associated with urban growth, cities in India and other developing countries can become vibrant, inclusive, and environmentally conscious hubs that enhance the quality of life for their residents. The journey towards creating sustainable and liveable cities requires collective efforts from all stakeholders—the government, urban planners, citizens and private sector entities. Through collaboration, innovative solutions and a long-term vision, India can shape its urban landscape to be a shining example of sustainable development in the 21st century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kant is G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.</b></p> Sat Sep 09 11:22:39 IST 2023