The Hindu Editorials Notes
Mains Sure Shot
Question – Eastern Ghats is a biota under serious threat. Comment.
Context – The Eastern Ghats, once covered by luxuriant forests, are becoming barren because of the greed and endless quest of mankind in the name of development.
The importance of the Eastern Ghats:
- The Eastern Ghats are separated by two powerful rivers – the Godavari and the Krishna.
- If the Western Ghats are the crown jewels of India’s natural heritage, the Eastern Ghats spread across some 75,000 sq. km. from Odisha to southern Tamil Nadu, play an important dual role: fostering biodiversity and storing energy in trees.
- In these mountains exist a reservoir of about 3,000 flowering plant species, nearly 100 of them endemic, occurring in the dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi-evergreen landscapes.
- Many animals, including tigers and elephants, and some 400 bird species are found in these discontinuous forests that receive an annual average rainfall of 1,200 mm to 1,500 mm.
- Crucially, many parts, primarily in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, provide forest produce and ecosystem services to millions.
- Given the key functions that the lands perform, in modulating climate, fostering biodiversity and providing sustenance, new research findings arguing that the Ghats face a serious threat from climate change, and temperature variations are a cause for worry.
- It is noteworthy that a disruption of the annual average temperature and diminished rainfall would rob the productivity of these forests, in terms of their ability to store carbon, and provide subsistence material.
- Existing data point to the impoverishment of areas experiencing rainfall reduction in the driest quarter of the year and a rise in seasonal temperature, through reduced plant species diversityand a dominant role for herbs over trees.
- The tribals living in the hills have not received proper price for the food grain they cultivate. They have thus switched over to monocropping tapioca, leading to deterioration of land.
- Most reserve forest areas in these hills are controlled by the forest department, protected by the Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882 and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Tami Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act, 1955 is in force in certain parts of these hills, but it is not implemented effectively in the absence of popular support. As a result, the protection of the tress in private holdings has become a challenge.
- By making use of the loopholes in the Act and other government rules, trees are felled and removed clandestinely. These activities have made the hills of Eastern Ghats barren, its streams have run dry and the biodiversity is disappearing gradually.
- Large-scale plantations of coffee, tea and orchards have been raised in these hills. Silver oak trees grown in these plantations as shade trees are also removed gradually, weakening the fragile ecosystem. While such plantations are considered to be the cause for degradation in places like Yercaud hills, monocropping in Kolli Hills and Pachamalai has devastated entire hills, depleting native vegetation.
- The aromatic and valuable sandal trees, once growing abundantly in Chitheri, Javadhis, Yercaud, Kolli hills, Pacha malai, Bodhamalai, etc, have been indiscriminately felled and illegally removed. The precious species has almost vanished. Only younger regeneration is noticed in a few pockets in some hill ranges.
- Even rare medicinal plants like Sirukurinjan (Gymnema sylvestre), Milagu (Piper nigrum), Kattu kodi (Smilax zeylanica), Vasambu (Acorus calamus), Kanthal (Gloriosa superb), etc, face extinction because of uncontrolled removal.
- Non-native species such as poochedi (Lantana camara), vengaya thamarai (Icornia crassipes) and veli karuvai (Prosopis juliflora) have become invasive, destroying native species and leading to ecological imbalance.
- The removal of enormous quantities of bauxite and magnesite ore from Kolli Hills and Servarayan Hills, respectively, led to indiscriminate destruction of forests. Consequently, water resources in these regions have dried up.
- The forest department permits the removal of Kadukkaai, Nellikai, Mahali Kizhangu, Kalakkai, Eenjamaaru, Kattu Karuveppilai, Kattu mango, etc, as minor forest produce. As a result, the availability of food for wild animals is scarce.
- Despite the Wildlife Protection Act, hunting takes place in some pockets. Tribal villages, private lands and private estates have fragmented protected forests. The forests are getting degraded because of the illicit collection of fire wood, illicit grazing and illicit felling of trees.
- Annual forest fires have become a serious cause for the loss of biodiversity. The pollution caused by the industries established near forest areas also poses a serious threat.
- Indiscriminate destruction of forests has increased human-animal conflict in recent years. Water scarcity and a threat to habitats drive animals to cultivated lands and human habitations in search of food and water.
- The pristine environment of Yercaud, Yelagiri, Javadi, Kolli Hills, Kalrayans, Sirumalai, Thiruvannamalai, Hogenakkal, Azhagarmalai, etc, are deteriorating due to un-regulated tourism. The concept of eco-tourism introduced by the Forest Department in recent years, involving local forest stake-holders may be a boon to not only residents but also the biota of the entire region.
- Untreated sewage and plastic waste have degraded the environment. Only if the people realise the importance of a clean environment and cooperate with local administration, the natural resources can be protected.
Paris Agreement on Climate Change:
- India is committed, under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes through enhanced forest and tree cover. Yet, forest protection policies have often failed dismally.
- By some estimates, the Ghats have shrunk by 16%over the past century, and just one region, Papikonda National Park, lost about 650 sq. km. in two decades from 1991.
Steps to deal with it:
- Relieving the pressure on forests can be done through policies that reduce extraction of scarce resources and incentivise settled agriculture.
- An effective strategy for eco-development, involving locals can save the flora, fauna and natural resources of the region.
- Schemes for restoration of forest peripheries through indigenous plant and tree species, matching national commitments, could qualify for international climate finance, and must be pursued.
- Benefits – At a broader level, the response to the warnings issued by researchers from IIT Kharagpur, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the University of Hyderabad in a recent publication on changes to temperature and rainfall calls for decisive steps to mitigate carbon emissions. Improving tree cover nationally is certain to confer multiple benefits, including modulation of the monsoon, improved air quality and wider spaces for biodiversity to persist.
Question – Analyse the importance of water quality in backdrop of the water quality report released by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Context – Outcome of the controversy surrounding the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report of November 2019 on drinking water status is that the issue of water quality has got politically prioritised.
The urgency of ensuring good water quality:
- Water should be treated as an urgent concern for public health and the ecosystem of the country.
- The threats to human health due to poor water quality, except when they appear as an epidemic, are largely imperceptible. This generally subjects the population to subtle health problems without its knowledge or consent.
- India is on the throes of a severe water crisis, not only because of a gradual reduction in per capita availability of water due to a rising population, but also because of rising and unchecked pollution in the country’s rivers and water bodies, a fact which is mostly overlooked in the deliberations on water resources management.
- As per published estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country has a treatment capacity of only about 30% of sewage generated in the major cities, not to talk of other urban and rural areas where the sewage finds its way to local water bodies or rivers without treatment.
- A 2018 Report of the NITI Aayoghas observed that currently 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.
- In Delhi, according to the Census 2011 data, there are about 33.41 lakh households of which 27.16 lakh households, i.e, 81.30%, are provided water through a piped supply system. However, only 75.20% of the households are supplied treated water. The treatment method is conventional — involving sedimentation, filtration and disinfection through chlorine and chloramine — whose effect is contingent upon the overall quality of water. For the water coming from the Yamuna released from Haryana, the DJB has to often stop the supply for a few days if the concentration of methane goes up beyond a certain level. This is because the tri-chloromethane that may be produced during the disinfection process is highly carcinogenic. The effect may surface on human health not immediately, but over a period of time.
What is the issue?
- The controversy started with the release of the BIS report for 21 major Indian cities, in keeping with the objectives of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’, which aims to provide safe piped water to all households by 2024.
- The study is scheduled to cover all districts in the country within a year. Supply of potable water obviously requires first compilation of information on the existing status. The fact that drinking water in Delhi was ranked the most unsafe, as the samples failed in 19 out of 28 parameters, was challenged by the Government of Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
- It’s high time we realise that all of us are responsible and it is not one person’s job to clear the mess.
- Also it is not only the untreated sewage water and industrial effluents, but also the solid wastes and construction material discharged by individuals, companies and municipal bodies that have caused the suffocation of the rivers.
- These need to be dealt with both individually as well as holistically.
Question – Analyse the State of India’s Birds Report, 2020.
Context – The publication of the report.
- The State of India’s Birds Report 2020 represents the first collective attempt in India to understand and assess how the avifauna are doing.
- The report states that there are several species, including globally threatened ones, whose populations are doing reasonably, more bird species are showing declines in population than are showing population stability or increases.
- During the last two decades, over half the species assessed have declined. This trend is even more pronounced in recent times, with nearly 80% of the species assessed showing declines over the last five years. And these declines are particularly acute for certain groups of birds, including birds of prey, migrant shorebirds, birds of forests and grasslands, and endemic birds of the Western Ghats.
- The report further suggests that more bird species deserve immediate conservation attention than previously thought.
- To the list of 67 globally threatened Indian bird species previously identified by the IUCN (as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable), the report adds 34 more species. The number of species of high conservation concern in India is now 101.
The positive part of the report:
- The report has two distinctive features that define a new approach: first, that the information it builds on comes from citizens like us all, and second, that the report’s data and analysis are in the public domain, inviting critique and further refinement.
- The report describes key patterns of change in the populations of certain bird species, it also answers why these changes have taken place, or developing conservation action that address these changes, are logical follow-up actions that are inconceivable without focused and sustained collective efforts.
- Besides collaboration, another key value that the report seeks to acknowledge is the importance of making, not just its outputs, but also the entire process open. The data that has gone into this report are not only collected by thousands of citizens, but are open for any researcher to use.
- The analyses (and the code) that form the basis of this report are in the public domain. Finally, the report and its results too are entirely open.
- A better public and scientific understanding of our biodiversity can grow only from wider and open access not only to data, but also from opening the entire process of scientific inquiry to wider peer and public scrutiny and challenge. And we are hoping that, as more and more people come in and examine the data, the analyses and the results, and ask questions, it only adds greater strength to our understanding of our precious birds.
- Assessing the status of our birds poses a variety of challenges. For a start, there are over 1,300 species of birds in India. While some are loud, colourful or diurnal, and hence relatively easier to detect, others are quiet, shy, or nocturnal.
- Further, finding them also means having to look in a wide variety of habitats: in forests, wetlands, farmlands, cities, mountains and even open oceans.
- And to complicate matters further, hundreds of species migrate into and out of our country at different times of the year.
- Addressing these challenges and achieving a coverage both of species and of habitats has been possible only because of an alignment in the formidable energies and efforts of a large and inspired community of birdwatchers across the country.
- Only through the efforts of over 15,500 birdwatchers, it became possible to assemble a dataset of over 10 million records, with data points going as far back as the 1970s.
- Upon this foundation, a large multi-institutional consortium of researchers drawn from both non-governmental and government institutions collaborated to analyse and put together the report.
- Just as we have collectively collected, curated, compiled and analysed bird data, we must remain engaged with the results, and continue to further not only an understanding of our avifauna but also actions to conserve them.
- Of all the forms in which humans encounter nature, birds perhaps touch our lives most closely. Birds are nearly everywhere. They are colourful, they sing and they display. They perform vital functions like predation and seed dispersal. They pervade nearly every aspect of our cultural lives. Given our shared bonds in a timeless journey, to paraphrase ornithologist Nigel Collar, we need to continue building and strengthening models by which citizens, scientists, conservationists and managers collaborate not only to understand our birds, but also to enable them to fare better on our fast-changing planet.
Question – Comment on road accidents in India and suggest the way ahead.
Context – Thursday’s crash.
Why in news?
- Thursday’s crash that killed 19 bus passengers on a national highway at Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.
An overview of road accidents in India:
- Every day, thousands board government-run and private buses for inter-city travel, placing their lives in the hands of transport operators and the authorities whose duty it is to guarantee road safety. Unfortunately, Central and State officials feel little compulsion to do their duty when it comes to road safety.
- A preliminary inquiry points to human error involving the container lorry driver who is suspected to have fallen asleep at the wheel. The probe is also looking at whether the container was overloaded, and lacked an assistant. It is reasonable to assume that a helper would alert a driver to danger.
- But whatever the proximate factors are, the Tiruppur crash highlights the gap that India must bridge before it can hope to bring down road fatalities by at least half during the current decade.
- In fact, India is committed to achieving such a reduction under the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and the promise was reiterated by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently, at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, at Stockholm.
The most common reasons for road accidents in India:
- Crossing the speed limit
- Drunk driving
- Not following rules and regulations on road
- Driving on the opposite side on one-way
- The condition of roads
- Multitasking while driving
- The state of the vehicle
- Accident due to animals and,
- State governments responsible for enforcement remain apathetic and their derelict bureaucracies ignore safety laws in cities and highways.
- Trauma for families
- The economy is deprived of productivity and output.
- For every death attributable to trauma, three patients survive but are left permanently disabled. From mild to severe injuries, a road traffic crash can have a significant social and economic impact on the individual, family and the society. The impact of these injuries remains poorly measured in India.
The latest World Bank assessment:
- The latest World Bank assessment of India’s loss from road accidents, which was released at the Stockholm meet, points out that road users between 18-45 years constitute 69% of fatalities. Also, 54% of deaths and serious injuries occur mainly among vulnerable groups: pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders. In the Bank’s estimate, it will take an additional $109-billion of investment in 10 years to achieve a 50% reduction in road deaths.
Some steps taken:
- Gadkari has focused on removing dangerous ‘black spots’ on highways, making consultants and contractors liable for road conditions, and imposing stiffer penalties for traffic offences.
- The amended MV Act makes all this possible, but many State governments have baulked at enforcing it.
- It is imperative that the Centre forms an empowered Road Safety Boardat the national level to advise States on all related concerns as envisaged under the MV Act, and makes State enforcement agencies accountable for safety.
- Also an intensive study needs to done on the causes and impact of road accidents on the society and economy.
Question – How is stakeholder capitalism with its energy needs hampering the environment?
Context – The deteriorating state of our planet.
What is stakeholder capitalism?
- Stakeholder capitalism is a system in which corporations are oriented to serve the interests of all their stakeholders. Among the key stakeholders are customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and local communities.
How is it hampering the environment?
- One of the chief characteristics of economic development is the intensification of energy use.
- The bulk of the energy continues to be generated from non-renewable sources. The developed world’s, and China’s, central objective is to capture energy-generating resources from across continents and put them to use to push GDP growth to greater heights. In the process, sustainability is becoming a casualty.
The issue of wastage of energy and environment –
How do we define energy?
- In physics, energy is defined as ‘work done’ or, in other words, the force that moves all objects. It is important to understand the philosophical implications of one of the great laws of physics — the Laws of Thermodynamics.
- The first law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it merely changes form and is always conserved. The second law states that when ‘work is done’, only a part of the energy is consumed, the balance is lost.
- The lost part is called ‘entropy’ and it is proven that entropy always maximises. This whole phenomenon also leaves behind inert material as waste. The higher the use of energy, the larger the amount of waste generated. Entropy, like time, is always unidirectional, it only goes forward.
The issue of excessive consumption and environment –
- Egregious consumption of energy by the developed world has been accompanied by the disposal of residual products (‘e-waste’) on the shores of many African and Asian countries. As a result, the poor in the developing world are, unwittingly, drawn and exposed to toxic, hazardous materials like lead, cadmium and arsenic. Hence, the ‘globalisation’ phenomenon has turned out to be nothing other than exploitation of the developing world, with most countries being treated as a source of cheap labour and critical raw material.
- Most, if not all, transactions are based on the arbitrage between price and value difference, from which only the ‘middleman’ gains, not the primary producer. Countries in the developed world, and China, are ferociously using up finite raw materials without care or concern for the welfare of present and future generations.
New technology as an answer?
- Certainly, there has been significant technological progress which has brought about revolution in the fields of healthcare and communications, but there is also a dark side to this. High expenses and Intellectual Property Rights load the system further in favour of the rich. To demonstrate how deep the rot is, one can look at the pernicious plan to set up a carbon credit system. Under this, countries with high energy consumption trends can simply offset their consumption patterns by purchasing carbon credits, the unutilised carbon footprint, from poor developing countries.
An alternate model:
- ‘Nordic Economic Model’, which pertains to the remarkable achievements of the Scandinavian countries comprising Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and allied territories. The total population of the Nordic countries is estimated at almost 27 million people.
- These nations are among the richest in the world when measured in terms of GDP per capita. They also have large public sector enterprises; extensive and generous universal welfare systems; high levels of taxation; and considerable state involvement in promoting and upholding welfare states. UN reports also indicate that the Nordic countries are the happiest countries in the world. The U.S., in contrast, is in 19th place.
- The model includes — effective welfare safety nets for all; corruption-free governance; a fundamental right to tuition-free education, including higher education; and a fundamental right to good medical care. This also has to involve shutting of tax havens.
- Also in Nordic countries, personal and corporate income tax rates are very high, especially on the very rich. If a just, new world order is to arise, taxes everywhere should go up.
- Holding the companies responsible – In traditional business accounting, ‘bottom line’ refers to the financial year’s profit or loss earned or incurred by the company on pure financial parameters.
- A new format has emerged under which a company’s performance is measured through four ‘Ps’. The first is ‘P’ for ‘profit’. The second ‘P’ is for people — how the company’s actions impact not only employees, but society as a whole. The third ‘P’ is for planet — are the company’s actions and plans sensitive to the environment? The four ‘P’ is for purpose, which means the companies and individuals must develop a larger purpose than ‘business as usual’.
- They must ask: what is the larger purpose of the company, apart from generating profits? Using big data and text analytics, a company’s performance can be measured in terms of all the four ‘P’s and a corporate entity can be thus held accountable. Market capitalisation need not be the only way to measure the value of a company.
- Much work is yet to be done to uplift the global economic order, but the important point is that new tools are now emerging. What is required is a global consensus and the will to make the planet more sustainable, so that all individuals can live with justice and equality, ensuring that not a single child is hungry or seriously unwell because of poverty or lack of affordable medical help.
Question – Should women officers be given command posts in the army?
Context – The Supreme Court (SC) has asked the Central Government to accommodate women at command post in non-combat services like National Cadet Corps and Sainik Schools.
- However, the Government highlighted the difficulties in giving ‘Command Appointments’ for women.
What is a permanent commission?
- Permanent commission in Army to be opened for women from April 2020.
- The defence ministry earlier this year said that women officers will be granted permanent commission in the army in all the 10 branches in which they are inducted into under short service commission.
- Permanent Commissioned officer can serve till he retires. Short Service Commission means that they are recruited for a period of 10 years. However, the tenure can be extended to 14 years. They also have an option to take permanent commission.
What is the issue:
- Till September 2019, permanent commission for women was restricted to only two departments: the Army Education Corps and the Judge Advocate General’s branch. In September, the Defence Ministry announced that it is opening this up to eight other arms and services from April this year, for women already selected for the Short Service Commission. So, permanent commission now is open in 10 departments or arms and services.
- In 2019, the policy was released to grant permanent commission to women officers on SSC, but this was to apply only prospectively.
- The Women officers contended that the application of permanent commission prospectively is arbitrary and discriminatory. It should be applied retrospectively.
- Also from here (i.e. from forming permanent commission for women the next step is appointing them in command posts) women’s careers can be furthered only if they get what are called command assignments or criteria appointments.
So should women be given command positions/ posts in the army?
- The time has come for us to at least experiment, if nothing else, and that experiment needs to be done first with the Services — Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. In all these there are women who have been commissioned for the last 30 years as Short Service Commissioned officers.
- Many of them have commanded workshops. Some of them are in a position to be selected. The focus is on the word selected because they have to be selected through their confidential reports, a board of officers, a promotion board, which will determine whether they are fit to command. Only then will they command a unit.
The government’s argument:
- The Central Government has asserted that the “physiological limitations” of women officers and changed battlefield scenario as the primary reasons for not granting the command posts for women in the Army.
- The troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units, the composition of rank and file being male predominantly drawn from the rural background with prevailing societal norms.
- Officers have to lead from the front. They should be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks. Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards.
- Apart from lower physical standards of women officers compared to men, other challenges include prolonged absence due to pregnancy, children’s education, husband’s career prospects, etc.
- For the last 30 years we have had women in the army.
- There are challenges — domestic issues, fitness, pregnancy — all that has been quoted by the government in its affidavit. But this is an argument we had 30 years ago when we were inducting women into the Army. All these issues have been handled by the Army in a very mature manner over the years.
- Coming specifically to the issue of whether they should be given command or not, there is very little justification in saying that while women officers can be company commanders, platoon commanders, second in command, they should be excluded when it comes to command appointments, commanding a unit, only on the basis that they are women. This argument doesn’t hold water.
- There is a board of officers to decide whether promotions to the rank of Colonel can take place or not for a particular officer. It’s not as if all male officers get automatically promoted as Colonels. In some cases, in some services, less than 30% of male officers are promoted to the rank of Colonel. The decision is made by a board of officers. Let the same board of officers decide whether a woman officer is fit to command a unit. Women should be judged on the basis of their professionalism and on the basis of merit.
- Coming to the issue of the troops mentality about male taking command from women – if someone above them, whether man or woman, is someone who demonstrated capability and leadership qualities, there is no question that they would not accept directions, orders. In the Army, they are trained to do that. It’s just a mindset [regarding women], we need to overcome that.
- Women have been in the Indian army for the last 30 years. The time is ripe for an experiment. The army is a disciplined force and they are trained to follow commands of their seniors. Women should not be limited just because of their gender. Capable officers must get the responsibilities they deserve.
Question – What is BIS standard of drinking water? Are the recent restrictions on membrane-based water purification systems enough? If not give reasons.( 200 words)
Context – The Environment Ministry’s draft notification to regulate the use of membrane-based water purification systems.
What is BIS standard of drinking water?
- The BIS drinking water specification (IS 10500:1991), which is a voluntary standard, was drawn up in 1983.
- The standard was adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards with the following objectives –
- To assess the quality of water resources, and
- To check the effectiveness of water treatment and supply by the concerned authorities.
What is membrane processing?
- Membrane processing is a technique that permits concentration and separation without the use of heat. Particles are separated on the basis of their molecular size and shape with the use of pressure and specially designed semi-permeable membranes.
- Example, Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a membrane-based process technology to purify water by separating the dissolved solids from feed stream resulting in permeate and reject stream for a wide range of applications in domestic as well as industrial applications.
Why in news?
- The Environment Ministry’s draft notification to regulate the use of membrane-based water purification systems.
- The intent is to conserve water and cut waste.
- The association of water filter manufacturers challenged this order.
- In RO, the total dissolved solids (TDS) in water — which covers trace chemicals, certain viruses, bacteria and salts — can be reduced, to meet potable water standards. Home filters waste nearly 80% of the water during treatment. Second, some research has shown that the process can cut the levels of calcium and magnesium, which are vital nutrients.
- The resort to prohibition (to restrict home filters) may cause consumer apprehension but it is unlikely that they will be taken to task for using such water filters because the notification implies, these filters are only prohibited if the home gets water supply that conforms to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for Drinking Water.
- So, although several State and city water boards claim BIS standards, the water at homes falls short of the test parameters.
- The BIS, last year, ranked several cities on official water supply Delhi was last and only Mumbai met all the standards. In the 28 test parameters, Delhi failed 19, Chennai 9, and Kolkata 10. The BIS norms are voluntary for public agencies which supply piped water but are mandatory for bottled water producers. Moreover, most of the country does not have the luxury of piped water.
- The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of NITI Aayog says that 70% of water supply is contaminated. India is ranked 120th among 122 countries in an NGO, WaterAid’s quality index.
- So the case for restricting people’s choices on the means they employ to ensure potable water is thus weak.
- The notification mainly deals with rules for commercial suppliers and for integration of systems that inform consumers about TDS levels — a major determinant of water quality.
- This is envisaged both before water enters filtration systems and after it has been filtered. The aim is also to ensure that after 2022, no more than 25% of water being treated is wasted, and for residential complexes to reuse the residual waste water for other activities, including gardening.
- When implemented, the notification’s primary aim should be to persuade authorities to upgrade and supply BIS-standard water at the consumer’s end. This should be done without additional costs, particularly on millions who now lack access to protected supply.
Question – in context of the loss of many innocent lives due to the consumption of Cold Best-PC cough syrup, suggest the ways these incidents can be prevented from repeating in the future.
Context – The death of 12 children in Jammu.
Why in news?
- 12 children died in Udhampur district of Jammu due to poisoned cough syrup (Coldbest-PC). More are fighting for their life in a hospital. A team of doctors at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, attributed the deaths to the presence of diethylene glycol in the cough syrup which was consumed by all the dead children. Diethylene glycol is an anti-freezing agent that causes acute renal failure in the human body followed by paralysis, breathing difficulties and ultimately death.
- This is the fourth mass glycol poisoning event in India that has been caused due to a pharmaceutical drug.
- In 1973, there was a similar incident at the Children’s Hospital, Egmore in Chennai that caused the deaths of 14 children.
- In 1986, similar poisoning at Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital caused the deaths of 14 patients who were otherwise on the path to recovery.
- In 1998, 33 children died in two hospitals located in New Delhi due to similar poisoning.
- In all three cases, the manufacturer of the suspect cough syrup, due to negligence or human error, failed to detect and contain the level of diethylene glycol in the syrup, thereby causing poisoning of the patients who consumed it.
The main cause:
- Given the history of deaths related to glycol poisoning the reason that can primarily be attributed for the loss of so many lives is neglect and improper implementation of safety standards.
What should be done?
- Tracking the sold bottles: this should be the first priority.
- There will be plenty of time later to ascertain the cause and prosecute the guilty but the immediate concern for doctors, pharmacists and the drug regulators should be to prevent any more deaths. The only way to do so is to account for each and every bottle of the poisoned syrup that has ever been sold in the Indian market and stop patients from consuming this drug any further. Any patient who has consumed even a spoon of the syrup should then immediately be referred to a hospital for treatment.
- Similar incident: According to the information available on the website of the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), in 1937, when the United States faced a similar situation with glycol poisoning, its entire field force of 239 inspectors and chemists were assigned to the task of tracking down every single bottle of the drug. Even if a patient claimed to have thrown out the bottle, the investigators scoured the street until they found the discarded bottle. This effort was accompanied by a publicity blitz over radio and television.
- Checking neglect: We do not see such public health measures being undertaken here; authorities are simply not communicating the seriousness of the issue to the general public. At most, the authorities in Himachal Pradesh (H.P.), who are responsible for oversight of the manufacturer of this syrup, have made general statements that they have ordered the withdrawal of the drug from all the other States where it was marketed.
- However, there is no transparency in the recall process and information about recalls and batch numbers is not being communicated through authoritative channels.
- There is no public announcement by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), which is responsible for overall regulation of the entire Indian market.
- The website of the DCGI, which is supposed to communicate drug alerts and product recalls, has no mention of Cold Best-PC as being dangerous as of this writing.
Need/ Way forward:
- Apart from the urgent need to spread awareness and recall the already sold medicines, there is a need for a solid ‘recall policy’ – One of the key reasons why the DCGI and state drug authorities have been so sloppy is because unlike other countries, India has not notified any binding guidelines or rules on recalling dangerous drugs from the market.
- The 59th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health as well as the World Health Organization (in its national regulatory assessment) had warned the DCGI on the lack of a national recall framework in India. A set of recall guidelines was drafted in 2012 but never notified into law.
- While a national recall of this adulterated medicine is the immediate need, the administration also needs to quickly identify which other pharmaceutical companies have received the spurious ( harmful) ingredient that was supplied to the manufacturer in H.P. from a trader in Chennai.
- It is very likely that the trader in question marketed the same ingredient to other pharmaceutical companies, who, like the manufacturer at the centre of the present scandal, may have failed to test it for its identity and purity.
- It is important for regulatory enforcement to raid and seize the records of the trader in Chennai and verify its sales.
- Also the people need to check the ingredients before buying a product.
Question – At a time when India has limited its presence in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), analyse the suggestions of the former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Context – The suggestions.
What is the purpose of regional groupings?
- The original purpose of the South Asian group was to build a platform where bilateral issues could be set aside in the interest of regional growth.
Analysing the suggestions of the former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:
- Decrying the lack of economic integration in South Asia, and the failure of SAARC, as well as BIMSTEC (which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand), to engender more intra-regional trade, Mr. Wickremesinghe suggested an even smaller sub-grouping of four countries with complementary economies: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand, to begin the process of reducing tariffs and demolishing non-tariff barrier regimes.
- The Sri Lankan leader also suggested that with India’s leadership, a more integrated South Asian region would be better equipped to negotiate for better terms with RCEP so as not to be cut out of the “productivity network” in Asia, and envisioned an Economic Integration Road Map to speed up the process.
The government’s position:
- The government has made it clear that talks with Pakistan are strictly off the table, and that a SAARC summit, which has not been held since 2014, is unlikely to be convened anytime soon.
- Second, the government, which has taken a protectionist turn on multilateral trade pacts, is relying more on direct bilateral deals with countries rather than overarching ones that might expose Indian markets to flooding by Chinese goods.
- For any regional sub-grouping in South Asia to flourish, it is India that will have to make the most concessions given the vast trade deficits India’s neighbours have at present, which it may not wish to do.
- However, the overall projection that India’s global reach will be severely constrained unless it is integrated with its neighbours, and tensions with Pakistan are resolved, cannot be refuted. India needs to be more accommodative for the realisation of its ambitions.
Question – Analyse the Bodoland issue in the context of the recent signing of the Bodo accord.
Context – The signing of the Bodo accord.
What is the Bodoland issue?
- Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
- The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.
- The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
- In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of thePlains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
- In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union(ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
- The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement(1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
- In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.
What was the Assam movement?
- The Assam Movement(or Assam Agitation) (1979-1985) was a popular movement against illegal immigrants in Assam. The movement, led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), developed a program of protests and demonstrations to compel the Indian government to identify and expel illegal, (mostly Bangladeshi), immigrants and to protect and provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the indigenous Assamese people.
The Assam Accord:
- The issue of illegal immigrants fuelled massive protests for six years beginning 1979, when a Lok Sabha bypoll was to be held at Mangaldoi seat. Various outfits with All Assam Students Union (AASU) forming the nerve centre of the protests complained about foreigners – mainly Bangladeshis – having been included in the voters’ list.
- The Indira Gandhi government continued to engage with the protesters between 1980 and 1984 but without reaching an agreement. After her assassination, the Rajiv Gandhi government signed an agreement with the protesters – AASU and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad – bringing the agitation to an end.
- The agreement between the Centre and the protesters is called the Assam Accord.
- It was signed on the Independence Day in 1985. In the 15 clauses of the Assam Accord, the key focus areas were:
- Foreigners issue
- Economic development
- Restricting acquisition of immovable property by foreigners
- Preventing encroachment of government lands
- Registration of births and deaths
- This was done to ensure protection of political, social, economic and cultural identity of the local people.
- The heart of the accord was Clause 5. Clause 5 of the Assam Accord deals with the issue of foreigners, that is, detection of foreigners in Assam, deletion of their names from the voters’ list and their deportation through practical means.
The Bodo Accord:
- The previous Bodo Accordsigned by the erstwhile insurgent outfit, Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) with Delhi and Dispur on February 10, 2003 led to creation of the BTC as a new experiment of territorial autonomy under the Sixth Schedule. However, the constitutionally mandated legislative power of the BTC has been reduced to a farce as the Assam Governor has not given assent to any of the legislations passed by the BTC Legislative Assembly.
What is the BTC?
- The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) is an autonomous district council for the Bodoland Territorial Region of Assamstate in India.
- There have been two Bodo Accords earlier, and the second one led to the formation of BTC. The ABSU-led movement from 1987 culminated in a 1993 Bodo Accord, which paved the way for a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC), but ABSU withdrew its agreement and renewed its demand for a separate state. In 2003, the second Bodo Accord was signed by the extremist group Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF), the Centre and the state. This led to the BTC.
The new accord:
- The new Accordhas been signed by the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), United Bodo People’s Organisation and all the four factions of the insurgent outfit- National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with Delhi and Dispur on January 27 promises more legislative, executive and administrative autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and expansion of the BTC territory in lieu of statehood.
- The Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), the autonomous region governed by BTC, will be known as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) after demarcation of the augmented territory.
- Primarily, a truce with four factions of the NDFB after decades of armed movement that, according to Shah, claimed over 4,000 lives. The most significant point is this Accord marks the end of the armed movement. The coming of all factions of the armed groups together to sign the Accord is a very big thing.
- Asked about the statehood demand, Boro (ABSU President) said the ABSU will decide in its next special convention. Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the demand for statehood came to end with the Accord. An ABSU leader, however, said: “It is not mentioned anywhere in the settlement that the ABSU will give up the statehood demand.”
- The agreement says: “Negotiations were held with Bodo organisations for a comprehensive and final solution to their demands while keeping intact the territorial integrity of the State of Assam.”
What was agreed about territory?
- The area under the jurisdiction of BTC, formed under the 2003 Accord, was called the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District(BTAD). On Monday, the BTAD was renamed Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
- BTAD comprises Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts, accounting for 11% of Assam’s area and 10% of its population. Estimates for the Bodo population in BTAD vary.
- The new Accord provides for “alteration of area of BTAD” and “provisions for Bodos outside BTAD”. A commission appointed by the state government will examine and recommend if villages contiguous to BTAD and with a majority tribal population can be included into the BTR while those now in BTAD and with a majority non-tribal population can opt out of the BTR. This, minister Sarma explained, will lead to an increase in the Bodo population in BTR and decrease in non-tribal population, leading to mitigation of inter-community clashes wherever it was happening.
- The government will set up a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council for focused development of Bodo villages outside BTAD — which opens up a way to potentially address the needs of Bodos outside BTAD.
- The 2020 agreement says the Government of Assam “will notify Bodo language in Devanagari script as the associate official language in the state”.
- A shift in the political equilibrium in the BTC resulting from a likely expansion of the ST list in Assam has the potential to keep the Bodos out of power in the BTC and push Bodo organisations to reviving their homeland demand. Peace will continue to be fragile in Assam’s Bodo heartland until an all-inclusive power sharing and governance model is evolved under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.
Question – At an International Judicial Conference 2020 this weekend, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, drew attention to the Constitution’s Fundamental Duties chapter and cited Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, which observed that “real rights are a result of [the] performance of duty.” In this context, can we say that rights follow duties or should rights be put first?
Context – The statement of the CJI.
We often come across the words ‘rights’ and ‘duties’ in everyday discourse. It is important to know the relation between them.
Understanding the relation between rights and duties:
- Rights and duties always go together – Rights and duties are closely related and cannot be separated from one another. Both go side by side. These are the two sides of the same coin. If the state gives the right to life to a citizen, it also imposes an obligation on him to not to expose his life to dangers, as well as to respect the life of others. If I have a right to work and earn, it is also my duty to recognize the same rights of others.
- Right of one is the duty of others – Rights can be enjoyed only in the world of duties. For every right there is corresponding duty. When the people fail to discharge their duties properly, the rights all become meaningless. “I can enjoy my rights only if the others allow me to do the same. I have” the right to life and it is the duty of others to respect my life and not to cause any harm to me.
- Rights of a citizen also implies duties for him – Rights are not the monopoly of a single individual. Everybody gets these equally. This means that “others also have the same rights which I have, and it is my duty to see that others also enjoy their rights.” Laski has rightly said that one man’s right is also his duty. It is my duty to respect the rights of others as well as the duty to use my rights in the interest of society.
- Rights are to be used for social good – Rights originate in society. Therefore, while enjoying rights, we must always try to promote social interest. It is the duty of every one of us to use our rights for promoting the welfare of the society as a whole.
- Duty towards the State – Since state protects and enforces rights, it also becomes the duty of all citizens to be loyal to the state. It is their duty to obey the laws of the state and to pay taxes honestly. Citizens should always be ready to defend the state. Thus a citizen has both Rights and Duties. He enjoys rights and performs his duties. Rights and Duties are the two sides of the same coin.
Understanding the article:
- The article says that being citizens we all have certain duties. Duties means two things – one is duty towards the state and the duty towards other citizens (i.e. refrain from committing violence against other citizens). Both of these are required to live a peaceful life.
- For example – We have a legal duty to pay our taxes, to refrain from committing violence against our fellow-citizens, and to follow other laws that Parliament has enacted.
- Breach of these legal duties triggers financial consequences (fines), or even time in jail. At any given time, therefore, we are already following a host of duties, which guide and constrain how we may behave.
- So duties follow a simple logic: that peaceful co-existence requires a degree of self-sacrifice, and that if necessary, this must be enforced through the set of sanctions by the State.
- Rights on the other hand are different – according to the article one doesn’t have to follow all duties to be subjected to rights. One is entitled to certain fundamental rights just by the virtue of being human.
- So rights follow a different logic entirely. We can better understand it through history.
- At the time of the framing of the Indian Constitution and its chapter on Fundamental Rights, there were two important concerns animating the Constituent Assembly.
- The firstwas that under the colonial regime, Indians had been treated as subjects. Their interests did not count, their voices were unheard, and in some cases — for example, the “Criminal Tribes” — they were treated as less than human.
- The first role of the fundamental rights chapter, therefore, was to stand as a bulwark against dehumanisation. Every human being no matter who they were or what they did had a claim to basic dignity and equality that no state could take away, no matter what the provocation. One did not have to successfully perform any duty, or meet a threshold of worthiness, to qualify as a rights bearer. It was simply what it meant to be human.
- Second, the framers were also aware that they were inheriting adeeply stratified and riven society. The colonial regime had not been the only oppressor; the axes of gender, caste and religion had all served to keep masses of individuals in permanent conditions of subordination and degradation.
- The second role of rights, thus, was to stand against hierarchy. Through guarantees against forced labour, against “untouchability”, against discriminatory access to public spaces, and others, fundamental rights were meant to play an equalising and democratising role throughout society, and to protect individuals against the depredations visited on them by their fellow human-beings.
- So it is the twin principles of anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy reveal the purpose of the fundamental rights chapter: so this shows that fundamental rights are not a transaction for duties.
- Overall, the recognition that true democracy could not exist without ensuring that at a basic level, the dignity and equality of individuals was protected, both from the state as well as from social majorities. It was only with these guarantees could an individual rise from the status of subject to that of citizen.
- And, as should be clear by now, it was only after that transformation had been wrought, that the question of duties could even arise.
So are duties unimportant for rights?
- This is not to suggest, of course, that duties are unimportant. As indicated above, duties exist in every sphere of society.
- Moreover, the language of duties can play an important role in a society that continues to be divided and unequal: in such a society, those who possess or benefit from entrenched structural and institutional power (starting with the state, and going downwards) certainly have a “duty” not to use that power to the detriment of those upon whom they wield it.
- That is precisely what the guarantees against “untouchability”, forced labour, and discriminatory access in the Constitution seek to accomplish.
So what is the problem with the discussions that take place on the meanings rights and duties?
- The problem arises when these two are conflated (i.e. when meaning of rights and duties are merged together.)
- As Samuel Moyn points out in an illuminating article in The Boston Review, “the rhetoric of duties has often been deployed euphemistically by those whose true purpose is a return to tradition won by limiting the rights of others”. Moyn’s target here are traditions that invoke the language of duty (often alongside terms such as “community” or “family”) in order to subordinate or efface the individual in the face of the collective (whether state or community).
- In that context, it is always critical to remember Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly (which were also cited by the CJI in his speech): that the fundamental unit of the Constitution remains the (i.e. putting an individual’s rights, and dignities first).
- So if we equate rights in return for duties, we can end up entrenching existing power structures by placing the burden of “duties” upon those that are already vulnerable and marginalised.
- It is for this reason that, at the end of the day, the Constitution, a charter of liberation, is fundamentally about rights. It is only after guarantee to all the full sum of humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom promised by the Constitution, that we can ask of them to do their duty.
- The CJI’s observation is apt but perhaps, then, it is time to analyse because the same Hind Swaraj also argues that “real duties are the result of the fulfillment of rights”.
Question – The issue of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees has been around for nearly 30 years. Suggest the way forward to solve this issue with a brief analysis.
Context – The demand for dual citizenship to them.
- More than 1.34 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils crossed the Palk Strait to India between 1983 and 1987 during the first in flow. In three more phases, many more refugees entered India. The war-torn Sri Lankans sought refuge in southern India with more than 60,000 refugees currently staying in 109 camps in Tamil Nadu alone.
- The migration of refugees into the country had also inspired many filmmakers in India, and have led to the making of memorable films like Kanathil Muthamital.
A brief history of Sri Lankan refugees:
- In 1948, immediately after the country’s independence, a controversial law labelled the Ceylon Citizenship Act was passed in the Sri Lankan parliament which deliberately discriminated against the Tamils of South Indian origin, whose ancestors had settled in the country in the 19th and 20th centuries. This act made it virtually impossible for them to obtain citizenship and over 700,000 Tamils (consisting of up to 11% of the country’s total population) were made stateless.
- In 1964, a pact was signed between Bandaranaike and the then Indian Prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to repatriate (send someone back to their own country) much of the population of the stateless Tamils. Over the next 30 years, successive Sri Lankan governments were actively engaged in deporting over 300,000 Tamils back to India. It wasn’t until 2003, after a state-sponsored pogrom against Tamils and a full-scale civil war, that Indian Tamils were granted citizenship but by this time, their population had dwindled to just 5% of the country’s population. Tamils repatriated to India were assimilated with the location population after taking Indian Citizenships, except a few pockets in Tamil Nadu, where they are still called as Ceylon Tamils.
- Following the events of the Black July riots, and later the outbreak of the Sri Lankan Civil War, tens of thousands Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arrived in Tamil Nadu in four waves. The first wave on 24 July 1983, after Black July, to the 29 July 1987 up until the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, 134,053 Sri Lankan Tamils arrived in India. The first repatriation took place after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 and between 24 December 1987 and 31 August 1989, 25,585 refugees and non-camp Sri Lankan nationals returned to Sri Lanka.
- The second wave began with the start of Eelam War II after 25 August 1989, where 122,000 Sri Lankan Tamils came to Tamil Nadu. On 20 January 1992, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi 54,188 refugees were voluntarily repatriated to Sri Lanka, until March 1995. Eelam War II commenced in April 1995 starting the third wave or refugees. By 12 April 2002, nearly 23,356 refugees had come to Tamil Nadu.
- The flow of refugees had stopped in 2002 because of the cease fire agreement.
The present condition:
- Nearly 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees who are living in India are not eligible for citizenship under a new law, sparking concerns that they may be forced to return to the island nation they fled during a decades long civil war, many with no homes to return to.
- India’s Citizenship Amendment Act aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before Dec. 31, 2014, from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
- The law excludes nearly 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils, an ethnic minority, who live in India, including about 60,000 in camps in southern Tamil Nadu state, according to the home department.
- Most of these refugees are Hindus or Christians whose forefathers were born in India.
- Many were sent by the British as indentured laborers on Sri Lankan tea plantations and hoped for a better life in India when they came here during the Sri Lankan civil war.
- Thousands of people were killed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in May 2009 after nearly three decades.
- Tens of thousands fled or were forced from their homes in the country’s north and east, and many sought refuge in neighboring India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
- Many had their properties seized during the war.
- In Tamil Nadu, the refugees get free education, health care, rations and a modest allowance but they have limited access to jobs and cannot get official documents.
CAA and the demand of dual citizenship for Sri Lankan refugees:
- The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, has again triggered an ill-advised demand for dual citizenship to Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka.
- The constitutional and legal position is clearly against the grant of dual citizenship per se.
- As on date, no Indian citizen holds the citizenship of any other country.
- Even when the Centre amended the Citizenship Act in 2003to introduce the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) scheme for sections of the Indian diaspora, all it provided was a limited version of ‘dual citizenship’ which came without political rights and with a bar on purchase of agricultural land. It would defy logic, then, to seek dual citizenship for those who are not Indian nationals.
The government’s position:
- Although the Central and State governments do a lot to make the refugees’ stay comfortable, most of them are regarded as illegal migrants, as they arrived with no valid travel documents.
- In the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, flagged the issue of dual citizenship.
- Early this month, the government told the Rajya Sabha that neither the Constitution nor the CAA permitted dual citizenship. This ought to put an end to the debate, which will otherwise create false expectations among the refugees.
Condition of refugee camps:
- While going around the refugee camps in the state, it was noticed that the camps lacked even the basic facilities in terms of sanitation and security. Thatched houses separated using tarpaulin sheets. The refugees are given 20 kg of ration rice per family, Rs 1000 per month for the head of the family, Rs 750 for adults and Rs 400 for children. The children are given free education till class 12 and also provided with all the state benefits that are given to the Indian students. But this is not sufficient and a lot needs to be done.
- Given the need to treat the refugees in a humane manner and in the absence of a law on refugees, the Centre should stop seeing Sri Lankan refugees as “illegal migrants”; they entered India with the knowledge and approval of Indian authorities.
- As for those who wish to remain in India for studies or to earn a livelihood, the authorities should tweak the OCI Cardholder scheme or offer an exclusive long-term visa. By this, the stay of 95,000-odd refugees in Tamil Nadu will be regularised.
- As for those keen on returning home but are unable to do so for want of support from Sri Lanka, New Delhi should lean on Colombo to help enable their early return.
- Besides, the two countries should formulate a scheme of structured assistance to expedite voluntary repatriation, which is moving at a snail’s pace even a decade after the civil war ended.
- These steps can lead to a lasting resolution of issues concerning those who have been in India for over 30 years.
Question – With the sorry state of Dalits still evident in data, the judiciary needs to continue to uphold their rights. Comment.
Context – The Centre on Monday asked the Supreme Court to refer to a seven judge Bench the question whether the creamy layer concept should apply or not to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while providing them reservation in promotions.
Reservation for Dalits is not to undo economic backwardness , but as remedy for untouchability.
Various case laws
- Nine judge bench 1992 Indira Sawhney case : SC/ STs are the most backward classes . Once part of the presidential list under Article 341 & 342 , there is no question of showing their backwardness again.
- Five Judge bench 2006 M . Nagraj Case :- Quota benefits should go to the weakest of weak and not to be snatched away by members of the class who are in the ” top creamy layer”. Hence the concept of creamy layer should be implemented in the case of promotion.
- Five judge bench 2018 Jarnail singh case :- Creamy layer ensures that only the deserving among SCs/STs get the benefits of reservation. This bench agreed with the principle of Nagraj case. The 2018 judgment,
- Authored by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, had also refused the government’s plea to refer the 2006 Nagaraj case judgment to a seven judge Bench. His argument is “The whole object of reservation is to see that the backward class of citizens move forward so that they march hand in hand with other citizens of India on equal basis. This will not be possible if the creamy layer within that class begs all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves , leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were.”
- The 2018 judgment, modifying the part of the Nagaraj case verdict which required the States to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment, had, however, rejected the Centre’s argument that the Nagaraj case ruling had misread the creamy layer concept by applying it to the SCs/STs.
- The 2018 judgment said that when a court applies the creamy layer principle to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Article 341 or 342 of the Constitution. The caste or group or subgroup named in the list continues exactly as before.
- This principle upheld the right to equality.
- Recent supreme court judgement – The Supreme Court has ruled that quotas and reservations for promotions for government jobs are not a fundamental right, setting aside an Uttarakhand High Court order of 2012. The top court has also said that States could not be forced to make such provisions without data showing imbalance in representation of certain communities in public service.
Sukhadeo Throat , former chairman of UGC, has done a detailed study and published his findings in the book titled ‘Dalits in India: Search for common destiny’:
Reason for reservation as policy-
- Reservation in politics, services and institutions is given to SCs particularly was considered as safeguard and compensate them for historical discrimination and marginalization from various socio-economic institution and resources. Reservation ensures due representation as per their population share. Because otherwise, due to persisting discrimination in services, enterprises and agriculture, they won’t get their due share. Reservation is independent of your economic standing.
Reservation in promotion :-
- There exist discrimination in service . There are about 12,000 cases lying with the SC/ST Commission, complaining about discrimination in service. Therefore, they need protection in promotion also.
- Women are asking for reservation. They have never raised the issue that relatively better off women should not get reservation. They are discriminated against on the basis of gender not on the basis of economic standing.
- Economic concession in the form of subsidies and benefits of scheme can be stopped for relatively better off section not the reservation.
- There is a contradiction in the Judgement of Jarnail singh , on one hand no criteria is required to justify the backwardness of SCs and STs. On the other hand they are trying to apply the same economic criteria to exclude some of relatively economically better off SCs.
- A study by Sukhadeo Thorat and Paul Attewell in 2010 had reportedly observed that “for equally qualified SC and upper caste (about 4,800 each) applicants, SCs had 67 per cent less chance of receiving calls for an interview. What is more disturbing is that the high percentage of less qualified high castes (undergraduate) received calls compared with the more qualified SCs (post-graduates).”
Discrimination is a continuing diseases in India:
- According to a recent survey by academician Amit Thorat, up to 47% of respondents in the hill State admitted to practising untouchability. More than half the forward caste people confessed to practising untouchability. Further, nearly 68% Brahmins in rural and 77% Brahmins in urban areas of the State admitted to the practice. With such widespread discrimination prevalent in the State, an honest response on representation from the Executive and administration is hard to expect.
- Massive backlog of post under reservation is regular feature
- While measuring under- representation of Dalits – Dalits in ownership of land and enterprise, literacy, and access to civic rights, and their over-representation in poverty, malnutrition, and social isolation and atrocities – should also be considered.
- In 2013, of the total wealth in the country, the share of SCs was only 5% in rural areas against their population share of almost 17%. In terms of their share in agricultural land, it was only 5% while in building assets it was 8%. On the other hand, the high castes owned 39% of total natural wealth — 41% land and 39% building assets. In urban areas, SCs own only 4% of total wealth: 6% land and 2.6% of buildings as against 45% of land and 76% of buildings by high caste, much in excess of their population share of about 21%.
- In 2015, the enrollment rate in higher education was 20% for SCs compared to 43% for higher castes.
- In 2012 about a third were poor, compared to 11% for high castes. Most importantly, caste discrimination and untouchability continue to be practised widely despite anti-discriminatory laws.
- Between 2001 and 2013, SCs had registered about 54,257 cases of atrocities or 4,174 cases annually. This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
- Based on NSS data, these studies indicate that in 2017-18, of the differences in access to employment between SCs and high caste, about 71% was due to discrimination in hiring. Findings of another primary survey in 2013 in rural India show that SC entrepreneurs in grocery, eatery, and transport services faced discrimination, with the high castes reluctant to avail of their goods and services.
- Many SC farmers admit that they face discrimination in the buying of inputs and sale of outputs.
- Sanal Mohanin Modernity of Slavery: Struggles Against Caste Inequality
A lesser known fact shown in recent studies such as that of P. Sanal Mohan in Modernity of Slavery: Struggles Against Caste Inequality in Colonial Kerala is that about untouchables being a slave caste. Slavery is long gone but its legacy persists in the form of bonded, attached and forced labour of Dalits in many parts of the country. Untouchability and caste slavery have completely crippled Dalits. They remain asset-less, illiterate and socially isolated with overt residential segregation in rural areas, and subtly in urban areas. Therefore, the reservation policy is necessary as a safeguard against discrimination and to secure their fair share.
According to Ashwini Deshpande – economics professor
- Reservation is intended to combat discrimination of social and economic nature. Reservation is not an anti-poverty programme. The more advantageous sections of all caste groups are able to enter higher education. So, if we want to make sure that the poor are getting represented, we need a separate set of policies.
- Situation of Dalits and OBCs are very different . Creamy layer exclusion in promotion in case of OBCs are justifiable. Because they can overcome social discrimination after crossing certain economic threshold.
- In fact, there is an argument in the U.S. that richer Blacks face greater discrimination because the Whites resent their entry into areas that are considered privileged for the Whites. So, in a way, there is some evidence to show that discrimination actually increases with a rise in economic position.
- Dalits students still face micro- aggression in higher education.
- We need more data to analyze the impact of reservation but to link reservation to economic status is wrong.
- Limit of 50 % is arbitrary. This limit has to be rethought again.
- Even though legally untouchability has been abolished, there is a lot of data that show that people still practise untouchability. So the stigma that comes on account of an untouchable status… reservation is only a tiny remedial measure for that.
- There is need for reservation in promotions because they face discrimination in promotions.
- Reservation is sort of peanuts. The public sector accounts for a small portion of jobs. And it is there they get some share. In private, they have no protection against discrimination. What you require is compensation for 2,000 years of repression. We have to give them land, funding to start industries, and for education. So, you require a large policy of compensation, reparation, supplemented by reservation.
- This belief that reservations affect the efficiency of public services is a complete myth. I have done a study with the Indian Railways. And that is the only long-term, big-scale study to actually empirically estimate the effect of reservations on efficiency. Reservations have no negative effect on efficiency. If anything, at the top level, they actually have a positive effect. Recently, another study came out looking at IAS officers’ performance indicators, and that study reached the same conclusion. There is another study too. The point is that this myth is so strong that people are not willing to publicise the rigorous examination of this question.
- If at all the Supreme Court has to take a position, it should ask the government to set up a comprehensive committee to study the practice of untouchability and discrimination faced by SCs and STs.
- under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, it is the government’s responsibility to undertake a study every five years, to bring out the nature of discrimination and untouchability faced by Dalits. The government’s SC/ST Commission report is supposed to have a separate chapter on untouchability. That report has not been brought out in the last 20 years or so. The government has also not done any study. There are quantitative techniques that will capture qualitative relationships but unfortunately such surveys have been bypassed by the NSSO.
- We need a strong anti-discrimination framework. There are so many barriers for the oppressed to approaching the justice system that it is difficult for somebody with genuine grievances about discrimination to seek justice. There is now a greater awareness about gender discrimination and institutions are making sure they develop structures to tackle it. We need similar structures for caste discrimination in the workplace.
- The contours of reforms in reservation must be developed through a consultative process involving real and potential stakeholders within the Dalit community. The idea of preferential treatment in sectors that are still underrepresented must be explored objectively. The civil society, industry, media, higher judiciary and the upper echelons of bureaucracy still lack social diversity and, therefore, the empathy required to address the concerns of the community. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, through a recent notification, has asked the IITs, IIMs and other premier institutions, to follow the reservation norms in faculty recruitment: People from marginalised communities did not have any leadership role in these institutions for so long.
Question – In context of the U.S. Presidents visit to India, despite criticism of the Government for extravagant spending, reflect on the need for India – U.S. friendship.
Context – The U.S. President’s visit.
- There are a lot of contrarian (opposing opinions) about the U.S. President’s visit to India mainly because it is highly unlikely that India and the U.S. will sign any trade deal given the tariff hike by the U.S. on Indian goods and the counter tariffs in return. But the cost of the U.S. President’s visit to India is huge.
- But it is clearer than perhaps ever before in recent times, that New Delhi needs the continued support of the U.S. government on almost everything substantial that matters to India in its quest to be a power of substance in the international system.
- From a fairer trade regime; to accessing cutting-edge technology; to the fight against terrorism; to stabilising our region, New Delhi stands to benefit from constructive ties on all issues, given a more sensitive United States. India must therefore seek greater understanding and engagement with the U.S.
- Asymmetrical partnerships (i.e. partnerships between non-equal powers), as we know from history, are rarely easy. Partnerships with superpowers are even more difficult and requires some loss of dignity and autonomy for a greater good.
The importance of the United States for India:
- For comparison we can recall Winston Churchill’s wisdom, of presenting a frightening imagery of communism invading Europe, to convince the U.S. of the need of a special relationship across the Atlantic, after the Second World War with Britain. Else Britain would just be another city in Europe.
- Churchill realised on that fateful day in March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, when he delivered his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, the consequences of not arriving at a modus vivendi with the U.S. would be disastrous.
- Today, the Indo-Pacific has arrived at an ‘Iron Curtain’ moment in its history. Without the United States, the region could become willy-nilly part of a new Chinese tributary system; with a fully engaged United States, the region has at least the chance of creating a more organic rules-based order.
- Anti-Americanism, once the conventional wisdom of the Indian elite, seems outdated. New Delhi has, over the decades, gone on to align itself more closely with Washington. More important, outside the Left, both within India and in the U.S., the consensus across the mainstream of political opinion favours stronger relations between the two countries.
The trend of change from pro-Russia to pro-U.S:
- The change in trend began since 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a gesture that seemed uncharacteristic for him, effusively praised President George W. Bush and told him that the people of India “deeply love him”.
- The reason for the change in New Delhi ‘s geostrategic outlook can be summarised quickly. If the 1971 Friendship Treaty with the Soviet Union was a response to the continuing U.S. tilt towards Pakistan and the beginnings of a Washington-Beijing entente, at present, it is the prospect of a potentially hegemonic China in the Indo-Pacific region is helping to cement the relationship. Beijing has managed to alienate nearly all its neighbours and allies, except North Korea and Pakistan.
The deepened ties:
- The accomplishments that India-U.S. ties have made over the years, include a foundational military agreement that allows for the sharing of encrypted communications and equipment; a change in U.S. export control laws that places India in a privileged category of NATO and non-NATO U.S. allies; a new ‘2+2’ foreign and defense ministers dialogue; an exponential increase in U.S. oil exports to India; the inauguration of the first India-U.S. tri-service military exercise and an expansion of existing military exercises; the signing of an Industrial Security Annex that will allow for greater collaboration among the two countries’ private defense industries; the inclusion of India and South Asia in a U.S. Maritime Security Initiative.
- But still much work needs to be done for the two countries to fulfil the potential of the relationship, especially in the area of defence.
- This, together with other key issues including trade, is on the centrepiece of the Trump-Modi agenda for the visit.
- There is little doubt that whoever is the next occupant of the White House, a retreat from multilateralism (especially on trade-related issues) and concern about China will continue to be the two main pillars of contemporary American foreign policy.
- If for only those reasons, Mr Trump’s reason has undeniable significance.
- Despite trade deals taking a backseat it is advisable for India to maintain a cordial relationship with the U.S.
Note – There was only one important article on 21st February. It was an interview on freebies and welfare policies. These are some very important highlights.
- Providing healthcare and education are basically the functions of the government. That’s part of the reason why governments existin the first place. It is the same with water and electricity or public services. So, calling them ‘doles’ or ‘freebies’ isn’t exactly the right terminology.
- If the state spending on welfare is not legitimate, then what is a legitimate thing for it to spend on? A part of the function of the government is that for things that we cannot individually organise, we entrust elected representatives to do for us. Public goods/services — sewage, drinking water, water, electricity, public transport — are one set of things; education and health are what we call ‘merit goods’. And they are the kinds of things where the market mechanism is not a satisfactory mechanismto deliver these things. And this is not just an Indian thing, world over, this is a well-understood principle.
- But it depends primarily on the fiscal space (i.e. the money/ revenue it earns and the money it has to spend on welfare) the government has. And within this fiscal space how the government design public benefits is entirely up to that party or government. So the distinction between welfare and non-welfare is kind of blurred. What is important is basically the public finance or the fiscal space question.
- There are some states like Jharkhand for example who have very limited fiscal space compared to Delhi or Gujarat and so they have to design their spendings accordingly.
- What’s important is stability of revenue in how the government designs their public benefits. The Delhi government has that stability of revenue, whether it’s the present government or the previous government, there is the comfort of having stability in revenue that other States do not have, so that’s a position of strength. Second, providing these things for free is giving income in hand, a kind of disposable income to the people.
- Whether it’s giving them free transport rides or free electricity, it is giving them disposable income to spend on something else which becomes important at a time of economic slowdown.
- Good welfare spending, whether it’s on health, education or public transport, at the Central level is very low.
- Various state governments also have welfare schemes like Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu that provide cheap food to the poor. But there are also policies like giving free mixer grinders/ cycles/ pressure cookers etc. In this context a distinction needs to be drawn.
- Each of these has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The first thing to start with, of is the state’s ability to finance these things i.e. the fiscal space of that particular state. And the focus should be both on the expenditure side as well as its ability to generate revenues.
- As far as free grinders are concerned, it’s a huge labour-saving device, especially in a State like Tamil Nadu where rice is always being ground to make idli or dosai. Ultimately, one would have to evaluate them on a case-by-case basis depending not only on the benefits in some cases but also on the cost side.
- Good welfare and bad welfare is context-specific. If there is a girl going to school, then mobility is very precious to her. So, if a politician is providing cycles to girls, that is very valuable. And in the case of grinders, it is giving people more time to pursue other things and that can ultimately have a positive effect on income poverty as well. Similarly, with rural employment guarantee scheme, when all else fails, the government acting as ‘the employer of last resort’ is very precious.
- So, as long as there is no implicit crony contractual relationship(i.e. a biased money making relationship) between the government in power and the specific interest groups they are focusing on, it’s okay. All governments focus on winning over a group called swing voters and they look at how to make things attractive to those voters, but as long as there is no implicit crony contractual relationship or something like that, it’s okay. That is it should be for all and not a specific group. When the policies are for a specific group for money making or other things like gaining votes in exchange are in mind and not all the people who need it, then it becomes bad welfare or sham welfare.
- One argument against welfare policies is that it takes away money that could have been spent on infrastructure and roads. But infrastructure is one thing, but as an economy develops, a group of people are kept vulnerable. So, to remove their un-freedoms, and for them to participate in the economy and to access schools and colleges, we need to have public policies which tackle these logical entry barriers. So, ‘leave nobody behind’ should be the crux of a public policy or a welfare policy, rather than just thinking that roads and the public infrastructure.
Question – given the case of the arrest of a mother and the principal of a primary school in Bidar, karnataka and the interrogation of children by uniformed policemen, comment on how this affects the child and why we need to think more seriously about it.
Context – The event in Bidar.
- Children are the ones who are very vital for deciding how the world is gonna be after some years.
- The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become. That is why understanding the need to invest in very young children is so important, so as to maximize their future well-being.
The recent turn of events:
- The mother (a single parent) of a student studying in a primary school in Bidar, Karnataka was imprisoned on the pretext that she had contributed to a script being enacted in the primary school function which was as quoted – seditious in nature.
- Further the arrest of the principal for allowing it to be performed in her school, and the interrogation of the children by uniformed police officers in the absence of any child welfare workers have proved traumatic for the primary school children. Many children have stopped going to school since then.
- These traumatic experiences are not only a violation of the fundamental rights of the child but are severely damaging to their mental health. As the media reported, one child said when her mother was finally released, “I felt lonely and sad because all I have is my mother. I have never lived without her for a single day. So I was terrified.”
- This is not a standalone event. Consider the harrowing accounts of the experiences of children in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where young girls were kept locked up for most of the day and where they were raped, after being sedated, at night. Investigators observed many signs of mental health problems, for example remarking on how “strangely they behaved”, laughing and crying in rapid sequence, remaining silent for long periods, and appearing to be severely depressed. Many girls had self-inflicted injuries, a behaviour associated with trauma in children. Conditions in other shelter homes were not much better, with appalling stories of cruelty and torture, and several instances of suicidal behaviour and mental breakdown.
- Yet another example of unspeakable violence has unfolded in the past week with dozens of young women being insulted, paraded and forced to remove their underwear to prove they were not on their period by their principal and school staff after a used personal hygiene product was found in a garden of their school, in Bhuj, Gujarat.
Understanding what is emotional and psychological trauma:
- Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world.
- Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm.
- It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
Effects of psychological trauma:
- Psychological trauma can leave a child struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave the child feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.
- If a child’s psychological trauma symptoms don’tease up—or if they become even worse—they can be unable to move on from the event for a prolonged period of time, they may be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- While emotional trauma is a normal response to a disturbing event, it becomes PTSD when their nervous system gets “stuck” and they remain in psychological shock, unable to make sense of what happened or process their emotions.
- Also children who are exposed to abuse and trauma may develop what is called a ‘ heightened stress response’. This can impact their ability to regulate their emotions, lead to sleep difficulties, lower immune function, and increase the risk of a number of physical illnesses throughout adulthood.
- Attachment and relationships – The majority of abused or neglected children have difficulty developing a strong healthy attachment to a caregiver. Children who do not have healthy attachments have been shown to be more vulnerable to stress. They have trouble controlling and expressing emotions, and may react violently or inappropriately to situations. A child with a complex trauma history may have problems in romantic relationships, in friendships, and with authority figures, such as teachers or police officers.
- Physical health : body and brain – From infancy through adolescence, the body’s biology develops. Normal biological function is partly determined by environment. When a child grows up afraid or under constant or extreme stress, the immune system and body’s stress response systems may not develop normally. Later on, when the child or adult is exposed to even ordinary levels of stress, these systems may automatically respond as if the individual is under extreme stress.
- For example, an individual may experience significant physiological reactivity such as rapid breathing or heart pounding, or may “shut down” entirely when presented with stressful situations. These responses, while adaptive when faced with a significant threat, are out of proportion in the context of normal stress and are often perceived by others as “overreacting” or as unresponsive or detached.
- stress in an environment can impair the development of the brain and nervous system. An absence of mental stimulation in neglectful environments may limit the brain from developing to its full potential. Children with complex trauma histories may develop chronic or recurrent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomach aches. Adults with histories of trauma in childhood have been shown to have more chronic physical conditions and problems. They may engage in risky behaviors that compound these conditions (e.g., smoking, substance use, and diet and exercise habits that lead to obesity).
- Emotional responses – Children who have experienced complex trauma often have difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing emotions, and may have limited language for feeling states. They often internalize and/or externalize stress reactions and as a result may experience significant depression, anxiety, or anger. Their emotional responses may be unpredictable or explosive. A child may react to a reminder of a traumatic event with trembling, anger, sadness, or avoidance.
- Difficulty managing emotions is pervasive and occurs in the absence of relationships as well. Having never learned how to calm themselves down once they are upset, many of these children become easily overwhelmed and also have an increased likelihood of being fearful all the time and in many situations. They are more likely to experience depression as well.
- Dissociation – Dissociation is often seen in children with histories of complex trauma. When children encounter an overwhelming and terrifying experience, they may dissociate, or mentally separate themselves from the experience. They may perceive themselves as detached from their bodies, on the ceiling, or somewhere else in the room watching what is happening to their bodies. They may feel as if they are in a dream or some altered state that is not quite real or as if the experience is happening to someone else.
- Although children may not be able to purposely dissociate, once they have learned to dissociate as a defense mechanism they may automatically dissociate during other stressful situations or when faced with trauma reminders. Dissociation can affect a child’s ability to be fully present in activities of daily life and can significantly fracture a child’s sense of time and continuity. As a result, it can have adverse effects on learning, classroom behavior, and social interactions.
- Behaviour – A child with a complex trauma history may be easily triggered or “set off” and is more likely to react very intensely. The child may struggle with self-regulation (i.e., knowing how to calm down) and may lack impulse control or the ability to think through consequences before acting. As a result, complexly traumatized children may behave in ways that appear unpredictable, oppositional, volatile, and extreme.
- Such a child may seem “spacey”, detached, distant, or out of touch with reality. Complexly traumatized children are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as self-harm, unsafe sexual practices, and excessive risk-taking such as operating a vehicle at high speeds. They may also engage inillegal activities, such as alcohol and substance use, assaulting others, stealing, running away, and/or prostitution, thereby making it more likely that they will enter the juvenile justice system.
- Cognition : Thinking and Learning – Children with complex trauma histories may have problems thinking clearly, reasoning, or problem solving. They may be unable to plan ahead, anticipate the future, and act accordingly. When children grow up under conditions of constant threat, all their internal resources go toward survival. When their bodies and minds have learned to be in chronic stress response mode, they may have trouble thinking a problem through calmly and considering multiple alternatives.
- Self-concept and future orientation – Children learn their self-worth from the reactions of others, particularly those closest to them. Caregivers have the greatest influence on a child’s sense of self-worth and value. Abuse and neglect make a child feel worthless and despondent. A child who is abused will often blame him- or herself. It may feel safer to blame oneself than to recognize the parent as unreliable and dangerous. Shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and a poor self-image are common among children with complex trauma histories.
- Also a child may view himself as powerless, “damaged,” and may perceive the world as a meaningless place in which planning and positive action is futile. They have trouble feeling hopeful. Having learned to operate in “survival mode,” the child lives from moment-to-moment without pausing to think about, plan for, or even dream about a future.
- Long-term health consequences – Traumatic experiences in childhood have been linked to increased medical conditions throughout the individuals’ lives. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is a longitudinal study that explores the long-lasting impact of childhood trauma into adulthood. The ACE Study includes over 17,000 participants ranging in age from 19 to 90. Researchers gathered medical histories over time while also collecting data on the subjects’ childhood exposure to abuse, violence, and impaired caregivers. Results indicated that nearly 64% of participants experienced at least one exposure, and of those, 69% reported two or more incidents of childhood trauma. Results demonstrated the connection between childhood trauma exposure, high-risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, unprotected sex), chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer, and early death.
- The “intangible losses” of pain, sorrow, and reduced quality of life to victims and their families.
- Such immeasurable losses may be the most significant cost of child maltreatment.
- Now the question lies that do we really want the future of our nation to grow up like this?
- As the saying goes, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. It will require the coordination of various stakeholders – the political will, the NGOs, the right child activists, the police and overall us the people to stop the menace of child abuse and help their rehabilitation.
- The government too has be aware of the long-term impact of their policies not only on the adults but also the children who are the future bearers of the nation.
- Also the policemen need to be more sensitive when dealing with children.
Question – In the light of the recent Supreme Court judgement about decriminalizing politics, analyse what is criminalization of politics and it is the sole responsibility of the judiciary? If not then what is the way ahead.
- Context – In a far-reaching verdict aimed at decriminalising Indian politics, the apex court on Thursday directed political parties to upload on their websites and social media platforms the details of pending criminal cases against their candidates and the reasons for selecting them as also for not giving ticket to those without criminal antecedents.
What is meant by criminalisation of politics?
The general meaning:
- When politics or political power is used by self-interest-seeking persons for pecuniary gains or various other advantages such as to get special position in administration or to rise to the higher stage of administration which is normally not feasible.
- o criminalisation of politics means to use politics or political power for nefarious gains. To gain something not legal or normal has been called crime. Here the word crime is used in politics in special sense.
- For example an officer in administration wants to be promoted to higher post. But this is not his due.He uses politics or political power to achieve this. The person succeeds. But the matter does not stop here. The person who helped to get undue privilege will again use this person for the achievement of his purposes which are, in normal course, not due. This is the policy of give-and-take.
A deeper analysis:
- “Criminalization of Politics” refers to those acts carried out by persons with Legislative, Judicial or Executive Authority, (as opposed to the belief that it is limited to political authority) which undermine the constitutional fundamentals of India.
- The modern definition of Criminalization in politics tends to incorporate more than just the criminalization in “Politics” (in the purer sense of the term) and extends the scope of the term to forms of criminalization in Electoral Politics, Policy-making Politics, Judiciary, Executive and even the Administration. This is so because the modern day definition of Politics imbibes in itself the concept of “Governance” which is holistic.
Causes of criminalisation in politics:
- The most important cause of criminalisation of politics is the unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucracy. This undesirable and dangerous relationship between bureaucracy and political leaders opened the door of criminalisation of politics.
- The interference of politicians in the administration may be regarded as another reason of criminalisation of politics.
- Caste and religion both are equally responsible for the criminalisation of politics. It has been found that a minister of a particular caste or religion will distribute favour to the members of his own caste and religion. In many states of India this is found.
- Un-development, illiteracy, poverty and prismatic nature of Indian social system are collectively responsible for the criminalisation of politics. The shrewd and self-interest-seeking politicians —in collaboration with corrupt civil servants — adopt various types of unfair means to satisfy their greediness and ill-motives.
- In post-independent India strong public opinion against corrupt practices has not developed. Each person knows that that system or practice is corrupt. But there is nobody to protest against it. Rather, he thinks that this is the system and he accepts it. This tendency has finally opened the door of the criminalisation of politics.
- Many political parties of India fielded candidates who had criminal cases against them. Some of these candidates also won in elections. Two points may be made here. One is—the parties fielded the candidates who had criminal background. It means that the parties do not give due importance to this black spot.
- The simple implication is that the criminal activities of candidates are not important. The other is that the voters have helped these candidates to win. While exercising franchise it is the duty of the voters to take information about the candidates.
- It can therefore be concluded that both voters and parties are equally responsible for the criminalisation of politics.
Kinds of criminalisation in politics:
- Electoral fraud – Electoral Fraud refers to such acts which disrupt a process of fair elections illegally. However, acts which disrupt fair elections but are not illegal, may also be referred to as electoral fraud, on moral grounds.
- Political candidates with criminal records/pending – Criminalization of politics has many forms, but perhaps the most alarming among them is the significant number of elected representatives with criminal charges pending against them. A common happening in the electoral politics of today, is musclemen using the fear psychosis to gather votes. They fear the weak and poor to vote for a specific candidate or manipulate the vote-banks. At various instances, musclemen have been used to scare away competing candidates (and their means may extend to inflicting damage and even causing death at times).
- It is widely believed that the cost of fighting elections has climbed far above the legal spending limits. This has resulted in lack of transparency, widespread corruption, and the pervasiveness of so-called ‘black money’.
- Political scams.
- Criminal gangs enjoying patronage of politicians – The nexus between the criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country and that some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed senas and over the years get themselves elected to local bodies, State assemblies, and national parliament.
Consequences of criminalisation of politics:
- If an officer in administration wants to be promoted to higher post, but this is not his due, he uses politics or political power to achieve this. The person succeeds. But the matter does not stop here. The person who helped to get undue privilege will again use this person for the achievement of his purposes which are, in normal course, not due. This policy of give-and-take continues and this becomes the root cause of corruption spreading at all levels.
- Crime and corruption flourishes – Patronage from the political parties and protection from laws. By siding with the politicians, they smoothly carry out illegal activities without fear of punitive action against them.
- This impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of institutions and thereby, erodes the trust of people in the government.
Legislative initiatives to check criminalisation of politics:
- Section 8 of Representation of People Act, 1951 lays down certain rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. A person convicted by court and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of more than 2 years is disqualified from contesting elections for the imprisoned period and a further period of 6 years since his release.
- RoPA, 1951 disqualifies a candidate for the use of corrupt practices at the election.
- Under the provisions of Finance Bill 2017, the maximum cash donation that a political party can receive is not to exceed 2000 Rupees per person.
- Reforms in Corporate Funding has been done by removing the limit of 7.5% of net profit, for the contribution a company can make to the political parties. Further parties need not to disclose the name of donors.
- In order to get exemption, from the paying income tax every political party would have to file its return in accordance with the provisions of the Income-tax Act.
- Introduction of Electoral bonds is a positive step taken in the direction of decriminalizing politics, as these bonds may reduce the use of Black Money in politics.
Steps taken by the judiciary to check criminalisation of politics:
- Directions to ensure the asset disclosure and criminal records of candidates.
- The incorporation of ‘none of the above’ option in the voting machine
- And the invalidation of a cause that protected sitting legislators from immediate disqualification after conviction.
- In addition, the court has directed the establishment of special courts in all states for the quick disposal of cases involving elected representatives.
Steps taken by the Election Commission:
- Effective implementation of the Model code of conduct.
- Mandatory declaration of assets.
- Election Commission of India has demanded more independence and Financial Autonomy from Government Control to have more free hand over the Criminalizing Activities in politics.
- It must be underscored that de-criminalisation of politics cannot be achieved by judicial fiat alone. The political class has to respond to the challenge. They should choose their candidates more responsibly.
- But the larger question is what good will more information on a candidate’s background do if voters back a particular leader or party without reference to the record of the of the candidate fielded. The voters have to be more responsible too. They hold the ultimate baton.
Question – analyse the functioning of the Lokpal. Can the office be further strengthened?
Context – The Lokpal Act.
- The Jan lokpal bill is essentially an anti-corruption bill and from that a lokpal is an anti corruption institution.
- The term “Lokpal” was coined by Dr. L.M. Singhvi in 1963. The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed in parliament by Law Minister Ashoke Kumar Sen in the early 1960s.
- The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Adv Shanti Bhusan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969, but did not pass through the Rajya Sabha.
- Subsequently, ‘Lokpal Bills’ were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, again by Ashoke Kumar Sen while serving as Law Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, and again in 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008 but they were never passed.
- Forty-five years after its first introduction, the Lokpal Bill was finally enacted in India on 18th December 2013.
- The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India (1966-1970) recommended the setting up of two special authorities designated as ‘Lokpal’ and ‘Lokayukta’ for the redressal of citizens’ grievances.
- These institutions were to be set up on the pattern of Ombudsman in Scandinavian countries and the parliamentary commissioner for investigation in New Zealand.
- A Joint Drafting Committee on 8.4.2011, consisting of five nominee ministers from the government and five nominees of Sri Anna Hazare, to prepare a draft of the Lokpal Bill.
- Based on the deliberations of the committee, and on the basis of inputs from Chief Minister of states and political parties, a draft Lokpal Bill was prepared.
- The cabinet at its meetings held on 28.7.2011 considered the draft Lokpal Bill and upon approval by the Cabinet, the Lokpal Bill, 2011, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 4.8.2011.
Features of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013:
- The Lokpal to consist of a Chairperson with a maximum of 8 members of which 50% shall be judicial members.
- 50% of the members of the Lokpal shall come from amongst the SCs, STs, the OBCs and women.
- The selection of the chairperson and the members of the Lokpal shall be through a selection committee consisting of – the PM, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or sitting SC judge nominated by CJI, an eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India.
- A search committee will assist the Selection Committee in the process of election. Fifty percent of the members of the Search Committee shall also be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, Minorities and Women.
- Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servents including Group A, B, C, and D officers and employees of government. On complaints referred to CVC by Lokpal, CVC will send its report of preliminary enquiry in respect of Group A and B officers back to the Lokpal for further decision. With respect to Group C and D employees, CVC will proceed further in exercise of its own powers under the CVC Act subject to reporting and review.
- All entries receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs. 10 lakhs per year are brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
- Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal.
- High powered committee chaired by PM will recommend selection of the Director of of CBI.
- Attachment and confiscation of property of public servants acquired by corrupt means, even when persecution is pending.
Enquiry Procedure of Lokpal and Lokayuktas:
- The investigation shall be completed within 6 months. The Lokpal may initiate persecution through its Prosecution Wing before the Special Court set up to adjudicate cases.
- The trial shall be completed within a maximum of two years. The recent amendment has amended Section 44.
- Now every public servant shall make the declaration of their assets and liabilities in the form and manner as prescribed by the government.
- It has abolished the previous 30 days timeline.
- Gives extension of the time given to public servants and trustees and board members of Non-Governmental Organisations to declare their assets and those of their spouses.
- Strict laws should be implemented against those who provide and those who accept bribes. It is believed that corruption resides on every level of most of the working institutions.
- Just imagine the impact parents have on their children when they get a false medical report in order to ensure their attendance in colleges and schools. You wish to get your child admitted to a good school or college, just pay an ample amount of money to one of the authorities and your work is done. It has to begin from home, from the root level.
Question – The Delhi model of education is widely praised across the country. What are the features and should it act as a guiding light for other states to follow?
Context – the Chief Minister of Maharashtra commented that “The transformation in the education system under the Delhi model needs a relook and should be replicated to raise the standard of education in Maharashtra,”
- The Delhi model of education is widely praised for its effective financial management and betterment of education standards.
- At the heart of Delhi’s education model is the school management committees (SMCs). The SMCs are mandated under the Right to Education Act 2009. This committee comprises parents and teachers affiliated to a particular school.
- The members of the SMCs live in the vicinity of the school so they would feel a ‘sense of ownership’ towards this process. SMCs are responsible for monitoring and assisting in matters of the school.
- The government also took several other steps to strengthen the Delhi model of education. It made education free up to Class 12. It also increased scholarships for students who scored above 80 per cent.
- The government also introduced a happiness curriculum and an entrepreneurship mindset curriculum. CCTV cameras were also installed in schools and parents were provided a live feed. The management quota was also scrapped during admissions.
- The government has also made efforts to keep students in classrooms. To check the dropout rate, the government introduced the ‘Chunauti’ scheme in 2016. Under the initiative, students are divided into groups on the basis of whether they can read or write Hindi and English, and solve mathematics.
- Depending on their learning abilities, they are offered ‘special classes’ in the government schools. This scheme has been reformed and has been inspired by Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee’s model.
- As part of the scheme, students are divided into three groups in Class 6 — Pratibha (for the best students), Nishtha (for the average ones) and Neo Nishtha (for those who barely pass). Even though they sit in the same classroom, the teaching methods vary. Atishi, former adviser to Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia had said that “Some students were so weak that they could not read or write, hence we had to divide them into different groups and teach them at a level that they could understand.”
- In June 2018, Delhi government’s schools had “outperformed” private schools. The pass percentage in government schools was 90.68 per cent, whereas the pass percentage for private schools was 88.35 per cent.
- The reforms are creative and given the positive outcome, they can be seen as a guide for the other states to follow, though in a modified way according to their needs and requirements.
Question – Keeping in mind the priority given by the government to the North-East, analyse the recently signed historic Bodo agreement.
Context – Prime Minister will participate in celebrations in Kokrajhar, Assam on February 7, 2020, along with lakhs of people from the Bodo community.
- This celebration is to mark the final solution of the decades-old Bodo problem that was signed on January 27, 2020, by the various Bodo organisations, the Union government and the Assam government.
Who are the Bodos?
- The Bodos (pronounced BO-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the North-East of India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. Bodos belong to a larger group of ethnicity called the Bodo-Kachari.
- They are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
- The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.
Bodoland dispute history:
- The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
- In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
- In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
- The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
- In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.
Who are the NDFB?
- Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.
- In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary. The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.
- In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan. In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.
NDFB factions and their activities:
- In October 2008, bomb attacks in Assam carried out by the NDFB killed 90 people. In January this year, 10 operatives, including founder Ranjan Daimary, were convicted for their role in the attacks.
- After the blasts, the NDFB was divided into two factions — the NDFB (P), led by Gobinda Basumatary, and the NDFB (R), led by Ranjan Daimary.
- The NDFB (P) started talks with the central government in 2009. In 2010, Daimary was arrested and handed over to India by Bangladesh, and was granted bail in 2013. His faction too then began peace talks with the government.
- In 2012, Ingti Kathar Songbijit broke away from the NDFB (R) and formed his own faction, the NDFB (S). His faction is believed to be behind the killing of 66 Adivasis in Assam in December 2014. The NDFB (S) is against holding talks.
- In 2015, Songbijit was removed as the chief of the group and B Saoraigwra took over. This faction of the NDFB is still active, while Songbijit, himself a Karbi and not a Bodo, is said to have started his own militant group.
Why in news?
- The Bodoland issue is back in the news again due to the signing of the historic Bodo agreement.
The historic Bodo agreement:
- Union Minister for Home Affairs, presided over the signing of a historic agreement between Government of India, Government of Assam and Bodo representatives, in New Delhi today, to end the over 50-year old Bodo crisis. Further, a permanent solution has been found out for the problem that has cost the region over 4000 lives.
- With this agreement, over 1500 armed cadres will abjure violence and join the mainstream. A Special Development Package Rs. 1500 crores over three years will be given by the Union Government to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.
- the objective of the MoS is to increase the scope and powers of the BTC and to streamline its functioning; resolve issues related to Bodo people residing outside Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD); promote and protect Bodo’s social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities; providing legislative protection for the land rights of tribals; ensure quick development of tribal areas and rehabilitate members of NDFB factions.
- After the agreement, the NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organizations within a month of signing the deal. The Union Government and the Government of Assam will take necessary measures to rehabilitate over 1500 cadres of NDFB (P), NDFB (RD) and NDFB (S), as per the laid down policy of the government.
- The current agreement proposes to set up a commission under Section 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, which will recommend the inclusion or exclusion of tribal population residing in villages adjoining BTAD areas. In this commission, besides State government there will be representatives from ABSU and BTC. It will submit its recommendation within six months from the date of notification.
- The Government of Assam will establish a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council as per existing procedure. The Assam government will also notify Bodo language as an associate official language in the state and will set up a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools. The present settlement has proposal to give more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers to BTC.
- The signing of the agreement is historic, the next step is its full fledged implementation and smooth resolution of any further issues.
Question – Judiciary under tremendous pressure from public opinion. comment.
Context – The pressure on the judges for death sentence via social media and other public platforms.
- Judiciary should be independent not just from politics but also from public sentiment and judges should deliver justice as per law and not according to the opinion of the majority.
- If an order is not in favour of a particular group then the judge faces backlash. An atmosphere is created whereby pressure is exerted on the judge.
- While public sentiment remains unchanged, it is important to realise that judicial processes demand dispassionate fairness that gives due regard to substantive requirements of sentencing.
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980) had laid down the sentencing framework in capital cases (how and in what circumstance the death sentence is to be delivered). It required sentencing courts to consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the offence and the offender when deciding the question of punishment i.e. the courts have to consider whether the alternative option of life imprisonment has been unquestionably foreclosed. The death sentence can only be imposed in exceptional cases involving extreme culpability, and such exceptionalism cannot solely be rooted in the brutality of the crime.
Question – Discuss the impacts of attaching medical colleges to existing district hospitals in the PPP mode.
Context – The experiment of PPP model in hospitals.
- Setting up of medical colleges in existing district hospitals under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
- The States which fully allow the facilities of the hospital to the medical college and wish to provide land at a concession would be eligible for viability gap funding.
- To address the shortage of doctors.
- It is practically not possible for Central and State governments to bridge the gaps in medical education with their limited resources and finances, necessitating the formation of a PPP model.
- It combines the strengths of both sectors – public and private.
- It augments the number of medical seats available.
- moderates the costs of medical education.
- Allowing private parties to “operate and maintain the district hospital and provide healthcare services” could seriously dent public health services
- The draft indicates that the private firm “can demand, collect and appropriate hospital charges from patients”.
- It destabilizes people’s access to affordable public health services, which can be disastrous.
- The government must consider raising health-care spending beyond the usual under 2% of GDP.
- It should ensure more resources are available to provide free, quality health care to all.
Note – Today there is an article on the 15th Finance Commission. The following are the major highlights:
15th FINANCE COMMISSION:
- The appointment of the Fifteenth Finance Commission by the President of India under Article 280 of the Constitution was notified on November 27, 2017.
- It was required to submit the report by October 30, 2019 for five years for the period 2020-21 to 2024-25.
- However, due to various political and fiscal developments, the tenure of the Commission was extended to submit its report.
- Now it will submit two reports, one for 2020-21 and the second covering the period of five years beginning April 1, 2021.
Finance Commission and its functions:
The Finance Commission has the following functions or duties:
- The Commission makes recommendations to the President of India on the distribution of tax proceeds between the Union and the States and the share of each state.
- The Commission also decides the principles that govern the payment of grants-in-aid to states from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- The President of India can also refer any other matter to the Finance Commission in the interest of building a sound financial system.
Reasons for extension:
- The abolition of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir required the Commission to make an estimation excluding the Union Territory.
- The deceleration in growth and low inflation has substantially slowed down the nominal GDP growth which is the main tax base proxy; making projections of tax revenues and expenditures based on this for the medium term could have posed serious risks.
Recommendations suggested in the Report:
- The Commission has continued with the approach and methodology adopted by the previous Commissions for tax devolution and revenue-gap grants.
- vertical division of taxes – States’ share is 41%
- For the horizontal shares, however, the formula has been changed to consider “fiscal needs, equity and efficiency”.
- Factors considered – income distance, population and area and forest cover, two additional factors — demographic performance and tax effort were also used.
o 15% weight to the 2011 population,
o reduced the weight of income distance to 45%,
o increased the weight to forest cover and ecology to 10%
o 12.5% weight to demographic performance and
o 2.5% weight to tax effort.
- In terms of relative shares in tax devolution, among the major States the biggest loser is Karnataka followed by Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- The major reason for Karnataka and Kerala losing on devolution is that their per capita income growth has been faster than most other States.
- Suggested grants for local bodies amount to ₹90,000 crore comprising ₹60,750 crore for panchayats and the remaining ₹29,250 crore for municipal bodies.
- For PRIs, 50% of the grant is tied to improving sanitation and supply of drinking water, rest untied.
- The Commission has recommended the creation of a disaster mitigation fund at the Central and State levels.
- For 2020-21, it has recommended ₹7,735 crore for improving nutrition based on the numbers of children in the 0-6 age group and lactating mothers.
- Proposed to give grants for police training, modernisation and housing, railway projects in States etc.
Question – Analyse the efficiency of the Aadhar system in the PDS system.
Context – Ajay Bhushan Pandey, then CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and current Revenue Secretary, in UIDAI’s 2017-18 annual report, has said that “Aadhaar has curtailed leakages of government subsidies… Through Aadhaar, savings worth ₹90,000 crore have accrued to the government”.
The benefits of Aadhar card in India:
- An Aadhar card is a unique number issued to every citizen of India and is a centralised and universal identification number. The Aadhar card is a biometric document that stores an individual’s personal details in government database, and is fast becoming the government’s base for public welfare and citizen services.
- Identity card: The Aadhar card is a card that does not really have a specific purpose behind it. Unlike a voter ID card, whose sole purpose is to permit the holder to take part in the electoral process, the Aadhaar card was not created with any specific use in mind. Instead, it can be used for a number of purposes, making it a universally acceptable government-issued card, without needing to register or apply for a separate card for each of these services.
- Availing of subsidies: One of the most important uses of Aadhar card is that it permits the holder to avail of all government subsidies he/she is eligible for. Since the government already has all the necessary data on a particular individual, they need only produce their Aadhaar card in order to avail of the various subsidies or programmes. The government has so far introduced schemes whereby the Aadhar can be linked to a bank accountand LPG connection so individuals can receive their LPG subsidy directly into their bank accounts. This also negates the possibility of the funds being misappropriated or of individuals making fraudulent claims in order to claim benefits.
- Ease of availability : The Aadhar card is the only government-issued document that is available anywhere, everywhere. An Aadhaar card can be applied for online. This makes it convenient for individuals to always have a copy of a valid government-issued identity document that is also easily accessible. This also reduces the risk of an original document being stolen/misplaced, since the Aadhaar can be downloadedonto any device and displayed when required.
- Benefits of Aadhar card in easing government processes: An Aadhar Card is an essential document when it comes to KYC, verification, and identification purposes. Following are the benefits of Aadhaar Card which can be used to speed up government and bureaucratic processes:
- Acquisition of passport : The acquisition of a passport can be a daunting endeavour as it requires plenty of time. Obtaining a passport includes getting an appointment with the authorities, processing your application, dispatching of the passport and police verification checks. It usually takes multiple weeks to complete all processes and avail a passport, but thanks to the increased uses of an Aadhar Card,the process of obtaining a passport can be now expedited.
- Individuals who wish to obtain a passportcan apply for the same online by simply attaching their Aadhaar Card as the only residence and identity proof along with their application.
- Opening bank accounts.
- Digital life certificate : The ‘Jeevan Pramaan for Pensioners’ or the Digital Life certificate as it is also called, was initiated by Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. The aim of the certificate was to abolish the need for the pensioner to be physically present in order to receive pension for the continuation of their scheme. Pensioners can now avail pension without having to leave their homes as their details can be digitally accessed by the agency through their Aadhar Card numbers.
- Jan Dhan Yojana : The Jan Dhan Yojnaaccepts your Aadhaar Card Number as the only document for the opening of a bank account.
- Disbursing Provident Fund : Individuals who link their Aadhar Card to their Pension Accountscan have their provident fund disbursed directly to their accounts through their PF organisation.
- LPG subsidy : By linking the Aadhaar number to the 17 digit LPG ID, users will be able to avail the LPG subsidy directly in their respective bank accounts.
The main arguments favouring Aadhar:
- When Aadhaar was conceived a decade ago, the rationale postulated was: India spends nearly three trillion rupees a year across several core welfare programmes such as Public Distribution System (PDS), LPG, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act etc; roughly 30-40% of this is lost in leakages; leakages are largely due to ‘ghost’ and ‘duplicate’ beneficiaries using fake identities to avail these benefits; a unique identity biometric scheme can eliminate these leakages and vastly improve efficiency in welfare delivery.
- In fact, the former Union Minister, Arun Jaitley, even renamed the Aadhaar Bill to ‘Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services’ Bill, making it amply clear that Aadhaar’s primary, if not sole purpose, was to improve welfare delivery efficiency.
What is the PDS programme?
- Public distribution system is a government-sponsored chain of shops entrusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the needy sections of the society at very cheap prices.
- Wheat, rice, kerosene, sugar, etc. are a few major commodities distributed by the public distribution system.
- Food Corporation of India, a government entity, manages the public distribution system.
- The system is often blamed for its inefficiency and rural-urban bias. It has not been able to fulfill the objective for which it was formed. Moreover, it has frequently been criticized for instances of corruption and black marketing.
Has Aadhar served its purpose?
- Professors Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus and Sandip Sukthankar. They have recently published a new working paperin the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research, which details findings from an extensive empirical study of the impact of Aadhaar in reducing leakages and accruing fiscal savings.
- Professor Muralidharan and the rest of the team tell us that Aadhaar by itself has no impact in reducing leakages significantly. They conducted a scientifically designed study of the PDS system in Jharkhand covering 15 million beneficiaries using the technique of randomised control trials(RCT). [to know in details about RCT refer to the article of 30th October]
- The study was set up in a manner where one set of beneficiaries went through the Aadhaar-based biometric authentication while the other group used the old system of procuring their ration. The results were then compared to see if Aadhaar-based biometric authentication had any impact in reducing leakages.
- The study concluded that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication had no measurable benefit. Aadhaar-based biometric authentication did not reduce leakages due to elimination of ghosts and duplicates, as widely perceived.
- On the other hand, they found that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication increased transaction costs for beneficiaries. That is, to claim ration worth ₹40, beneficiaries in the Aadhaar system incurred an additional ₹7 of costs than those in the old system, because of multiple trips to authenticate themselves and the opportunity cost of time spent. This is a whopping 17% extra cost burden of the value of the benefit they were entitled to receive.
- To make matters worse, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication also introduced what empirical scientists call Type I error of exclusion. In simple terms, Aadhaar authentication falsely rejected genuine PDS beneficiaries who were then denied their ration supplies. The study finds that nearly 10% of legitimate beneficiaries were denied their ration either because they did not have their Aadhaar linked to their ration card or due to an exclusion error.
- No testing before introducing the scheme on an all-India scale – here was widespread belief among the policy elite that ghosts and duplicates were the scourge of India’s welfare delivery and that Aadhaar would eliminate this. But this belief was never empirically tested. It was deemed to be true simply because the intellectual elite said so.
- Many studies now establish that ghosts and duplicates are not the significant cause of leakages. It would have been better to have undertaken a robust pilot project of scale to test the belief about ghosts and duplicates, before embarking on it nationwide.
- Engineer’s way of measuring policy outcomes – i.e. only through the prism of numerical efficiency. In an engineer’s world, if say, nine people are denied welfare due to a system error while nine million are benefited through greater efficiency, then it is considered a net benefit for society and the policy is given a thumbs up.
- But in a sociologist’s world and in a liberal society, a policy that could run the risk of denying welfare to just a few people, putting their lives at risk, is not worth implementing regardless of how many millions it benefits. Aadhaar was held hostage to the engineer’s worldview of policy efficacy.
A case study on technical glitches in e-PoS devices: (Aadhar Device’s glitches at ration shops in Delhi’s Jasola)
- The machine fails to recognise the fingerprints of women who work as domestic help. Even a few labourers whose finger scans aren’t read.
- Most machines run well for about 30 minutes and then start hanging.
- Device sees constant network breaks. People stand in que for 3-4 days to get ration.
- All systems and techniques have their merits and demerits. There is a need for periodic revision and take required steps for improvement from time to time.
Question – Analyse the defence threats to India and highlight the way ahead.
Context – The hostile neighbourhood.
Threats to India:
- Disturbed internal conditions in most countries of South Asia can be attributed mainly to unabated terrorist activities and organised crime. India has been facing sporadic communal, ethnic and Maoist violence, which is socially and geographically more pervasive than cross border terrorism from Pakistan and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, which have presently disturbed peace in the subcontinent. Chinese intrusions into Indian territory both in eastern and western sectors of Sino- Indian boundary are posing new threats to peace in the region.
- India – Pakistan faceoff– Pakistan has mostly if not always adopted a hostile policy towards India. And It seems there is no change in the policy of the Pakistan army in matters related to Kashmir. The top brass, along with a crop of retired generals, still believes that India should not be allowed to rest in peace till it agrees to accept a solution of the Kashmir problem as demanded by them. The Pakistan army, realising its inability to settle the problem by conventional military or diplomatic means, continues to wage an asymmetric conflict, hoping that India will finally relent.
- Tactics and techniques of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists of using local people as a shield must be neutralised both in rear and forward areas as there are indications that a renewed and more vigorous assault by Pakistan irregulars coinciding with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan is in the offing. India must anticipate the pattern of the attacks it may face in the near future and reassess and review the basic concepts that underpin the doctrines of countering Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K.
- The new Pakistani offensive can pose multiple threats, ranging from persistent terror attacks to low-intensity conflicts waged through subnational ethnic or religious groups recruited within our own country. Operations by a large number of non-state actors operating at the behest of the Pakistan army may soon assume the shape of a prolonged conflict in Kashmir along with terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in other parts of India.
- Pakistan can pose multiple threats through non-state actors, fanatics and extremists supported by technology experts operating through secret networks based within the country. The potential of shadowy groups against security forces is underestimated at times, and non-state actors’ capability of conducting a prolonged and sustained conflict is often treated with disdain. Tactical pauses should not be mistaken for termination of hostilities or signs of victory.
- The exact nature, forms and contours which a covert war can take in the future in the developing security environments are still by and large obscure. The diverse forms and shapes of the new Pakistani covert war may hold many surprises. The current doctrinal concepts for combating Pakistan-sponsored terror and subversive activities may prove largely ineffective unless we are able to anticipate and pre-empt future Pakistani plans with some exactitude and evolve appropriate models for dealing with the challenges that a post-modern covert warfare may pose
- A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of the sponsor.
- Border instructions by China:
- China, in the recent past, has been sending clear signals to India of a new assertive border policy to coerce India into settling the longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries. It is obvious that the growing economic and trade ties between the two countries have not translated into good relations. The stand-off that continued for over two weeks in April–May in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) created serious doubts in India about China’s future intentions in the region.
- The Chinese have been rapidly improving their military capability in Tibet and all along the Indian border for the past few years, while India has been extremely slow in creating the required defence infrastructure on the disputed borders. China’s latest proposal on border management that neither side should patrol within a certain distance of the LAC or build new border defences simply aims to limit India’s military build on the borders. These proposals are meant to freeze India’s defence preparations and place China in a position of permanent military advantage on the borders.
- China’s aggressive postures and brazen military intrusions across the Indian borders have forced India into a hurried acquisition of advanced military hardware for achieving parity on the borders. India, however, is still not in a position to eliminate the possibility of a military thrust by China in the Ladakh region. Although India has refrained from adopting an aggressive posture on the borders, it has made it clear to China at the diplomatic level that continued incursions may lead to a change in India’s strategic posture. Unlike in the past, India has stopped declaring that it considers Tibet an integral part of China.
- China’s other activities that pose a permanent strategic challenge to India in South Asia are its expanded strategic ties with Pakistan, deployment of troops in northern areas of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and its plans to build a railway line linking Xinjiang with Gwadar port. Chinese activities have also increased in Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. Moreover, the Chinese have been negotiating with several countries in the Indian Ocean region for base facilities for their navy. In these circumstances, the Chinese intentions to up the ante for India in South Asian region are obvious. It is now time for India to fine-tune its military capabilities and improve its overall strategic posture in South Asia to counter the Chinese moves.
- Afghanistan: the new battleground:
- The turmoil in Afghanistan is likely to intensify after the withdrawal of the US-led forces, and the next arena of conflict between Pakistan and India could well be Afghanistan as there is no change in the aggressive and intrusive policy of the Pakistani army towards India. The Pakistan army, in collaboration with the Taliban, is likely to make all efforts to oust India from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops from there.
- The Pakistan army has a perennial fear of strategic encirclement by India and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan army believes that a pliant, pro- Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan is necessary to ward off this danger. According to strategic thinkers in Pakistan, any regime with close ties to India should not be allowed to continue in Afghanistan as it may pose danger to the very existence of Pakistan. Pakistan’s military establishment believes Afghanistan provides vital “strategic depth” to Pakistan where it could relocate armament and crucial bases out of India’s military reach. In any case, a friendly regime in Afghanistan would provide support and enormous resources to Pakistan.
- India, on the other hand, would want a secular India-friendly regime in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces in 2014. Pakistan would attempt to bring India’s ongoing development programmes in Afghanistan to a standstill. India has provided around $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2002 for highways, roads and government buildings, health clinics and doctors and education.
- In October 2011, India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement, the first that Afghanistan signed with any country. India has been training some Afghan military forces for some time and is now considering an Afghan request to provide its security forces heavy arms and equipment. Pakistan has repeatedly planned and executed attacks on the Indian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. Such attacks are bound to intensify in 2014.
- A country’s domestic politics are an important pointer to a stable foreign policy. There could be different views within a nation, but equilibrium needs to be maintained if it is not to adversely impact a nation’s foreign policy imperatives.
- An impression that the country is facing internal strains could encourage an adversary, to exploit our weaknesses. This is a critical point that the defence white paper needs to lay stress on.
Question – The United States officially designated developing and least-developed countries for the purposes of implementing the countervailing measures provided by the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM). In this context critically analyse what is ASCM and what impact will it have on the Indian economy.
Context – Designating India as a developed nation by the U.S.
Why in news?
- Last week, the United States officially published a list ofdeveloping and least-developed countries for the purposes of implementing the countervailing measures provided by the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- This is an annual routine of the U.S. to prepare this list of developing, and least developed countries. But this has assumed importance for India this year because it has been dropped from the list of developing countries.
- In other words, in its future countervailing duty investigations, the U.S. would treat India as a developed country.
What does this mean for India?
To understand in details we need to understand from the basics:
What are countervailing duties?
- Countervailing duties (CVDs) are a key regulation meant to neutralize the negative effects that subsidies of the production of a good in one country have on that same industry in another country, in which the production of that good is not subsidized.
- If left unchecked, such subsidized importscan have a severe effect on the domestic industry, forcing factory closures and causing huge job losses.
- As exportsubsidies are considered to be an unfair trade practice, the World Trade Organization (WTO) – which deals with the global rules of trade between nations – has detailed procedures in place to establish the circumstances under which countervailing duties can be imposed by an importing nation.
- For example, Assume Country A provides an export subsidy to widget makers in the nation, who export widgets en masse to Country B at $8 per widget. Country B has its own widget industry and domestic widgets are available at $10 per widget. If Country B determines that its domestic widget industry is being hurt by unrestrained imports of subsidized widgets, it may impose a 25% countervailing duty on widgets imported from Country A, so that the resulting cost of the imported widgets is also $10. This eliminates the unfair price advantage that widget makers in Country A have due to the export subsidy from their government.
How does the ASCM come here?
- The WTO’s “Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures,” defines when and how an export subsidy can be given by a country to any of its products.
- It also suggests and oversees the measures that the affected nation can take to offset the effect of such subsidies on its domestic products.
- The affected nation has two options – 1) to follow the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure to seek withdrawal of the subsidy, or 2) impose by itself countervailing duties on subsidized imports that are hurting domestic producers.
So what designating India as a developed nation means?
- It means that now India can give less subsidy to its products being exported to the U.S.
- This will mean that if a businessman was producing a good for 10 Rupees and the government was giving him a subsidy of 3 Rupees to promote export. He was selling the good for 7 Rupees in the U.S.
- The developing nations are allowed to give more subsidies to their goods compared to the limit of developed countries.
- Hence now since India has been designated as a developed nation in the list, the government can give very less subsidy to its goods compared to what it was giving before.
- So now the Indian goods will be costlier in the U.S. thereby impacting
- The Indian economy is already experiencing a slowdown.
- India has to demonstrate its diplomatic skills and portray its strategic importance to the U.S. to restore its place in the list of developing nations.
Question – Analyse in detail the trade disputes that are affecting India – U.S. relations.
Context – The designation of India as a developed nation by the U.S.
The following are a list of other trade disputes between India and the U.S.:
- India’s economy began to take off in the mid-1990s and its information technology sector shot to prominence in the early 2000s. India is now the United States’ eighth-largest trading partner in goods and services and is among the world’s largest economies.
- But as trade flourished, there also increased tensions between the two also increased between the two. U.S. and Indian officials have disagreed for years on tariffs and foreign investment limitations, but also on other complicated issues, particularly within agricultural trade. Concern for intellectual property rights has preoccupied the United States for thirty years, while issues concerning medical devices and the fast-growing digital economy have more recently emerged.
The ten ongoing issues of trade between India and the U.S. are:
- Bilateral trade deficit – Previously not a top U.S. trade concern, these became a major focus when Trump issued an executive orderin 2017 requiring a study of the United States’ most significant trade deficits. India has slightly narrowed the trade deficit in goods with the United States, which went from $24.3 billion in 2016, the tenth-largest that year, to $23.3 billion in 2019, the eleventh-largest. Indian negotiators have proposed reducing the deficit via major purchases of products including liquefied natural gas and aircraft.
- Tariffs – The Trump administration began applying new tariffs in 2018 on steel and aluminum imports from dozens of countries, including India, using a national security exemption in U.S. trade law. In response, New Delhi drew up a list of retaliatory tariffsand filed it with the World Trade Organization (WTO), but held off on applying them.
- Generalised system of preferences (GSP) – Following a public review process, the Trump administration removed Indiafrom the GSP program, a special trade treatment for developing countries. One qualification of the program is “equitable and reasonable” access to that country’s markets for U.S. goods and services, and the administration noted still-significant trade barriers in India. Shortly after the Trump administration pulled India from the GSP, India pulled the trigger on its retaliatory tariffs, after which the United States filed a dispute at the WTO. These retaliatory tariffs remain in place.
- Agricultural products – Although agricultural products are not the largest component of U.S.-India trade, tensions over them are long-standing and remain among the most difficult to resolve. The United States exported around $1.5 billion worth of agricultural productsto India in 2018 and imported $2.7 billion. Exports to India include fruit, nuts, legumes, cotton, and dairy products, which are important to the economies of California, Montana, and Washington. Spices, rice, and essential oils are the top agricultural items imported from India to the United States.
- India’s 2019 retaliatory tariffsincluded U.S. almonds, walnuts, cashews, apples, chickpeas, wheat, and peas—and came on top of globally applied tariff hikes by New Delhi. India imposed a retaliatory tariff of 20 percent on in-shell walnuts, added to a 2018 global duty hike to 100 percent. Chickpeas, of which India is one of the world’s largest buyers, were hit with [PDF] a 10 percent tariff on top of a 2017 globally applied tariff of 60 percent. The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council described pulse exports as “devastated” by trade wars underway since 2017.
- Negotiations over U.S. dairy products have gone on for years. It is difficult for U.S. dairy farmers to sell their products in India, because India requires that dairy products are “derived from a dairy cow that has been fed a vegetarian diet for its entire life.” India defends its position on religious and cultural grounds, whereas the association calls these requirements “scientifically unwarranted.”
- India rejected U.S. proposalsin 2015 and 2018 for consumer labels indicating the diet of dairy animals. Frustrated, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council sought India’s removal from the GSP program.
- Intellectual property rights – Intellectual property rights in India have been a chief U.S. concern since at least 1989, the year of the first “Special 301 report” mandated by Congress to identify intellectual property issues in trade. Concerns include piracy of software, film, and music and weak patent protections, among others. In that first report, India was one of eight countries placed on a priority watch list.
- India has remained on the watch list, despite some progress. To comply with its obligations as part of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, India amended its patent act to recognize product rather than process patents, meaning that replicating a product using a different process would qualify as an infringement. This came into force in 2005. However, the United States has sought further improvements. By 2018, Washington still cited [PDF] insufficient patent protections, restrictive standards for patents, and threats of compulsory licensing. Other U.S. concerns include India’s copyright regime and whether current approaches can deliver “pro-innovation and -creativity growth policies.”
- Investment barriers – India has limited foreign investment in sectors such as insurance and banking for decades. While India has substantially liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) procedures, issues remain.
- Harley-davidson motorcycles – President Trump has often bemoaned India’s high tariffs on motorcycles—they stand at 50 percent for some Harley-Davidson models. When Trump raised the issue of India’s motorcycle duties in 2017, tariffs were at 75 percent for the largest engine imports. Harley-Davidson sold fewer than 3,700 units in India that year, and most were cheaper models assembled in India. The tariffs on these more expensive, larger motorcycles fell to 50 percent after Trump discussed the issue with Modi in 2018, but Trump has said that 50 percent is “still unacceptable.”
- Medical devices – The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) expressed concern for years about customs duties on medical equipment and devices, and tensions were exacerbated when the Indian government applied new price controls on coronary stents and knee implants. AdvaMed, a trade association of medical device manufacturers, petitioned for the United States to review India’s eligibility for the GSP program and testified at the public hearing on the matter, like the dairy groups.
- Digital economy – With the rise of the digital economy, and with India’s growing heft as a hub for information technology services and for digital businesses, new frictions have emerged over data localization, data privacy, and e-commerce. Unlike China, which largely operates on its own digital systems, India uses many U.S. platforms, and many U.S. companies have back-office operations in India. These platforms, enjoyed by India’s half a billion internet users, generate enormous data flows, and Indian leaders are well aware of the tremendous value of this data. Prime Minister Modi has called it the “new oil” and “new gold.”
- But the United States is concerned about how India has handled this new resource. In 2018, India’s central bank ordered companies “that operate a payment system in India”—meaning credit card companies and digital payment platforms such as PayPal—to store all data on local servers. This at first led to confusion about jurisdiction for cross-border transactions, and then a clarification that such data could be processed abroad but must ultimately be stored in India.
- Finally, India is developing a comprehensive data protection policy.
- Issuing Visas – Due to its large pool of highly skilled workers, India is extremely competitive in services, and its professionals work around the world. Of the top ten companies with H1B-approved petitions in 2018, four are Indian firms, three of which are at the very top. Over the past fifteen years, the proportion of approved H1B petitions from India went from just under 40 percent to more than 70 percent.
- The Indian government continues to object to U.S. laws passed in 2010 and 2015 that apply higher fees on companies with more than fifty employees if more than half of those employees are in the United States as nonimmigrants. In 2016, India filed a trade dispute at the WTO over these visa fees, arguing that the higher fees “raised the overall barriers for service suppliers from India.” The WTO dispute is ongoing. India has also expressed concerns over visa processing delays, including more requests for evidence, which prolong review times, and increased rejection rates under the Trump administration.
Question – What is ‘protected special agricultural zone’ and what is its importance? Analyse.
Context – By announcing that the Cauvery delta region, Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl comprising eight districts, will be declared as ‘Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ), State Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has recognised farmer concerns about hydrocarbon exploration and accorded primacy to food security.
- His decision comes weeks after he protested the Centre’s unilateral amendment of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006, exempting prior environmental clearance and public consultations for oil and gas exploration.
What is Protected Agriculture Zone (PAZ)?
- Protected Special Agriculture Zone means that particular a region granted PAZ status will not be granted permission for any new projects like those related to hydrocarbons.
- Only Agro based Industries would be given permission to be built.
- The protected zone will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai.
Why is this protection required?
- In 2017, a government notification delineated 45 villages covering about 23,000 hectares in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts in the delta, as a Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region, with an eye on over ₹90,000 crore in investments. But the Cauvery Delta Region is an important agricultural region in Tamil Nadu and farmers continue to do agriculture, despite climate changes.
- The delta, which produces 33 lakh tonnes of grains in 28 lakh acres, has seen multiple protests for a decade over methane, hydrocarbon, oil and natural gas projects, which required acquisition of fertile lands and well drilling — proposals which triggered fears of groundwater contamination.
- It is just and reasonable that projects like hydrocarbon exploration have raised concerns among farmers and other agriculture-based labourers.
- Since the delta region is close to the sea, there is a need to safeguard the region.
- Agricultural scientists such as M.S. Swaminathan have for long mooted such zones similar to special economic zones; Uttarakhand and Kerala have them.
- Whatever the project introduced by the centre, it cannot be implemented without the NOC from that state.
- The benefits are manifold. Drilling for extraction of oil and gas in these regions that hampers agriculture and posing much environmental impact or health hazards will be stopped immediately.
- There is a need to maintain equity between the agricultural and economic sector. Al policies must be made keeping long-term impacts in mind.
Question – Considering the government’s vision for a 5 trillion economy, suggest the importance of the informal sector in this. How can the informal sector be improved?
Context – The need for reviving the health of the informal sector.
What is an informal sector?
- Informal enterprises are often characterised by ease of entry; the use of local resources; family ownership; small scale; labour intensive adapted technology; informally acquired skills; and relatively unregulated, competitive markets. The informal sector is mainly located outside of (or antagonistic to) government regulation. But this is not always so.
- Some firms do act in accordance with government regulations. Some may evade them and in some cases the government may actually try to enforce regulations on small firms. Firms may comply with some but not other regulations.
- Perhaps the most useful, and common, distinction between the two sectors has to be with the number of employees in a firm. But this yardstick loses its relevance in case of professional services such as doctors and lawyers. Yet it is a good general reference point.
- A good way to envision the informal sector is through some of its activities. At the railway station often a child wants to carry the bags of a visitor, shine his shoes, be his guide, or sell him food and inexpensive manufactured goods and buy foreign exchange with Indian currency (rupees).
- A child often offers a service such as watching one’s car for a small sum while the owner is parking it on the street’. Such small-scale ‘street’ services are not only the most visible but also the first line of entry for many into the informal labour force.
- The informal sector consists mainly of small, family-owned firms that operate outside of, or on the fringes of, legal standards established for other firms. The informal sector is usually an important source of employment in developing countries like India.
Types of activities include:
- Services: tailoring, hair dressing, making loans, machinery repair.
- Commerce: retail sector, restaurant, lodging.
- Manufacturing: food processing, textiles and clothing material, processing, brewing.
- Construction and repair of houses and flats
- Transportation: taxis, buses.
- Miscellaneous: recycling, various illegal and immoral activities.
- Because informal firms operate outside some government regulation, often employing family workers, wages are low. Because they may have a harder time getting loans, and rely on informal financing, capital costs are higher. The lower wage-rental ratio, combined with smaller scale, explains why more firms are relatively labour-intensive in nature and operate with simpler technology.
The Informal Sector and Small-Scale Industries:
- The informal sector is important because of the size distribution of firms in developing countries. If we define a small firm as one with fewer than ten employees and a large firm as one with more than 50, industrialised countries tend to have a positive correlation between the number of firms and their size. In developing countries like India, there tends to be a large number of small and large firms, with relatively few in-between.
- There are a number of reasons for this. Small, fragmented markets, high transportation costs, little access to capital and the prominence of labour-intensive industry such as food processing and apparel tend to keep down the size of firms. Once these barriers are overcome, firms can become quite large.
- In addition, a high degree of government regulation is also a factor. The cost of regulations frequently discourages the firms from crossing the invisible line that separates informal from formal while the large firms are better able to withstand those costs; thus, there are few mid-range firms.
- Small firms are not necessarily inefficient. Given their technology, small firms in LDCs seem to be as efficient as those in high-income countries. Industries where small-scale predominantly shows ease of entry and exit (especially where regulations are not excessive), and many more firms match the efficiency of established firms in a few years, medium-sized firms do not have scope to emerge and survive.
- Informal firms provide some services that are otherwise not available at all or are available to only a small part of the population through the formal sector. They fill in the cracks by providing ancillary services (such as transportation and, repair work) that permit the formal sector to provide a variety of services to individuals who work in the formal sector. Sometimes they may work directly for formal sector enterprises, through various types of subcontracting arrangements.
- Informal firms are an extremely important source of inexpensively acquired skills including managerial and organisational skills. As a sort of informal business school and vocational institute, they are often the only source of training available to poor workers in LDCs like India.
- Pay tends to be below similar jobs in the formal sector, but heads of informal enterprises (sometimes the only employees as well) often earn more than the average wage in the formal sector through a combination of return to both labour and capital.
- Informal firms may compete with some formal firms, especially in services, transportation and insurance, but they also provide strong backward linkages to the formal sector by purchasing their machinery and raw materials.
- Informal finance through moneylenders and co-operative organisations formed by poor people are crucial. In both rural and urban areas, there are informal rotating credit organisations in which funds are contributed by members and are available to them either on a regular basis or as needed.
- Most activities and transactions in the informal sector are not officially recorded. A plumber may repair one’s wash basins and collect Rs. 50 as his remuneration which often passes unnoticed by the taxing authorities. So growth of the informal sector creates two problems—undervaluation of national income and accumulation of black money.
- Strategies to strengthen informal sector so that it can contribute meaningfully to the economy are:
- Providing basic primary education to all and bridging the gap for secondary and higher education where it exists through skill development programs.
- India’s drive to improve the ‘ease of doing business’ will get a fillip if this informal sector is formalised with favourable policies and regulations. The government should consider issuing the Weights and Measurements License, the Gumasta License, etc, within a fixed time and for a longer duration of 5-10 years. The self-employed should be given permit registration of small businesses, registration from professional bodies and/or accreditation and skill certificates from institutes such as IMA, ITI etc. Estimates show a chunk of the 63 million MSMEs in India, employing 110 million people, will immediately improve quality of life — an improvement on the human index as well.
- The vision is there; the intent is clear. The government is taking incremental steps to widen the social security net and increase the unorganised sector’s income. The emphasis should now shift to accelerating the pace of formalising the Indian economy: we must re-energise informal, independent businesses to make India attractive for domestic and foreign investments. The $5 trillion will follow.
Question – Analyze the economic slowdown and suggest the way ahead.(250 words)
Context – The ongoing economic slowdown.
The present state:
- The economy is going through a slowdown.
- The rate of growth of the national GDP has declined to 5.0%, and may go down further; the construction sector, one of the fastest growing sectors so far, is growing at 3.3% this year; agriculture is growing at 2.1% while the auto sector is declining continuously in absolute terms.
- The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector too has declined, in turn raising the burden of non-performing assets of the banking sector as well as non-banking financial institutions.
- Also, exports have been declining in recent years, raising the crisis of current account deficit. Credit from banking and non-banking sectors has been declining in the last few years; the Financial Stability Report of the Reserve Bank of India (2019) says that it is unlikely to increase in the next nine months.
- These developments have had an adverse impact on the bottom 30%-40% of the population.
- The incidence of absolute poverty, which has been falling since 1972-73, has increased to 30% (4% jump).
- As the Human Development Report (2019) has shown, more than 44% of the Indian population is under the multi-dimensional poverty line. The poorest 50% population at present owns only 4.1% of the national wealth, while the richest 10% people own 73% of the total wealth in India (Suisse Credit 2019).
- India has 15.2% population malnourished (women 15%) as against 9.3% in China. And 50% of the malnourished children in the world are in India. India’s global hunger rank has gone up to 112 while Brazil is 18, China is 25 and South Africa, 59.
- In the field of education as per a UN report (2015), overall literacy in India is 74.04% (more than the 25% are totally illiterate) against 94.3% in South Africa, 96.6% in China and 92.6% in Brazil. Almost 40-45% population is either illiterate or has studied up to standard 4.
- Given the quality of education in India, the overall population is very poorly educated, with the share of ‘educated unemployment’ rising by leaps and bounds.
- Collapse in Private Consumption and Investment Freeze Leading to Double Whammy – private consumption has taken a beating due to Demonetization as consumers suddenly prefer to hoard cash or keep it in the bank instead of spending on consumer goods. Moreover, demand has also collapsed in the rural areas as the entire rural economy runs on cash and Demonetization led to the loss of jobs as well as incomes thereby squeezing the rural consumer who now prefers to wait and watch as well as postpone consumption except that of essential goods and services.
- The Effect of Demonetization – Demonetization can be said to have contributed too much of the slowdown as the Double Whammy of demand collapsing, and supply bottlenecks mean that there is a broad slowdown across the entire value chain of the demand and supply dynamics.
- Too Much Debt – Added to this is the fact that most Public Sector Banks are saddled with high NPAs or Non-Performing Assets that have resulted in them tightening lending and instead, seeking deposits and otherwise repairing their balance sheets by making provisions for Bad Loans. Indeed, absent recapitalization of such banks by the government, one might very well see a vicious cycle wherein bad debts and demand collapse lead to no lending and no fresh investment in addition to any consumption. The cycle has to be broken somewhere, and this is where the Government and the RBI or the Reserve Bank of India have to take concerted action.
- Rollout of GST – It can be said that the implementation of GST is also flawed thereby exacerbating some of the factors that have contributed to the slowdown. GST has hampered the small businesses more than Demonetization by forcing them to withhold inventory until they migrate to the GSTN or the GST Network and become compliant with the numerous rules and regulations that are part of this tax.
- Global Slowdown – it is not these factors alone, and the most important factor is that there is also a global economic slowdown that is happening and given the fact that India is a net commodity exporter, there has been a slump in the volumes of exports. Apart from that, the global slowdown has also been accompanied by a retreat of globalization which has resulted in FDI or Foreign Direct Investment being only in the areas of speculative finance and distressed assets purchases rather than into investments that help the Real Economy. Thus, it can be said that ongoing global headwinds also have contributed to the slowdown in the Indian Economy.
- Retreat of Globalization – Hence, what the slowdown means for professionals and fresh graduates is that they would be finding it harder to land jobs as well as see their salaries rise year on year basis. In addition, the policies of the Trump Administration have contributed to a decline in the number of students and professionals going to the United States and added to this, Brexit uncertainties have compounded the situation.
- Ride out the Storm – Lastly, the slowdown is also part of a longer-term structural shift wherein the Economy is shifting gears from the high investment era to a low investment era as well as a transition from being cash-driven economy to a digitally enabled economy. Indeed, this can be seen most in the Real Estate Sector that has come to a grind in recent months and hence, has also contributed to the slowdown. All in all, all the factors have caused a Perfect Storm for the Indian Economy, and there has to be a time lag before one can reasonably and realistically expect a turnaround. To conclude, the best option now for all stakeholders would be to Ride out the Storm.
- Sub-optimal use of labour – These people have been treated as beneficiaries to whom some cash/kind grants are thrown at, but they have not been used as active participants in the growth process. Their potential has not been promoted.
- Though the bottom population depends on the government for basic health and elementary education (and also for access to higher educational opportunities), the government spends just 1.4% of GDP on health (against the norm of 4-6% of GDP) and 3% of GDP on education (against the norm of 6-8% of GDP). As a result, these people are left hardly literate and sick, with poor nutrition and high morbidity.
- They are incapable of acquiring any meaningful skills or participating actively when new technology is spreading in the rest of the economy. This sub-optimal use of the labour force in the economy is not likely to enable India to achieve optimal growth with proper use of the national resources — the labour force.
What can be done: (Understand it step by step)
- Major solution to the present crisis is to go in for inclusive growth. Here, inclusive growth does not mean only including all sections of the population in the growth process as producers and beneficiaries; it also means “shared prosperity”. This should be our “New India.”
- Under the “New India” the main requirements are as follows: To start with, to improve the capabilities of the masses as well as their well-being by expanding productive employment opportunities for them.
- The main steps to expand productive employment for all in the economy should be made up of: a process of inclusion — expanding quality of basic health for all and ensuring quality education to all, which will by itself generate large-scale employment in the government; having a well-educated and healthy labour force will ensure high employability; such people will be able to participate actively in the development process; having a well-educated labour force will help start-ups and MSMEs, in turn triggering a cycle of more productive employment in the economy.
- This will also improve the global competitiveness of our production units. Employment guarantee schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will also increase employment.
- Following the economic logic of R. Nurkse and A.O. Hirschman, assets generated under MGNREGA will expand capital formation in the economy, thereby raising the labour-absorbing capacity of the mainstream economy.
Advantages of such a strategy:
- First, it will raise incomes and the well-being of those who need it most urgently. Second, it will raise effective demand rapidly, which is so badly needed in the economy today to raise economic growth. Third, growth will be equitable and sustainable.
- There is a need to raise expenditure on health to at least 5% of GDP and expenditure on education to at least 6% of GDP; to push up infrastructural development to enhance capabilities and opportunities of the masses and not just to promote corporate units; to promote agriculture by raising investment in agriculture and not just cash transfer (cash transfer provides relief to them no doubt, and does not raise productivity of agriculture which needs large public investment); and to facilitate credit flow particularly continuous working capital, to labour intensive sectors.
- Finally there is a need to increase public investment.
Question – Analyse the Budget 2020 and express your views.
Context – The presentation of the Union Budget by the FM.
- The Union Budget has been structured on the overall theme of “Ease of Living.” This has been achieved by farmer friendly initiatives such as Agriculture credit target of Rs 15 lakh crore for 2020-21; schemes of “Kisan Rail” and “Krishi Udaan” for a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables; and expansion of PM-KUSUM to provide 20 lakh farmers for setting up stand-alone solar pumps.
- In the health sector, the Budget proposes more than 20,000 empanelled hospitals under PM Jan Arogya Yojana for poor people; and expansion of Jan Aushadhi Kendra Scheme to all districts offering 2000 medicines and 300 surgicals by 2024.
- Infrastructure receives a boost, with 100 more airports by 2024 to support Udaan scheme; and operation of 150 passenger trains to be done through PPP mode.
- Starting apprenticeship embedded courses through 150 higher educational institutions by March 2021 and a proposal to establish Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation are some of the other major highlights.
- To achieve seamless delivery of services through Digital governance
- To improve physical quality of life through National Infrastructure Pipeline
- Risk mitigation through Disaster Resilience
- Social security through Pension and Insurance penetration.
- The budget is woven around three prominent themes:
- Aspirational India in which all sections of the society seek better standards of living, with access to health, education and better jobs.
- Economic development for all, indicated in the Prime Minister’s exhortation of “SabkaSaath, SabkaVikas, SabkaVishwas”.
- Caring Society that is both humane and compassionate, where Antyodaya is an article of faith.
The three components of Aspirational India are- a) Agriculture, Irrigation and Rural Development , b) Wellness, Water and Sanitation and c) Education and Skills
- Agriculture, Irrigation and Rural Development;
- A budget allocation of ₹2.83 lakh crore for the sector comprising agriculture and allied activities.
- Doubling farmers incomes by 2022.
- Agri-credit availability set at ₹15 lakh crore for 2020-21.
- Comprehensive measures for 100 water stressed districts.
- Provide 20 lakh farmers to set up standalone solar pumps. Help another 15 lakh farmers to solarise their power grid.
- Village storage scheme proposed to be run by women SHGs.
- Indian Railways to have refrigerated coaches capability in ‘kisan trains’to carry perishables and milk.
- Krishi UDAN on international and national routes.
- b) Wellness, Water and Sanitation:
- An allocation of ₹69,000 crore for the health sector.
- ₹12,300 crore for Swachh Bharat this year.
- Proposal to set up hospitals in Tier-II and Tier-III cities with the private sector using PPP.
- Expand Jan Aushadhi scheme to provide for all hospitals under Ayushman Bharat by 2025.
- c) Education and Skills:
- ₹99,300 crore for education sectorin 2021 and about ₹3,000 crore for skill development.
- Urban local bodies to provide internship to young engineers for a year.
- Degree-level full fledged online education programmes by institutions ranked in top 100 in NIRF rankings, especially to benefit underprivileged students.
- A national police university and a national forensic science university is proposed to be setup.
- IND SAT exam for students of Asia and Africa to promote “study in India” programme.
Industry, Commerce and Investment:
- An Investment Clearance Cell will be set up to provide “end to end” facilitation. It is proposed to develop five new smart cities in collaboration with States in PPP mode.
- A National Technical Textiles Mission would be set up with a four-year implementation period from 2020-21 to 2023-24 at an estimated outlay of Rs 1480 crore to position India as a global leader in Technical Textiles.
- To achieve higher export credit disbursement, a new scheme, NIRVIK is being launched to support mainly small exporters. Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is moving ahead for creating a Unified Procurement System in the country for providing a single platform for procurement of goods, services and works.
- Budget proposes to provide ₹1.7 lakh crore for transport infrastructure in 2021
- National Logistics Policy to be released soon.
- Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway to be started.
- Aim to achieve electrification of 27,000 km of lines.
- Plan to have a large solar power capacity for Indian Railways.
- The government also proposes a Bengaluru suburban rail project at a cost of ₹18,600 crore.
- Govt to monetise 12 lots of national highways by 2024.
Women and Child, Social Welfare:
- Rs 35,600 crore proposed for nutrition-related programmes for the financial year 2020-21. Rs 28,600 crore proposed for programs that are specific to women. Moreover, Rs 85000 crore would be allocated towards the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Other Backward classes for 2020-21.
- Similarly, for furthering development and welfare of Scheduled tribes, Rs 53,700 crore is proposed for 2020-21. She said, the government is mindful of the concerns of senior citizens and Divyang. Accordingly, an enhanced allocation of Rs 9,500 crore is being provided for 2020-21.
Culture and Tourism:
- On Culture and Tourism, establishment of an Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation under Ministry of Culture proposed with the status of a deemed University. 5 archaeological sites to be developed as iconic sites with on-site Museums – Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Hastinapur (Uttar Pradesh) Shivsagar (Assam), Dholavira (Gujarat) and Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu).
Environment and Climate Change:
- States that are formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air in cities above one million to be encouraged. Allocation for this purpose is Rs 4,400 crore for 2020-21.
- Dwelling on the issue of Governance as clean, corruption-free, policy driven and good in intent and most importantly trusting in faith.
- Setting up of a National Recruitment Agency (NRA) as an independent, professional, specialist organisation for conduct of a computer-based online Common Eligibility Test for recruitment to Non-Gazetted posts. A test-centre in every district, particularly in the Aspirational Districts would also be set up.
- It is also proposed to evolve a robust mechanism for appointment including direct recruitment to various Tribunals and specialised bodies to attract best talents and professional experts. Deliberation to strengthen the Contract Act is also on.
- A new tax regimehas been announced. Those who want to be in the old regime with exemptions, can continue to pay at the old rates.
- To make sure India stays globally competitive and a favoured destination for investment, a bold historic decision was taken to reduce the corporate tax rate for new companies in the manufacturing sector to an unprecedented level of 15%. For existing companies, the rate has been brought down to 22%. As a result, our corporate tax rates are now amongst the lowest in the world.
- Over 70 deductions have been removed.
- Companies will no longer be required to pay Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT).
- Aadhaar-based verification for GST compliance to be introduced.
- The Finance Minister noted that during their formative years, Start-ups generally use Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) to attract and retain highly talented employees. Currently, ESOPs are taxable as perquisites at the time of exercise. In order to give a boost to the start-up ecosystem, the Finance Minister has proposed to ease the burden of taxation on the employees by deferring the tax payment for five years or till they leave the company or when they sell their shares, whichever is earliest.
- An eligible Start-up having turnover upto 25 crore is allowed deduction of 100% on its profits for three consecutive assessment years out of seven years if the total turnover does not exceed 25 crore rupees. The Finance Minister has proposed to increase this limit to Rs. 100 crore. She has also proposed to extend the period of eligibility for claim of deduction from the existing 7 years to 10 years.
* Aadhaar-PAN interchangeability
Budget proposed to make Pan Card and Aadhaar card interchangeable to file tax returns. In addition to that, those who do not have PAN can simply quote their Aadhaar number wherever PAN is mandatory to quote.
* EVs on a faster road
Budget announced that upfront incentive will be offered on purchase of electric vehicles, adding that the government has already moved GST Council to cut rate for EVs to 5% from 12%.
Other big announcement on EVs pertained to (a) tax deduction of Rs 1.50 lakh on EV loan interest, and (b) No custom duty on certain parts of EVs.
* One nation, one card for seamless mobility
This inter-operable transport card runs on RuPay card and would allow the holders to pay for their bus travel, toll taxes, parking charges, retail shopping and even withdraw money.
This will enable people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro services and toll tax, across the country.
* Rs 70,000 crore for banks
Budget proposed to provide banks with Rs 70,000 crore of capital to boost credit. There has been a record recovery of over 4 lakh crore of bad loans through IBC in the last 4 years.
* NRIs to get Aadhar on arrival
The budget proposes to consider issuing Aadhaar Card for NRIs with Indian passports after their arrival in India. As of now, they have to wait for a period of 180 days.
* Breather on Angel Tax
In a major breather for startups, it was announced that startups and investors who file requisite declarations and provide information in their returns will not be subjected to any scrutiny on valuation.
* Govt waives MDR charges on cashless payments
Merchant discount rate won’t be charged on businesses with yearly turnover of over Rs 50 crore and also on their customers. RBI and banks will absorb these costs. The move is expected to be a major push to cashless payment.
* Rs 3,000 pension per month for informal sector workers
Around 30 lakh workers are now covered under the Pradhan MantriShram Yogi MaandhanYojana, the scheme that provides a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to informal sectors workers after they turn 60.
* Reform of rental housing
Rental laws will be reformed. Modern tenancy law will be shared with states to promote house renting. The current mechanism doesn’t adequately address the relationship between the tenant and the landlord.
*Local sourcing norms to be eased for single brand retail
The budget announced that local sourcing norms for FDI in single-brand retail will be eased. The proposal is expected to solve a long-standing problem in the sector.
* To merge NRI portfolio with FPI route
With an aim to give NRIs better and easier access to Indian equities, finance minister proposed to merge the NRI-Portfolio Investment Scheme Route with the Foreign Portfolio Investment Route.
step would be taken to replicate zero-budget farming in all of India, currently practiced in a few states.
It considered ‘zero budget’ because costs of raising the main crop are offset by the income that farmers earn from intercrops. Under this method, chemical fertilizers and pesticides make way for locally available cow dung and cow urine, jaggery and pulse flour.
There will soon be a new education policy, and that higher education in the country will be reformed comprehensively. Efforts will be made to bring in foreign students under a Study in India plan. The government will make renewed efforts to promote research in the country.
* Shareholding norm tweak for listed cos
Thegovt would consider raising minimum public shareholding in the listed firms to 35% from 25% at present.
Analysts say many MNCs listed on Indian stock market may consider delisting, if increase public shareholding is implemented. In case of many midcap and smallcap stocks it was better to have more promoter skin in the game since India’s capital market is in a developing phase .
* Corporate tax
Under a phased reduction plan for corporate taxes, the budget proposed to bring under 25% tax ambit companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 400 crore, in place of the earlier cap of Rs 250 crore.
The move came under criticism from experts who said the tax regime should have been applicable to all companies and not just a select section.
It is a bad sign that something that the government had promised for five years has not come about even in the sixth year.
At a time when India’s security risks are at an all-time high, no specific mention of the forces in the budget came as a major dampener for both the forces and the country at large.
Nothing done to ease one of the biggest problem India is facing today.
* Tax dampener
Standard deduction and TDS threshold didn’t find a mention in budget. It increases burden on salaried taxpayer.
* LTCG remains a pain in the neck
Nothing done to address LTCG tax on equities.
* Super-rich have bad news
For the wealthy, budget was a big blow. The finance minister shunned the wealth tax, but increased the surcharge for the rich, proposing to increase the surcharge for those earning Rs 2-5 cr 3 per cent and for those earnings above Rs 5 cr to 7 per cent.
The government is increasingly making the economy uncompetitive with neighbours, with high levels of corporate tax and income tax.
* Fuel bill
Increase in Special Additional Excise duty and Road and Infrastructure Cess each by one rupee a litre on petrol and diesel.
* Raiding the RBI
The government expects higher dividend payout from the Reserve Bank of India, bringing a contentious issue back into focus.
- Analysing both the pros and the cons we can hope that the benefits of the pros exceed the cons.
Question – Critically analyse the problems faced by the agricultural sector in India and suggest the way ahead.
Context – The dissatisfactory performance of the agricultural sector.
- Agriculture is a crucial segment for inclusive development and provides stimulus to the economy, especially when it is not doing too well.
The condition of agriculture in India:
- Being the source of livelihood for over 55 percent Indians, agricultural sector is an important element in our economy. Still, this sector is not as evolved as it should be and faces a lot of challenges resulting in low productivity.
- In India, around 43 percent of the land is used for agricultural purposes; however, contributes only 18 percent to country’s GDP. a large part of it can be attributed to the fact that the farmers in rural India suffer greatly from illiteracy and poverty; hence, there is a lack of good continuous services.
- Another typical challenge that farmers face in India is the over dependency on rain. Due to the poor irrigation facilities, Indian farmers are highly dependent on monsoon so during the years of no or less rainfall, agricultural production suffers a big time.
- In the villages and also in the suburbs, the roads and connectivity is still pretty bad which hinders proper communication to the cities and towns. Apart from these points, low agricultural produce can also be attributed to various other factors like:
- As per a research conducted by the World Bank, the large agricultural subsidies are one of the main reasons for lack of big investments in agricultural sector. Increased costs, uncertainty and price risks are a result of over regulation of agriculture in India. The government intervenes in land, labor and credit markets, this hampers the final prices and revenue.
- Lack of schools and colleges in the rural areas forbids kids from formal education. Illiteracy coupled with socio-economic backwardness and lack of execution in land reforms are a few reasons why the agricultural sector is at a loss. Besides, there are not enough marketing and finance services to help the farmers with distribution and promotion of the crops.
- Due to fragmentation, family disputes and Land Ceiling Act there is very small (less than 20,000 m2) land holdings available for agriculture. This often leads to less productivity.
The areas that need focus:
- The disparity in agriculture expenditure and growth drivers, mainly the subsidiary sectors, must be addressed. Despite higher growth in livestock and fisheries sector, only moderate to low expenditure was recorded. Expenditure on livestock and fisheries must be increased, as they are mainly connected with resource-poor families in rural areas and also to raise the decelerating growth rate.
- Moreover, the expenditure on research and development in agriculture needs to be raised from nearly 0.40% of agriculture GDP to 1% as it pays huge dividends in the long run in ameliorating poverty and improving livelihoods compared to any other investment.
- Considering India’s dependency on agriculture and recurring climate-induced disasters, it is imperative to expand the implementation of Climate Smart Villages of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) across the nation.
- The Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), which are currently facing operational and structural issues governed by different Acts and funded by various sources, may be strengthened by bringing them under one institution, preferably an FPO Development and Regulatory Authority. A structured impetus must be given to build block chain based e-market places connecting farmers, traders, agencies, institutions and exporters on a common platform to check price fluctuations and harness decentralisation.
- Further, affordable technologies must be developed and deployed particularly in rural and remote areas where digital literacy of farmers has improved considerably. Key farm institutions and organisations in the front line of farm service, dealing with perishables and low shelf life commodities, must digitalise so that they are efficiently managed.
- Private sector involvement :
- large-scale investment in agriculture over several years have encouraged monoculture, threatening the environment and soil health (mainly in green revolution areas). Thus small-scale investment measures or an incentive-based system is essential to scale up sustainable practices such as agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, ecosystem services, conservation agriculture and others. Increasing corporate social responsibility will help to tap more private investments besides encouraging private players in potential areas where production sustainability is possible.
- The government must establish a farm data agency, which can consolidate, collate and maintain farm data available at various platforms. Ongoing efforts of digitisation of land records must also include farmer-centric advisories. The farm data agencies can also facilitate beneficiaries identification, better targeting of subsidies, support systems of various developmental programmes. Access to farm agency data for scientific institutions and all other relevant stakeholders can hasten the process of technology dissemination and aid research systems for better policies.
- Commissioning ease of farming index is necessary to ascertain the progress made by national and State governments on the key indicators of farming. Possibly, the exercise can be done with active involvement of proven private/public institutions or international agencies. This perhaps stands away from the conventional assessment of effectiveness of agriculture policies and programmes that are part of the farm support system. Moreover, the exercise may foster cooperative and competitive federalism besides encouraging States which are lagging behind to catch up.
- The need of the hour is setting up two institutions; one, a national agricultural development council on the lines of the Goods and Services Tax Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister for effective coordination and convergence of States on key reforms and policies; two, farmers’ welfare commissions (both at the Centre and State level), as an independent institutional mechanism which will act as a neutral platform for assessing all agriculture-related issues and schemes.
- Involvement of centrally-funded research organisations as knowledge partners would help to coordinate and refine existing developmental schemes in agriculture and allied sectors.
- It is pertinent to deliberate on an ‘Indian Agricultural Service’ on the lines of the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition, to deal effectively with increasing droughts and floods and other extreme events, transfer of some subjects to the concurrent list is of prime importance.
- In the era of global uncertainty and domestic glitches, we need well-tailored farm measures beyond short-run sops to balance the national requirement with the farmer’s aspirations. Moreover, the right mix of direct benefits and price support with focused investment on resource conservation will bring stability in a farmer’s income.
- The budget 2020 announced : Kisan Rail and Krishi Udan:The initiatives have been launched to facilitate smooth and fast transport of perishable goods to assist the farmers. And Solar Pumps: The Government will also help 20 lakh farmers to set up standalone solar pumps.