Newspaper notes for UPSC 13-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 13-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, , telegram: @naylak .

Please subscribe to our website and share this post with your friends.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 13-07-18

Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian views on various issues

  • The compensation payable to the States for revenue loss arising due to GST is just Rs. 5,000 crore, far lower than was estimated, according to Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian.
  • Lateral entry: The outgoing CEA also batted for the lateral entry of talent into the government, saying that it was a “no brainer” in a situation where demand for talent outstripped the supply within the government.You have to get the right people and then you have to create the conditions for that person to be able to work with the bureaucracy and be effective. That I think is the next challenge.
  • He added that while it is difficult to ascertain its exact contribution, demonetisation “certainly did” contribute to the deceleration in the economy.
    About Trade wars:  India stood to be negatively affected by the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing. It’s not just the size of the economy, but also how integrated we are with the global economy. Our exports to GDP is not that huge, our imports are still not crucial in that sense.
  • Overall, I feel if trade wars and currency wars take place, the global economy declines, growth declines, risk premia go up, capital flows out, and all of these things create uncertainty in all emerging markets.
  • US Sanctions: The costs of not adhering to the U.S. are quite stiff. Essentially what it means is that you can’t be part of the dollar based international system and almost everything takes place in the dollar… It’s the role of the dollar that is so all-permeating, not just in trade but as a payment mechanism and an instrument of finance that makes the cost of non-compliance very high.

Justice Indu Malhotra makes a strong case against IPC Section 377

  • Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hearing the fight against Section 377 of the IPC, made a strong case against criminalisation of homosexuality.
  • She said homosexuality is only a variation and not an aberration. But the prejudice and stigma piled on the LGBTQ community has denied it even basic medical care in the country.The community is so inhibited by societal scorn that it prefers to forego medical care, especially in rural and semi-urban parts of the country.
  • She spoke of the pressure on homosexual people from within the home. They succumb to marry the opposite sex, leading to a life of mental trauma and bi-sexuality.
  • The judge spoke of how homosexuality is not against the order of nature and is nature itself.

SC defends govt. stand on Sec. 377

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday quickly came to the rescue of the government when it came under attack for not contesting the challenge to Section 377 IPC, which criminalises homosexuality.
  • The court reasoned that a subsequent “development” in the form of a nine-judge Bench upholding privacy as a fundamental right in 2017, may have prompted the Centre to leave the fate of the colonial provision entirely in the hands of the apex court.

Inflation now at a 5-month high of 5%

  • Retail inflation spiked to a five-month high of 5% in June on costlier fuel, despite easing food prices, bolstering the chances of more interest rate increases by the RBI.
  • The retail inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index, stood at 4.87% in May.

Ladakh’s connectivity conundrum

  • At a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister to discuss issues in the implementation of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP), an official from Jammu and Kashmir said connectivity was a major issue in the Ladakh region. In areas bordering China, only Chinese telecom services were available, not those of Indian operators.
  • Under the BADP, the Union government plans to develop villages located 0-10 km from the international borders and make them “self-sustainable.” A Home Ministry spokesperson said 61 villages were identified for being developed as ‘model villages,’ with health centres, schools and drinking water supply.
  • The BADP covers 111 border districts in 17 States to meet the needs of people living within 50 km of the international border.
  • The governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal highlighted their achievements under the BADP, and the steps taken to improve the quality of life for the people in the border areas.

Industrial growth dips to 7-month low

  • Industrial production growth slipped to a seven-month low of 3.2% in May mainly on sluggish performance of manufacturing and power sectors coupled with poor offtake of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
  • Factory output growth, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was revised down to 4.8% in April from previous estimates of 4.9%, according to the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

RBI flags States’ fiscal stress

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has pointed to the fiscal stress that States are facing due to several factors including farm loan waivers, and said higher borrowing by them could crowd out private investment.
  • In a report ‘State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2017-18 and 2018-19,’ the central bank noted that States’ consolidated gross fiscal deficit (GFD) overshot the budget estimates in 2017-18 due to shortfalls in own tax revenues and higher revenue expenditure.
  • While States budgeted a gross fiscal deficit to gross domestic product (GFD-GDP) ratio of 2.7% in 2017-18, revised estimates reveal GFD-GDP ratio of 3.1%.
  • Since the combined GFP to GDP was at 6.4% as compared with the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Committee’s (FRBM) medium-term target of 5%, there is a risk that private investment gets crowded out of the finite pool of financial resources.
  • While States together have projected a revenue surplus and a lower consolidated GFD of 2.6% of GDP in 2018-19, 11 States have budgeted for fiscal deficits above the threshold of 3% of GDP.

Editorials and Opinions:

Moon shine

  • That South Korean President Moon Jae-in undertook a four-day visit to India this week, when there is hectic diplomacy over the Korean peninsula, speaks of his commitment to improving bilateral ties.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has often said he sees South Korea as a significant partner for India, and had travelled to Seoul.
  • But despite the personal touch, and ambitions to align India’s Act East policy with Korea’s New Southern Policy, ties have drifted for lack of focus.
  • Trade, at $20 billion, is a fraction of the potential, given that India and South Korea are Asia’s third and fourth largest economies.
  • This figure has been a cause for worry, as the two countries had hit the $20-billion mark in 2011 after the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
  • The large trade deficit in South Korea’s favour has led India to be wary of further opening up. In turn, Korean companies cite problems in doing business in India, despite a special “Korea Plus” desk set up by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015.
  • On Mr. Moon’s watch, this may change. Both Mr. Modi and he exuded a sense of purpose and there is a clear road map on converging interests. Agreement to invoke the “early harvest” clause in the 2010 CEPA will allow both to do away with tariffs in 11 areas, benefiting Indian seafood exporters and food processing units, as well as South Korean petrochemical companies.
  • The inauguration of Samsung’s biggest mobile factory in Noida will bring investment and create jobs in India. More Korean companies should be persuaded to invest, by projecting a counter-narrative to the failed bid by the steel company Posco to set up its plant in Odisha.
  • Much will depend on negotiations on the regional free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. On the strategic front, India has asserted its place as a “stakeholder” in the Korean peace process, while South Korea has for the first time shown an interest in talking about an Indo-Pacific policy.
  • At a time when U.S. foreign policy is capricious and unpredictable, and China’s is making purposeful moves towards global domination, it is important that the South Korea-India partnership grows and consolidates, to contribute to stability in the region.

377 and beyond

  • There is finally good reason to believe that consensual gay sex may once again be decriminalised. The ongoing hearing before a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court indicates that there is now a better appreciation of the need for equal constitutional protection to all individuals without any discrimination than was the case in 2013, when a two-member Bench declined to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as homosexuals constituted only a “minuscule minority”.
  • The Union government is cautiously supporting the cause, but it has stopped short of taking a categorical position.
  • By leaving it to the Supreme Court’s wisdom to decide on the constitutionality of Section 377, the Centre has signalled it is not opposed to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships as long as these are limited to consensual acts between adults in private.
  • Observations by the judges of the Bench, including the Chief Justice of India, indicate that it is now focusing only on Section 377. However, at least one judge has observed that the question involved was not only one relating to sex, but the right to life and the right to privacy of those in such relationships.
  • The current hearing is taking place against the backdrop of a nine-member Bench’s verdict last year in Justice S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India , which said “the right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”. In other words, a whole gamut of rights flowing from the decriminalisation of homosexual relationships must be examined, if not now, then at least as and when they arise.
  • Obviously worried about the reaction of some religious and conservative sections if homosexuality is decriminalised, the Centre has sought to dissuade the court from going into other related rights. Its apprehension, perhaps, is that once homosexuality is no more an offence, it may lead to demands to legalise same-sex marriages and inheritance by survivorship among gay partners.
  • While the current focus is on the urgent need to overturn the retrograde judgment of 2013 in Suresh Kumar Koushal , the extension of constitutional rights to citizens, irrespective of gender and sexual orientation, is long overdue.

Towards a culture of moral responsibility

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi is the founder of Global March against Child Labour and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation

  • Twenty people have been killed by raging mobs, on the suspicion of being child-lifters, across the country in the last few weeks. The trigger for the fears in these violent incidents was undoubtedly WhatsApp rumours that were unfounded.
  • Eight children go missing every hour in India to remain untraced and four are sexually abuse. Aren’t these figures enough to cause fear among the masses?

collective frustration:

  • Can we say with confidence that our children are safe in homes, schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, shelter homes, or even inside the places of worship and faith institutions?
  • Can we guarantee that our children will not be abused by a family member or friend?
  • Can we totally trust our state institutions to bring the perpetrators to justice?
  • Fears triggered by such insecurities quickly take the form of collective frustration. Mob action, condemnable no doubt, is the most violent expression of such frustration.

Regulations and checks?

  • It is necessary to point to the apathy among our institutions toward child safety.
  • Reports on incidents like the sale of a baby by the Missionaries of Charity home; the rape of minor girls by a self-styled godman in Delhi; and the rape of a nine-year-old girl by a Maulana in a madrassa raise a basic question:
  • Why are many of these residential religious institutions allowed to run without stringent regulations and checks?
  • The government has information on 1.4 lakh missing children on one hand and on the other, has a database of three lakh children staying in state and NGO-run children’s homes.
  • Why can’t it effectively use simple technological solutions like facial recognition software and try to reunite missing children with their families?
  • Further, what stops the largest democracy in the world from passing more stringent laws against child trafficking and child pornography?
  • Demanding capital punishment for the perpetrators of child rape is the easiest way to show social media heroism. The government’s response, which includes setting up an enquiry or bringing an ordinance, is equally convenient.
  • However, I have never come across an incident where an individual or institution ever took moral responsibility for such a pathetic situation on child safety. Therefore, I argue for a culture of moral responsibility and accountability among our institutions, as opposed to the prevalent culture of superficial, convenient responses.
  • Moral responsibility is an individual decision and moral accountability is a culture.
  • Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-Cooperation Movement against the British because some of his supporters turned violent in Chauri Chaura.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly called for compassion and hope despite facing vicious racist insults.
  • Nelson Mandela adopted the approach of reconciliation to bring about justice, despite being a brutalised victim of apartheid.
  • A culture of accountability can be created if the society and the state are guided by a moral compass.

A list of questionable eminence

  • The government’s list of ‘Institutes of Eminence’ (IoEs) was awaited for the simple reason that finding a place in it would help an educational institution avoid the clutches of a dreaded regulator.
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has, over more than half a century, micromanaged this space, leading to a large number of publicly funded universities, producing low-level ‘knowledge’, which have shattered the aspirations of our youth.
  • Governments in the past decade have tried to revamp the regulatory environment for higher education. The latest offering is in the form of a proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The intention is to leave the HECI to focus on quality while leaving funding of public institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • One can only pressure government to be impartial and accountable in its actions. In higher education, one would imagine that this accountability would be manifested in enabling the pursuit of excellence.
  • It is not as if excellence is difficult to identify, even if it may be impossible to measure. In the world of ideas, excellence lies in the ability to participate as an equal in the global knowledge commons. The emphasis here must be on engagement;
  • However, even as we wonder if the HECI is going to be more than just old wine in a new bottle, we have an inkling of where it could go wrong. The government has chosen a total of six institutions — three public and three private — for the IOE status.
  • The public institutions are: the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru; and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Delhi and Mumbai.
  • The private ones are: the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani; the Jio Institute; and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
  • The list suffers from a serious lack of credibility as the most obvious question that arises is: Where are the universities?
  • Ignoring the universities Universities by definition embody knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. The emphasis was on depth of knowledge across a broad horizon. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost this breadth and come to revel in a landscape dominated by engineering schools. These engineering schools, notably the IITs, have done us proud but cannot be equated with the great universities of the world for the simple reason that they are focussed on a narrow domain.
  • Also, if the idea behind preparing a list of the IoEs is giving them greater autonomy and enhanced financial support, it must be acknowledged that until very recently, the IITs were not meddled with; neither were they starved of resources.
  • Assuming that an IoE list is needed, the absence of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) from the present list striking. If, as I mentioned earlier, the possibility offered by a university for engagement with global ideas is accepted as a criterion, the JNU would count as among India’s eminent educational institutions.Its research work in various disciplines, ranging from history to economics, is top-quality. Its faculty have brought many of the world’s leading ideas to Indian students and also come close to building a new school of thought.
  • So where does this leave us? Even before the HECI is a reality, we can get an overview of what to expect when such a limited approach to education guides the hand of the state. While there may be no political partisanship involved in the matter of finding eminence only in engineering schools, the choices do reflect short-sightedness when the social sciences and the humanities are completely ignored.
  • It is indeed conceivable that the politicians who govern us have little time to bother with the constitution of committees. But then, we do maintain a machinery of government, at considerable expense, to advise the Cabinet.
  • In this episode of drawing up a list of IoEs, we are able to see what will determine whether the HECI can make a difference. Its membership will matter more than the institutional architecture governing higher education in India.

Is planting saplings a solution to the felling of trees?


hy Urbanization is important and Inevitable.

  • City clusters are economic growth engines. In India, the world’s fastest growing economy, the urban population (nearly 32%) contributes over 60% to the GDP and is projected to contribute around 75% in the next few years.
  • Globally too, megacities (a megacity contains more than 10 million inhabitants) have played a significant role in the economic growth of nations.
  • Delhi is projected to become the most populous city in the world by 2028, according to the United Nations.
  • With the inevitability of migration to urban areas, the share of agriculture and allied services in GDP has shrunk to around 15% even as the sector continues to engage around 70% of our working age population.
  • On the contrary, the GDP contribution of megacities and metropolitan regions is disproportionately high.
  • With large-scale migration to the cities, we must focus on making our cities economically viable and environmentally sustainable so that they remain economic growth engines that provide employment.

But is it possible to create large-scale urban infrastructure to support the burgeoning urban population and provide high economic growth while ensuring environmental sustainability?

  • The high economic growth and prosperity of China came at a huge environmental cost, which the country is trying to address now. In Indian cities, there is lack of basic infrastructure and a deteriorating quality of life.
  • It is not an easy task but we have to work hard to ensure that our urban infrastructure causes least harm to the environment and has a net positive impact on our quality of life.
  • A net environment impact assessment must be conducted to justify the felling of trees and harm to water bodies. While the immediate direct environmental impact of cutting trees is obvious, there is a need to inform the stakeholders about the long-term positive impact of these urban infrastructure projects to justify their necessity.
  • Environmental pollution caused by daily hour-long traffic jams on a 10-km stretch will do more harm to the environment and to people’s health than felling 1,000 trees to build a metro line or an elevated corridor. This data needs to be compiled and shared on public forums to educate people.
  • Large-scale compensatory afforestation should be provided in the immediate vicinity, to the extent possible. But not creating essential urban infrastructure will only lead to a deteriorating quality of life. The line between development and environment is a fine one. We must tread it carefully.

NO :

  • Compensatory afforestation (CA) is not new in India. Several national- and State-level laws permit change in use of forest land or cutting of trees as long as the damage can be offset. This is done by bringing more land under forest area, or planting more trees than what would be lost, or both.
  • CA is seen as a compromise between ecological requirements and developmental aspirations.
  • Can we continue to lose the large number of trees and expect the damage to be offset through plantations?
  • There are three reasons why the policy of CA should be rejected.
  • First, growing trees is not a substitute for altering shared habitats. Urban green spaces, like forests, support a variety of life including birds and animals. In cities they are important public spaces for shelter and recreation , these spaces perform critical ecological functions including water recharge. The value of such ecologies cannot be substituted by plantations.
  • Second, discussions in the Supreme Court since the late 1990s and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) have identified four reasons why CA has not worked,
    • the foremost being the availability of land where plantations can be raised without encumbrances.
    • Further diversion of these CA lands for other uses is a challenge.
    • Audits have also indicated delays in fund disbursements by agencies seeking change in land use,
    • and poor utilisation of funds by the forest department that is tasked with ensuring plantations.
  • Third, the afforestation overdrive by government departments is done in floodplains, grasslands and other ecosystems that are often not suitable for tree cover.
  • Laws like the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 and the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act of 1994 were enacted with the objective of conserving and preserving trees, and preventing forest loss. However, using the route of compensatory afforestation, these laws have legitimised the loss of an average of 35,000 hectares of forests annually to development projects. Over ₹400 billion has been collected as funds by systematically allowing for loss of forests and felling of old growth trees.
  • In effect, forest and tree conservation laws have fuelled more ecological loss and destruction by relying on offsets like compensatory afforestation.

It’s Complicated |

  • Tree felling for urban development inspires opposing positions. Those who want development projects are convinced that trees are a necessary casualty for urban living, while conservationists and activists opposed to tree felling are accused of being anti-development.
  • Indian cities are estimated to add 300 million new urban residents by 2050. To accommodate people at this scale, we have to build at scale. Sadly, the only land available in most cities is wooded land — urban forests, parks, tree-lined streets. Cutting trees is an inevitable sacrifice for development, according to the urban pragmatist.
  • Urban trees reduce air pollution, cool cities, and increase ground water infiltration. Our research in Bengaluru shows that street trees reduce PM10 levels by 75%, reduce atmospheric temperature by 3-5°C and road asphalt temperatures by 23-25°C.
  • Most urban development projects provide grandiose claims of replacing each mature tree felled with 2-10 saplings. But a mature, decades-old tree has an incredible capacity for pollution control, biodiversity support and cooling.
  • Large trees can absorb and sequester as much carbon as 90 small trees. Trees in cities are 4-6 times more useful in removing carbon from the air compared to rural trees, because urban air is overloaded with carbon emissions. Saplings will take decades to provide the same scale of environmental services.
  • Planners seek to compensate for the loss of these trees by selecting fast-growing species.  Many popular fast-growing species used for urban afforestation, such as Eucalyptus and Acacia auriculiformis, deplete groundwater and affect soil quality. They cannot replace the environmental services provided by a giant native peepal, mango or tamarind.
  • The location of compensatory plantation poses another challenge , trees that were public resources are compensated by saplings that are inaccessible to the citizenry.
  • The fault lies in the planning process. Typically, designs for redevelopment, road widening, or metro construction are developed by engineers with no background in ecology and with little interest in it. With coordination between municipal engineering and forest departments, and genuine public consultation, designs can be innovatively modified to save a number of trees. Widened roads can accommodate large trees in the median, and can be curved to accommodate a heritage tree at the corner or centre. Similarly, if metro planning was truly consultative, routes could be altered to spare old tree-lined boulevards and historic parks.
  • CA, when needed, must be done locally, using the right species. These species should be watered and protected to ensure long-term survival. Reducing the tree and sapling question to a yes and no debate between development pragmatists and environmental romantics is meant to misrepresent.

India needs to focus on water efficiency

  • Over the past few months, concern and awareness about water resources have reached an unprecedented high.
  • Two successive events have led to such a watershed change in discussion on water resources.
  • First, the news came in that Shimla is running out of water and was forced to turn away tourists that drive the city’s economy during summer.The unfortunate event gave the country an early glimpse of what may happen if we continue to recklessly waste water.
  • Second, NITI Aayog released the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June. The CWMI is a pioneering exercise that seeks to identify, target and improve key water resources-related indicators.
  • This index highlighted the current plight, showing how low-performing states house approximately 50% of India’s population, and how 21 major cities may run out of ground water by 2021. By changing the public discourse, the index has begun to achieve its purpose.
  • The next goal, however, is to identify a set of realistic, actionable and specific policies which states can adopt to move ahead on water conservation, which will also be indicated in their ranking on the CWMI.
  • According to the report of the National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development, the projected demand for water by 2050 is likely to reach 1,180 billion cubic metres (BCM), which will outstrip the availability of 1,137 BCM.
  • Presently, irrigation water use accounts for 80% of the available water, i.e. 700 BCM. However, within the limited availability of 1,137 BCM we need to cater to the growing demand of the population, including domestic water requirement, industrial requirement, ecology sustenance, and power generation requirement, among others.
  • It is estimated that irrigation requirement has to be lowered to the level of 68% of the total demand by 2050. The domestic and industry sectors are likely to take up, respectively, 9% and 7% of the demand.
  • Moreover, the present level of irrigation efficiency for surface and ground water is 30% and 55%, respectively. It is desired that the efficiency level of surface and ground water irrigation by 2025 should reach 60% and 75%, respectively.

The following measures are some of the key policies which will help states achieve quick and significant gains on water use efficiency, which will help in better resource management.

  • First, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and other water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems.
  • The total potential for micro-irrigation in the country is around 69 million hectares. Conventional surface irrigation provides 60-70% efficiency, whereas, higher efficiency of up to 70-80% with sprinkler and 90% with drip irrigation systems can be achieved.
  • Second, the states should continue to focus on command area development (CAD). This is now part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on “more crop per drop”.In addition, CAD will play a critical role in bridging the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilized (IPU).
  • Third, the cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones. Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency. One such example of improper cropping pattern is the sugarcane production in western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra—regions suffering from severe water crisis.
  • Fourth, we need to address the issue of fragmentation in farming. This matter has been studied from various aspects of income and productivity, but it holds immense value for increasing water-use efficiency. There are two measures to tackle this issue.
    • First, states can expedite the adoption of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016,which can lead to consolidation of small farms.
    • Second, creating and ramping up farmer producer organizations (FPO). FPOs provide a sense of ownership to farmers and encourage community-level involvement with lower transaction costs. Almost 70% farmers in India are marginal farmers and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in forming the FPOs. This will lead to economies of scale on farm produce, water-usage and cost of production.
  • The above measures have huge scope for changing the landscape of water efficiency in the irrigation sector, which accounts for the majority of water resource consumption in India.
  • Doubling farmers income by 2022 is a noble vision, but preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India is as critical. Both goals are not divergent. On the contrary, they perfectly complement each other.

Equality before internet

  • The Telecom Commission’s acceptance of net neutrality rules will have far-reaching implications for the future of the internet in India.
  • It will remain an open platform and internet service providers (ISPs) will be prohibited from practices such as blocking content, degrading speeds, slowing specific content, or granting differential speeds or treatment.
  • A net-neutral regime, therefore, allows smaller businesses and individuals to create and disseminate content without fear that their offerings will be swamped by larger competitors, or throttled by ISPs.
  • In that sense, net neutrality helps to promote innovation across the entire digital ecosystem. The necessity to ensure net neutrality is especially high in regions where there are few ISPs.
  • This decision, which comes within a month of the US nullifying its own net neutrality rules, reiterates India’s firm commitment to a non-discriminatory net regime. In technical terms, it will require both monitoring of compliance as well as a willingness to accept consumer complaints and penalise operators who violate the rules.
  • However, a net-neutral regime does certainly restrict the freedom of telecom service providers to offer favourable terms to specific content providers, or app-developers, and it does cut down the potential for creating new revenue streams. Given India’s hyper-competitive market, where telecom service providers have been struggling to generate enough revenues to service debts, tight net neutrality could be considered a restrictive approach.
  • They also cannot favour their own digital payment banks over those of competitors. Nor is it possible to launch something such as Facebook’s Free Basics, where the social media giant partnered various telecom service providers to offer free access to the Facebook ecosystem.
  • Another key element about the net neutrality regime is that certain critical services may be exempt from it. It is up to the government now to decide on services that deserve exceptional treatment by regulators.
  • The exceptions may be justifiable in some cases. For example, emergency remote diagnostic and telemedical services may need to be fast-tracked. The same may also be necessary for disaster management or during crowd management situations such as pilgrimages. Critical high-tech services like the management of smart power grids could also require priority, and there may be new applications such as autonomous car communications or drone operations, which might merit priority.
  • On the whole, this policy should boost innovation by helping to maintain a level-playing field across the digital landscape. That will enable everyone from small businesses to artists to create and offer content without fear of being stifled.(Read if you have time) Indian express and Livemint

The uniform code

  • The recent ‘Status of Policing in India Report, 2018’ published by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and the NGO Common Cause offers a comprehensive survey of the performance and perceptions of the Indian police.
  • The focus here is on one aspect: The relation between Indian Muslims and the police. According to the report, while all minorities fear the police more than Hindus, the apprehension is more acute in the case of Muslims: Sixty-four per cent of them are “highly” or “somewhat” fearful of the police.
  • The main reason for this fear appears to be the fact that “police often implicates Muslims under false terrorism charges”. Indeed, there are many cases of young Muslims who have been to jail and even spent years behind the bars for this “reason”, before the judiciary, at long last, released them.
  • This may be partly explained by the social profile of the policemen. The database we have compiled shows that Muslims are dramatically under-represented in the Indian Police Service (IPS). It has always been the case: Their share was already lower than 5 per cent in the 1950s,  less than half the proportion of Muslims in Indian society according to the 1951 census.
  • While the share of Muslims in the population subsequently rose, reaching 25 per cent in 2011, the proportion of Muslims in the IPS dwindled, falling beneath the 3 per cent mark in 2016, and even as low as 2.5 per cent of the whole service if Jammu and Kashmir is excluded from the calculation.
  • For a long time, Muslims were able to take advantage of the parallel track offered at the state level, through which police officers recruited by the state administration could join the IPS. But this recruitment channel has dried up: While 7 per cent were to be promoted in 2006, the number of Muslims fell to 3.8 per cent in 2016.In 2013 Muslims made up 6.27 per cent of policemen in India.
  • The national character of a nation-state is inevitably affected by the quasi-absence of the largest minority in a key institution like the police.
  • But there are other uniforms, in the army, that Muslims do not wear in large numbers either.
  • In the army, Muslims made up 2.5 per cent of the people in uniform in 1990-2000, particularly thanks to the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and other companies such as the Rajput Regiment. Similar figures are found in the navy (1.9 per cent of Muslims in the higher ranking categories and 3.2 per cent in the others) and the air force (3.1 per cent of Muslims, including 0.9 per cent senior officers)
  • Figures for so-called “paramilitary” forces, which form an intermediary category between the police and the army, are in the same range  except, of course, when Muslims are simply barred from them, as is the case of National Security Guards in charge of combating terrorists. The Assam Rifles had 2.5 per cent Muslims in 1995-96, the Border Security Force, 4.5 per cent, the Central Industrial Security Force, 3.7 per cent, the Central Reserve Police Force, 5.5 per cent, the Indo-Tibetan Force, 1.8 per cent and the Rapid Action Force, 6.9 per cent.
  • That Muslims are not wearing the police uniform increases their vulnerability By excluding the largest minority from the institution in charge of defending the nation, the state has undermined the project of a multicultural India enshrined in the Constitution and prepared the ground for the saffronisation of the public sphere. The infiltration of the institutions in charge of law and order and security by Hindu nationalists should probably be factored in too.

Spirit Of Sendai

  • No other region in the world illustrates the now chronic nature of displacement caused by extreme weather events and climate change more than Asia and the Pacific.
  • This year has not started well for the region with reports suggesting that a million people have been displaced by heavy monsoon rains, floods and landslides in India and Bangladesh, where the cyclone season also threatens.
  • Despite successes in reducing loss of life in recent years, thanks to early warning systems and improved preparedness, Asia still accounted for almost 50 per cent of the worldwide loss of life from disasters last year.
  • Economic losses were in the region of $34 billion, a loss which many developing countries can ill afford if they are to succeed in eradicating poverty.
  • This formed the backdrop to the discussions at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, early July.
  • The focus of the discussions was on the clear need for accelerated implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global plan to reduce disaster losses that was adopted in Japan three years ago. It sets out seven targets for reduction in loss of life, numbers of people affected, economic losses and damage to infrastructure through enhanced international cooperation, better risk information and early warning systems.
  • That plan also sets a deadline of 2020 for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction.
  • These strategies are a golden opportunity to get many things right, which will help not only to reduce the scale of unnecessary losses but also achieve key sustainable development goals such as the eradication of poverty, the creation of resilient cities and action on climate change.
  • Both India and Mongolia have adopted national strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework’s priorities.
  • It is also at the local level that most progress can be made on ensuring an inclusive approach to disaster risk management, one which includes the insights and experiences of those who may be marginalised and disproportionately affected by disaster events. Women, girls, youth, older persons, persons living with disabilities and indigenous people should be actively recruited as agents of change in their communities.
  • More than anything, it is the human cost of disasters that is the most compelling argument for action. Real progress will bring down the numbers of families and people internally displaced by disasters.

Hollowing out a promise

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is going through a deep crisis of delayed and failed wage payments. The problem is not new, but it is more serious than ever and threatens to undermine the entire programme.
  • The crisis has at least four manifestations: Delayed payments, rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments.
  • Delays in wage payments have plagued NREGA ever since bank payments were introduced about 10 years ago. The system hides the second-step delays  the delays that occur when bank transfers themselves are held up. In a recent analysis of NREGA wage payments in 10 states, it was found that second-step delays were as long as two months on average in 2016-17.
  • One reason why delays have persisted for so long is that the payment system is constantly being re-designed. First it was cash payments, then post-office payments, then bank payments, then specific banks, then various avatars of what is now called the National electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS), and now the Aadhaar Payments Bridge System (APBS).
  • None of these innovations, so far, has been able to ensure payment within 15 days of the work being done, as prescribed under NREGA.
  • The latest payment systems are largely responsible for rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments. Rejected payments were not unknown earlier but they have become endemic ever since the linking of NREGA wage payments with Aadhaar.
  • Linking the bank accounts of NREGA workers with Aadhaar may seem like a trivial matter but in practice it creates endless problems, associated for instance with inconsistencies between different databases — job cards, bank accounts and Aadhaar. Today, “e-KYC” (biometric authentication of Aadhaar-linked accounts) is compulsory for NREGA workers, if not in theory then certainly in practice.
  • According to the NREGA’s management and information system (MIS), nearly Rs 500 crore of wage payments were rejected in 2017-18 alone.
  • Diverted payments is a pathology of the Aadhaar Payments Bridge System (APBS), Under APBS, Aadhaar effectively becomes a financial address and wages are automatically paid into the worker’s last Aadhaar-linked account. Most workers, of course, are unaware of this rule, so they often look for their money in the wrong account.
  • Last but not least, many NREGA workers today are unable to withdraw their wages from their bank accounts even after their wages have been paid — this is the problem of “locked payments”. Workers are locked out of their bank account when the bank treats it as “dormant” or “frozen” because it does not meet the current norms. One of these norms is e-KYC, a major hurdle on its own for NREGA workers, but there are others. For instance, if a worker does not use his or her accounts for a specified number of months, the account is often frozen.
  • Three further remarks are due. First, many of these pathologies are associated with brazen flouting of consent principles and norms. For instance, moving an account to the APBS system is not supposed to happen without informed consent.
  • Second, the lack of grievance redressal facilities aggravates all these problems. Even as NREGA workers run from pillar to post to find out whether they have been paid, where their money is, or why their account has been frozen, there is no one around to inform or assist them.
  • Third, aside from causing enormous hardship to NREGA workers, delayed and failed payments are a major source of corruption. When workers lose interest, corrupt middlemen step in and take advantage of the lack of vigilance to siphon off NREGA funds by fudging the records.
  • Having said this, the worst part of the payments crisis is the damage it does to NREGA itself. NREGA is a demand-driven programme and if the demand vanishes because wages are low and uncertain, nothing will be able to save it. Averting this requires a reliable payment system, higher wages, compensation for delays, effective grievance redressal and — last but not least — stopping the constant redesign of payment systems. If that means staying one step behind in the financial technology race, so be it.

A weak state problem, not a WhatsApp problem

  • Messaging app WhatsApp has responded to the horrific lynching in Maharastra’s Dhule district with a media blitz and a new feature that marks forwarded messages clearly. The former was inevitable given that the Centre has put it under the pump for the spate of recent lynchings fuelled by rumours spread via the app.
  • These will not, however, solve the problem. For that, the state will have to address the cause of the lynchings. WhatsApp is not it.
  • It would be a mistake to look at the recent lynchings associated with child abduction scares and conclude that India has a WhatsApp problem. What it has is a weak state problem.
  • For the state to maintain a monopoly on violence, the political elite must show the will to make it happen. They will do so if there are structural incentives for them.
  • khap panchayats had plenty of defenders among politicians in states where they could deliver rural votes. It takes a brazen political appetite to compare them to non-governmental organizations with a straight face, as then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda did back in 2014, after all. It is the same reason that led Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria to blame the victim after the Pehlu Khan lynching last year by saying: “It is illegal to transport cows, but people ignore it and cow protectors are trying to stop such people from trafficking them.”
  • These perverse incentives, as well as fiscal constraints and simple apathy, have led to the erosion of police effectiveness. Committees and reports recommending police reforms have been routinely ignored, going back at least to 1977’s National Police Commission. Consequently, transparency and accountability in police functioning as well as insulation from political pressure are often absent. India’s poor police-to-population ratio also means that states lack the capacity to keep up with evolving police models.
  • For instance, community policing—forging bonds with local populations, partnerships with community organizations, increased visibility, and communication to boost familiarity—has been adopted in a number of countries.
  • Poor state capacity and inability to enforce law and order, National Crime Records Bureau numbers show a rapid rise in the rate of child abductions nationally—and lack of political will make for a volatile mix. The lynchings should come as no surprise.
  • But WhatsApp is, ultimately, just the medium. Stuff it to the gills with fact-checking options and there is still no certainty people won’t fall prey to rumours.

Iran sanctions: A need to look beyond the US

  • In addition to reimposing economic sanctions, Trump has warned that anyone doing business with Iran risks severe consequences. This implies that any entity, including Indian, doing business with Iran can also be subjected to economic sanctions in the near future.
  • There were some conversations along predictable lines as to whether India would stand up or give in to US pressure. However, it should be noted that it is not just the US—other Gulf countries are also keen that India should scale down its economic engagement with Iran. India now has to carefully balance its interests in Shia-dominant Iran with its interests in Sunni-dominant Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • From an Indian perspective, Iran, in addition to its energy resources, is critical for operationalizing connectivity projects with Afghanistan. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and the UAE host about six million overseas Indians and account for an estimated 36% of total remittances to India. Remittances from Iran to India are negligible.
  • While the US has been piling up diplomatic pressure, its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are enticing India with the promise of greater investments.
  • Additionally, India needs to factor in the China angle. There is a concern that owing to the current economic sanctions, Iran is moving increasingly towards China.
  • Immediately after the economic sanctions were lifted in 2016, Iran started scaling up its three-pronged strategy of improving defence relations with Russia, working on infrastructure projects with China and adopting the euro in its external economic engagement.
  • Prior to the nuclear deal, Iran was selling oil in many currencies, including the Chinese renminbi (RMB) and the Indian rupee. After the deal, to blunt the sharp edges of a possible US punitive measure in future, Iran insisted that payments for oil purchases be made in euros instead of dollars.
  • China made an unsuccessful offer to directly purchase a 5% stake in Saudi Aramco. A stake in Saudi Aramco would have added significant impetus to Beijing’s efforts to further internationalize its currency. China had already reached agreements with Russia to make oil payments in RMB. For China, which accounted for 11.5% of the total global merchandise trade in 2017, greater international use of RMB is not only convenient, but also a strategic necessity. If big oil-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, accept RMB payments for energy sales, then the RMB will emerge as a strong international reserve currency. However, renewed sanctions on Iran have repaired the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US. For the moment, Riyadh’s movement towards Beijing seems to have slowed down and the possibility of a petro-yuan/RMB has been pushed a little further into the future.
  • Given this backdrop, India needs to count in two critical variables in crafting its response to the evolving security dynamics in the Gulf: first, the larger presence of the diaspora and the considerable remittances from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE; and second, Chinese efforts to facilitate the rise of petro-yuan/RMB to internationalize its currency.
  • Therefore, framing the debate on the Iran issue in terms of “standing up or yielding to the US” is not a prudent way forward.

India’s whimsical police force

  • When the intriguing news of 119 of 122 IPS probationers failing exams in the National Police Academy – the alma mater that trains IPS officers – broke, it became a talking point not only for the public but even within the IPS fraternity.
  • Many, including non-IPS ranks in the department, are curious what were these exams that failed the ‘to-be police leaders’.
  • Of the 10 lakh people who apply for UPSC civil services exam about 400-1,500 people make it. Of these the IPS officers are about 30-150, and they have higher ranks than those getting other services.
  • IPS training has grown from a handful of subjects into a mega curriculum with almost everything conceivable added to it over the years, with the thought that a police officer must be prepared for any given circumstance. Probationers are trained from assembling/ dismantling weapons (all the latest guns included) to firing, rock climbing, scuba diving, horse riding and gymnastic physical training.
  • why do IPS officers bend and falter in the field despite this training? Why aren’t they able to stand up against illegal orders of political masters, the corruption and nepotism that ails the country? How are the brilliant, physically and mentally fit probationers rendered ineffectual in the field?
  • That is because despite clear cut laws and rules telling the police what to do, policing in India is largely officer-centric and not system-centric. Depending on the officer who heads the district or a city commissionerate, priorities of policing change.
  • National Police Academy is not an exception. I remember one director placing emphasis on drill with all its variants – foot drill, arms drill, lathi drill – and increasing the drill periods considerably. His belief was that drill was the best way to inculcate ‘discipline’ – the mainstay of the police force; the IPS ought to know the nuances of every drill movement like the salute, the march, etc. His successor who didn’t see good in it, reversed it. Impact evaluation of different subjects taught in the academy, methodology of teaching, number of hours dedicated to that subject and finally its relevance to field policing is the utmost need of the hour. But this is realised only by those who have an open mind.
  • Over the years, thousands of IPS officers have visited developed countries at government expense. They have witnessed how in the US, UK and elsewhere police have done away with the superfluous ostentation of raw power. But the Indian police are stuck in time where the British left us. Many in this country join police simply because of the raw power of a colonial/ feudal type that it confers on one vis-a-vis the powerless common man. Some policemen suggest with pride that in this country their survival would have been difficult had they not been in police! If this is the mindset and motivation to join the police, then God save the police.
  • A normal police meeting is one where the boss speaks 90% of the time and juniors only 10%, that too to nod in agreement or pitch thoughts in conformity with the boss’s ideas. Any other idea is unwelcome and looked down upon as a sign of indiscipline. When IPS officers get together their favourite topic is not policing but comparing their lot with IAS and whining about it. Victimisation of police at the hands of media, human rights commissions, judiciary, social activists, RTI activists is another hot topic at the informal forums. They embrace a defeatist attitude, rationalising that unless society changes, the police cannot change.
  • But whatsoever might be the truth behind the narrative of victimisation of police and deplorable working conditions, that still cannot be the pretext for not embracing reforms. It is time the IPS gave up double standards and began to look within.

Leave a Reply