The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary for UPSC/IAS
REFORMING INDIA’S DIGITAL POLICY
QUESTION : Critically examine India’s ‘Digital India’ programme, and concerns raised against it.
- Importance of digital medium
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Pandemic has been ravaging the economies across the globe but digital services have escaped the onslaught and are thriving.
- For India, this could be an opportunity.
DIGITAL INDIA PROGRAMME :
- Digital India is a programme launched in 2015 to transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy.
- It would also bring in public accountability through mandated delivery of government’s services electronically.
VISION AREAS :
- Digital infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
- Governance and services on demand
- Digital empowerment of citizens
- To prepare India for a knowledge future.
- On being transformative that is to realize IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow).
- Making technology central to enabling change.
- On being an Umbrella Programme – covering many departments.
NINE PILLARS :
- Broadband Highways
- Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity
- Public Internet Access Programme
- e-Governance: Reforming
- Government through Technology
- e-Kranti – Electronic Delivery of Services
- Information for All
- Electronics Manufacturing
- IT for Jobs
DO YOU KNOW ?
- The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in its latest World Investment Report projected that FDI to developing Asian economies could drop by as much as 45%.
- India will be host of the G20 nations in 2022, and in post-COVID-19 world, international cooperation and good governance in the digital sphere will be in top-priority agenda.
Why Digital Services has become crucial today?
- Multi-sectoral utility: Digital services enable access to and delivery of a wide array of products across multiple sectors, from healthcare to retail distribution to financial services.
- Critical for growth: Digital Services have become critical to every 21st century economy given that the world is at the doorstep of fourth Industrial revolution
- Resisting the negative trends: Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, investments in digital services continue to flow at record levels globally, outpacing investment in nearly every other sector.
- Helpful during Emergencies: Digital services are filling gaps when national or global emergencies interrupt more traditional modes of commerce. Ex: Telemedicine during COVID-19 lockdown
- Opportunity for India: India is an ideal destination for increased FDI flow because of its huge and increasingly digitised population along with good start-up ecosystem
What are the challenges in India that prevent full exploitation of its potential in digital services?
- Along with need for bridging digital divide & improving digital infrastructure, below are some of the areas which need attention from government
- Approaches in the above regulatory reform seem to emphasise on protecting the domestic market for domestic companies and prioritising government access to data
- It may be difficult to reconcile these approaches with India’s strong interest in promoting data privacy, protecting its democratic institutions, and encouraging FDI.
HOW IT MATTERS FOR INDIA ?
- India offers undeniable potential for innovative homegrown start-ups
- India has a huge and increasingly digitised population.
- Indian government policies will be key determinants in how quickly and at what level the economy attracts new investment.
- Fostering innovation, and expanding its exporting prowess will also matter.
ISSUES WITH THESE MATTERS :
- These regulatory reforms seem to emphasise a focus on protecting the domestic market for domestic companies.
- It also prioritises government access to data.
- It may be difficult to reconcile these approaches with India’s strong interest in i) promoting data privacy ii) protecting its democratic institutions iii) encouraging FDI and India’s position as a global leader in information technology.
INDIA-USA TRADE RELATIONSHIP ISSUE :
- The India-U.S. trade relationship is uncertain.
- The bilateral relationship is an important factor for greater trade and investment in digital services.
- India and the U.S. are yet to conclude negotiation on a bilateral trade agreement that could address some digital services issues.
- The U.S. just initiated a “Section 301” review.
- The review seeks whether digital services taxes in 10 countries constitute “unfair” trade measures, including India’s equalisation levy
PERFORMANCES SO FAR :
- Digital India as digital saviour : In the current pandemic scenario, people are able to work from home, people are able make digital payment, students are able to learn through TV, Mobile and Laptop, patients are able to take tele-consultation, and farmers in remote corner of India is able to get PM-KISAN benefits directly in their bank accounts.
- Medical role: Aarogya Setu for its ground-breaking development time of 3 weeks and localisation in 12 Indian languages with 13 crore downloads, with additional 3 crores for Kai OS, has helped identify over 350 COVID-19 hotspots.
- Social media: Sensitization through MyGov and Social Media Platforms have played a crucial role in tackling the pandemic through user friendly graphics etc.
- The number of e-Services has increased from 2,463 in 2014 to 3,858 till May 2020 and daily average electronic transactions have increased from 66 lakh in 2014 to 16.3 crore in 2020
- Aadhaar has been issued to 125.7 crore residents and 4,216 crore authentications have been facilitated.
- Direct Benefit Transfer to the tune of Rs 11.1 lakh crore has been disbursed for 426 schemes from 56 Ministries and has led to the saving of Rs 1.7 lakh crore due.
- Jan Dhan Accounts have reached 38.73 crore beneficiaries, with a total of Rs 1.33 lakh crore in beneficiaries bank accounts.
- Mobile and internet connections are being used by 117 crore and 68.8 crore users, respectively.
- DigiLocker, launched on July 1, 2015, has 378 crore issued documents.
- Unified Mobile App for New-Age Governance (UMANG) has 860+ services operational and more than 3 Crore downloads have taken place, he further added.
- MyGov has been launched to facilitate participatory governance in the country, with a total of 1.17 Crore registered participants, while facilitating the Mann Ki Baat of the Prime Minister.
- Post-COVID-19 international cooperation and approaches to good governance in the digital sphere will be top-priority initiatives. The steps India takes now could well establish itself as a true global leader.
- India needs to attract FDI and address the obstacles preventing the growth of digital services, so as to achieve the goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy.
Topic- POLICE REFORM AND THE CRUCIAL JUDICIAL ACTOR
QUESTION: Discuss the major issues in Indian policing system, also the reforms required for efficient policing in India.
- Police Reforms and Judicial Role
WHY IN NEWS?
- The death of a father and son due to alleged custodial torture in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu.
- The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has taken notice of this violence on its own and is “closely” monitoring the situation.
- According certain report, across India there are as many as five custodial deaths a day.
WHY DO WE NEED POLICE REFORMS?
- The security of the society and the welfare of the people is dependent on the efficiency of the police.
- To eliminate the undue political interference which led to the loss of autonomy of police. The police of today are victims of politicization as well as criminalization.
- To instill the confidence of the people in the institution of police by making police more people friendly.
- To prevent the highhandedness of police in the form of extra-judicial killings. Recently NHRC noted that 206 cases of encounters occurred in the last 12 months.
- To continue security and growth with our high economic growth, the maintenance of law and order plays a vital role.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS :
- Challenges like police training and quantity of force along with the quality, the long working hours as well as the isolation of police force from the public in the form of separate living quarters should be looked into.
- Police should be made an integral part the society they live in.
- Police reforms should no longer be delayed and the civil society should play its role for faster action by the government.
SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAKASH SINGH CASE :
- The Supreme Court went even further in the case, Prakash Singh v. Union of India .
- In this case, it pushed through new legislation for governing police forces to be passed by States across India.
- A key component of the new legislation was a robust setup for accountability that contemplated a grievance redress mechanism.
- However, several States are yet to legislate on the matter and remain in contempt of the Supreme Court’s judgment.
- Custodial deaths: Despite several existing guidelines and laws, there are reports suggesting that across India there are as many as five custodial deaths a day.
- Lack of implementation: Constitutional courts have tried to change the reality of police brutality for well over two decades. The judiciary’s approach of simply passing directions and guidelines has not been very effective.
- Despite criminal laws being struck down as unconstitutional, they continue to be enforced in various parts of the country by local police.
- Systemic failure: The overworked magistrate, struggling with an ever-increasing number of cases, is very often in a rush to get done with the “remand case”, rather than treat an arrested person with the care and consideration that he/she deserves and is entitled to.
- Lack of police reforms: The issue of police reform ranks very low in the scheme of things for governments. There is continued institutional apathy towards the issue of police reform. There was inordinate delay in implementing guidelines issued through the Prakash Singh case and still, several States remain in contempt of the Supreme Court’s judgment.
Why judicial interventions have failed to curb the violence?
- For it is the ordinary magistrate, and not the constitutional court, who is the judicial actor wielding real power to realise substantial change in police practices.
- Gap between the highest court and the lowly police officer in India has been demonstrated through studies which show how despite criminal laws being struck down as unconstitutional, they continue to be enforced in various parts of the country by local police.
IMPACT OF CUSTODIAL DEATHS :
- Against Human rights
- Against rule of law
- Leads to tyranny of State authorities
- Leads to erosion of Democratic culture
- Disproportionately impacts the poor & vulnerable who don’t have access to tools of justice
- Increases burden on Judiciary for providing guidelines on police procedures.
SC judgements on Police reforms :
- Supreme Court of India is often considered as the only institution working towards police reforms in the Indian state.
- Through cases such as Joginder Kumar v. State of UP (1994) and D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) guidelines were passed to try and secure two rights in the context of any state action — a right to life and a right to know.
- Through the guidelines, the Court sought to Curb the power of arrest and Ensure that an accused person is made aware of all critical information regarding his arrest and also convey this to friends and family immediately in the event of being taken in custody.
- It took a decade, and in the form of amendments, as the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008 to give statutory backing to these judicial guidelines; it remains part of the law today.
Why Custodial deaths still persist or Why police reforms are lagging behind?
- Long time to implement SC guidelines: It took reportedly 11 years for the State of Tamil Nadu to actually implement Prakash Singh and that several States remain in contempt of the Supreme Court’s judgment
- Lack of Political will: Continued institutional apathy from bureaucracy & political masters towards the issue of police reform has prevented reform in policing
- Inadequate Powers of Judiciary: The judiciary’s approach of simply passing directions and guidelines, has proven to be a failure. For judgements to transform into reality there is a need for money and a power of immediate implementation.
- The gap between the highest court and the lowly police officer in India: Despite criminal laws being struck down as unconstitutional, they continue to be enforced in various parts of the country by local police
- Culture of impunity: Madras High Court reportedly saw the Thoothukudi incident as the result of a “few bad apples” ruining a system’s reputation which leads to continuance of culture of impunity
- Overworked magistrate: Struggling with an ever-exploding docket and in a rush to get done with the “remand case”, magistrate don’t treat an arrested person with the care and the consideration which leads to persistence of police brutality.
WAY AHEAD :
- It is time to consider sanctions at a larger scale and impose monetary penalties at the district level, to drive home the message that the erring actions of one officer must be seen as a failure of the force itself.
- Constitutional courts could strike an inspired move by reorienting their guidelines to try and change the practices of magistrates, over whom they exercise powers of superintendence, as opposed to other non-judicial actors.
- Rather than limiting itself to passing more guidelines, constitutional courts must seriously contend with the concrete cases that come their way and take a hard stand.
- Passing compensation claims or ensuring timely prosecutions in such cases could help break the sense of impunity.
STRENGTHENING THE MAGISTRATE:
- The ordinary magistrate is the judicial actor wielding real power to realise a substantial change in police practices.
- It is the local magistrate before whom all arrested and detained persons must be produced within 24 hours, and thus becomes the point of first contact for a citizen with the constitutional rule of law.