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Type: op-ed snap


Digital India Initiatives Governance

[op-ed snap] Reaching the bottom of India’s digital pyramid

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues which are halting the targets of Digital India, requirements of people for adopting digital services


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the issues related to Digitization
  2. And what the requirements of people are(of using digital services)

How Digitization has received a significant policy push in India?

  1. There has been an emphasis on
    (1) linking bank accounts and mobile number with Aadhaar
    (2) maintaining digital records,
    (3) enforcing digital payments through demonetization or Aadhaar-enabled payments systems
    (4) and making digitization as one of the core requirements in GST (goods and services tax) filings

Is this policy push enough for becoming a digital economy?

  1. The policy push towards digitization is one leg of the story
  2. Its success crucially depends also on its adoption by the majority of the population living in far-flung rural areas
  3. Without that, it can’t be achieved

Digitization through Smartphones

  1. Smartphones are expected to share the bulk of the workload in digital India
  2. However, their share currently is around 33% of the mobile users (expected to reach around 40% by 2019)
  3. The mobile phone internet user penetration among Indian population is still about 24% and even by 2020 is expected to reach just 35%
  4. These figures point to an opportunity for digital inclusion for sure, but there are many issues

Issues which are halting the targets of Digital India
(1) Financial exclusion of a significant part of the population

  1. There are still snags in the outreach of Indian financial system where digitization is expected to play an enabling role
  2. A recent study by Assocham and EY reports that 19% of the Indian population remains unbanked or financially excluded
  3. Without addressing issues like this will only magnify the digital inequality in the country

(2) Uninterrupted access to power

  1. Uninterrupted access to power is an essential ingredient to fuel a digital economy. However, existing statistics look somewhat disappointing
  2. Around 22% of rural households (roughly 40 million) across the country still do not have access to electricity

What should be done?
Absorption
capacity of Digitization tools

  1. Users with prior working knowledge of internet and smartphone applications are more likely to accept digitization tools
  2. It emphasizes the need for internet and mobile application training aimed at less educated and the low-income groups

Need based technological tools

  1. People has opined that digitization tools and technology should meet their needs
  2. t emphasizes the need to identify the requirements of people at the bottom of the digital pyramid which could get served by digitization, take it to them and incorporate their views to enhance its acceptance (co-creation to be precise)

Service charges on digitization services

  1. The service charges should be commensurate with the benefits of digitization
  2. It will continue to remain a challenge for people at the bottom of the digital pyramid who stay stretched to make both ends meet on a daily basis

Ensuring security would increase adaptability

  1. Existence of technological and legal institutions to ensure security would increase adaptability
  2. The right to privacy is possibly the first step in that direction
  3. A beginning no doubt, but it will take time before India’s data protection regime comes on a par with standards set in jurisdictions like the European Union or the US

Education standards

  1. Last but not the least, the aptitude to read, write, comprehend and communicate is a must to participate in the digitization movement
  2. India’s current literacy rate is at 80%, and there are expectations of achieving 100% over the next five years
  3. However, literacy would lead to participation and empowerment in a digital India only when it can ensure lifelong reading ability
Electoral Reforms In India Indian Polity

[op-ed snap] The danger of electoral bonds

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability & institutional & other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Law Commission, Association of Democratic Reforms, Representation of the People Act, The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)

Mains level: Funding to political parties


Context

  1. Transparency in political funding is the global norm
  2. The 255th Law Commission Report on Electoral Reforms observed that opacity in political funding results in “lobbying and capture” of the government by big donors
  3. The lower the transparency in political funding, the easier it is for the super-rich to buy the kind of government they want

Funding to political parties

  1. According to the NGO, Association of Democratic Reforms, 69% of the income of political parties is from unknown sources
  2. Even the 31% from known sources pertains only to the income that the parties declare to the Income Tax (IT) department
  3. The real incomes of political parties are far greater than their declared income, all due to black money
  4. Not only is the source unknown for the greater chunk of a party’s income, even the very existence of this income is ‘unknown’, as it is not captured in any official record

Declaration norms

These are traditionally governed by four legislations

  1. The Representation of the People Act (RPA),
  2. The IT Act,
  3. The Companies Act, and
  4. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)
  • Under these laws, political parties have to declare the source and the amount donated for all contributions above ₹20,000
  • Political parties cannot accept foreign contributions
  • Similarly, companies have to declare in their profit and loss (P&L) statement the party-wise break-up of political donations
  • Also, a company must be at least three years old to contribute to a party
  • Its contribution cannot be more than 7.5% of its average net profit in the three preceding years

Making way for Electoral bonds

  1. The government set the ball rolling with the Finance Act 2016, which amended the FCRA to allow political parties to accept donations from foreign companies
  2. This year, the Finance Act 2017 did the rest, by amending the RPA, the Companies Act, and the IT Act
  3. The Reserve Bank of India Act was also amended to enable the issuance of electoral bonds, which would be sold through notified banks

What electoral bonds do?

  1. Electoral bonds are essentially bearer bonds that ensure donor anonymity
  2. They are like cash, but with an expiry date.
  3. Let’s say company ‘X’ wishes to contribute ₹100 crore to political party ‘Y’
  4. It could buy ten electoral bonds of ₹10 crore each from bank ‘A’
  5. These bonds would carry only a serial number and not the identity of the buyer
  6. X would have these bonds deposited in Y’s designated account with bank ‘B’
  7. B would know that this money belongs to Y but it doesn’t record the fact that it has come from X

Changes in donation limitations via Electoral bonds

  1. The cluster of amendments around electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations
  2. This means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations
  3. The requirement for a company to have been in existence for three years is also scrapped
  4. Companies no longer need to declare the names of the parties to which they have donated
  5. As for political parties, they no longer need to reveal the donor’s name for contributions above ₹20,000, provided these are in the form of electoral bonds
  6. A foreign company can anonymously donate unlimited sums to an Indian political party without the EC or the IT department ever getting to know

Danger to democracy

  1. The most pernicious feature of electoral bonds is their potential to load the dice heavily in favor of the ruling party
  2. Banks receiving donation amounts on behalf of political parties as well as companies report to the RBI which, in turn, is subject to the Central government’s will to know
  3. So, only the ruling party — and no one else — can ascertain which companies donated to the Opposition parties
  4. It is then free to use the organs of the state to gently dissuade (or retaliate against) these misguided donors
  5. Only the government is in a position to harass, or alternatively, protect, donors from harassment by non-state harassers

Way forward

  1. Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has suggested an alternative worth exploring
  2. A National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute
  3. The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get
  4. Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding
Swachh Bharat Mission Governance

[op-ed snap] More than just a counting game

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.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: on-site sanitation system

Mains level: On-site systems as an alternative to sewerage systems


News

Context

  1. The article talks about safe disposal of human waste with on-site sanitation systems

World Toilet Day

  1. November 19, 2017, was World Toilet Day, with the theme ‘Wastewater and Faecal Sludge Management’

Contribution of the Swachh Bharat Mission

  1. There is greater awareness about the importance of using toilets, largely due to the Swachh Bharat Mission launched in 2014
  2. Even Bollywood capitalised on this topic in the recent film Toilet — Ek Prem Katha

Targets under the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals

  1. These targets are not just about ‘toilets’ but also suggest improvements to the entire cycle of sanitation, which certainly begins with toilets but has to end with safe waste disposal

Why is safe disposal of waste important?

  1. Sanitation is intrinsically linked to health, and unless faecal waste is treated properly and disposed of safely
  2. It will make us sick either by contaminating our sources of drinking water or getting into the food chain

Full cycle of sanitation
Four Stages

  1. (1) Access to toilets, (2) safe containment, (3) conveyance either through the sewerage network or de-sludging trucks, (4) And treatment and disposal
  2. The waste needs to be handled safely at each of these stages in order to gain public health benefits

Issues faced by the Urban India

  1. Urban India faces considerable gaps along the full cycle of sanitation
  2. One probable reason was the belief that sewerage and sewage treatment systems could be built in all cities
  3. Sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants (STPs) (a preferred system in most western countries) are not only expensive but are also complicated to maintain

On-site systems: An alternative to sewerage systems

  1. An alternative to sewerage systems is something known as on-site systems
  2. Septic tanks and pit latrines, which are prevalent in many Indian households, fall into this category
  3. If these systems are designed, constructed and managed properly, they can be perfectly safe options
  4. Safe containment, collection and treatment is known as septage management or faecal sludge management (FSM), and is being increasingly recognised by the Government of India as a viable option

Several challenges for FSM 

  1. Emerging evidence from across the country indicates that on-site systems are not constructed properly
  2. While the designs of ‘septic’ tanks and leach pits have been set out in standards issued in government documents, houseowners and masons are often not aware of these
  3. The most severe consequence of these poorly designed pits is the potential contamination of groundwater
  4. In addition, they are not de-sludged at regular intervals
  5. Faecal waste needs to be transported using de-sludging vehicles (and not manually) but only some States, Tamil Nadu for example, have these vehicles
  6. While de-sludging vehicles and robust informal markets exist for de-sludging services in some States, others are either procuring vehicles for their urban local bodies or encouraging private players to get into this
  7. Once collected, the waste needs to treated properly to ensure that it does not land up in our lakes and rivers
  8. There aren’t enough treatment facilities to guarantee proper treatment of the sludge

Recent Developments

  1. After the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) in 2008, a national policy on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) was released earlier this year
  2. Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Odisha have released State-wide septage management guidelines and taken concrete steps to execute these policies

The way forward

  1. Raising awareness about correct design and construction practices of on-site systems (new and legacy) will perhaps remain the biggest hurdle in the years to come
  2. But, urban local bodies and State governments could start by ensuring that the larger containment systems such as community toilets and public toilets are properly constructed and managed
  3. The safety of sanitary workers who clean tanks and pits must be ensured by enforcing occupational safety precautions
  4. And the use of personal protective equipment as set out in the law
  5. Suggestions for Citizens: As home-owners and residents, our tanks and pits must be emptied regularly, thereby preventing leaks and overflow
  6. We must ask our governments to invest in creating treatment facilities that our cities can afford
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments Agriculture

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: Onion tears and how to wipe them

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country,

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Price stabilization fund

Mains level: Need for increased focus on food processing industries in India


Context

Onion prices spiked again

  1. Almost every alternate year, the roller-coaster of boom and bust in onion prices happens
  2. 2017 is interesting as it saw record low prices in May-June when farmers sold onions at around Rs 2/kg in several mandis in Madhya Pradesh

What causes high volatility in onion prices?

  1. One of the prime reasons behind high volatility in onion prices stems from a lack of storage facilities that have not kept pace with rising production
  2. The traditional storage practices incur losses as high as 40 percent
  3. About 60 percent of onion production is in the rabi season, sown in December-January and harvested in April-May
  4. This is the onion which is stored by farmers and traders and it meets export as well as domestic demand till the arrival of the Kharif onion crop, which is sown in May-June and harvested in October-November
  5. The late Kharif crop is sown in August-September and harvested in January-February
  6. Kharif onion is of rather poor quality and cannot be stored for very long
  7. The prices tend to rise in October-November when rabi onion stocks are almost depleted and Kharif onion is yet to hit the market, or if the Kharif crop is damaged, as is the case this year

What could be the way out?

  • The first policy action has to be to promote modern cold storages and develop a system akin to that of the warehouse receipt system for farmers
  1. While a bulk of the storage has to be undertaken by the private sector, the state can do some stocking under a price stabilization fund
  2. They can hire the services of specialized private sector agencies to carry out such operations on the government’s behalf
  • Second, use trade policy for price stabilization
  1. In case of a bumper crop, promote exports and in case of a deficit crop, encourage imports
  2. This has to be done well in advance — as soon as one comes to know the advance estimates of production
  • Third, encourage the setting up of onion dehydrating units and promote demand for dehydrated onions amongst large consumers (restaurants, fast food chains, army, hospitals, etc)
  1. Dehydrated onions are being exported to Japan, Europe, Russia, US and some African countries
  2. The Ministry of Food Processing and state governments can encourage entrepreneurs to avail grants for setting up onion dehydration and processing units

Conclusion

  1. Instead of raiding traders or banning exports et al, the Centre and the states would do better if they promote investment in scientific storage and processing facilities, and use trade policy more judiciously
Air Pollution Climate Change

[op-ed snap] Reflections from inside a toxic city

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Solutions given in the article against Pollution


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the menace of pollution going on these days in Delhi
  2. And some possible solutions for it

Changes seen in last few decades

  1. In the past two decades much has changed
  2. The economics of pollution control is now a flourishing sub-discipline within the burgeoning field of environment studies
  3. Air quality monitoring has also become quite sophisticated with continuous monitoring of a whole vector of pollution indicators and readings available
  4. along with an air quality index (AQI), on a daily basis from multiple city locations

What is not changed?

  1. However, the regulatory framework has remained largely unchanged, still dependent on the “command and control” (C&C) approach instead of market-based instruments (MBI)
  2. The same fatal flaw that had rendered the pollution control Acts ineffective 20 years ago still applies today
  3. Consequences: The consequences are there for all to see
  4. Emission levels from individual sources like motor vehicles and industrial plants did come down progressively after standards were mandated in 1981
  5. Yet the ambient pollution load kept getting worse as the number of vehicles and factories kept growing

 Suspended particulate matter (SPM) in Delhi’s air

  1. During the past week Delhi is experiencing a pollution emergency
  2. For the main pollutant of concern, suspended particulate matter (SPM) the ambient pollution load has been about 7-10 times the specified standard and the overall AQI is well past the danger level

What can be done to avoid such crises in the future?

  1. The question is best addressed in four parts:
    (1) pollution drivers over which government has no control,
    (2) pollution sources which require inter-governmental cooperation
    (3) pollution sources which the government can regulate through MBIs
    (4) and sources or actions which it can directly control

What should be done to stop stubble burning?

  1. Following the “polluters pay” principle, some suggest that farmers burning stubble should be penalized to contain the burning
  2. This is a non-starter
  3. No state government would have either the political courage or the administrative capacity to impose such penalties on millions of farmers who are already under stress
  4. However, a reduction in stubble burning can also be achieved by the opposite policy of rewarding farmers who incur the cost of disposing of stubble by other means, e.g, processing it for manure

How could such a programme(of rewarding farmers) be funded without unduly burdening the fiscal?

  1. Since the National Capital Region (NCR) would be a major beneficiary of the programme, the Central government should lead with a centrally sponsored scheme, partnering with concerned states on a cost-sharing basis
  2. The Central share could be financed by cutting poorly targeted non-merit subsidies, like on fertilizers or kerosene
  3. The states’ share could be similarly financed by cutting their tax expenditures and non-merit subsidies, like on power

What should be done to counter the pollution from Motor vehicles?

  1. Motorized vehicles are the other important source of high SPM 2.5 pollution in Delhi, especially in winter
  2. As explained earlier, merely enforcing individual vehicle-emission standards will not help to achieve ambient air quality standards if the total number of vehicles grows without any limit
  3. To achieve ambient standards, it is essential to restrain the growth in number of vehicles
  4. How can that be done: To simply cap the total number of vehicles of a given type and ban further registration once a cap is reached is a blunt C&C policy which is neither practical nor desirable
  5. However, such an approach can be considered only if there are adequate alternative means of public transport like the mass transit systems seen in most modern cities
  6. For this, the rapidly expanding Delhi Metro network has to be complemented by other transport modes, especially for last-mile connectivity

The way forward

  1. The Delhi government cannot by itself fix the air pollution problem
  2. There is much that is beyond its control
  3. But there is also much that it can do in collaboration with other neighbouring states, and much that it can do on its own to help mitigate the problem
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc. Industries

[op-ed snap] The superbugs of Hyderabad

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Drug-resistant superbugs, pathogenic bacteria, carbapenems,

Mains level: National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance 2017- key features


Context

Superbugs developing

  1. Effluent from pharmaceutical companies contain high concentrations of antibiotics that are turning the Hyderabad city’s lakes and sewers into breeding grounds of drug-resistant superbugs
  2. Since the pharmaceutical industry took root in the city in the 1970s, environmental pollution has threatened agriculture, aquaculture and the health of city residents
  3. New research in the last few years shows this pollution to be a threat of a larger, more terrifying scale

A whole new species of danger

  1. The Kazipally well, along with ditches, lakes, and rivers around the pharmaceutical cluster, receives large doses of antibiotics, along with the traditionally monitored pollutants
  2. When these antibiotics come in contact with pathogenic bacteria (which cause disease in humans), the latter learn to resist the former, making human infections by these pathogens extremely hard to treat
  3. Antibiotic resistance is arguably the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century
  4. In 2014, around 700,000 people across the world died due to infections that evaded antibiotics, a number that is estimated to touch 10 million by 2050

Studies in India

  1. It isn’t clear how many Indians die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year
  2. One study from Delhi’s Ganga Ram hospital found that between 2002 and 2009, among patients infected by Klebsiella pneumoniae (a pneumonia-causing bacterium), the percentage of these pathogens that were resistant to carbapenems grew from 2% to 52%
  3. Carbapenems are a class of last-resort antibiotics which doctors use only when others have failed

What causes antibiotic resistance?

  1. A big driver of resistance is the overuse of these drugs
  2. When people take antibiotics they don’t need, for a viral flu, for instance, the bacteria in their body learn to tolerate these drugs by acquiring resistance genes
  3. Resistance genes don’t come out of nowhere – some of them have existed for decades in soil and water, helping environmental bacteria fight natural antibiotics
  4. Studies in Hyderabad’s pharmaceutical cluster now show that the large doses of man-made antibiotics in pollution hotspots like Kazipally force these environmental bacteria to evolve by boosting the numbers of resistance genes
  5. When human pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus (which causes skin and respiratory infections), mix with these environmental bacteria, they borrow these genes freely, making them potential killers

Government regulations to control antibiotic pollution

  1. As of today, India does not limit antibiotics in pharma waste water
  2. India’s first concrete move to tackle the problem was the 2017 National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance, which talks about imposing limits on antibiotics in industrial waste
  3. But these regulations are at least three years away

What can antibiotic resistance lead to?

  1. The cost of antibiotic resistance will be enormous for both India and the world
  2. One estimate puts the expense of treating a resistant bloodstream infection at ₹42,000 more than a susceptible infection
  3. This could devastate the healthcare system, which today takes antibiotics for granted

What can be done?

  1. Complying with pollution norms
  2. The cost of better pollution-control isn’t that high
  3. Complying with pollution norms doesn’t need more than 3-4% of the production cost
Ministry of Human Resource Development : Important Updates Human Resource Development

[op-ed snap] Upgrading the public education system

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Comments of the report on Private Schools and solutions given to improve education system


News

Context 

  1. The article talks about World Development Report, 2018 on education system in private and public schools

Lack of trust in government schools 

  1. Education systems in many countries are not performing up to expectation
  2. And many families have been turning to private schools since they feel that the latter deliver better education, especially when public schooling itself is not fully free
  3. India too fails to provide free secondary public education

World Development Report, 2018 comment on public and private schools

  1. The World Bank’s recent flagship World Development Report, 2018 addressed some immediate challenges of quality education
  2. The report highlights that research across 40 countries finds no difference in the learning outcomes of children with similar family backgrounds in both public and private schools
  3. Private schools appear better since they enrol children from relatively advantaged backgrounds who are able to pay, not because they deliver better quality
  4. The World Bank report thus challenges a popular perception in India and finds no consistent evidence that private schools deliver better learning outcomes than public schools

Lack of untrained teachers in private schools

  1. Indeed, of the 1.27 million untrained teachers teaching in India, 925,000 are in private schools, pointing to the massive historic neglect of quality

Other particulars of the World Bank’s Report

  1. The report warned that some private schools’ quest for profit “can lead them to advocate policy choices that are not in the interests of students”
  2. In some instances, private schools may indeed deliver comparable learning outcomes with lower input costs, but this is achieved largely through lower teacher salaries
  3. The report reiterated that while this may make education cheaper, it does not make it better
  4. And has the additional disadvantage of reducing the supply of qualified teachers over time

How can we improve the quality of education?

  1. The quality of education can only be improved if
    (1) steps are taken to ensure children come to school prepared to learn,
    (2) teachers have the skills and motivation to teach effectively,
    (3) inputs reach classrooms and management
    (4) and governance systems are strengthened in schools that serve the poorest

Risks associated with private schools

  1. There are also clear risks as private schools skim off higher-income students that are easiest and most profitable to teach, leaving the most disadvantaged within the public system
  2. The reliance on private schools risks segregating the education system on family income and deepening existing social cleavages;
  3. It also undermines the political constituency for effective public schooling in the long run
  4. This has particularly dangerous outcomes in India where caste, gender and class inequalities dominate

Regulatory framework for private schools in India

  1. India has taken some steps in the direction of developing regulatory frameworks for private schools, with several states enacting fee-regulation legislation and the courts intervening to challenge private sector failures
  2. Recently, the Supreme Court intervened to direct states to enforce guidelines on safety in schools, it had to enforce fee regulation

The way forward

  1. The government is set to unveil the first New Education Policy in 25 years in December 2017
  2. It needs to address the key concerns and should focus on equity in quality—ensuring universal access to free, quality, equitable and safe public education for all of India’s young citizens
  3. This alone would help achieve India’s aspirations of global leadership by tapping into the demographic dividend that India still enjoys
  4. This must be backed by adequate resources. India is committed to the global and domestic benchmark of allotting 6% of gross domestic product to education, but has never crossed the 4% threshold
  5. Failing to invest in the best education for the poor will only widen the social inequalities that exist in India today
  6. The road to reform is fraught with challenges but the cost of inaction will be much higher
Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN Regional Groupings

[op-ed snap] The ASEAN outreach

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN

Mains level: These topics are specially mentioned in the mains syllabus


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the importance of relationship between India and ASEAN

Important meetings attended by the Indian Prime Minister

  1. The Philippines has been the centre of attraction for the last few days with Manila hosting
    (1) the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India
    (2) East Asia summits as well as special celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of ASEAN
    (3) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders’ meeting
    (4) the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit
  2. Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined these meetings
  3. And underscored India’s commitment to deepening ties with the ASEAN member states and the wider Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East’ policy

Importance of the Indo-Pacific region

  1. The Indo-Pacific region is now central to global politics and economics and recent days have merely reinforced the trends that have been emerging for some time
  2. China is the most important player in the region
  3. And as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear in his speech at the recent Communist Party Congress, Beijing is now more confident than ever of projecting regional and global power
  4. In this, China has had the good fortune of having an administration in the U.S. that lacks seriousness of purpose and is unable to communicate effectively its priorities for the region
  5. Opportunity for India: This makes this period of transition very significant for countries like India that have a stake in the long-term stability of the region
  6. As China’s profile grows, and the U.S. continues to be unsure of its security commitments, there is a new opportunity for India in the region

Symbolic move by India

  1. In a symbolic move, all 10 ASEAN heads of state have been invited to be guests of honour for next year’s Republic Day function

Different strategy adopted by India

  1. On the one hand, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being resurrected without the U.S.
  2. And on the other, the idea of an Indo-Pacific quadrilateral involving Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. is back
  3. Unlike in the past, India is no longer diffident about engaging with other regional players if it helps to further Indian interests in maintaining a stable balance of power in region

Importance of ASEAN for India

  1. ASEAN is currently India’s fourth largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade
  2. India is ASEAN’s seventh largest trading partner
  3. India’s service-oriented economy perfectly complements the manufacturing-based economies of ASEAN countries
  4. There is, however, considerable scope for further growth

The way forward

  1. India needs to do a more convincing job as a beneficial strategic partner of ASEAN by boosting its domestic economic reforms agenda, enhancing connectivity within the region, and increasing its presence in regional institutions
  2. The ASEAN nations should be clearer and more specific in their expectations from New Delhi and nudge India for a deeper, more broad-based engagement
  3. There is much at stake for both sides

Back2basics

Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN)

  1. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising ten Southeast Asian states which promotes Pan-Asianism and intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, military, educational and cultural integration amongst its members and Asian states
  2. Since its formation on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the organisation’s membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam
  3. Its principal aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, and sociocultural evolution among its members, alongside the protection of regional stability and the provision of a mechanism for member countries to resolve differences peacefully
  4. ASEAN is an official United Nations Observer
  5. Communication by members across nations takes place in English
Digital India Initiatives Governance

[op-ed snap] The long road to cashless India

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UPI, IMPS etc.

Mains level: Complement this article with other newcards curated by us on the same issue of cashless economy


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the PPIs and the UPI-based apps usefulness in making India a cashless economy
  2. It also talks about some challenges

Future of online payments

  1. According to some experts, debit cards, credit cards and ATMs becoming redundant in the next three to four years
  2. Since demonetisation, the government has been working to make India a cashless economy
  3. With the ubiquity of Aadhaar, smartphones and the new unified payments interface (UPI)-based apps, it wants to move on from cash to a digital payments economy—where everything from payment to receipt is done online

Data on different payment systems

  1. While debit and credit cards continue to dominate retail digital payments, the UPI and prepaid payment instruments (PPIs) are catching up
  2. Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the share of PPIs in total volume of card transactions increased from 18% to 36%
  3. Then, in August 2016 came UPI, based on banks’ immediate payment service (IMPS)
  4. It linked the user’s various bank accounts to a single mobile application, doing away with the need to recharge a wallet
  5. UPI transaction volumes have increased from 4.2 million in January to 30 million in September 2017 (growing 85% between August and September itself)

Competition between PPIs and UPI

  1. While PPIs still have much higher volumes (87 million) right now, UPI is eating into their share as well as that of cards
  2. This is expected to continue with the launch of UPI 2.0, which will bring the ease of pre-authorized deductions for recurring payments, like cab rides, to UPI, along with a possible increase in the transaction limit from the present Rs1 lakh
  3. Major PPIs have already integrated UPI into their service so as to not lose customers to competing UPI-only apps

A prerequisite to a less-cash economy is financial inclusion
Challenges:

  1. The Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) had laudably managed to open 294 million bank accounts as of August 2017
  2. But a quarter of them remain zero-balance inoperative accounts
  3. If people received income in their bank accounts and could spend digitally, they could go cashless. But most people work in the informal economy and get paid in cash
  4. Then there is the scarce use of mobile payment platforms
  5. Most product vendors still don’t use a mobile platform to receive payments because there are limited use-cases for digital money
  6. Finally, mobile wallets are largely designed for use on smartphones, and 56% of Indians still use feature phones
  7. Given the frequent power outages, poor connectivity and low income, smartphones have limited utility for most people

Contribution of the Payment Banks

  1. India has been unable to increase accessibility to banks within the formal banking system; only 27% villages have a bank branch within 5km
  2. But the increase in the number of payment banks can bring the basic banking functions of securing deposits, providing an ATM-debit card and allowing access to online payment gateways

The way forward

  1. Interoperability across PPIs may increase adoption by vendors and, therefore, increase the use-cases for people
  2. But the largely informal nature of the economy, the preponderance of feature phones and the old habit of using cash are enduring problems that will keep the cashless economy from spreading outside urban centres for many years
Human Development Report by UNDP Global Groupings and Conventions

[op-ed snap] The Tripura model

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, National Family Health Survey (NFHS), infant mortality rate (IMR), MGNREGA

Mains level: How Tripura model can be adopted by other northeastern states for their development


Context

Tripura’s peace model

  1. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tripura embarked on a unique path to peace
  2. It was not dependent solely on security measures but involved investment in human development and people’s participation in the implementation of socio-political and economic policy as well
  3. More than a decade later, the human development consequences of peace have been remarkable

Peace process in the state

  1. Economic and social investments and people’s involvement are essential components of the peace process in the State
  2. The landmark repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, in 2015 in the State was an outstanding symbol of the success of this policy
  3. There is now a palpable atmosphere of peace and personal safety in the State, even in its most remote reserved-forest settlements
  4. The progress achieved over the last 10 years in several indicators of human development — especially in education, health, and employment — is the State’s peace dividend

Growing literacy and health indicators

  1. Literacy has been described as being “the basic personal skill that underlies the whole modernizing sequence.”
  2. Separatist militancy in Tripura was an obstacle to the spread of literacy and schooling
  3. According to the Census, the share of literate persons above the age of seven years rose from 73% to 87% between 2001 and 2011
  4. Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) indicate that the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Tripura almost halved between 2005-6 and 2014-15

Employment and labour force participation

  1. Peace and security enable the expansion of employment and livelihoods
  2. A labour force, by definition, includes those in work and seeking work
  3. For the last five to six years, Tripura has ranked first among the States of India with respect to the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  4. An important feature of Tripura’s economy over the last decade has been a rise in labour force participation and work force participation, particularly among women
  5. This is in marked contrast to India as a whole, where data show a decline in female labour force participation and work force participation over time
  6. An important factor in the dramatic rise in work participation rates, especially among women, has been the improvement in the security environment, which encouraged women to enter the labour force in much larger numbers than before

Positive achievement and a challenge

  1. The rise in work and labour force participation rates, particularly among women, is both a positive achievement and a challenge
  2. The challenge is to generate adequate employment opportunities to absorb the increasing number of women who will join the work force

Tripura’s inclusive model

  1. Tripura’s path of development is one that respects administrative autonomy for regions where people of the Scheduled Tribes are predominant in the population, and the principle of unity of its diverse people
  2. An inclusive path of development, one that encompasses the poorest in the population and the most far-flung of forest-based human settlements, is a precious legacy
Judiciary Institutional Issues Constitution

[op-ed snap] A question of probity

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Credibility of the Indian Judiciary


News

Context

  1. The article talks about a recent important case of the SC, which is questioning the credibility of the SC itself.

What is the issue?

  1. A five-judge Constitution Bench of the SC led by the Chief Justice of India declared that the Chief Justice is the has the sole prerogative to determine which Bench of judges gets to hear which cases
  2. The bench was hearing a case concerning corruption arising out of certain judicial proceedings

What was the case?

  1. The genesis of this episode lies in the filing of petitions by Prasad Education Trust before the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court
  2. The trust operated a medical college whose permission to run certain courses had been declined
  3. A simultaneous investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicated a possible criminal conspiracy to ensure a favourable judicial order in this matter
  4. According to its FIR, two persons managing the affairs of the trust, approached a retired judge of Allahabad and Odisha High Courts, Justice I.M. Quddusi, through Sudhir Giri of the Venkateshwara Medical College (part of Venkateshwara University, in whose case another judgment had been passed by Justice Dipak Misra in the Supreme Court)
  5. Quddusi recommended the filing of a petition before the Allahabad High Court, in which partial relief was granted
  6. Subsequently, when the matter again reached the Supreme Court, the FIR reveals that Quddusi and his associates assured the trust of getting the matter “settled” in the Supreme Court through “their contacts
  7. Quddusi, Agrawala and four associates have now been arrested for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code

What is the need of constituting the SIT(Special Investigation Team)?

  1. Since the FIR indicated an attempt to fix a judicial proceeding, the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms filed a writ petition in the SC requesting that a SIT under a retired CJI be set up
  2. This request was made since it was apprehended that leaving the investigation to the CBI might mean allowing the government to influence judges who would be brought under investigation

Two Important questions

  1. First, can the chief justice be part of the hearing, since the scandal allegedly implicates a judgment the CJI wrote, even though he has not been named in the FIR?
  2. Second, could a constitution bench be constituted bypassing the chief justice in violation of the current procedure through which such benches are constituted?

Issue of corruption in the court

  1. There are issues of corruption in the courts
  2. The judiciary has failed to find a mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption within its ranks
  3. Every justice in the court needs to be above suspicion
  4. But a lot of care needs to be exercised so that the anti-corruption measures taken do not undermine the independence of the judiciary

Concerns related to the CBI investigation

  1. We should also consider the possibility that the threat of being investigated by the CBI, or speculative naming (or suggestion in a CBI report)
  2. It can itself also be an instrument of seeking recusals or undermining the independence of judges, as is sometimes done with other government officials
  3. This subtle institutional challenge to the judiciary is not outside of the realm of possibility
  4. More than the conduct of Justices Misra and Chelameswar, the judiciary will have to think of how it will deal with instances where the Chief Justice of India or other justices becomes hostage to possible CBI innuendo

Use of article 142 in the present case

  1. Many learned counsel have defended Justice Chelameswar’s move by invoking Article 142 that gives judges the power to do whatever it takes to secure justice
  2. But the use of Article 142 has also become a sign of immense judicial indiscipline, where judges can easily ride roughshod over other procedural proprieties

The way forward

  1. There are lots of legal nuances to the case at hand
  2. But the court’s loss of external credibility combined with internal anarchy does not bode well for Indian democracy
  3. Instead of becoming a constitutional lodestar in our turbulent times, the court has itself become a reflection of the worst rot afflicting Indian institutions
Aadhaar Cards: The Identity Revolution Governance

[op-ed snap] Aadhaar needs a privacy law

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability & institutional & other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Right to privacy, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Digital ID research initiative,

Mains level: Right to privacy Vs Aadhar


Context

Supreme Court’s judgment upholding right to privacy Vs Aadhar

  1. The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) landmark judgment upholding our right to privacy has intensified the debate on whether and how Aadhaar infringes on this right
  2. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has unequivocally asserted that Aadhaar meets the privacy test
  3. People from within the government’s fold and outside it, have said that Aadhaar can become an instrument to profile individuals, surveil them, and suppress dissent

Who is correct?

  1. The boring but important truth is that both sides are right—to some degree
  2. Aadhaar, if unregulated, can be a tool to abrogate our privacy
  3. But other tools of the government—such as CCTV cameras, permanent account number (PAN) cards, Digital India, among others—are also capable of invading privacy

Solution for this issue

  1. The solution is not to annul Aadhaar on the grounds of data privacy
  2. Like we do with any tool in the public domain, we need to avail of its benefits and manage the risks
  3. We need to evaluate whether the benefits are worth the risks

Two parallel initiatives required

  1. Rigorous, and independent research such as the Indian School of Business’ digital ID research initiative
  • This is vital to ascertain the benefits and risks across Aadhaar’s uses
  • This can help decide which uses should be furthered, adjusted, or even dropped

2. We need an independent regulator to protect data privacy and regulate data initiatives

  • This regulator must be backed by a robust law, and be competent to understand the nuances of data privacy and keep pace with new developments
  • We are many strides into a digital economy and are already suffering the consequences of this void

What features make Aadhaar particularly potent for database linking?

Four features make Aadhaar particularly potent for database linking

  1. It covers almost all Indian adults
  2. The database has practically no duplicates (according to UIDAI), enabling a higher quality of linking
  3. It uses a 12-digit unique identifier, making linking easy
  4. Over 120 government agencies require Aadhaar to provide services, paving the way for the first step of data linking—seeding each individual database with Aadhaar numbers

How can Aadhar linking be misused?

  1. One potential harmful abuse of Aadhaar is using the unique number to link data sets that previously existed in silos
  2. Depending on the breadth of data sets seeded with Aadhaar, they can be merged to uncover a person’s “food habits, language, health, hobbies, sexual preferences, friendships, ways of dress, and political affiliation”
  3. SC also worried about this in its judgment on right to privacy
  4. Not only is this objectionable in and of itself, such profiling can be used to discriminate against individuals and stifle dissent
  5. Unauthorized database-linking violates almost all the National Privacy Principles, including “Purpose Limitation”
  6. Purpose limitation means “a data controller shall collect, process, disclose, make available, or otherwise use personal information only for the purposes as stated in the notice after taking consent of individuals.”
  7. “Data controllers” (say, criminal investigation agencies or credit card companies) with access to data-sets seeded with unique identifiers, such as Aadhaar, can link databases without due notice or consent and use it nefariously

Way forward

  1. Attacking only Aadhaar for the larger privacy risk of database linking is not based on a practical understanding of how linking works
  2. If Aadhaar ceased to exist, the threat of database linking using unique identifiers will endure, albeit with higher difficulty
  3. There is need for a strong data privacy law and regulator to curb and manage database-linking practices
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States Bilateral Relations

[op-ed snap] US policies toward India and Asia need strategic coherence

Danang : U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on the final day of the APEC CEO Summit on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in Danang, Vietnam, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. AP/PTI(AP11_10_2017_000071A)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: How India’s interests can benefit the US, in the Asian region


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the US president’s Asian visit.
  2. And what should be done to counter the assertive Chinese behavior in the region

US President’s official trip to Asia

  1. With stops in Japan, South Korea, China, and now Vietnam, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) summit
  2. In his address to the APEC CEO Summit, he outlined a vision of upholding a “free and open Indo-Pacific”

Is it possible to achieve the target of ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ without India?

  1. The United States cannot achieve that goal without strong Asian partnerships—including with India
  2. Though India is not on the president’s Asia itinerary, the nomenclature alone—Indo-Pacific rather than Asia-Pacific—suggests that India stands rightly to play a central part in the Trump administration’s larger Asia strategy
  3. With long-standing allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia, India offers democratic and economic ballast to deal with the rise of China’s power

How can India counter a more assertive China in the region?

  1. The Indo-Pacific idea recognizes that a rising China has become more assertive as well as authoritarian, and it elevates Washington’s ties with India as an alternative model to all that Beijing represents
  2. By expanding Asia’s geographic net to include the world’s largest democracy, this larger region encompasses a greater balance favoring rule of law, freedom of navigation, open trade, and democracy

 What the US President can do to advance India’s interests(and its asian allies) in the region

  1.  The “Quad” grouping that adds Australia to the robust trilateral of India, Japan, and the United States appears on the verge of revival, a positive step
  2. In addition to strengthening ties to our traditional Asian allies, the president could start by clearly stating support for cooperative economic institutions like the APEC forum
  3. He should call explicitly for APEC to offer membership to India
  4. Asia’s third largest economy deserves to have a seat at the table, and it will help India to be more embedded in the premier regime focused on free and open trade in Asia
  5. To address the urgent need for infrastructure funding in the Asian region, the president should also support a capital base expansion for the World Bank

Trade issues between India and the US

  1. India recognize its famously difficult stances on trade and market access questions
  2. But a narrow focus on the $24 billion trade deficit with India (compared to more than $300 billion with China), should not distract from this larger goal
  3. India need to sort out market access problems and our difficulties with Indian intellectual property rights polices, but these questions are not strategic in nature

The way forward

  1. To meaningfully support a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Trump administration will have to be creative in building broad Asian partnerships, especially with its India policy
  2. We need all the allies we can muster
  3. A strong, stable, democratic India committed to a rules-based order will indeed be a “bookend” for the region. Washington will have to alter its economic focus to get there
Rural Distress, Farmer Suicides, Drought Measures Agriculture

[op-ed snap] Loan waiver is not the solution

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Regional Rural Banks, NABARD, Kisan Credit Card scheme, Interest Subvention Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, International Food Policy Research Institute, Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income

Mains level: Disadvantages of Farm loan waivers and alternative measures


Context

Increase in institutional credit to farmers

  1. Since Independence, one of the primary objectives of India’s agricultural policy has been to improve farmers’ access to institutional credit and reduce their dependence on informal credit
  2. As informal sources of credit are mostly usurious, the government has improved the flow of adequate credit through the nationalization of commercial banks, and the establishment of Regional Rural Banks and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
  3. It has also launched various farm credit programmes over the years such as the Kisan Credit Card scheme in 1998, the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme in 2008, the Interest Subvention Scheme in 2010-11, and the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana in 2014
  4. The result is that the share of institutional credit to agricultural gross domestic product has increased from 10% in 1999-2000 to nearly 41% in 2015-16

Farm waiver scheme may slow down this pace

  1. While the flow of institutional farm credit has gone up, the rolling out of the farm waiver scheme in recent months may slow down its pace and pose a challenge to increasing agricultural growth
  2. The Uttar Pradesh government has promised a ₹0.36 lakh crore loan waiver covering 87 lakh farmers, whereas the Maharashtra government has announced it’s writing off ₹0.34 lakh crore covering more than 89 lakh farmers
  3. The demand for a loan waiver is escalating in Punjab, Karnataka, and other States
  4. This clamor is only poised to increase as the 2019 general election comes closer

International studies on farm loans and waivers

  1. At the global level, studies indicate that access to formal credit contributes to an increase in agricultural productivity and household income
  2. Such links have not been well documented in India, where emotional perceptions dominate the political decision quite often
  3. A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute reveals that at the national level, 48% of agricultural households do not avail a loan from any source
  4. Among the borrowing households, 36% take credit from informal sources, especially from moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest in the 25%-70% range per annum

Advantages of formal credit

  1. The study using the 2012-13 National Sample Survey-Situation Assessment Survey (schedule 33) finds that compared to non-institutional borrowers, institutional borrowers earn a much higher return from farming (17%)
  2. The net return from farming of formal borrowers is estimated at ₹43,740/ha, which is significantly greater than that of informal sector borrowers at ₹33,734/ha
  3. Access to institutional credit is associated with higher per capita monthly consumption expenditures
  4. Access to formal institutional credit also tends to enhance farmers’ risk-bearing ability and may induce them to take up risky ventures and investments that could yield higher incomes

Need for formal credit

  1. A negative relationship between the size of farm and per capita consumption expenditure (a proxy for income) further underscores the importance of formal credit in assisting marginal and poor farm households in reducing poverty
  2. Statistics show that nearly 82% of all indebted farm households (384 lakh) possess less than two hectares of land compared to other landholders numbering 84 lakh households
  3. Those residing in the less developed States are more vulnerable and hence remain debt-ridden

Intended beneficiaries remain excluded from farm loan waivers

  1. Problem: A major proportion of farmers remain outside the ambit of a policy of a subsidized rate of interest, and, for that matter, of loan waiver schemes announced by respective State governments
  2. This sop provides relief to the relatively better off and lesser-in-number medium and large farmers without having much impact on their income and consumption
  3. Solution: This anomaly can be rectified only if the credit market is expanded to include agricultural laborers, marginal and small landholders
  4. It is, therefore, important to revisit the credit policy with a focus on the outreach of banks and financial inclusion

What more needs to be done?

  1. The government along with the farmers’ lobby should desist from clamoring for loan waivers as it provides instant temporary relief from debt but largely fails to contribute to farmers’ welfare in the long run
  2. This is because farmers’ loan requirement is for non-agricultural purposes as well, and often goes up at the time of calamity when the state offers minimal help
  3. If governments are seriously willing to compensate farmers, they must direct sincere efforts to protect them from incessant natural disasters and price volatility through crop insurance and better marketing systems
  4. It should be understood that writing off loans would not only put pressure on already constrained fiscal resources but also bring in the challenge of identifying eligible beneficiaries and distributing the amount

Report of the Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income

  1. The report of the Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, has suggested accelerating investments in agriculture research and technology, irrigation and rural energy, with a concerted focus in the less developed eastern and rain-fed States for faster increase in crop productivity and rural poverty reduction
Air Pollution Climate Change

[op-ed snap] India needs a federal green agency

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The possible solutions of countering the issue of Smog.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the current environmental issue of smog and proposes some solution for it

What is the issue?

  1. Smog: The public health emergency
  2. The callous response by various government agencies
  3. Every state blames the other
  4. The weak policy response is also an indication of an institutional vacuum to deal with public goods issues in a federal political system

Is it possible to change the incentives for farmers who burn biomass?

  1. The standard economic solution is to impose a Pigouvian tax on farmers to ensure the polluter pays for his actions
  2. Such a tax would change incentives by increasing the cost of stubble burning

Ronald Coase way of  dealing with the effects of stubble burning

  1. Coase argued, in a landmark paper published in 1960, that the solution to externalities such as pollution is not unilateral action but complex bargaining between different interest groups
  2. The bargaining will be based on how much farmers value stubble burning on the one hand and how much city dwellers value clean air on the other

How can it be implemented in India?

  1. In the case of the smog in north India, it could mean that farmers should be paid to invest in better technologies to deal with the stubble left over from the previous harvest
  2. A subsidy will change their incentives. Such a Coasean bargain is premised on two preconditions
  3. First, property rights need to be assigned
  4. Second, there needs to be a credible agency to manage the negotiation
  5. India has neither right now

More practical solution

  1. The more practical solution is that the state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana be considered the representative agencies for their respective citizens
  2. They should negotiate on how the cost of changing farming practices will be shared. A first step will be to estimate the amount to be paid for every hectare of farmland that is shifted away from stubble burning
  3. The second problem is the lack of an institutional structure to deal with such federal negotiations, especially when the three state governments are run by three different political parties
  4. This is where the Union government needs to step in as a coordinating agency
  5. It can also offer to bear half the fiscal costs of any green bargain between the three states

What can we learn from the US?

  1. A better solution over the long term is to set up a federal agency like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, with powers to get states to the bargaining table
  2. The exact contours of such an agency will need to be debated by climate change scientists, economists, environmental activists and political parties
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