The Hindu Editorials Summary
- Question – Explain what is ‘history’, and why the syllabus of history is always in debate. (200 words)
- Question – There is an urgent need to make Climate change an integral part of the planning of Indian cities and towns. Elucidate. (250 words)
- Question – Analyse the progress made by India to eliminate the menace of open defecation in India and suggest the way forward. (250 words)
- Question –Gandhi ji- New thoughts
- Question -Recording Crimes
- Question – Amidst growing protectionism worldwide, analyse arguments for and against free trade. (250 words)
- Question – Explain the significance of morning assembly in schools. Are prayers an essential part of it? (150 words)
- Question – Explain the Syrian politics and the complex power game. (250 words)
- Question – Analyse the reasons behind poor quality of data collected by various agencies and share the way ahead. (250 words)
- Question – What is meant by fiscal federalism? Why is it significant for a country like India? (250 words)
- Question – Analyse the several aspects of the rise of Asia in the past 50 years. Was it a mere coincidence? (250 words)
- Question – Explain the present India-China relations and the way ahead’? (250 words)
- Question – Discuss the benefits that accrue from investing in women’s education? (250 words)
- Question – Discuss malnutrition and what are the reasons behind it? (200 Words)
- Question – What is meant by a civilisational state? How does it connect India and China in an Asian Century? (250 words)
- Question – Access India-China relations. Can they go hostile in the changing power dynamics? Explain (250 words)
- Question – What is mental health? Why is a matter of grave concern? (200 words)
- Question – What is Strategy for New India @ 75? What does it suggest about water resources in India?
- Question – In the context of the high-level visit of Mexico’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in New Delhi, analyse India-Mexico diplomatic relations. (250 words)
- Question – What is citizenship? In this context analyse the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019. (250 words)
- Question – Access the Model Tenancy Act, 2019. (250 words)
Important Note-(which you can do Add on in Your Notes)
- Note: There is another article today called ‘Deep traps. It doesn’t have much content but here are the important points:
- This is related to today’s article titled ‘’ When the abstract destroys the physical being “it doesn’t have much content but these are the important highlights
- WHO on world polio day?
- In the article ‘The roadmap for criminal justice reforms’:
- Note 2: There is another article title ‘Unresolved questions in a sordid episode’. This article doesn’t have much content. But these are some of the important points:
- Question – Analyse the dichotomy faced by India in the context of its S&DT provisions in the WTO.
- Question – What is RCT and how is it related to developmental economics? (250 words)
- Question – What do we mean by global economic slowdown? Where does India stand in this and what can be done? (250 words)
- Question – State the present energy scenario in India and why should the government take steps to promote renewable energy? (250 words)
- Question – Discuss the various aspects of the Nobel prize in economics in 2019. (200 words)
- Question – In the context of the scheduled OECD meet, what is BEPS, why is it important and how should it be dealt with? (250 words)
- Question – How is rural unemployment and climate change linked to the present economic crisis? (250 words)
Question – Explain what is ‘history’, and why the syllabus of history is always in debate.(200 words)
Context – The speech of Mr. Amit Shah in Banaras Hindu University about rewriting history.
- There are some terms which all of us hear and use in our everyday life but it is difficult for us to define them at times.
- One such term is ‘history’. Most of us see history as a dry narration of the events of the ‘past’ but it is more than just that.
So, what is history?
- Majority of the people often believe that history is the dry narration of the events of the past. So historyand the past are seen to be the same thing. But this is not the case. The past refers to an earlier time, the people and societies who inhabited it and the events that took place there. But History is our attempts to investigate, study and explain the past.
- This is a subtle difference but an important one. What happened in the pastis fixed in time and cannot be changed. while History, in contrast, changes regularly. The past is a factual certainty while history is an ongoing conversation about the past and its meaning.
Why understanding this is important?
- When we understand clearly that the past and history is not the same and that though past cant be changed, history changes regularly, we will be able to understand why the syllabus of history is of such relevance in politics and governance.
- The frequent tussle, debate and questioning of what is taught to the students in history books is a part and parcel of this because is such a discipline can that influence the minds of generations in a particular direction.
Way forward/ conclusion:
- So special care should be taken before amending or enforcing a new perspective of history because this can have both positive and negative consequences for the country.
- Anything that comes out as ‘facts’ about the past should be through rigorous methodology that bases itself on social science approaches rather than preconceived notions.
Question – There is an urgent need to make Climate change an integral part of the planning of Indian cities and towns. Elucidate. (250 words)
Context – Recent Summit C-40 cities initiative
- Cities represent an estimated 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
- Nearly 90% of urban areas are at high risk from extreme climate events such as storms, because they are situated along coastlines. These cities are home to millions, many of them poor and ill-equipped to handle floods; many also endure cycles of drought and heat waves.
- urbanisation will remain a strong trend this century. Annually, about 70 million people will be drawn to cities and towns for the next three decades, according to the special report on global warming of 1.5°C issued by the IPCC last year. Governments in India, must prepare for difficult times with action plans for urban centres.
- since much of the infrastructure in India remains to be built, All planning must therefore be climate-centric.
Some steps taken by different cities at world level
- In Copenhagen, plans to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency and shift their transport infrastructure to greener options. Montreal is shifting city logistics to electric vehicles, keeping large trucks confined to centralised terminals. India does not have to repeat the cycle and can leapfrog the era of dirty fuels.
- Rome’s plan to ban diesel emissions, encourage sustainable shared mobility including biking and walking, and pursue a green new deal.
- China’s Hangzhou already has the largest public bicycle-sharing system and is moving to a smart bus service.
- Hong Kong is ready to harvest super typhoons in new drainage tunnels that will reuse rainwater and grow biodiversity.
- Singapore will put a price on carbon.
- India’s fast-expanding cities and towns need such far-sighted measures. But today, climate change is not integral to their planning, despite the risk to residents and economic assets.
- It will take innovation, technology and financing to adapt to drought, floods and heat islands.
- At the recent C40 summit, Kolkata bagged an award for green mobility, and the national capital was cutting emissions by inducting 1,000 electric buses, planting trees on a massive scale, and eliminating the use of dangerous industrial chemicals. These must be the priorities for all cities.
- Steps to reduce carbon emissions in cities :
- green urban spaces,
- sustainable mobility,
- protected water sources And
- reduction of waste .
Question – Analyse the progress made by India to eliminate the menace of open defecation in India and suggest the way forward.(250 words)
Context – Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared India “open defecation-free”.
Cleanliness and Gandhiji:
- Cleanliness and sanitation were central to Gandhi’s concerns for his vast number of impoverished countrymen.
- October 2 was not only Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, but also the fifth, and perhaps final, anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Speaking in Gujarat, Prime Minister declared India “open defecation-free”.
What is open defecation?
- According to UNICEF, Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate.
Threats from open defecation:
- Open defecation poses a serious threat to the health of children in India.
- Open defecation exposes women to the danger of physical attacks and encounters such as snake bites. Poor sanitation also cripples national development: workers produce less, live shorter lives, save and invest less, and are less able to send their children to school.
- To get a clearer picture, One GRAM of faeces contains: 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts
- Women and girls face shame and a loss of personal dignity and risk their safety if there is no toilet at home. They have to wait for nightfall to relieve themselves in privacy.
The present condition:
- Awareness campaigns, media exposure, and pressure from school-age children, are some of the drivers of increased awareness towards behaviour change. Further, with a growing population and increasing agricultural cultivation and urbanization, the number of spaces available for open defecation continues to reduce.
- In 2014, the government made total sanitation a high priority, with the avowed goal of bridging decades of neglect through a policy focused on toilet construction. That 110 million toilets were built under this programme since then counts as an achievement in itself.
- ODF-Plus programme (Open Defecation Free Programme) has been adopted by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to encourage toilet use and create the infrastructure to manage solid and liquid waste in every village.
- Jointly, UNICEF’s WASH, and Advocacy and Communication sections developed the Poo2Loo campaign. This unique campaign deliberately chooses to address the population of young Indians who have a toilet at home, in order to sensitize them to the plight of those who do not have toilets, and create a youth social movement to stand up and advocate for the need for everyone to have a toilet.
- But still many people continue to defecate in the open.
Where did we lack?
- We lacked in the aspect that we created toilets, so the people had access to toilets but they did not develop the habit of using them. So many of these structures have been bootstrapped to ramshackle dwellings and many do not meet construction standards.
- The focus was to increase latrine ownership.
- Researchers from World Bank measured four key aspects of open defecation including defecation practices, acceptability of open defecation, enforcement of toilet use, and notions of purity attached to toilet construction.
- They found that around 40 per cent of people having toilets in their houses did not use them. Many of the respondents associated toilets with gandagi(dirt). People’s beliefs were closely linked to their perception of what others believed. This meant that social norms had a big say on individual attitudes.
Need/ Way forward:
- The researchers concluded that policy makers needed to give proper thought and make adequate efforts to get the desired change in behaviour related to toilet uses.
- The government still needs to give an extra push for heightening awareness among people about the benefits of using toilets.
- Also increasing awareness about the harmful consequences of open defecation through large‐scale behavior change campaigns.
Gandhi ji- New thoughts
“Drops make the ocean, the reason being that there is complete cohesion and cooperation among the drops.”
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an eminent freedom activist and an influential political leader who played a dominant role in India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi is known by different names, such as Mahatma (a great soul), Bapuji’s (endearment for father in Gujarati) and Father of the Nation.
- Every year, his birthday is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India, and also observed as the International Day of Nonviolence.
- Gandhi is considered an epitome in the course of the Indian National Movement. Gandhi brought to the notice of all the sad predicament of the wretchedness of the so-called modern civilization characterized by the outward progress but inward backwardness.
- It may seem to be a paradox but there is poverty in affluence. And that poverty in affluence only the sharp insight of Gandhi could clearly discern.
- An interesting and significant aspect of the freedom movement in India was that along with the struggle against colonial rule, vigorous efforts were made to find an alternative path of development.
- While several people in India were eager to ‘develop’ as much as the British and later some others wanted to industrialize as rapidly as the Soviets, there were others who kept alive the concept of small and cottage-scale development to be based in largely self-reliant rural communities.
- It was this difference in the thinking which can be profoundly seen in the thought process of Gandhi which clearly shows how ecologically sensible he was, though none of his writings mention anything on this.
- The Norwegian philosopher, Arne Næss, who came up with the idea of “deep ecology”, had said it is from Gandhi that he came to the realization of “the essential oneness of all life”.
- Gandhi was a proponent of recycling of objects even when this concept had not gained much fanfare. Gandhi considered the earth a living organism.
- His ideas were expressed in terms of two fundamental laws: Cosmic law and the Law of Species. Cosmic Law views the entire universe as a single entity. Regarding the law of species Gandhi believed that without the cooperation and sacrifice of both human and non-human beings evolution is not possible.
- Modern industrial civilization has had a huge impact on human kind as well as on the environment. It made a small part of the population wealthy at the cost of exploiting the world’s natural resources.
- Gandhi believed that it propagates nothing other than the hunger for wealth and the greedy pursuit of worldly pleasures.
- Natural resources were ruthlessly exploited and their rhythm and balance disturbed while animals were killed or tortured for human needs.
- Gandhi believed that villages would soon disappear due to the urbanization which is part of modern civilization, and of which environmental degradation is a product.
While the western environmentalists spread the message of “going back to the nature” Gandhi spread the message of “going back to the villages”.
- He believed that the “the blood of the village is the cement with which the edifice of the cities is built.”
- His practice of observing 24 hours of silence regularly, can was also an ecological gesture, a mode of conserving energy and a devastating indictment of the modern industrial culture of noise and consumption.
- Modern economy is “propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy.”22 It makes man more materialistic at the risk of majority and the environment.
- Gandhi asserted that “true economics stands for social justice; it promotes the good of all equally, including the weakest and is indispensable for decent life”.
- Gandhi urged us to minimize our wants to minimize the consumption and thus reduce the burden on nature by avoiding hazardous wastes.
- Our civilization, culture and Swaraj depend on the restriction of wants. Gandhi realized that the modern civilization and the market economics have a tendency to multiply the wants and needs of common people. Bread labor is another important economic concept of Gandhi.
- His views can be best summarized in the following words, “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West.
- The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom [England] is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts,”
Religious View –
- India is a country where people are predominantly religious. Religion and spirituality are firmly rooted in the minds of the Indian people. Gandhi refers to ‘God’ as ‘Truth’ and this has very important bearings.
- The word ‘Truth’ has a much wider connotation that the term ‘God’. Mahatma Gandhi was a Sanatani Hindu. He was a follower of inclusive monotheism that is “all worship the same God although under different names”.
- Gandhi illustrates this by a striking verse from the Guru Granth Sahib in which Nanak says that God may be called by the name of Allah, Rahim or Ram.
- Gandhi’s religion was not confined to Temples, Churches, books, rituals and other outer forms. Thus Gandhi’s concept of religion was not bound by any formalities.
- His God may be a personal God to those who needs his personal presence. He may be a law to those who concentrate their minds on the orderliness of the universe.
- Gandhi’s ‘toleration’ is different. Parents often put up with the blemishes of their children which they would not suffer in others.
- We choose to overlook a fault in our spouse, lover, or close friend that we would not excuse in others.
- The hate-based conception of toleration that presupposes that oneness with significant others is achieved by abolishing the radical other, by eliminating plurality hence it is different from the Gandhian conception where oneness is attained by accepting all radical others as equally significant because they variously manifest one Supreme Being.
Gandhi’s Evolution of Philosophy –
- Gandhi was an anarchist. He was for such a stateless society in which life becomes perfect. People, without any prejudice, never become hindrance to one-other’s routines.
- Moreover, self-regulation, self-dependency and mutual cooperation on priority become essential in day-to-day human practices. For Gandhi, the institution like the State or the system like democracy cannot be the final ideal.
- He in one way or the other considered democracy to be essential as the first phase for transforming more or less his dream of stateless system into the reality.
- He wished the beginning of this work from India, and also desired India to become ideal for the whole world in this regard. Undoubtedly, freedom and justice had been the two basic pillars of democracy of Mahatma Gandhi’s imagination. He saw the welfare of all was an essentiality.
- It was in South Africa that Gandhi perfected the mode of Passive Resistance, which he later called “satyagraha”, to defend the interests of the Indian community in South Africa. During this period he was greatly influenced by the writings of Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin: from the former he derived mainly his hatred of violence and consumerism, and from the latter, respect for labor and concern for the poor.
- Mahatma Gandhi laid a great stress on decentralization of power so that participation of each and every one in political and economic fields could ascertain. Moreover, on the strength of this participation common men could also enjoy a standard of living, and along with intellectual growth they could find a way to achieve equality in society.
- To quote Gandhi himself, “Democracy is an impossible thing until the power is shared by all…Even a pariah, a laborer, who makes it possible for you to earn your living, will have his share in self-government –Swarajya or democracy.”
- The experience of the Non-Cooperation movement, led Gandhi to formulate in 1924, his ‘Constructive Programme’. He had by now made his peace with electoral democracy by advocating optional universal suffrage for legislative bodies in an article in 1924. His Constructive Programme concentrated on work in the villages, involving the promotion of Khadi (hand-woven cloth out of hand-spun cotton), which was in line with his rejection of machine-made cloth, though here opposition to use of foreign, especially British, manufactured cloth was also involved. Allied with this project was a campaign for Hindu-Muslim unity and removal of untouchability. Simultaneously Gandhi developed his theory of the property-owners as custodians of the poor, the mill-owners looking after their workers, and landlords, after their tenants. This was part of an obvious bid to overcome class antagonisms.
- Gandhi was highly critical of the parliamentary democracy and in his book “Hind Swaraj” (Self Rule or Home Rule, he has called the British Parliament as a “sterile women and a prostitute”, though for him “good government is no substitute for self-government.”
- The caste system is indirectly praised for having barred market competition by assigning a fixed occupation to everyone.
- During the later years Gandhi chose for his main activity the welfare of the Depressed Castes, whom he now called Harijans.
- Provoked by the British Government’s Communal Award of August 1932, he went on fast against separate electorates created for depressed castes.
- The Poona Pact proved a signal for Gandhi from 1932 onward to initiate a nationwide campaign against untouchability and for ‘Harijan’ uplift. Increasingly, Gandhi now avoided giving any sanction to the caste system, or any philosophical defense of varnashram.
Gandhi on Gita-
- Throughout Gandhi’s life, the Gita was both a guidebook for living a moral life and a spiritual reference point. In its pages he found great insight and direction for his journey.
- Two teachings of the Bhagwad Gita appealed most to Gandhi. The first one was anasakti, non-attachment, to the fruits of one’s actions. The second teaching was that of attaining the exalted state of sthitaprajna, elaborated in 19 verses in England.
- For him, these 19 verses represented the gist of the entire Gita. The yogi, who has succeeded in freeing his mind from all attachment to objects of senses, is devoid of all fear and remains calm and composed even in adverse situations.
- In Gandhi’s view, the Gita teaches us that even evil depends upon goodness. Goodness can be withdrawn from evil by the nonviolent warrior laying claim to virtues such as friendship, loyalty, courage and sacrifice in a more powerful way than his or her violent enemies can.
- It was these teachings from the Gita that Gandhi put into practice in his own moral and political actions.
- Gita, according to Gandhi taught him a very important aspect that Duties are more important than Rights. Rights can always be taken away; they are not inalienable and cannot define moral and political action.
- Duties, however, truly belong to individuals and can never be taken away. And while the primary right is that to life, the most important duty is the sacrifice of life in killing or dying.
- It is also believed that Gita was instrumental in formulation of 11 principles of Gandhi namely – Satya(truth), ahimsa (nonviolence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-covetousness), brahmacharya (abstinence), aswada (palate control), parishrama (physical labor), swadeshi (using homegrown or local products), asprushyatanivaran (removal of untouchability), abhaya (fearlessness), and sarva-dharma-samanata (equal respect for all religions as well as people).
- He based moral and political action on duty (dharma), not as something generic but specific to each person given their circumstances (swadharma).
- One has to discover and do one’s duty rather than choose on the basis of a result which can never be fully known. Doing one’s duty therefore meant focusing not on the ends so much as the means of moral and political action (nishkama karma).
Gandhi on Freedom of Press-
- It is less well known that Gandhi’s first individual Satyagraha, which he began before launching the Quit India Movement in 1942, was the only Satyagraha launched by him for defending press freedom, which was suppressed by the British with all their might because of the Second World War.
- Mahatma Gandhi was a staunch believer in the power of the word and wrote very cautiously in his newspapers to mobilize public opinion. The subjects he chose to write on were varied and variegated, which depicted his honesty, integrity and transparency.
- He started as a journalist with the Vegetarianin England, before launching a weekly newspaper called Indian Opinion in South Africa.
- When he returned to India, he founded publications like Navajivan,Young India, and Harijan that became communication platforms for the freedom movement.
- He published Indian Opinionin four languages: English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil. He also inspired other journalists to write in regional languages.
- Gandhi’s newspapers suggest that his purpose of journalism was to serve the society in all respect and inspire the mass for a greater cause. He talked to the people in their own language to communicate the message.
- His overreaching concern for addressing the communication needs of the general public became evident when he expressed that English alone could not be a medium of the newspaper.
- Hence, it is clear that Gandhi’s practice of journalism set high ethical and moral standard by practicing mass oriented and value based journalism.
- In 1922, he pleaded guilty in order to expose the undemocratic nature of the sedition law, which he termed a “prince among the political sections… designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
Gandhi has not spoken his last word
- In modern times men have built wonderful cities, they have also invented bombs to match them to reduce them to rubble. Gandhi objected to this soulless and heartless progress of modern civilization. During these evolving times, it is essential, according to Gandhi’s perspective that Leadership should comprise of two qualities- Questioning and Dissent.
- Gandhi teaches us is that nonviolence consists of tender-heartedness with tough-mindedness. The true Gandhians who made history, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Vaclav Havel, were obstinate and stubborn humanists.
- Gandhi’s purpose was to free the Indian people by their own means from suppression and colonization through non-violent, non-cooperative protest.
Note: The article titled ‘Recording Crimes’ does not sufficient content but there are some important figures that can be noted.
What is the article about?
- The article is about the Crime in India Report for the year 2017 that was released by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) recently.
- These are the important figures:
- The total number of crimes committed against women country wide increased by 6% since 2016, while those against scheduled castes went up by 13%.
- There is also a difference between the crimes committed in states and the crimes that are actually reported. Though this figure has improved but still there is a long way to go.
- This is visible especially in rape cases, where the UT of Delhi registered a rate of 12.5 per one lakh population, which was surpassed by Madhya Pradesh (14.7%) and Chhattisgarh (14.6%). But the filing of rape cases in Delhi have significantly increased since 2012 and perhaps this can explain the high rate of such cases.
- The fact that Delhi recorded 40.4% of the total IPC crimes registered among metropolitan cities in 2017 is also likely due to the use of easier (i.e. online) means to register them.
- Finally, the report shows that the States in the northeast and others in the rest of the country with significant tribal population like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have relatively higher murder rates compared to the rest of the country.
Question – Amidst growing protectionism world wide, analyse arguments for and against free trade.(250 words)
Context – The U.S.-China trade war and global trade.
What is free trade and free trade agreement?
- Free trade refers to international trade that is left to its natural course without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions.
- While a free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
- NAFTA: United States, Mexico and Canada (being renegotiated)
- SAFTA: South Asian Free Trade Area comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
What is fair trade?
- Fair trade basically refers to trade between developed economies and developing economies in which the producers in the developing economies get a fair price for their produce.
- In other words it is a trade between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries in which fair prices are paid to the producers.
- Fair prices are paid to the producers, and companies are able to provide workers with a stable income that can improve their lives.
- It aims to benefit small-scale farmers and workers through trade – this helps them to maintain their livelihoods and reach their potential.
The present scenario:
- Most of economists around the world favour free trade and advise to bring down barriers to international trade.
- But just the opposite is happening. Protectionist policies are increasing and the protectionists argue that increasing tariffs on foreign goods protects domestic industries from unfair trade practices adopted by foreign governments.
- For example, U.S. President has accused China of ripping off the U.S. by imposing high tariffs on American goods that are imported to China, artificially lowering the value of the yuan against the U.S. dollar in order to encourage Chinese exports, and adopting domestic policies that favour local Chinese companies over American ones. It believes that retaliatory tariffs on China will help level the playing field and ensure “free trade”.
- This has brought global trade “to a near standstill.”
- In the backdrop of the present scenario, economists argue otherwise.
- According to them free trade must be given more importance than fair trade. It is because according to them trade does not have to be fair for countries to benefit from it.
- In other words it means, as Paul Krugman says, that a country can benefit by pursuing (adopting) free trade regardless of what other countries may do. even if other countries do not follow free trade.
- How? – It is because countries that remove trade barriers unilaterally (i.e. on its own not bothering about whether any other country has done it or not), like Hong Kong and Singapore did, benefit their consumers, whose standard of living improves greatly by access to foreign goods.
- In the same context, a country that raises trade barriers works against the interests of its own consumers.
- So unilateral free trade can benefit the consumers in the countries that agree to adopt them.
- The economists argue that if more and more trade barriers are introduced by any country in the hope that it will benefit the producers, what it ends up doing is doing more harm to the consumers.
- It says that competition between producers is usually good because even though it can cause some of them to lose out, it benefits the consumers who can buy cheaper and better goods.
- The protectionists, like those in the U.S. also argue that foreign governments like India and China, misuse their developing country status at WTO to heavily subsidise domestic producers, thus putting American producers at a terrible disadvantage.
- However the proponents of free trade argue that introducing retaliatory tariff stops the American consumers from enjoying the benefits of subsidies offered by foreign governments.
Analysing the argument of trade deficit to impose more tariffs:
- According to economist Milton Friedman, the protectionists argue that trade deficit is a bad thing since it indicates that the value of its imports is greater than the value of its exports. But he argues against this idea that a country loses wealth when it experiences trade deficit.
- According to him it simply shows that people in different countries prefer to buy things different from one another.
- For example, Americans may prefer Chinese goods over Chinese real estate assets while the Chinese may prefer American financial assets over American goods. This will cause the U.S. to experience trade deficit with China as it buys more goods than it sells to China. But at the same time it will enjoy a capital surplus as it receives more capital than it sends to China.
- So for him trade deficit in no way reflects which side wins and which side loses in trade.
- Most economists argue that the idea of fair trade is often used by protectionists to increase more and more barriers in global trade to serve domestic interest groups.
- The world would be a much richer place if “free trade” was given more importance than “fair trade”.
- While formulating foreign relations leaders of countries keep in mind that this country is the greatest importer of our goods so we should not disturb our relations with it.
- The leaders and policy makers must consider these arguments made by economists and take their decisions accordingly.
Question – Explain the significance of morning assembly in schools. Are prayers an essential part of it?(150 words)
Context – The present controversy over morning prayers in schools.
Why in news?
- The constitution says that institutions getting state funding cannot provide religious instruction.
- The headmaster of a government school in Pilibhit (U.P.) was suspended recently by the district administration following complain that he was making the students sing religious prayers in the morning assembly.
- But last year the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan made a morning prayer quoting the BrihadAranyaka.
Significance of morning prayer in schools:
- Morning prayers are almost synonymous to the morning assembly in schools. It plays an important role in inculcating good moral values among the students and reciting them early in the morning registers it more fruitfully in the students.
- Also prayers have the power of creating a pious atmosphere that helps inculcate certain values like humanity and discipline among the students.
Certain things to understand:
- Do prayers in the morning assembly mean giving religious instruction?
- If we see typically the morning assembly in schools is used to sing one or more prayers and they are of different kinds. Some are traditional, some are from belief systems and religious and some are on the borderline of both.
- Through these prayers and singing, the schools fulfil several different needs more than religious instruction.
- For example, headmasters use this occasion to address the students, giving general notices and gave a short speech. Amidst all this there is singing and this quite often includes prayers.
- So the question is not whether there should be a morning prayer but more about the lyrical material used in the prayer. Whether it fulfils the purpose for which the morning assembly is used and not question the arrangement itself.
- One reason why some people are skeptical about prayers in morning assembly is that according to them it appeals to something superhuman, it contradicts the spirit of rationality and compromises on scientific temper.
- Also coming to the question of not allowing state funded school to provide religious instruction, if we believe that prayer is a part of the morning assembly and fulfils several other purposes and more importance should be given to the lyrics, then it needs to be analysed whether restricting the state funded schools all together is a good option rather than regulating them.
- Also if we talk of scientific temper, then what does science mean? it means systematic pursuit of knowledge and the study of religion is a part of it. What we need to do is to distinguish direct religious instructions from traditions of religion which are a part of the cultural ethos of the country. Prayer as a part of music and poetry is generally used in schools and poetry is centrally located in most Indian languages. Many of the songs of Tagore have a spiritual overtone.
- Moreover a rigid categorisation between spirituality and religion cannot be done but it needs to be understood that spirituality is something more rooted and hence more emphasis should be given on spirituality in prayers than promoting religion.
- Overall if we study the situation widely then we find that most schools have beautiful morning assemblies. Many beautiful traditions of the country are communicated through the morning assemblies.
- Morning assembly prayers are significant but we need to focus more on what their lyrics contain rather than banning the whole routine.
Question – Explain the Syrian politics and the complex power game.( 250 words)
Context – The decision to form a “safe zone” by Turkey and Russia.
Explaining the Syarian politics:
- The Syrian civil war has drawn in multiple foreign powers since it began in 2011.
- In 2011, the Arab Spring (what is Arab Spring we have discussed in our previous article related to Yemen) was at its full swing. A series of anti-government protests spread across the Islamic World.
- The Syrian crisis was one among them.
- It began with the arrests of a handful of children in 2011. Since then, it has exploded into the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
- A group of children in Daraa, southern Syria, were arrested and allegedly tortured for scrawling graffiti on a school reading “the people want to topple the regime.”
- As a result in March 2011, Syrians protested in cities across the country, demanding the government enact reforms and release political protesters. Government forces fired on the demonstrations, killing dozens.
- As the bloodshed got worse, the opposition got organised. A group of Syrian military officers defect and formed the Free Syrian Army.
- In a video posted on YouTube, they say thousands of soldiers have left their posts instead of firing on protesters, and they promise to wage guerrilla war against regime forces. Three months later, a handful of political opposition groups established the Syrian National Council, aimed at toppling President Bashar al-Assad.
- Around August 2011, the U.S. and European leaders called for Assad to step down, saying Syria’s future “must be determined by its own people.” But in October, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution supported by the United States that would call for an immediate halt to violence and immediate sanctions.
- In the meanwhile the influence of Islamist groups grew in rebel ranks who wanted to topple Assad.
- Between December 2011 to February 2012, Suicide bombers killed 44 people in Damascus in blasts that bear the “blueprints of al Qaeda,”
- In February the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, praised Syrians for waging “jihad”. The message came as thousands of rebels join more extreme groups now operating in the country, including Jabhat al-Nusra, a group with close links to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq.
- Next, the U.N. tried to intervene.
- In April 2012, former United Nations chief Kofi Annan tried to establish a ceasefire calling for a halt to violence and the implementation of a political process to end the crisis, but the plan never got off the ground.
- Several people start fleeing the country.
- Since June to July 2012, a top U.N. human rights official accused Syria of engaging in crimes against humanity.
- In the meanwhile, in August 2011, former President Obama said that President Assad will be crossing a “red line” if he uses chemical weapons against his own people in Syria. Syria has one of the largest and most advanced chemical warfare programs in the Arab world, according to experts.
- In two years by February 2013, 60,000 people were dead and the U.S. said it will send aid to rebels. But it promised to send food and medical supplies but not weapons — to Syrian rebels. It’s the first such move since the conflict began two years before, in an effort to hem (prevent) in the radical Islamist groups vying for influence in Syria.
- More than 60,000 people are now dead and nearly a million have fled the country.
- Then there was the emergence of ISIS in Syria.
- The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced its arrival in northern Syria by seizing the city of Raqqa. The group began in 2004 as al Qaeda in Iraq before rebranding as ISIS two years later. The aim of ISIS — led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — is to impose its strict Islamist ideology on Syrians in the areas it controls.
- By May 2013, the E.U. too started sending its arms to Syria. The EU lifted the arms embargo on Syria, clearing the way for European nations to join Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries that have provided weapons or training to rebel groups in Syria.
- Russia, meanwhile, took the other side and was shipping arms to the Syrian regime and fighters from Hezbollah– the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group — poured into the country to prop up the regime in Syria, a key ally.
- In august 2013, Syria crossed Obama’s “Red Line” and the U.S. started preparing for an attack on Syria. Because in August 2013, hundreds of people are killed in a suspected chemical weapons attack in rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Damascus. Obama asked Congress to authorize military action against Syria.
- In the turn of events in September 2013, when the U.S. was preparing for airstrikes in Syria, then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Syria would give up all its weapons to the international community within a week, then the U.S. could think of withholding the strikes.
- Russia here stepped in and said that it would put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, a plan that staves off U.S. military action in the country for the time being.
- Then in February 2014, a second round of peace talks were held between the Syrian government, the opposition and an array of world powers but it ended without a solution.. At least 140,000 Syrians are now dead, opposition groups say, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
- Next the ISIS declared an independent State in Iraq and Syria. It announced the establishment of a Caliphate (Islamic state) stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq. The group rebrands itself Islamic State and says Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of this new state. The declaration comes after ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.
- In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley in Raqqa, Syria. Foley is the first of several Western journalists and aid workers to be murdered by the group over the next few months, including Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Hennings and Peter Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
- So in September 2014, American jets began bombing ISIS targets in Syria, including the group’s stronghold in Raqqa. The foreign partners participating in the strikes are Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
- Then in September 2015, after weeks of bulking up its military presence in Syria, Russia launched airstrikes on rebel targets in the country for the first time. Russia’s intervention proved decisive in swinging momentum in the conflict the Syrian regime’s way.
- In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane over Syria, saying it had violated Turkish airspace. The incident triggered a war of words and escalating tensions between the two powers, who backed opposite sides in the Syrian conflict.
- In December 2015, The number of migrants who have entered Europe by sea and land in 2015 passed 1 million, the International Organization for Migration says, with about half of them Syrians fleeing the conflict.
- In february 2016, more than $ 10 billion was pledged for Syria by international donors at a conference in London. But the goodwill is overshadowed a brutal Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian air power, on the northern city of Aleppo, which Turkey says has sent a fresh wave of refugees fleeing toward its border.
- Finally in February 2016, Diplomats from more than a dozen countries, including the United States and Russia, agreed in Munich, Germany, to a “cessation of hostilities” — a temporary halt in fighting that commonly happened at the start of a peace process — and to the delivery of aid.
- At present, the U.S. has pulled out of northern Syria and this has left the Kurds who had allied with the U.S. to fight ISIS, at the mercy of Turkey. (Turkey has rivalry with Kurds. The Kurds were friends with the U.S. but the U.S. has pulled out of northern Syria leaving the Kurds alone. Russia and the Syrian President are also anti-Kurds because they had allied with the U.S.).
- Now the game seems to be moving towards peace with Turkey and Russia deciding to create a “safe zone” (a zone that will be 400-km long and 30-km wide across the Turkish border, stretching from Manbij in northwestern Syria to its north eastern corner on the Iraqi border. They plan to keep the Kurds or the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of this zone) where they want to resettle some 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey in this region (safe zone).
- And the Kurds seem to be the losers in the whole game now Because for over four years they have been on the front line of the war against the Islamic State and defeated the terrorist group and established semi-autonomous administration in areas liberated from IS.
- Any peace process should ensure that they do not create another rival in this already complicated scene. The kurds for example must be taken into confidence that their fighting wont go unrewarded.
Question – Analyse the reasons behind poor quality of data collected by various agencies and share the way ahead.(250 words)
Context – 25 years of National Family Health Survey.
What is National Family Health Survey (NFHS)?
- As the name suggests, NFHS is a large-scale, multi-round survey of households throughout India.
- Three rounds of the survey have been conducted since the first survey in 1992-93.
- The survey is vital to policy makers because it provides state and national information for India on fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, anaemia, utilization and quality of health and family planning services.
- The survey has two specific goals – a) to provide essential data on health and family welfare and b) to provide information on important emerging health and family welfare issues.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) is the nodal agency responsible for coordination and technical guidance.
- But there are certain concerns in the NFHS about India’s existing data infrastructure and data quality.
- There are two main concerns. One is about the data infrastructure i.e. do we have a proper structure that encourages the collection of high quality data? And second is the concern about the quality of data being collected.
- In the recent meeting of demographers (those who collect data) from around the world to mark 25 years of NFHS, it was found that the quality of data collected i.e. data quality is deteriorating.
- Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, the total fertility rate (TFR) declined from 2.68 to 2.18 births. This implies that the use of contraceptives between the same period must have increased.
- But the data about contraceptive use in the same period showed a decline too, from 56.3% to 53.5%.
- Using different approaches, Prof. Tusi (at Johns Hopkin University) and Dr. Pramanik (Deputy Director at the National Council of Applied Economic Research) reach a conclusion that this is because of the declining quality of contraceptive use data collected in NFHS-4.
- Usually the discussions about data come up when data about topics like GDP and poverty are released but there is little discussion about the quality of the data released as such.
- So we need to look at the overall challenges facing our data infrastructure in a constructive manner.
- First, by setting realistic goals and use creative strategies to improve the data infrastructure (i.e. the system that encourages the collection of high quality data not just numbers).
- We are talking of realistic goals because if compared with NFHS-3, then the sample size to collect data at district level increased from 1lakh households to over 6lakh households in NFHS-4. (this means that earlier 1lakh households in a district were approached and their data was collected and after an average a result (data) was prepared, that represented data at the district level). Here it is to be noted that when sample size i.e. the number of households increases so much then the load on the data collectors also increases and they tend to hurry up and in turn the quality of data collected is affected. Today there are other technical means available for collecting data from diverse sources not only households and increasing their numbers.
- Second is ensuring quality by adapting to changing institutional and technological environment for data collection. Also most of the data collection are being passed on from regular employees to contract investigators and for-profit data collectors. Unlike the veteran investigators they are not so efficient. So they need to be given proper training.
- Third, there is a need to collect data using technologically enabled procedures such as random voice recording of interviews, judicious back checks, and evaluation of agency and interviewer performance on parameters such as skipping sections, inconsistent data and consistent misreporting are needed to ensure quality.
- Fourth also state population research centres may be involved in the process and also in the process of quality monitoring.
- Fifth, there is a need to establish research units exclusively focused on data collection and research design. Because if there is proper research on data collection and practices then only we will be able to know things like whether men or women are better responders on data on household collection expenditure. Or the extent there is a discrepancy on reporting on employment data between a direct response from men and women vis-a-vis a proxy response from household head. Or how does the presence of other people when the data is being collected affect the responses?
Why is data quality or the quality of data collected important?
- Data collected guides the policies affecting millions of Indians and hence must be cautiously collected.
- Any wrong policy based on incorrect data can lead to more harm than good.
- Also data is the new oil and that must be of high quality if it has to have any market value. International investors and companies also base their decisions on data and analysis and wrong data can give wrong signals that can affect a country in both short and long term.
- While research on data collection methods in India has not improve, research methodology in other developed countries has increased phenomenally.
- For example, telephone surveys via random digit dialing or selection of respondents using voter lists are increasingly emerging as low-cost ways of collecting data.
- However without proper research we can know little about representativeness of such samples. Are men or women more likely to respond to telephonic surveys? Are migrants from other states well represented on voter list?
- So unless we pay systematic attention to data infrastructure i.e. the existing system of data collection, we are likely to have policies and debates based on poor quality data.
Question – What is meant by fiscal federalism? Why is it significant for a country like India?(250 words)
Context – The suggestion to establish an Expenditure Council.
Why in news?
- There is an apprehension that the Central government is trying to limit the expenditure power of the states.
What is meant by fiscal federalism?
- To simply understand, it is the federal relations between the Centre and the states in financial matters.
- It implies that Centre should not try to encroach upon the financial matters of the state in terms of collection or spending of its revenue.
Fiscal federalism in India:
- The main sources of revenue for any state is taxes both direct and indirect.
- In India the state governments do not have the power to levy direct taxes. They can only collect indirect taxes.
- They have the autonomy to spend the taxes they collected in their own way.
- This is justified by the fact that the state has a democratically elected government and it is the right of the people of the state, through their representatives, to decide how to spend the money that it available to them.
- Because the primary responsibility of such an elected government is efficient governance and accountability to its voters.
- But with the GST in place some were apprehensive that the Centre has tried to limit even in the power of indirect tax collection of the states. Though with the GST Council in place where the states have representatives, the principle of cooperative federalism was retained.
- Now the centre has proposed that there should be a permanent expenditure fund created for defence funding out of the total tax revenue pool that it receives.
- Now it is important to note that under GST the Centre keeps a certain amount of the entire tax collected and distributes the rest among states. At present the Centre keeps 52% of the total tax revenue pool (The tax pool is a record that the trustees need to keep to show, at the end of a given tax year, the difference between the: total Income Tax entering the tax pool that year, plus the amount carried over in the tax pool from earlier years) and distributes 48% to all the states and Union Territories.
- But the Centre now instead of spending out of its 52% share that it has on defence, wants the states to bear this. This will further reduce the share of money received by the states for their own expenditure.
- This will significantly reduce the overall tax revenue pool of the states.
- So with GST a certain part of revenue collection power of the state went to the Centre and now the Prime Minister’s Economic Council has advised to constitute an Expenditure Council, similar to the GST Council, this will dilute the expenditure autonomy (i.e. their spending power) of the states as well.
- Thus it is argued that an elected Chief Minister of a state with no discretionary powers to earn or spend for the people of the state can virtually hand over the reigns of governance to the Centre.
- So it can be seen as impacting the financial autonomy of the states or in other words, fiscal federalism.
Is this desired?
- India is a diverse country not only in terms of culture but also economically with different states on different levels of economic development. So it will be a mistake to think that all the states can be governed by one Central authority. Autonomy of the state governments is required and for this real autonomy, real financial autonomy is a must.
- Further any measure to dilute the fiscal federalism of the states can lead to more tensions between the Centre and the states and the ultimate bearer of this will be the stalling of the development process.
- So a balance is required.
So what can be done?/ Way ahead:
- One tangible solution to restore this balance is to grant the state governments the powers to levy income tax (at present they can collect on indirect tax and the only direct tax that they can levy is agricultural tax and that is too less).
- Most of the large federal States across the world like in the United States, state governments and even local governments have the right to levy income taxes on the citizens which are very small.
- In India the democratically elected state governments can be given the power to raise revenues and incur expenditure in accordance with each state’s needs and priorities. It is not wise to give all powers of revenue and expenditure to a Central government.
- The states need to be in a unity under the umbrella of Centre but must be given the space to retain autonomy.
Question – Analyse the several aspects of the rise of Asia in the past 50 years. Was it a mere coincidence?(250 words)
Context – The rapid rise of Asia vis a vis the West.
Economic condition of Asia in the early 19th century:
- In the 1820s (the early 19th century) Asia accounted for two-thirds of the world’s population and more than half of the world’s income.
- It also contributed more than half of the manufacturing production (i.e. the total goods produced) in the world economy.
The subsequent decline:
- The subsequent decline of Asia is attributed to its integration with the world economy through colonisation, shaped by imperialism. India had trade relations with other countries of the world even earlier but colonisation was the new filter that had gradually come in between.
- As a result by 1962, its share in the world income had declined to 15% from half in 1820, and its share in manufacturing had dropped to 6%.
- So much so that by the 1970s Asia was the poorest continent.
- Its demographic and social indicators of development were among the worst anywhere. This epitomised (showed/highlighted) its underdevelopment.
- And as seen in the book ‘Asian Drama’ in 1968 by Gunnar Mydal, people did not even have much hope about its recovery and development in the future at that time.
- But now as we see, an age of Asian prominence has already been set in motion!
- In half a century since then Asia has witnessed profound transformation in terms of economic progress of nations and living conditions of people.
- By 2016, it accounted for 30% of world income, 40% of world manufacturing, and over a third of world trade.
- The per capita income also matched with world average. Although this was not too high, yet if we see the initial gap with the rest of the industrial was so much that this increase seems an achievement.
- Even though this rise was unequal among among countries and people, this economic transformation is also unprecedented in history.
Why was it unequal?
- For this it is essential that we recognise the diversity of Asia.
- There were marked differences between countries in not only geographical size,but also embedded histories, colonial legacies, nationalist movements, initial conditions, natural resource endowments, population size, income levels and political systems.
- The reliance on markets and degree of openness in economies varied greatly across countries and over time.
- The politics too ranged from authoritarian regimes or oligarchies to political democracies.
- So also was difference in ideologies, from communism to state capitalism and capitalism.
- So development outcomes differed over space and time.
So despite differences, what led to the rise?
- First it was political independence, which restored their economic autonomy which enabled them to pursue the best policies suited to their national interests. Here it is important to note that even the Latin American countries had gained independence just like Asian countries, but they did not have a long history of well-structured states and cultures, which were not entirely destroyed by colonialism.
- What drove development in these countries was economic growth. Growth rates of GDP and GDP per capita in Asia were stunning and far higher than elsewhere in the world.
- Rising investment by capitalists and industrialists in Asia, combined with the spread of education were underlying factors. So growth was driven by rapid industrialisation, often export-led (though this varied greatly from country to country).
- So there was a kind of virtuous circle of cumulative causation, proper and timely investment growth (growth through rise in investment) along with rapid export growth, led to rapid GDP growth.
- This led to structural changes in output and employment (means the type of employment people did before and after industrialisation also changed because the output i.e. the things that were produced also changed like more motor cars than bullock carts and so on).
- Governments played an important role ranging from leaders, to catalysts or supporters, in half a century economic transformation of Asia.
- The success of economic development in Asia also depended on the ability of the leaders to manage the evolving relations between the state and the markets. Both complementing each other rather than substitutes, by finding the right balance in their respectives roles that also changed over time (i.e. initially the state played a major part and later the markets and so on).
- Countries that could not balance this relationship between state and markets, lacked in development.
What was the outcome of this development?
- As seen there were large scale differences among the countries. So the level and outcome of development was also unequal across countries.
- East-Asia was the leader and South Asia was the laggard (follow up/ lagging behind), with South Asia in the middle, while progress in west Asia did not match its high income levels.
- In just 50 years, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore joined the league of industrialised nations. China was a star performer throughout, making impressive strides in development after 1990. The growth performance of India, Bangladesh and Vietnam was most impressive during the last quarter century, although India and Bangladesh did not match the rest of Asia in ‘social progress’. While in comparison, the performance of Sri Lanka was respectable, Turkey was average, and the performance of Pakistan was poor.
- Rising per capita incomes transformed the social indicators of development such as literacy, life expectancy. Both of these increased. (but despite this the stark poverty that exists despite this unprecedented growth is striking).
- Inequality between people within countries rose almost everywhere, while the gap between the richest and poorest countries in Asia is also very visible.
The role played by openness and industrialisation:
- Openness facilitated industrialisation when combined with proper industrial policy. Clearly, success at industrialisation in Asia was driven by sensible industrial policy that was implemented by efficient governments.
- But in the future good policies will not be enough to promote industrialisation. Technological learning and technological capabilities are also essential to provide the foundations of sustaining industrialisation.
- The countries in Asia which modified, adapted and contextualised their agenda, while calibrating the sequence of, and the speed at which, economic reforms were introduced did well i.e. they did not hesitate to use unorthodox and unconventional policies which were experimental and innovative, for their national development objectives.
Challenges and Way Ahead:
- The rise of Asia reflects a change in the balance of economic power in the world and an erosion of the political hegemony of the West.
- The success of it will depend on how efficiently Asia exploits the opportunities and ,ets the challenges associated with it.
- By 2030, the per capita income of Asia is supposed to return to its 1820level but still they will not reach the income levels of rich countries like the U.S or Europe.
- So the Asian countries will emerge as world powers without matching the income levels of rich countries.
- But despite all this it can be said that if managed well, by 2050, a century after the end of colonial rule, Asia will reach its 1820 status and also have an economic and political significance in the world that would have been difficult to imagine 50 years ago.
Question – Explain the present India-China relations and the way ahead’? (250 words)
Context – the visit of the Chinese President.
India-China relations Since 2003:
- In 2003, the Indian PM and the Chinese President met and it had a very significant outcome. It set a political settlement to the boundary issue. China acknowledged Sikkim to be a part of the Indian Union.
- In 2005, another meeting was held between the Indian PM and the Chinese President. In this meeting they were able to conclude the Political Parameters and Guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China Boundary Question. It was significant in two aspects. First, it accepted that prominent geographical features would be the basis for determining the border. For India this means the Himalayan watershed. Second, there was an acknowledgement that interests of the “settled population” must be taken into account while arriving at a border settlement.
- They also arrived at a consensus on four key points which would in future guide India-China relations. First, India is not a threat to China and China is not a threat to India, second, there is enough room in Asia and the World for both a resurgent India and China. Three, India-China relations have now acquired strategic and global dimension and their cooperation is critical to tackling a host of global challenges such as Climate Change, and fourth, India and China should seek an early settlement of the border issue within this larger perspective so as to better together on strategic dimensions of their relations.
- Further in April 2005, China shared a map which showed Sikkim as a part of India.
- All these led to positive turn in relations.
A different turn:
- But gradually with the deepening relations between India and the United States and the signs that these would be further cemented by the proposed India-U.S. civil nuclear deal took the India-China relationship in a different setting.
- India was also emerging as a rapidly growing emerging economy registering a growth rate of 8-9% per annum and globalising its economy further through many trade agreements.
- It was seen as the next China in terms of commercial and investment opportunities. It was anticipated that India would continue to narrow the gap in GDP terms with China given its faster rate of growth.
- Also the term Chindia became famous and China recognised India’s convening power and leadership role among developing countries, whether on global trade, public health or climate change
The recent visit:
- However the informal summit at Mallapuram, off Chennai, is a continuation of the positive picture.
- Even though India’s $3 trillion economy looks modest against China’s $ 14 trillion and India’s economy has been slowing, China does have an interest in the Indian market where its companies have already emerged as major players in the mobile and smartphone market and in the fast expanding digital space – in particular digital payment and social media. India is the largest market for TikTok, the Chinese owned video sharing platform. India is critical to the global success of 5G, where China’s Huawei is the leader.
- So this is one leverage India has and its appeared to have persuaded the Chinese to address India’s concerns over access to the Chinese market and to reduce its trade deficit.
- This movement played the role of what Wuhan had played during the Doklam stand-off. It helped to resolve differences over Jammu and Kashmir issue.
- Neither of these visits actually helped in resolving any of these disputes but it conveyed the message that leaders on both sides were willing to maintain cordial relations and project the world that they are mature enough to manage their differences.
China’s present strategy towards India:
- China’s present strategy towards India can be categorised as a strategy of “neutralisation” i.e. to prevent India from undertaking policies that harm China’s interests even though China itself takes policies that undermine India’s interests or are intrusive to India’s security concerns.
- So these visits are calculated portrayal of cordiality by China which prevent India from undertaking strong counter arrangements against China from other major powers which could constrain China. Even though China shows no such constrains and continues its policies and acts that can upset India. Eg. with Pakistan and Nepal.
- This shows the current power asymmetry between the two countries.
- So the Mamallapuram summit, even though a useful and positive development should not be over-interpreted.
What can be done to bridge this asymmetry?
- In the medium to long term India can tackle this asymmetry through sustained and accelerated economic growth which alone can generate resources comparable to China.
- Also this is important if India wants to maintain its image of being seen in the region as a power that can countervail China. This was visible between 2003-2007 when India was growing at a faster rate. During this time China was more sensitive towards India’s concerns.
Question – Discuss the benefits that accrue from investing in women’s education?(250 words)
Context – Recent survey of health ministry.
- In Census 2011, the female literacy rate was 65.46%, much lower than for males, at 82.14%.
- As per NSS 71st round report,overall 75.7% male and 62% of females are literate,in rural India 72.3% Male and 56.8% Females and in Urban India 83.7% male and 74.8% females are literate in the year 2014.
How women’s education can benefit society ?
Better nutrition of the child:
- The recently released Health Ministry survey that showed a direct correlation between the nutritional status of children and their mothers’ education.
- The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, which studied 1.2 lakh children between 2016-18, measured diet diversity, meal frequency and minimum acceptable diet as the three core indicators of nutritional deficiency among infants and young children.
- It demonstrated that with higher levels of schooling for a mother, her children received better diets.
- On two counts, meal diversity and minimum acceptable diet, and in terms of bolstering food with micronutrients, the children of mothers with better education did well.
Good for Economic Growth:
- According to the World Bank, women see a 25 percent increase in wages later in life with only one year of secondary education. Female education even affects gross domestic product, with a rise of 0.3 percentage points per percentage point increase in female education participation. When women are educated, the entire economy grows and thrives.
Reduced child marriage
- Educated girls typically marry later, when they are better able to bear and care for their children.
Decreased Chance of Abuse
- Educated women are much less likely to suffer domestic abuse than their illiterate counterparts.
Decreased Child and Mother Mortality Rates
- Educated women are more likely to marry later in life, pushing back the age that they have their first child. When women have children later in life, specifically past age 18, women are more likely to survive the potentially dangerous first birth, as is their child.
- More educated mothers mean fewer mother and child deaths and illnesses. The loss of a mother can be disastrous for the chances of her children’s survival and future welfare. Furthermore, children with educated mothers are more likely to attend school and pursue higher levels of education than their peers with uneducated mothers.
Promoting Social Inclusion
- When girls are kept out of school in developing countries, they are usually working at home on domestic chores. This social isolation of girls leads to higher levels of depression in women as well as other mental health issues. Seeking an education encourages women to develop a professional life within the public sphere, allowing them to become part of the community and develop their own identities away from the home.
Promoting Good Health
- Children born to literate mothers are 50 percent more likely to survive past age five than children born to illiterate mothers. Children whose mothers receive secondary schooling are twice as likely to receive vaccinations against major disease, promoting better health outcomes for the entire community. Another of the advantages of female education is the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. In Zambia, AIDS spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls.
Reducing Terrorism and Extremism
- Female education means greater female involvement in society and the economy. Research has found that educated women are less likely to support terrorism and militancy than men of the same education level.
Encouraging Human Rights
- When women in a society are more educated, more emphasis is placed on gender equality. As women achieve equality, human rights become a strong value of communities, as women in leadership tend to fight for disenfranchised groups.
- Former American First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Because we know that when girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous.”
- Nobel laureate Amartya Sen reasons, has clearly shown how the relative aspect and regard for women’s well being is strongly influenced by women’s literacy and educated participation in decisions within and outside the family. Investing in women’s education helps to develop the nation on all fronts.
Question – Discuss malnutrition and what are the reasons behind it?( 200 Words)
Context – The increasing instances of malnutrition among children.
What is malnutrition?
- Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
- according to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study by the University of Washington, malnutrition is among the leading causes of death and disability in India .FAO estimates that 194.4 million people in India, about 14.5% of the total population, are undernourished.
- The Global Hunger Index 2018 ranks India 103 out of 119 countries
- Both poor and affluent families are affected by malnutrition due to lack of awareness.
- Food consumption patterns have changed substantially in India, disappearance of many nutritious native foods such as millets.
- food grain production has increased over five times since Independence, it has not sufficiently addressed the issue of malnutrition.
- Food monotony increases the risk of micronutrient deficiency.
Government interventions :
- September is to be observed as ‘Rashtriya Poshan Maah’
- POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission
What is poshan abhiyaan ?
- The Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition or POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission, is Government of India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers
- The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
- Concerted efforts by the government have led to a decline in malnutrition by two percentage points per annum agriculture sector focused on increasing food production, particularly staples, which led to lower production and consumption of indigenous traditional crops/grains, fruits and other vegetables, Agricultural biodiversity ensures a wider food menu to choose from.
- Small farmers, livestock and seed keepers in India are on the front-line of conserving the unique agrobiodiversity of the country.
Question – What is meant by a civilisational state? How does it connect India and China in an Asian Century?(250 words)
Context – The visit of the Chinese President.
- With the visit of the Chineses President to India, much is being talked about the India-China relations and the role their friendship is set to play in the changing world order.
- In this context many discussions also mention the idea of a civilisational state. It is usually used as opposed to the idea of a nation-state, of which the west is a proponent.
- So it becomes imperative to understand what the two stand for and how it shapes the relationship between the state and the people.
So first, what is the difference between a civilisational state and a nation-state?
- The primary difference is from where they derive the sense of nationhood (sense of what is a nation).
- The idea is that there are two kinds of nation states – one, the Westphalian nation state which was created after the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) that ended The Thirty Year War in Europe creating national boundaries based on broad homogeneity, and which is understood to be the basis of the so-called rules-based liberal world order; and the other is the civilisational state where the sense of nationhood is derived from collective memories of an ancient civilisation.
- It simply means that that the people in the West see the nation as a sovereign unit whose boundary was drawn on the basis of some similarity that exists among the people living in that nation. It may be a common language or common past or common heritage or anything that they all share in common. But the idea of the nation among the people of the civilisational state is different. They see the nation as a descendent or a guardian of their ancient civilisation.
- Both India and China are civilisational states and they implicitly question Western ideas and institutions.
- They are both count among the most ancient civilisations of the world.
- The idea of what a nation is, is different among the people of these countries and among the people of the western countries.
- Therefore ‘Western values’ like human rights, strong civil society and democracy does not apply in the same way in China and India as they do in the West.
- So they both question the western ideas and institutions in their own way. China as we know rejects the western idea of democracy and liberalism and is becoming more and more authoritarian.
- India on the other hand presents a different picture.
Is India truly a civilisational state that rejects the western values completely?
- India is too diverse and has too strong a middle-class which inherited and embraced many legacies from its colonial past, including social and judicial liberalism, to ever be a complete civilisational state.
- the civilisational state in India did not have to set itself in opposition to the liberal West. the Indian civilisational state has a unique characteristic of its own. It neither applaudes nor rejects the western attributes. It is a more thoughtful synthesis of the two. An assimilation on India’s own terms
- It is best represented by Swami Vivekananda, the modern monk who won over many Western fans in America and Europe in the late 19th century with his own vision of India’s civilisational rise without forsaking lessons from, or collaboration with, the West.
How is the notion of a civilisational state, India-China friendship, and the Asian century interlinked?
- As we can see the 21st-century is marked by the dominance of Asian politics and culture mostly because of its demography, location and economy. So the 21st century is called the Asian century. It parallels parallels the characterization of the 19th century as Britain’s Imperial Century, and the 20th century as the American Century.
- The most prominent place in Asian politics is held by India and China. They are in a position now to influence the international order by the friendships and hostilities they make.
- They are also close neighbours and civilisational states who do not embrace the western values as it is and take pride in their past. And both of them aspire also aspire to be the dominant regional powers.
- But this will not be possible if they remain hostile towards each other because as said in the previous article, when two big powers fight, it’s always the other nations that are the gainers.
- So both of them have different approaches with convergent goals.
- In this situation it is best for both the countries to reach a truce. Keep their hostilities aside and focus on the wider scenario.
Conclusion/ Way forward:
- They should learn from their histories. They could both rise as great civilisations because Throughout civilisation they have maintained a peaceful co-existence.
- They should continue to remain so.
Question – Access India-China relations. Can they go hostile in the changing power dynamics?Explain (250 words)
Context – China’s stand on Kashmir issue.
The Indo-China relationship:
- Both India and China are among the two most ancient civilisations of the world sharing a border of approximately 3447 kilometres.
- They share a rich cultural tradition and India-China cultural exchanges date back to many centuries and there is some evidence that conceptual and linguistic exchanges existed in 1500-1000 B.C. between the Shang-Zhou civilization and the ancient Vedic civilization.
- During the first, second and third centuries A.D. several Buddhist pilgrims and scholars travelled to China on the historic “silk route”. Ancient Indian monk-scholars such as Kumarajiva, Bodhidharma and Dharmakshema contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China. Similarly, Chinese pilgrims also undertook journeys to India, the most famous among them being Fa Xian and Xuan Zang.
- On 1 April, 1950, India became the first non-socialist bloc country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
- Both the countries have similar problems including large population, huge rural-urban divide, rising economy and conflict with neighbours.
- However the relations turned cold post 1962 war which created mistrust between the two countries since then.
Major causes of dispute:
- Border dispute – there are two disputes between them, the western border dispute and the eastern border dispute. The western border dispute includes Aksai Chin. Johnson’s line shows Aksai Chin to be under Indian control whereas the McDonald Line places it under Chinese control. Line of Actual Control separates Indian-administered areas of J & K from Aksai Chin. China and India went to war in 1962 over disputed territory of Aksai Chin. India claimed this was a part of Kashmir, while China claimed it was a part of Xinjiang. On the eastern side, China considers the McMahon Line illegal and unacceptable claiming that Tibet had no right to sign the 1914 Convention held in Shimla which delineated the Mc Mahon line. Hence it claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- China – Pakistan friendship – Pakistan lies at the heart of China’s geostrategic ambitions i.e. New silk road connecting the energy fields of the Middle East and the markets of Europe to China. China is also the most trusted economic and military partner of China. China opposed India’s admission into permanent seat of UNSC, & insisted for Pakistan. This prevents any kind of mutual trust between India and China.
- OBOR that connects Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe – India believes that this is not just an economic project but China wants to establish its political dominance in the region by this strategy. Also it has projects in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, ignoring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- CPEC – India fears that CPEC, passing through the Pakistan controlled Kashmir, would serve the purpose of granting legitimacy to Pakistan’s control over the region, and by promoting the construction of the corridor, China intends to meddle in the Kashmir dispute.india also fears that after gaining access to Gwadar port, the Chinese will find it easy to sail into the Indian Ocean.
- The Baloch angle – Gwadar is located in Balochistan, & Baloch are against CPEC because they claim that the CPEC’s benefits will not flow to them. Pakistan and China together are building a military infrastructure in Balochistan’s coastal areas. The purpose is to strengthen their military supremacy in the region which will undermine the stability of the region.
- South China Sea dispute – China is constructing many islands in the South China Sea. It has also built ports, Runaways and radar facilities on the man made islands. satellite images of the islands, show that China now appears to have installed large antiaircraft guns and weapons systems as well.
- Doklam plateau face-off – Indian troops intervened to block the path of Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers engaged in building road-works on the Doklam plateau, a strategically vital 269 sq. km. patch of Bhutan’s territory that Beijing laid claim to. This is the first time that India used troops to protect Bhutan’s territorial interests. India foresees that the construction of a new road through the Chumbi valley would further endanger the “Chicken’s Neck” – the narrow Siliguri corridor links the north-east with the rest of India.
- String of pearls – China has an undeclared policy of String of Pearls to encircle India, which involves building of ports and naval bases around India’s maritime reaches.
- India supports a Tibetan gov. in exile formed by Dalai Lama.
- China began the practice of issuing stapled visa to residents of AP and J & K, though it stopped it for J & K but continues for AP.
- China has been building dams in Tibet part of Brahmaputra. India has objected to it but there has been no formal treaty over sharing of the Brahmaputra water.
- China is also blocking India’s entry to the NSG.
The recent turn of events:
- Over the past decade, three historical forces have been shaping India-China relations. some of these forces have been pushing both the countries towards competition and some pulling them closer to collaboration and coordination.
- First is the changing world and the rise of Asia especially since 2008 global economic crisis
- Second is the decline of the West’s capacity and inclination to responsibly manage international Affairs on one hand and the rise of India, China and some other re-emerging Asian powers on the other. They are playing an important role in building a new world order which is very essential to maintain global stability. This requires close cooperation and coordination.
- Third is changing South-Asia and China’s 2013 and 2014 policy that it will develop ties with its peripheries including subcontinental states (for example, south asia is a subcontinent of the continent Asia). This was followed by the ambitious Belt and Road initiative and CPEC in April 2015.
- These three factors increased the complexity of India-China relations.
- While the first two mostly pushed the tow to coordinate with each other, the third one increased distrust and tensions. They knew that they needed to cooperate with each other to face the changing world order, but they also couldn’t put aside the tensions.
- This led to both the adopting antagonistic (hostile) policies and strategies towards each other.
- This tension continued till 2017. Doklam episode in the high Himalayas was the culmination of this deeper festering question – that how the two will deal with each other as they both try to increase their influence in their overlapping periphery (neighbourhood).
- It was only after the Doklam issue took a very serious turn that leaders from both sides decided to be more sober towards each other.
The broader picture:
- When we place these events in the broader picture of an increasing multipolar world order, uncertainty on future of globalisation, and, the yet long journey towards social and hi-tech rejuvenation of their economies, it led to a similar conclusion by the two leaderships: that they need to lessen regional tension in the national interest of both countries.
- This conclusion was reached at the “informal summit” in Wuhan in 2018.
- Both the countries understood that they cannot adopt antagonistic policies towards each other and needed to cooperate and coordinate with each other.
- This understanding was based on five pillars – first is the acceptance that there is a simultaneous emergence of India and China as regional powers. So it is inevitable that there will be two major powers in the region with independent foreign policies. Second, so both the countries have to recognise the importance of accepting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations. Third, both the countries will provide strategic guidance to their respective militaries on how to manage the borders peacefully. Fourth, both sides would strive for greater consultation on all matters of common interest and finally, all these will focus on building a real developmental partnership.
- The Wuhan approach was criticised by some on the ground that it did not lay a blueprint (roadmap) for resolving the pending issues but let us not forget that it made both sides realise and contain the spiraling competition and mistrust that was growing between them and accept that there is an uncertain international environment that makes both sides give up their antagonistic approach.
- It was a win-win for both sides – the truce gave China the opportunity to focus on its strategic competition with the US. It relieved India from having to overburden its military, weak economy and under-resourced diplomatic corps from having to focus on two fronts in a region wide rivalry with China.
- The Wuhan approach was based on realpolitik considerations.
- As India’s Foreign secretary stated in February 2018, that India has to define its relationship with China will will allow us to maintain our foreign policy objectives and at the same time allow us a policy that is prudent enough so that it does not lead us to conflict on every occasion. The Wuhan approach helped both the side to define it.
The Way Forward:
- Both India and China should be guided by three strategic goals – an inclusive security architecture in Asia that facilitates a non-violent transition to multipolar world without disrupting economic interdependence, second, a fair rules based international order to better reflect developing economies interests, and, third, to establish geo-political peace and sustainable economic development in the neighbourhood.
- To sum up, as historian Odd Arne Westad said that, the more U.S. and China beat up each other, the more room there will be for other powers to maneuver (i.e. take advantage of). The same applies in the case of India and China as well. Unrestrained competition only benefits other powers.
- The turn of events is compelling both India and China to learn to co-exist in a common neighbourhood. And this should be maintained.
Question – What is mental health? Why is a matter of grave concern? ( 200 words)
Context – the increasing rate of depression among adolescents.
What is mental health?
- Mental refers to a person’s psychological and emotional well being.
Mental health in adolescents:
- By adolescents we mean those in the age group of 10-17 years.
- Many reports and studies show that mental health of adolescents is fast deteriorating. Mental health disorders are on the rise among 13-17 year olds, with one out of five in school suffering from depression.
- This is alarming given that they make up 18% of the population and are the future drivers of the nation.
- According to the National Mental Health Survey, 2016, the prevalence of mental disorders was 7.3% among 13-17 year olds. With many resorting to self-harm, and statistics suggests that suicides among adolescents is higher than any other age group.
- According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016, in India, the suicide rate among 15-29 year olds was highest in Karnataka (30.7), Tripura (30.3), Tamil Nadu (29.8), and Andhra Pradesh (25.0).
- India’s contribution to global suicide deaths increased from 25.3% in 1990 to 36.6% in 2016.
- Half of the mental health disorders detected in adulthood starts from 14 years of age and most of the cases are undetected.
- Usually those who suffer from depression and anxiety in adulthood often begin experiencing them from childhood and it may peak during adolescence and early 20s.
- There may be several reasons for mental disorders in childhood like absenteeism from school, physical or sexual abuse, peer pressure, bullying and others leading to suicidal behaviour.
- The prime cause for letting this go unchecked is a poor social environment where a stigma is associated around mental health and the inability to discuss it with parents.
- At times parents are involved in attaching this stigma to their children and at times they refuse to accept it.
- This leads to the fact that even though some children and adolescents can identify feeling sad and distressed, only 8% get treated.
- There is also evidence that technology can create loneliness, isolation and unrealistic expectations for adolescents.
Steps that can be taken/ Way ahead:
- Parents should be more accepting and understanding.
- The children should be given proper classes in school so that they know what bullying and peer pressure is and not fall into its trap.
- Parents should gently discuss the role of technology to bring adolescents to realisation that limiting screen time and engaging in social activities may help.
- The government should take progressive policies, based on evidence-based approaches.
- A 2010 Lancet study highlighted interventions conducted with 10,000 adolescents across 10 European countries, with a key success around ‘Youth Behaviour and Mental Health’ segment. This resulted in adolescents with mental health challenges receiving psychological support via 45 minutes session, which ensured education in suicidal ideas and behaviour.
- Projects with similar approach such as SPIRIT (Suicide Prevention and Implementation Research Initiative) in India, aims to reduce suicides among targeted adolescents and implement research-based suicide interventions. They also guide local policy makers with research-based evidence.
- More such initiatives are required and need to be encouraged.
Question – What is Strategy for New India @ 75? What does it suggest about water resources in India?
Context – The vision of ‘Piped water for All by 2024’.
What is Strategy for New India @ 75?
- It is a comprehensive national strategy for New India envisioned by the NITI Aayog, which defines clear objectives to be achieved by 2022-23.
- It contains a detailed exposition (explanation and detailed description) across forty-one crucial areas for the nation and studies the progress already made in these areas, identifies the problems and constraints faced these areas, and finally it clearly suggests the way forward for achieving the clearly stated objectives.
- It is inspired by PM’s call for establishing a New India by 2022.
What does the NITI Aayog’s report suggest about water resources in India?
- According to a Niti Aayog report on water management index last year, India is currently suffering from the worst water crisis in its history with the country ranked at 120 among 122 countries in the quality of water.
- By 2020, it said, as many as 21 major cities of India will run out of water and face ‘day zero’— a term that became popular after a major water crisis in Cape Town in South Africa, which means literally switching off most of the city’s tap for a day.
- The report said 600 million people face high-to-extreme water stress, 75% of households do not have drinking water on premises and 84% rural households do not have access to piped water.
- Moreover, factors such as rapid climate change and ongoing over-extraction of groundwater, mainly for agriculture, are pushing the system to a breaking point.
- To deal with this the NITI Ayog is planning to take inspiration from Israel and establish desalination plants.
- Israel have been successful in using desalinated water for wide use. Currently, as much as 70% of household water comes from desalinated sea water in Israel.
What can be done?
- There is a need to rethink water management policies. An efficient water management policy will be the one that takes three things into account: One, acknowledge and analyse past failures; two, suggest realistic and implementable goals; and three, stipulate who will do what, and within what time frame.
- In India water is not national subject, but state subject. So a periodic meeting between the Ministers of the states overseeing water resource management and that of the centre is very crucial at every step.
- The NITI Aayog also suggests for adopting an integrated river basin management approach, and setting up of river basin organisations (RBOs) for major basins. A river basin is the area of land from which all the water flows into a particular river.
- Integrated river basin management (IRBM) is the process of coordinating conservation, management and development of water, land and related resources across sectors within a given river basin, in order to maximise the economic and social benefits derived from water resources in an equitable manner while preserving and, where necessary, restoring freshwater ecosystems.
- The Aayog also seeks to establish an efficient water resources regulatory authority. The need for a regulator is urgent. The need was also mentioned in the National Water Policy 2012 that envisaged the need for a regulator. It said that ‘equitable access to water for all and its fair pricing for drinking and other uses such as sanitation, agricultural and industrial sectors should be arrived at through an independent statutory water regulatory authority set up by each State, after wide-ranging consultation with all stakeholders’.
- Maharashtra established a water resources regulatory authority in 2005. But this idea was not implemented too well. There is a need for its proper adoption and implementation for achieving the desired outcomes.
- The New India @ 75 strategy also acknowledges that there is a gap between the irrigation potential already created in India and the optimal utilisation of this potential. So it recommends that Water Ministry should draw up an action plan to complete command area development (CAD) works to reduce the gap. (The Centrally sponsored Command Area Development (CAD) Programme was launched in 1974-75 with the main objectives of improving the utilization of created irrigation potential and optimizing agriculture production and productivity from irrigated agriculture through a multi-disciplinary team under an Area Development Authority).
- Also the goals set should be realistic and achievable, and the strategy document must specify who will be responsible and accountable for achieving the specific goals, and in what time-frame. Otherwise, no one will accept the responsibility to carry out various tasks, and nothing will get done.
- Also inspiration must be taken from the best water management practices adopted by other states like Mission Kakatiya,Telangana; Narmada (Sanchore), Rajasthan; Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh- ‘Har Khet ko Paani’; Mulching: Harvesting Many Benefits in Cardamom, Kerala; Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) – Waghad, Maharashtra; Micro-irrigation in Gujarat; Root Zone Watering by SWAR, Telangana; Bhungroo – GroundWater Injection Well, Gujarat; Pani Panchayat: Orissa Water Resource Consolidation Project.
- And also traditional water management practices like Johads, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan; Ahar Pyne, Bihar; Apatani, Arunachal Pradesh; Phad, Maharashtra; Kuls/Kuhls in Himalayan Region, Himachal Pradesh; Bamboo Drip Irrigation, Meghalaya.
- India’s water problems can be solved with existing knowledge, technology and available funds. But India’s water establishment needs to admit that the strategy pursued so far has not worked. Only then can a realistic vision emerge.
- Also read the article of 18th September.
Question – In the context of the high level visit of Mexico’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in New Delhi, analyse India-Mexico diplomatic relations. (250 words)
Context- The visit.
The present scenario:
- The trade and investment links between India and Mexico are rapidly expanding.
- Mexico has become India’s top trading partner in Latin America and it is the top investor in the region in India, and India is now for the first time among Mexico’s top 10 commercial partners.
- The mutual bilateral trade reached more than 10 billion in 2018 (four times than it was in 2009).
- Both India and Mexico are a part of ancient and rich civilisations and tourism is a growing sector in both the countries. It is home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites. This is quite comparable to India. In 2018, Mexico attracted 41 million international tourists and Indians have been among the top 20 visitors to Mexico and Indian tourism in Mexico is exceeding that of many European countries. This further beings the countries closer.
- There has also been a wide variety of flights and airlines connecting both countries. More connectivity to facilitate leisure travel also enhances trade and business cooperation.
The bilateral relations:
Historical ties –
- India and Mexico have striking similarities in geo-climatic conditions, biodiversity, physiognomy and people, cultural and family values, as well as European connections of the colonial era.
- Both are heirs to a great civilizational heritage and contacts between them indicatively go back centuries. Legend has it that an Indian princess ‘Meera’ landed in Mexico in the 17th century and is well-known here as ‘Santa Catarina.’
- Mexico was the first Latin America country to recognize India after Independence and establish diplomatic relations with India in 1950.
- Also Mexican wheat varieties used in Indo-Mexican hybrids were the backbone of India’s Green Revolution in the sixties.
- Gandhiji’s statues and busts adorn four major Mexican cities: roads and several schools are also named after him.
Political ties –
- In the cold war years, Mexico and India had worked together closely as members of the UN, G-77, G-15 and G-6 (nuclear disarmament), both actively championing the interests of developing countries such as in the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations.
- The bilateral relations received a new momentum with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with President Peña Nieto on the sideline of G-20 meeting at Brisbane in November 2014 and on the sidelines of UNGA in New York in September 2015 followed by his visit to Mexico City on 8th June, 2016. During this visit, Prime Minister Modi and President Nieto agreed to work for achieving a ‘Strategic Partnership’.
- Even though there are differences on expansion of the permanent membership of the UNSC, environment, climate and non-proliferation issues, as such, there are no disputes in the relationship.
Bilateral cooperation –
- The two countries have several bilateral agreements & MOUs, including for Investment Promotion and Protection, Double Taxation Avoidance, Extradition, Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters, Air Services, S & T Co-operation, Space Cooperation, Promotion of Traditional Medicine, Tourism Promotion, Cultural Exchanges, etc.
- India gives 20 scholarships to Mexico under the ITEC program, and Mexican diplomats are also given training at FSI. The Gurudev Tagore Indian Cultural Centre has been functioning in Mexico since October 2010, teaching Yoga, classical and Bollywood dances, sitar, tabla, Indian languages Hindi and Sanskrit and Indian cooking.
- An agreement on cultural cooperation has been in existence since 1975 and cooperation activities are carried out through four-yearly ‘Programmes of Cultural Cooperation’ under the framework of this agreement.
Economic and commercial relations –
- As seen above, Mexico has become India’s top trading partner in Latin America and it is the top investor in the region in India, and India is now for the first time among Mexico’s top 10 commercial partners.
- The mutual bilateral trade reached more than 10 billion in 2018 (four times than it was in 2009).
- Most of the leading Indian companies in IT/software (TCS, Infosys, Wipro, NIIT, BirlaSoft, HCL, Aptech, Hexaware, Patni, etc.) and pharmaceutical (Claris Life Sciences, Wockhardt, Sun Pharma, Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, etc.) sectors have set up joint ventures in Mexico taking advantage of its strategic location, large market and investment friendly policies.
Indian community –
- The Indian community (PIOs/NRIs) in Mexico is estimated to be around 7000, comprising mostly software engineers of Indian IT companies – TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Accenture etc. and executives in other Indian and international companies. In addition, there are several academics/professors in the local universities and some private businessmen in textile and garment business.
- Tourism between the two countries is steadily increasing. Mexicans have been extended the online e-Tourist Visa facility and around 15,000 Mexicans visited India in 2016. Over 50,000 Indian tourists visit Mexico annually. Indians have been among the top 20 visitors to Mexico and Indian tourism in Mexico is exceeding that of many European countries.
Need /Way forward:
- Mexico and India have a common goal i.e. social development and inclusion. To accomplish this there is a need to promote trade and investment in priority sectors in both the countries, improve market access including in agricultural areas, and cooperation in the fields of energy and tourism.
- There is also a need to cooperate to strengthen multilateralism and rule based international system, and to foster mechanisms such as the G20.
- Also there can be new areas of cooperation in the field of science and technology to pave the way for new areas of cooperation in space technology, medicine etc.
- We are doing well in our relationship and there is a need to continue it.
Question – What is citizenship? In this context analyse the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019.( 250 words)
Context – the protest over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019.
What is citizenship?
- Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to protection.
What does the Indian constitution say about citizenship?
- The constitution does not contain any elaborate provision about citizenship. It only recognises those people as citizens who became citizens of India at its commencement (i.e. January 26, 1950).
- Rest it leaves it to the parliament to enact laws to deal with citizenship and other issues involving it.
What is Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019?
- It makes an amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955, which is an umbrella law that sets out the basic elements of Indian citizenship.
- The bill aims to grant Indian citizenship to all persecuted religious minorities like Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from three neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- The bill is applicable to all states and union territories of the country.
- The bill when passed will provide relief to the persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and other states. As the bill states that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan… shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”. These individuals are made eligible to be Indian citizens via naturalisation.
- And also the normal precondition for naturalisation — having spent 12 years in the country — is halved to six years.
- And it is likely that the government would set the cut off date at December 31, 2014, to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities.
Why is the Bill being protested?
- The protestors say that the Bill does two things- first it shields a set of individuals from being declared illegal migrants, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan (which means they wont have to face detention or deportation) and second, it creates a fast-track to citizenship for these individuals. (because reduced from 12 years to 6 years.)
- They say that when the Bill specifically mentions that it is to protect the minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh then it automatically means that since all these countries are muslim majority countries so muslims from these countries do not need protection. But it overlooks that fact that certain minorities among the Muslim community itself like the Ahmadis in Pakistan are persecuted and hence they come to India for refuge. So they in other terms should be recognised by the government as minorities too.
- It also does not include the Jews and Atheists.
- According to them the Bill also introduces communal bias and by dividing (alleged) migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, and thereby going against the constitution’s long-standing, secular constitutional ethos.
- It will also be the first time that religion or ethnicity will be made the basis of citizenship. That would do grave damage to the very idea of India as an inclusive and diverse polity, where religion has no bearing on who can become a full member of society
- They also say that it violates Article 14 of the constitution.
- They are also apprehensive about the efficiency of a nation-wide NRC. They site the example of the discrepancies in Assam in implementation of NRC.
- They also argue that Assam NRC arose out of a very specific historical experience, and Assam’s own position as a border State but applying it to the other states on nation-wide scale is not justified.
What can be done/ need/ way forward:
- The government needs to carefully access all aspects of the bill, including the criticisms before taking a final decision.
- And whatever decision is taken, provisions have to be there so that it can be implemented efficiently.
Question – Analyse the relationship between India and Bangladesh and highlight the present status.( 250 words)
Context – meeting between Mr. Modi andSheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly late last month.
A brief analysis:
- India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971.
- IndiaBangladesh relationship is anchored in history, culture, language and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities between the two countries. For example, the Bengali music, cuisine, way of life, world view etc.
- Both countries share an all-encompassing win-win partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.
- Further there are regular high level visits and exchanges at Ministerial level as well as at senior official level between the two countries. And in these visits several bilateral agreements are signed including the exchange of instrument of ratification for India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA).
- There are more than 60 bilateral institutional mechanisms between India and Bangladesh in the areas of security, trade & commerce, power & energy, transport & connectivity, science and technology, defence, rivers & maritime affairs etc.
- Regarding security and border management, India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours. The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015. And on July 31, 2015 the enclaves of India and Bangladesh in each other’s countries were exchanged and strip maps were signed.
- Regarding defence cooperation, various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries. Both navies and coast guard exchange goodwill ships visits to each other. Scholarships are given to heirs of Muktijoddhas (Bangladesh War Veterans) for Higher Secondary & Undergraduate students every year by the Government of India.
- Sharing of river waters is an important part that determines the relationship. India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems. Also the Ganga Waters Treaty signed in 1996 for sharing of waters of river Ganga during lean season (January 1-May 31) is working satisfactorily.
- In bilateral trade and investment Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade. In the last three years (the period between FY 2015-16 and FY 2017-18), bilateral trade grew around 31.5% from USD 7 bn to USD 9.3 bn.
- Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura (Srinagar and Kamalasagar) and Meghalaya (Kalaichar and Balat), have been established for the benefit of bordering communities. Additional Border Haats on the India-Bangladesh border are under implementation.
- Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India today. India has extended 3 Lines of Credits to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to US$ 8 billion.
- In addition to LOC funds, the Government of India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure and socio-economic projects including the Agartala- Akhaura rail link, dredging of inland waterways and India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline.
- As far as Power and Energy Sector Cooperation is concerned, cooperation in power sector has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
- Various Indian public sector units including Indian Oil Corporation, Numaligarh Refinery Limited are working with their Bangladeshi counterparts in the oil and gas sector of Bangladesh. ONGC Videsh Ltd has acquired two shallow water blocks in consortium with Oil India Limited and is currently exploring these blocks.
- The GOI is also extending financial assistance for construction of 130 Km IndiaBangladesh Friendship Pipeline for supply of diesel from Siliguri to Parbatipur in Bangladesh.
- Improvements in connectivity are an important prerequisite for trade, investments and people-to-people ties. India and Bangladesh have a Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT), to facilitate trade and transit between the countries, since 1972. PIWTT permits movement of goods over barges/vessels through the river systems of Bangladesh on eight specific routes between points in India and Bangladesh, and between points in India through Bangladesh.
- There are presently around 100 flights operating weekly between India and Bangladesh connecting various Indian cities including New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai to Dhaka and Chittagong. From India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Indigo and Air India are operating flights between India and Bangladesh.
- A number of training and capacity building courses are being conducted for Bangladesh officials.
- In cultural exchange the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka regularly organizes cultural programmes and also conducts classes in various Indian cultural elements including Hindi, yoga, Hindustani music and Manipuri and Kathak dances etc. These courses are very popular with the Bangladeshi students.
- A 100 member youth delegation from Bangladesh has been visiting India annually since 2012 to promote understanding among the youth about each other’s countries.
- The High Commission of India has been publishing a highly popular Bengali literary monthly magazine ‘Bharat Bichitra’ since 1972.
- In field of consular service, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka and the Assistant High Commissions in Bangladesh together issue the highest number of Indian visas compared to any other Indian Mission. The numbers are increasing manifold with figures exceeding 14 lakhs in 2018. And to meet the rising demand for Indian visa in Bangladesh, an integrated state-of-the art Indian Visa Application Centre(IVAC), was inaugurated on 15 July 2018 in Dhaka.
- There is also a large Indian community in Bangladesh. About 10,000 strong Indian community is estimated to be living in Bangladesh. Most of the Indians are engaged in Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector or as top professionals in MNCs. Around 3000 Indian students are also pursuing medical courses in different Universities/colleges in Bangladesh. A 24X7 helpline (01937400591) is functional to assist the Indian community in Bangladesh.
- The present relations between India and Bangladesh are more cordial than ever.
- The Bangladesh government has very well dealt with the issue of security threats and acts of insurgency against India and today, the India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured. The signing of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 was a milestone, where the two neighbours amicably resolved a long-outstanding issue.
- Bilateral trade was a little over $9 billion in FY 2017-18 and Bangladeshi exports increased by 42.91%, reaching $1.25 billion in FY 2018-2019. The removal of non-tariff barriers will further help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India.
- In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW.
- In addition, a 1,600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system is being developed to boost power trade.
- Also as a mark of safety and trust, land routes have gained popularity over air travel, and are preferred by 85.6% of Bangladeshis visiting India. Train services on the Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Khulna are doing well, while a third, on the Agartala-Akhaura route, is under construction.
- Five additional bus services were introduced in 2018; this March, the first ever Dhaka-Kolkata cruise ship was launched. Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 21.6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018.
- Today, Bangladesh contributes 50% of India’s health tourism revenue.
But despite these some challenges still remain like:
- Teesta Water Sharing Agreement: the WB government is not accepting to endorse water-sharing terms agreed upon by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 has resulted in the current impasse. A lack of water has affected 100,000 hectares of land, with contamination affecting the soil; the increased cost of pesticides and irrigation has made farming less profitable on both sides.
- The National Register of Citizens (NRC): it has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971. But Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence.
- The Rohingya issue: India’s stand on the Rohingya issue is upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution.
- Further China is mediating on this issue concerning India-Myanmar and Bangladesh, when, given its geographical proximity, it is India which is ideally positioned to play a positive role in regional leadership.
- In a neighbourhood where distrust and cynicism, both countries must use their ties of history and culture and resolve the issues faster without any third party interference.
Question – Access the Model Tenancy Act, 2019.(250 words)
Context – Many houses lying vacant without being rented by owners.
What is Model Tenancy Act, 2019?
- ‘Model Tenancy Act’, 2019 seeks to balance the interest and rights of both the owner and tenant and to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises in disciplined and efficient manner. It includes both residential and non-residential properties.
- It is under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
Important Provisions of the Act:
- The Act lays down obligations of tenants and landlords, and provides for proper mechanism for disputes.
- It is intended to be an Act that balances the interests of the owner and the tenant by establishing a mechanism for speedy trial and to establish Rent Court and Rent Tribunal to hear appeals and for matters connected to rental housing.
- Its stated aim is to promote the creation of a rental housing stock for various income segments including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, students, and working professionals, mainly through private participation.
- The Act also mandates that no person will let or take any rental premise without an agreement in writing in both rural and urban areas.
- Also, within two months of executing such an agreement, the land owner and tenant must contact the Rent Authority, who will issue a unique identification number to both the parties.
- Also there is a provision to submit agreements through a dedicated digital platform.
What are the rights of the tenant and owner?
- The Model Act lays down various rules, including that the security deposit to be paid by the tenant should not exceed two months’ rent for residential property, and should be a minimum of one month’s rent for non-residential property.
- It lists the kinds of repairs each party would be responsible for, with the proviso that money for repairs can be deducted from the security deposit or rent, as applicable, if a party refuses to carry out their share of the work.
- The Rent Court can allow repossession of the property by the landlord if the tenant misuses the premises, after being served a notice by the landowner.
- Misuse of the premises, as defined, includes public nuisance, damage, or its use for “immoral or illegal purposes”.
- If the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord can claim double the monthly rent for two months, and four times the monthly rent thereafter.
What was the need of such an Act?
- A kind of fear psychosis was observed among the owners which led to 1.1 crore houses lying vacant (according to 2011 census).
- The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession.
- The Model Act would bring these into the rental market, and would promote the growth of the rental housing segment.
- One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.
- If adopted and enforced by the states, will lead to a better regulated private rental housing market for the middle and higher income segments and also address the grievances of the tenants.
- The Draft MTA will also promote growth of rental housing and investment in the sector and promote entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative mechanism of sharing of space.
- It will enable the creation of adequate rental housing stock for various income segments of society including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, professionals, students etc. and increase access to quality rented accommodation, enable gradual formalization of rental housing market.
- As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
- Even if the Act is very well intended, yet it must be periodically reviewed in order to bring in any amendment if required.
Note: There is another article today called ‘Deep traps’. It doesn’t have much content but here are the important points:
- The article mainly argues about the increasing number of child deaths due to falling in uncovered and unused abandoned borewells and wells.
- It says that the responsibility of closure of abandoned wells should be given to the local body and not to the owner.
- It gives the argument in the context of the Supreme Court order that was delivered in 2010, which said that the responsibility of filling up an abandoned well to the owner. They fail to do it mainly because these unused and uncovered wells are in the farmlands and are owned by poor farmers.
- But there are deep hole accidents in the cities as well and it should be the responsibility of the authority to fill them up and take responsibility for any mishap.
- There can also be a census of well structures and they can be regularly checked to prevent any loss of innocent lives.
- This will also save the cost incurred on high-costing rescue operations
This is related to today’s article titled ‘’ When the abstract destroys the physical being”it doesn’t have much content but these are the important highlights:
- The article argues that there are two things, one is the concept of something like the concept of a nation or the concept of a family, in the minds of the people. And the second is the physical existence of a human being.
- What happens mostly is that the concept takes over the physical and leads to the exploitation and hurting of the human being.
- For example, in the case of family, we have heard instances of honour killing. In such instances people are ready to kill a member of their own family (their daughter) to save the honour of their concept of family.
- Similarly there was an instance of Dalit children beng beaten to death for defecating in the open. This is another case when the notion of nation and the prestige of our nation in front of foreign media is being misunderstood by many Indians.
- The concept becomes more important than the situation or the individual associated with it. A family member becomes less important in front of the notion of family, a concept of nation becomes more important than the individuals who make it. In the whole process what is affected the most is individual human rights.
- Human rights are something that are not linked to any concept, but they emerge or are rooted in the actual biological existence of human beings in a society. So the basic human rights have to be the same for all human beings beyond any differences of gender, race, caste, sex or religion or any other matter as such.
- It is more so because if differences of nationality, culture, gender, colour, sexuality etc. means that basic human rights have to change across these categories, then we are basically arguing that the ‘human’ does not exist, or it exists only in an abstract context, un-rooted in biological or other realities.
- So basic human rights – that is access to shelter, food, inheritance and reproductive rights, educational, freedom of work and movement – cannot be denied on the basis of gender differences, just as they cannot be denied on the basis of ‘race’.
The WHO on world polio day officially declared that wild poliovirus type 3 has been eradicated. In Spite of this progress in the global fight against polio, there is no room for complacency.
- The eradication of type 3 virus opens up the possibility of switching from the currently used bivalent oral polio vaccine containing type 1 and type 3 to a monovalent vaccine containing only type 1.
- This would lead to lower costs.
- It also helps reduce the number of vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDVP) cases.
- Vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP) can be greatly reduced if there is a switch from the bivalent to a monovalent vaccine containing only type 1, as type 3 poliovirus in the vaccine has the greatest propensity to cause vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP). Though the risk of VAPP is small, it is caused when the live, weakened virus used in the vaccine turns virulent in the intestine of the vaccinated child or spreads to close contacts who have not been immunized.
- Vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) are rare strains of poliovirus that have genetically mutated from the strain contained in the oral polio vaccine.
- The oral polio vaccine contains a live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine-virus. When a child is vaccinated, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine and enters into the bloodstream, triggering a protective immune response in the child. Like wild poliovirus, the child excretes the vaccine-virus for a period of six to eight weeks. Importantly, as it is excreted, some of the vaccine-virus may no longer be the same as the original vaccine-virus as it has genetically altered during replication. This is called a VDPV.
- VAPP is caused when the live, weakened virus used in the vaccine turns virulent in the intestine of the vaccinated child or spreads to close contacts who have not been immunized.
- In an announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on World Polio Day (24thof October), an independent commission of experts declared that wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) has been eradicated worldwide.
- The development follows eradication of smallpox and wild poliovirus type 2.
- There are three individual and immunologically distinct wild poliovirus strains: wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1), wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) and wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3).
- Symptomatically, all three strains are identical, in that they cause irreversible paralysis or even death.
- But there are genetic and virological differences, which make these three strains three separate viruses that must each be eradicated individually.
- Poliovirus type 1 remains in circulation in just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Type 2 was eradicated back in 2015.
- The last case of type 3 polio surfaced in northern Nigeria in 2012 and the virus hasn’t been seen since. It is declared that Wild poliovirus type 3 is globally eradicated.
- A poliovirus can be considered eradicated if it hasn’t been detected for three years.
- India, where polio was paralyzing 500 to 1,000 children per day in the 1990s, eliminated the disease in 2014.
- Polio, short for poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus.
- Polio is transmitted through contaminated water or food, or contact with an infected person.
- Polio mainly affects children under the age of 5.
- At its peak in the middle of the 20th century, the disease killed half a million people every year.
- In 1988, when WHO launched the eradication program, there were more than 350,000 cases in 125 polio-endemic countries.
- Since then, cases of wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99 percent, according to WHO, to just 94 this year.
- The current goal for full polio eradication is 2023.
This is a significant achievement that should reinvigorate the eradication process and provides motivation for the final step — the eradication of wild poliovirus type 1.
In the article ‘The roadmap for criminal justice reforms’:
- The main argument of the article is that criminal law is the most apparent expression of the relationship between the State and its citizens. So any change or revision of the IPC needs to be done carefully, while keeping several things in mind.
- First, keeping the rights of the victim of the crime in mind because it is very important to give a proper space of expression to the victim in solving and dealing with a crime. The introduction or revision of the victim or witness protection schemes , use of victim impact statements, advent of victim advocacy, increased victim participation in criminal trials, enhanced access of victims to compensation and restitution all point towards the increased role of victims in criminal justice system.
- Second, the constitution (introduction) of new offences and revising the existing offences must be informed by the system of criminal jurisprudence (i.e. the philosophy of law) may be the purpose of introducing the law.
- Third is that many laws such as those relating to criminal conspiracy, sedition, and offences against coins and stamps must be abolished or replaced because it is unnecessary to have hundreds of sections that are mostly ignored or not in use.
- Also the discretion of the judges regarding deciding the quantum of punishment needs to be checked because at times different punishments are awarded for similar crimes.
- But these reforms and revisions will not make much desired results if it is not accompanied by improvement in police, prosecution, judiciary and in prisons.
- A Criminal Justice Reform Committee with a mandate to evolve criminal justice policy should be formed for this exercise. It should work as a furtherance (continuation) of the work done by the Menon Committee on Criminal Justice System, the Malimath Committee, and the Law Commission of India in this regard.
Note 2 : There is another article title ‘Unresolved questions in a sordid episode’. This article doesn’t have much content. But these are some of the important points:
- In the recent case where CJI is charged for sexual harassment by one of her employees.
- She has been victimized in different manner by the office bearers as what the investigation found.
- She and her family members are suspended and a false case was also framed against her.
- Suspension has been revoked and they were reinstated back into the service.
- Recently, the CJI was exonerated of charge of sexual harassment, it depicts that there is no remedy yet for the complainant’s victimization.
- The committee proceedings have not been made public, their reasoning and decision remains a mystery.
- The case needs to be solved at the earliest to bring justice on the floor.
- Principles of justice is to be followed which says that everyone is to be treated equally before judiciary whether if it is a top official of the judiciary itself.
- Only a thorough investigation will bring out the truth.
Question – Analyse the dichotomy faced by India in the context of its S&DT provisions in the WTO.
Context – The U.S. trying to rip India of its developing nation status in the WTO.
- The primary highlight of the article is that we are faced with a dichotomy because according to the official narrative (i.e. according to official statements) India is making rapid development since 2014, but on the other hand when it comes to show our image in the WTO we try hard to prove that we are a poor country and maintain our developing country status.
Why this dichotomy?
- The former is because we want to prove to the domestic people that we are growing but on the other hand the U.S. President is trying hard to strip India of its status of a developing country at the WTO, so that India doesn’t receive the economic advantages that it gets for being a developing economy.
- Under the WTO system countries are put under three categories – developed, developing and least developed countries (LDCs). But the problem arises because it doesn’t classify the criteria that must be there for being declared a developing country.
- In case of LDC status of a country Article IX.2 of the WTO agreement states that LCD status of a country in the WTO is based on such status of the country being recognised by the U.N. But the agreement does not mention any criteria to determine a developing country status.
- The U.S. wants India to be stripped off its developing economy status. The developing economy status increases the trade opportunities for developing countries by ensuring that longer transitional periods for the country and in this period the country can take maximum advantage over the developed nations.
- The U.S. had made a formal submission to the WTO in January 2019, that countries like India are no longer developing countries and so should not enjoy S&DT (Special and Differential Treatment) benefits.
- It has laid down that any country that meets one of the following criteria shall not be eligible for S&DT benefits: first, membership of or seeking membership of OECD, or membership of G-20, second, share in world exports exceeding 0.5% or third, if classified as high income group by World Bank.
- It is a clever step because India is a member of the G-20 and its share in world exports is around 1.7% as of early 2019. So as per this criteria India will not qualify as a developing country.
- India submitted a paper to the WTO in which it shared several numbers to show that it is still a poor country and thus required S&DT provisions. For example, it showed that India’s GDP per capita is very low; India has 346 million people living in multidimensional poverty; domestic subsidy provided to per farmer is a meagre $227; and India has very low research and development capacity.
Is the threat that bad?
- The U.S. seems adamant on stripping India of its S&DT benefits. It has declared that if the WTO doesn’t reform its developing country status, then the U.S. will unilaterally (i.e. on its own) stop giving trade benefits to such countries within three months.
- It had said the same for South Korea and South Korea had to give in to the pressure by giving up its developing country status.
- While any such action by the U.S. will be a violation of international law and go against trade multilateralism, the Indian political leaders should also refrain from doing too much publicity about India’s development. Otherwise our own rhetoric might come to bite us.
Question – What is RCT and how is it related to developmental economics?(250 words)
Context – The Nobel prize in economics 2019.
What is ‘Developmental Economics’?
- It is a branch of economics that focuses on the social, economic and fiscal conditions of developing countries.
What are Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) and who are ‘Randomistas’?
- By definition RCT is a trial in which subjects/ people are randomly assigned to one of two groups: one (the experimental group) receiving the intervention that is being tested, and the other (the comparison group or control) receiving an alternative (conventional) treatment. The two groups are then followed up to see if there are any differences between them in outcome. The results and subsequent analysis of the trial are used to assess the effectiveness of the intervention, which is the extent to which a treatment, procedure, or service does patients more good than harm. RCTs are the most stringent way of determining whether a cause-effect relation exists between the intervention and the outcome.
- Simply to understand, in RCT is an experiment to understand the cause and effect of something. Under RCT two groups are made. In each group certain people are selected for an experiment. For example, if the effectiveness of a new medicine needs to be tested, then two groups are made comprising of people who eho are suffering from the disease for which the new medicine is being experimented. Then in one group, out of these people, some are randomly selected and are given the new medicine. In this group neither the patient nor the doctor knows to which group a particular person belongs to. While in the controlled group the same old medicine that was being used to treat the medical condition earlier is continued. Then after some time the results are compared to reach a more realistic figure.
- Randomistas are the people who are proponents of RCT i.e. those who support the RCT method in experiments.
- Abhijeet Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer belong to the category of randomistas who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for their RCT-based studies on poverty worldwide.
- But just for information, the concept of RCT is not new, instances of RCT can be traced back to the 16th century. However, the statistical foundation of RCT was developed by British statistician Sir Ronald Fisher, about 100 years ago.
Why is RCT method being discussed now?
- As seen developmental economics focuses on the social, economic and fiscal development of developing economies.
- Now developmental economics has changed a lot during the last two decades and it is mostly due to the use of RCTs.
- Early application of RCTs were mostly within the agricultural field. Sir Ronald Fisher himself was very reluctant to apply to apply statistics (which are a part of experiments done by the method RCT) to social sciences, due to their ‘non-experimental’ nature. Then RCT became important in the field of medicine where it was used for clinical trials since 1960, so much so that any clinical trial without RCT is considered almost useless.
- Gradually RCT method started being used beyond the agricultural and medical field. The social scientists started doing RCTs too for their research and in the process the nature of social science gradually converted from ‘non-experimental’ to ‘experimental’ (i.e. from just studying what is there in books and analysing to actually doing experiments).
- Numerous applications of RCTs took place in social policy-making during the 1960-90s, and the ‘randomistas’ took control of development economics since the mid-1990s. About 1,000 RCTs were conducted by Prof. Kremer, Prof. Banerjee and Prof. Duflo and their colleagues in 83 countries such as India, Kenya and Indonesia. These were to study various dimensions of poverty, including microfinance, access to credit, behaviour, health care, immunisation programmes, and gender inequality.
- Similarly, there was tremendous international attention on Finland’s Basic Income experiment (2017-18), where 2,000 unemployed Finns between ages 25-58 were randomly selected across the country, and were paid €560 a month instead of basic unemployment benefits. Results from the first-year data didn’t have any significant effect on the subjects’ employment, in comparison with the control group comprising individuals who were not selected for the experimental group. This was also an RCT.
Benefits of RCT or randomisation:
- To understand in case of clinical trials using RCT ensures that allocation to any particular treatment remains unknown to both patient and doctor. Such kind of ‘blinding’ is central to the philosophy of clinical trials and it helps to reduce certain kinds of bias in the trial. It is believed that the ‘outcome’ or the ‘treatment-response’ might be influenced if the patient and/or the physician are aware of the treatment given to the patient.
- But it is to be noted that in economics such kind of blindness in randomisation is not possible because participants will definitely know whether they are getting any financial aid or training. Thus, randomisation must have a much less impact in economic or social field but still unless randomisation is done, most of the standard statistical analyses and inference procedures become meaningless.
- At present economists are divided on whether to use RCTs or not for their study but it is dominating development economics to a large extent now. So, a proper agreement must be used on how and where to use it.
Question – What do we mean by global economic slowdown? Where does India stand in this and what can be done?(250 words)
Context – the ongoing global economic slowdown.
What is global economic slowdown?
- Global economic slowdown is like a recession on a global scale.
- A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.
The present scenario:
- The IMF (World Economic Outlook) expects a global economic growth to be just 3% this year. It is the lowest since the 2008 global financial crisis.
- But unlike 2008, when India was in a position of insolation (not much affected) from the slowdown, at present India is on the edge of it.
- The growth in the first quarter of 2018-19 has hit a six-year low of 5% and the growth projections are being slashed down (reduced) for the financial year 2020.
- If we want to successfully deal with it, it needs to understand the factors behind it.
So what are the reasons leading to the global economic slowdown?
- This is an age of global integration so if something goes wrong all get affected.
- The main trigger lies in the protectionist tendencies of world economies at present times and also the U.S.-China trade war.
- The global economic slowdown seems to have started in early 2018, when emerging economies such as Brazil and South Africa got into a recessionary stage.
- Also a big country like China started slowing down and recently the U.S.-China trade policies have worsened the global situation.
India amidst this slowdown:
- Since we live in an integrated world, the spillover of the global slowdown is likely to affect us all.
- But what has happened in India which is making the matters worrisome is the present domestic situation. Among which prime is the NBFC crisis. The Non Banking Financial Companies were the main source of credit to the small businessmen. The crisis in this sector has affected the flow of credit to capital goods.
- Now capital goods are required to do production. So apart from the factor of reduced consumption in the economy (which has its own reasons and we have talked about the reasons in detail previously) which is leading to low production, another is the reason of small businessmen not taking credit because of NBFC crisis.
- Also because of reduced consumption, demand for capital goods (capital goods means mainly machines etc that help in the production of final goods) is down, car sales is down and also the real estate is in trouble.
- So the flow of credit (money) to this sectors, which were an important determinant of sales, has been affected.
- This has resulted in a spillover in the rest of the economy.
So what needs to be done?
- In this scenario, since the investment in capital goods by the private sector is low (because of reduced demand), the government needs to invest.
- At present public investment is very critical.
- So where should the government spend?– the government should take part in social spending which affects people in need with high propensity (tendency) to consume. Because any cash reaching the poor will find its way into the market quickly. While the reduction of corporate tax on the other hand will only have a medium-term impact.
- In the short term, the government needs to put money in the hands of the poor, which pushes it into the market, leading to aggregate demand increase and in the process, the government can also address the inequalities in the recent times.
- Also India’s exports have not been able to keep pace with expectations, especially in the labour intensive sectors like textiles. Also the U.S.-China trade war has pushed many companies to shift their production base from China to other countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh because U.S. is charging higher tariff on goods made in China so they are trying to produce in other countries where labour is cheap. India could not take advantage of this situation (why has been discussed in detail earlier articles). So the companies shifted their base to Vietnam and Thailand instead of India.
- Also the Indian companies depended on the huge domestic market to produce and sell their goods. They overlooked the global and regional markets even though India is a part of various preferential market agreements.
Way forward/ What can be done?
- What we should do is take steps to boost demand in the market through public spending in areas that will put money in the hands of the poor.
- Second, we need to understand that the dynamics of world trade is shifting from the west to the Eastern side. In the Western markets the demand is low and there is also a rise in protectionism. In such a situation we need to tap the Asian markets. In this context the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) is an important initiative. It gives us a possibility to integrate the Indian economy and production with the value chains in east-Asian countries.
- Also a very important factor is competitiveness in the exchange rate. We need to avoid appreciation of the rupee if we want to strengthen the domestic manufacturing industry. Any appreciation of the rupee facilitates more imports and less exports, adversely affecting domestic production.
- Also there needs to be consistency in policies. Also revive the basics like NBFCs.
- And finally as the IMF said we need to increase the domestic finance and improve governance mechanisms.
Question – State the present energy scenario in India and why should the government take steps to promote renewable energy?(250 words)
Context – The renewable energy commitments.
The present scenario:
- India is rapidly expanding its power generation capacity, most of which has been from renewable energy sources.
- At present India’s installed power generation capacity is 358 MW. It is about four times of what it was in 1997-98. This shows that the capacity has doubled in the past two decades – or 75 MW per day. This in itself is a laudable achievement.
- In this there are two major drivers of this expanding energy generation capacity – first is the increasing shift towards renewable energy sources (in the past three years, growth in electricity generation from renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy, has been close to 25%) and second is investment from the private sector. The investment done by the private sector accounts for almost half the installed generation capacity.
- India plans to have a renewable capacity of 175 GW by 2022 and 500 GW by 2030. And solar and wind power will be the main contributors.
But what are the disadvantages that the renewable energy sector has to face compared to thermal sector?
- Cost – at present thermal generation (i.e. electricity generated from heat, mainly coal) accounts for about two-thirds of the installed electricity generation capacity in the country. This shows that even though the awareness about the environmental impact of fossil fuels has increased, it has had very little impact on the shift from fossil fuel based energy generation to renewable energy based ones.
- It is mainly because thermal power plants have a relative advantage over solar and wind power plants.
- Since the thermal power plants are large, the energy generation capacity of one thermal power plant is more compared to one plant of any renewable energy. For example, on an average it would take 18 solar or wind projects to generate the same quantity of power as one thermal power plant.
- So energy generation targets can be met by constructing less thermal power plants compared to renewable energy plants. E.g. if my target is to increase my capacity of electricity generation by 100 MW then I will need to build 10 extra thermal power plants. But in the same place if i want to do it through renewable energy I will need to construct 15 plants. So for me doing it through constructing thermal power plant will be cheaper than constructing renewable energy plants.
- Also the administrative overload (cost of administering 10 power plants will be less than 20 renewable energy plants).
2.Project Size – also there is an inverse relationship between size and unit cost. Which means that as the size of a power plant increases, the cost of generating electricity through that power plant decreases i.e. the cost of power per MW reduces. So since the size of thermal power plants is large, the cost of the per unit / cost per MW of electricity generated through thermal power plants is also less, meaning more profit for the producers compared to renewable energy. The average cost per MW for a thermal power plant is about 25% less than a solar plant.
- This is called economics of scale. As the scale of production/ size increases the profit also increases.
- In order to surmount this the cost advantage that the ‘large’ thermal power plants enjoy, there is a need to focus on developing larger solar and wind power plants that can also exploit similar economies of scale.
Benefits of renewable energy use:
- Less global warming
- Improved public health
- Inexhaustible energy
- Jobs and other economic benefits
- Stable energy prices
- Reliability and resilience
What is CO2e?
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, but other air pollutants—such as methane—also cause global warming. Different energy sources produce different amounts of these pollutants. To make comparisons easier, we use a carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e—the amount of carbon dioxide required to produce an equivalent amount of warming.
Government initiatives to promote renewable energy:
- Provision of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) under the National Tariff Policy.
- Notification of the long term growth trajectory of RPO for solar and non-solar energy for next 3 years from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19
- Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects
- Development of power transmission network through Green Energy Corridor project
- Making rooftop solar as a part of housing loan provided by banks
- Waiver of Inter-State Transmission Charges and losses
- Repowering of Wind Power Projects for optimal utilization of wind resources
- Offshore wind energy policy for development of offshore wind energy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone
- Supporting research and development on various aspects of renewable energy including with industry participation
- Financial incentives for off-grid and decentralized renewable energy systems and devices for meeting energy needs for cooking, lighting and productive purposes
- Permitting 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment in the sector through automatic route
- The government must continue its initiatives to promote renewable energy because it is directly linked to the health of the citizens and a healthy nation will help in being a wealthy nation as well.
Question – Discuss the various aspects of the Nobel prize in economics in 2019.( 200 words)
Context – the nobel prize in economics 2019.
Economics Nobel prize for alleviating poverty:
- Prize is for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.
- Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michael Kremer of Harvard University.
- the experiment has transformed development economics and turned it into a “flourishing field of research”.
- The three adopted an evidence-based approach to apply theory to real-life situations using randomised trials and assessing the outcomes.
- The effort was to understand the impact of interventions to achieve desirable outcomes. The approach is derived from the concept of clinical trials in the pharmaceutical industry.
- One of their studies resulted in benefiting 5 million children in India through programmes of remedial tutoring in schools.
Some examples of their experiment:
- Despite immunisation being free, women were not bringing in their children for the vaccination shot. The two MIT economists decided to give a bag of pulses free to women who brought their babies for vaccination. Word soon spread and the rate of immunisation shot up in the region.
- Another experiment they did was in Mumbai and Vadodara to understand learning outcomes in the field of education.
Was it lack of access to textbooks or hunger that caused poor learning outcomes?
- Through field studies, Mr. Banerjee and Ms. Duflo established that the problem is that teaching is not adapted to the needs of the students.
How it helps the government ?
- Governments across the world, including in India, spend big money on social schemes without the vaguest of ideas on whether their objectives have been met.
- The field-work based approach that these economists have perfected has revolutionised the field of development economics and made it more relevant in policy making.
- The research helps the government to understand the impact of its several schemes.
- The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.
- Given in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace – the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences.
Question – In the context of the scheduled OECD meet, what is BEPS, why is it important and how should it be dealt with?(250 words)
Context – The scheduled meeting of OECD.
- At present our economy is not at its optimal performance. There are slowdowns and the government is trying to deal with it through different measures.
- For example, various tax reliefs were given to companies to promote investment and hence capital formation.
- But is also the undesired result of this is that in the short run the tax collection of the government will be affected.
- The tax collection was already low and the government had missed the targets massively in the last fiscal year, largely because of poor GST collections.
- So while tax concessions might be good but to deal with the negatives certain measures can be adopted.
- For example, making the existing MNCs actually pay their fair share of taxes.
- But tax collection should not take the form of tax terrorism. Because this could be regressive and counter-productive in the slowdown.
What is a Multinational Company?
- A Multinational Company, as the name suggests, is a company whose business is not limited to any particular country. It operates in many different countries at the same time. It has business operations in multiple countries.
Tax avoidance by Multinational Companies:
- It is difficult to tax the MNCs because the business of a multinational company is not limited to one country.
- Also, the taxation of multinational companies is a challenging and complex issue because – countries want to make sure that corporations bear a fair part of the overall tax burden, but they also want to attract investment and jobs.
- For example, there have been debates about tax avoidance by multinational firms like Amazon or Starbucks.
- It is well-known that MNCs avoid taxation in most countries, by shifting their declared costs and revenues through transfer pricing across subsidiaries, practices described as “base erosion or profit shifting” (BEPS).
So what is BEPS?
- It is a tax avoidance strategy used by Multinational Companies.
- Tax avoidance strategy means making use of legal exemptions in the laws to make or pay less tax.
- In India we have large scale tax avoidance which is legal.
- In BEPS profits are shifted from jurisdictions that have high taxes example usa or western european countries to the jurisdictions that have low taxes (also called tax havens).
- BEPS can be achieved through the use of – transfer mispricing, DTAA (double taxation avoidance agreement), treaty shopping, inflating invoices, benami transactions, round tripping etc.
- According to the International Monetary Fund countries loose almost 500 billion dollars due to BEPS and tax havens.
- It also creates an uneven playing field for domestic companies, since they have to pay taxes that MNCs can avoid.
- OECD had started the BEPS project/initiative in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
- It is a project to devise ways to deal with BEPS.
- It was formally launched in 2012 by G-20 Finance Ministers who called on the OECD to develop an action plan to address the problem of BEPS.
- In 2015, the final report of the OECD’s BEPS project was submitted. It led out 15 action points to curb abusive tax evasion by MNCs.
- India is an active part of the BEPS project.
What can be done?
- As proposed by the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), since an MNC actually functions as an entity, it should be treated that way for tax purposes.
- Which means that the total global profits of an MNC should be calculated, and then apportioned across countries according to some formula based on sales, employment and users (for digital companies).
- This is something that is already used in the United States where state governments have the power to set direct and indirect tax rates.
- Following this example, a minimum corporate tax should be internationally agreed upon for this to prevent companies shifting to low tax jurisdictions (ICRICT has suggested 25%).
- Then each country can simply impose taxes on MNCs operating in their jurisdictions, in terms of their own shares based on the formula decided.
- What is required for this to work is all the countries coming toghter and agreeing to accept this approach. The Indian government has already proposed in a white paper that it cold take such unilateral initiative for digital companies.
- The OECD BEPS initiative is scheduled to meet on October 19th, to set out its own proposal, and for the first time, it is willing to consider the possibility of unitary taxation.
But there are some concerns:
- OECDs separation of profits of MNCs into “routine” and “residuary” profits, and the proposal that only residual profits would be subject to unitary taxation. This is arbitrary, complicates the process and no system of corporate taxation anywhere in the world makes such distinction.
- Another concern is about the formula to be used to distribute tax profits. The OECD suggests only sales revenue as criterion, but developing countries would lose out from this because they are often producers of commodities that are consumed in advanced economies. The G24 group of countries have proposed that a combination of sales/users and employment should be used, which will make more sense.
The most common practices identified in India from the BEPS perspective are:
- Excessive payment to foreign-affiliated companies.
- Aggressive transfer pricing
- Digital enterprises facing zero or no taxation in view of the principle of residence-based taxation
- Treaty shopping
- Incentives in the tax laws for attracting investment
- Assets situated in India but owned by companies located in low tax jurisdictions with no substance.
So what should India do/ Way forward?
- It should its domestic tax laws as well as tax treaties either through multilateral instruments being developed as part of BEPS project or bilaterally.
- It is also important for the Indian Government to take this issue seriously and take a clear position at OECD meeting because the outcomes of the meeting will be very important for its own ability to raise tax revenues.
Question- why is a revival and growth of the agricultural sector essential for reviving economic growth? Explain( 250 words)
Context – The economic slowdown.
Note: read this article along with the article of 1st October.
The present scenario:
- India is facing an economic slowdown. The RBI has cut the GDP growth forecast to 6.1% for 2019-20, which is the lowest in the last six years. And, there has been a sharp decline in the performance of key sectors like automobiles and real estate.
- There are two sets of people who see this slowdown in two different ways: according to one group this slowdown is just cyclical (i.e. period of prosperity followed by period of slump again followed by prosperity and it continues) and will bounce back. While the other group feels that this as a gross failure of economic reforms and even a colonial legacy. But whatever is the reason we will have to look out for ways for coming out of it and achieving a sustainable and inclusive growth.
- For this the need is to see the root cause of the problem otherwise the remedies might revive the economy in the short run but the problem can reemerge.
- In this context the author says that the focus should be to revive not only the sectors like automobiles and real estate but more on the primary sectors like agriculture because it is from the rural areas that the demand is not going to originate (why and how already discussed earlier).
The present condition of the primary sector (agricultural sector):
- Real agricultural and allied gross value added (GVA) grew by 2.9% during 2011-12 to 2017-18, while in the National Agricultural Policy (2000), it should have been around 4%, to attain an overall economic growth of 8%.
- A highly skewed and unprecedented monsoon, erratic rainfall, and extreme natural events are creating havoc as far as farms and farmers are concerned which in turn are likely to disrupt supply chains, fuel inflation and have a negative impact on consumption, all of which can further dampen the prospects of revival of the economy.
- In addition, the current growth rate in the farm sector is less than adequate to take on developmental challenges originating from the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly zero hunger, no poverty, life on land, and gender equality.
What needs to be done:
- There is a need to recognise the vital role played by the agricultural sector in the economy and deeply access the inherent issues faced by it.
- The sector is a potential enabler and employer for more than 50% of the population.
- As the target to double farmers’ income by 2022 is nearing, there must be fast-lane options and swift actions to ensure curated reforms on land, market, price, and ameliorate supply side constraints.
- An Agricultural Developmental Council (ADC) in line with the GST Council is a dire need to make agricultural reforms more expressive and representative.
- For better income distribution, there is also a need to revisit regional crop planning and the agro-climatic zone model at the highest possible level so as to make agriculture the engine of sustainable economic growth in India 2.0 by 2022.
- Also there is a need to revive other sectors apart from farming like handloom, handicrafts and others that are less influenced in case of an economic slowdown.
- In addition to these, it is stated in the Economic Survey 2018-19, that the working age population will continue to rise through 2041. Therefore, there is urgent need to increase the job-to-investment ratio which is currently very low. Some estimates say that ₹1 crore investment in India can create only four formal jobs.
- Also inter-state migration in the context of employment also affects consumption in both the states. So giving a policy nudge to in-situemployment creation is a must for a stable income and spending.
- Also, there must be efforts to have an accurate picture of unemployment data in order to have policy that is closer to facts.
- There is a need to reconsider the few distorting reforms that are often stated to revive the short-term chaos in the long run. Finally, the sweet spot created by low oil prices in the past is slowly taking its turn to hit the economy to further cut down aggregate demand.
- Overall a blend of efforts from a range of sectors, agriculture and allied sectors is needed to enable overall growth.
Question – What are Co-operative banks? Analyse the challenges faced by them.( 25o words)
Context – In late September, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed restrictions on withdrawals from the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank, one of the largest urban cooperative lenders.
What is a cooperative bank?
- Co-operative banks are small-sized units organized in the co-operative sector which operate both in urban and non-urban centres. These banks are traditionally cantered around communities, localities and work place groups and they essentially lend to small borrowers and businesses.
- They function on the basis of ‘no-profit no-loss’. So they do not pursue the goal of profit maximisation. Therefore, these banks do not focus on offering more than the basic banking services.
- The co-operative banks can be divided into two broad categories – agricultural and non-agricultural.
- While the co-operative banks in rural areas mainly finance agricultural based activities including farming, cattle, milk, hatchery, personal finance etc along with some small scale industries and self-employment driven activities, the co-operative banks in urban areas mainly finance various categories of people for self-employment, industries, small scale units and home finance.
- Since these banks mostly lend to small enterprises, the rate at which they lend money is nearly 5-7 percent lower than that offered by private banks.
- The co-operative banking structure in India is divided into following main 5 categories:
- Urban Co-op Banks
- Agricultural Societies
- District Central Co-op Banks
- State Co-op Banks
- Land Development Banks
History of co-operative banking in India:
- The cooperative banking in India was started mainly to address the problem of rural credit with the passing of Cooperative Societies Act in 1904.
- The objective of this Act was to establish cooperative credit societies “to encourage thrift, self-help and cooperation among agriculturists, artisans and persons of limited means.”
- Many cooperative societies were set up under this Act.
- Soon it was realised that there is a need to regulate these cooperative societies. So the Cooperative Societies Act, 1912, was passed.
- It recognised the need for establishing new organisations for supervision, auditing and supply of cooperative credit. These organisations were- (a) A union, consisting of primary societies; (b) the central banks; and (c) provincial banks.
At present Dual Regulation:
- At present the Cooperative Banks in India are registered under the Co-operative Societies Act. The cooperative bank is also regulated by the RBI. They are governed by the Banking Regulations Act 1949 and Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1965.
- So there is a dual regulation – 1) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulates and supervises the banking functions of Cooperative Banks under the various provisions of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 (As applicable to Cooperative Societies) and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. 2) However, the matters related to incorporation, registration, management, audit, liquidation, etc. in respect of these banks fall under the jurisdiction of the concerned Registrar of co-operative societies. Under Section 35(6) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. Also, NABARD has concurrent powers to inspect StCBs and DCCBs.
How does this Dual Regulation affect the Cooperative Banks?
- The Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) is in control of management elections and many administrative issues as well as auditing. And the RBI brought them under the Banking Regulation Act as applicable to cooperative societies, which included all the regulatory aspects, namely, the granting of the licence, maintaining cash reserve, statutory liquidity and capital adequacy ratios, and inspection of these banks.
- So, in a sense, urban cooperative banks have been under the radar of the RBI, but because of dual regulation, one always had a feeling that one did not have as much control over these banks in terms of supersession of boards or removal of directors, as the RBI has over private sector banks.
The problems with cooperative banks in India:
- Lack of democratic spirit:Cooperatives need to run on well established democratic principles and elections held on time and in a free and fair manner. it has been observed that majority of the members as well as directors of the society are ill-informed about the activities of the society due to their illiteracy & indifferent attitude.
- Fair audit: It is well known that audits are done entirely by department officials & are neither regular nor comprehensive. Delays in the conduct of audits and submission of reports are widespread. Audit is limited to such accounts as are available and reports seldom examine whether accounts & record are complete, accurate and up to date. Neither the observance of procedures for grant of loans and their recovery nor the veracity of the reported characteristics of borrowers are properly scrutinized.
- Abuse of power by leadership:Those who control cooperative societies are locally powerful, with strong political affiliations.
- Mismanagement and manipulation:The strength of the movement was the involvement of the farmers who were shareholders & members of the society. Over the years, this truly democratic idea got corrupted and wealthier people having political background became more powerful. in practice, this altered the power structure of the cooperatives. In the elections of the governing bodies, money became such a powerful tool that the top posts of chairman & vice-chairman usually went to the richest persons even though the majority of members were farmers with small- or medium-sized Holdings
- Lack of people’s enthusiasm:Right from the beginning the government has adopted an attitude of patronizing the movement. Cooperative institutions were treated as if these were part & parcel of the administrative set up of the government. As a result people’s enthusiasm for the movement did not grow.
- Modern banking practices:They are not having the modern practices of banking in there working viz. net banking, mobile Banking, online banking, e-banking, ATM banking and all other modern banking practices. Due to which they have been eliminated and remained back foot in the modern era of marketing.
- Functional weakness:the cooperative movement has suffered from inadequacy of trained personnel right from its inception.
- Lack of professionalism :Professionalism reflects the co-existence of high level of skills and standards in performing duties entrusted to an individual. The absence of a proper system of placement and skill up gradation inputs constrain professional management in cooperative banks.
- And also to some extent their dual regulation.
- Each of these reasons needs to be analysed in a coordinated way and solution seeked through experts.
- Minimise political interference.
Question – How is rural unemployment and climate change linked to the present economic crisis? ( 250 words)
Context – the slowing down of the economy and the realities associated with it.
The present scenario:
- Economic growth has slowed for the past few quarters and the rate of unemployment is at all-time high.
- Figures reported in the report of the last Periodic Labour Force Survey point to a dramatic rise in the unemployment rate since 2011-12, when the previous survey on unemployment was undertaken.
- In the ‘rural males’ in 2017-18, the rate of unemployment is four times the average for the 40 years up to 2011-12.
- This is a matter of grave concern because this is one of the most underlying real cause of the present economic slowdown.
- How we will see gradually.
- But this does not mean that other factors do not matter like low export growth, the state of the banking sector etc.
The government’s response:
- The government has responded to the slowing of growth by announcing a range of measures, the most prominent of them being the reduction in the corporate tax rate.
- This is a positive step but now the thing to be understood is that this is a solution for low investment rate in the economy. But investment too depends on the root cause and that is demand.
- The industrialists will invest in an economy only when there is a demand for the goods that they produced. So the real cause is not low investment but it is low consumption and that is arising out of unemployment.
- When we talk of unemployment, it is the rural unemployment that concerns the most.
- It is mostly because the future growth of demand for much of industrial production is likely to come from rural areas.
- After all, how many more flat-screen televisions can an urban middle-class household buy once it already possess one?
- The urban middle class already have access to things which a considerable section of the rural population doesn’t, for example, refrigerators or ovens or mixer grinders.
- So the main demand for these items will come from the rural households. So if rural unemployment increases, demand (consumerism) will decrease, production will decrease and investment in the economy will be less despite cuts in tax rates.
How does climate come in?
- Agriculture is one of the sectors that faces the direct brunt of climate change. A majority of our agriculture is still dependent on good monsoons and other natural factors.
- When there is fluctuation in weather conditions production declines and this gives rise to a particular feature.
- That is households incurring consumption debt in bad crop years would be repaying it in the good ones. This implies that consumption does not grow appreciably even in good years.
- Unstable agricultural production first lowers the demand for agricultural labour and, subsequently, its supply, showing up in greater unemployment.
- When non-agricultural firms observe slow agricultural growth, they are likely to shrink their investment plans and may not revise their decision till this growth improves.
- Thus, attempting to influence the private investment rate is to only deal with a symptom.
- It is rural income generation that is the problem.
Conclusion/ Way ahead:
- So, any long-term solution to the problem of unemployment to which the slowing growth of the economy is related must start with agricultural production.
- Close to a decade since 2008-09 a new phenomenon is being seen in the agricultural sector i.e. agricultural production has become stagnant. There is a need to use the expertise of agricultural scientists to confirm what exactly is responsible for this stat.
- There is also a need to look at the role of ecological factors in causing agricultural stagnation. These factors include land degradation involving loss of soil moisture and nutrients, and the drop in the water table, leading to scarcity which raises the cost of cultivation.
- Almost all of this is directly man-made, related as it is to over-exploitation or abuse, as in the case of excessive fertilizer use, of the earth’s resources.
- Then there is also the need to deal with fluctuations in rainfall due to climate change entirely induced by human action.
- Also apart from tax rate cuts and improving the ease of doing business there is a need to address the rural and agricultural sector as well.
- It is now time to draw in the public agricultural institutes and farmer bodies for their views on how to resuscitate the sector.
- Overall, we may be experiencing an ecological undertow, and it could defeat our best-laid plans for progress.