Type: op-ed snap


Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka India & Neighbours

[op-ed snap] Thirty years of soul-searching — the lasting legacy of 1987

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Op-ed discusses details about India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987, its significance and LTTE issue etc. After reading this op-ed you will be able to understand historical reasons why Sri Lanka is still not a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below.

“The most significant contribution of the much-maligned Indo-Sri Lanka Accord has been the restructuring of the island nation’s postcolonial state” Discuss?

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India-Sri Lanka relations


News

Context:

  1. It has been thirty years since President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987.
  2. Author discusses the change in Sri Lanka’s politics since the advent of the accord.

Indo-Sri Lanka Accord importance?

  1. The most important political change in Sri Lanka, since 1987 has been the total military defeat and demise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
  2. The accord was one of the early attempts to bring Sri Lanka’s ethnic civil war to an end by means of a political-constitutional solution.

Why India took initiative?

  1. Rajiv Gandhi thought that a political solution in Sri Lanka on India’s initiative would resolve the island nation’s ethnic conflict.
  2. It also ensure a role for India in shaping the political trajectories of a post-war Sri Lanka.
  3. This thinking was subtly reflected in the accord’s clauses as well as annexures.

What are the main clauses?

  1. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.
  2. Tamil demand for secession is not politically tenable, though understandable.
  3. Regional autonomy is the best alternative both to a unitary state and separation
  4. Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict can be best managed by political means, grounded in the acknowledgement that the ethnic minorities have legitimate political and other grievances and aspirations.

 Objectives of the accord?

  1. To end Sri Lanka’s ethnic war by persuading the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms and then join the so-called political mainstream.
  2. To alter the constitutional and structural framework and offer regional autonomy to the minority Tamil community through devolution of powers.
  3. The two objectives have been met with only partial success.

Outcome?

  1. The Tamil militant groups, except LTTE, agreed to follow the political path opened up for them.
  2. The LTTE rejected the accord, and returned to war not only with the Sri Lankan state, but also with the Indian state.
  3. Within four months of the accord’s signing, India became a direct party to the war.

War-end

  1. The war went on till May 2009 when the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa achieved a war victory by defeating the LTTE.
  2. And that happened, with the support of many parties — like India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Japan, EU, U.S. and the UN.
  3. But Mr. Rajapaksa claimed personal credit for achieving ‘the first success’ in the global war against terrorism

What’s next? Constitutional amendment.

  1. The second objective of the accord required a constitutional amendment.
  2. The 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s 1978 Constitution passed in November 1987 followed the Indian constitutional model of power-sharing, created a system of Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka’s nine Provinces.
  3. Though rejected by the LTTE as an inadequate solution to the Tamil national question, the 13th Amendment at least restructured, de jure, Sri Lanka’s postcolonial state, which had remained unreformable in the direction of pluralism and multiethnicity.

 What has happened to Sri Lanka’s Provincial Council system since November 1987?

  1. In the merged ‘North Eastern Province’, the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the most leftist among Tamil militant groups, formed a coalition after winning the first Provincial Council election.
  2. The despair led the EPRLF to declare a unilateral declaration of independence and its members then retreated to India for political asylum.
  3. Provincial Councils continued in the Sinhalese-majority Provinces, seven in all, where there was no demand for devolution.
  4. Caught up in a powerful ideological paradigm of a centralised unitary state, the entire system of Provincial Councils found new political reasons for their existence other than regional autonomy.

Changes in Councils?

  1. The Councils, contrary to the original intention of the law, became institutional extensions of the Central government and the ruling party in Colombo.
  2. They evolved into institutions through which political corruption and patronage politics got decentralised and democratised

Politics after 1987

  1. The ethnic civil war has ended, and there is no armed insurgency threatening the state.
  2. Insurgency led by the Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa (JVP) too was defeated and JVP has re-invented itself as an effective parliamentary party.
  3. Attempts at re-democratisation have been made and have partially succeeded.
  4. A new generation of political leadership has emerged with conflicting visions for the future of Sri Lanka.

Prevailing issue?

  • It is the resistance to reforming the state, and the state’s failure to become truly pluralistic and multi-ethnic.
  • Thirty years since the accord, Sri Lanka is fast losing momentum to bring constitutional reform.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc. Health

[op-ed snap] Address this blockage

Image result for stents in heart

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Op-ed discusses details recent capping of stent price by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority and its implications on various sectors.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below.

Discuss the implications of capping the price of medical stents on various sectors? What policy should government follow in order to support indigenous medical device development in India?

Prelims level: National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority

Mains level: Research and developments of medical equipments in India and its challenges


News

Context:

  • In February, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority slashed prices of stents by up to 85 per cent
  • Thousands of patients who couldn’t afford stents can now afford the devices at a fraction of the cost

What are Stents?

  • Stents are tiny metal tubes coated with medication, which are inserted into clogged arteries to keep them flowing well.

When it is used?

  • Emergency angioplasty is the treatment of choice during an acute heart attack, wherein the clot is crushed with a balloon and a stent is placed.
  • It improves the chance of the patient surviving by almost 30 per cent when compared to clot dissolving medication (thrombolysis).
  • However, in India, emergency angioplasty was carried out in less than 10 per cent of patients because of the cost involved in the procedure and the lack of access to stents.

Capping the prices- unintended ramifications on different sectors

Health sector

  1. Preference for stenting even in cases when it is not the best treatment and disturbing increase in multi-vessel stenting.
  2. With cheaper stents and a fall in procedure costs, many more patients are opting for angioplasty.
  3. Patients with multiple blocks in all three vessels, open heart surgery is a better than the use of multiple stents. However, with lower stent prices, patients often choose multi-vessel angioplasty as it is cheaper than open heart surgery
  4. Even the latest drug-eluting stents get clogged in about 5 per cent of cases.
  5. With the increasing use of the tiny metal tubes, the chances of a stent blocking with consequent damage to the heart muscle will only increase.

Indigenous development of stents

  1. Stent manufacturers typically spend millions of dollars on research before they can make the device and commercialise it.
  2. Abruptly reducing stent prices will have adverse effects on the development of improved stents.
  3. International companies may be able to offset their losses with profits in other markets, and from profits from other products
  4. Even before the price control move was instituted, only 40 per cent of the stents used in the country were indigenously manufactured; the rest were imported.
  5. With prices of imported stents and Indian stents now being the same, doctors and patients could prefer the imported devices
  6. All these will have a bearing on their capacity to do quality research.
  7. Lack of government funding for clinical research in India only aggravates the issue.

Internationally

  1. Lack of indigenous research and development will make the country dependent on imported stents
  2. Multinational companies may choose not to release their latest products in India because of the country’s price control regime
  3. Such an alarming scenario might pertain not only to stent technology but also to research and marketing of other implantable devices.
  4. It end up with a situation where hospitals in the country would have older generation stents.
  5. Patients hoping to have advanced stents may have to travel abroad

Medical tourism sector

  1. It will become apparent that Indian hospitals do not have the latest generation stents.
  2. With time, paradoxically, patients who were the intended benefactors of this price control measure may actually turn out to be losers.

Way forward

  1. Encourage and support Indian stent manufacturers and medical device research so that we do no need to depend on imported stents.
  2. All aspects involving medical device development (clinical research, animal testing, and human trials) must be fast-tracked and should be as transparent as possible.
  3. There must be a system to make sure that the latest medical devices, including stents, are priced differently.
  4. Once such a level of competency is achieved, India could actually export stents, making “Make in India” viable for medical devices.

 

Bankruptcy code

[op-ed snap] A greater market role in bankruptcy process

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

Op-ed discusses details about India’s declining private investments, its reasons and the flaws in the current Bankruptcy code. It suggests a new method to solve insolvency problem and to revive India’s growth.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below.

Do you think the current Bankruptcy code is enough to address the issues faced by business in India? Suggest measures to improve ranking in World Bank’s Doing Business Index.

Prelims level: World Bank’s Doing Business Index, National Company Law Tribunal, Bankruptcy and insolvency code.

Mains level: Flaws and challenges in bankruptcy and insolvency code.


News

Context:

  1. Major challenges for the Narendra Modi government in the next two years is the revival of private investment in the country.
  2. Failure on this count could hurt employment generation, exacerbate economic inequality and threaten social unrest.

An International Monetary Fund paper noted that in India, rise in gross fixed capital formation over the last five years averaged only 3.5%, compared to 12% per year over the decade ending 2011-12.

Reasons?

  1. Rise in financial leverage of firms.
  2. This is especially true for firms whose earnings are insufficient to service their debt.
  3. Higher leverage not only cripples the ability of firms to undertake new investments, but also impedes the completion of ongoing projects.
  4. As a result, these firms continue to suffer from low productivity.
  5. National Company Law Tribunal would be tasked with resolving as many as 25,000 insolvency cases and it may take more than seven years for the NCLT to clear these many cases.

Solution?         

  • A strong exit mechanism would ensure an efficient reallocation of both capital and labour to productive businesses, thereby contributing to higher output.
  • India’s new bankruptcy law, promulgated last year could address this issue.

Bankruptcy and insolvency code,2016

  • It is similar to the UK’s administration system and Singapore’s judicial management system.
  • This new law provides for appointing an insolvency professional (IP) to conduct the process.
  • The management of the firm is transferred to the IP, who is tasked with preparing and proposing the reorganization plan.
  • This plan is then voted on by the committee of creditors (CoC).

Drawbacks?

  • Research has shown that this approach leads to higher bankruptcy costs.
  • It also leaves too much discretion in the hands of the IP who, in India’s case, is likely to have much less knowledge and experience in this domain.
  • Economists said that those countries with underdeveloped capital markets and inefficient judicial systems, the contemporary bankruptcy mechanisms of the West, such as the US’ Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code or UK’s administration system, were ill-suited to them.

What’s the way out?

  • They proposed a radical, market-friendly approach to the resolution of the bankruptcy process.
  • This approach was originally intended to help the developing countries of Eastern Europe, which had just witnessed the demise of socialism.

What is the new method to solve insolvency problem?

  1. It would be one that encourages decentralization, reduces the role of courts or insolvency professionals, and allows for a greater role for the markets.
  2. According to this proposal, the entire debt of the distressed firm would be converted into one common security called “Reorganisation Rights” (RR).
  3. Then, two auctions would be held. An “inside” auction would allow the claimants to purchase RRs at a preferential price, one that would reflect the seniority of the claims.
  4. Subsequently, a “public” auction would allow external investors to make cash bids for these RRs.
  5. These external bids in public auctions would allow claimants, including those who were unable to participate in the inside auction owing to financial constraints, to be repaid in cash.
  6. A reasonable reserve price would be set high enough so as to avert the risk of RRs being acquired at throwaway prices.
  7. Once the RRs are acquired, the new RR holders would then vote on the reorganization plan and decide the future course of the firm.

Advantages?

  1. It is a robust, market-friendly approach such as this would help reduce the economic and financial costs of bankruptcy.
  2. In this system, the courts would only have a supervisory role.
  3. This would do away with the need to establish specialized bankruptcy courts, insolvency professional agencies, or even experts for operating the firm.
  4. It would also remove the scope for discretionary decisions by IPs.
  5. Since the ownership of the firm is homogenized, owners would take all decisions through a vote.

World Bank’s Doing Business Index 2017 

  1. India takes on an average 4.3 years to resolve insolvency—about two years more than the average for South Asia.
  2. The recovery rate for secured creditors is 26 cents to a dollar. This is 64% lower than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average.
  3. The rate for junior claimants would be even worse.

How India can improve its ranking?

  1. It is not enough to simply have a bankruptcy code in place. The code must be robust, decentralized, less costly, inclusive and speedy.
  2. This would help businesses exit sooner and capital to be redeployed faster to productive firms, thereby improving economic output and employment.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China India & Neighbours

[op-ed snap] The crossroads at the Doklam plateau

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Q.) “India must calibrate both its message and military moves to keep Bhutan on track with the special bilateral ties.” Explain the importance of this statement.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Important article on Indo-Bhutanese relations


News

Context

  1. The article is about the Indo-Bhutanese relationship amid the current stand off between Indian and Chinese Army

Historical overview

  1. Since 1960, 1,500 Km of roads have been built by India across Bhutan’s most difficult mountains and passes
  2. These roads built and maintained by the Indian Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under Project Dantak

Past discussions on Doklam Plateau

  1. The Doklam plateau is an area that China and Bhutan have long discussed(over 24 rounds of negotiations that began in 1984)
  2. Chinese also offered a “package deal” to Bhutan, under which the Chinese agreed to renounce their claim over the 495-sq.-km disputed land
  3. In exchange for a smaller tract of disputed land measuring 269 sq. km, the Doklam plateau
  4. But India was able to convince Bhutan to defer a decision

Indian Government must give importance to Bhutan’s sovereignty 

  1. India should avoid any irresponsible comment on Bhutan
  2. Why: because it matter to Bhutanese people

India’s Concerns

  1. India must also be aware that other neighbours are watching the Doklam stand-off closely
  2. Bhutan is also the only country in the region that joined India in its boycott of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee project, the Belt and Road Initiative
  3. That’s why, India relations with Bhutan has became more important

[op-ed snap] A grievous lag

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Op-ed discusses details about recent issues faced by SC court in allowing abortion of pregnancy to rape victims because of the 46-year old Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. It also point outs the reasons why the act should be amended.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below mentioned question

“Law on abortion has not kept up with changes in science and society. It must be urgently amended”. Discuss?

Prelims level: Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971.

Mains level: Benefits of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to women and issues involved in using the MTP Act.


News

Context:

  1. A 10-year old rape victim is seeking the mercy of the court to get permission for abortion.
  2. But the court is fettered by Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 in allowing abortion of a pregnancy caused by sexual assault.
  3. Supreme Court was constrained to seek the opinion of a panel of doctors to “affirm” if the health of a 10-year old, in Chandigarh, will be “adversely affected if her pregnancy is allowed to be full term”.

Constraints imposed by the MTP Act?

  1. The MTP Act allows abortions of more than 20-week pregnancies only when “it is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”.
  2. It also requires the judiciary’s sanction for such abortions.

Recent issues

  1. In many occasions, the court has rejected abortion petitions on the ground that its hands are tied by the MTP Act
  2. In January, it did allow a rape victim to abort a 24-week old foetus that had severe abnormalities, but only after a panel of doctors ruled that the pregnancy could put her life in danger.
  3. A month later, the same court cited the constraints imposed by the MTP Act while refusing permission to a woman to abort her 26-week old foetus that would be born with Down’s Syndrome

Why the act should be amended?

  1. There is near unanimity among medico-legal experts that the MTP act has failed to keep up with changes in science.
  2. They argue that foetal abnormalities show up after 18 weeks and a two-week window after that is too small for the parents to take the difficult call on keeping their baby.
  3. The growing number of sexual crimes against women and the need to empower them with sexual rights have also made it imperative that the MTP Act be changed.

 Draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014

  1. It do away with the need for the court’s sanction for aborting a more than 20-week old pregnancy
  2. It vest that decision on the healthcare provider if the pregnancy involves substantial risks to the mother or child, or if it is “alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape”.
  3. Significantly, the draft recognises that “rape may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, and that such an injury could be a ground for allowing abortion”.
  4. It has been three years since these progressive changes to the MTP Act were drafted.

Back2basics

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: Key Provisions

  1. The Act made the abortions legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.The provisions of the Act are as follows:
  2. The termination of pregnancy requires the opinion of two doctors.
  3. The abortion can happen if the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger due to pregnancy.
  4. If there is a risk of the birth of a handicapped or malformed baby.
  5. Pregnancy of unmarried girls under 18 years of age, with the consent of the guardian.
  6. Pregnancy resulting due to rape.
  7. Pregnancy resulting due to the failure of sterilisation.

 

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Taxing times for the States

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

Q.) “The withering of the States’ fiscal independence under GST strikes at the core of federalism.” Comment.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the GST Council

Mains level: The article explains some confusions regarding the powers of the GST Council

News

Context

  1. The article is about the GST Council

Constitutional scheme regarding Taxation

  1. The Central government was given the power to tax income other than agricultural income, and levy indirect taxes in the form of customs and excise duties
  2. The State governments were given the sole power to tax the sale of goods and the entry of goods into a State
  3. Why this division: 
  4. This division of fiscal responsibility was made with a view to making States self-sufficient
  5. And with a view to supplying to regional powers the flexibility needed to govern according to the respective needs of their people

Functions of GST Council

  1. This council will recommend a number of things
    (1) the list of taxes that will be subsumed by the GST
    (2) the goods and services that will be exempt from the levy of tax
    (3) the rates at which tax shall be levied

Virtual Veto of the Union Government in the GST Council

  1. The council’s decisions will require a three-fourths majority
  2. But the Central government’s votes will have a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast
  3. This gives a virtual veto to the Union Government

Confusion regarding GST Council

  1. The newly introduced Article 279A describes Council’s decisions as “recommendations”(advisory)
  2. Due to this advisory recommendations, States can choose to ignore the council’s advice, by levying additional tax not only on the sale of goods but also on services and manufacturing
  3. On the other hand, if these recommendations are treated as obligatory, we are left with a situation where States would have altogether surrendered their fiscal autonomy to the Central government
regionalism/Statehood demand

[op-ed snap] What’s brewing in Darjeeling

Image result for gorkhaland movement

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Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Regionalism

Op-ed discusses details about Gorkhaland movement and covers its background, reasons for resurgence etc. After reading this op-ed you will get an overall idea about the Gorkhaland movement. Please note down the keywords and use it in your answers which will fetch you more marks.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below mentioned question

“The Gorkhaland movement constitutes an opting out of West Bengal’s domination and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India” Discuss the causes of the movement and reasons for its resurgence?

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Prepare Gorkhaland issue comprehensively. A question can be expected in this year mains.


News

Context:

A resurgent Gorkhaland movement and subsequent state crackdown have infused life with violent uncertainty.

What triggered the issue?

  1. In May, the West Bengal government announced Bengali as a compulsory language in schools across the State.
  2. This triggered protests and claims of ‘linguistic imperialism’ in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
  3. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee then decided to hold a Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling for the first time in over 40 years.
  4. But representatives of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) or the three hill MLAs, were not included, eliciting protests.
  5. Subsequent protests and crackdowns have led to further destruction and deaths.

What is Gorkhaland? Why is it deemed necessary by those who call the region home?

  1. The Gorkhaland movement is a long-standing quest for a separate State of Gorkhaland within India for Nepali-speaking Indian citizens (often known as ‘Gorkhas’).
  2. Gorkhaland is a classic sub-nationalist movement, similar to those that have produced other States like Telangana, Uttarakhand etc.
  3. Gorkhaland is a desire for the recognition, respect, and integration of Gorkha peoples in the Indian nation-state.
  4. The movement is neither separatist nor anti-nationalist; it is about inclusion and belonging in India.
  5. It stands as a key means to redress the Gorkhas’ enduring history of discrimination, misconception, and marginalisation in India.
  6. By demanding Gorkhaland, the people of Darjeeling-Kalimpong are opting out of West Bengal’s domination, and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India.

Gorkhas hardships on many fronts

  1. Gorkhas remain pegged to the lowest levels of employment.
  2. Outsiders own the tea industry, and profits flow out of the hills.
  3. Gorkhas face discrimination when they seek education and work in places like Kolkata, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. Called ‘foreigners’, ‘outsiders’ and ‘chinkys’, racial discrimination affects aspiring Gorkhas at every turn.

Reasons for resurgence

  1. Since 1947, the Darjeeling-Kalimpong region has remained under West Bengal, despite no substantive pre-Partition evidence to support West Bengal’s territorial claims to this region.
  2. Conciliatory set-ups like the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (1988-2012) and the GTA (2012-present) have failed to provide meaningful autonomy.
  3. Banerjee and others stridently lay claim to Darjeeling, insisting that Bengal will never be divided.
  4. Imposition of compulsory Bengali is an extensions of histories of domination that the Gorkhas are trying to escape.
  5. West Bengal’s recent creation of the Kalimpong district (2017) and the State’s doling out of Tribal Development Boards to ethnicities within the Gorkha conglomerate (Tamang, Sherpa, etc.) might appear as paving the way for the TMC’s electoral gains.
  6. These seems clear examples of ‘divide and rule’ — causing splits in the Gorkha electorate and undermining the already-limited authority of the GTA.
  7. By summoning thousands to the streets, the GJM (Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) demonstrated its ability to evoke the emotional force of Gorkhaland. But then violence took hold.
  8. For Gorkhas, the troubling realities of colonial and present-day Darjeeling are eerily similar: linguistic chauvinism, ethnic and racial discrimination, resource extraction, unilateral territorial claims, the denial of self-governance, political suppression; and ultimately, an unwillingness to respect the ‘native point of view’.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China India & Neighbours

[op-ed snap] Are import restrictions to blame for India’s trade deficit with China?

Image result for India trade deficit with china

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Op-ed discusses details about India’s increasing trade-deficits with China and its reasons. After reading this op-ed you will be able to attempt the following question.

India’s increasing trade deficits with China is alarming. Discuss the reasonS and suggest solutions?

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: China and world groupings in which India and China are members.

Mains level: India-china relations.


News

Context:

  • Author discusses about the increasing trade deficits with China and co-relating it with India’s addiction to cheap Chinese phones and high-tech goods.

Trade deficit with China

  1. At slightly over $50 billion in 2016, India’s trade deficit with China is about half the country’s overall trade deficit ($106 billion).
  2. The trade deficit with China doubled in 2006 compared to the year-ago period, and since that inflection point, has kept on rising.
  3. China was the source of 44% of all machinery imported into India in 2016. As opposed to this, the vast bulk of India’s exports to China constitute commodities such as minerals.

Reason for trade deficit?

  1. India’s “alarming” trade deficit with China “emanates from obstacles to market access in China.
  2. Key driver of the trade imbalance between the two neighbours is India’s increased dependence on high-tech manufactured goods from China.
  3. Growth in India’s domestic manufacturing sector has been slow over the past several years, and imports have been rising.
  4. Much of the rise in imports is driven by India’s import of high-tech goods, including mobile phones and other electronic products from China.
  5. A 2014 study on India-China tradepublished by RBI noted that the rise in imports since the mid-2000s was driven by India’s imports of high-tech manufactured goods.
  6. China’s importance as a major supplier of imported capital goods (machinery) to India has also risen substantially since 2000.
  7. Non-tariff barriers such as a difficult registration process and frequent changes in rules relating to standards and certification requirements hinder exports in sectors such as pharmaceuticals.
  8. India too imposes trade restrictions such as on steel imports, which seem to be quite counter-productive, and have been hurting engineering and manufacturing firms.

 

 

Judiciary Issues – Judicial Pendency, Judicial Activism, Judicial Overreach, etc. Constitution

[op-ed snap] A case for larger benches

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Op-ed discusses the pendency problems in Supreme Court and need for larger constitutional benches. After reading this op-ed you will be able to fully attempt the following question.

“It is important to have a large bench to decide major cases, particularly one that has a direct bearing on individuals” Discuss?

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Supreme Court

Mains level: Pendency problem in Supreme Court, its reasons, implications and way forward.


News

Context:

  1. Nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether privacy is a fundamental right.
  2. According to author it is important to have a large bench decide major cases, particularly one that has a direct bearing on individuals

Background

  1. When the Supreme Court was born in 1950, there were a total of seven judges and a chief justice
  2. Number of judges has gradually increased to a total of 31 today, as amended by Parliament in 2008. Of these 31 slots, 27 are filled today.

Pendency problem in SC

  1. Between independence and the mid-1970s, the number of admitted cases rose from about 1,000 to about 5,000.
  2. After the Emergency period, the case load quintupled.

But there was a dramatic decline in the number of recorded admission and regular hearing matters pending before the court in the mid-1990s.

How?

  1. This arose because the court changed how it accounted for matters by counting each clubbed matter rather than each hyphenated matter relating to the same case separately.
  2. It also instituted a framework for clubbing matters more effectively at the lower court levels.
  3. Despite this, the number of backlogged cases has risen again and runs to approximately 60,000 today.

What SC did to overcome this issue?

  1. To keep pace with the increasing case load, Supreme Court instituted small bench hearings. 
  2. Most judgements are from benches of just two or three judges.

Problem with small benches?

  1. Over the years, with similar matters being heard by different but small benches, the Supreme Court has acquired a polyvocal character.
  2. The inclusive access to the Supreme Court makes for a large case load and lends a polyvocal character to its decisions.

Constitutional benches?

  1. According to Article 145(3) of the Constitution, a bench of at least five judges needs to sit in judgement on any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution
  2. During the early decades after independence, constitution benches were created for over 100 cases in a decade.
  3. That number has slowed down to about 20 in each decade over the last 30 or so years.
  4. As a proportion of disposed cases, constitution benches have dropped to a fraction of 1% from over 5%.
  5. The largest bench that has ever adjudicated on a case is 13, in the matter of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala in 1973.

Mandates

  1. If past decisions of constitution benches are going to be re-examined, then the later constitution benches have to be of greater size than the earlier ones.
  2. The current case being heard on privacy is the 15th nine-member bench of the Supreme Court.
  3. Earlier it was decided by a six-member and an eight-member constitution bench.

Need for larger constitutional bench

  1. It is important to have a large bench decide major cases, particularly one that has a direct bearing on individuals
  2. For a substantial question of law, the polyvocal character of the court creates ambiguity and results in a periodic requirement for review.
  3. A larger bench has greater legitimacy and greater value for precedent setting than a small bench.
  4. The tendency of the court to choose efficiency versus effectiveness and legitimacy resulted in a greater case load over time.
  5. Contrary to what the Law Commission recommended in 2009, a separate constitution bench outside the Supreme Court makes little sense.
  6. With the advent of GST and its complicated split into state GST, Central GST and integrated GST, the Supreme Court’s time will be in ever greater demand for issues of federal tax splits

Way forward

  • Filter out the more mundane cases on the docket, allowing more time for constitutional jurisprudence.

 

NITI Aayog : The New Development Agenda Indian Polity

[op-ed snap] NITI Aayog: An institution to fix implementation issues

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Q.1) “NITI Aayog is responsible for monitoring and evaluating government schemes.” Evaluate NITI Aayog’s performance on this.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the NITI Aayog

Mains level: The article gives information about a new way of implementing policies by the NITI Aayog. It should be critically examined. These kind of questions are well known in UPSC papers.

News

Context

  1. The article talks about NITI Aayog’s ‘Outcome based monitoring’

Outcome based monitoring of NITI Aayog

  1. NITI Aayog is engaged in outcome-based monitoring with states in sectors such as healthcare, education and water supply
  2. It is also discussing the idea of ranking each state based on health, education and water index, and identifying states with good performance
  3. For example, it has developed a composite water management index, comprising several key performance indicators, with different weights assigned to indicators
  4. This is expected to incentivise states to collect data and analyse it to make better policies

Possible Disadvantage of Outcome based monitoring

  1. Some experts suggests that owing to self-ranking by states without independent review, reforms remain mostly on paper with key concerns remaining unaddressed
  2. Also, legitimate beneficiaries may get excluded
  3. Consequently, such approach of self-ranking and comparing needs to be viewed with caution

What can we get from efficient policy implementation(possibly by NITI) in the states?

  1. Experts suggest that significant improvement in the ability to implement policies and projects in the states, cities, and at the centre can considerably add to citizens’ well-being
  2. And also, could even add about 2-3% to the country’s GDP, without any additional resources

The way forward

  1. Agencies struggling with implementation should not be burdened with additional responsibilities of data collection and analysis
  2. NITI Aayog must create a repository of best practices(as a benchmark) for dealing with implementation challenges, based on case studies from around the world
Society of India

[op-ed snap] The boycott ban: on Maharashtra’s law against social boycott

Image result for Maharashtra's law against social boycott

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Op-ed discusses the details about Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. After reading this op-ed you will be able to partially attempt the following question.

“Maharashtra’s law criminalising social ostracism is a template for other States.” Examine its necessity and challenges in its implementation?

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Social boycott is a prevailing issue in a caste based society. Prepare its various aspects, implications and solutions.


News

  1. Maharashtra’s new law prohibits the social boycott of individuals, families or any community by informal village councils.
  2. The progressive legislation, which received Presidential assent targets the pernicious practice of informal caste panchayats or dominant sections using ostracism as a means of enforcing social conformity.

The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016

  1. The Act lists over a dozen types of actions that may amount to ‘social boycott’, and made a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years or a fine of ₹1 lakh or both.
  2. The law recognises the human rights dimension to issues of social boycott, as well as the varied forms which occurs in a caste-based society.

Prohibitions

  1. Preventing the performance of a social or religious custom.
  2. Denial of the right to perform funerals or marriages.
  3. Cutting off someone’s social or commercial ties to prevent access to educational or medical institutions or community halls and public facilities.
  4. Any form of social ostracism on any ground.
  5. Discrimination on the basis of morality, social acceptance, political inclination, sexuality.
  6. Creating cultural obstacles by forcing people to wear a particular type of clothing or use a particular language.

Need for a law prohibiting Social boycott?

  1. Article 17 of the Constitution and the Protection of Civil Rights Act outlaw untouchability in all its forms, but these are legal protections intended for the Scheduled Castes.
  2. In reality, members of various castes and communities also require such protection from informal village councils and gatherings of elders who draw on their own notions of conformity, community discipline, morality and social mores to issue diktats to the village or the community to cut off ties with supposedly offending persons and families.
  3. Hence a special legislation is required to prohibit social discrimination, ostracism and practices repugnant to human dignity.
Digital India Initiatives: What’s Buzzing! Governance

[op-ed snap] Digital trade games

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Basics of cyber security

Q.) What is digital industrialization? Is India ready for it? Examine.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: ‘Data Flow’ is very important strategic issue these days. Article presents possible consequences of not taking this issue seriously and also gives some solutions to counter the possible economic and strategic threats


News

Context

  1. The Article talks about the need of a efficient ‘data flow’ strategy for India

What is the main point of discussion?

  1. Many countries are placing great limitations on digital policymaking in the name of promoting e-commerce
  2. Few people understand the real nature of the digital issues involved
  3. And the relevant policy requirements of the present and the future

Wrong consideration

  1. Free global flow of data is wrongly presented as being the same as the free flow of information
  2. The data that underpins global media, or personal/social communication networks is one thing
  3. And the data basic to banking, retailing, the defence forces, public services, health, education services,etc is an entirely different matter

What should be done?

  1. Instead of seeing it as a global flow of data, one must see it as a global flow of intelligence

Nature of digital intelligence

  1. First, digital intelligence is going to be by far the single most important economic resource
  2. Whoever has it controls everything
  3. Second, digital intelligence tends to concentrate strongly around a few poles or centres

Effects of digital intelligence on future world

  1. The nature of digital intelligence will results in every sector getting organised around a very few centres of sectoral digital intelligence
  2. Countries will be forced to negotiate with countries which supplies most of their A.I. software, for example, China or the United States
  3. Why: to essentially become that country’s economic dependent
  4. How: by taking in welfare subsidies in exchange for letting the “parent” nation’s A.I. companies continue to profit from the dependent country’s users
  5. Such economic arrangements would reshape today’s geopolitical alliances

What is the need of Digital Industrialisation in India?

  1. India must consider a digital industrialisation strategy
  2. Why: to ensure that digitally-induced efficiencies in every sector to be retained within India and not allowed to flow out without any obstruction
  3. This will not only ensure that our economy and society are not controlled from outside but also protect existing jobs and create many more new ones
  4. But if it allows such outflows, it will soon find itself on the wrong side of digital colonisation

Requirements for starting a Digital Industrialisation in India

  1. This requires an independent digital policy, including protections for India’s digital industry

[op-ed snap] The need for lateral entry in civil services

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Note4studertns

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: It is an important topic. India is waiting for these reforms in civil services from last many decades.

News

Context

  1. The article talks about lateral entry in civil services and why it is needed in current scenario

Lateral Entry in Civil Services

  1. The PMO has instructed the department of personnel and training to prepare a proposal for lateral entry in ministries dealing with the economy and infrastructure

Same efforts by other governments in past 

  1. In 2005, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and state levels
  2. But pushback from bureaucrats, serving and retired, and the sheer institutional inertia of civil services that have existed largely unchanged for decades have prevented progress

What is the need of Lateral Entry?

  1. Some new concerns have arisen, such as the shift from the uniformity of centrally planned economic policy to the diverse demands of competitive federalism
  2. Political interference and the use of transfers as carrot and stick make it difficult for bureaucrats to stay in a posting long enough to gain relevant expertise
  3. The need for specialized skills and knowledge to inform policy-making and administration is more important than ever
inter-state river water dispute

[op-ed snap] A stronger river referee

Image result for River Water Disputes Bill 2017

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

This news card discusses about the new Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017.After reading this op-ed you will be able to fully attempt the following question.

Discuss the significance and salient features of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal (ISRWDT), Disputes Resolution Committee, Cauvery River and states through which it flows

Mains level: Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017, its challenges and way forward.


News

 Context:

  1. The government introduced the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017.
  2. But the bill doesn’t fully recognise the need to plug holes in the larger ecosystem of interstate river water sharing, development and governance.

Why new amendment bill?

  1. The Interstate Water Disputes Act 1956 even after half dozen amendments, relies exclusively on tribunals for expeditious resolution of river disputes.
  2. The Supreme Court and other courts do not have jurisdiction over such disputes — they can interpret verdicts of tribunals.
  3. The arrangement demonstrates that the disputes’ resolution generally has not been effective.
  4. Disputes have recurred, there have been long delays in adjudication and states have not complied with verdicts of tribunals.

New bill-provisions:

1. The bill proposes a permanent Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal (ISRWDT). In the current arrangement, tribunals are formed when a river water dispute arises and will be dispute-specific.

  • Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal (ISRWDT)
    1. It will be an eight-member body comprising serving Supreme Court and high court judges.
    2. It will have a chairperson and a vice-chairperson and the members will retire when they are 70 — there was no such limit earlier.
    3. Each dispute will be referred to a three-member bench and resolution will be time bound.
    4. Entire process is restricted to five-and-half years, taking into account all extensions. There is almost no limit on extensions in the current arrangement.

2. The bill provides for a DRC (Disputes Resolution Committee) to enable ex-ante negotiated settlements, in place of earlier mediation by the Centre.

  • DRC (Disputes Resolution Committee) 
    1. To avoid disputes advancing to the next stage of legal adjudication.
    2. Centre will set up the DRC with “members from such relevant fields, as it deems fit, for resolving the disputes amicably”
    3. DRC’s functions — recording data, noting stands and claims of states and reporting facts

3. A data bank and information system. But there is a similar provision in the current act as well, but it mandates the Centre to create such a repository.

  • Problems:
    1. The new bill allows the Centre to appoint or authorise an agency for the purpose
    2. This arrangement could hit a roadblock given the tenuous centre-state relations over managing river waters.
    3. The challenge is not about gathering data and information, but more about states agreeing over a particular piece of data.
    4. The challenge is also about tapping the data to produce knowledge that can be used for decision-making. Such knowledge has been a major area of contestation before the tribunals so far.

Flaws in the new bill?

  1. Absence of an effective implementation mechanism.
  2. Even though the ISRWDT is a permanent avenue, there is nothing that prevents the inevitable escalation of disputes.
  3. States defying tribunals’ directives and disregarding awards and the bill offers little to check these tendencies.
  4. The Supreme Court, too, has been amenable to Special Leave Petitions which then lead to extended litigation in the apex court.

 Implementing the tribunal’s awards, previous issues?

  1. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award, given in 2007, lamented about legal ambiguities which prevented it from recommending an institutional mechanism to implement its award.
  2. These ambiguities will persist even after the amendments. The power to devise such mechanisms is with the Centre but it is ill-equipped to offer competent and resilient mechanisms.
  3. The River Boards Act, 1956, the most potent law available for the purpose has become a dead letter.
  4. The ad-hoc mechanisms devised outside this law have not been successful.
  5. In the Cauvery dispute, both the Cauvery River Authority and the Cauvery Supervisory Committee proved to be ineffective.
  6. With this critical gap, implementing tribunal awards will be a huge challenge.

 Way forward

  1. The conflicts arise when the instruments and institutions for cooperation fail.
  2. The government has to bring in a comprehensive legislation in place of the River Boards Act, 1956, to enable inter-state river water cooperation and collaboration.

 

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Taxing Body Parts

Image result for GST tax ON DISABLED

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

This news card discusses details and flaws in the new GST tax regime. Many essential goods are charged at a high tax rate than the luxury goods. Note down the important points which you may can use in many answers and Essays.

From UPSC perspective, following thing are important:

Prelims level: GST, Products exempted and new tax bracket.

Mains level: Any updates from GST is important from mains point of view. So every aspects must be prepared.


News

Context:

  1. Author is highly critical about the new GST tax regime.
  2. Unfortunately, items of luxury, whose deprivation causes no challenges to human existence is being prioritised and charged less compared to aids and appliances that are essential items for persons with disabilities.

Flaws in the current tax bracket:

  1. The GST on aids and appliances for persons with disabilities uses such as Crutches, callipers, hearing aids, walking frames, etc. would attract a GST of 5 per cent.
  2. But the items used to embellish your body, will attract less and in some cases, no GST.
  3. Kajal, kumkum, bindi, bangles and even human hair are not taxed at all, and gold and diamonds will attract a GST of just 3 per cent.
  4. Puja samagri like rudraksha, prasadam, panchamrut, cotton wicks etc. are also exempt from GST.
  5. There is a lower slab of 0.25 per cent for items like unpolished stones.

Rationale behind this tax bracket?

  • It is to enable the domestic manufacturer to claim input tax credit for raw materials used in the manufacture of these products.

 How this tax bracket affects the disabled and other vulnerable sections?

  1.  Aids and appliances that are essential items for persons with disabilities for their daily routine, access opportunities of education or employment or enjoyment of other rights or the discharge of duties as a responsible citizen.
  2. The fact that without aids and appliances the disabled are deprived of all these and forced into a dis-empowered  state of seclusion

 Earlier tax regime

  1. Items like Braille printer, refreshable Braille display and Braille note-taker, talking watches and clocks, audio labelling devices, DAISY players are entirely imported items and did not attract any taxes earlier.
  2. There are no domestic manufacturers of these products.
  3. Raw materials like aluminium extrusions, square tubes and round tubes of aluminium used in the manufacture of artificial limbs and many rehabilitation aids were exempt from the earlier tax regime.
  4. It needs to be underlined that input tax credit is, in any case, merely a by-product of the tax channels’ unification, the weeding out of redundancy and the cascading taxes rife in the system that existed earlier.

Solution?

If the intent of the government is to protect the domestic industry, the government has to take the following concrete steps.

  1. Help Indian manufacturers build capacity by way of a technology incubator.
  2. Extend existing indigenous manufacturers’ scattered production centres into a nation-wide network of distribution, customisation and servicing.

Back2basics

GST Council

The GST Council aims to develop a harmonized national market of goods and services. The composition of the GST Council includes:

  • The Union Finance Minister (as Chairman),
  • The Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance, and
  • The Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other Minister, nominated by each state government.

The decisions of the GST Council will be made by three-fourth majority of the votes cast. The centre shall have one-third of the votes cast, and the states together shall have two-third of the votes cast.

The GST Council will make recommendations on:

  • Taxes, cesses, and surcharges to be subsumed under the GST;
  • Goods and services which may be subject to, or exempt from GST;
  • The threshold limit of turnover for application of GST;
  • Rates of GST;
  • Model GST laws, principles of levy, apportionment of IGST and principles related to place of supply;
  • Special provisions with respect to the eight north eastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand; and
  • Other related matters.
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