Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Agricultural Reform Bills, 2020

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been protesting against 3 ordinances promulgated by the Centre back in June this year.  After the Monsoon Session of Parliament began this week, the government has introduced three Bills to replace these ordinances.

What are these ordinances?

  1. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020;
  2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and
  3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 (It is the Bill replacing the third that has been passed in Lok Sabha)

Let us study their key features:

(1) The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020

  • Trade of farmers’ produce: The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside: (i) the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and (ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages.
  • Electronic trading: The Ordinance permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area. The following entities may establish and operate such platforms: (i) companies, partnership firms, or registered societies, having permanent account number under the Income Tax Act, 1961 or any other document notified by the central government, and (ii) a farmer producer organisation or agricultural cooperative society.
  • Market fee abolished: The Ordinance prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for the trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

(2) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020

  • Farming agreement: The Ordinance provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  The minimum period of an agreement will be one crop season, or one production cycle of livestock.  The maximum period is five years, unless the production cycle is more than five years.
  • Pricing of farming produce: The price of farming produce should be mentioned in the agreement.  For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement.  Further, the process of price determination must be mentioned in the agreement.
  • Dispute Settlement: A farming agreement must provide for a conciliation Board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes.   If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution.  Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate.  Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose of a dispute within thirty days from the receipt of application.  They may impose certain penalties on the party contravening the agreement.

(3) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

  • Regulation of food items: The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities.  The Ordinance provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances. These include (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.
  • Stock limit: The Ordinance requires that the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.  A stock limit may be imposed only if there is: (i) a 100% increase in the retail price of horticultural produce; and (ii) a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.

A Backgrounder: Long awaited APMC reforms

  • Agricultural markets in India are mainly regulated by state Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws.  APMCs were set up with the objective of ensuring fair trade between buyers and sellers for effective price discovery of farmers’ produce.
  • APMCs can:
  • regulate the trade of farmers’ produce by providing licenses to buyers, commission agents, and private markets,
  • levy market fees or any other charges on such trade, and
  • provide necessary infrastructure within their markets to facilitate the trade

Issues with the APMCs

  • The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2018-19) identified some issues includes: (i) most APMCs have a limited number of traders operating, which leads to cartelization and reduces competition, and (ii) undue deductions in the form of commission charges and market fees.
  • Traders, commission agents, and other functionaries organise themselves into associations, which do not allow easy entry of new persons into market yards, stifling competition.
  • The Acts are highly restrictive in promotion of multiple channels of marketing (such as more buyers, private markets, direct sale to businesses and retail consumers, and online transactions) and competition in the system.
  • During 2017-18, the central government released the model APMC and contract farming Acts to allow restriction-free trade of farmers’ produce, promote competition through multiple marketing channels, and promote farming under pre-agreed contracts.

Why were the ordinances promulgated?

  • The Ordinances collectively seek to-
  • facilitate barrier-free trade of farmers’ produce outside the markets notified under the various state APMC laws
  • define a framework for contract farming and
  • impose stock limits on agricultural produce only if there is a sharp increase in retail prices
  • The three Ordinances together aim to increase opportunities for farmers to enter long term sale contracts, increase the availability of buyers, and permits buyers to purchase farm produce in bulk.

Causes of nationwide dissent

(1) No consultation with stakeholders

  • The attempt to pass the Bills without proper consultation adds to the mistrust among various stakeholders including State governments.
  • The ruling government could have waited for the Parliament session, held discussions with all political parties before arriving at a decision.
  • Farmer organisations see these Bills as an attempt to weaken the APMCs and eventual withdrawal of the Minimum Support Prices (MSP).

(2) Issue over trade and MSP guarantee

  • While farmers are protesting against all three ordinances, their objections are mostly against the provisions of the first.
  • Their concerns are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance.
  • In effect, existing mandis established under APMC Acts have been excluded from the definition of trade area under the new legislation.
  • According to the ordinance, any trader with a PAN card can buy the farmers’ produce in the trade area.
  • In the present mandi system, arhatiyas (commission agents) have to get a licence to trade in a mandi.
  • Critics view the dismantling of the monopoly of the APMCs as a sign of ending the assured procurement of food grains at minimum support prices (MSP). To the Centre’s ‘one nation, one market’ call, critics have sought ‘one nation, one MSP’.

(3) Legacy concerns

  • The Bills gives no assurance to the poor, small and marginal farmers of India (constituting over 85 per cent of India’s farmers) of protection of their interests, their livelihoods, and their future.
  • Critics argue that such legislation will let the farmers falling into the clutches of the monopolistic big corporates.
  • Lofty recommendations have been made several times in the past, including by the Swaminathan Committee, which suggested the removal of the mandi tax, creation of a single market and facilitating contract farming
  • However, no efforts have taken place for implementing these basic reforms over the years.

(4) Fear of food insecurity

  • Punjab CM, on the easing of regulation of food items, said, it would lead to exporters, processors and traders hoarding farm produce during the harvest season, when prices are generally lower, and releasing it later when prices increase.
  • This could undermine food security since the States would have no information about the availability of stocks within the State.

(5) Constitutional issues raised

  • Since agriculture and markets are State subjects – entry 14 and 28 respectively in List II – the ordinances are being seen as a direct encroachment upon the functions of the States and against the spirit of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The Centre, however, argued that trade and commerce in food items is part of the concurrent list, thus giving it constitutional propriety.
  • The bills invite valid opposition: one, infraction of the states’ right to decide on intra-state commerce in agriculture, and two, officer-led dispute settlement outside the ambit of judicial review.

What are the promising features of these bills?

  • The new legislations would create an ecosystem where farmers and traders would enjoy the freedom of choice in the sale and purchase of agri-produce.
  • It would also promote barrier-free interstate or intrastate trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under the state agricultural produce marketing legislations.
  • The bills would also open up more choices for farmers, reduce marketing costs and help them in getting better prices.
  • At the same time, it would also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices.
  • The bill has also proposed an Electronic Trading Transaction Platform to ensure seamless electronic trade and the farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their products under this Act.
  • Interestingly, the bill aims for ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’ and also creates additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to the additional competition.
  • The new laws are not shutting down APMC mandis, nor are they implying that MSPs will not be functional.
  • This would supplement the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) procurement system, which also provides a stable income to farmers.

Still, why are the farmers fuming?

There has been bipartisan consensus over the last two decades or so—both the UPA and the NDA governments have tried and failed to convince state governments to reform APMC Acts, notwithstanding periodic manifesto promises and model APMC Acts.

They failed with all approaches, trying to link financial support to agriculture based on reforms. The present crisis created the perfect window to usher in these transformative reforms.

People on both sides of the divide are saturated with such reformative measures and have arrived at the commonsensical benefits that would be ushered in as well as the risks.

What lies ahead

  • Accelerating research and academic excellence can bring in the ‘best in class’ technologies and can multiply farmers’ incomes.
  • As far as the commission agents are concerned, the governments should work on a clear roadmap to modernize them by facilitating them in providing value-added services. They could be leveraged to set-up grading and sorting, warehousing, cold chains and food processing infrastructure. This way, it is a win-win-win for the state government, farmers and the commission agents.
  • Soil health improvement and water conservation measures should be the top priority for the governments to enhance farm productivity.
  • Similarly, by diversifying into high-value crops such as vegetables and fruit, India could become the food- processing hub for the world. Farmers have to be made part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem (FaME—Farmers as Micro-Entrepreneurs).

Conclusion

  • A lot of the success of these bills depends on trust and consensus. In the end, what will determine the results of this latest set of reforms will be their implementation.
  • There is genuine uncertainty over what private procurement will mean. Will it mean greater corporate power over farmers, possibly unhealthy monopolies or duopolies? Will they be harder to negotiate with than a state monopoly?
  • Leveraging the reforms and moving forward rather is the most feasible solution than to protest amid the pandemic.
  • What farmers need and are asking for is legally guaranteed remunerative prices. If the Bills are perceived of good intent, then the government should not shy away from a proper parliamentary scrutiny of all its details.
  • Political parties that are opposing these Bills should coordinate better keeping farmers’ interests in the forefront, and not their party politics.

References

https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/farmers-produce-trade-and-commerce-promotion-and-facilitation-bill-2020

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-the-farm-bills-and-quandary/360640

https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/article31951413.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explainer-why-are-the-agriculture-bills-being-opposed/article32618641.ece

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Quashing of the Question Hour

In view of the pandemic and a truncated Monsoon Session, Parliament has said no to Question Hour and curtailed Zero Hour. The opposition MPs have criticised the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government. A look at what happens in the two Houses during Question Hour and Zero Hour:

What is Question Hour?

  • It is during this one hour that Members of Parliament ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
  • The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.

And what is Zero Hour?

  • While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation.  The phrase does not find mention in the rules of procedure.
  • The concept of Zero Hour started organically in the first decade of Indian Parliament, when MPs felt the need for raising important constituency and national issues.
  • During the initial days, Parliament used to break for lunch at 1 pm. Therefore, the opportunity for MPs to raise national issues without an advance notice became available at 12 pm and could last for an hour until the House adjourned for lunch.
  • This led to the hour being popularly referred to as Zero Hour and the issues being raised during this time as Zero Hour submissions.

A historical backgrounder

  • The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, showed some degree of independence by giving members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • Later, the Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
  • The next stage of the development of procedures related to questions came up with the framing of rules under the Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions. Parliament has continued this tradition.

How is Question Hour regulated?

  • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
  • And the presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
  • For example, usually Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting.

What kinds of questions are asked?

  • Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs.
  • Questions have to be limited to 150 words. They have to be precise and not too general.
  • The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India. Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
  • It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.

How frequently is Question Hour held?

  • The process of asking and answering questions starts with identifying the days on which Question Hour will be held.
  • At the beginning of Parliament in 1952, Lok Sabha rules provided for Question Hour to be held every day. Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, had a provision for Question Hour for two days a week.
  • A few months later, this was changed to four days a week. Then from 1964, Question Hour was taking place in Rajya Sabha on every day of the session.

How does Parliament manage to get so many questions answered?

  • To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups.
  • Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it. For example, in the last session, on Thursday the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Labour, Housing, and Youth Affairs and Sports were answering questions posed by Lok Sabha MPs.
  • This grouping of ministries is different for the two Houses so that ministers can be present in one house to answer questions.
  • MPs can specify whether they want an oral or written response to their questions. They can put an asterisk against their question signifying that they want the minister to answer that question on the floor.
  • These are referred to as starred questions. After the minister’s response, the MP who asked the question and other MPs can also ask a follow-up question.
  • Seasoned parliamentarians choose to ask an oral question when the answer to the question will put the government in an uncomfortable position.

How do ministers prepare their answers?

  • Ministries receive the questions 15 days in advance so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
  • They also have to prepare for sharp follow-up questions they can expect to be asked in the House.
  • Government’s officers are close at hand in a gallery so that they can pass notes or relevant documents to support the minister in answering a question.
  • When MPs are trying to gather data and information about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing.
  • These questions are referred to as unstarred questions. The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.

Are the questions only for ministers?

  • MPs usually ask questions to hold ministers accountable. But the rules also provide them with a mechanism for asking their colleagues a question.
  • Such a question should be limited to the role of an MP relating to a Bill or a resolution being piloted by them or any other matter connected with the functioning of the House for which they are responsible.
  • If the presiding officer allows, MPs can also ask a question to a minister at a notice period shorter than 15 days.

Have there been previous sessions without Question Hour?

  • Parliamentary records show that during the Chinese aggression in 1962, the Winter Session was advanced.
  • The sitting of the House started at 12 pm and there was no Question Hour held. Before the session, changes were made limiting the number of questions.
  • Thereafter, following an agreement between the ruling and the Opposition parties, it was decided to suspend Question Hour.

Why did the government cancel the Question Hour?

  • The delay in holding the monsoon session due to consistent lockdowns has halted the passing of several bills and financial grants due to budgetary overlays.
  • The limited consultation with Opposition leaders, the dismissive approach to Question Hour without bearing better fruits is one of the decisive factors for the termination of this session.
  • The continued practice of pushing forward bills without committee scrutiny and the use of ordinances for issues that are not emergencies that require executive action all add to this impression.

Why is the Question Hour necessary?

  • The Question Hour has deepened the parliamentary accountability of government.
  • The Government is put on its trial during the Question Hour and every Minister whose turn it is to answer questions has to stand up and answer for his or his administration’s acts of omission and commission.
  • Through the Question Hour the Government is able to quickly feel the pulse of the nation and adapt its policies and actions accordingly.
  • It is through questions in the Parliament that the Government remains in touch with the people in as much as members are enabled thereby to ventilate the grievances of the public in matters concerning the administration.
  • Questions enable Ministries to gauge the popular reaction to their policy and administration.
  • Questions bring to the notice of the Ministers many loopholes which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
  • Sometimes questions may lead to the appointment of a Commission, a Court of Inquiry or even Legislation when matters raised by Members are grave enough to agitate the public mind and are of wide public importance.

Though not enough productive

  • The Rajya Sabha’s research wing has pulled out statistics from the last five years which reveal that nearly 60% of the time allotted for the hour has been lost due to disruptions.
  • Between 2015-19, Rajya Sabha held a total of 332 sittings.
  • Out of the 332 hours available for Question Hour (one hour per sitting), only 133 hours and 17 minutes were spent raising questions and obtaining oral replies from the concerned Ministers.

Criticisms of the move

  • The move to hold parliament session with question hour seems to be guided by the view that Parliament is a forum transaction of government business.
  • The latest move downplays Parliament’s role as a platform for the people’s representatives to ask questions and the Opposition to hold the government to account.
  • Importance of zero hour and question has become very crucial at this juncture, as in in the name of controlling the Covid pandemic, the executive is appropriating more powers, So many guidelines, rules and regulations have been issued without the sanction of Parliament.
  • There has been greater tendency on the part of the Government to short circuit debate and deliberation.

Way forward

  • One can imagine innumerable ways in which proceedings in Parliament could be modified to reduce the necessity to touch surfaces and to maintain social distance.
  • The pressing need is for the parliamentarians and the ministers to re-configure themselves.
  • One of the recommendations made by Justice Chagla was that “in a parliamentary form of Government, Parliament should be taken into confidence by the Minister at every stage, and all the relevant materials must be placed before it.”
  • Hence there can be no way ahead without holding the very instruments of democratic functioning.

Conclusion

  • Asking questions is the very essence of democracy.  National parliaments do not dispense with questions even at the time of war.
  • Democracy is judged by the debate it encourages and sustains. The government in a democracy performs to honour its manifesto and the Opposition questions to underscore its own.
  • The questions are asked from civil society platforms, the mass media, community gatherings and ultimately within the highest temple of democracy, the legislature itself.
  • If questions are disallowed in Parliament, many more will be asked outside it. If the questions can lead to greater unity of national purpose, the government will do itself and the nation a great injustice by attempting to stifle them.
  • Cancelling Question Hour erodes constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive action. However, it is a test of time which will prove the efficacy of this decision in the coming future.

References

https://www.prsindia.org/media/articles-by-prs-team/expert-explains-what-are-question-hour-and-zero-hour-and-why-they-matter

https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/what-a-parliament-session-without-question-hour-would-mean

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/60-of-question-hour-lost-due-to-disruptions/article32515906.ece

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/parliament-session-coronavirus-question-hour-6582129/
https://www.livelaw.in/columns/importance-of-question-hour-in-a-parliamentary-democracy-162728
Categories
Announcements

[Burning Issue] GST Compensation

During this pandemic, one significant area of loss of revenue to both the Centre and the states is GST. The states need all the funds they can get to ramp up the country’s rundown health system. The Compensation Act mandates compensating the states for revenue loss on GST implementation from the Compensation Fund.

The Goods and Services Tax

  • GST launched in India on 1 July 2017 is a comprehensive indirect tax for the entire country.
  • It is charged at the time of supply and depends on the destination of consumption.
  • For instance, if a good is manufactured in state A but consumed in state B, then the revenue generated through GST collection is credited to the state of consumption (state B) and not to the state of production (state A).
  • GST, being a consumption-based tax, would result in loss of revenue for manufacturing-heavy states.

Tap to read more about GST

Compensation under GST regime

The adoption of the GST was made possible by the States ceding almost all their powers to impose local-level indirect taxes and agreeing to let the prevailing multiplicity of imposts be subsumed under the GST.

While the States would receive the SGST (State GST) component of the GST, and a share of the IGST (Integrated GST), it was agreed that revenue shortfalls arising from the transition to the new indirect taxes regime would be made good from a pooled GST Compensation Fund for a period of five years that is set to end in 2022.

This corpus in turn is funded through a compensation cess that is levied on so-called ‘demerit’ goods.  This GST Compensation Cess or GST Cess is levied on five products considered to be ‘sin’ or luxury as mentioned in the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017 and includes items such as- Pan Masala, Tobacco, and Automobiles etc.

Distributing GST compensation

  • The compensation cess payable to states is calculated based on the methodology specified in the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017.
  • The compensation fund so collected is released to the states every 2 months.
  • Any unused money from the compensation fund at the end of the transition period shall be distributed between the states and the centre as per any applicable formula.

Issues with compensation

  • As the economy battles a pandemic and recession, the tax collection has dropped significantly.
  • At the same time, expenditure needs are sharply higher at the State level.
  • Using an equivalent of the Force Majeure clause in commercial contracts, the Centre is abdicating its responsibility of making up for the shortfall in 14% growth in GST revenues to the states.

Why is the compensation necessary?

  • States no longer possess taxation rights after most taxes, barring those on petroleum, alcohol, and stamp duty were subsumed under GST.
  • GST accounts for almost 42% of states’ own tax revenues, and tax revenues account for around 60% of states’ total revenues.
  • Finances of over a dozen states are under severe strain, resulting in delays in salary payments and sharp cuts in capital expenditure outlay amid the pandemic-induced lockdowns and the need to spend on healthcare.

What alternative has the Centre offered?

  • At the last meeting of the GST Council, states were offered two borrowing options to cover either the revenue losses due to GST implementation or the entire shortfall, including the effect of the pandemic.
  • The options involved states borrowing either under a special RBI window or from the market under different terms. The total compensation due from the Centre is ₹2.35 trillion.

Why are the States resented?

  • Several States, including West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, have rejected the options and made clear that the onus is on the Centre to borrow from the market to make good any shortfall in the Compensation Fund.
  • This is because any additional borrowing by states would have deleterious macro-economic consequences.

Alternatives to prevent losses

  • The input tax credit can help a producer by partially reducing GST liability by only paying the difference between the tax already paid on the raw materials of a particular good and that on the final product.
  • In other words, the taxes paid on purchase (input tax) can be subtracted from the taxes paid on the final product (output tax) to reduce the final GST liability.

Way Forward

(1) Reforming the regime

  • GST is a destination-based consumption tax, which must include all goods and services with very few exceptions.
  • That widening of the tax base itself will allow us to go back to the original recommendation of a standard rate of 12%, to be fixed for at least a five-year period.
  • Some extra elbow room for the States’ revenue autonomy could be allowed by States non-VATable surcharges on a small list of “sin” goods.
  • We must recognise the increasing importance of the third tier of government. After 28 years of the 73rd and 74th Amendments, the local governments do not have the promised transfer of funds, functions and functionaries.
  • Of the 12% GST, 10% should be equally shared between the States and the Centre, and 2% must be earmarked exclusively for the urban and rural local bodies.
  • The fresh approach also calls for an overhaul of the interstate GST and the administration of the e-way bill.

(2) Raising the funds

  • Additional resources could be raised by increasing the tax or the cess but in the present difficult times it would not be advisable to raise the burden of either the tax or the cess.
  • The only way out of this difficult situation is borrowings.  The Centre should borrow in view of its higher borrowing and debt-servicing capacity and its ability to borrow at lower rates.
  • The borrowing capacity of the states, too, is not very inferior. A/c to the RBI, the states are consistently borrowing less than they can borrow (legally and financially), which makes sound financial sense. Thus it makes sense for the states to borrow.

 (3) Other measures

  • The Centre can offer to fully compensate states without any borrowing by the latter provided opposition-ruled states agree to amend laws that prevent the privatization of nationalized companies, including many banks.
  • The Centre would then use the proceeds from privatization and land and asset sales to compensate states from its own immediate borrowings.
  • The compensation cess and privatization proceeds can be used to honour the Centre’s promises to states.
  • The Centre should offer this deal along with another sweetener: all future privatization proceeds will be shared upto 20 per cent with the states in which those undertakings are located.
  • States can also be promised a share of other asset sales, too, including land leased by states to central entities.

Conclusion

GST is a crucial and long-term structural reform that can address the fiscal needs of the future, strike the right and desired balance to achieve co-operative federalism and also lead to enhanced economic growth. At present, what states need is hard cash. Only the central government has multiple options and the flexibility to raise the resources and pay the shortfall in GST compensation to the states. Some way forward can surely go a long way.

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References

https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/what-is-the-gst-compensation-due-to-states/article32531827.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/states-need-hard-cash-govts-letter-of-comfort-has-no-value-chidambaram-on-gst-compensation/article32570596.ece

https://swarajyamag.com/economy/grand-deal-can-end-gst-compensation-tussle-centre-to-pay-if-states-back-bank-privatisation-bills

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/gst-implementation-compensation-state-vs-centre-6591214/

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/centre-clears-the-air-on-gst-dues-11599523064249.html

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India’s GDP Contraction

India’s GDP for the period April to June 2020 has contracted by 23.9 percent. In other words, the total value of goods and services produced in India in April, May and June this year is 24% less than the total value of goods and services produced in India in the same three months last year.

What is worse is that, because of the widespread lockdowns, the data quality is sub-optimal and most observers expect this number to worsen when it is revised in due course.

India’s GDP numbers

Almost all the major indicators of growth in the economy — be it production of cement or consumption of steel — show deep contraction. Even total telephone subscribers saw a contraction in this quarter.

Chart 1: India’s GDP story since economic liberalization. Source: McKinsey and Express Research Group.

Chart 2: Percentage change in key indicators. Source: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

What contributes to India’s GDP?

GDP measures the monetary value of all goods and services produced within the domestic boundaries of a country within a timeframe (generally, a year).

In any economy, the total demand for goods and services — that is the GDP — is generated from one of the four engines of growth.

  1. The biggest engine is consumption demand from private individuals like us. Let’s call it C, and in the Indian economy, this accounted for 56.4% of all GDP before this quarter.
  2. The second-biggest engine is the demand generated by private sector businesses. Let’s call it I, and this accounted for 32% of all GDP in India.
  3. The third engine is the demand for goods and services generated by the government. Let’s call it G, and it accounted for 11% of India’s GDP.
  4. The last engine is the net demand for GDP after we subtract imports from India’s exports. Let’s call it NX. In India’s case, it is the smallest engine and, since India typically imports more than it exports, its effect is negative on the GDP.

So total GDP = C + I + G + NX

Tap to read more about:

National Income Determination, GDP, GNP, NDP, NNP, Personal Income

Now, look at Chart 4. It shows what has happened to each of the engines in Q1.

Chart 4: Engines of growth falter. Source: MoSPI and Express Research Group

Reasons for GDP contraction

The biggest engines, which accounted for over 88% of the Indian total GDP saw a massive contraction. They are as follows:

  1. Private consumption — the biggest engine driving the Indian economy — has fallen by 27%.
  2. Investments by businesses: The second biggest engine — investments by businesses — has fallen even harder — it is half of what it was last year same quarter.
  • Net export demand: The NX has turned positive in this Q1 because India’s imports have crashed more than its exports. While on paper, this provides a boost to overall GDP, it also points to an economy where economic activity has plummeted.
  • Govt. Expenditure: Data shows that the government’s expenditure went up by 16% but this was nowhere near enough to compensate for the loss of demand (power) in other sectors (engines) of the economy.

Issues with govt. expenditure

  • Even before the COVID crisis, government finances were overextended.
  • It was not only borrowing but borrowing more than what it should have. As a result, today it doesn’t have as much money.
  • It will have to think of some innovative solutions to generate resources. Chart 4 by McKinsey Global Institute provides ways in which an additional 3.5 per cent of the GDP can be raised by the government.

Why can’t the government just spend to revive growth?

  • First, in all likelihood, temporary incomes coupled with job/income uncertainty will induce precautionary savings without any impact on growth.
  • Second, the fiscal situation was weak even before the pandemic. With revenues having cratered, funding of additional expenditure is through higher borrowings.
  • Any incremental debt should be seen in the context of future investments being hampered due to current consumption.

Implications of GDP decline

  • With GDP contracting by more than what most observers expected, it is now believed that the full-year GDP could also worsen.
  • A fairly conservative estimate would be a contraction of 7% for the full financial year.
  • Chart 1 puts this in perspective. Since economic liberalisation in the early 1990s, Indian economy has clocked an average of 7% GDP growth each year. This year, it is likely to turn turtle and contract by 7%.
  • The worst affected were construction (–50%), trade, hotels and other services (–47%), manufacturing (–39%), and mining (–23%).
  • It is important to note that these are the sectors that create the maximum new jobs in the country.
  • In a scenario where each of these sectors is contracting so sharply — that is, their output and incomes are falling — it would lead to more and more people either losing jobs (decline in employment) or failing to get one (rise in unemployment).

Impact on Economy

The impact of an economic contraction on an average individual isn’t always in a direct way, like job losses or salary cuts. There are indirect ways as well. Let’s take a look at this pointwise.

  • Many companies are encouraging their employees to work from home. This has an impact on those working in the surrounding informal sector leading to a loss of economic activity.
  • If people cut down on consumption, it basically means they are spending less than before. This works in various ways. First, businesses, on the whole, see a fall in revenues and a fall in profits. Hence the employees are bound to be impacted.
  • Many businesses, in order to stay afloat, have fired employees. Some have cut salaries. Some others have rescinded on the job offers they made.
  • Even businesses that are on a strong wicket have given only bare-minimum increments to their employees this year.
  • Further, many big businesses have publicly announced that they are putting all their expansion plans on the backburner currently. If businesses don’t expand, then a fresh set of jobs don’t get created and hence expenditure.

Getting recovered: Way forward

Thinking beyond stimulus

To achieve a stipulated economic growth, the government needs to start addressing some of the traditional sore points such as the large infrastructure deficit, the weak financial sector, archaic land and labour laws, and the administrative and judicial hurdles.

  • It is easy to prescribe abandoning fiscal prudence or ‘printing money’ to fund spending. But the risk is high compared to the reward.
  • This sets the base for any kind of “stimulus” — it should be well-targeted and have a large multiplier effect.
  • Instead, they argue, that India needs to broaden its consumer base beyond the top 10- 20 per cent of the population to improve long-term growth prospects.
  • This cannot happen with regular doses of consumption stimulus but through creating steady and well-paid employment for the bottom and middle segments.

Bumpy road ahead

  • Firstly, in the months to come, private consumption will improve and so will investment as a result. But it will take a while for both consumption and investment to reach pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • With Covid-19 now spreading at the rate of more than 85,000 cases per day, it is no longer just an urban India phenomenon. As it spreads to semi-urban and rural India, it will impact consumption, though not in the same negative way as it did during total lockdowns.
  • To ease the pressure on consumption, banks have cut interest rates in the hope of people and businesses borrowing and spending more. People and businesses borrow and spend more when they are confident about their economic future. Right now, the confidence has to be instilled.
  • The government can reduce the GST burden. What it loses out in taxes per unit of sales, it will make up for in volume. The government, for its part, needs to step in and spend more, in the process create some economic activity.

Not letting a good crisis go to waste

  • To conclude, it is worth saying that if all problems had solutions, they wouldn’t be called problems in the first place.
  • The government being clearly tied on spending-more front, it can possibly push in more economic reforms at this point of time.
  • One area that clearly needs reform is the GST system, which instead of freeing up the Indian economy has acted in a negative way. Another area that clearly needs reform is India’s public health infrastructure.
  • While these reforms may not lead to immediate benefits they will work well for the economy in the longer-term, something which we shouldn’t miss out on with the current focus on Covid-19.
  • Beyond that, there isn’t much that the government can do. Also, it is worth remembering here that the Indian economy was already in trouble before the pandemic struck.

Conclusion

When incomes fall sharply, private individuals cut back consumption. When private consumption falls sharply, businesses stop investing. Since both of these are voluntary decisions, there is no way to force people to spend more and/or force businesses to invest more in the current scenario.

  • For achieving rapid growth at a sustainable rate, India needs the government to invest in raising the productive capacity of the economy. The government will have to strike a combination of the two policy approaches:
  • The first is the process of “Unlocking”. It has been observed that with the economy moving from the stage of a total lockdown to a gradual opening up of the windows has reflected in the macro-economic numbers such as the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • The second factor which will play a role in the economy’s growth prospects in the coming months is the possibility of a revival package from the government. This can be a course changer for the growth trajectory.
  • To boost growth presently, there should ideally be some additional capital expenditure by the government which goes beyond what has been provided in the budget. By increasing capital expenditure, the government can begin a virtuous cycle of creating assets as well as providing employment.

 


References:

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/gdp-contraction-23-9-the-economics-behind-the-math-6578046/

https://www.deccanherald.com/business/economy-business/gdp-contraction-no-easy-solutions-but-a-chance-for-deep-economic-reforms-883234.html

https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/09/04/explained-how-will-indias-gdp-contraction-impact-you

Categories
Announcements

[Burning Issue] Rolling-out of National Digital Health Mission

The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) announced by the PM on the 74th Independence Day has the potential to transform the healthcare sector, making it more technologically advanced, inclusive and delivery-driven.

Digitizing Healthcare: A Backgrounder

  • The National Health Policy 2017 had envisaged creation of a digital health technology eco-system aiming at developing an integrated health information system.
  • A Digital Health ID was proposed to reduce the risk of preventable medical errors and significantly increase the quality of care.
  • In the context of this, the NITI Aayog, in June 2018, floated a consultation of a digital backbone for India’s health system — National Health Stack (NHS).
  • A committee headed by former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman released the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) in July 2019.
  • It recognised the need to establish a specialised ecosystem, called the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) which finally landed on the tarmac on this Independence Day.

The National Digital Health Mission

  • The NDHM is a digital health ecosystem under which every Indian citizen will now have unique health IDs, digitized health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
  • The mission will significantly improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health service delivery and will be a major step towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 of Universal Health Coverage, including financial risk protection.

Components of the mission

The suite of digital systems consists of Health ID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry (HFR), Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy, and Telemedicine.

The mission envisages the creation of these core digital systems which are built to support timely access to safe, affordable healthcare for all citizens and will accelerate the country’s progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Unique features

The mission has unique features which make it very attractive for all the stakeholders to be part of the system, some of which are as follows:

Expected benefits

(1) Prioritizing patients

  • Say, mortality from Covid-19 is significantly increased by comorbidities or the presence of other underlying conditions like hypertension or diabetes.
  • With digital health records, doctors can prioritise patients based on their test results.

(2) Portability of health records

  • Portability of records fairly eases in a patient with the first hospital visit, or her/his most frequently visited hospital.
  • If she/he wishes to change a healthcare provider for cost or quality reasons, she can access her health records without carrying pieces of paper — prescriptions and test reports.
  • People will able to access their lab reports, x-rays and prescriptions irrespective of where they were generated, and share them with doctors or family members — with consent.

(3) Easy facilitation

  • This initiative will allow patients to access healthcare facilities remotely through e-pharmacies, online appointments, teleconsultation, and other health benefits.
  • Besides, as all the medical history of the patient is recorded in the Health ID card, it will help the doctor to understand the case better, and improved medication can be offered.
  • It is non-prescriptive — unlike its predecessor from a few years ago, it steers away from designing a monolithic EMR (an electronic medical record) and instead only provides data facilitation exchange between patients, providers and payers.

(4) Technology impetus in policymaking

  • Meanwhile, it is also not just individuals who could emerge beneficiaries of the scheme.
  • With large swathes of data being made available, the government too can form policies based on geographical, demographical, and risk-factor based monitoring of health.

Various Issues

The imminent adoption of NDHM in the absence of a data protection law has led for the policymakers to plan for two policies — security of health systems, and privacy of personal health records.

With the unavailability of information security laws related to healthcare in India, the following could be the repercussions or could lead to violation of the mandatory requirements:

(1) High Probability of Data Breach:

The data breach occurs when any person or corporate generates, collects, stores, transmits or discloses digital health information in contravention to the provisions or standards laid down.

(2) Data Ownership and Standardization Issues:

 An owner shall have the right to give/refuse or withdraw consent for the storage and transmission of digital health data. In terms of standardization, it is very important to transform the data before loading it to the target system.

(3) Data Normalization Issues:

Data Normalization is done to reduce data redundancy and improve data integrity. In view of the unavailability of such laws, it could bring redundancy as data could exist in multiple forms.

(4) Data Collection, Storage and Transmission Challenges:

The purpose of data generation, collection, storage and transmission is to facilitate health and clinical research and health care quality. But the unavailability of data protection and information security laws (for maintaining CIA- confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) could lead to the collection of data without informing the owner, lack of privacy controls while storing in the cloud and transmitting the data without the consent of the owner.

(5) Illegal data selling and theft: Unavailability of appropriate laws could lead to incidents where digital health data is acquired or accessed without proper authorization. For example, monetizing the patient data for the purpose of research and innovation may also be misused by its illegal selling without the knowledge of the patient, thereby, leaking his sensitive data amounting to the violation of data privacy.

(6) Data Quality Issues- There could be the following data quality issues that can be encountered without the proper laws in place:

  • Duplicated data: Repeated data making it difficult to uniquely identify the record;
  • Inconsistent data formats: Storing the same data in multiple tables from different data sources;
  • Inaccurate data: Either the data is obsolete or has errors in it;
  • Excessive data: Unusable data could be a waste of storage and cost;
  • Poorly Defined data: Causes misunderstanding around the proper methodology for data management.

India has not yet enacted specific and full-fledged legislation on data protection. Of course, the Parliament of India had amended the Information Technology Act (2000) (“IT Act”) to include specific section 43A, but it only includes corporates and not individuals regarding compensation for failure to protect data.

Other inherent issues

  • A fragmented private healthcare market consisting of single-doctor clinics, nursing homes, non-profits and corporate hospitals have varying adoption rates of digitization.
  • Corporate hospitals like Max, Apollo, Fortis, etc. have voluntarily adopted electronic health records standards notified by the government.
  • However, it is not possible for a patient to digitally transfer their health records from one type of hospital or a healthcare provider to another.
  • Critical to that is also the role of doctors, who will play a significant role in maintaining electronic digital data.
  • The growth path is powered by clinicians and we haven’t really been successful in filling the void.
  • India currently has 0.8 doctors per 1,000 patients, in comparison to over 2 per 1,000 in China and 2.6 in the US. The WHO recommends 1 doctor to 1,000 patients.

Making it happen

Many countries are lightyears ahead of India in their use of digital health records, but none has anchored its vision as robustly around the public health records, as has the current iteration of the NDHM.

Making it a success will have to fill the voids discuss above.

To enable seamless data exchange, all users must be incentivized or mandated to adopt a standard language of communication.  The spiraling burden for documentation had led to absurd situations. It is imperative that India, while embracing global standards, seriously rethinks what to document, when, why, and most importantly, by whom.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that NDHM launched will significantly improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health services delivery including building a paperless system and will facilitate online consultation with the doctors. But data protection and privacy are the keys to the success of this mission.

The usual conclusion rests with a generic statement-

“These tectonic shifts won’t all happen all of sudden. Or within the cyclical tenure of bureaucrats or politicians. And they won’t occur in the absence of the long-overdue overhaul of healthcare delivery in India. But when they do, they will advance medicine and health for all.”

 


References

https://www.civilsdaily.com/mains/how-the-proposed-national-digital-health-mission-could-transform-health-system-in-india-what-are-the-concerns-with-it-10-marks/

http://www.mondaq.com/india/healthcare/980800/national-digital-health-mission-harnessing-technology-to-strengthen-healthcare-in-india

https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/08/15/explained-what-is-the-national-digital-health-mission-how-does-a-health-id-card-help.html

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Fiscal Council in India: Certain solution in uncertain times

The impact of COVID-19 on the economy is devastating and the government is forced to opt to borrow for spending more in order to support vulnerable households and engineer economic recovery due to the after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

The BI highlights the need for bipartisan, independent Fiscal Council to report and analyse FRBM discrepancies and inaccurate fiscal projections.

COVID Times: Fiscal situation and its unpredictability

  • The fiscal deficit of the Centre in 2019-20 as estimated by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) was 4.6%, 0.8 percentage point higher than the revised estimate.
  • For 2020-21, even without any additional fiscal stimulus, the deficit is estimated at about 7% of GDP as against 3.5% estimated in the Budget due to a sharp decline in revenues.
  • The consolidated deficit of the Union and States could be as high as 12% of GDP and the overall debt could go up to 85%.

What is the Fiscal Council?

  • A Fiscal Council is an independent fiscal institution (IFI) with a mandate to promote stable and sustainable public finances.
  • They aim to provide nonpartisan oversight of fiscal performance and/or advice and guidance — from either a positive or normative perspective — on key aspects of fiscal policy.
  • These institutions assist in calibrating sustainable fiscal policy by making an objective and scientific analysis.

Important tasks of these IFIs: 

  1. Independent analysis, review and monitoring and evaluating of government’s fiscal policies and programmes
  2. Developing or reviewing macroeconomic and/or budgetary projections
  3. Costing of budget and policy proposals and programmes
  4. Presenting policymakers with alternative policy options

Voices for a Fiscal Council

  • The 13th Finance Commission recommended that a committee be appointed by the Ministry of Finance which should eventually transform itself into a Fiscal Council.
  • The FC expected it to conduct an annual independent public review of FRBM compliance, including a review of the fiscal impact of policy decisions.
  • The FRBM Review Committee too made a similar recommendation underlining the need for an independent review by the Finance Ministry appointing the Council.

Tap to read more about the FRBM Act:

Explained: Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act

Why need a fiscal council?

(1) Burgeoning deficits

  • For the current year, even without any additional fiscal stimulus, the deficit is estimated at about 7% of GDP as against 3.5% estimated in the Budget due to a sharp decline in revenues.
  • The consolidated deficit of the Union and States could be as high as 12% of GDP and the overall debt could go up to 85%.
  • Thus, it is necessary that the government must return to a credible fiscal consolidation path once the crisis gets over.

(2) Transparency issues

  • Besides large deficits and debt, there are questions of comprehensiveness, transparency and accountability in the Budgets.
  • The practice of repeated postponement of targets, timely non-settlement of bill payments and off Budget financing to show lower deficits has been common.
  • The report of the CAG of India in 2018 has highlighted various advances done to keep the liabilities hidden.

(3) Fiscal discipline

  • Many economists have faulted the government’s fiscal stance, arguing that this is no time for restraint; the government should spend more to stimulate the economy by borrowing as may be necessary.
  • In 2017, the N.K. Singh committee on the review of fiscal rules set up by the finance ministry suggested the creation of an independent fiscal council that would provide forecasts and advise the government on whether conditions exist for deviation from the mandated fiscal rules.
  • Also in 2018, the D.K. Srivastava committee on fiscal statistics established by the National Statistical Commission (NSC) also suggested the establishment of a fiscal council.

Fiscal Council can be a game-changer. How?

  • Watchdog of public finance: An unbiased fiscal scrutiny will help raise the level of debate and brings in greater transparency and accountability.
  • Highlights populist measures: Accurate costing of various policies and programmes can help to promote transparency over the political cycle to discourage populist shifts in fiscal policy and improve accountability.
  • Public awareness: Scientific estimates of the cost of programmes and assessment of forecasts could help in raising public awareness about their fiscal implications and make people understand the budget.
  • Rule of law maintenance: The Council will work as a conscience keeper in monitoring rule-based policies, and in raising awareness and the level of debate within and outside Parliament.

Challenges meddling between

1) Lack of Political Will

  • Back in 2003 when FRBM was enshrined into law, it was thought of as the magic cure for fiscal ills.
  • The FRBM enjoins the government to conform to pre-set fiscal targets, and in the event of failure to do so, to explain the reasons for deviation
  • The government is also required to submit to Parliament a ‘Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement’ (FPSS) to demonstrate the credibility of its fiscal stance
  • However, there is a lack of in-depth discussion in Parliament on fiscal stance and the submission of the FPSS often passes off without even much notice.

2) Adding up more to the accountability of the Govt.

  • Fiscal council will give macroeconomic forecasts which the Finance Ministry is expected to use for the budget, and if the Ministry decides to differ from those estimates, it is required to explain why it has differed.
  • Besides, forcing the Finance Ministry to use someone else’s estimates will dilute its accountability.
  • If the estimates go wrong, the Finance Ministry will simply shift the blame to the fiscal council.

3) Fiscal Bias

  • Governments that are unsure of being re-elected may ignore the long-term consequences of fiscal deficits and use generous fiscal policy to increase their chances of re-election.
  • This may be possible because voters tend to see the short term benefits they can gain from a reduction in taxes and an increase in public spending but are not always fully aware of the possible long-term costs of this.
  • This may explain why unsustainable deficits are not systematically punished by voters

4) Duplication of Work

  • As of now, both the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and RBI give forecasts of growth and other macroeconomic variables, questions will be raised about the need for Fiscal Council’s projections
  • Another argument made in support of a fiscal council is that it will act as watchdog & prevent the government from gaming the fiscal rules through creative accounting.
  • However, there is already an institutional mechanism in form of CAG to do the job of auditing & fiscal watchdog of government spending.

Way forward

  • When the markets fail, governments have to intervene. Whenever governments seem obstructed, it is here that we need systems and institutions to ensure checks and balances.
  • In that respect, a Fiscal Council is an important institution needed to complement the rule-based fiscal policy.

Alternatives to the situation

  • We can expect the CAG to scrutinize the budget after it is presented to Parliament for its fiscal stance and the integrity of the numbers, and give out a public report.
  • The CAG’s office will provide the secretarial and logistic support to the committee from within its resources.

Global examples

  • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is a non-departmental public body funded by the UK Treasury, that the UK government established to provide independent economic forecasts and independent analysis of the public finances.
  • We can have a similar official watchdog at our behest!

Conclusion

  • Of course, a fiscal council is not a ‘silver bullet’; if there is no political will, the institution would be less effective, and if there is political will, there is no need for such an institution.
  • That is also true of the FRBM Act. While we cannot state that the FRBM Act has been an unqualified success, it has also not been an abject failure either.

 

 


References

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/india-does-need-a-fiscal-council/article32432565.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/do-we-need-a-fiscal-council/article32046204.ece

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiscal_council

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Free Speech Vs. Contempt of Court

Power of judiciary lies neither in deciding cases, nor in imposing sentences, nor in giving punishment for its contempt, but in the trust, confidence and faith of the general public. Criticism is important for it helps to give us a new perspective and opens our eyes to things we may have overlooked or never considered.

But where do we draw the line between Contempt and criticism? Contempt of court is back in the news. This follows the initiation and conviction of contempt proceedings against a veteran advocate-activist by the Supreme Court of India, on its own motion.

What is Contempt of Court?

  • Contempt of court, often referred to simply as “contempt”, is the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behaviour that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.

History behind ‘Contempt’

  • The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old.
  • In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by him, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name.
  • Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself.
  • Over time, any kind of disobedience to judges, or obstruction of the implementation of their directives, or comments and actions that showed disrespect towards them came to be punishable.

Entry into our legal books

  • There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India. Besides the early High Courts, the courts of some princely states also had such laws.
  • When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
  • Separately, Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish for its contempt.
  • Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the idea.

What are the types of Contempt?

In India contempt of court is of two types under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971:

  • Civil contempt: Under Section 2(b), civil contempt has been defined as willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or another process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  • Criminal contempt: Under Section 2(c), criminal contempt has been defined as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
    1. Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
    2. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
    3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

WAIT, What accounts for the scandalizing of the Judiciary?

  • Making allegations against the judiciary or individual judges, attributing motives to judgments and judicial functioning and any scurrilous attack on the conduct of judges are normally considered matters that scandalise the judiciary.

What is not contempt of court?

  • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court.
  • Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.
  • The Contempt Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence if it was in the public interest and was invoked in a bonafide.

Since we are done with what is not contempt, let us look at what constitutes contempt.

Necessary ingredients for Contempt of Court in India

1) Interference with Administration of Justice

  • In Brahma Prakash Sharma v State of UP, the Supreme Court had held that in order to constitute the offence of Contempt of Court, it was not necessary to specifically prove that an actual interference with the administration of justice has been committed.
  • The Court held that it was enough if a defamatory statement is likely or in any way tends to interfere with the proper administration of justice.

2) Scandalizing the Court 

  • In the case of PN Dua v Shiv Shankar and others, the Supreme Court held that mere criticism of the Court does not amount to contempt of Court.
  • The Court observed that in a free marketplace of ideas, criticisms about the judicial system or Judges should be welcomed, so long as such criticisms do not hamper the administration of justice.
  • In the case of Baradanath Mishra v, the Registrar of Orissa High Court the court held that a common form of such contempt is the vilification (personal abuse) of the judges.

3) Interference with due course of Justice

  • In Pritam Lal v. High Court of M.P the Supreme Court held that to preserve the proceedings of the Courts from interference and to keep the streams of justice pure, it becomes the duty of the Court, to punish the contemner in order to preserve its dignity.
  • No one can claim immunity from the law of contempt if his act or conduct in relation to Court interferes or obstructs the due course of justice.

Issues with the Contempt

Contempt is not just associated with judiciary, we have heard or read about journalist or cartoonist arrested for contempt of parliament. Now in general, Use of contempt power has the following issues:

1) Curb on Civil Liberties

  • A law for criminal contempt gets in conflict with India’s democratic system which recognises freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right.
  • In this manner, the judiciary draws resemblance with the executive, in using laws for a chilling effect on freedom of speech.
  • Former Justice of Supreme Court, V.R. Krishna Iyer, famously termed the law of contempt as “having a vague and wandering jurisdiction, with uncertain boundaries; contempt law, regardless of the public good, may unwittingly trample upon civil liberties”.

2) Ambiguity of the concept

  • The definition of criminal contempt in India is extremely wide and can be easily invoked.
  • Also, suo motu powers of the Court to initiate such proceedings only serve to complicate matters.
  • Further, the Contempt of Courts Act was amended in 2006, to add truth and good faith as valid defences for contempt, but they are seldom entertained by the judiciary.

3) Fair criticism is justified

  • In S.Mugolkar v. Unknown (1978), the Supreme Court held that the judiciary cannot be immune from fair criticism.
  • It held that contempt action is to be used only when an obvious misstatement with malicious intent seeks to bring down public confidence in the courts or seeks to influence the courts.

4) Obsolete ideology

  • The punishment for contempt could procure submission but not respect for the judicial institution.
  • Already, contempt has practically become obsolete in foreign democracies, with jurisdictions recognising that it is an archaic law.
  • For example, England abolished the offence of “scandalizing the court” in 2013. Canada ties its test for contempt to real, substantial and immediate dangers to the administration. American courts also no longer use the law of contempt in response to comments on judges or legal matters.

 

Need for the Contempt provisions: Arguments in favour

https://d18x2uyjeekruj.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/cont.jpg

1) Upholding the constitution

  • The powers of contempt of the Supreme Court and High Courts are independent of the Act 1971, that is, drawn from the Constitution.
  • So to delete the provision relating to ‘criminal contempt’ particularly ‘scandalizing of courts’ will have no impact on the power of the Superior Courts to punish for contempt in view of their inherent constitutional powers, as these powers are independent of statutory provisions.

2) Ensuring Safeguards for Judiciary

  • The Judiciary is the guardian of rule of law in India and it needs to be made sure that it is protected with all kinds of problems that do or might hamper the fluent administration of justice.
  • The provision of powers to punish for contempt is significant for ensuring such respect of the Judiciary. Such kind of power is necessary to prevent interference with the course of justice and the authority of the court.

3) Protecting public faith in Judiciary

  • Amendment in the definition of contempt may reduce the overall impact of the law and lessen the respect that people have for courts and their authority and functioning.
  • Also by abolishing the offence in India would leave a legislative gap.

4) Impact on Subordinate Courts

  • The Constitution allows superior courts to punish for their contempt. The Contempt of Court Act additionally allows the High Court to punish for contempt of subordinate courts.
  • Thus, if the definition of contempt is removed, subordinate courts will suffer as there will be no remedy to address cases of their contempt.

5) Fair criticism is not contempt

  • The 1971 Act contains adequate safeguards to exclude instances which may not amount to criminal contempt” as defined under Section 2(c) of the Act 1971.
  • It means that not all cases of contempt are considered.

“Let me say at once that we will never use this jurisdiction as a means to uphold our own dignity. That must rest on surer foundations. Nor will we use it to suppress those who speak against us. We do not fear criticism, nor do we resent it. For there is something far more important at stake. It is no less than freedom of speech itself.”

– Lord Denning

Way forward

  • The Law Commission has held that there is a need to retain the provision regarding the contempt of courts. However, it also recommended the definition of contempt should be restricted to civil contempt, i.e., willful disobedience of judgments of the court.
  • The contempt of court should not be allowed to be used as a means to prevent criticisms.
  • In recent times, it is more important that courts are seen to be concerned about accountability, that allegations are done by impartial probes rather than threats of the contempt action, and processes are transparent.
  • If the contempt has to continue, a review mechanism within the judiciary should be there as a safeguard against judicial tyranny.

In an era in which social media are full of critics, commentators and observers who deem it necessary to air their views in many unrestrained and uninhibited ways, the higher judiciary should not really be spending its time and energy invoking its power to punish for contempt of itself.

Conclusion

  • Globalized human society as a singular entity and individual societies are moving towards the consensus of a world where an individual has greater autonomy, rights and dignity.
  • Healthy and constructive criticisms are the necessary features for the development of democracy.
  • In this perspective focus should be given precedence over ‘dignity of court’, but not blindly.
  • In this backdrop, there is a need to revisit the need for a law on criminal contempt, where India can learn from Britain which abolished the offence of scandalizing the judiciary as a form of contempt of court in 2013 based on the fact that the law was vague and not compatible with freedom of speech.

Also read:

Office of the Attorney General and its role in contempt cases


References

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-chilling-effect-of-criminal-contempt/article32198138.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-hindu-explains-what-is-contempt-of-court/article32249810.ece

https://www.prsindia.org/report-summaries/review-contempt-courts-act-1971

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1311828

https://thewire.in/law/supreme-court-contempt-of-court-respect-constitution-power

http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2638-contempt-of-court-a-comprehensive-analysis.html

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/scandalising-as-contempt-the-hindu-editorial-on-proceedings-against-prashant-bhushan/article32198126.ece

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy, 2020

The realities of International relations has ensured that the importance of hard power never diminishes. From China to USA, military power has time and again seen research, innovations and reforms. It is true if India wants to see itself as a hard power then innovation is the keyword. More precisely, indigenous production!  

In order to provide impetus to self-reliance in defence manufacturing, multiple announcements were made under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Package’. The next step is a draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP 2020) formulated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

With this edition of Burning Issues, let us look more closely into this policy, some challenges and solutions.

History bears testimony to the fact that all nations with a strong military-industrial complex had a strong military force, resulting in a strong and vibrant foreign policy to stand comfortably amongst the comity of nations.

Why the fuss about Indigenization?

1) Reducing import dependence

  • India was the world’s second-largest arms importer from 2014-18, ceding the long-held tag as the largest importer to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 12% of the total imports during the period, says 2019 SIPRI report.
  • Pakistan stood at the 11th position, accounting for 2.7% of all global imports.
  • Such higher import dependency leads to increase in the fiscal deficit.

2) Security Imperative

  • Indigenization in defence is critical to national security also. It keeps intact the technological expertise and encourages spin-off technologies and innovation that often stem from it.
  • Indigenization is needed in order to avert the threats associated with the frequent ceasefire violations like that of the Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama attacks.
  • India is surrounded by porous borders and hostile neighbours need to be self-sufficient and self-reliant in defence production.

3) Economic boost

  • Indigenization in defence can help create a large industry which also includes small manufacturers.
  • Example: USA has a strong defence industry with cmpanies like Lockheed martin contributing to economic growth as well.

4) Employment generation

  • Defence manufacturing will lead to the generation of satellites industries that in turn will pave the way for a generation of employment opportunities.
  • As per government estimates, a reduction in 20-25% in defence-related imports could directly create an additional 100,000 to 120,000 highly skilled jobs in India.

It was the military industrial set-up of Germany that enabled it to launch its offensive practically against the entire western world both in World War I and World War II.

Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy, 2020

The DPEPP 2020 is envisaged as overarching guiding document of MoD to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities of the country for self-reliance and exports.

The policy has laid out the following goals and objectives:

  1. To achieve a turnover of Rs 1,75,000 Crores (US$ 25Bn) including export of Rs 35,000 Crore (US$ 5 Billion) in Aerospace and Defence goods and services by 2025.
  2. To develop a dynamic, robust and competitive Defence industry, including Aerospace and Naval Shipbuilding industry to cater to the needs of Armed forces with quality products.
  3. To reduce dependence on imports and take forward “Make in India” initiatives through domestic design and development.
  4. To promote the export of defence products and become part of the global defence value chains.
  5. To create an environment that encourages R&D rewards innovation creates Indian IP ownership and promotes a robust and self-reliant defence industry.

The Policy brings out multiple strategies under the following focus areas:

  1. Procurement Reforms
  2. Indigenization & Support to MSMEs/Startups
  3. Optimize Resource Allocation
  4. Investment Promotion, FDI & Ease of Doing Business
  5. Innovation and R&D
  6. DPSUs and OFB
  7. Quality Assurance & Testing Infrastructure
  8. Export Promotion

Outlined strategies:

1) Procurement Reforms

  • A Project Management Unit (PMU) will be set up for the development and production of technologies involved, life cycle costs and maintenance requirements of platforms, equipment and weapon systems.
  • It also aims to move away from licensed production to design, develop and produce indigenously.
  • It also aims to own the design rights and IP of the systems projected in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) and a Technology Assessment Cell (TAC) would be created.
  • The TAC would also assess the industrial capability for design, development and production, including re-engineering for production of major systems such as armoured vehicles, submarines, fighter aircraft, helicopters and radars with the major industries in the country.

2) Indigenization And Support to MSMEs/Startups

  • The indigenization policy aims to create an industry ecosystem to indigenise the imported components (including alloys and special materials) and sub-assemblies for defence equipment and platforms manufactured in India. 5,000 such items are proposed to be indigenised by 2025.
  • More than 50 startups are currently developing new ‘fit-for-military-use’ technologies/products.

3) Optimize Resource Allocation

  • The share of domestic procurement in overall Defence procurement is about 60%.
  • To enhance procurement from domestic industry, the procurement needs to be doubled from the current Rs. 70,000 crore to Rs. 1,40,000 crore by 2025.

4) Investment Promotion and Ease of Doing Business

  • India is already a large aerospace market with rising passenger traffic and increasing military expenditure, as a result of which the demand for aircraft (fixed and rotary wings) is rising.
  • The opportunities in the aerospace industry have been identified in the following segments – aircraft build work, aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), helicopters, engine manufacturing and MRO work, line replaceable units, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and upgrades and retrofits.
  • The improvement in market size, demographic dividend and availability of diverse skill sets are evident from India’s ranking in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ (EoDB) report.
  • The investments in the defence sector need to regularly sustain the steady supply of orders.

5) Innovation and R&D

  • Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been operationalised to provide necessary incubation and infrastructure support to the startups in the defence area.
  • iDEX would be further scaled up to engage with 300 more startups and develop 60 new technologies/products during the next five years.
  • Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti was launched to promote a greater culture of innovation and technology development and file a higher number of patents in Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). It would be scaled up for promoting the creation of Intellectual Property in the sector and its commercial utilization.

6) FDI limit increased to 74% by automatic route

  • The liberalisation of FDI in defence manufacturing, raising the limit under the automatic route to 74%, has opened the door to more joint ventures of foreign and Indian companies for defence manufacturing in India.
  • It would also sustain domestic industrial activity in the research, design and manufacture of systems and sub-systems.

Challenges in indigenous manufacturing

India has its own set of inherent issues when it comes to indigenous manufacturing:

1) Excess reliance on Public Sector

  • India has four companies (Indian ordnance factories, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL)) among the top 100 biggest arms producers of the world.
  • All four of these companies are public sector enterprises and account for the bulk of the domestic armament demand.
  • Governments usually have tended to privilege Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) over the private sector, despite ‘Make in India’.

2) Policy delays

  • In the past few years, the government has approved over 200 defence acquisition proposals with the transfer of technology provision, valued around Rs 4 trillion, but most are still in relatively early stages of processing.

3) Lack of Critical Technologies

  • Poor design capability in critical technologies, inadequate investment in R&D and the inability to manufacture major subsystems and components hamper the indigenous manufacturing.
  • The relationship between the R&D establishment, production agencies (public or private) and the end-user are extremely weak.

4) Low advantage due to long gestation

  • The creation of a manufacturing base is capital and technology-intensive and has a long gestation period. For a factory to reach optimum levels of capacity utilization, it could take anywhere five to 10 to even 15 years to commence production.
  • By that time newer technologies make products outdated and unable to match with what the enemy may have acquired.

5) ‘Unease’ in doing business

  • An issue related to stringent labour laws, compliance burden and lack of skills, affects the development of indigenous manufacturing in defence.
  • Overlapping jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Industrial Promotion impair India’s capability of defence manufacturing. Due to this, India hasn’t been able to attract decent FDI in defence.

6) Lack of quality

  • The higher indigenization in few cases is largely attributed to the low-end technology.
  • Historically, India has been availing of technology through licence agreements from Russia and a smattering of Western countries.
  • For modern production, none of the entities has granted India the ToT owning to quality standards.
  • For example, Dassault had reportedly expressed its lack of confidence in the manufacturing quality of the HAL when the defence deal was being negotiated.

7) FDI Policy

  • The original equipment manufacturers for setting up a business in India in partnership with public/private players want to have a major say in the management of manufacturing.
  • The earlier FDI limit of 49% was not enough to enthuse global manufacturing houses to set up bases in India.
  • Countries such as China and South Korea on the other hand, have become major manufacturing hubs in aeronautics and shipbuilding technology by being very liberal in their FDI policy.

8) Lower R&D Allocation

  • Besides the FDI policy, inadequate investment in R&D and lip service to technology funding by making token allocations is an adequate commentary on our lack of seriousness in the area of Research and Development.
  • The allocation to DRDO remains sticky – around 6% of defence expenditure through successive parliamentary committees have recommended a minimum allocation of ten per cent.
  • Private sector giants such as the Tata, L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra invest less than one per cent of their turnover in R&D unlike in countries such as France where corporate organisations invest more than ten per cent

9) Lack of skills

  • The second challenge is around talent available for the industry. The current sources of supply of talent are largely from the defence PSUs and user services.
  • Neither are they adequate in quantity nor in terms of skills and quality when evaluated from a perspective of the magnitude of demand arising from the need to build a robust homegrown industry.
  • There is a lack of engineering and research capability in our institutions. It again leads us back to the need for a stronger industry-academia interface.

Along with the policy, what else can be done?

1) Proper implementation of the policy framework

  • A long-term integrated perspective plan of the requirements of the armed forces should give the industry a clear picture of future requirements.
  • The real deal here is implementation and in future promoting forward-looking strategic partnerships between Indian and foreign companies, with a view to achieving indigenization over a period of time for even sophisticated platforms.

2) Boosting MSMEs

  • There is visible incentivisation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in many spheres.
  • Their energetic response to the government’s initiatives is seen in their setting up of a Defence Innovators and Industry Association.
  • This bodes well for the future since MSMEs, which are the Tier-II and -III suppliers, are the crucibles of innovation and the true determinants of indigenization.

3) PSUs overhaul

  • The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) need to revamp their organisational structure.
  • They must unload their bureaucratic burden, cut the red tape and take a leap towards becoming result-oriented, professional organisations.

4) Mandatory Transfer of Technology for Subsystems

  • It is imperative that when India imports any weapon systems, there should be a plan for the ammunition and spares to be eventually manufactured in India so that we are not driven to seek urgent replenishments from abroad during crises.
  • The same goes for repair, maintenance and overhaul facilities for the upgrading of the weapons platforms.

5) 100% indigenization should be the aim

  • There is also thinking within the establishment that ‘Make in India’ means every system is completely built in India.
  • Even a fighter plane like Rafale or Gripen has equipment and systems, which are made outside the country of its origin.
  • India cannot attempt to make them, but that effort should be separated from the main policy which should be looked at from a practical point of view.
  • As and when things materialise, the indigenous sub-system should be added.

A note for private players

  • The private companies will have to acknowledge that they cannot get everything on a platter. They should not limit Make in India to just assembling or manufacturing through tie-ups with foreign players.
  • The private sector will have to invest money in research and stay put for the long haul. As for the government, it must handhold these companies and give them the required support.

 

Conclusion

The government has rightly clarified that self-reliance would not be taken to overzealous extremes. The thrust for indigenous research and development will coexist with the import of cutting-edge military technologies to obviate near-term defence vulnerabilities.

There is still a huge amount of work left.

With the new DPP in place, one hopes that it empowers the procurement process to become election-proof — national security cannot be held hostage to ineffective functioning of personnel who constitute the MoD and the political system.

 


References:

https://www.makeinindiadefence.gov.in/admin/webroot/writereaddata/upload/recentactivity/Draft_DPEPP_03.08.2020.pdf

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/grasping-the-defence-self-reliance-nettle/article31635965.ece?homepage=true

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Defence-preparedness-the-way-forward/article14244118.ece

http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/make-in-india-challenges-before-defence-manufacturing/

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/current/2019/05/25/how-make-in-india-in-defence-sector-is-still-an-unfulfilled-dream.html

https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/recent-reforms-in-the-indian-defence-sector/1977971/

Categories
Burning Issues

Best Practices under Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP)

The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched in January 2018 with the vision that renewed focus on interventions in the most backward districts of India. Anchored by NITI Aayog, the programme rests on the three pillars:

  • Convergence (of Central and State Schemes)
  • Collaboration (between Centre, State, District and Citizens)
  • Competition (among the districts through NITI Aayog’s Champions of Change dashboard)

This edition of Burning Issues focuses on Best Practices that have been compiled by the Aspirational Districts Programme team of NITI Aayog under various areas of focus that include-

In the cut-throat competition of civil services, each mark counts. “How can I make my answers different from the lot?”  is every aspirant’s constant worry. One way to do so is by quoting EXAMPLES in your answer. So, scroll down and find a list of contemporary best practices in various social sectors. Use these practices as examples in your mains papers to get that extra edge.

 

[I] HEALTH AND NUTRITION

 

1) Arogya Kunji (Chatra Dist. Jharkhand)

Arogya Kunji initiative is an endeavor to ensure accessibility and availability of healthcare facilities in the district. It aims to extend the outreach and efficacy of timely medical aid and healthcare services in rural areas of this district through medical kits.

2) Centralised Kitchens for Better Nutrition (Nandurbar Dist. Maharashtra) 

In order to tackle deep-rooted problems of Malnourishment and Anaemia in the tribal-dominated district, the District Administration has established a Centralised Kitchen to provide hot and nutritious meals to children in residential schools, also known as Ashram Shalas.

3) Model Anganwadi Centres (Ramgarh Dist. Jharkhand)

The District Administration has established Model Anganwadi Centres across blocks to encourage best practices in management and improve learning outcomes.

These Anganwadis host regular outreach and awareness campaigns in the community to promote better health and hygiene, such as VHSNDs (Village, Health, Sanitation & Nutrition Days) that have been benefiting families across blocks. The Model Anganwadis include an upgraded in-house kitchen where nutritious meals are prepared for children to ensure a balanced diet.

4) ‘Hamar Swasthya’ App (Rajnandangaon in Chhattisgarh)

It helps for early detection of Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) and registers the medical record of patients so that doctors and health workers have access to the medical history of patients and initiate timely treatment and subsequent follow-ups.

5) Hostels for pregnant tribal women (Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh)

The District Administration has constructed Hostels for pregnant women of these villages. All the frontline workers including ASHAs and Anganwadis are creating awareness among the villagers about these Hostels. Pregnant women are brought to the Hostel one month prior to the Expected Delivery Date (EDD). There, they are provided with home-like care and support along with nutritional food and intensive medical care, under the close observation of gynaecologists.

6) Kanya Taru Yojana (Hailakandi in Assam)

For encouraging Hospital Delivery parents of girl children born in any of the Government Hospitals are gifted with 5 saplings (Coconut, Litchi, Assam Lemon, Guava & Amla).

Parents are asked to take care of the saplings like their daughters. The fruits of the trees can be used to feed the child to develop her immunity through Vitamin C in Amla, fight malnutrition by Coconut and the profits earned from the sales could be redirected to investing in the girl’s education and improving green cover of the district.

[II] EDUCATION

 

1) Aakar Residential School for differently-abled (Sukma in Chhattisgarh)

To ensure inclusion of differently-abled students and to reduce their dropout rates, the District has started Aakar Residential School. The School undertakes other special activities catering to the overall need of these children including therapies for their cognitive development.

2) Bal Sansad (Shrawasti and Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh)

Bal Sansad has been established in more than 3,200 schools across the District of Shrawasti in Uttar Pradesh. It provides a platform to young students to express their views on various issues like family, school, society, good values among other things. Students are not only informed about their rights as a citizen but also encouraged to speak freely about them.

3) BALA- Building as Learning Aid (Shrawasti in Uttar Pradesh)

It is an innovative concept for teaching through child-friendly, learning and fun-based physical environment by building new infrastructure or refurbishing the existing School and Anganwadi buildings. The concept was originally developed by Vinyas, Centre for Agricultural Research and Design with the support of UNICEF. BALA includes the development of the entire physical environment of the School – indoor, outdoor and semi-open spaces.

4) Project Second Innings (Dahod in Gujarat)

Project Second Innings was launched by the District Administration to increase attendance of students in schools and their learning outcomes. Retired teachers voluntarily sign-up for teaching primary and upper primary classes in various subjects including languages and Mathematics.

5) Shiksha Saarthi Yojna (Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh)

Shortage of teachers in schools of rural areas is a major reason for poor learning outcomes. The main reason for the shortage is that teachers from urban areas are unwilling to move to rural areas due to lack of infrastructural facilities. To address this issue and ensure the availability of teachers in primary schools, Shiksha Saarthi Yojna was launched.

After the appointment of Shiksha Saarthis, student enrolments, attendance and proficiency level in all subjects have risen.

[III] AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES

 

1) Agriculture Entrepreneur Scheme (Ramgarh in Jharkhand)

It is a promising example of coordination between District Administration, CSOs and local citizens to develop a sustainable and scalable model of Agricultural development. The scheme involves imparting training to selected ‘Agri-Entrepreneurs’ for the incorporation of best practices in farming for a cost-effective and profitable model of Agricultural development.

2) Horticulture Price Agreement Initiative (Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh)

To make farming a profitable venture, this initiative was launched. The initiative has forward and backward linkages and guarantees procurement at maximum price & partnership in local microprocessing units for farmers, while generating employment for the local youth. The target groups in this Scheme are small and marginal farmers, families with female heads, families with specially challenged people as head of the family and farmers of deprived castes.

3) Sarvajal Project (Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand)

The project involves the installation of customised and decentralized drinking water solutions.

It leverages technology to bring community-level safe drinking water to the underserved. The solar-powered, cloud-connected water dispensing kiosks installed under the project have enabled citizens residing in remote areas, accessibility to clean palatable water.

4) ‘Taanka’ technique for rainwater harvesting and water conservation (Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh)

Taankas are underground rainwater storage tanks up to the capacity of 25,000 litres. This initiative follows the standard rainwater harvesting technique wherein rainwater from rooftops is collected through gutters and then made to pass through a sieve before being stored. Use of taankas has helped the district save enough water for lean summer months when the water demand is at its peak and supply invariably falls short.

[IV] FINANCIAL INCLUSION AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT

 

1) Solar MAMAs (Gumla in Jharkhand)

In the remote district, few hamlets have not yet been electrified due to scattered settlements, difficult topography and challenges of inaccessibility. To mitigate this challenge, the District Administration had organised local women in SHGs and trained them with skills needed for fabrication of solar panels, lights and photovoltaic circuits. These women are fondly addressed as Solar Mamas.

2) Khawa cluster concept (Osmanabad in Maharashtra)

In order to keep themselves afloat during severe droughts, farmers, within a Khawa cluster have come together, as an alternative to selling only milk. Khoya or Khawa (reduced dry milk) as a product has more demand and shelf life than milk and every farmer makes a profit for every litre. Farmers have organised themselves in cooperatives and are pooling their cattle for making Khawa (milk solids) from their daily milk production.

[V] BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE

 

1) Green technologies in Road Construction (Goalpara in Assam)

Depleting natural resources and closure of stone quarries had gravely hampered the progress of all-weather road construction. Despite this challenge, in order to provide all-weather connectivity to citizens, the district adopted various Green technologies for the construction of roads. Through this measure, apart from reducing dependence on natural resources and recycling waste plastic, the district has also been able to bring down the cost of construction and maintenance.

The technologies deployed by the district for construction of roads are-  Waste Plastic Technology, Cell Filled Concrete Technology, Geogrid Technology (Tenax 3D Grids), Cold Mix Technology and Interlocking Concrete Pavement Block (ICBP).

2) ‘Liter of Light’ Portable Lights (Ranchi in Jharkhand)

Here, women of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are being trained to lighten the lives of villagers in the district by producing portable room lights, designed and developed by the students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai.

Recycled plastic bottles filled with water and a bit of bleach are fitted into the roof to provide lighting during the day, while at night, the same is upgraded with an LED bulb, micro-solar panels and a battery to provide a low-cost night lighting system.

3) Patsendri: A model colony under PMAY (Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh)

A Model Colony has been developed under the PM Awas Yojana (PMAY), with convergence between various physical work-related schemes and social sector schemes. Further expanding on this initiative, the District Administration has initiated convergence of various social sector schemes in Patsendri, and created a self-sustainable model for capacity building, employment generation, development & positive use of social capital, with a focus on the Patsendri Community.

Firstly, the convergence of schemes has led to the development of a Model Colony, wherein the houses, community hall, drainage, CC road have been built under PMAY, toilets are built under NREGA, electricity connection is provided under the Saubhagya Yojana, transformers, poles, etc. are provided under the Mukhya Mantri Majra-Tola Vidyutikaran Yojana, & water supply is provided under the Nal-Jal Yojana by the Public Health Department.

4) Swajal Water Testing (Barpeta, Assam)

The greatest threat to public health from Arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater. High levels of inorganic Arsenic is naturally present in the groundwater of the Aspirational District of Barpeta in Assam. Contaminated water used for the purpose of food preparation and drinking poses a great threat to the public. With community ownership and through participative planning, villagers, especially women in Barpeta, were sensitized about safe water practices and trained to use Field Testing Kits to ascertain the quality of drinking water.

[VI] GOVERNANCE

 

1) BDO Scorecards (Hazaribagh in Jharkhand)

To motivate the Block Development Officers (BDOs) who are the true foot soldiers of rural development in our country, here the District Administration has taken a first-of-its-kind initiative by devising a ‘BDO Scorecard’ to assess the performance of the BDOs in a transparent manner while taking into account the officers’ self-assessment.

Civil Servants are the first point of contact for citizens with the Government, and a motivated civil service is the best instrument to achieve outcomes desired by the State and society.

2) Lok Sewak App (Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh)

This district has established a new dimension in the direction of good governance by using the Lok Sewak App; an e-attendance and field monitoring tool that uses Geo-tagging technology. Through this App, the district has ensured the presence of Government officials at workplace thereby leading to significant improvement in the quantum and quality of work and facilitating their accessibility to the public.

The App has also ensured the availability of ASHA, Anganwadi workers, teachers and other key frontline workers involved in the implementation of various programmes.

3) Infrastructure Snapshot App (Goalpara in Assam)

Infrastructure Snapshot App, an innovative Android-based mobile application is a one-of-its-kind application developed specifically for the monitoring of Public Institutions like Government Offices, Schools, Health Centres and effective implementation of Government Schemes.

The App has smart features like GPS location-based service to capture current location in both online and offline modes with data sync facility, filing grievances for issues pertaining to infrastructure, recording absence of Government personnel like doctors, teachers, Anganwadi workers, etc. along with pictorial evidence.

The objective of the App is to reduce the gap between the public and the Administration and provide stepping stones for good governance through harnessing ICT.

The App has led to an increment in the resolution of public grievances and fast service delivery to the public. The App has also multiplied the community’s involvement in uplifting and ameliorating the District Infrastructure.

The App also serves as a platform for registering any emergency including disaster alerts, reporting issues pertaining to domestic violence, etc.

4) Maha Land Bank System (Washim in Maharashtra)

This district has created a unique repository of Government Land on a Portal, as a part of a State-wide programme in Maharashtra. The Land Bank serves as a repository of information for taking policy decisions on the allocation of Government Land such as the provision of Affordable Housing, Irrigation, Public Supply, Self-supplied Industries, Aquaculture, Mining, Tree Plantation, etc.

5) Meekosam Meal Scheme (Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh)

Labourers and daily wage workers coming to file their grievances and attend proceedings of the grievance cell, from places as far as 100 km will henceforth not have to return empty stomach.

For a meal worth ` 28/-, ` 10/- is collected from the petitioner and balance ` 18 is directly paid to the owner of the canteen. This initiative has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of petitioners attending grievance cell meetings.

For more insights into other best practices, you can refer to the document below. But the list above is also comprehensive and sufficient for mains exams.

With inputs from:

NITI Aayog Report on Best Practices in Aspirational Districts

 

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] One Year since the Repeal of Art. 370

Exactly a year back, on August 5, 2019, the government of India revoked the special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The move was made on the promise of a better life for every Kashmiri in terms of social and economic parameters.

So, with one year anniversary, it is the perfect opportunity to analyze what the move has meant for the common people. Did it bring them the development as promised? The article looks at some of the changes that the state has seen in the last 1 year, no judgments(promise!).

Background

Read the complete thread here at:

[Burning Issue] Reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir

Visible impacts of the move

(Obviously, the impacts from the repeal of Article 370 cannot be studied in isolation from impacts of COVID in the region.)

(A) Political Impacts

The legal talk

  • The abrogation of special status has extended the reach of Parliament and Indian Constitution over the region in its entirety.
  • The reorganization appendix gives an insight to which former laws passed by the state have been retained, repealed, and which central laws have been extended:
  • Example: 164 laws – 153 state laws and 11 Governor’s Acts – have been repealed; 166 state laws have been retained; 7 state laws have been retained with amendments; 106 central laws have been made applicable.
  • The Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 are among the laws being extended to the UT in entirety.

New Domicile Rules

  • This year center came out with a new list of criteria for attaining domicile in J&K.
  • Since then, 4 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir have been issued domicile certificates.
  • A significant proportion has been given out to those who despite living or serving in the state for years were not considered the residents of the state due to the provisions of Artice 35A, which now stands repealed.

Reduction in Corruption

  • The CMS-India Corruption Study 2017 placed Jammu and Kashmir among the top corrupt states in India, stating that 84 per cent of the people surveyed perceived increased corruption in public services.
  • With corruption almost becoming second nature to the political elites and administrators, the immediate casualty in J&K has been effective governance and justice.
  • This has undermined the trust of the Kashmiris in democracy and shattered their faith in the legitimacy of the politico-administrative setup, posing a direct challenge to peace operations.
  • The situation has relieved(for now) since the abrogation of special status and paves the way for curbing corrupt practices.

(B) Social Impacts

Public perception of the move

  • The abrogation of autonomy without the consent of the Kashmiris has raised the threat perception among the people regarding their identity and culture.
  • The lost ‘autonomy’ and Art. 370 had a symbolic and emotional significance for Kashmir’s people.

New Low in Education 

  • The continued shutdowns and internet blockade has severely affected college and university students and so has the digital learning.
  • College students and research scholars, for instance, have not been able to fill the online forms for competitive exams, scholarship grants and research papers.
  • Most of the hostels in Kashmir University are shut indefinitely.

Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits

  • Construction of 6,000 transit accommodations for accommodating 3000 Kashmiri migrants and 849 flats have been constructed so far.
  • The Centre also reimburses monthly cash relief to the eligible Kashmiri migrants settled in Jammu.
  • Since the year 2014, the monthly cash relief has been enhanced twice i.e. from Rs 6600/- per family to Rs 10,000/- per family in 2015 and to Rs 13,000/- per family in 2018.

Era of social security measures

  • The government introduced an array of insurance schemes including the Atal Pension Yojana in the newly carved Union Territory.
  • The Centre also launched 85 people-oriented development schemes, like PM-KISAN, PM-KISAN-Pension, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, and Stand-Up India in Jammu and Kashmir.

(C) Economic Impact

Agriculture

  • The apple industry in Kashmir, worth INR 80 billion which contributes 8 per cent of J&K’s GDP, has been worst affected.
  • The farmers have highlighted their troubles in selling the produce in the local APMCs.
  • Threats from militants, coupled with the government’s severe clampdown delayed the harvest for over a month, dealing a crippling blow to the industry during the peak harvest season.

Industries

  • Core sectors of the economy of J&K have witnessed a steep decline after the abrogation of Article 370.
  • The communications blockade, curfews, and militant threats has taken a toll on the economy of Kashmir by INR 178.78 billion.
  • More than 90,000 jobs in the sectors of handicraft and information technology have been lost.

Tourism

  • Tourism, which forms 8-10% of J&K’s GDP, is in shambles after the lockdown.
  • Less than 50,000 tourists visited the U.T. between August and December 2019.

(D) Security Impacts

  • According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the lockdown and increase in Army presence led to a decrease in terrorism-related deaths.
  • Lesser fatalities: There has been a decrease in terrorism-related deaths.
  • Youth joining militancy: The number of local recruits has increased. In 2020, until March, 87.5% of the militants killed were locals according to SATP.
  • Border intrusion: Infiltration attempts along the LoC, however, remain high as Pakistan-based terrorist groups continue to try to send more militants in the Valley.
  • Reduced covert attacks: There have been fewer improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grenade attacks this year.

(E) Geopolitical Impacts

  • The abrogation of Article 370 has also led to the internationalization of the Kashmir conflict.
  • Dividing Ladakh from J&K has not only fulfilled the demands of the people of the region but also has sent a clear message to China that it is an integral part of India where Indian constitution holds despite China sometimes claiming it to be its own territory.
  • Visibly after that, we have witnessed the increased cases of transgression by the Chinese PLA in Ladakh.
  • UNSC has met two times for closed-door meetings on the situation in Kashmir.
  • Pakistan’s quest for garnering Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) support these days is quite prominent than earlier.

Was Art. 370 the real problem?

  • Article 370, over the decades, was diluted many times but despite these dilutions, it bore great symbolic and psychological significance for Kashmiris.
  • It also displayed India’s asymmetric federalism, which granted differential rights to certain federal subunits, often in recognition of their distinctive ethnic identity.
  • For sure, the educational and health sectors in J&K should be have been improved but the reason for the underperformance of the educational and health sectors in Kashmir is not Article 370.
  • While private enterprises could set up industries in the former State on leased land, as they have over the years, acquisition of land by public sector enterprises from outside the State was never a problem.
  • Private investors do not set up shop in Kashmir due to militancy which is a product of an existing conflict; not because of Articles 370 or 35A.

Way Forward

(1) Building trust

  • The foremost challenge for New Delhi is rebuilding trust.
  • To rebuild the trust deficit and to win over the confidence of the Kashmiris, the government must immediately repeal the PSA – which should have become ultra vires, in the first place.
  • This will create a sense of oneness among the Kashmiris and will help change their perception towards New Delhi.

(2) Addressing the distress 

  • Due attention must be given to address rural economic distress created after the unprecedented, unseasonal snowfall in November.
  • The government should compensate all the farmers with a farm credit or a loan waiver as it is done in other states.

(3) Approaching with soft policies

  • New Delhi should ensure that the land’s pluralism is defended by assiduously handling the identity, cultural and religious issues.
  • In the present state of affairs, the political process is being hijacked and political leaders are under detention.
  • The release of the political class will send a positive signal.

(4) Lifting the internet blackout

  • The government must immediately lift the internet blackout in all educational institutions.
  • Prolonging the internet curfew any longer will only alienate the students and the youth, who are already hurt and angered at the Centre’s unilateral action.

(5) Resume educational institutions

  • Without any delay, the Centre must also announce the establishment of modern higher education institutions and IITs in its new UT.
  • Quality manpower is a prerequisite for the promised economic growth of the region.
  • Simultaneously, the Centre should actively help to restore regular functioning of closed educational institutions that have been shut since a year and equip them with all modern scientific facilities.
  • The Centre must also announce a new set of attractive scholarships for Kashmiri students.

Conclusion

Now is the time to renew ties with the region by initiating a series of serious and sincere interlocution measures to win over the confidence of the alienated population.

It is necessary that focus on pressing local issues increases and we nurture new local leadership, so that, the grip of the political elite in the Valley loosens.

Kashmir is known for its glorious past and it is high time that this glory returns to the valley.

 

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] National Education Policy 2020

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Seeking to completely overhaul India’s education system, the Union Ministry of Education, formerly known as the Human Resource Development Ministry, introduced the National Education Policy 2020. The set of reforms encompasses a whole range of ideas and promises, from vocational education through schools to higher studies.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

Backgrounder: Education Policies in India

Education Policy lays particular emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual. It is based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive capacities -both the ‘foundational capacities ‘of literacy and numeracy and ‘higher-order‘ cognitive capacities, such as critical thinking and problem-solving — but also social, ethical, and emotional capacities and dispositions.

The implementation of previous policies on education has focused largely on issues of access and equity. The unfinished agenda of the National Policy on Education 1986, modified in 1992 (NPE 1986/92), is appropriately dealt with in this Policy. A major development since the last Policy of 1986/92 has been the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 which laid down legal underpinnings for achieving universal elementary education.

Evolution of Education Policy in India

  1. University Education Commission (1948-49)
  2. Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
  3. Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr D. S. Kothari
  4. National Policy on Education, 1968
  5. 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976- Education in Concurrent List
  6. National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
  7. NPE 1986 Modified in 1992 (Programme of Action, 1992)
  8. S.R. Subrahmanyam Committee Report (May 27, 2016)
  9. K. Kasturirangan Committee Report (May 31, 2019)

Some of the major pathbreaking policies and their features:

Earlier major Educational Policies

(Year)

Key Features

1968

  • Based on the report and recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1964–1966)
  • India’s first National Policy which called for a “radical restructuring” and proposed equal educational opportunities
  • It gave the “three-language formula” to be implemented in secondary education

1986

  • Introduced under Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Ministership, expected to spend 6% of GDP on education for the 1st time
  • It called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational opportunity”
  • It called for a “child-centered approach” in primary education, and launched “Operation Blackboard
  • Also called for the creation of the “rural university” model, based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi

1992

 

  • 1986 Policy modified in 1992 by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government
  • It laid down a Three – Exam Scheme: JEE/AIEEE/State EEE (Engineering Entrance Exam)

 

 The National Education Policy, 2020

  • It marks the fourth major policy initiative in education since Independence.
  • The last one has undertaken a good 34 years ago and modified in 1992.
  • Based on two committee reports and extensive nationwide consultations, NEP 2020 is sweeping in its vision and seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.

Features of the 2020 policy:

1) Languages

  • A perfect mix: The policy raises the importance of mother tongue and regional languages; medium of instruction until class 5 and preferably beyond should be in these languages. Sanskrit and foreign languages will also be given emphasis.
  • No compulsion: The policy also states that no language will be imposed on the students.
  • More to clarify: The government clarified that the language policy in NEP is a broad guideline; and that it is up to the states, institutions and schools to decide the implementation.

2) School education

  • New structure of schooling: The “10 + 2” structure will be replaced with “5+3+3+4”.
  • Reforms in the exam: Instead of exams being held every academic year, school students will only answer three exams, in classes 3, 5 and 8.
  • Novel assessment by PARAKH: Board exams will be continued to be held for classes 10 and 12 but will be re-designed. Standards for this will be established by an assessment body PARAKH.
  • Report cards will be “holistic”, offering information about the student’s skills.
  • Inter-disciplinary approach: This policy aims at reducing the curriculum load of students and allowing them to be more “inter-disciplinary” and “multi-lingual”.
  • One example given was “If a student wants to pursue fashion studies with physics, or if one wants to learn bakery with chemistry, they’ll be allowed to do so.”
  • Software coding: Coding will be introduced from class 6 and experiential learning will be adopted.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme will be extended to include breakfasts. More focus will be given to students’ health, particularly mental health, through the deployment of counsellors and social workers.

3) Higher education

  • Revamped UG/PG courses: It proposes a multi-disciplinary bachelors degree in an undergraduate programme with multiple exit options.
  • MPhil (Masters of Philosophy) courses are to be discontinued to align degree education with how it is in Western models.
  • Increasing GER: A Higher Education Council of India (HECI) will be set up to regulate higher education. The Council’s goal will be to increase the gross enrollment ratio.
  • The HECI will have three verticals: National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), to regulate higher education, including teacher education, while excluding medical and legal education; the National Accreditation Council (NAC), a “meta-accrediting body”; and the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), for funding and financing of universities and colleges.
  • This will replace the existing National Council for Teacher Education, All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission.
  • The National Testing Agency will now be given the additional responsibility of conducting entrance examinations for admissions to universities across the country, in addition to the JEE Main and NEET.
  • The policy proposes to internationalize education in India. Foreign universities can now set up campuses in India.

3) Teacher education

  • The NEP 2020 puts forward many policy changes when it comes to teachers and teacher education.
  • To become a teacher, a 4 year Bachelor of Education will be the minimum requirement needed by 2030.
  • The teacher recruitment process will also be strengthened and made transparent.
  • The National Council for Teacher Education will frame a National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education by 2021 and a National Professional Standards for Teachers by 2022.

4) Other changes

Under NEP 2020, numerous new educational institutes, bodies and concepts have been given legislative permission to be formed. This includes:

  • National Education Commission, headed by the PM of India
  • Academic Bank of Credit, a digital storage of credits earned to help resume education by utilising credits for further education
  • National Research Foundation, to improve research and innovation
  • Special Education Zones, to focus on the education of underrepresented group in disadvantaged regions
  • Gender Inclusion Fund, for assisting the nation in the education of female and transgender children
  • National Educational Technology Forum, a platform to facilitate the exchange of ideas on the technology used to improve learning

The policy proposes new language institutions such as the Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation and the National Institute/ Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit. Other bodies proposed include the National Mission for Mentoring, National Book Promotion Policy, National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.

Regulatory cholesterol is the bane of governance in India, with poor outcomes to boot.

An analysis: Hits and misses of the Policy

NEP 2020 is an amalgamation of need-based policy, cutting-edge research and best practices, paving the way for New India.

1) Targets ‘Antyodaya’

With an extensive focus on universalizing access from early childhood to higher education, integrating over two crore out-of-school children, and concerted efforts directed at socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the policy ensures last-mile delivery, embodying “Antyodaya”.

2) A revamped curriculum

  • Through a convergence of efforts and erasing traditional silos in workflows, early childhood care and education will be delivered through a new curriculum as well as a play- and activity-based pedagogy.
  • Along with a dedicated national mission for foundational literacy and numeracy, NEP 2020 will be significant for bolstering the most critical phases of learning, building a strong foundation for education.

3) Departure from the ‘old’ school

  • NEP marks a departure from archaic practices and pedagogy.
  • Revamped curriculum, adult education, lifelong learning and the vision to ensure that half our learners have exposure to at least one vocational skill in the next five years is characteristic of the shift from rote to applied learning.
  • Through a skill gap analysis, practice-based curriculum and internships with local vocational experts, NEP 2020’s “Lok Vidya”, echoes the PM’s clarion call of being “Vocal for Local”.

4) An evidence-based policy

  • With the NITI Aayog’s mandate to facilitate evidence-based policy, there is a strong belief in the fact that what can’t be measured can’t be improved.
  • Till date, India lacks a comprehensive system for regular, credible and comparable assessments of learning outcomes.
  • The MoHRD undertook a rigorous consultation process in formulating the draft policy – “Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), 676 districts were received.

5) Focus on Teacher’s skilling

  • Teacher education is reimagined with a comprehensive curricular framework, multidisciplinary programmes and stringent action against substandard institutions.
  • Driven by SEQI’s vision for teacher adequacy and transparent systems for merit-based selection and deployment, online systems for teacher transfers and planning will ensure that the right teachers are in the right institutes.

6) Academic credit bank

  • The creation of an academic credit bank, the impetus to research, graded autonomy, internationalization and the development of special economic zones are vital to rebranding India as the higher education destination.
  • Further, multilingual education and efforts to enhance the knowledge of India could restore the country’s educational heritage from the glory days of Takshashila and Nalanda — creating a system that’s modern yet rooted.

7) Departure from over-regulation

  • NEP 2020 makes a bold prescription to free our schools, colleges and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and voluntary declaration.
  • Transparency, maintaining quality standards and a favourable public perception will become a 24X7 pursuit for the institutions, leading to all-round improvement in their standard.
  • A single, lean body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.

8) Getting a job-ready generation

  • With the new policy coming in picture, the school and college education will not only be seen as a facilitator of degree but it will be treated as a medium to build personality and it’ll help the students in their holistic professional growth.
  • The flexibility and autonomy now presented to the future workforce will enable them to explore a variety of options and build more relevant and in-demand skills rather than following traditional career paths.

9) Sweeping in vision

  • Based on two committee reports and extensive nationwide consultations, NEP 2020 is sweeping in its vision.
  • It seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.
  • It acknowledges the 21st century need for mobility, flexibility, alternate pathways to learning, and self-actualization.

Issues with the policy

The new policy has tried to please all, and the layers are clearly visible in the document. It says all the right things and tries to cover all bases, often slipping off keel.

1) Lack of integration

  • In both the thinking, and in the document, there are lags, such as the integration of technology and pedagogy.
  • There are big gaps such as lifelong learning, which should have been a key element of upgrading to emerging sciences.

2) Language barrier

  • There is much in the document ripe for debate – such as language. The NEP seeks to enable home language learning up to class five, in order to improve learning outcomes.
  • Sure, early comprehension of concepts is better in the home language and is critical for future progress. If the foundations are not sound, learning suffers, even with the best of teaching and infrastructure.
  • But it is also true that a core goal of education is social and economic mobility, and the language of mobility in India is English.

3) Multilingualism debate

  • Home language succeeds in places where the ecosystem extends all the way through higher education and into employment. Without such an ecosystem in place, this may not be good enough.
  • The NEP speaks of multilingualism and that must be emphasised. Most classes in India are de facto bilingual.
  • Some states are blissfully considering this policy as a futile attempt to impose Hindi.

4) Lack of funds

  • According to Economic Survey 2019-2020, the public spending (by the Centre and the State) on education was 3.1% of the GDP.
  • A shift in the cost structure of education is inevitable.
  • While funding at 6% of GDP remains doubtful, it is possible that parts of the transformation are achievable at a lower cost for greater scale.

5) A move in haste

  • The country is grappled with months of COVID-induced lockdowns.
  • The policy had to have parliamentary discussions; it should have undergone a decent parliamentary debate and deliberations considering diverse opinions.

6) Overambitious

  • All aforesaid policy moves require enormous resources. An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set.
  • This is certainly a tall order, given the current tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors.
  • The exchequer itself is choked meeting the current expenditure.

7) Pedagogical limitations

  • The document talks about flexibility, choice, experimentation. In higher education, the document recognizes that there is a diversity of pedagogical needs.
  • If it is a mandated option within single institutions, this will be a disaster, since structuring a curriculum for a classroom that has both one-year diploma students and four-year degree students’ takes away from the identity of the institution.

8) Institutional limitations

  • A healthy education system will comprise of a diversity of institutions, not a forced multi-disciplinarily one.
  • Students should have a choice for different kinds of institutions.
  • The policy risks creating a new kind of institutional isomorphism mandated from the Centre.

9) Issues with examinations

  • Exams are neurotic experiences because of competition; the consequences of a slight slip in performance are huge in terms of opportunities.
  • So the answer to the exam conundrum lies in the structure of opportunity. India is far from that condition.
  • This will require a less unequal society both in terms of access to quality institutions, and income differentials consequent upon access to those institutions.

 Making it happen: Way Forward

This ambitious policy has a cost to be paid and the rest of the things dwells on its implementation in letter and spirit.

Public investment is considered extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system as envisaged by the policy, that is truly needed for India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual and technological progress and growth.

  • Implementation of the spirit and intent of the Policy is the most critical matter.
  • It is important to implement the policy initiatives in a phased manner, as each policy point has several steps, each of which requires the previous step to be implemented successfully.
  • Prioritization will be important in ensuring optimal sequencing of policy points, and that the most critical and urgent actions are taken up first, thereby enabling a strong base.
  • Next, comprehensiveness in implementation will be key; as this Policy is interconnected and holistic, only a full-fledged implementation, and not a piecemeal one, will ensure that the desired objectives are achieved.
  • Since education is a concurrent subject, it will need careful planning, joint monitoring, and collaborative implementation between the Centre and States.
  • Timely infusion of requisite resources – human, infrastructural, and financial – at the Central and State levels will be crucial for the satisfactory execution of the Policy.
  • Finally, careful analysis and review of the linkages between multiple parallel implementation steps will be necessary in order to ensure effective dovetailing of all initiatives.

Conclusion

India’s political economy has simply not made quality education a top priority. What has changed in the last couple of decades is the explosion of aspiration and demand for education. But that demand has yet to be channelized into institutional change.

Its’ too early to judge

  • This policy is an ambitious and complex document and it has been adopted during a pandemic and a lockdown, which renders discussion and debate difficult.
  • It lays down a roadmap for the next two decades. But, there are many reasons why this policy needs close scrutiny, a full debate, for what it says and what it doesn’t.
  • For instance, what are its implications for the majority of those covered under the acronym SEDGs (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups) in the text?
  • This is particularly crucial as the document visualizes increased “benign” privatization of education, attempting to distinguish this from commercialization.
  • In a situation of growing privatization and the near-collapse of public institutions of higher education, how these policies will be implemented is a matter of concern.

There is no getting away from the need for a highway and device access for all, to enable the future of learning. The NEP is but one step towards freedom in education. So much, including the concepts of synchronous learning, of batch-processing and of provision as patronage is gone and we must embrace the change.

 


References

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/pib-highlights-of-the-national-education-policy-nep-2020/

https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/indias-new-education-policy-streams-merge-into-a-river/

https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/national-education-policy-the-hits-and-misses

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/national-education-policy-niti-aayog-6536524/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/an-education-policy-that-is-sweeping-in-its-vision/article32233396.ece

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Disputes over Anti-Defection Law

A CM takes oath at 4 am in the morning. MLAs are taken to an unknown destination or a resort with their mobiles and all communications virtually shut! Likewsie, if unconstitutional principles and practices no longer excite the citizens, but some political norms do, then our democracy is in trouble.

Turbulence in governments — involving the “switching of sides” by elected representatives — has been increasingly frequent in recent months.  The ongoing political crisis in Rajasthan is neither new nor uncommon.  The past year has seen the toppling of two state governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh amid allegations of political defections and horse-trading. There has also been turmoil in Goa and Manipur.

Over the debate: The Anti-Defection Law

The Anti-Defection Law under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution punishes MPs/ MLAs for defecting from their party by taking away their membership of the legislature. It gives the Speaker of the legislature the power to decide the outcome of defection proceedings.

  • The anti-defection law was added to the Constitution through the Fifty-Second (Amendment) Act, 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was PM.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.
  • This implies that a legislator defying (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue can lose his membership of the House.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.

Exceptions under the law

  • Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances.
  • The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favor of the merger.
  • In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.

To get more details on the evolution of the act, tap here:

Explained: Anti-defection law and its evolution

Issues with the Anti-defection cases these days

  • Generally, when doubts are cast on the CM that he has lost the majority, the opposition and the Governor would rally for a floor test.
  • Now, this may seem like an administrative act. But loopholes around the law has brought politics into the picture. Let us understand the various ground situations involved:

1) Defection proceeding

  • A Supreme Court Bench is scheduled to hear an appeal filed by the Rajasthan Assembly Speaker’s office challenging the State High Court order to defer anti-defection proceedings against former Deputy CM.
  • The petition said the HC has crossed its jurisdiction by asking the Speaker to put off his decision on the disqualification notices issued to dissident MLAs.
  • The High Court’s interim order granting extended time to rebel MLAs to file their replies to anti-defection notices amounted to a violation of Article 212 (courts not to inquire into the proceedings of the legislature).
  • The petition said that judicial review of ongoing anti-defection proceedings was limited.
  • The petition referred to the Constitution Bench judgment of the top court in the Kihoto Hollohan case in 1992 in this context.
  • Judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman and a prior action would not be permissible.
  • Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings, the verdict says.

2) Summoning the house

Rajasthan Governor returning the fresh proposal by the state Cabinet – seeking to convene a session of the Assembly has raised fresh legal questions on the powers of the Governor. But a Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court has held that a Governor is bound to convene a meeting of the Assembly for a floor test on the recommendation of the Cabinet.

  • Article 174 of the Constitution gives the Governor the power to summon from time to time “the House or each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit…”
  • However, the phrase “as he thinks fit” is read as per Article 163 of the Constitution which says that the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the cabinet.
  • Article 163(1) essentially limits any discretionary power of the Governor only to cases where the Constitution expressly specifies that the Governor must act on his own and apply an independent mind.
  • The Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker (2016) expressly said that the power to summon the House is not solely vested in the Governor.
  • The court has highlighted that Article 163 of the Constitution does not give the Governor a “general discretionary power to act against or without the advice of his Council of Ministers.
  • The discretionary powers are limited to specified areas like giving assent or withholding/referring a Bill to the President or appointment of a CM or dismissal of a government that has lost confidence but refuses to quit, etc.

3) Floor test

  • Now, we know that the Governor cannot refuse the request of the Cabinet to call for a sitting of the House for legislative purposes or for the chief minister to prove his majority.
  • In fact, on numerous occasions, including in the 2016 Uttarakhand case, the court has clarified that when the majority of the ruling party is in question, a floor test must be conducted at the earliest available opportunity.
  • In 2016, the Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker expressly said that the power to summon the House is not solely vested in the Governor.

4) Time Limit for defection plea

  • The Anti-defection law does not specify a time period for the Presiding Officer to decide on a disqualification plea.
  • Given that courts can intervene only after the Presiding Officer has decided on the matter, the petitioner seeking disqualification has no option but to wait for this decision to be made.

5) Deciding on merger or split

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution prohibits defection to protect the stability of governments but does not prohibit mergers.
  • Paragraph 4(2) of the Tenth Schedule, dealing with mergers, says that only when two-thirds of the members agree to “merge” the party would they be exempt from disqualification.
  • The “merger” referred to in Paragraph 4(2) is seen as a legal fiction, where members are deemed to have merged for the purposes of being exempt from disqualification, rather than a merger in the true sense.
  • Major political parties argue that a state unit of a national party cannot be merged without the party being merged at the national level.
  • However, the Tenth Schedule identifies this dichotomy between state units and national units.
  • As per Paragraph 4(2), “merger” of a party means merger of a legislative party of that House and not the national party.

Yet another feature: ‘Resort’ Politics

  • The sight of legislators being packed off in luxury buses, and lodged in comfortable, even luxurious, hotels and resorts, has become a common feature of Indian politics.
  • It usually happens when a state government is in crisis, when a crucial election for a Rajya Sabha seat is underway and numbers are fluid, or when a rebellion is underway to change the regime in a state.
  • A political party — or the rebel faction — then rushes to consolidate the legislators who are in its favour.
  • The objective is to ensure that these legislators don’t succumb to temptations and inducements offered by the other side, and instead, remain under constant surveillance.
  • The method then adopted is to lock them in, till the crisis is resolved one way or the other.

What we can learn from the ongoing situation?

As recent events have made clear, however, the Tenth Schedule is no longer an effective check on the phenomenon of defection, and an urgent reconsideration is required. There are a few reasons why this is so.

1)  Loopholes are present in the law itself

  • The first is that the defecting MLAs have found a way around the restrictions in the Tenth Schedule.
  • Instead of formally “crossing the floor” or voting against their party in a confidence motion, they resign from the party.
  • This brings down the party’s strength in the House, and the government is toppled.
  • A few months later, when by-elections are held, the same MLAs then stand for election on the ticket of the opposition party and are returned to the assembly.

2) Judiciary can ‘conditionally’ intervene

  • Unfortunately, in their recent judgments, the courts have failed to stop defection practices (although, arguably, the language of the Tenth Schedule does not leave much room to the judiciary).
  • No matter how well-drafted a constitutional provision is, ultimately, its implementation depends upon constitutional functionaries acting in good faith.
  • As BR Ambedkar pointed out soon after the framing of the Constitution, every constitutional text can be subverted if those charged with running the affairs of government are inclined to do so.

3) Political commitment is under question

  • In recent times, it has become clear that the major constitutional actors involved in times of constitutional instability — i.e., the governors and the speakers — do not act in good faith.
  • In every constitutional crisis over the last few years, governors/speakers have acted like partisan representatives of the political party that appointed them, and have flouted constitutional conventions with impunity.
  • Instances include decisions regarding which party to call first to form the government in a hung house, to order — or refusing to order — floor tests to prove majorities.

4) Horse-trading persists in Indian politics

  • More recently, the Rajasthan High Court effectively injuncted the Speaker of the Rajasthan Assembly from acting upon disqualification notices, despite clear SC precedent to the contrary.
  • It can be pointed out that horse-trading of legislators persists.
  • It has been widely reported that huge sums of money are offered to MLAs to desert their parties and bring down the government.

5) Role of Legislators is being compromised

  • The anti-defection law has restrained legislators from effectively carrying out their functions.
  • In a parliamentary system, legislators are expected to exercise their independent judgement while determining their position on an issue.
  • The choice of the member may be based on a combination of public interest, constituency interests, and party affiliations.
  • This fundamental freedom of choice could be undermined if the member is mandated to vote along the party line on every Bill or motion.

6) Accountability of the government is compromised

  • The anti-defection law deters legislators from holding the government accountable for its actions.
  • One of the key features of parliamentary democracy is that the government is accountable for its decisions.
  • However, the anti-defection law deters a legislator from his duty to hold the government accountable, by requiring him to follow the instruction of the party/coalition on almost every decision.

7) Overall decision making is hindered

  • The anti-defection law leads to major decisions in the legislature being taken by a few party leaders and not by the larger body of legislators.
  • This implies that anyone who controls the party leadership can issue directions to all legislators.
  • Thus, voting in the House will be as per the wishes of a few party leaders/ coalition leader rather than the beliefs of all legislators or the need for urgency.
  • Consensus if often dictated against which democratization within political parties is sought.

8) Clueless voters are the ultimate losers

  • The anti-defection law breaks the chain of accountability between elected representatives and the voter.
  • The legislator would have to justify his decision if he differs from such a view.
  • If he dissented from the party line, he would lose his seat and would be unable to work for the citizens’ interests on other issues.
  • This further reduces the accountability of elected representatives to citizens.

Way Forward

In sum, therefore, the anti-defection law needs to be improved than repealed.

Over the years, several amendments/recommendations have also been suggested to reform various aspects of the law.  Let’s consider some of them:

Sources: Law Commission, 1999; National Constitution Review Commission, 2002; Law Commission Report, 2015; Law Commission Draft Report, 2018; Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms, 1990, Halim Committee on anti-defection law, 1998 (from R. Kothandaraman Ideas for an alternative Anti-Defection law, 2006); PRS

Conclusion

We must know that politics has a way of getting ahead of principles and practices, and establishing its own norms. It is important to understand how this growing pattern makes a mockery of Indian democracy, speaks poorly of elected representatives and is an insult to the voter.

Need of the hour is complete revamp of the anti-defection law. As Gandhiji, would put it ‘Politics without principle’, is a sin which should be avoided in all case.

 


References

https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/parliament_or_policy_pdfs/Anti-Defection%20Law%20Intent%20and%20Impact_0.pdf

https://www.civilsdaily.com/story/anti-defection-law/

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/explained-anti-defection-law-and-its-evolution/

https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/why-the-anti-defection-law-has-failed-to-deliver/story-JtDhlEFHZ8VPpnNBD7Fv9J.html

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/getting-ahead-of-constitutional-practices/article32233269.ece

 

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issues] Geopolitics and the roll-out of 5G

5G Technology is the future of the telecom sector. Research and development in this field have attracted global giants. But the rollout of 5G network has also caught the eyes of various governments. This is because 5G is not just a matter of cellular network but has security implications for nations and scope for dominance over the future technological era. And the latest US steps against Huawei is a testimony to this fact.

The Global 5G Conundrum

  • Nearly a decade ago a report by the US House Intelligence Committee flagged issues posed by Chinese telecom companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE.
  • This issue now has evolved into a full-scale duel between the two global technology powerhouses, which now threatens to draw in the entire world.
  • Soon after the US, Britain announced its ban on equipment from Huawei into the country’s high-speed wireless network.
  • Australia banned Huawei long back from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network in 2018.
  • India along with Canada and some other countries is reviewing security implications and has yet to decide on allowing Huawei to provide equipment for them.
  • Meanwhile, Huawei has cut its India revenue target for 2020 by up to 50% and is laying off more than half of its staff in the country.
But before we take the geopolitics route, let us first understand the potential 5G Technology holds

5G Technology: A Perspective

In telecommunications, 5G is the fifth generation technology standard for cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide since 2019, the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cellphones.

All 5G wireless devices in a cell are connected to the Internet and telephone network by radio waves through a local antenna in the cell. The main advantage of the 5G network is that it will have greater bandwidth, giving higher download speeds, eventually up to 10 gigabits per second.

5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices and also will make possible new applications in IoT and machine to machine areas.

The previous generations of mobile networks are 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G:

First-generation – 1G
1980s: 1G delivered analogue voice.

Second-generation – 2G
Early 1990s: 2G introduced digital voice (e.g. CDMA- Code Division Multiple Access).

Third generation – 3G
Early 2000s: 3G brought mobile data (e.g. CDMA2000).

Fourth-generation – 4G LTE
2010s: 4G LTE ushered in the era of mobile broadband.

Benefits of 5G over 4G

1) 5G uses spectrum better than 4G

  • 5G is also designed to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum regulatory paradigms and bands—from low bands below 1 GHz to mid bands from 1 GHz to 6 GHz to high bands known as millimetre wave (mmWave).

2) 5G is faster than 4G

  • 5G can be significantly faster than 4G, delivering up to 20 Gbps peak data rates and 100+ Mbps average data rates.

3) 5G has more capacity than 4G

  • 5G is designed to support a 100x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency.

4) 5G has lower latency than 4G

  • Latency is the time a device takes to communicate with the network, which stands at an average of up to 50 milliseconds for 4G networks across the world.
  • 5G has significantly lower latency to deliver more instantaneous, real-time access: a 10x decrease in end-to-end latency down to 1ms.

Applications of 5G technology

High-Speed mobile network: 5G will revolutionize the mobile experience with the supercharged wireless network. Compared to conventional mobile transmission technologies, voice and high-speed data can be simultaneously transferred efficiently in 5G

Entertainment and multimedia: 5G can provide 120 frames per second, high resolution and higher dynamic range video streaming without interruption. The audiovisual experience will be rewritten after the implementation of the latest technologies powered by 5G wireless. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality services will be better experienced over 5G.

Internet of Things: IoT applications collect a huge amount of data from millions of devices and sensors and thus requires an efficient network for data collection, processing, transmission, control and real-time analytics which 5G network is a better candidate.

Smart cities: Smart city application like traffic management, Instant weather update, local area broadcasting, energy management, smart power grid, smart lighting of the street, water resource management, crowd management, emergency response etc can use a reliable 5G wireless network for its functioning.

Smart farming: 5G technology will be used for agriculture and smart farming in the future. Using smart RFID sensors and GPS technology, farmers can track the location of livestock and manage them easily. Smart sensors can be used for irrigation control, access control and energy management.

Mission-critical applications: Like telemedicine services, remote control of critical infrastructure and vehicles. It has the potential to transform industries with highly reliable, low latency link.

Back to Huawei-US tussle

The PLA’s Huawei

  • Started in the late 1980s by a former Deputy Regimental Chief in the People’s Liberation Army, Huawei has come a long way from being a reseller of switches imported from Hong Kong.
  • Huawei went on to sell its products and services in more than 170 countries, blitzing past Ericsson as the largest telecoms equipment manufacturer in the world in 2012.
  • It overtook Apple as the world’s second-largest manufacturer of smartphones in 2018 and had annual revenue of $122 billion and some 194,000 employees last year.

Issues with Huawei

  • Huawei has faced criticism for various aspects of its operations, with its most prominent controversies having involved U.S. allegations of its products containing backdoors for Chinese government espionage.
  • In February 2011, Huawei published an open letter to the US government denying the security concerns raised about the company or its equipment, and requesting a full investigation into its corporate operations.
  • In response, an investigation began in November 2011 into “the counterintelligence and security threat posed by Chinese telecommunications companies doing business in the US”.
  • In its report submitted in 2012, the US House panel noted that Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat.

A technological Cold War

  • The US Federal Communications Commission has designated these two companies as national security threats.
  • Thus, it blockaded Huawei on the ground that its equipment is designed to aid snooping and would make American telecoms players dependent on subsidised Chinese technology.
  • Most observers see this as a ‘technological cold war’ that could extend beyond just the US and China, and compel other countries, including India, to effectively choose between one camp and the other.
  • It is being described as a geopolitical struggle over technology that threatens to divide the world into two distinct technological blocs, with both countries striving to limit the other’s access to its advanced know-how.
  • The question is whether countries think the risks are high enough to dump a cheaper, viable option.
  • For China, the action has come at a time when 5G is set to be rolled out globally, with Huawei generally ahead in the race.

India and Huawei

  • In December 2019, Huawei was tentatively admitted into 5G trials in India.
  • As part of the trial plan, the government had decided that telecom players would be allocated special airwaves for a brief period for the 5G trials.
  • Huawei entered the fray with Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel while BSNL joined hands with ZTE.
  • But the 5G trials could not take off due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Then came the Chinese hostility in Ladakh that seems to have turned the tide.

Where does India stand in this battle?

  • Back in December 2009, the Department of Telecom (DoT) had asked Indian mobile companies to suspend deals with Chinese equipment amid fears that Chinese equipment was being used for hacking and spying.
  • But India has been a fence-sitter since then — and has never fully banned Chinese companies from its telecom equipment industry.
  • Indeed, much of India’s telecom growth story has been supported by Chinese companies in both hardware and software.

India’s concerns

India’s intelligence agencies, acting on inputs generated locally and received from other foreign agencies, have toughened their stance on two key issues – remote access and data storage.

  • A decision has been taken at the top level against data going outside India during the trials and Chinese vendors gaining remote access, which agencies feel will eventually land up in PLA headquarters.
  • Key to the security and strategic concerns is the extremely controversial China Intelligence Law legislated in 2017.
  • The CIL makes it mandatory for every Chinese supplier to actively share data and access to their equipment, installed anywhere in the world.
  • The purpose of this law is to provide a legal base for China to seek access and support from its citizens and companies for its intelligence and military activities.

Impacted by standoffs

  • After the standoff in Ladakh, India has asked telecom service providers to exclude Chinese companies from the scope of their network upgrade contracts.
  • This was part of the wider decision to signal curbs on Chinese investments and tech companies in the country in light of Atmanirbhar campaign.
  • In official statements, India justified the ban on 59 mobile apps with Chinese links on grounds of a threat to national security.

With the border clashes, India’s stand on this issue has got more clarity. But 5G is equally crucial for India’s future development story. For that, it has to first overcome own domestic hurdles.  

Challenges for 5G roll-out in India

  • The Indian market has the potential to become the largest 5G consumer after China in the next 10 years.
  • India has nearly 45 crore handsets and 50 crore people on the internet. 5G is being seen as a game-changer for India.

These are some of the basic challenges which India needs to overcome:

Frequency allocation: Indian operators have far less spectrum in comparison to international operators. The high investment cost which makes telecom companies unsure about Return on Investment.

Pricing: The 5G spectrum is overpriced by at least 30% to 40% compared to international standards and auction in other markets such as South Korea and the U.S. In previous auctions, the government saw no takers for the 700 MHz spectrum, which is used to offer high-speed 4G services and was put on sale for the first time, mainly due to the high reserve price.

Network investment: In India, the telecom sector is facing capital augmentation issues which need to be resolved. Non-availability of funds for investment: Many of the Indian operators are also weighed down by debt.

Regulatory restrictions: Faster rounds of new technology introduction when prior technology investments have not been recouped add further complexity.

Technical Challenges: Designing IT architecture that can be deployed globally, while still allowing for localized technology to cater to different regions is a challenge. Though Reliance Inc. has some plans to roll out 5G.

Way Forward

India is keen to board the 5G bus sooner than later. The task before India’s policymakers will be ensuring that the advantages of the telecom infrastructure and related technologies support its divergent demography, economic conditions and urbanisation.

Key areas to focus need urgent emphasis are :

  • Reasonable spectrum pricing and swift allocation of spectrum
  • Policy framework enabling extensive fabrication and incentivisation to share fibre networks
  • Push for “Make in India” manufacturing for 5G equipment and handsets
  • Tailor-made 5G use cases and applications enabled through active trials
  • Indigenous technology advancements through R&D, and IPR development for standards, technology, spectrum, and security
  • Public-private partnerships for broadband growth and penetration, 5G trials and testing, network densification among others

To conclude, India cannot miss the bus

As other countries move ahead, the Indian government has repeatedly stated its intention to ‘not miss the 5G bus’ and ensure rollout by 2020, after having missed the ‘2G, 3G and 4G buses’.

A closer look, however, is required with regard to the preparedness of the industry, especially given the financial health of the telecom sector, the hesitancy among domestic banks to lend to operators, and the current pressure on tariffs.

By acting early on adoption, India can accelerate the 5G dividend and also become an innovator in applications, but it would also mean that the initial investment on equipment will be more expensive when trying to be ahead of the curve.

 


References

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/china-huawei-zte-us-apple-6517185/

https://www.civilsdaily.com/mains/what-is-5g-technology-how-will-it-revolutionise-communication-sector/

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/telecom-news/stiff-contest-awaits-jio-as-it-takes-its-5g-tech-to-the-world/articleshow/77206868.cms

https://www.indiatoday.in/business/story/huawei-5g-ban-in-india-likely-govt-sources-1703692-2020-07-23

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/5g-is-about-making-networks-more-effective-its-the-way-forward-in-india-ericsson/article31615684.ece

https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/why-5g-is-seen-as-a-game-changer-for-india/story/394896.html

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Police Brutalities and the Need for their Sensitization

“The police uniform evokes various emotions. There is a fear of oppression and cruelty, as well as a perception of security. This perception shapes into expression from our daily observance. These days, people face a predicament whether to approach the police or not. They are scared whenever they see a policeman approaching them. Instead of feeling secure in their presence, the popular feeling is that of insecurity.”

Fake encounters, custodial deaths, lathi charge, abductions and third-degree torture — everyday episodes of sensational brutality by the policemen has shaken the nation’s trust in its police system. The horrific downturn in UP; alleged thrashing of a Dalit couple in MP and the murder of Jayaraj and Bennix at the hands of the local Tamil Nadu police has provoked a wide-spread national outrage.

Police Misconduct: A norm in India?

Police brutalities can be broadly observed as:

1) Torture and extrajudicial killings

  • Police use torture and another mistreatment to elicit confessions to the charges they fabricate.
  • While the practice is not the norm in most of India, fake encounter killings occur frequently.
  • Between April 2017 and February 2018, India recorded a staggering 1,674 custodial deaths, a rate of five custodial deaths per day, according to statistics placed by the Home Ministry.
  • UP topped the list, with 374 deaths reported in this period of under a year.

2) Prejudice and selective persecution

  • The Status of Policing in India Report 2019 reveals disturbing trends on police prejudice.
  • It indicates a significant bias against Minorities. Similar prejudices existed across certain states against Tribals, Dalits, transgenders and migrants from other states.

3) Professional misconduct

  • Police misconduct refers to inappropriate conduct and illegal actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties.
  • Types of misconduct include coerced false confession, intimidation, false arrest, falsification of evidence, spoliation of evidence, witness tampering, racial profiling, unwarranted surveillance, searches, and seizure of property.

4) Corruption

  • A report by Transparency International, show that in India, Police organization is seen as most corrupt by the people.
  • At present, corruption is pervasive among the senior and junior ranks in the form of bribery.
  • Police allegedly buy and sell appointments to positions in the areas most lucrative for extorting money from local businesses and embezzling police funds.

“Violence now runs in the veins of Gandhi’s nation. It demands police to lynch those who eat beef and do duty only for festive Bandobast and elections.”

Various Recourse Available to Citizens

Keeping the above circumstances in mind, it is imperative to understand the framework for pursuing grievances against police excesses.

  • Judicial remedy: Remedies, including compensation, can be sought before the High Courts and the Supreme Court under the violations of fundamental rights.
  • HR sanctions: Relief can also be sought before the National and the State Human Rights Commissions set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, but their recommendations are not binding on the respective governments.
  • Criminal cases: Criminal complaints can be filed against the concerned officers for offences under the IPC, 1860, but there is no mechanism for an independent investigation.
  • Disciplining: Since the police is a state subject under the Constitution, disciplinary proceedings and punishment for errant police officers such as suspension, removal or deduction of salary are provided under respective state enactments.

Why the Indian Police underperform: A Dangerous State of Disrepair

The police force has always faced its own set of problems that remain hidden and impede its smooth functioning and performance.

1) Inefficient Deployment and Workload

  • Policemen in India, on an average, work for a minimum of 12 hours a day, with no weekly off, no leaves, no overtime pay and no social life.
  • The police-population ratio, currently 192 policemen per lakh population, is less than what is recommended by UN i.e. 222 policemen per lakh population.

2) Infrastructure

  • The deteriorating state of the police is most visible at police stations.
  • Decaying, colonial-era police stations and posts across India are stocked with antiquated equipment and lack sufficient police vehicles, phones, computers, and even stationery.
  • Many lacked basic equipment needed for investigating crimes, preserving evidence, and keeping minimally adequate records.

3) Organizational discrepancies

  • The police structure in India is based on the archaic colonial laws that did not provide the lower ranks, with operational authority or advanced professional training.

4) Lack of proper training

  • Police training has not seen any modifications since decades. It is severely underfunded. Training is of poor quality because instructors are poor.
  • For lower ranks, pre-induction training of six to nine months are military in style and are dominated merely by physical fitness: “foot drills,” “platoon drill,” and ceremonial parades. That’s it.

5) Political interference

  • In a culture of sifarish —politically motivated refusal to register complaints, arbitrary detention, and torture and killings sometimes perpetrated by police at the behest of national and state politicians—have resulted in an unprecedented level of public distrust and fear of the police.
  • State and local politicians routinely tell police officers to drop investigations against people with political connections, including known criminals, and to harass or file false charges against political opponents.

6) Psycho-social alienation

  • Since the onset of the lockdown, Policemen are the most exposed beings to their severity. These days, their work conditions are physically and mentally taxing, and lower-ranking personnel are grossly frustrated over that.
  • The biggest problem they face is that there is a lack of social and family life. The apathy and brutalities these days are somewhat manifestations of these saturating conditions.

“We have no time to think, no time to sleep. I tell my men that a victim will only come to the police station because we can give him justice, so we should not beat him with a stick. But often the men are tired and irritable and grave mistakes take place out of overt frustrations.”

The long waited Reforms

Parliamentary Research Services (PRS) in 2017 put out a report on police reforms in India.

  • They articulated six areas where considerable work was still needed—police accountability; the need to separate law and order from the investigation; poor working conditions and an overburdened police force; constabulary related issues; police infrastructure; and public-police relations.

Till now, six committees, including the National Police Commission, have been set up by the government. These committees made recommendations in favour of major police reforms. These include the Gore Committee on Police Training (1971-73), the Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms (1998), the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (2000), the Group of Ministers on National Security (2000-01), and the Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System (2001-03).

In what is popularly referred to as the Prakash Singh Case of 2006, the Supreme Court ordered that reform must take place. It made seven-point directives to the Center and State governments.

The seven directives are:

1) Limit political control
Constitute a State Security Commission to:

  • Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
  • Lay down broad policy guidelines.
  • Evaluate the performance of the state police.

2) Appoint based on merit
Ensure that the Director-General of Police is appointed through a meritbased, transparent process, and secures a minimum tenure of 2 years.

3) Fix minimum tenure
Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (Including Superintendents of Police in charge of a district and Station House Officers in charge of a police station) are also provided with a minimum tenure of 2 years.

4) Separate police functions
Separate the functions of investigation and maintaining law and order.

5) Set up fair and transparent systems
Set up a Police Establishment Board to decide and make recommendations on transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

6) Establish a Police Complaints Authority in each state
At the state level, there should be a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. At the district level, the Police Complaints Authority should be set up to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.

7) Set up a selection commission
A National Security Commission needs to be set up at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of 2 years.

“It has become obvious that the police cannot be neutral. Either you comply with every order from the political masters, or you have some strong backing of a leader who protects you. That is how policing is being done in our country .”

Reforms: Largely on Papers

  • The directions of the Supreme Court, as usual, have fallen on deaf ears.
  • The Justice Thomas Committee appointed by the Supreme Court for monitoring compliance with the Prakash Singh judgement expressed dismay in its 2010 report over the total indifference exhibited by the states.
  • In 2013, the Justice Verma Committee constituted after the Nirbhaya gangrape also noted such non-compliance in its report and urged all states to fully comply with the top court’s directives to tackle systemic problems in policing.

Why these reforms are yet unimplemented?

  • What has perhaps stalled the implementation of these reforms is the lack of political will, which in turn could be linked to the growing criminalization of politics.
  • When lawmakers increasingly feature serious criminal charges in their resume, they have very little incentive to professionalize the police force.
  • Growing criminality of politics may be hindering both police performance and the impetus for police reform.

“Whatever the hiccups are, the clear bottom line is that the police are entrusted with the undeniable duty of protection. They need to inspire confidence amongst the citizen toward them, as nobody else can do better on their behalf.”

Way Forward

Efforts to end abuses will not succeed unless made part of a comprehensive overhaul. The following recommendations to both improve the functioning of the police and curtail abuses are drawn from multiple committees:

1) Overhaul police structures and improve working conditions

  • Improve working conditions: Minimum standards for housing and work hours should be developed, for instance, a requirement that station house officers announce and adhere to a monthly work schedule with maximum hours of work and provide for the mandatory leave.
  • Improve training and equipment: A scarcity of trained personnel can contribute to the likelihood of abusive behaviour, such as the “short-cuts” of refusing to register crime complaints to reduce caseloads and building cases on coerced confessions rather than a collection of evidence. The investigation curriculum at police academies must be bolstered.
  • Training on human rights and professional conduct: Frustrated officers with nothing to lose are more likely to engage in abusive behaviour. To change this environment, HR training must be provided for better police behaviour.

2) Enforce the law

  • Investigating police abuse and misconduct: The complaints against police officers and their investigation should be done by independent bodies which have no political as well as police interference only the crime against innocent citizens would reduce.
  • Preventing Torture: Strong domestic laws are critical to signalling police that torture is never a permissible means to extract confessions or other information from criminal suspects.
  • Repeal laws that encourage impunity: Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code continues to effectively shield many abusive police officials from prosecution for actions taken on “official duty”.  That needs to be amended.

3) Ensure accountability and discipline

  • Establish an independent internal affairs or “professional responsibility” unit at the state level to promptly and impartially investigated.
  • Internal investigations should be triggered by allegations made to external government agencies such as the NHRC or other relevant agencies.

4) Legislative intervention

To implement the police reforms in letter and spirit, the Indian Parliament must-

  • Amend or replace the Police Act of 1861 with legislation conforming to the requirements of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh judgement.
  • Amend the CrPC about FIR registration. To ensure prompt police aid to crime victims, amend Section 154 to explicitly state that a police station must register an FIR regardless of jurisdiction. Adopt the 2005 Police Act Drafting Committee’s recommendation to make failure to register an FIR a criminal offence.
  • Ratify the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
  • Specifically, define Torture and enforced disappearances as criminal offences in the IPC.
  • Amend the Evidence Act to make inadmissible any evidence obtained based on a police interrogation that involved the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or other illegal coercion.
  • Amend Section 36 of the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006 to permit the NHRC/SHRC to inquire into violations pending before other commissions.
  • Empower the NHRC/SHRC (the so-called toothless tigers) to issue binding orders, rather than non-binding recommendations to the state governments and police.

The ‘police’ and ‘public order’ being in the State List of Seventh Schedule, police reforms are large to be undertaken by state governments.

Conclusion

With movements like Black lives matter, one can easily conclude that police brutality is a global phenomenon. The mentality of being brute with citizens needs to go.

Training in modern concepts of justice and human rights is the need of the hour. The sensitization programmes for the field officers need to be conducted regularly. Zero tolerance for HR violations must be the mission.

There has to be promptness of action and decency of behaviour. It is time to transforms it from ‘Ruler’s Police’ to ‘People’s Police.’

 

 


References

https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/india-news-opinion-india-must-adopt-zero-tolerance-policy-for-torture-and-death-in-police-custody/303405

https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/why-india-needs-urgent-police-reforms-46003/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/police-reform-and-the-crucial-judicial-actor/article31965573.ece

https://scroll.in/article/966999/thoothukudi-isnt-an-exception-brutal-police-violence-has-always-been-the-norm-in-india

https://www.tatatrusts.org/upload/pdf/spir-2018-common-cause.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/08/04/broken-system/dysfunction-abuse-and-impunity-indian-police#

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] The ‘Boycott China’ Movement

 

In one way reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance to the British Raj, where Indians under occupa­tion forewent Manchester-sewn textiles in favour of “homespun” cloth, the difference between then and now, of course, is that China is not an occupying force here and no more do we rely on the “hoemespun cloth”.

In this article, we have attempted to provide you the most objective analysis of the issue.

After the Galwan Valley skirmish, the popular idea resonating in Indian streets is that Indians should boycott Chinese goods and thus “teach China a lesson”. India is considering a range of economic measures aimed at Chinese firms amid the border tensions. The Make in India movement is “gaining ground in the air” amid rising anti-Chinese sentiment but with raised eyebrows.

The move to ban 59 Chinese apps may be just the start. Many projects have started terminating their contracts with the Chinese.

Trade with China: A reality check

China accounts for a sizable portion of India’s top imports, especially where intermediate products or components and raw materials are concerned.

The Hindi-Chini buy buy

 

  • A third of machinery and almost two-fifths of organic chemicals that India purchases from the world come from China.
  • Automotive parts and fertilizers are other items where China’s share in India’s import is more than 25 per cent.
  • Several of these products are used by Indian manufacturers in the production of finished goods, thus thoroughly integrating China in India’s manufacturing supply chain.
  • For instance India sources close to 90 per cent of certain mobile phone parts from China.

India’s export to China

  • Even as an export market, China is a major partner for India. At $15.5 billion, it is the third-largest destination for Indian shipments.
  • At the same time, India only accounts for a little over two percent of China’s total exports, according to the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO).

The Boycott Movement: Swadeshi 2.0

Blame it on the pandemic and the border dispute, but the result is the same: some Indian businesses are boycotting China.

The government is now asking Indian e-commerce companies like Flipkart and Amazon India to label country of origin for all products sold on its websites.

The “boycott China” movement may not be an official boycott, but it is designed to limit the number of goods China sells to India in hopes India can pick up the slack.

The digital strike

  • The govt banned 59 Chinese mobile applications, including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat.
  • India accounts for 0.03% of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance’s global revenue.
  • Thus, banning these apps will make little to no economic impact on China in the short term.
  • On the other hand, this ban might have stymied China’s top tech firms in what many consider to be the world’s largest, untapped digital market.
  • Furthermore, this ban may provide a model for other countries that have expressed concerns about the pervasiveness of apps like TikTok and the privacy threat it poses concerning their citizens’ data.

Reasons why the #Boycott_China is an ill-advised move:

1) Trade deficits are not necessarily bad

  • Trade deficits/surpluses are just accounting exercises and having a trade deficit against a country doesn’t make the domestic economy weaker or worse off.
  • Example: If one looks at the top 25 countries with whom India trades, it has a trade surplus with the US, the UK and the Netherlands. But this does not make Indian economy better than them.

What does this deficit indicate?

  • Both Indian consumers and Chinese producers are gainers through trading.
  • One gets the market other cheap prices. Thus, both are better off than what they would have been without trade.

So, having a trade deficit is good?

  • Of course NOT. Running persistent trade deficits across all countries raises two main issues.
  • One, availability of foreign exchange reserves to “buy” the imports.
  • Today, India has more than $500 billion of forex — good enough to cover imports for 12 months.
  • Two, lack of domestic capacity to produce most efficiently.

2) Will hurt the Indian poor the most

  • This is because the poor are more price-sensitive.
  • For instance, if Chinese TVs were replaced by either costlier Indian TVs or less efficient ones, unlike poor, richer Indians may buy the costlier option.
  • Similarly, the Chinese products that are in India are already paid for. By banning their sale or avoiding them, Indians will be hurting fellow Indian retailers.
  • Again, this would hit poorest retailers more due to inability to cope with the unexpected losses.

3) Will punish Indian producers and exporters

  • Several businesses in India import intermediate goods and raw materials, which, in turn, are used to create final goods — both for the domestic Indian market as well as the global market (as Indian exports).
  • An overwhelming proportion of Chinese imports are in the form of intermediate goods such as electrical machinery, nuclear reactors, fertilizers, optical and photographic measuring equipment organic chemicals etc.
  • Such imports are used to produce final goods which are then either sold in India or exported.
  • A blanket ban on Chinese imports will hurt all these businesses at a time when they are already struggling to survive, apart from hitting India’s ability to produce finished goods.

Most crucial: The Pharma sector could be worst hit

  • For instance, of the nearly $3.6 billion worth of ingredients that Indian drug-makers import to manufacture several essential medicines, China catered to around 68 per cent.
  • India is considered one of the largest pharma industries in the world and accounts for a considerable portion of imports of finished formulations by other large economies like the US.
  • While pharma consignments from China have unofficially been stopped at ports in India, and are expected to be cleared after thorough checks,
  • A ban could create shortages of medicines both for India’s domestic and export markets.

4) Will barely hurt China

  • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data for 2018, 15.3% of India’s imports are from China, and 5.1% of India’s exports go to China.
  • More importantly, China’s imports from India are less than 1% of its total imports.
  • The point is that if India and China stop trading then — on the face of it — China would lose only 3% of its exports and less than 1% of its imports.
  • However, India will lose 5% of its exports and 14% of its imports. On the whole, it is much easier for China to replace India than for India to replace China.

5) Chinese money funds Indian unicorns

  • India and China have also become increasingly integrated in recent years.
  • Chinese money, for instance, has penetrated India’s technology sector, with companies like Alibaba and Tencent strategically pumping in billions of dollars into Indian startups such as Zomato, Paytm, Big Basket and Ola.
  • This has led to Chinese giants deeply “embedding themselves” in India’s socio-economic and technology ecosystem.

6) India will lose policy credibility

  • It has also been suggested that India should renege on existing contracts with China.
  • This can be detrimental to India’s effort to attract foreign investment.
  • As one of the first things, an investor — especially foreign — tracks is the policy credibility and certainty.
  • If policies can be changed overnight or if the government itself reneges on contracts, the investor will either not investor demand higher returns for the increased risk.

Raising tariffs is mutually assured destruction

  • Many argue that India should just slap higher import duties on Chinese goods or apply prohibitive tariffs on final goods.
  • By doing this, firstly India would be violating rules of the World Trade Organization.
  • Secondly, it would make China and many others reciprocate in the same way.

Equating border dispute with trade is no panacea

  • The first thing to understand is that turning a border dispute into a trade war is unlikely to solve the border dispute.
  • Worse, given India and China’s position in both global trades as well as relative to each other, this trade war will hurt India far more than China.
  • Again, these measures will be most poorly timed since the Indian economy is already at its weakest point ever — facing a sharp GDP contraction.

Are there any alternatives in this situation?

  • The decision to boycott non-essential products made in China can be left to the individuals.
  • However, trade-related measures like raising duties on cheaper raw materials imported from China would be better than an outright embargo.
  • This would still allow access to crucial ingredients in the short-term while India looks to build self-reliance or maybe switch to alternate trade partners.
  • It would be better to maybe raise duties on cheaper raw materials instead of going in for a blanket ban.

What are the alternatives?

  • Countries like the US, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico and certain European countries could be tapped as alternate import sources for some critical electronic, vehicular and pharmaceutical components as well.
  • It is likely that the costs of the raw materials from these alternate sources will be higher and may get passed on to consumers if the manufacturers cannot absorb them.
  • India will need to look into the totality of its trade with China and Hong Kong and implement certain short- to long-term plans to reduce its dependence on them, according to FIEO.

Way forward

  • In the long term, under the banner of self-reliance, India must develop its domestic capabilities and acquire a higher share of global trade by raising its competitiveness.
  • But no country is completely self-sufficient and that is why trade is such a fantastic idea.
  • It allows countries to specialize in what they can do most efficiently and export that good while importing whatever some other country does more efficiently.
  • The government’s “Atmanirbhar” focus is expected to help ministries handhold industries where self-reliance needs to be built.
  • For the long run, a more effective strategy needs to be built to provide an ecosystem that addresses the cost disability of Indian manufacturing leading to such imports.

Hence, improving domestic capacities and becoming globally competitive is the way forward.

Conclusion

A blanket ban on Chinese imports will hurt all these businesses at a time when they are already struggling to survive, apart from hitting India’s ability to produce finished goods.

Once the dust settles, they would refrain from escalating a trade war that has the potential to hurt both. Demand for raw material and Chinese goods will go up as the Indian economy revives and it is not in either country’s interest to rock the boat.

However, the limited period ban reflects sentiment and the determination for self-reliance. It would be an overstatement to call it a popularist movement.

 

We would love to see you attempting these questions. Post your answer snaps in the comment box.

Practice question:

Q. India’s quest for self-reliance is still a distant dream. Critically comment in light of the popular sentiment against the Chinese imports in India.

Q.“Curbing Chinese imports to India will do more harm than any good”. Analyse.

 

 


References:

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/will-banning-chinese-imports-hurt-indias-exports/

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/can-india-afford-to-ban-chinese-products-a-trade-war-is-undesirable-in-times-of-covid-19-pandemic

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/07/10/india-goes-all-in-on-boycott-china/#24f045db6e19

https://scroll.in/article/965167/sino-satyagraha-can-india-boycott-china-as-a-response-to-the-ladakh-attack

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India- Sri Lanka Fishermen Issues

2 days back, an article in Hindu caught our eyes. It was – “Indian trawlers are back, say Sri Lanka’s fishermen”. This is not a new issue, in fact, this news piece has it’s own way of making it back to the headlines again and again.

The conflict has also strained both countries’ bilateral ties, with talks at the highest levels and among fisher leaders on both sides proving futile for years.

So, today let us look at this news from a holistic point of view, through this edition of Burning Issue.

  • Indian boats have been fishing in the troubled waters for centuries and had a free run of the Bay of Bengal, the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar until 1974 and 1976 when treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate the maritime boundary — the ‘International Maritime Boundary Line'(IMBL).
  • However, the treaties failed to factor in the hardship of thousands of traditional Indian fishermen who were forced to restrict themselves to a meager area in their fishing forays.
  • The small islet of Katchatheevu, hitherto used by them for sorting their catch and drying their nets, fell on the Lankan side of the IMBL.
  • Fishermen often risk their lives and cross the IMBL rather than return empty-handed, but the Sri Lankan Navy is on alert, and have either arrested or destroyed fishing nets and vessels of those who have crossed the line.

The Palk Bay

Historically, the shallow waters of the Palk Bay and geographical contiguity between India and Sri Lanka facilitated the movement of ideas, goods, and men.

  • The Palk Bay, a narrow strip of water separating the state of Tamil Nadu in India from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
  • The bay, which is 137 km in length and varies from 64 to 137 kilometers in width, is divided by the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
  • Bordering it are five Indian districts and three Sri Lankan districts.

Its significance

  • The bonds of ethnicity, language, and religion helped fishermen lead the lives of harmonious coexistence for several centuries.
  • Frequent migrations between India and Sri Lanka through the Palk Bay took place. Intermarriages were common.
  • However, over the last several decades, internal and bilateral relations have suffered from a range of issues from coastal insecurity to overfishing.

End of the civil war

  • The region has become a highly contested site in recent decades, with the conflict taking on a new dimension since the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009.
  • Now the livelihood of Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen was at stake, thus, the Sri Lankan navy expanded and become more vigilant.
  • In India, the fisheries dispute chiefly began with an internal debate about sovereignty related to the ceding of the island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka.
  • The problem got exacerbated by the tension between fishermen practicing traditional fishing and those using trawlers.

What are the issues here?

The various dimensions of the fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka can be encapsulated as follows:

1) Issue over Sovereignty

  • The maritime boundary agreements of 1974 and 1976 delimited international boundaries in the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal, respectively.
  • They were concluded by the two governments in the name of good neighbourly relations, but they did not reflect realities on the ground because the people concerned, namely fishermen, were not consulted.
  • The principle of national sovereignty underpinned both agreements.
  • A close personal relationship between both prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, facilitated the successful conclusion.
  • However, from the perspective of Tamil Nadu, the ceding of the island of Katchatheevu in the Palk Bay to Sri Lanka was a grave mistake.

2) Poaching and Trawling

  • Fueling the dispute over Katchatheevu is the overuse of mechanized trawlers in the Palk Bay, the damaging environmental and economic effects of trawling.
  • To increase productivity and boost exports, the government of India embarked on a radical transformation of fishing techniques. The result was the introduction of trawlers.
  • Quick returns from prawns attracted many from non-fishing communities to invest in this profitable venture. As a result, numerous fishermen became wage labourers.
  • Trawlers have since been referred to as the “hoovers of the shelf bottom” and “bulldozers mowing down fish and other benthic species.
  • After their introduction, the Indian side of the Palk Bay quickly became devoid of fish.

3) Tougher laws

  • After some respite in the last couple of years, Sri Lanka introduced tougher laws banning bottom-trawling and put heavy fines for trespassing foreign vessels.
  • Crossing the IMBL poses a greater threat as Sri Lanka has amended its Foreign Fisheries Boats Regulation Act to increase the fine on Indian vessels found fishing in Sri Lankan waters to a minimum of LKR 6 million (about ₹25 lakh) and a maximum of LKR 175 million (about ₹17.5 Crore).

4) Fisherman’s concerns

  • There is a depletion of fisheries on the Indian side, so Indian fishermen cross into Sri Lankan waters thus denying the livelihood of their counterparts.
  • They deliberately cross the territorial waters even at the risk of getting arrested or shot dead by the Sri Lankan Navy.
  • Sri Lankan fishermen across Palk Bay are concerned over similar depletion on their side (where there is a ban for trawlers) because of poaching by their brethren from Tamil Nadu.
  • Apart from enforcing the trawler ban, the Sri Lankan Navy has also stepped up the monitoring of coasts, especially those that are proximate to India. The idea is to prevent any movement of remnant militants back into the island.

Implications on the fishermen

  • The ongoing dispute has escalated tensions between those fishermen using traditional methods and those using mechanized methods, as well as increased the infringement of territorial boundaries.
  • According to the government of Tamil Nadu, the sufferings of Indian Tamil fishermen is a direct consequence of ceding Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka and sacrificing the traditional fishing rights enjoyed by Indian fishermen.
  • In a defiant speech on August 15, 1991, Jayalalitha called on the people of Tamil Nadu to retrieve the island.

Averting a Crisis

  • The underlying issues of the fisheries dispute need to be addressed, so that relations between fishermen and their governments, between Tamil Nadu and New Delhi, and between Tamil Nadu and Colombo do not reach a crisis point.
  • Immediate actions should be taken to begin the phase-out of trawling and identify other fishing practices.
  • Katchatheevu Issue: The unilateral abrogation of the maritime boundary agreement on India’s part would cause irreparable damage to India’s image. Need to stay away from politics here.

Alternative solutions

  • Leasing: Two courses of action exist: (1) get back the island of Katchatheevu on “lease in perpetuity” or (2) permit licensed Indian fishermen to fish within a designated area of Sri Lankan waters and vice versa.
  • Licensing: The second course of action would persuade Colombo to permit licensed Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters for five nautical miles from the IMBL.
  • There is precedent in the 1976 boundary agreement, which allowed licensed Sri Lankan fishermen to fish in the Wadge Bank (a fertile fishing ground located near Kanyakumari) for a period of three years.
  • Reconsidering old agreements: A window of opportunity opened at the end of India–Sri Lanka foreign secretary consultations in July 2003, when the Sri Lankan government agreed for the first time to consider proposals for licensed fishing. This can be revisited.

Looping in fishermen themselves

  • Though the idea of meetings among fishermen was conceptualized way back in 2003, it was not pursued seriously.
  • Arranging frequent meetings between fishing communities of both countries could be systematized so as to develop a friendlier atmosphere mid-seas during fishing.
  • Starting ferry services between India and Sri Lanka can improve people to people linkages. Mutual recognition of each other’s concerns and interests can improve the relationship between both countries.
  • Media personnel can be invited to witness those practical issues confronted by the fishermen in each country. This would make a qualitative difference in reporting.

Way Forward

  • Action should be taken immediately to end the use of mechanized trawlers within one year, and the government should implement a buy-back arrangement as soon as possible.
  • Through incentives and persuasion, fishermen from the Palk Bay could be encouraged to switch over to deep-sea fishing in the Indian exclusive economic zone and in international waters.
  • Social security reforms for the fishermen community is necessary to empower them.
  • Diversification of livelihood options of fishermen.
  • Improving the fishing industry by itself like there is huge untapped potential for processed foods which will not only boost infrastructure in this sector but also reduce wastages.

Conclusion

The success of diplomacy lies in converting a crisis into an opportunity. If New Delhi and Tamil Nadu are determined, they can create a win-win scenario in the Palk Bay.

Overall, if the fishermen issue is not approached holistically, the marine frontiers between India and Sri Lanka will remain fishy and troubled. Ultimately, India must view the Palk Bay region as a common heritage of the two countries and project this vision.

 

 

 


References

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/indian-trawlers-are-back-say-sri-lankas-fishermen/article32024955.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/why-are-several-tn-fishermen-in-trouble-with-the-sri-lankan-navy/article22716002.ece

https://carnegieindia.org/2016/09/09/india-sri-lanka-fisheries-dispute-creating-win-win-in-palk-bay-pub-64538

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/peace-at-bay-why-the-india-lanka-fishing-issue-continues-to-fester/articleshow/72349257.cms

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0974928417749643

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Education in Times of COVID-19

 

Many countries are suggesting various levels of containment in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With these worries, schools and universities are closing down and moving abruptly to online platforms and remote education. This sudden change has us asking, “Is the education system in India on a verge of collapse?”

Context

Sometime in the second week of March, governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s been almost four months. The debate over future of education has led to various concerns among students, parents, educational institutions as well as policymakers.

Social distance and Education

Schools, Colleges and various Institutes across the globe are simply instructed to limit the exposure of susceptible student population. This includes measure such as-

  • School closures
  • Postponing/rescheduling examinations
  • Cleaning and sanitization of premises
  • Consideration of long-term contingency

How Education has been impacted so far?

1) Delays

  • Standardized testing and school admissions are being delayed across the country.
  • Some states have opted to cancel or delay standardized testing, while others are thinking of extending the school year due to delays and many missed days of school.

2) Challenges for staff and students

  • Adaption issues: As school and university staff learn how to convert their lessons to online platforms, both students and staff are learning how to deal with remote learning and communication.
  • Overnight change: Though technology has already had a big hand in most school affairs, the new dependence on technology for every aspect of education is forced to occur overnight.

3) Learning impairments

  • Lack of concentration: Younger children, as well as specially-abled students, find it difficult to concentrate on full capacity with online educational tools.
  • Young children need the assistance of in-person instruction and may find it difficult to concentrate on a typical frontal class conducted on a computer.
  • Specially-abled ones: Students with special needs, who also rely on in-person instruction, may find it especially difficult to switch to online platforms.
  • These difficulties may require a more unique approach to online learning or may demand the extra assistance of parents as these students navigate a new educational paradigm.

4) Fear of dropouts and child labour

  • Disadvantaged, at-risk, or homeless children are more unlikely to return to school after the closures are ended, and the effect will often be a life-long disadvantage from lost opportunities.
  • A livelihood loss for low earning families has drawn severe triggers for dropouts and child labour as well.

5) Productivity and employment

  • The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future.
  • A large number of Indian students—second only to China—enroll in universities abroad, especially in countries worst affected by the pandemic, the US, UK, Australia and China.
  • Many such students have now been barred from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected.
  • Recent graduates in India fear the withdrawal of job offers from corporates because of the current situation.

6) Strain on the health-care system

  • Women make up almost 70% of the health care workforce, exposing them to a greater risk of infection.
  • They often cannot attend work because of childcare obligations that result from school closures.
  • This means that many medical professionals are not at the facilities where they are most needed during a health crisis.

Consequences: A setback beyond closures

  • Children have fewer opportunities of learning from home. Further, closure of schools is likely to lead to parents missing work, in order to stay at home and take care of the children.
  • This also affects productivity, incurs a loss in wages, consequently affecting the community and the economy as a whole.
  • Midday meals: Schools in India also have a social element attached to them. With closed schools, the health and nutrition of students will be affected, especially schedule caste and scheduled tribes.

Response to the Crisis

The Indian government has taken cognizance of the untapped potential of e-learning.

E-VIDYA: The one-nation-one platform facility through the PM E-Vidya platform and a dedicated channel for students from Class 1 to Class 12 will liberalize distance and online learning regulatory framework. Moreover, emphasis on community radio, podcasts, and customized content for differently-abled will enable more inclusivity into access to education.

Rise of MOOCS: The UGC has encouraged them to adopt massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered on its SWAYAM platform for credit transfers in the coming semesters.

Encouraging VidyaDaan: The Union HRD Ministry has e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions. ‘Vidya Daan’ is a digital program to enable contributions to improve teaching & learning.

Distant Learning has its limitations

In India, 320 million students have been affected by COVID-19 school closures. Needless to say, the pandemic has transformed the centuries-old, chalk–talk teaching model to one driven by technology. Online learning has become a critical lifeline for education, which has its inherent limitations.

1) Digital illiteracy and Lack of technology access

  • “Online teaching” ignores India’s immense digital divide—with embedded gender and class divides.

  • Digital illiteracy and lack of access to technology or fast, reliable internet access prevent students in rural areas and from disadvantaged families.
  • It is an obstacle to continued learning, especially for students from disadvantaged families.

2) Unequal access to educational resources

  • Lack of limitations and exceptions costly paid courses can also have an impact on the ability of students to access the textbooks and materials they need to study.
  • Several initiatives are now being taken by the government to grant that students and teachers can have access to open educational resources or understand copyright limitations.

3) Nutrition and food insecurity

  • Nutrition plays a critical role in cognitive development and academic performance for children.
  • Many children rely on free or discounted meals at schools or the food under the Midday Meal Scheme.
  • When schools close, nutrition is especially compromised for children.

4) Passive learning

  • India is a country where the backbone for online learning is not yet ready and the curriculum was never designed for such a format.
  • The sudden shift to online learning without any planning has created the risk of most of our students becoming passive learners and they seem to be losing interest due to low levels of attention span.
  • We are now beginning to realize that online learning could be dull as it is creating a new set of passive learners which can pose new challenges.

Lessons learned during the Lockdown

While lamentable, the disruption to education systems worldwide offers valuable lessons and provides a unique opportunity to reimagine education, the curriculum, and pedagogy.

The current system gives a disproportionate emphasis on information transfer and not the knowledge.

1) The digital divide needs to be bridged

  • Technology has the potential to achieve universal quality education and improve learning outcomes.
  • But in order to unleash its potential, the digital divide (and its embedded gender divide) must be addressed.
  • Digital capabilities, the required infrastructure, and connectivity must reach the remotest and poorest communities.
  • Access to technology and the internet is an urgent requirement in the information age. It should no longer be a luxury.

2) The curriculum needs a revamp

  • While teachers are struggling to learn digital ways of communicating with their students, it is clear that we need to pay close attention to what we teach.
  • This crisis is teaching us that curricula must be grounded in students’ realities, cultivating critical, creative, and flexible thinking, resilience, and empathy in students.
  • Developing a symbiotic relationship with our environment has taken on a new urgency, and teachers must help students think about their relationship with the universe and everyone and everything in it.
  • Now is the time for governments to integrate such a curriculum into the national curricular framework.

3) A wider cadre of teachers need to be created

  • This crisis is forcing teachers to reinvent their roles from that of transferring information to enabling learning.
  • The shift to distance learning has afforded many opportunities to teach differently, encouraging self-learning, providing opportunities to learn from diverse resources, and allowing customized learning for diverse needs through high-tech and low-tech sources.

4) Empowering the community with resources

  • Continuing education amid school closures has also taught us an important lesson about the role of the community in teaching our children.
  • Improving the education system requires a decentralized, democratic community-based approach, where community ownership of education is cultivated.
  • Important for this is the hiring of local teachers (with adequate Dalit and female representation), which increases teachers’ accountability to children’s families and their ability to empathize with students’ lives.

UNESCO recommendations

The UNESCO has made these recommendations for engaging in online learning:

  • Develop distance learning rules and monitor students’ learning process: Define the rules with parents and students on distance learning. Design formative questions, tests, or exercises to monitor closely students’ learning process.
  • Examine the readiness and choose the most relevant tools: Decide on the use of high-technology and low-technology solutions based on the reliability and availability of resources. This could range through integrated digital learning platforms, video lessons, MOOCs, to broadcasting through radios and TVs.
  • Ensure inclusion of the distance learning programmes: Implement measures to ensure that students including those with disabilities or from low-income backgrounds have access to distance learning programmes if only a limited number of them have access to digital devices.
  • Prioritize solutions to address psychosocial challenges before teaching: Create communities to ensure regular human interactions, enable social caring measures, and address possible psychosocial challenges that students may face when they are isolated.
  • Plan the study schedule of the distance learning programmes: Plan the schedule depending on the situation of the affected zones, level of studies, needs of students’ needs, and availability of parents.
  • Provide support to teachers and parents on the use of digital tools: Organise brief training or orientation sessions for teachers and parents as well, if monitoring and facilitation are needed.
  • Blend appropriate approaches and limit the number of applications and platforms: Blend tools or media that are available for most students, both for synchronous communication and lessons and for asynchronous learning.
  • Define the duration of distance learning units based on students’ self-regulation skills: Keep a coherent timing according to the level of the students’ self-regulation and abilities especially for live-streaming classes. Preferably, the unit for primary school students should not be more than 20 minutes, and no longer than 40 minutes for secondary school students.
  • Create communities and enhance connection: Create communities of teachers, parents, and school managers to address a sense of loneliness or helplessness, facilitate sharing of experience and discussion on coping strategies when facing learning difficulties.

Way Forward

A multi-pronged strategy is necessary to manage the crisis and build a resilient Indian education system in the long term.

Immediate measures like Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Software should be adopted so teachers can conduct teaching online.

The DIKSHA platform, with reach across all states in India, can be further strengthened to ensure accessibility of learning to the students.

It is important to reconsider the current delivery and pedagogical methods in school and higher education by seamlessly integrating classroom learning with e-learning modes to build a unified learning system.

There is an information explosion in India. It is important to establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmark for online learning developed and offered by India HEIs as well as e-learning platforms that are experiencing a boom.

Conclusion

Online classes are no substitutes for classroom lectures for a variety of reasons. The digital divide is one off the reason. Surely, it should be built as a complementary tool.

 

 

 


References

https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/education/covid-19-pandemic-impact-and-strategies-for-education-sector-in-india/75173099

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2020/05/14/covid-19-in-india-education-disrupted-and-lessons-learned/

http://confluence.ias.ac.in/the-impact-of-the-coronavirus-sars-cov-2-on-the-education-sector-in-india/

https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/covid-19-4-negative-impacts-and-4-opportunities-created-for-education-1677206-2020-05-12

http://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Decoding-COVID-19-Impact-On-Indian-Education-/05-06-2020-194419/

https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/impact-of-coronavirus-on-education/

https://www.indiaeducation.net/resources/articles/impact-of-coronavirus-on-education.html

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] US Visa Ban and its Impact on India

We have been having a bad summer! The Nepalese have face-palmed us, the Chinese have taken our territory and let not forget the Covid crisis. Now Donald Trump has dealt a blow to thousands aspiring for a career in the US.

The US administration extended the 60-day ban on immigration and non-immigrant worker visas till the end of 2020. Popular work visas including the much-coveted H-1B and H-2B, and certain categories of H-4, J, and L visas would also remain suspended until December 31.

Apart from the suspension of these work visas, the executive order signed by Trump has also made sweeping changes to the H-1B work visa norms, which will no longer be decided by the currently prevalent lottery system. The new norms will now favour highly-skilled workers who are paid the highest wages by their respective companies.

What are H-1B, H-2B, L and other work visas?

  • In order to fill a vacuum of highly-skilled low-cost employees in IT and other related domains, the US administration issues a certain number of visas each year which allows companies from outside the US to send employees to work on client sites.
  • Of these work visas, the H-1B remains the most popular among Indian IT companies.
  • The US government has a cap of 85,000 total H-1B visas for each year.

Here are the visas that have been put on hold till December 2020:

1) H-1B visa

What is it: The H-1B visa category covers individuals who “work in a speciality occupation, engage in cooperative research and development projects administered by the US Department of Defense or are fashion models that have national or international acclaim and recognition.”

Who’s covered: The H-1B is most well known as a visa for skilled tech workers, but other industries, like health care and the media, also use these visas.

2) H-2B visa

What it is: According to USCIS, the H-2B program allows US employers or agents “to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.”

Who’s covered: They generally apply to seasonal workers in industries like landscaping, forestry, hospitality and construction.

3) J-1 visa

What it is: The J-1 visa is an exchange visitor visa for individuals approved to participate in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs in the United States.

Who’s covered:
The impacted people include interns, trainees, teachers, camp counsellors, au pairs and participants in summer work travel programs.

4) L-1 visa

What it is: The L1 Visa is reserved for managerial or executive professionals transferring to the US from within the same company, or a subsidiary of it. The L1 Visa can also be used for a foreign company opening up US operations.

Who’s covered: Within the L1 Visa, there are two subsidiary types of visas

  • L1A visa for managers and executives.
  • L1B visa for those with specialized knowledge.

The story of work visas

  • The 1952 scheme: Since it was started in 1952, the H-1 visa scheme has undergone many changes and revisions to allow or disallow certain categories of skilled workers in the US, depending on the economic situation of the country.
  • Harnessing the technology boom: The technology boom coupled with the arrival of the internet and low-cost computers in developing nations such as India and China saw a large number of graduates willing to work at relatively low costs in the US.
  • This is often the win-win situation for both the employer in the US and the employee.
  • Bypassing Americans: However, it has since often been criticised for sending low-cost workers to the US at the expense of domestic workers.

Trumps in ‘The Protectionism’

  • Donald Trump coming to power: In January 2017, after taking over as the president of the US, Trump had hinted that the low-cost workers were hampering the economy and undercutting jobs of citizens.
  • Delivering election vendetta: The US had then hinted at reforming the “broken” H-1B visa system.
  • COVID uncertainties: Trump seized the opportunity provided by the economic contraction due to Covid-19 by first banning the entry of non-immigrant workers till June 23, and then extending it till December 31.
  • Sudden unemployment: The White House reasoned that the ongoing pandemic has “significantly disrupted Americans’ livelihoods”, to the extent that the overall unemployment rate quadrupled between February and May 2020 to a little over 13%.

Motive behind the visa ban

  • Breaking the chain: The ban implies that U.S. firms or others with U.S. operations who rely on skilled foreign nationals working in the U.S. will be unable to make new hires as long as the ban stands.
  • Looming slowdown: Many firms are unlikely to do any hiring at this economically depressed time.
  • Upcoming elections’ agenda: As per popular opinion, this is a method by the US President to reach out to the voter base.
  • Yet again- ‘America first’: Trump would take all moves to build political capital in the name of the “America First” mantra — a foregone conclusion given his outspokenness on the subject to date.

Who all does it impact?

  • The visa ban means those who do not have a valid non-immigrant visa as of June 23 and are outside of the US, will not be allowed to enter the country until December 31.
  • Workers in essential services in the food sector have been given some reprieve, and their entry shall be decided by the consular officer of immigration services.
  • H-1B, H-2B, J and L visa holders, and their spouse or children already present in the US shall not be impacted by the new worker visa ban.
  • H-1B visas are generally approved for a period of three years for a person, but many visa holders change employers to extend their US stay.
  • Foreign nationals outside the US, who were to begin work on an H-1B visa or even L-1 visas (intra-company transfer) – but do not as yet hold a valid visa, as well as dependents who were to accompany them (be it spouses or dependent children) will have to wait longer, till the ban expires.

Will Indian corporations be hit?

This visa ban come at a crucial inflexion point for the Indian economy when restrictions on the movement of people and goods slowly will be lifted after India passes its peak viral case numbers. This would create a knock-on effect from IT to other sectors.

1) IT sector

  • Indian IT companies are amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the US H-1B visa regime and have since the 1990s cornered a lion’s share of the total number of visas issued each year.
  • As of April 1, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received about 2.5 lakh H-1B work visa applications, according to official data.
  • Indians had applied for as many as 1.84 lakh or 67 per cent of the total H-1B work visas for the current financial year ending March 2021.
  • India’s IT services exports to the U.S., which depend significantly on the H-1B visa, have been an important constituent element of bilateral economic trade.
  • Though the large Indian IT companies have cut down their dependency on H-1B and other worker visas by hiring as much as 50 per cent of staff locally, they still rely on these visas to keep costs in check.

2) Highly skilled workers

  • Favouring highest-paid worker could result in a significant impact on margins and worker wages of Indian IT companies which send thousands of low-cost employees to work on client sites in the US.
  • This, in turn, impacts their remuneration in the long term.

Silver lining

  • Newer opportunities for Indian high skilled workers in the IT sector in other countries outside of the US will be explored after this ban.
  • H1B1 has drawn away from the best talent from India for decades. This move may cause reverse brain gain for better growth of the Indian tech industry.
  • These would in turn benefit innovation, R&D for nurturing the growing start-up sector in India.
  • Most of the companies have become capable of handling their work remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has provided resilience to the Indian tech sector against international mobility restrictions.
  • With this ban, already employed skilled workers from India may get higher salaries which in turn would increase the inflow of remittances.

Criticism within the US

  • Google CEO Sunder Pichai has expressed disappointment over the proclamation, and said he would stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.
  • He said that immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.
  • The ban on issuing visas will harm employers, families, universities, hospitals, communities, and delay America’s economic recovery.

Impact on bilateral ties

  • An internal matter for the US: The freezing of non-immigration work visas is more of a US election-related issue rather than an indication of any mutual problems between India and the US.
  • India & the US share global strategic partnership, based on shared democratic values and similarity of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.
  • However despite this strong bond and despite hectic talks at diplomatic levels between India and the US, the Trump administration decided in favour of implementing the ban.
  • The issue becomes a sensitive one as US cooperation becomes strategically necessary for India amid its border tensions and skirmishes with China.

Way Forward

  • For its benefits, the US should amend the H-1B programme, not end it.
  • Immigrants have played a crucial role in making the USA a global leader in cutting edge technology.
  • Suspending the visas will only weaken the USA’s economy and its health care workforce at a time when there is a need to strengthen both.
  • Politics should not trump smart policy and the ingenuity of migrant workers should be harnessed to revive an economy in dire straits.

Conclusion

  • India needs to keep the US on its side for strategic and security reasons.
  • But the immediate future of the relationship depends on the upcoming US presidential elections.
  • If India-US relationship is a defining one for this century, as PM Modi has said, the visa ban decision should not let this sour in.
  • Lastly, we can conclude that the US has maligned its image of being the global ambassador of Liberalism.

 

 

 


References

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/us-h1b-visa-suspension-india-it-companies-6471966/

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-hindu-explains-how-will-the-us-visa-ban-impact-india/article31935322.ece

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/visa-and-immigration/trumps-h1-b-order-makes-it-impossible-for-many-indians-to-return-to-their-lives-in-the-us/articleshow/76663260.cms?from=mdr

https://www.theweek.in/news/biz-tech/2020/06/23/how-will-trump-H1B-visa-ban-affect-indians.html

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Rajya Sabha and Its Functioning

The Rajya Sabha elections were recently concluded. Leaving aside the tussle for majority in Rajya sabha(to get bills passed), this body has been in news for many reasons. One of the primary debate also questions the very need of an upper house. So, in today’s article we will talk about THE House of elders. The voting procedure, functions and analysis on it’s present need – yes! everything is written below.

The Rajya Sabha

  • The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament.
  • It currently has a maximum membership of 245, of which 233 are elected by the legislatures of the states and union territories using single transferable votes through Open Ballot.
  • The President can appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services.
  • Members sit for terms lasting six years, with elections every year but almost a third of the 233 designates up for election every two years, specifically in even-numbered years.

A Historical background

  • The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952, and held its first session on May 13 the same year.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after the adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Before its existence

  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral.
  • Under 1919 Act, Council of States had 60 members and Legislative Assembly had 145 members.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were restrictive. These restrictions meant only wealthy landowners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it.
  • Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialized.

Elections to the Rajya Sabha

Qualifications

Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament. A member of the Rajya Sabha must:

  • Be a citizen of India; Be at least 30 years old. (Article 84 constitution of India)
  • Be elected by the Legislative Assembly of States and UTs by means of the single transferable vote through proportional representation.
  • Not be: a proclaimed criminal, a subject of an insolvent, of unsound mind.
  • Not hold any other office of profit under the Government of India.
  • Possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.

In addition, twelve members are nominated by the President of India having special knowledge in various areas like arts and science. However, they are not entitled to vote in Presidential elections as per Article 55 of the Constitution.

Election procedure

  • Candidates fielded by political parties have to be proposed by at least 10 members of the Assembly or 10% of the party’s strength in the House, whichever is less.
  • For independents, there should be 10 proposers, all of whom should be members of the Assembly.

Voting procedure

  • Voting is by single transferable vote, as the election is held on the principle of proportional representation.
  • A single transferable vote means electors can vote for any number of candidates in order of their preference.
  • A candidate requires a specified number of first preference votes to win. Each first choice vote has a value of 100 in the first round.
  • To qualify, a candidate needs one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the total value of the number of seats for which elections are taking place plus one.
  • The formula simply is [(Number of MLAs X 100) / (Vacancies + 1)] + 1.

Example: If there are four seats and 180 MLAs voting, the qualifying number will be 180/5= 36 votes or value of 3,600.

Note: The Rajya Sabha polls have a system of the open ballot, but it is a limited form of openness. There is a system of each party MLA showing his or her marked ballots to the party’s authorised agent (called Whip), before they are put into the ballot box.

The NOTA option has been struck down by the Supreme Court in RS elections.

The Power Equation: Lok Sabha Vs Rajya Sabha

The Indian Constitution provides for parity of powers between the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in law, making an exception in some cases.

The Money Bill or Finance Bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha which only can approve the Demands for Grants.

On the other hand, the Rajya Sabha has some special powers as requiring adopting a resolution allowing Parliament to legislate on subjects in the State List and creating All India Services, besides approving proclamations of Emergency and President’s Rule when the Lok Sabha is dissolved.

Renowned British philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill as early as in 1861 said in his great treatise Considerations on Representative Government that management of free institutions requires conciliation; a readiness to compromise; a willingness to concede something to opponents and mutual give and take. Truly, Rajya sabha plays this role in Indian legislature.

In detail: Powers and Functions of the Rajya Sabha

1. Legislative Powers:

  • In the sphere of ordinary law-making, the Rajya Sabha enjoys equal powers with the Lok Sabha. An ordinary bill can be introduced in the Rajya Sabha and it cannot become a law unless passed by it.
  • In case of a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament over an ordinary bill and if it remains unresolved for six months, the President can convene a joint sitting of the two Houses for resolving the deadlock.
  • This joint sitting is presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. But if the deadlock is not resolved, the bill is deemed to have been killed.

2. Financial Powers:

  • In the financial sphere, the Rajya Sabha is a weak House.
  • A money bill cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha. It can be initiated only in the Lok Sabha.
  • A money bill passed by the Lok Sabha comes before the Rajya Sabha for its consideration.

3. Executive Powers:

  • Members of the Rajya Sabha can exercise some control over the ministers by criticizing their policies, by asking questions and moving motions etc.
  • Some of the ministers are also taken from the Rajya Sabha. The PM can also be from Rajya Sabha if the majority party in the Lok Sabha may elect/adopt him as its leader.

4. Electoral Powers:

  • The Rajya Sabha has some electoral powers also. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha along with the elected members of the Lok Sabha and all the State Legislative Assemblies together elect the President of India.
  • The members of the Rajya Sabha Lok Sabha together elect the Vice- President of India.
  • Members of the Rajya Sabha also elect a Deputy Chairman from amongst themselves.

5. Judicial Powers:

  • The RS acting along with the Lok Sabha can impeach the President on charges of violation of the Constitution.
  • The RS can also pass a special address for causing the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court or of any High Court.
  • The charges against the Vice-President can be levelled only in the RS.
  • The RS can pass a resolution for the removal of some high officers like the Attorney General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General and Chief Election Commissioner.

6. Miscellaneous Powers:

The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha jointly perform the following functions:

  • Approval of the ordinances issued by the President,
  • Ratification of an emergency proclamation,
  • Making any change in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, and
  • Making any change in the qualifications for the membership of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

7. Exclusive Powers

The Rajya Sabha enjoys two exclusive powers:

(i) The Power to declare a subject of State List as a subject of National Importance:

The Rajya Sabha can pass a resolution by 2/3rd majority of its members for declaring a State List subject as a subject of national importance. Such a resolution empowers the Union Parliament to legislate on such a state subject for a period of one year. Such resolutions can be repeatedly passed by the Rajya Sabha.

(ii) Power in respect of Creation or Abolition of an All India Service:

The Rajya Sabha has the power to create one or more new All India Services. It can do so by passing a resolution supported by 2/3rd majority on the plea of national interest. In a similar way, the Rajya Sabha can disband an existing All India Service.

Limitations to its powers

The Constitution places some restrictions on Rajya Sabha; the Lok Sabha is more powerful in certain areas as such:

1. Money bills

  • A money bill can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha by a minister and only on recommendation of President of India.
  • When the Lok Sabha passes a money bill then the Lok Sabha sends money bill to the Rajya Sabha for 14 days during which it can make recommendations.
  • Even if Rajya Sabha fails to return the money bill in 14 days to the Lok Sabha, that bill is deemed to have passed by both the Houses.

Also, if the Lok Sabha rejects any (or all) of the amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha, the bill is deemed to have been passed. Hence, Rajya Sabha can only give recommendations for a money bill but Rajya Sabha cannot amend a money bill.

There is no joint sitting of both the houses with respect to money bills, because all final decisions are taken by the Lok Sabha.

2. Joint Sitting of the Parliament

  • Article 108 provides for a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament in certain cases.
  • Considering that the numerical strength of Lok Sabha is more than twice that of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha tends to have a greater influence in a joint sitting of Parliament.  A joint session is chaired by the Speaker of Lok Sabha.

Joint sessions of Parliament are a rarity, and have been convened only three times in last 71 years, for the purpose of passage of a specific legislative act, the latest time being in 2002:

  • 1961: Dowry Prohibition Act, 1958
  • 1978: Banking Services Commission (Repeal) Act, 1977
  • 2002: Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002

 3. No confidence motion:

    • The Union Council of Ministers is collectively responsible before the Lok Sabha and not the Rajya Sabha.
    • Lok Sabha alone can cause the fall of the Council of Ministers by passing a vote of no-confidence.

Rajya Sabha: A destructionist?

  • An analysis by the Secretariat revealed that the productivity of the Rajya Sabha till 1997 has been 100% and above and the past 23 years have thrown up a disturbing trend of rising disruptions.
  • This decline is primarily on account of disruptions forcing cancellation of Question Hour frequently. Disruptions also dent the quality of law-making as seen in passing of Bills without discussion sometimes.
  • However, the Rajya Sabha is proving to be more and more a ‘deliberative’ body with increasingly more time being spent on this function.
  • According to various members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha has done nothing except stalling legislative works and causing policy paralysis in the country.
  • For critics, the Upper House serves no purpose as its members are not directly elected and hence are not accountable to the people.
  • Rajya Sabha often has members from the party defeated in various elections, or are from political families, and due to political differences, they do not allow passage of important bills.
  • So many extra members are an added burden on exchequer which can be done away with.
  • Politics of boycotting and creating ruckus in the house and toeing on the party-line even on the issue that won’t attract disqualification provisions is a worrying thing.
  • At the same time, in terms of working, Rajya Sabha does not have sufficient powers in financial matters to bring any change and they are without any direct public interaction. Hence its purpose in modern democracy seems outdated.

Importance of Rajya Sabha and Why It Should Continue

  • According to President Radhakrishnan, there are functions, which a revising chamber like Rajya Sabha can fulfil fruitfully. Parliament is not only a legislative but a deliberative body. So far as its deliberative functions are concerned, Rajya Sabha has made very valuable contributions time and again.
  • It’s true that party dynamics affects the working of Rajya Sabha. But in democracy passion often defeat the normal rationality. Thus a revising house is needed to check such adrenal rush.
  • While the argument of members not able to win in direct elections holds true, but retaining talent is essential for any democratic system. Losing valuable talent during election fervours has mostly been corrected by Rajya Sabha. It has also given entry to other experts like scientist, artist, sportsmen etc that can rarely face the electoral politics.
  • While Lok Sabha have members for each state, the Hindi belt domination is a constant theme. Hence other state interests, like those in North East, have always been taken up by the Rajya Sabha.
  • While it can’t bring no confidence motion or amend money bill, its role in checking arbitrariness of government, as reflected in Land Ordinance, is necessary in democracy. Besides its special role in All India Services, legislation in State List too necessitates its existence.
  • Men and women of prodigious talent and calibre have adorned the benches of the upper house and have contributed significantly towards realising the vision of the founding fathers of the Constitution.
  • A permanent Upper House is also a check against any abrupt changes in the composition of the Lower House.
  • Rajya Sabha has continuity and is a permanent house.
  • Unlike Lok Sabha, it cannot be dissolved by anyone. Thus it has, time and often, carried out some administrative functions even when the lower house is dissolved. It has members with experienced players while there may be new entrants in the Lok Sabha.

By virtue of this, Rajya Sabha can’t be said to be ‘obstructive’.

Conclusion

A study of the powers of the Rajya Sabha leads us to the conclusion that it is neither a very weak house like the British House of Lords nor a very powerful house as the American Senate. Its position is somewhat mid-way between the two. It has been less powerful than Lok Sabha but it has been not a very weak or insignificant House.

Instead of engaging in the debate of if we need upper house or not, more constructive outlook would be improve it’s functioning. Clearly, the recommendations are present from NCRWC to 2nd ARC. The need is implementation and political support.

 

Try this question from our AWE Initiative:

How far do you agree with the view that Rajya Sabha has done nothing exceptional in last 70 years except stalling work and therefore it should be abolished? (10 Marks)


References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajya_Sabha

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/explained-how-are-elections-to-the-rajya-sabha-held/

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/comment-do-numbers-matter-in-rajya-sabha/article31569127.ece

https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/political-science/rajya-sabha-functions-and-powers-of-the-rajya-sabha/40342

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India’s Ailing Health Sector and Coronavirus

Healthcare is LITERALLY the talk of the town right now. But for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is the lack of beds/ventilators or high cost of treatment, COVID has amplified our present deficiencies.  Like rest of the world, Indians are for the first time so singularly focused on healthcare and public health amid this pandemic. And everyone suddenly wants to fix healthcare!

Confucius, it is said, once observed, “a seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet”. As we all know, the world is at a crossroads. With COVID-19, many of our beliefs and the systems we follow are bound to change OR even get collapsed!

Healthcare in India: A Background

  • The Indian Constitution has incorporated the responsibility of the state in ensuring basic nutrition, basic standard of living, public health, protection of workers, special provisions for disabled persons, and other health standards, which were described under Articles 39, 41, 42, and 47 in the DPSP.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides for the right to life and personal liberty and is a fundamental right.
  • Public Health comes under the state list.
  • India’s expenditure on healthcare has shot up substantially in the past few years; it is still very low in comparison to the peer nations (at approx. 1.28% of GDP).

All-time Paradoxes of Indian Healthcare

(1) Healthcare is a fundamental right, but it is not fundamentally right in India:

The Supreme Court has held healthcare to be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The expenditure on healthcare is one of the lowest in the world, lower than nations with similar economic growth rates. Though our economy has grown robustly post-liberalization, investment in healthcare has consistently hovered around 1% of the GDP. In the 2020-21 Budget, it was 1.02% of overall expenditure.

(2) Sector attracts investments, but delivery remains contentious:

India’s healthcare sector has attracted a steady stream of investments, albeit at the higher end of the value chain — the secondary & tertiary care. Lack of penetration, inflated billing, opaqueness in diagnosis, and poor quality of service has ensured that most Indians get treated below the standards prescribed by the WHO.

(3) Among the cheapest in the world, yet unaffordable for most locally:

Healthcare in India is cheap. For example: Compared to India, the cost of a knee replacement treatment is over twenty times more in the US and double in Malaysia. Yet India has one of the world’s highest rates of out-of-pocket spending in healthcare. There are millions in India who cannot afford these procedures in their own country.

(4) Less than one doctor for 1,000 patients, but medical tourism booms:

India treated 3.6 lakh foreign patients in 2016 and the country’s medical tourism market is expected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020. The doctor-patient ratio in India is less than the WHO-prescribed limit of 1:1000. There is a dearth of medical schools and clinicians.

Most hospitals in India are overburdened, understaffed, and ill-equipped. However, all this has not prevented the private healthcare sector to establish sophisticated medical tourism facilities on the plank of ‘world-class service at low cost’.

(5) Stark divergence in healthcare outcomes within the country:

Healthcare being a state subject, the healthcare outcomes have remained divergent based on the quality of the state administration. While North India is the most populated part of India, it has one of the most undeserved healthcare infrastructures in the country.

Is India prepared to face this pandemic?

  • Current health infrastructure in India paints a dismal picture of the healthcare delivery system in the country.
  • Public health experts believe that India is ill-equipped to handle such emergencies. It is not prepared to tackle health epidemics, particularly given its urban congestion.
  • Post unlock, the spread is at a galloping rate.
  • The slum clusters all around the cities and the unhygienic growth, poor waste disposal system will only aggravate the situation.

History shows us that “blame” has been a standard human response during pandemics.

These are some issues surfaced during this pandemic ………..

(1) Poor Infrastructure

  • In the 2019 Global Health Security Index, which measures pandemic preparedness for countries based on their ability to handle the crisis, India ranked 57, lower than the US at 1, the UK at 2, Brazil at 22, and Italy at 31.
  • This is well revealed through indicators like hospital beds per 1,000 people.
  • As per the OECD data available for 2017, India reportedly has only 0.53 beds available per 1,000 people as against 0.87 in Bangladesh, 2.11 in Chile, 1.38 in Mexico, 4.34 in China, and 8.05 in Russia.

(2) Fewer doctors per thousand

  • The WHO mandates that the doctor to population ratio should be 1:1,000, while India had a 1:1,404 ratio as of February 2020.
  • In rural areas, this doctor-patient ratio is as low as 1:10,926 doctors as per National Health Profile 2019.

(3) Denial of healthcare

  • Despite private hospitals accounting for 62 percent of the total hospital beds as well as ICU beds and almost 56 percent of the ventilators, they are handling only around 10 percent of the workload.
  • Private hospitals are reportedly denying treatments to the poor. Cases of overcharging patients are also being reported in private hospitals.
  • This is seen in Bihar, which has witnessed an almost complete withdrawal of the private health sector and has nearly twice the bed capacity of public facilities.

(4) Discrepancy in Testing

  • India continues to test less than it should in a post-lockdown scenario where testing is one of the most obvious ways to flatten the curve.
  • The Supreme Court, after ruling on April 8 that private labs should conduct free testing, modified its decision five days later to fix the rate of one of the most dependable tests at Rs 4,500.

(5) Negligence for mental healthcare

  • The tragic death of an actor and the gloom of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to much-needed conversations on mental health in the country.
  • Mental health problems were already a major contributor to the burden of illness in India which usually gets unnoticed.
  • The widespread anxiety due to lockdown has frustrated the laborers, farmers, and various vulnerable sections to a great extent due to the fear of impoverishment and loss of livelihoods.

Need of the hour: A tectonic overhaul

(1) Universal health coverage

  • Access to healthcare in India is not equitable—the rich and the middle class would survive the COVID-19 or any other crisis but not the poor.
  • As part of the SDGs, all countries have pledged to deliver universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.
  • This includes India. But, sadly, nearly 50 percent of the world’s population lacks essential health services.
  • If any good comes out of this crisis, then it will be India waking up to the reality that investing in health is not a luxury. It is a basic need.

(2) Increasing healthcare professionals in numbers

  • India has handled the COVID-19 pandemic exceptionally well. However, considering the rise in the number of infections, India is in dire need of more medical staff and amenities.
  • If India wants to achieve a 1:1,000 ratio, it will need an additional 2.07 million doctors by 2030. For this, the government needs to increase its spending on the health sector.
  • It needs to aid attempts at constructing new medical institutes.

(3) Revamping medical education

  • If the government wants to stay successful in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it needs to rapidly build medical institutions and increase the number of doctors.
  • Once COVID-19 is under control, we need to consider the psychological and professional impact of the pandemic on medical professionals.

(4) Helping the downtrodden

  • How the poor are going to manage without, or even with, any government insurance scheme is a big question.
  • Rather than dumping them on government hospitals only, the private hospitals should be held accountable to take on their treatment.
  • They can make up for the loss by cross-subsidizing treatments of patients with premium insurance policies.

(5) Enhancing pandemic preparedness

  • With COVID-19 we risk once again falling into the trap of a narrow vertical disease-specific approach.
  • Decades of global health experience have revealed the limitations of narrow “vertical” disease-based programs.
  • However, there is a need for recognition to combine vertical programs with “horizontal” health system strengthening.

(6) Optimum use of technology

  • The COVID-19 crisis has elevated the importance of digital tools and e-health.
  • There is a growing use of mobile apps, online consultations, e-pharmacies, and other tools.
  • These are all welcome and must be leveraged.

(7) Looping-in private players

  • For too long, India has allowed the private health sector to grow, with little regulation.
  • The lack of alignment between the public and private sectors has been clearly exposed to COVID-19 testing and treatment in India.
  • Time is ripe to loop in private players and promote the industrialization of health-sector.

(8) Learning from the successes

  • With crumbling health infrastructure due to overburden, India’s preparedness for handling this epidemic has become a major challenge.
  • The world along with India being no exception has responded with extraordinarily aggressive measures such as phased lockdowns, Bhilwara Model, Pathanamthitta Model, Taiwan model, etc.
  • The success of these models is attributed to various best practices which are were implemented days before the thought of nationwide lockdown was incepted.

Kindly refer for various success models:

[Burning Issue] Success stories in handling COVID-19 crisis

 

Way Forward

  • The aerial spread of the pandemic post unlock poses a threat of rapid dissemination but it can still be contained with an efficient response that combines effective public health, microbiological, clinical, and communication responses.
  • While our laboratory network has improved somewhat, but much needs to be done to improve the community facing primary health services and risk communication to the public.
  • Kerala’s success in responding swiftly and smartly to the outbreak should be a role model for other states.

Conclusion

India’s healthcare system is too small for such a large population. There seems to be a long battle ahead. The public healthcare system cannot be improved overnight. The country needs all hands on deck during and after this crisis—both public and private sectors must work together and deliver universal health coverage for all citizens.

Ultimately, the onus of governance always rests with the government, which needs to set standards, invest resources, ensure quality, and strategically purchase services from the private sector, as needed.

 

 

 


References

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-epidemic-healthcare-system-public-hospitals-6449264/

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-health-sector-education-coronavirus-medcine-6449332/

https://www.cnbctv18.com/views/can-the-coronavirus-crisis-guide-india-towards-an-equitable-robust-health-system-6076701.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6166510/

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/healthcare/biotech/healthcare/five-paradoxes-of-indian-healthcare/articleshow/65159929.cms?from=mdr