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[Burning Issue] IAS cadre rules amendments

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Context

The Central Government has proposed four amendments to Rule 6(1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 dealing with deputation, and has sought the views of State governments before January 25, 2022.

Historical background of All India Services

  • It was Sardar Patel who had championed the creation of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) as “All India Services” (AIS) whose members would be recruited and appointed by the Centre and allotted to various States, and who could serve both under the State and the Centre.
  • Speaking to the Constituent Assembly on October 10, 1949, Patel said, “The Union will go, you will not have a united India if you have not a good All India Service which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has a sense of security….”.
  • The All India Services (AIS) comprises three civil services:
  1. the Indian Administrative Service,
  2. the Indian Police Service and
  3. the Indian Forest Service
  • A unique feature of the AIS is that the members of these services are recruited by the centre (Union government in federal polity), but their services are placed under various State cadres.
  • They have the liability to serve both under the State and under the centre.
  • Officers of these three services comply to the All India Services Rules relating to pay, conduct, leave, various allowances etc.
  • The All India Services Act, 1951, provides for the creation of two more All India Services, namely, the Indian Engineering Service and the Indian Medical Service.

Central deputation of All India Service officers

  • Consultative process: AIS officers are made available for central deputation through a consultative process involving the Centre, the States and the officers concerned.
  • The Centre would choose officers only from among those “on offer” from the States.
  • Concurrence of the State government: The existing Rule 6(1) states that a cadre officer may be deputed to the Central Government (or to another State or a PSU) only with the concurrence of the State Government concerned.
  • However, it has a proviso which states that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government.
  • Unfortunately, both the Centre and the States have at times flouted these healthy conventions for political considerations.

The politicization of the deputation process

  • Unfortunately, both the Centre and the States have at times flouted the above healthy conventions for political considerations.
  • In July 2001, the Centre unilaterally “placed at its disposal” the services of three IPS officers of Tamil Nadu cadre.
  • In December 2020, the Centre did the same in respect of three IPS officers of West Bengal cadre.
  • In May 2021, the Centre unilaterally issued orders for the central deputation of the Chief Secretary of West Bengal just before his last day in service.
  • In all these cases, the States concerned refused to relieve the officers. 
  • Some States used to vindictively withhold the names of some of the officers who had opted for central deputation or delay their relief after they were picked up by the Centre.
  • On the other hand, Union government was unable to fill vacancies at director and joint secretary level in various Central ministries.
  • Around 40% or 390 Central Staffing Scheme (CSS) posts are at joint secretary level (more than 19 years experience) and 60% or 540 such posts are at the rank of deputy secretary (nine years) or director rank (14 years of service).
  • The proposed amendment to rule: The Central Government has proposed four amendments to Rule 6(1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 dealing with deputation.

Proposed amendments

Four amendments are proposed to Rule 6 of IAS (Cadre) Rules.

  • One of the major changes proposed is if the State government delays posting a State cadre officer to the Centre within the specified time, “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government.”
    • Presently, officers have to get a no-objection clearance from the State government for Central deputation.
  • The other change proposed is the Centre will decide the actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central government in consultation with the State and the latter should make eligible the names of such officers
    • According to existing norms, States have to depute the All India Services (AIS) officers, including IPS officers, to the Central government offices and at any point it cannot be more than 40% of the total cadre strength.
  • The third proposed amendment says that in case of any disagreement between the Centre and the State, the matter shall be decided by the Central government and the State shall give effect to the decision of the Centre “within a specified time.”
  • The fourth change proposed is that in specific situation (discretionary power) where services of cadre officers are required by the Central government in “public interest” the State shall give effect to its decisions within a specified time.

Is the problem acute?

  • According to 2021 data, of the total 6,709 IAS officers in the country, 445 were posted with the Union — only 6.6%. In 2014, of the 4,605 officers, 651 were posted with the Union (14 %).
  • In 2021, only 10% mid-level IAS officers (deputy secretary/director, 9-14 years experience) were posted with the Centre in 2021, a sharp fall from 19% in 2014, even though the total pool of such officers at this rank expanded from 621 in 2014 to 1130 in 2021, an increase of around 80%.

Issues with the proposed amendments

  • The contemplated changes have grave implications for the independence, security and morale of IAS officers.
  • Infringement of rights of States: States are right in perceiving the proposed amendments as a serious infringement of their rights to deploy IAS officers as they deem best, especially when the cutting edge of policy implementation is mostly at the State level.
  • States may prefer officers of the State Civil Services to handle as many posts as possible.
  • Against cooperative federalism: In S.R. Bommai vs Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court held that “States have an independent constitutional existence and they have as important a role to play in the political, social, educational and cultural life of the people as the Union. They are neither satellites nor agents of the Centre”.
  • Consent of Officers neglected: The proposed amendment more or less compels a State government to offer IAS officers for central deputation even when these officers themselves may not wish to go on central deputation.
  • Scope for Political Misuse: New rules may be misused for political considerations. For instance: Centre can unilaterally place at its disposal the services of the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary to CM and other key officers of a State ruled by a rival party, thereby hampering the smooth administration of states.
  • May decline the sheen of All India Services: The contemplated changes have grave implications for the independence, security and morale of IAS officers. If States begin to doubt the loyalty of IAS officers, they are likely to reduce the number of IAS cadre posts and also their annual intake of IAS officers. They may prefer officers of the State Civil Services to handle as many posts as possible

Conclusion

In a federal setup, it is inevitable that differences and disputes would arise between the Centre and the States. But all such quarrels should be resolved in the spirit of cooperative federalism and keeping the larger national interest in mind.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Anti-defection Law

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Context

It is time that we took a fresh look at the Tenth Schedule to our Constitution.

What is 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.
  • It was added to the Constitution through the Fifty-Second (Amendment) Act, 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was PM.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.

Cases consider under the anti-defection law

The law covers three scenarios with respect to shifting of political parties by an MP or an MLA.

(1) Voluntary give-up

  • The first is when a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party.
  • Such persons lose his seat.

(2) Independent members

  • When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
  • In both these instances, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.

(3) Nominated MPs

  • In their case, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated.
  • If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.

Covering independent members

  • In 1969, a committee chaired by Home Minister Y B Chavan examined the issue of defection.
  • It observed that after the 1967 general elections, defections changed the political scene in India: 176 of 376 independent legislators later joined a political party.
  • However, the committee did not recommend any action against independent legislators.
  • A member disagreed with the committee on the issue of independents and wanted them disqualified if they joined a political party.
  • In the absence of a recommendation on this issue by the Chavan committee, the initial attempts at creating the anti-defection law (1969, 1973) did not cover independent legislators joining political parties.
  • The next legislative attempt, in 1978, allowed independent and nominated legislators to join a political party once.
  • But when the Constitution was amended in 1985, independent legislators were prevented from joining a political party and nominated legislators were given six months’ time.

Powers to disqualification

  • Under the anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature.
  • The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made.
  • As a result, Speakers of legislatures have sometimes acted very quickly or have delayed the decision for years — and have been accused of political bias in both situations.

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.

Article 164(1B)

  • A member of the Legislative Assembly of a State or either House of the Legislature of a State having Legislative Council belonging to any political party who is disqualified for being a member of that House under paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a Minister under clause (1) for duration of the period commencing from the date of his disqualification till the date on which the term of his office as such member would expire or where he contests any election to the Legislative Assembly of a State or either House of the Legislature of a State having Legislative Council, as the case may be, before the expiry of such period, till the date on which he is declared elected, whichever is earlier.

Need for urgent attention to Article 164(1B)

  • This allows for the toppling of governments by inducements of various kinds.
  • The motivation is that a fresh election allows the disqualified member to be re-elected.
  • He then becomes a member of the assembly once again, as its term is not over and can also be appointed a minister.
  • Under Article 164(1B), such a defection has no real consequences.

Way forward

  • Ensure impartiality of Speaker: Speakers, when elected must resign from the party to which they belong.
  • At the end of their term, there should be a cooling-off period before they can become members of any political party.
  • Omit Paragraph 4 through Amendment: Paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule should be omitted by moving a constitutional amendment.
  • Make disqualification for 5 years: All those disqualified under paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule should neither be entitled to contest elections nor hold public office for five years from the date of their disqualification.
  • Article 164(1B) should be omitted by moving a constitutional amendment.
  • Set time limit to decide petition for disqualification: All petitions for disqualification of members under paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule should be decided, by adopting a summary procedure, within a period of three months.

Conclusion

If our polity wants to get rid of open corruption, it needs to take urgent steps to plug existing loopholes that have made the Tenth Schedule unworkable.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Women and the military

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The position of women in the armed forces, which is described as a male-dominated establishment generally, offers a limited window for any kind of change in the role of women in occupational and bureaucratic structures. However, breaking the glass ceiling, two women officers have been selected to train as helicopter pilots at Combat Army Training School, Nashik. Till now, women officers were only limited to performing ground duties in the Army Aviation Corps.

The Supreme Court last year ruled that women could serve as army commanders further granting permanent commission and promotions equal to their male counterparts. 

India’s women in uniform: A timeline

  • The role of women in the Indian Army began in 1888 when the ‘Indian Military Nursing Service’ was formed during the British Raj.
  • During 1914-45, British Indian Army nurses fought in World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939-45), where 350 nurses either died or were taken prisoner of war or declared missing in action.
  • But it was only in 1992 that the organisation opened doors and started inducting women in non-medical roles. In 2015, India also opened new combat air force roles for women as fighter pilots.
  • During 1914-45, British Indian Army nurses fought in World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939-45), where 350 nurses either died or were taken prisoner of war or declared missing in action.
  • However, despite all these developments, the women in the Indian armed forces that constitute 3% of the Indian army are still not allowed to be a part of the active combat.
  • Since 2008, women were inducted as permanent commissioned officers in the legal and education corps and as permanent commissioned officers in eight more non-combative corps in 2020.

A timeline of women’s inductions into the military –

YearServiceBranches that opened up for women
1991NavyEducation, Logistics and Law Cadre of Executive Branch
1992ArmyArmy Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Education Corps, Judge Advocate General Branch
1993NavyAir Traffic Controller
1994Air ForceTransport and helicopter pilots
1996ArmyEngineers, Signals, Intelligence, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering branches opened up for women.
2001NavyNaval Constructor Cadre of Engineering Branch
2008ArmyWomen became eligible for Permanent Commission in Army Education Corps and Judge Advocate General Department
2008NavyObservers
2015Air ForceFighter pilots

Present context

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to explain the admission of merely 19 women in the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) for 2022.
  • The court also asked the Centre to place the figures on record the total number of candidates, including women, who appeared in the NDA, Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and Rashtriya Military School (RMS) entrance tests.
  • The NDA exam was held and 8,009 candidates qualified for the Service Selection Board test as also medical tests, out of which 1,002 candidates were women and 7,007 men.

Supreme Court’s ruling to grant Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers

  • In 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted Permanent Commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.
  • The Court has directed that SSC women officers found suitable for the grant of PC shall be entitled to all consequential benefits, including arrears of pay, promotions and retirement benefits as and when due.
  • All serving women SSC officers in at least seven wings, including the executive, engineering, electrical, education, law and logistics, will be eligible to apply.
  • The grant of PCs will be subject to: (i) availability of vacancies in the stabilized cadre; (ii) Suitability of the candidate; and (iii) recommendation by the chief of Naval Staff.

Women in Uniform: A global scan

India has limited experience as regards the induction of women in the armed forces. The first batch had joined in 1992. Therefore, our knowledge of the complexities and long-term effects of the issues involved is highly limited.

On the other hand, women have been serving in the militaries of developed countries for a long time. These countries have acquired a deep understanding of all the issues involved.

Let’s have a look:

United States

  • The United States is considered a pioneer and a trend-setter as regards induction of women in the services.
  • There are approximately 200,000 American women on active duty in the US armed forces. They constitute nearly 20 percent of its strength.
  • Women are also participating in Iraq operations in large numbers, albeit in support functions as they are forbidden to be placed in direct ground combat with enemy. They, however, are assigned ‘combat support’ duties on voluntary basis.
  • Prior to November 1975, if women became pregnant, they were given the option to terminate pregnancy or seek discharge.
  • A number of important steps were initiated during President Clinton’s time. Women were permitted to join as combat aircraft pilots and could also be assigned for prolonged duty on combat naval ships. The scope of combat-risk assignments for women was redefined to open additional appointments to them.

Israel

  • Though Israel has conscription for women (as well as men), a large number of them are exempted for various reasons.
  • Women are generally not allotted active battle field duties. They serve in many technical and administrative posts to release men for active duty.
  • Although they make excellent instructors as well, most women occupy lower and middle level appointments. Only a handful reaches senior ranks.

Other Countries

  • In the Australian Army, women are still not allowed in the field/battle. In Russia, women generally serve in nursing, communications and logistic support functions.
  • Like all Islamic states, Pakistan does not permit women in the armed forces. It is feared that women would create distraction and cause disruption of internal order.
  • There is also a great deal of concern for the safety of women from the organisational environment itself.

Why males have ever dominated the armed forces?

  • Militaries across the world help entrench hegemonic masculine notions of aggressiveness, strength and heterosexual prowess in and outside their barracks.
  • The military training focuses on creating new bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie between them based on militarised masculinity.
  • This temperament is considered in order to enable conscripts to survive the tough conditions of military life and to be able to kill without guilt.
  • To create these new bonds, militaries construct a racial, sexual, gendered “other”, attributes of whom the soldier must routinely and emphatically reject.

Dimensions of the Issue

Indeed, the court’s strong statements against the gender stereotypes employed by the government come as a welcome relief. Equally, ensuring that women can hold permanent commissions in the army recognizes the equal effort and service that they put in.

  • Gender is not a hindrance: As long as an applicant is qualified for a position, one’s gender is arbitrary. It is easy to recruit and deploy women who are in better shape than many men sent into combat.
  • Military Readiness: Allowing a mixed-gender force keeps the military strong. The armed forces are severely troubled by falling retention and recruitment rates. This can be addressed by allowing women in the combat role.
  • Effectiveness: The blanket restriction for women limits the ability of commanders in theatre to pick the most capable person for the job.
  • Tradition: Training will be required to facilitate the integration of women into combat units. Cultures change over time and the masculine subculture can evolve too.
  • Cultural Differences & Demographics: Women are more effective in some circumstances than men. Allowing women to serve doubles the talent pool for delicate and sensitive jobs that require interpersonal skills, not every soldier has.

The road is not so simple

Capabilities of women

  • The Centre states that although women are equally capable, if not more capable than men, there might be situations that could affect the capabilities of women such as absence during pregnancy and catering to the responsibilities of motherhood, etc. 
  • The arguments are presented on the basis that a role in combat would require tough training, whereas the current training for women is different and at a much lower level than that of their male counterparts.
  • However, Lieutenant Colonel Mitali Madhumita and IAF squad leader Minty Agarwal are examples of women who stand as a testament to the capabilities of women in commanding positions.

Adjusting with the masculine setup

  • To then simply add women to this existing patriarchal setup, without challenging the notions of masculinity, can hardly be seen as “gender advancement”.
  • In fact, in order to succeed within the army, women are forced to deride their femininity and work harder than men to establish parity in the eyes of their counterparts.
  • They are forced to blend in while standing out for their exceptional work in order to be taken seriously.

Fear of sexual misconduct

  • This superficial approach to gender equality defines parity solely based on the opportunity to participate hence fails to address several fallouts most notable of which is sexual harassment and abuse.
  • Sexual harassment faced by women military officers is a global phenomenon which remains largely unaddressed, and women often face retaliation when they do complain.
  • Extensive and rigorous data on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the Indian armed forces is not available.
  • However, a relatively small 2015 study, which questioned 450 members of the armed forces on sexual discrimination in their workplace, found that sexual harassment is rampant in the military.

Gender progressiveness could be an illusion

  • In reality, there are several factors behind the decision to include women in the forces, including using the illusion of gender progressiveness within the army to shame populations for their gender inequities, brand them as backwards and use this to justify military control.
  • Women’s inclusion is criticized as just another manoeuvre to camouflage women’s subjugation and service as women’s liberation.

Battle of ‘Acceptance’

  • The only way to command is to show the lower ranks that the orders are fair and just, both in spirit and action.
  • Acceptance of women in the military has not been smooth in any country. Every country has to contend with sceptics who consider it to be a counterproductive programme.
  • They tend to view it as a political gimmick to flaunt sexual equality, or, at best, a necessary liability.
  • Additionally, every country has to mould the attitude of its society at large and male soldiers in particular to enhance acceptability of women in the military.
  • For trained soldiers “acceptance” is not an option; they have undergone rigorous regimentation to accept orders from the command.

Job Satisfaction

  • Most women feel that their competence is not given due recognition. Seniors tend to be over-indulgent without valuing their views.
  • They are generally marginalised and not involved in any major decision-making. They have to work twice as hard as men to prove their worth. Additionally, a woman is always under scrutiny for even minor slip-ups.
  • Many women complain that despite their technical qualifications, they are generally detailed for perceived women-like jobs. Either they get routine desk work or are asked to perform duties related to social minutiae.

Doubts about Role Definition

  • The profession of arms is all about violence and brutality. To kill another human is not moral but soldiers are trained to kill.
  • They tend to acquire a streak of raw ruthlessness and coarseness. This makes the environment highly non-conducive and rough for women.
  • Women, in general, are confused about the way they should conduct themselves. If they behave lady-like, their acceptance amongst male colleagues is low.
  • On the other hand, their active participation in casual repartee carries the danger of their losing colleagues’ respect.

Societal Impact

  • The government has argued that if a woman is taken captive by insurgents/terrorists or as a Prisoner of War (PoW) by an enemy state, then it would become an international and deeply emotive issue which could have an impact on the society.
  • However, times have changed and this cannot be a valid reason for denying command roles and permanent commission to women.

Physical and Physiological Issues

  • The natural physical differences in stature, strength, and body composition between the sexes make women more vulnerable to certain types of injuries and medical problems.
  • The vigorous training might also have an effect on the health of women officers.
  • The natural processes of menstruation and pregnancy make women particularly vulnerable in combat situations.
  • Such positions usually leave the commanding officer with no privacy and during adverse situations, the lack of sanitation can have an impact on their health.

Comfort Level

  • Most women accepted the fact that their presence amongst males tends to make the environment ‘formal and stiff’.
  • The mutual comfort level between men and women colleagues is often very low.
  • Men miss their light-hearted banter which is considered essential to release work tensions and promote group cohesion. They consider women to be intruding on their privacy.

Whose concern is National Security…

Many defense analysts are disgusted with the ongoing emulsive debate incorporating issues of national security with gender justice. Few of their opinion are discussed as under:

  • The recent debate about the entry of women officers in the armed forces has been highly ill- informed and subjective in nature.
  • People have taken stands and expressed opinion without analysing the matter in its entirety. It is imprudent to consider it as an issue of equality of sexes or gender bias or even women’s liberation.
  • It is also not a question of conquering the so-called ‘last male bastion’.
  • That would amount to trifling a matter that concerns the well-being and the war-potential of a nation’s armed forces.
  • Armed forces have been constituted with the sole purpose of ensuring defence of the country and all policy decisions should be guided by this overriding factor.
  • All matters concerning defence of the country have to be considered in a dispassionate manner.
  • No decision should be taken which even remotely affects the cohesiveness and efficiency of the military. Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defence policies.

Way Forward

 Defense readiness is one major aspect which is required to be borne in mind throughout while considering their employability options. The career aspects and opportunities for women need to be viewed holistically keeping the final aim in focus.

  • Misleading information such as using the patriarchal nature of the society as an excuse to deny women their deserving opportunities should be stopped. India has come a long way, and society should be supportive of women being inducted in to combat roles. 
  • So far combatant roles are concerned, an all-women combat squadron should be designed and studied extensively before any further development or decisions are made.
  • The training provided to men and women should be similar to eliminate differentiation on the basis of physical standards.
  • It is the responsibility of the Government to create both administrative and social infrastructure for the easy induction of women into the Armed Forces. Administrative issues should not be cited as a barrier to women’s entry in the Armed Forces.
  • The framework for the induction of women should be incorporated into a policy. As for the concern of preserving the female officers’ modesty and dignity, there should be elaborate codes of conduct to ensure no adverse incident occurs.

Finally, no decision should be taken which even remotely affects the cohesiveness and efficiency of the military. Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defense policies.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Pakistan Relations

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Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) approved the country’s first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) – which is designed to be a “Comprehensive National Security Framework” and covers a five-year period from 2022-26. Pakistan’s (official) policy now leaves the door open for trade with India even without the settlement of the Kashmir issue – provided there is headway in bilateral talks. Earlier, Kashmir used to be at the centre stage of all Pakistani outcry.

New Security Policy

  • The country’s new policy would act as an umbrella document, to be used as a guideline for Pakistan`s foreign, international and defence related policies.
  • The five-year-policy document, which will span 2022-26, is being touted by the Pakistan government as the country’s first-ever strategy paper of its kind.

Key highlights of the document

  • Focus on trade: The 100-page policy document has also put out elaborate plans to open trade and business ties with India.
  • Silent on Kashmir: Kashmir issue with India has been identified as a ‘vital national policy’ issue for Pakistan.
  • No public discussion: Only a part of the national security policy will be made public.
  • Defying hostility with India: The document states that Pakistan is not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years.
  • Curbing militancy: The new policy also deals with the issue of militant and dissident groups and advocates dialogue with ‘reconcilable elements.’
  • No re-conciliation with India: There are no prospects of rapprochement with India under the current government.
  • Others: On the internal front, the new policy identifies five key areas of population/migration, health, climate and water, food security and gender mainstreaming.

Significance of such policy

  • Pakistan and India have mostly been at loggerheads with each other throughout history.
  • During the first term of Narendra Modi in 2014, the relations took a positive turn when he announced his intentions to have cordial relations with Pakistan.
  • He had also visited Islamabad in 2015 unannounced to attend a marriage ceremony in Ex-PMs family.
  • However, the relations deteriorated following the horrific 2016 Uri attacks.

Concerns with Pakistan’s National Security Policy

  • The vision laid out in the policy: There are concerns that this will result in increasing unchecked military control within the country and affect the borer-tensions with India as well.
  • Increased corruption: The Pakistan Army has never fully exposed the country’s defence spending and it does not allow inspection of its huge network of economic businesses and real estate.
  • Might increase extremism: There are concerns that Pakistan’s National Security Policy will result in increased radical events of extremism in the wake of challenging the security issues.
  • Hamper country’s growth: Diverting resources from development to military, in addition to Pakistan’s philosophy and attitude, is seen to hamper the country’s social growth and economic management.

Implications of the National Security Policy of Pakistan on India

  • The policy hints at peace with other countries, especially in the neighbourhood.
  • Strategic establishment in India would need to look at the policy in the context of security challenges.
  • The policy will impact Pakistan’s approach to India as an open-ended subject by changing the military engagements and infrastructure built up along the border areas.
  • The economic pressures and primacy in the National Security Policy make India review its trade policy towards Pakistan and take advantage of better economic dynamics.
  • India needs to demarcate a clear distinction between geo-politics and geo-economics in the context of provision of the policy.
  • The policy is unlikely to bring any change in Pakistan’s active support to cross-border terrorism and position on Kashmir.

China as anchor

  • Stoutly refusing to open up trade with India, Pakistan has looked to other economic and commercial partners among whom China is by far the most important.
  • The security relationship was the anchor of the China-Pakistan ties. Now, Pakistan hopes that China will offer its assistance to transform its economy.
  • It looks to the mechanisms under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to play a crucial role through connectivity, port development, power production and other investments.

Factors behind the complex bilateral ties between the two countries

(1) Cross-border Terrorism

  • Terrorism emanating from territories under Pakistan’s control remains a core concern in bilateral relations.
  • India has consistently stressed the need for Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action to end cross-border terrorism against India.
  • Pakistan has yet not brought the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks 2008 to justice in the ongoing trials, even after all the evidence have been provided to them.
  • India has firmly stated that it will not tolerate and comprise on issues regarding national security.
  • Based on attacks in India and involvement of the neighboring country, the Indian Army had conducted surgical strike at various terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control, as an answer to the attack at the army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India had again hit back over the cross-border terror attack on the convey of Indian security forces in Pulwama by carrying out a successful airstrike at a training camp of JeM in Balakot, Pakistan.

(2) Kashmir

  • Due to political differences between the two countries, the territorial claim of Kashmir has been the subject of wars in 1947, 1965 and a limited conflict in 1999 and frequent ceasefire violations and promotion of rebellion within the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The then princely state remains an area of contention and is divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LoC), which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed post-1947 conflict.

(3) Siachen Glacier

  • Siachen Glacier is located in Northern Ladakh in the Karakoram Range.
  • Most of the Siachen Glacier is disputed between India and Pakistan. Before 1984, neither of the two countries had any permanent presence on the glacier.
  • Under the Shimla Agreement of 1972, the Siachen was called barren and useless. This Agreement also did not specify the boundary between India and Pakistan.
  • When India got intelligence that Pakistan was going to occupy Siachen Glacier, it launched Operation Meghdoot to reach the glacier first.
  • Following the success of Operation Meghdoot, the Indian Army obtained the area at a higher altitude and Pakistan army getting a much lower altitude. Thus, India has a strategic advantage in this region.
  • Following the 2003 armistice treaty between the two countries, firing and bombardment have ceased in this area, though both the sides have stationed their armies in the region.

(4) Sir Creek Dispute

  • Sir Creek is a 96 km estuary in the Rann of Kutch. Rann of Kutch lies between Gujarat (India) and Sindh (Pakistan).
  • Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek in accordance with a 1914 agreement that was signed between the Government of Sindh and Rulers of Kutch.
  • India, on the other hand, claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as per a 1925 map.
  • If one country agrees to the other’s position, the former will lose a vast amount of Exclusive Economic Zone that is rich with gas and mineral deposits.

(5) Water disputes

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is the water distribution treaty signed between India and Pakistan, brokered by World Bank.
  • According to the treaty, three rivers, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India for exclusive use and the other three rivers, Sindh, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan.
  • This treaty failed to address the dispute since source rivers of Indus Basin were in India, having the potential to create drought and famines in Pakistan.
  • Last year, Modi Government had stated that India would no longer allow its share of river waters to flow into Pakistan in response to the Pulwama terror attack.
  • According to the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, India can exploit rivers under its control without disturbing the flow or quantum. India plans to divert its three rivers to the Yamuna.

Major Achievements

Some of the confidence-building measures taken to improve Indo-Pakistan relations are as follows:

(1) Military CBMs

  • Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities was signed in 1988 and ratified in 1990. The first exchange took place on January 1, 1992.
  • As per the Agreement, India and Pakistan exchange the list of their nuclear installations to prevent attacking each other’s atomic facilities. This practise has been followed to date.
  • Agreement on Advance Notification on Military Exercises, Manoeuvres and Troop Movements were brought into effect in 1991 played a crucial role in deescalating the tensions on both sides of the LoC.
  • A communication link between Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Indian Coast Guard was established in 2005 to facilitate the early exchange of information regarding anglers who are apprehended for straying into each other’s waters.
  • A hotline between the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both the countries have been in effect since 1965 and was used in an unscheduled exchange to discuss troop movements and allay tensions in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks.

(2) Non-military CBMs

  • Delhi-Lahore Bus Service was initiated in 1999. It was suspended in the aftermath of the 2001 Indian Parliament Attack.
    • The bus service was later resumed in 2003 when bilateral relations had improved.
    • This service was recently suspended in 2019 in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution.
  • Samjhauta Express was launched following the signing of the Shimla Agreement connects the Pakistani city of Lahore and the Indian town of Attari.
    • It had been suspended frequently, but due to negotiations, it was restarted. In 2019, it was suspended after the revocation of the special status of Kashmir.
  • Weekly Bus Service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was initiated in 2005. It has withstood the test of times and still operational.
  • Since 2014, India has been successful in the repatriation of 2133 Indians from Pakistan’s custody (including fishermen), and still, about 275 Indians are believed to be in their custody
  • The Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines was signed between the two countries in 1974.
  • The protocol provides for three Hindu pilgrimages and four Sikh pilgrimages every year to visit 15 shrines in Pakistan while five Pakistan pilgrimage visit shrines in India.
  • An agreement between India and Pakistan for the facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Pakistan, was signed on 24 October 2019 in order to fulfill the long-standing demand of the pilgrims to have easy and smooth access to the holy Gurudwara.

Failures in the CBM process

  • Although there are hotlines connecting both military and political leaders in both countries, they have been scarcely used when required the most.
  • The absence of communications has led to suspicions and accusations of misinformation.
  • There is a disproportionate emphasis on military CBMs and inadequate recognition of several momentous non-military CBMs.
  • Governments of both sides often use CBMs as political tools to win over specific constituencies, which can be very damaging in the long-run.
  • Public conciliatory statements, which are meant to be CBMs, can have the opposite effect if they are insincere.

Way Forward

(1) Reforming Pakistan’s political structure

  • Despite the democratic elections in Pakistan, the military wields real power in the country. This holds true especially on matters of defence, national security and foreign policy.
  • Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), consisting for personnel from Pakistan Armed Forces, is often accused of supporting and training separatist militant groups operating in India.
  • This makes it highly difficult for India to undertake diplomatic relations with the Pakistani government since it is not the decision-maker in the country.
  • Thus, a strong political reform in Pakistan, one that focuses on the welfare of the Pakistani nationals is vital to improving its relations with India.

(2) People-to-people relations

  • Propaganda is currently being used by both sides through the media to justify each other’s stand on conflicting issues.
  • This is creating misconception, hatred and stereotyping among the people of both countries.
  • This method is also used for political gains of both nations, with the least consideration towards people’s welfare and the need for peace.
  • Steps must be taken to facilitate travel between the two countries, ease up visa regimes, provide security for tourists, set up student and faculty exchanges, and invite professionals, intellectuals and artists to events to promote the bilateral ties.

(3) Promote trade

Steps that can be undertaken to improve bilateral trade include:

  • Remove non-tariff barriers and bureaucratic hurdles that are currently impeding trade.
  • Cut down duties
  • Improve customs clearance procedures
  • Proportionate trade is beneficial for both sides and is possible through the right government policies.

(4) Promoting soft diplomacy

  • Use of Indus Waters Treaty to promote hydro diplomacy. Both nations can come together to construct Water Grid between their territories to address the water problems in the region.
  • Cultural diplomacy can be used through the exchange of ideas, values, traditions, and other cultural aspects to strengthen bilateral ties, enhance socio-cultural cooperation and promote individual national interest.
  • Promotion of Cricket diplomacy i.e., the use of cricket as a diplomatic tool to overcome differences between the two countries.
  • To a certain extent, soft diplomacy improved the people-to-people relations between the two countries and eased the tensions on both sides.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Gig Economy in India

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The surge in demand for gig workers, particularly in the shared services and logistics segments, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic led to mushrooming of job discovery platforms.

What is the gig economy?

  • In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.
  • A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career. e.g Employee models of Uber, Ola, Swiggy etc
  • In this economy, tech-enabled platforms connect the consumer to the gig worker to hire services on a short-term basis. Gig workers include self-employed, freelancers, independent contributors and part-time workers.
  • This project-based gig economy allows the service adopter to cut overhead costs, and the gig worker to get paid for a specific task performed instead of receiving a fixed salary.
  • The gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and demand for flexible lifestyles.
  • At the same time, the gig economy can have downsides due to the erosion of traditional economic relationships between workers, businesses, and clients.
  • Sectors such as media, real estate, legal, hospitality, technology-help, management, medicine, allied and education are already operating in gig culture.

Is Gig economy a new concept?

  • The ‘Gig concept’ is very common in advanced countries like the US, Europe, who hire part time workers.
  • With freelancing evolving into the Gig Economy, the concept is attracting a lot of people in India as well.
  • Gig economy is remunerative and gives a wide range of choices but it also leads to casualization of the labor.

Trends in Gig Economy 

  • The digital gig economy generated a gross volume of approximately $204 bn from worldwide customers in 2018. Transportation-based services contributed to over 50% of this value.
  • The size of the gig economy is projected to grow by a 17% CAGR and generate a gross volume of ~$455 bn by 2023.
  • Digital platforms have emerged as enablers for employment creation with the power to easily discover job seekers and job providers in the absence of middlemen.
  • Due to the rapid developments in technology, the transaction cost for outsourcing non-core activities is reducing and facilitating an increase in the number of tasks which can be performed by each worker.
  • Thus, firms are shrinking in size and we are witnessing a rise in start-ups which are outsourcing many activities to expert service providers on a contractual basis.
  • While the gig economy is popular amongst the blue-collar workers in India, there is now huge potential for the white-collar workers as well, due to increasing demand in industries – project-specific consultants, logo/content design, web design etc.
  • The gig economy is expanding from less skilled services to more skilled jobs.

Gig Economy in India

  • The COVID-19 pandemic-induced remote working has blurred the age-old skepticism over the efficiency and dependability of contractual or part-time employees, with companies increasingly looking to hire gig workers.
  • As per a report by ASSOCHAM, India’s gig sector is expected to increase to US$455 billion at a CAGR of 17% by 2024 and has the potential to expand at least 2x the pre-pandemic estimates.
  • India has emerged as the 5th largest country for flexi-staffing after US, China, Brazil and Japan. 
  • Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Telangana have most opportunities in terms of growth for the flexi-workers.
  • In another estimate, India is likely to have 350 million gig jobs by 2025, presenting a huge opportunity for job seekers to capitalize and adapt to the changing work dynamics.
  • At present, India has a pool of ~15 million freelance workers staffed in projects across IT, HR and designing. In addition, India’s workforce is growing by ~4 million people annually.
  • And as most of them are young millennials, they are showing an increasing preference for gig contracts. This trend is expected to significantly impact gig economy in the near future.

Key Drivers for Gig Economy

(1) Unconventional work approach by millennials

  • Hectic lifestyles of employees in private sectors have created a negative perception of full-time employment among millennials.
  • Factors such as growth opportunities, flexibility, better work-life balance and option to not acquire a college degree are encouraging millennials to opt for freelancing opportunities as opposed to corporate work culture.

(2) Emergence of a start-up culture

  • The start-up ecosystem in India has been developing rapidly. For start-ups, hiring full-time employees leads to high fixed costs and therefore, contractual freelancers are hired for non-core activities.
  • Start-ups are also looking at hiring skilled technology freelancers (on a per project basis) in areas such as engineering, product, data science and ML to bolster their tech platforms.

(3) MNCs are hiring contractual employees

  • MNCs are adopting flexi-hiring options, especially for niche projects, to reduce operational expenses after the pandemic. This trend is significantly contributing to the gig culture in India.

(4) Rise in freelancing platforms

  • Rise in freelancing platforms has also aided in the development of the gig economy. Many home-grown platforms such as Upwork, Truelancer and Guru provide access to high-skilled freelancers.
  • The number of freelancing platforms has significantly increased—from 80 in 2009 to 330 in 2021. These platforms boast of a clientele comprising not only start-ups, but also Fortune 500 companies.

(5) Business Models

  • Gig employees work on various compensation models such as fixed-fee (decided during contract initiation), time & effort, actual unit of work delivered and quality of outcome.
  • The fixed-fee model is the most prevalent; however, time & effort model comes a close second.

(6) Impact of Covid-19

  • According to the survey, India stands to lose ~135 million jobs because of the pandemic and this is likely to push the full-time workforce towards the gig economy.
  • Moreover, many laid-off employees are focusing on developing skills to avail freelance job opportunities and become a part of this burgeoning economy.

Why is Gig Economy preferred by workers?

  • One can work on freelancing as well as work full-time somewhere else. Hence it is profitable to the worker as he can hit two targets together and multitask.
  • It is very beneficial for women who work on this concept when they cannot continue their work or take a break from career due to marriage or child birth.
  • Retired people can stay active after retirement as this will keep them engaged away from loneliness and depression and can earn as well on their own rather than depending on their children or pensions.
  • It offers flexibility and diversity to the workers. It offers flexibility when workers can work according to their convenience and schedule rather than routine like in full-time jobs.
  • The travel costs and energy to travel to the workplace is reduced.

Why is Gig Economy preferred by Employers?

  • The efficiency, efficacy and productivity of workers in gig economy are much more than that of a stable full-time job.
  • More Economical for employers – When employment givers can’t afford to hire full-time workers, they hire people for specific projects and pay them.
  • Start-up companies and entrepreneurs – who do not have big financial space – can grow only if they can leverage the services of contract employees or freelancers.
  • In a gig economy, businesses save resources in terms of benefits, office space and training. (Reference – Whatis)
  • Competition and efficiency among workers improved.

Challenges faced in Gig economy

  • There are no labour welfare emoluments like pension, gratuity, etc. for the workers.
  • Gig workers may face unfair termination. They may also attain minimum wages and less paid leave.
  • Workers do not have the bargaining power to negotiate a fair deal with their employers.
  • Unionization of workers will be difficult.
  • Confidentiality of documents etc of the workplace is not guaranteed
  • The gig economy is not accessible for people in many rural areas where internet connectivity and electricity is unavailable.
  • The social welfare objectives can be neglected if business and profitable avenues of freelancing are prioritized.

What are the major impacts of the gig economy?

  • Gig economy companies had introduced innovative systems and methods to the labour market. These methods are offering workers flexibility and the freedom to choose how and when they work.
  • But this chaotic and amoebic environment has helped create an environment of exploitation where workers get minimal protection and low wages.
  • A government study in the UK recently established that a quarter of the people working in the country’s gig economy are being paid below the national minimum wage.
  • As most of the gig economy companies act as an aggregator and digital companies, their interaction with the labourers and customers is minimal.

Gig Economy and the women empowerment

  • The women are considerably placed in a victimised position in the workplace. The flexibility that the gig economy offers women help to come out of the shackles of the male domination.
  • The financial independence is often considered as the first step towards the women empowerment. The labour of the women will be valued and paid worth for.
  • Rise and participation of the women in the job market would help in improving the indicators where women participation is considered the least and they will occupy roles as the decision makers.
  • But women due to lack of certain options are forced to perform the dual responsibility of work and home.
  • Dual exploitation faced as they are sandwiched between the familial and professional responsibilities where they have to forego their professional lives.

Code on Social Security 2019

  • To aid gig workers, the govt passed the ‘Code on Social Security’, which will provide workers with life and disability cover, accidental insurance, health & maternity benefits old age protection and others.
  • Under this code, the central and state governments will primarily fund social security measures, with a nominal contribution (1-2% of their annual turnover) by the aggregator.
  • Also, the contribution made by the aggregator/platform will not exceed 5% of the amount payable to gig and platform workers.
  • In addition, the code proposed to establish a ‘National Social Security Board’, which will supervise and formulate schemes for the well-being of gig and platform workers.

Way Forward

  • The gig economy has been on the rise and is expected to beat the pre-pandemic estimates due the expected influx of gig workers transitioning from full-time employment.
  • While the government has taken the initial steps to ensure social security of gig workers, the ‘Code on Social Security’ needs to be fine-tuned.
  • Further, all platform workers should be offered mandatory coverage under the Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana.
    • This can be facilitated through the employer companies and will ensure employee protection; thus, guaranteeing a sustainable gig economy.
  • There should be revamped of employee policy assessments and evaluations. An effective evaluation process is required to ensure consistent and quality work, where customized assessment procedures need to be developed.
  • India should learn from developed countries like the US and basic training and courses on freelancing, etc. should be provided to people.
  • Career Avenues, choices, counselling should be available to students and workers on gig economy.
  • Companies will also need a human resource department that can manage a diverse workforce and imbue the company’s culture into gig workers.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) Quota

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The Union government has approved reservations for the OBC and EWS (Economically Weaker Section) categories within the All India Quota (AIQ) for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the uniform entrance examination for medical and dental colleges across the country.

What is NEET?

  • The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is the entrance examination for entry to all undergraduate (NEET-UG) and postgraduate (NEET-PG) medical and dental courses in the country.
  • On April 13, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the newly inserted section 10-D of the Indian Medical Council Act.
  • This provided for a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at the undergraduate level and postgraduate level in Hindi, English and various other languages.

What is the All-India Quota?

  • Although the same examination is held across the country, a chunk of the seats in state medical/dental colleges is reserved for students domiciled in their respective states.
  • The remaining seats —15% in UG and 50% in PG — are surrendered by the states to the All India Quota.
  • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

What was the reservation policy followed so far?

  • Until 2007, no reservation was implemented within the All-India Quota for medical admission.
  • On January 31, 2007, in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi and Others, the Supreme Court directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced in the AIQ.
  • The same year, the government passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2007 providing for 27% reservation to OBC students in central government institutions.
  • While state government medical and dental colleges provide reservations to OBCs in seats outside the All India Quota, this benefit was so far not extended to seats allocated under the AIQ in these state colleges.
  • The 10% EWS quota under the Constitution (One Hundred And Third Amendment) Act, 2019, too, has been implemented in central educational institutions, but not in the NEET AIQ for state institutions.

What led to the decision?

  • The denial of OBC and EWS reservations has been the subject of protests for years.
  • In July last year, the Madras High Court ruled that OBC students too can avail reservation in the AIQ.
  • It held that the reservation could not be implemented for the then academic year for want of time, and can be implemented from 2021-22.

Let us look at the EWS quota and related information in detail.

EWS Quota: A Backgrounder

  • The 10% reservation was introduced through the 103rd Constitution Amendment and enforced in January 2019.
  • It added Clause (6) to Article 15 to empower the Government to introduce special provisions for the EWS among citizens except those in the classes that already enjoy reservation.
  • It allows reservation in educational institutions, both public and private, whether aided or unaided, excluding those run by minority institutions, up to a maximum of 10%.
  • It also added Clause (6) to Article 16 to facilitate reservation in employment.
  • The new clauses make it clear that the EWS reservation will be in addition to the existing reservation.

Inception of EWS Quota

  • EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major General (retd) S R Sinho.
  • The Commission for Economically Backward Classes was constituted by the then UPA government in 2005, and submitted its report in July 2010.
  • Based on this, the Cabinet in January 2019 decided to amend the Constitution (103rd Amendment) to provide reservation to EWS.

Why was the new committee constituted?

  • The committee aimed to revisit the criteria for determining the economically weaker sections in terms of the provisions of the explanation to Article 15 of the Constitution.
  • It followed the Supreme Court’s observation that the income criterion for determining EWS was “arbitrary”.

Significance of the quota

  • Empowering economically weaker sections: The 10% quota is progressive and could address the issues of educational and income inequality in India since the economically weaker sections of citizens have remained excluded from attending higher educational institutions and public employment due to their financial incapacity.
  • Constitutional recognition of the Economic Backwards: There are many people or classes other than backward classes who are living under hunger and poverty-stricken conditions.
    • The proposed reservation through a constitutional amendment would give constitutional recognition to the poor from the upper castes.
  • Reduction of Caste Based Discrimination: It will gradually remove the stigma associated with reservation because reservation has historically been related with caste and most often the upper caste look down upon those who come through the reservation.
  • In Ram Singh v. Union of India (2015), SC asserted that social deficiencies may exist beyond the concept of caste (e.g. economic status/gender identity as in transgenders).

What are the criteria to identify the section?

  • The main criterion is that those above an annual income limit of ₹8 lakh are excluded.
  • It accounts income from all sources such as salary, business, agriculture and profession for the financial year prior to the application of the family, applicants, their parents, siblings and minor children.
  • Possession of any of these assets, too, can take a person outside the EWS pool:
    1. Five or more acres of agricultural land
    2. A residential flat of 1,000 sq.ft. and above
    3. A residential plot of 100 square yards and above in notified municipalities, and
    4. A residential plot of 200 square yards and above in other areas

What are the court’s questions about the criteria?

  • Reduction within general category: The EWS quota remains a controversy as its critics say it reduces the size of the open category, besides breaching the 50% limit on the total reservation.
  • Arbitrariness over income limit: The court has been intrigued by the income limit being fixed at ₹8 lakh per year. It is the same figure for excluding the ‘creamy layer’ from OBC reservation benefits.
  • Socio-economic backwardness: A crucial difference is that those in the general category, to whom the EWS quota is applicable, do not suffer from social or educational backwardness, unlike those classified as the OBC.
  • Metropolitan criteria: There are other questions as to whether any exercise was undertaken to derive the exceptions such as why the flat criterion does not differentiate between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
  • OBC like criteria: The question the court has raised is that when the OBC category is socially and educationally backward and, therefore, has additional impediments to overcome.
  • Not based on relevant data: In line with the Supreme Court’s known position that any reservation or norms for exclusion should be based on relevant data.
  • Breaches reservation cap: There is a cap of 50% on reservation as ruled in the Indira Sawhney Case. The principle of balancing equality ordains reservation.

What is the current status of the EWS quota?

  • The reservation for the EWS is being implemented by the Union Government for the second year now.
  • Recruitment test results show that the category has a lower cut-off mark than the OBC, a point that has upset the traditional beneficiaries of reservation based on caste.
  • The explanation is that only a small number of people are currently applying under the EWS category — one has to get an income certificate from the revenue authorities — and therefore the cut-off is low.
  • However, when the number picks up over time, the cut-off marks are expected to rise.

Practical issues with EWS Quota

The EWS quota will come in for judicial scrutiny soon. But it’s not only a matter for the judiciary, India’s Parliament should revisit the law too.

  • Hasty legislation: This law was passed in haste. It was passed in both the houses within 48 hours, and got presidential approval the next day.
  • Minority appeasement: It is widely argued that the law was passed to appease a certain section of upper-caste society and to suppress the demands for minority reservations.
  • Morality put to question: Imagine! A constitutional amendment has been made with few hours of deliberation and without consultation of the targeted group. This is certainly against constitutional morality and propriety.
  • Substantial backing is missing: This amendment is based on a wrong or unverified premise. This is at best a wild guess or a supposition because the government has not produced any data to back this point.
  • Under-reservation of Backward Classes: The assertion is based on the fact that we have different data to prove the under-representation of SC, ST, OBCs. That implies that ‘upper’ castes are over-represented (with 100 minus reservation).
  • Rationale of 10%: There is one more problem in this regard. The SC and ST quota is based on their total population. But the rationale for the 10 per cent quota was never discussed.
  • Principle of Equality: Economic backwardness is quite a fluid identity. It has nothing to do with historic wrongdoings and liabilities caused to the Backward Classes.

Should India need reservation?

  • Duty of the state to provide equality of status and opportunity: Reservation is one of the tools against social oppression and injustice against certain classes. Otherwise known as affirmative action, reservation helps in uplifting backward classes.
  • Reservation is just one of the methods for social upliftment: There are many other methods like providing scholarships, funds, coachings, and other welfare schemes.
  • Vote bank politics: Indian Constitution allowed reservation only for socially and educationally backward classes. However, in India, it became caste-based reservation instead of class-based reservation.
  • Mandal Commission Report: Initially, the reservation was intended only for SC/ST communities – that too for a period of 10 years (1951-1961). However, it got extended ever since.
    • After the implementation of Mandal Commission report in 1990, the scope of the reservation was widened to include Other Backward Communities (OBCs).
  • The benefits of the reservation were successively enjoyed only by a few communities (or families), excluding the truly deserving ones. Even 70 years after independence, the demand for reservation has only increased.
    • Now, with the introduction of economic criteria for reservation, in addition to the caste-criteria which already existed, things have become more complicated.

Way forward

  • Preserving the merit: We cannot rule out the sorry state of economic backwardness hampering merit in our country.
  • Rational critera: There has to be collective wisdom to define and measure the economic weakness of certain sections of the society in order to shape the concept of economic justice.
  • Judicial guidance: Judicial interpretation will pave the wave forward for deciding the criterion for EWS Quota.
  • Targetted beneficiaries. The centre needs to resort to more rational criteria for deciding the targeted beneficiary of this reservation system. Caste Census data can be useful in this regard.
  • Income study: The per capita income or GDP or the difference in purchasing power in the rural and urban areas, should be taken into account while a single income limit was formulated for the whole country.

Conclusion

  • Reservation is a constitutional scheme to ensure the participation of backward classes shoulder to shoulder with all citizens in the nation-building process.
  • The EWS quota with above discussed ambiguities is the subversion of the constitutional scheme for reservation.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Consumer Protection

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Recently, in the exercise of provisions under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Central Government has notified the Consumer Protection (Jurisdiction of the District Commission, the State Commission, and the National Commission) Rules, 2021.

The Government has notified these rules to prohibit all direct selling entities from promoting pyramid schemes or money circulation schemes, while also providing for a mechanism for redressal of consumer complaints.

What is consumerism?

  • Consumerism is a movement that promotes the interests of buyers of goods and services.
  • Its main aim is to protect the consumer from unsafe or low quality of products, fraudulent advertising, labeling, packing and business practices that limits competition.

Why consumerism is important?

  • Illegal price hike: It is the wholesalers and middlemen who indulge in illegal activities like dumping of goods to create artificial scarcity and raise the prices of commodities which will increase their profits.
  • Affects all sections of society: So, consumerism is a national problem affecting every section of the society such as men and women, young or old and youth or child.
  • Form of social Action: Hence, consumer protection is a form of social action which will be designed to achieve the well-being of the one or group within a society. There is a need to extend consumerism in India.

What are the Consumer Rights?

Consumer right is an insight into what rights consumer holds when it comes to the seller who provides the goods.

In general, the consumer rights in India are listed below:

(1) Right to Safety

  • Means right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property.
  • The purchased goods and services should not only meet their immediate needs, but also fulfil long term interests.
  • Before purchasing, consumers should insist on the quality of the products as well as on the guarantee of the products and services. They should preferably purchase quality marked products such as ISI, AGMARK, etc.

(2) Right to be Informed

  • Means right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
  • Consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or a decision.
  • This will enable him to act wisely and responsibly and also enable him to desist from falling prey to high pressure selling techniques.

(3) Right to Choose

  • Means right to be assured, wherever possible of access to variety of goods and services at competitive price. In case of monopolies, it means right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price.
  • It also includes right to basic goods and services. This is because unrestricted right of the minority to choose can mean a denial for the majority of its fair share.

(4) Right to be Heard

  • Means that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. It also includes right to be represented in various forums formed to consider the consumer’s welfare.

(5) Right to Seek redressal

  • Means right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also includes right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumer.
  • Consumers must make complaint for their genuine grievances. Many a times their complaint may be of small value but its impact on the society as a whole may be very large.

(6) Right to Consumer Education

  • Means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer throughout life.
  • Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation.

Consumer Protection Laws in India

(1) The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

  • It enforces rights of consumers and provides for redressal of complaints at the district, state and national level. Such complaints may be regarding defects in goods or deficiency in services.
  • The Act also recognises offences such as unfair trade practices, which include providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.
  • Over the years, there have been challenges in the implementation of the Act.

(2) The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The latest Act provides a better mechanism to dispose of consumer complaints in a speedy manner and will help in the disposal of a large number of pending cases in consumer courts across the nation.

Key Features

1) Definition of consumer

  • A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. 
  • It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. 
  • It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.

2) Rights of consumers

The following consumer rights have been defined in the Act, including the right to:

  • be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property;
  • be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services;
  • be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and
  • seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices 

3) Establishment of Central Consumer Protection Authority

  • The central government will set up a CCPA to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. 
  • It is empowered to:
    1. conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution,
    2. order recall of unsafe goods and services,
    3. order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements
    4. impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements
  • The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations. 

4) Penalties for misleading advertisement

  • The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs. 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement. 
  • In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs. 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years. 
  • CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to one year.
  • For every subsequent offence, the period of prohibition may extend to three years.  

5) Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

  • CDRCs will be set up at the district, state, and national levels. 
  • A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to: unfair or restrictive trade practices; defective goods or services etc.
  • Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed with only the State and National   Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC. 
  • Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.  Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.

6) Jurisdiction of CDRCs

  • The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore. 
  • The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs 1 crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore. 
  • Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.

7) Product liability

  • Product liability means the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service. 
  • A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller will be held responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services.
  • Basis for product liability action:
    1. manufacturing defect
    2. design defect
    3. deviation from manufacturing specifications
    4. Not conforming to express warranty
    5. failing to contain adequate instructions for correct use
    6. service provided-faulty, imperfect or deficient
  • To claim compensation, a consumer has to prove any one of the conditions for defect or deficiency, as given in the Act.

(3) Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020

  • E-commerce entities are required to provide information to consumers, relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, and security of payment methods, charge-back options and country of origin.
  • These are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage.
  • These platforms will have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt.
  • They will also have to appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal.
  • The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020 are mandatory and are not advisories.
  • Sellers cannot refuse to take back goods or withdraw services or refuse refunds, if such goods or services are defective, deficient, delivered late, or if they do not meet the description on the platform.
  • The rules also prohibit the e-commerce companies from manipulating the price of the goods or services to gain unreasonable profit through unjustified prices.

(4) Consumer Protection (Jurisdiction of the District Commission, the State Commission, and the National Commission) Rules, 2021

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 promulgates a three-tier quasi-judicial mechanism for redressal of consumer disputes namely district commissions, state commissions and national commissions.
  • As per the existing provisions of the Act, District Commissions have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed one crore rupees.
  • State Commissions have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration, exceeds 1 crore rupees, but does not exceed 10 crore rupees and
  • National Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services paid as consideration exceeds 10 crore rupees.
  • But the existing provisions relating to pecuniary jurisdiction of consumer commissions were leading to rising in pendency and delay in disposal of cases.

Changes in Consumer Protection Rules, 2021

  • District Commissions shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed 50 lakh rupees.
  • State Commissions shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration exceeds 50 lakh rupees but does not exceed 2 crore rupees.
  • National Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration exceeds 2 crore rupees.

Time for disposal of Complaint

It may be mentioned that the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 stipulates that every complaint shall be disposed within a period of 3 months from the date of receipt of notice by the opposite party where the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities and within 5 months if it requires analysis or testing of commodities.

e-Filing of complaint: E-Daakhil Portal

  • The Act also provides consumers with the option of filing complaints electronically.
  • The Central Government has set up the E-Daakhil Portal, which provides a hassle-free, speedy and inexpensive facility to consumers to conveniently approach the relevant consumer forum.
  • E-Daakhil has many features like e-Notice, case document download link & VC hearing link, filing written response by the opposite party, filing rejoinder by complainant and alerts via SMS/Email.
  • Presently, the facility of E-Daakhil is available in 544 consumer commissions, which includes the National Commission and consumer commissions in 21 states and 3 UTs.
  • So far, more than 10,000 cases have been filed using the E-Daakhil Portal and more than 43000 users have registered on the portal.

Mediation

  • To provide a faster and amicable mode of settling consumer disputes, the Act also includes a reference of consumer disputes to Mediation, with the consent of both parties.
  • This will not only save time and money for the parties involved in litigating the dispute but will also aid in reducing the overall pendency of cases.

Way Forward

  • Misleading ads, tele-marketing, multi-level marketing, direct selling and e-commerce pose new challenges to consumer protection and will require appropriate and swift executive intervention to prevent consumer detriment.
  • Arm-twisting of weaker parties: Certain issues such as the appointment of mediators to settle disputes are contentious as this would lead to arm-twisting of the weaker parties and may encourage corruption.
  • Need to strengthen CCPA: Addressing these issues is necessary to ensure that the new amendments bring about definitive improvements in the CCPA.
  • Need to fill vacancies at the district commission level: The existing vacancies at the district commission level would undermine the effective implementation of the Act.
  • Guidelines for celebrity endorsements: Countries such as the UK, Ireland and Belgium have specifically banned celebrity endorsement of unhealthy foods. The impact of such restrictions has been reported to be significant.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Internet of Things (IoT)

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Introduction

The Internet of Things (IoT) can become a game-changer that India needs as this concept is set to disrupt almost every sector in India from smart cities and telecom to manufacturing and mobility. The rapid development in the IoT leads to the starting of the next digital revolution. However, the Internet of Things throws up many challenges like data safety and privacy. So India needs to push ahead with this concept to kick-start the radical development process with the proper regulatory framework in place to govern IoT.

What is the Internet of Things?

  • IoT is the network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.
  • IoT involves extending Internet connectivity beyond standard devices, such as desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets to everyday objects.
  • These objects may be anything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices.
  • It can also be components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.
  • Embedded with technology, these devices can communicate and interact over the Internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled.
  • Thus, it is all about connecting devices over the internet and letting them ‘talk’ to us, applications, and each other.
  • However, the Internet of Things doesn’t necessarily have to be connected to the internet; it can also be a network of things.

Advantages of IoT

  • Monitor Data: It helps us know the precise quantity of supplies or the air quality in home, it can also provide more data that could not have previously been possible to collect easily. For instance, monitoring the expiration of products will improve safety.
  • Ease of Access: Right now, one can easily gain the required information in real-time, from almost any location. It only takes a smart device and an internet connection. Example using Google Maps to see our location, instead of asking a person in real life.
  • Speedy Operation: All this data pouring in enables us to complete multiple tasks with amazing speed. For example, IoT makes automation effortless. Smart industries automate repetitive tasks, thus allowing employees to invest their time and effort into more challenging things.
  • Adapting to New Standards: As IoT is an ever-changing topic, its changes are minimal compared to the other techs of the high-tech world. Without IoT, it would be complicated for us to keep track of all the latest things.
  • Better Time Management: IoT is a clever time-saving tool. We can look up the latest news on our phones during our daily commute, or check a blog about our favourite pastime, purchase an item in an online shop, we can do almost all the things from the palm of our hands.
  • Automation and Control: Without human interference, the machines are communicating with each other providing faster and timely output.
  • Saving Money: Another main advantage of IoT is saving money. If the cost of the tagging and monitoring machines are less compared with the amount of money saved, this is the reason for the Internet of Things being very widely adopted.
  • Allowing the data to be communicated and shared between devices and then translating it into our required way, makes our systems efficient.

Applications of Internet of Things

(1) Daily Lives

  • There can be several IoT examples in our day-to-day lives.
  • For instance, a person returning home after his office hours can call his coffee-maker to make the coffee ready when he reaches home.
  • IoT can be used to water the plants of the garden whenever the moisture level falls below a certain limit.
  • We can utilize IoT to convert a normal home into a smart home. It can be used in energy efficiency in homes and office places.

(2) Industry

  • IoT’s effects may vary from industry to industry based on its utilization.
  • In the manufacturing sector, IoT can be utilized to enhance performance, minimize human-induced errors and consequently improve the overall quality of the manufactured products.
  • In the IT sector, utilization of IoT can result in improvement in services, development of more advanced software and digital services, etc.

(3) Agriculture

  • IoT can be utilized to collect data about rainfall, soil moisture, soil nutrients, pest infestation, etc.
  • It can assist in making informed decisions to increase agricultural production as well as reducing the risks of crop failures etc.
  • It can help make agriculture profitable with better price-discovery for farmers through smart techniques.

(4) Healthcare

  • Medical practitioners and doctors can use IoT to remotely monitor the patient’s health.
  • Smart beds can detect when the patient is trying to get up, his abnormal activities, etc.
  • Specialized sensors for senior citizens can be developed with the help of IoT.
  • Wearable heart monitors can help monitor the heartbeats, blood pressure of patients, etc.
  • It can revolutionize telemedicine applications.

(5) Media

  • Corporate media houses can utilize IoT to monitor consumer habits for the purpose of behavior targeting = display consumer-specific advertisements. They can utilize Big Data and Data Mining for this purpose.

(6) Transportation

  • IoT can be used in driverless cars and improve intra-vehicular communication to reduce accidents and traffic jams etc.
  • We can use it for electronic toll collections, smart parking, smart traffic management, etc.
  • IoT can be useful in logistics, fleet management, safety assistance, etc.

(7) Smart cities

  • IoT can be utilized in solid waste management systems to improve the cleanliness of the city.
  • Smart meters and power grids can improve energy efficiency and reduce transmission loss.
  • IoT can be used to track the air pollution levels in the cities and give a warning when it breaches the prescribed safety levels.
  • IoT can also be used to develop smart transportation systems to minimize congestion in the cities.

(8) Smart Retail

  • IoT provides an opportunity to retailers to connect with the customers to enhance the in-store experience. Interacting through Smartphones and using Beacon technology can help retailers serve their consumers better.
  • They can also track consumers’ paths through a store and improve store layout and place premium products in high traffic areas.

(9) Energy Engagement

  • Power grids of the future will not only be smart enough but also highly reliable.
  • The basic idea behind the smart grids is to collect data in an automated fashion and analyze the behavior or electricity consumers and suppliers for improving efficiency as well as the economics of electricity use.
  • Smart Grids will also be able to detect sources of power outages more quickly and at individual household levels like a nearby solar panels, making possible distributed energy systems.

What is the case with India?

  • IoT is the natural evolution of the internet and has many benefits including boosting global economies, improving public utilities, and increasing efficiencies.
  • Many of our global counterparts have already begun reaping the rewards of investing in IoT-based infrastructure.
  • The Indian government outlined a plan to leverage IoT as part of the Digital India mission.
  • The Indian IoT market is expected to reach $15 billion by 2020 and constitute 5% of the global market.
  • Investing in IoT will boost our economy on par with global leaders and it will also bring in investments, create jobs and improve Indian public infrastructure

What are the measures taken by the government to promote IoT?

  • The central government launched a plan to utilize IoT as part of the Digital India mission.
  • The government came up with the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 to satisfy the modern realities of the telecom such as 5G technology, IoT, Machine to Machine (M2M) communication, etc.
  • The government also allowed 100% FDI in the telecom sector. This will help in the development and growth of the IoT.
  • Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY) has published a draft policy for IoT. The target is to establish an IoT market of USD 15 billion by 2020 and having a share of 5-6% in the global IoT industry.

Challenges with the IoT

  • Data Breach: Having access to data is excellent. Unfortunately, our personal data is more exposed.
  • Dependence on Technology: IoT is mainly dependent on the internet connection. When there is none, it can’t be used.
  • Complexity in Operation: IoT may seem to be managing tasks with ease, a lot of complex operations are done behind it. If by mistake the software makes a wrong calculation, this will affect the rest of the process.
  • Our Safety: As all the household appliances, industrial machinery, public sector services and many other devices all are connected to the Internet, a lot of information is available on it. This information is prone to attack by hackers. It would be very disastrous if private and confidential information is accessed by unauthorized intruders.
  • Inter Compatibility: As devices from various manufacturers will be interconnected to each other, the issue of compatibility in tagging and monitoring increases. This disadvantage can be overcome if manufacturers make a common standard, but there is still a possibility that the technical problems may still persist.
  • Lesser Employment of Menial Staff: The uneducated workers and helpers may lose their jobs as an effect of automation of daily activities. This can lead to unemployment in the society.
  • Technology Takes Control of Life: Our lives are increasingly controlled by technology and will be dependent on it. The younger generation is already addicted to technology for every little work to be done.

How is IoT impacting the digital transformation of education?

  • Tracking movement: Integrated systems of IoT, which automatically transmit information about the child boarding the bus, the bus reaching the school, and the child entering the school premises, can be available to both parents and teachers via an app and automated messages.
  • Attendance system: Teachers and faculty members need not waste time on roll call. Instead, the student’s identity card automatically communicates with the sensors in the classroom and marks attendance.
  • Automatic sharing: Taking notes and marking critical points is an integral part of a student’s class activity. But, with IoT, all the contents on the black/whiteboard is automatically converted into a portable document and shared over email.
  • Session capture: An IoT environment automatically captures a classroom session (audio and video) and puts it on a shareable drive. This can be accessed by those students who missed the class. This way learning becomes both inclusive and accessible.
  • Ensuring security: With COVID-19 still doing the rounds, an IoT-based system integrated with CCTVs can scan the campus and spot people who are not wearing masks. The coordinates can be sent as an SMS and an email to the administrative authority for further action.
  • Read and translate: IoT can also be used to quickly scan editable text from books, papers, and other documents directly into a phone, tablet or computer and translate into more than 40 languages.

Way forward

  • IoT makes life easier at the cost of privacy and hence Data Protection Bill can do a lot well in ensuring the privacy of an individual.
  • Policy-makers, regulators, device manufacturers, supporting industries, and service providers will all have to join hands in creating a safer space online.
  • In India, the NDCP (National Digital Communications Policy) brought alignment from critical stakeholders to advance India’s infrastructure and security around digital communications.
  • The draft IoT policy seeks to establish committees to govern and drive IoT-specific initiatives. It is not yet clear how much access to personal data these committees get and how their actions will be monitored.
  • The Justice Srikrishna Committee had recommended some provisions for personal data protection including a consumer’s right to information, consent, and right to request companies to erase their data if preferred.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Japan Ties in Recent Times

Introduction

India’s growing economic strength in recent years has seen it adopting its foreign policy to increase its global influence and status and to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In the past few years, New Delhi has expanded its strategic vision, most noticeably in Asia, and has broadened the definition of its security interests. As a result, India-Japan relations have undergone a paradigmatic shift which has seen an attempt to build a strategic and global partnership between the two countries.

Background of India-Japan Ties

[I] Ancient times

  • The friendship between India and Japan has a long history rooted in spiritual affinity and strong cultural and civilization ties dating back to the visit of Indian monk Bodhisena in 752 AD.
  • The people of India and Japan have engaged in cultural exchanges, primarily as a result of Buddhism, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea.

[II] India’s freedom movement

  • Independence movement: The leader of the Indian Independence Movement, Rash Behari Bose was instrumental in forging India–Japan relations during India’s independence movement.
  • During World War II, The British occupiers of India and Japan were enemies during World War II.  Subhas Chandra Bose used Japanese sponsorship to form the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA).

[III] Present times

  • Pokhran nuclear test: In 1998, Japan imposed sanctions on India following the Pokhran-II, an Indian nuclear weapons test, which included the suspension of all political exchanges and the cutting off of economic assistance. These sanctions were lifted three years later.
  • Both nations share core values of democracy, peace, the rule of law, tolerance, and respect for the environment in realising pluralistic and inclusive growth of the region

Post cold war relations

  • The end of cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the inauguration of economic reforms in India seemed to mark the beginning of a new era in Indo-Japanese relationship.
  • India’s “Look East Policy” posited Japan as a key partner.
  • Japan being the only victim of nuclear holocaust, Pokhran –II tests of India in May 1998 brought bitterness in the bilateral relations where Japan asked India to sign NNPT.
  • Tokyo’s relation with India showed signs of an upswing when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori came on an official 5 day visit to India in August 2000.

Recent developments in India-Japan Relationship

(1) India-Italy-Japan trilateral partnership

  • Recently, Italy has also begun to signal its intention to enter the Indo-Pacific geography.
  • It has done so by seeking to join India and Japan in a trilateral partnership.
  • Italy has become more vocal on the risks emanating from China’s strategic competitive initiatives.
  • On the Indian side, there is great interest in forging new partnerships with like-minded countries interested in preserving peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

(2) 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue

  • The 2+2 ministerial dialogue is seen as an upgrade of the meeting between foreign and defense secretaries of the two countries, the first round of which took place in 2010.
  • The ministerial level meeting was held after a decision to institute a Foreign and Defense Ministerial Dialogue was taken during the 13th India-Japan Annual Summit held in Japan in 2018.
  • 2+2 meeting aimed to give further momentum to their special strategic partnership, particularly in the maritime domain.

(3) Supply Chain Resilience Initiative

  • Recently India, Australia and Japan formally launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative. The initiative was launched to counter the dominance of China in the Global Supply Chain.
  • It aims to prevent disruptions in the supply chain as seen during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The initiative will mainly focus on diversification of investment and digital technology adoption.

(4) Other MEA led-bilateral dialogues

  • The Act East Forum, established in 2017, aims to provide a platform for India-Japan collaboration under the rubric of India’s “Act East Policy” and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision”.
  • At the Second meeting of the Act East forum, both sides agreed to focus on expanding of Japanese language in North East, training of caregivers under Technical Intern Training Program (TITP), capacity building in area of bamboo value chain development and Disaster Management.
  • The inaugural India-Japan Space Dialogue was held in Delhi for enhancing bilateral cooperation in outer space and information exchange on the respective space policies.

(5) Currency Swap Agreement

  • Japan and India have entered into a $75-billion currency swap arrangement that will bolster the country’s firepower as it battles a steep drop in the rupee’s value.
  • A currency swap is an agreement between two parties to exchange a series of cash flows denominated in one currency for those denominated in another for a predetermined period of time.
  • The deal will help the two countries to swap their currencies for U.S. dollars to stabilise the rupee which has witnessed the steepest fall in recent years.

Areas of cooperation

(1) Economic and Commercial relations

  • Japan is regarded as a key partner in India’s economic transformation.
  • Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India’s large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources.
  • India’s bilateral trade with Japan stood at US$ 16.95 billion in FY 2019-20. India’s imports during this period were US$ 12.43 billion and exports were US$ 4.52 billion.
  • India’s primary exports to Japan are petroleum products, chemicals, elements, compounds, non-metallic mineral ware, fish & fish preparations, metalliferous ores & scrap, clothing & accessories, iron & steel products, textile yarn, fabrics and machinery etc.
  • India’s primary imports from Japan are machinery, electrical machinery, iron and steel products, plastic materials, non-ferrous metals, parts of motor vehicles, organic chemicals, etc.

Investment and Official Development Assistance (ODA)

  • From 2000 until September 2020, the Japanese investments in India cumulatively stands at around US$ 34.152 billion (Japan ranks fifth among the largest source of investment).
  • Japanese FDI during FY 2019-2020 increased to US$ 3.226 billion compared to US$ 2.96 billion in FY 2018-19.
  • The number of Japanese companies registered in India stands at more than 1460. Similarly, number of Indian companies operating in Japan is also increasing, with the number now over 100.
  • The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) with twelve industrial townships, Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) are some mega project with Japanese cooperation on the anvil.

(2) Security and Defence

  • India-Japan Defence and Security partnership has evolved over the years and today forms an integral pillar of bilateral ties.
  • QUAD: Formed in 2007 and revived in 2017 The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
  • The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
  • The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power.
  • In spite of the pandemic, complex exercises in all domains were conducted including MALABAR 2020, Japan India maritime exercise (JIMEX 2020) and PASSEX, showcasing the trust and interoperability between the navies.

(3) Strategic

  • After the cold war Japan looked out to extend its diplomatic options beyond US and India became the best option possible.
  • 2+2 dialogue is taking place between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries to deepen the global partnership.
  • It is also agreed to establish the India–Japan–United States trilateral dialogue on regional and global issues of shared interest.
  • Both countries also reiterated their determination to work together under the UNFCCC, WTO, etc.
  • Japan and India are working together to realize the reform of Security Council at the earliest.
  • There is a beginning of India-Japan-Australia trilateral dialogue to evolve an open, inclusive, stable and transparent economic, political and security architecture in the indo-pacific region.

(4) India-Japan Digital Partnership (IJDP) and Start-up Hub

  • The MOC on Digital Partnership envisaged cooperation in five sub-areas:

1) Start-up Initiative

2) Corporate Partnership

3) ESDM promotion

4) Digital talent exchange

5) R&D Cooperation

6) Security related strategic collaboration

(5) Disaster Risk Reduction

  • An Agreement on joint research in the field of Earthquake Disaster Prevention was signed between Fujita Corporation and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-R).

(6) Skill Development

  • India-Japan MoC signed in 2016 to train 30,000 shop floor leaders over 10 years thereby also contributing to India’s flagship initiatives such as “Skill India” and “Make in India”.
  • Japanese companies have established 13 Japan-India Institute of Manufacturing (JIM) in India and 5 Japanese Endowed Courses (JEC) in Indian Engineering Colleges.

(7) Health-care

  • In view of the similarities and synergies between the goals and objectives of India’s AYUSHMAN Bharat Programme and Japan’s AHWIN, both sides consulted with each other to identify projects to build the narrative of AHWIN for AYUSHMAN Bharat.
  • Japan is supporting India to contain COVID-19 and mitigate its adverse socioeconomic impacts by extending budgetary support to the GoI and implementing emergency response programs for the health sector.

(8) Education Cooperation

  • As on December 2020, there were over 300 academic and research partnerships (including student exchanges) between more than 70 universities/institutes of Japan and around 105 universities/institutes of India.
  • These partnerships range from liberal arts to management & business studies, legal studies, international studies, linguistics, ayurveda, STEM including fast emerging frontier technologies.
  • The students & teacher exchange and scholarship programmes, especially short-term, are enabling a large number of Indian students and teachers to visit and experience Japan and vice versa.

(9) S&T Cooperation

  • Bilateral S&T cooperation was formalized through an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 1985.
  • Recent initiatives – three India-Japan Joint Laboratories in the area of ICT (AI, IoT and Big Data) and initiation of Dept. of Science and Tech (DST)-Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship Programme for the young researchers.

(10) Energy

  • The two sides have launched an Energy Dialogue to promote cooperation in the energy sector in a comprehensive manner.
  • The areas of cooperation include oil and natural gas, coal, electric power, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and other relevant sectors.
  • In 2015, India and Japan reached on substantive Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. India becomes the first non NPT signed country to do so.

What lies at the fulcrum of ties?

  • First of all, Japan is the most mature economy in this region. In terms of maturity, sophistication, and experience in international economic engagements, Japan excels every other country of the Indo-Pacific region, excluding the United States.
  • Its technological marvels, business strategies, and management skills are second to none.
  • Japan rarely hits the international headlines and it is actually Japan’s feebleness in the world of political advertisements.
  • Japan sooner than later will be a leading player in the political economy as well as security fields of the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Its aging population is a major concern and Japan very well acknowledges this fact. While increasing the domestic birth rate will always be important, it is a position to devise a new immigration policy that would largely benefit Indians.
  • Japan has the distinction of being the only foreign power that has been allowed to undertake infrastructure and other projects in India’s sensitive northeast.
  • Finally, Japan has never been an adversary of India and the current global as well as regional distribution of power and strategic scenario necessitate a deeper and expansive Indo-Japan strategic teamwork.

Way forward

  • Taking advantage of its considerable assets — the world’s third-largest economy, substantial high-tech skills, and a military freed of some legal and constitutional constraints — Japan is largely perceived as a natural ally to India.
  • At a time of global geopolitical flux, the two are among the important countries that have taken up the baton to champion freedom, international norms and rules, inclusivity, and free and fair trade.
  • If Japan and India continue to add concrete security content to their relationship, their strategic partnership could potentially be a game-changer in Asia.
  • The emphasis on boosting trade and investment must be balanced with greater strategic collaboration.
  • Both countries can contribute to the larger effort to build strategic equilibrium, power stability and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.
  • India and Japan have forged a special relationship, which is set to strengthen and deepen in the coming years.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] 50 Years of Bangladesh’s Independence

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Context

It’s been 50 years since Bangladesh first began the fight for independence, which resulted in it breaking away from Pakistan to become a separate country. Before this, the area that is now Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan.

In March 1971 the liberation war started, which lasted for nine months and ended with Bangladesh officially having its status as an independent nation recognized on 16 Dec 1971.

Why did East Pakistan want to become independent?

  • Most people in East Pakistan were part of a racial group called Bengali, and were the majority in Pakistan overall.
  • However, they feared being dominated and controlled by minority groups in West Pakistan.
  • They also felt like they were being discriminated against when it came to being given resources or facilities.
Cyclone Bhola caused devastation in November 1970
  • In 1970 a cyclone hit East Pakistan, causing a lot of damage and the death of 500,000 people.
  • The central government of Pakistan was accused of being slow to respond and this caused further resentment.

How did the fighting begin?

  • The conflict was sparked after elections were won by an East Pakistani party, the Awami League, who wanted to give the region more control over how things were run there.
  • While the political parties and the military argued over forming the new government, many Bengalis started to believe that West Pakistan was deliberately trying to stop this from happening.
  • The Awami League’s leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started a campaign, which involved breaking laws to show that they weren’t prepared to accept this.
  • Meanwhile, the Pakistani army flew in thousands of extra soldiers, and on the evening of 25 March attacked the Awami League, and other people it viewed as a threat.
  • They also attacked the Hindu community, who made up about 20% of the population. Many of them were forced to become Muslim.
  • Full-scale war broke out between the Pakistani army and a new unofficial liberation army called the Mukti Bahini, who wanted total independence for East Pakistan.

How was the war won?

  • Millions of Bengali people decided to leave East Pakistan in search of safety, travelling as refugees to India’s Bengali state West Bengal.
  • Seeing this, the Indian armed forces got involved in the conflict, taking the side of Bangladeshi forces in the final two weeks of the war and helping them to secure victory.
  • In the end, the war lasted for nine months with the Pakistani army surrendering and the capital city of Dhaka being freed on 16 December 1971.
  • After gaining it’s freedom, East Pakistan took on the new name of Bangladesh.

What happened after the war?

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is considered the founder of Bangladesh and was the country’s first President
  • In 1973 the first parliamentary elections were held and the Awami League won a landslide victory.
  • But in 1975 there was a military coup, where founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were killed.
  • After this Bangladesh spent 15 years under military rule and, although democracy was restored in 1990, the political scene remains unstable.
  • In more recent years Islamist extremism has increased in the country and there have been some attacks by violent groups, but the country is mostly tolerant and peaceful.

Bangladesh @ 50

  • As Bangladesh marks the 50th anniversary of its declaration of independence from Pakistan, there is widespread admiration for its remarkably successful economic and social transformation.
  • Less noted are the profound geopolitical consequences of Bangladesh’s economic rise, including a shift in South Asia’s centre of economic gravity.
  • In seceding from Pakistan only 25 years after the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion, Bangladesh is the biggest testimony to the enduring truth that religion can’t peacefully unify a nation.
  • Bangladesh’s special location and political character would not have amounted to much if the nation had not made itself an economic success.

To understand the scale of Bangladesh’s economic transformation relative to Pakistan and India, let us consider two important facts.

  1. First, Bangladesh overtook Pakistan in 2019 to become the second-largest economy in the subcontinent—$303 billion to $279 billion in annual GDP.
  2. Second, the International Monetary Fund announced last year that Bangladesh’s per capita GDP would overtake that of India by a few dollars in 2020.

Beyond geographical inheritance

It is instructive to see how differently Islamabad and Dhaka have leveraged their geographic inheritance.

  • Pakistan’s strategic community has tended to imagine its unique location in geopolitical terms; Bangladesh, in contrast, has focused on leveraging its geography for economic growth.
  • To its own detriment, Pakistan insists that commercial links to India must wait until the resolution of the Kashmir question.
  • Bangladesh, on the other hand, has turned its long frontier with India into a source of economic opportunity.

At the same time, it has also made progress in resolving contentious bilateral issues with New Delhi.

India-Bangladesh ties: An organic transformation

  • India’s links with Bangladesh are civilization, cultural, social and economic.
  • There is much that unites the two countries – a shared history and common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, passion for music, literature and the arts.
  • India was one of the first countries, along with Bhutan, to recognize Bangladesh as a sovereign state on 6 December 1971.
  • It is also worth recalling that India shares its longest border of 4,096.7 kilometres with Bangladesh, which is also the fifth-longest border in the contemporary world.
  • With the onset of economic liberalization in South Asia, they forged greater bilateral engagement and trade.

What are its various dimensions?

(1) Geopolitics

  • From the perspective of India’s Northeast, Bangladesh is India’s most strategic neighbor, whom New Delhi cannot ever afford to ignore.
  • India’s dream of ‘Act East Policy’ can only be materialized with the helping hands of Dhaka.
  • The bridge ‘Maitri Setu’ has been built over the Feni River which flows between the Indian boundary in Tripura State and Bangladesh.
  • It is set to become the ‘Gateway of North East’ with access to Chittagong Port of Bangladesh, which is just 80 kms from Sabroom.

(2) Connectivity

  • Perhaps on top of the list is connectivity between India’s mainland and the crucial northeast, which is part of India’s “Look East” Policy.
  • The only connection between India’s mainland and the northeast was the Chicken’s Neck – a narrow strip of land that has always been a huge security concern.
  • India and Bangladesh have signed several pacts, so India can actually send goods and passengers over land across Bangladesh, connecting Bengal to Tripura.
  • In December 2020, Modi met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during which both leaders agreed to revive the trans-border railway link connecting India’s Chilahati and Bangladesh’s Haldibari.

(3) Security

  • The other big security concern for India is that Bangladesh should not turn into the frontline of radical terror in the southeast.
  • India’s relationship with Bangladesh is also linked to its relationship with China.
  • India did not want Bangladesh to become a pearl in China’s “String of Pearls” strategy to hem in India by using its neighbors.

(4) Trade

  • Bangladesh is currently India’s biggest trade partner in the South Asian region.
  • To strengthen and encourage Bangladesh’s trade and commerce, India has given several concessions to Dhaka, including duty-free access to Bangladeshi products into the Indian markets.
  • New Delhi is also working continually to reduce Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB).
  • To encourage trade, India is developing the Integrated Check Post in 10 border crossing points to lower NTBs.

(5) Financial assistance

  • India offered lines of credit worth about $10 billion to Bangladesh as part of development assistance, which includes setting up orphanages, cultural centres, and educational institutions.
  • India has also simplified the visa process for Bangladeshi tourists and 1.5 million visas were issued in 2019.
  • During the coronavirus crisis, India provided medical training to Bangladeshi professionals, test kits and medicines, beside the dispatch of vaccine consignments.

(6) Security 

  • The successful security cooperation between the nations resulted in tackling militancy in Bangladesh.
  • India’s efforts to contain the militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh’s activities are an example of engagement on this front.

(7) Settlement of boundaries

  • After a ruling by the United Nations, India agreed to give up around 19,467 km in the Bay of Bengal without challenging the decision, a move that gave great access to Bangladesh to the resource-rich sea.
  • The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) signed between both nations in 2015 facilitated the transfer of 111 enclaves.

There are a few irritants as well…

(1) Illegal migration

  • This has always been a primary problem for India since the partition of Bengal.
  • In view of this, recently, the Supreme Court asked the Centre complete the fencing of the India-Bangladesh border soon to check illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam.

(2) Dragon is the elephant in the room

  • In 2016 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Bangladesh, the smaller country agreed to join the OBOR.
  • Bangladesh is increasingly tilting towards China due to the Asian giant’s massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments in these countries.
  • In spite of its Neighborhood First Policy, India has been losing its influence in the region to China.

(3) NRC conundrum

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971.
  • India plans to seek their repatriation to Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and that the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.

(4) Rohingya Issue

  • The Rohingya issue and India’s remarks in 2017 on the issue have been upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million refugees fleeing persecution.

(5) River disputes

  • India and Bangladesh have failed to conclude a framework agreement to optimize the use of waters from six rivers including the Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar, which has been discussed for several months.
  • No progress was reported on the long-pending Teesta water-sharing agreement either after the recent visit.

Why India still needs Bangladesh?

(1) South Asian geopolitics

  • Bangladesh has emerged as one of India’s closest partners and second to Bhutan in South Asia. The role of Bangladesh is critical for India’s Act East Policy.
  • India counts on Dhaka’s support in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) initiatives.
  • These collectively complement New Delhi’s Southeast Asia outreach.

(2) Connectivity

  • Bangladesh’s location is a strategic wedge between mainland India and NE seven states. Each of these states is land-locked and has shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh.
  • Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur the socio-economic development of North-East India.

(3) Countering China

  • Bangladesh uses China card to supplement its bargaining capacity against India.
  • A ‘neutral’ Bangladesh thus ensures containment of an assertive China in this region.

(4) Fight against terror

  • Bangladesh has emerged as a key element in sub-regional connectivity initiatives with Pakistan refusing to play ball rendering SAARC ineffective.
  • In 2016, when India decided to skip the SAARC Summit in Islamabad following a spike in cross-border terror attacks, Bangladesh and Bhutan wasted no time in joining ranks in solidarity with India.

Way forward

  • The future will present itself with an abundance of opportunities to help the two countries to reach a new plane of bilateral relations higher than ever before.
  • Both nations should play their diplomatic cards with more maturity and pragmatism, keeping the regional aspirations and nuances of both countries in mind.
  • A judicious aggregation of regional expectations on both sides of the border will help in achieving their mutual national objectives.
  • To make the recent gains irreversible, both countries need to continue working on the three Cs — cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation.

Conclusion

  • The first 50 years have consolidated the foundation of India-Bangladesh relations.
  • Both have matured in the last decade with development in many areas of cooperation.
  • The shared colonial legacy, history and socio-cultural bonds demand that the political leadership of the two countries inject momentum into India-Bangladesh relations.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Raising Legal Age of Marriage For Women

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Child marriage ends childhood.  It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection. These consequences impact not just the girl directly, but also her family and community.

Context

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday (December 15) took the decision to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. With this decision, the government will be bringing the age of marriage for both men and women at par. The Cabinet’s decision to raise the legal age of marriage for women is based on the recommendation of a panel led by Jaya Jaitly.

The proposal to raise the legal age for the marriage of women carries “enormous” economic and social gains for India, according to a State Bank of India report. The report counts benefits such as lowering maternal deaths and improving nutrition levels in the near term to putting more girls in college and enabling women to achieve greater financial independence in the long term.

Let us look at the menace of child marriage in India and the rationale behind the govt’s move in detail.

Facts and figures about the prevalence of child marriage in India

  • Widespread across India: Nearlyhalf of brides married as girls. Every third child bride in the world is an Indian.
  • Slow improvement: There has been a decline in the incidence of child marriage nationally (from 54% in 1992-93 to 33%) and in nearly all states but the pace of change remains slow, especially for girls in the age group 15-18 years.
  • Prevalence in Rural areas: Child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas (48 percent) than in urban areas (29 percent).
  • Variations across different groups: particularly excluded communities, castes and tribes – although some ethnic groups, such as tribal groups, have lower rates of child marriage.
  • Role of Education: A girl with 10 years of education has a six times lower chance of being pushed into marriage before she is 18.
  • International Center for Research on Women: India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world. As many as 39,000 minor girls are being married every day in India
  • Fourth National Family Health Survey (2015-16): There are 26.8% of brides in the country who were married below the age of 18. 40% of the world’s 60 million child marriages take place in India
  • Variations across states: State In West Bengal, the mean marriage age is only 20.9 years and almost 47 per cent of females get married before the age of 21 years, even worse than Bihar and Rajasthan.

Marriage laws in India

  • Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
  • For Hindus and Christians: The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
  • Islam: The marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid according to the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
  • Now, the govt will have to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Factors leading to child marriage in India

(1) Social Factors

  • Lack of education: A big determinant of the age of marriage is education. Around 45% of women with no education and 40% with primary education married before the age of 18, according to NFHS-4.
  • Social background: Child marriages are more prevalent in rural areas and among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Value of virginity: It is believed that husband needs virgin wife and if the daughter had premarital sex it will dishonor their family. Some societies/castes have social stigma against girl married after puberty.
  • Gender norms: Males are more valued in Indian family and women primary role is to produce son.
  • Practice of dowry: If the girl is married at lower age they may not demand dowry as the girl is pure and believed to be incarnation of goddess Laxmi. Families see it as protection against sexual assault.
    • The dowry amount increases with the age and the education level of the girl. Hence, the “incentive” of the system of dowry perpetuates child marriage.
  • Low awareness about social protection programs: These schemes are often limited to providing cash transfers without the accompanying messages to address the multi-dimensional nature of child marriage.
  • Child marriage is seen as custom which has been borrowed from past and people do not want to change it.

(2) Economic Factors

  • Seen as a burden: Economically, child marriages work as mechanisms that are quick income earners. A girl child is seen as a leeway to a large dowry, to be given to her family upon her marriage.
  • Poverty: Women from poor households tend to marry earlier. While more than 30% of women from the lowest two wealth quintiles were married by the age of 18, the corresponding figure in the richest quintile was 8%.
  • Trafficking: Poor families are tempted to sell their girls not just into marriage, but into prostitution, as the transaction enables large sums of money to benefit the girl’s family and harms the girl.
  • More working hands: Child marriage means more children and more children will earn more and save family from financial problems.
  • More importance to male child: Family do not want to invest on girls education as there is no return from her and rather trained to become a good wife till the age of 13 or 14 and then they are married.
  • Undervaluation of economic importance of Girls: Girls are often seen as a liability with limited economic role. Women’s work is confined to the household and is not valued.

What is the Jaya Jaitly Committee?

  • In June 2020, the Ministry of WCD set up a task force to look into the correlation between the age of marriage with issues of women’s nutrition, prevalence of anemia, IMR, MMR and other social indices.
  • The committee was to look at the feasibility of increasing the age of marriage and its implication on women and child health, as well as how to increase access to education for women.

Key recommendations

  • The committee has recommended the age of marriage be increased to 21 years, on the basis of feedback they received from young adults from 16 universities across the country.
  • The committee also asked the government to look into increasing access to schools and colleges for girls, including their transportation to these institutes from far-flung areas.
  • Skill and business training has also been recommended, as has sex education in schools.
  • The committee said these deliveries must come first, as, unless they are implemented and women are empowered, the law will not be as effective.

Reasons behind the decision

  • Gender-neutrality: With this decision, the government will be bringing the age of marriage for both men and women at par.
  • Motherhood complexities: An early age of marriage, and consequent early pregnancies, also have impacts on nutritional levels of mothers and their children, and their overall health and mental wellbeing.
  • Mother and Child Mortality: It also has an impact on Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate.
  • Women empowerment: The decision would empower women who are cut off from access to education and livelihood due to an early marriage.
  • Protection from abuse: This will essentially outlaw premature girls marriages and prevent the abuse of minors.
  • Socio-economic Fronts: Increasing the legal age for the marriage of women has enormous benefits including:
    1. Lowering the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)
    2. Improvement of nutrition levels
    3. Financial front opportunities will be opened up for women to pursue higher education and careers and become financially empowered, thus resulting in a more egalitarian society.
  • More female labor force participation: Increasing the marriage age will lead to more females doing graduation and hence improving the female labor force participation ratio. The percentage of females doing graduation will increase by at least 5-7 percentage points from the current level of 9.8 per cent.

In a landmark judgement of Dhannu Lal v. Ganeshram ,the Supreme Court ruled that two individuals cohabiting and staying in a live-in relationship are not criminal offenders. Raising the legal age of marriage for women will further promote live-in relationship culture.

Challenges in raising the legal age of marriage for women

  • Illegal marriages: Such legislation would push a large portion of the population into illegal marriages leading to non-institutional births.
  • Ineffectiveness of existing laws: Decrease in child marriages has not been because of the existing law but because of an increase in girls’ education and employment opportunities.
  • Unnecessary coercion: The law would end up being coercive, and in particular negatively impact marginalized communities, such as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, making them law-breakers.
  • Rights of the girls are threatened: Increasing the age of marriage to 21 years would mean that girls will have no say in their personal matters until they are 21.
  • Exploitation of law by parents: The law has been used by parents against eloping daughters. It has become a tool for parental control and for punishment of boys or men whom girls choose as their husbands.
  • Social validity of marriages: Even if the law declares a marriage before the specified age as void, in the eyes of the community, arranged marriages will have social validity.
  • This worsens the condition of the girls who are widowed even before reaching the new legal age for marriage.
  • Increased female infanticide: Raising the female marriage age in India that have high son preference and high poverty may have the unintended consequence of increasing the prevalence of female infanticide and sex-selective abortion.

Way Forward

(1) Need to address the root of the problems: While children born to adolescent mothers have a higher prevalence of stunting and low weight, experts argue that the underlying cause is poverty.

  • There is also a need to improve access to education, skill training, and employment opportunities which are some of the barriers for girls in pursuing higher education.
  • It is also important to ensure a safe environment free from the constant threat of rape and sexual assault which is why girls are married off early.
  • Legislation to increase the age of marriage is superficial and does not go to the root of the problems faced by young women.

(2) Steps must be taken to address early pregnancies instead of focusing on the age of marriage by extending family planning and reproductive health support which focus on preparation for pregnancy and delaying the first birth.

(3) Improving educational reach: The answer to delaying child marriages lies in ensuring access to education since the practice is a social and economic issue.

(4) Increasing Accessibility to Schools: The government needs to look into increasing access to schools and colleges for girls, including their transportation to these institutes from far-flung areas.

(5) Need for the awareness programs: An awareness campaign is required on a massive scale on the increase in age of marriage, and to encourage social acceptance of the new legislation, which they have said would be far more effective than coercive measures.


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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Interlinking of Rivers in India

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Context

  • The funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project, a part of national river linking project (NRLP), has been approved by the Union Cabinet at a cost of ₹44,605 crore.
  • The Ken-Betwa project has the status of a national project, as the Centre will contribute 90% of the cost. It is also the first major centrally-driven river interlinking project in the country.
  • The project will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects in India.
  • With the process of creating the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA) set in motion by the Centre, the topic of river interlinking merits a detailed discussion.

Interlinking of Rivers

  • Management of water resources: The Indian Rivers Inter-link aims to effectively manage water resources in India by linking Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals 
  • Flood control: It main purpose is to enhance irrigation and groundwater recharge, reduce persistent floods in some parts, and water shortages in other parts of India.
  • India accounts for 18% of the world’s population and about 4% of the world’s water resources. One of the solutions to solve the country’s water woes is to link rivers and lakes.
  • Idea behind the interlinking of rivers: Many parts of the country face problems of drought while many others face the problem of flooding every year. 
  • Hence, the National River Linking Project (NRLP) is claimed to be the answer to India’s water problem through conservation, storage, and deliver to areas and over times when water becomes scarce.
  • Beyond water security, the project is also seen to offer potential benefits to transport infrastructure through navigation, as well as to broadening income sources in rural areas through fish farming.

Brief history

  • The idea of interlinking of rivers in the Indian subcontinent is atleast 150 years old.
  • During the British Raj in India, Sir Arthur Cotton, a British general and irrigation engineer, first suggested linking the Ganga and the Cauvery for navigational purposes.
  • K.L. Rao’s Proposal (1972), which had 2640 km long Ganga – Cauvery link as its main component involved large scale pumping over a head of 550 m.
  • The Central Water Commission, which examined the proposal, found it to be grossly under estimated and economically prohibitive.

Capt. Dastur Proposal (1977)

It envisaged the construction of two canals:

  1. 4200 km Himalayan Canal at the foot of Himalayan slopes running from the Ravi in the West to the Brahmaputra and beyond in the east
  2. 9300 km Garland Canal covering the central and southern parts

Beginning of implementation

  • The Indian Rivers Inter-link aims to link India’s rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals and so reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts of India.
  • The idea to link rivers got a shot in the arm with the establishment of the National Water Development Agency in 1982 by then PM Indira Gandhi.
  • The Inter-link project was split into three parts:
    1. Northern Himalayan rivers inter-link component
    2. Southern Peninsular component
    3. Intrastate rivers linking component

Objectives of inter-linking

  • Connect the Himalayan and peninsular rivers via a network of canals so that
  • Excess water from one channel can be diverted to another which has an inadequate flow
  • Flood moderation in the Ganga-Brahmaputra system
  • Hydropower generation through excess water

About Ken-Betwa River Interlinking Project

  • The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
  • Under this project, water from the Ken River will be transferred to the Betwa River. Both these rivers are tributaries of the river Yamuna.
  • The project is being managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA), under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Implementation of the project
    1. Phase-I: Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances like Low Level Tunnel, High Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa link canal and Power houses
    2. Phase-II: Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project and Kotha Barrage

Utility of the Project

  • Irrigation: The project is slated to irrigate 10.62 lakh hectares annually, provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people and generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.
  • Water supply: The project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Agricultural boost: The project is expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation.
  • Addressing Rural Distress: It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.

Many hurdles

  • Submergence of critical wildlife habitat: The project will partly submerge the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and affect the habitat of vultures and jackals.
  • Clearance: After years of protests, it was finally cleared by the apex wildlife regulator, the National Board for Wildlife, in 2016.
  • Water sharing disputes: Then UP and MP could not agree on how water would be shared, particularly in the non-monsoonal months.

Having known about the recent advancements, let us learn about the concept of river interlinking in detail.

National River Linking Project (NRLP)

  • NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 inter-link projects for Himalayan component, 16 inter-link projects for Peninsular component, and 37 intrastate river linking projects.

Benefits of River Interlinking

There are many benefits that the proposed interlinking projects will bring about. They are discussed below:

  • Interlinking rivers is a way to transfer excess water from the regions which receive a lot of rainfall to the areas that are drought-prone. This way, it can control both floods and droughts.
  • This will also help solve the water crisis in many parts of the country. 
  • Hydropower generation: This project envisages the building of many dams and reservoirs. This can generate about 34000 MW of electricity if the whole project is executed.
  • Dry weather flow augmentation: When there is a dry season, surplus water stored in the reservoirs can be released. This will enable a minimum amount of water flow in the rivers.
    • This will greatly help in the control of pollution, in navigation, forests, fisheries, wildlife protection, etc.
  • Indian agriculture is primarily monsoon-dependent. The problems of unexpected behavior of monsoons can be solved through the project as it will provide irrigation facilities in water-deficient places.
  • Inland waterway transportation: The project will also help commercially because of the betterment of the inland waterways transport system.
  • Improve fish production: The rural areas will have an alternate source of income in the form of fish farming and other related activities.
  • The project will also augment the defense and security of the country through the additional waterline defense.

Challenges in River Interlinking

  • Project feasibility: The project is estimated to cost around Rs.5.6 lakh crores(estimated cost with the base year of 2000).
  • Requires great engineering capability and manpower: There is also the requirement of huge structures. All this requires a great engineering capacity. So, the cost and manpower requirement is immense.
  • Climate vulnerability: A report points out that Climate change will cause a meltdown of 1/3rd of the Hindu Kush Region’s glaciers by 2100. So, the Himalayan Rivers might not have ‘surplus water’ for a long time.
  • Environmental impact: The huge project will alter entire ecosystems. The wildlife, flora and fauna of the river systems will suffer because of such displacements and modifications.
  • Impact on society: Building dams and reservoirs will cause the displacement of a lot of people. This will cause a lot of agony for a lot of people. They will have to be rehabilitated and adequately compensated.
  • Controlling floods: Some people express doubts as to the capability of this project to control floods. There have been instances where big dams like Hirakud Dam, Damodar Dam, etc. have brought flooding to Odisha, West Bengal, etc.
  • Political Challenges: Water is a state subject in India. So the implementation of the NRLP primarily depends on Inter-State co-operation. Several states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Sikkim have already opposed the NRLP.
  • Inter-state disputes: Many states like Kerala, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, etc. have opposed the river interlinking project.
  • International disputes: In the Himalayan component of the project, the effect of building dams and interlinking rivers will have an effect on the neighboring countries. For example, Bangladesh has opposed the transfer of water from the Brahmaputra to the Ganga.
  • Other Challenges: The government is proposing a canal irrigation method for transmitting water from one area to the other. The maintenance of canals is also a great challenge it includes preventing sedimentation, clearing logging of waters etc.

Way Forward

  • Integrated water resource management is the key: India needs to conserve every drop of water, reduce wastage, equitable distribution of resources at the same time enhance groundwater. 
    • So the small scale simple things have to be tried instead of large scale projects.
  • Local solutions (like better irrigation practice) and watershed management, should be focused on.
  • National Waterways Project (NWP) should be considered: It “eliminates” friction between states over the sharing of river waters since it uses only the excess flood water that goes into the sea unexploited.
  • Interlinking of rivers should be pursued in a decentralized manner, and more sustainable ways like rainwater harvesting should be promoted to mitigate floods and droughts.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Nepal Relations

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Introduction

Nepal has once again raked up the border issue in Pithoragarh district by claiming three villages in the Kalapani area, raking up an issue that reared its head last year when Kathmandu published a new map showing India’s Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limipiyadhura as part of its territory. The move comes in the context of the country’s ongoing census.

Let us learn about the India-Nepal relations in detail.

Nepal: India‘s immediate Himalayan neighbor

  • Nepal and India share an open border of about 1,880 km (1,168 miles).
  • The two countries have finalised maps covering 98% of the boundary, but the Lipulekh pass, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura in western Nepal are among the areas that remain contested.

Various outstanding issues

[I] Issue of Simultaneous floods in Bihar and Nepal

  • Some of Nepal’s biggest river systems originate in the Himalayan glaciers which then flow into India through Bihar.
  • During the monsoons, these river systems flood causing many problems for Bihar.
  • It is a necessity that there is process-driven coordination between the Centre and the Government of Bihar to handle the flooding in Nepal’s Terai and North Bihar (largely the Mithilanchal region).

Which are those flooding rivers?

  • Nepal’s three biggest river systems—Kosi, Gandaki and Karnali—originate in the high mountain glaciers, flow through the country and then enter India through the state of Bihar.
  • During the monsoon season, these river systems often get flooded due to heavy rains/landslides in Nepal which create floods in India’s most flood prone state—Bihar.

Measures: Joint flood management program

  • As part of the long-term measures to address the problem of massive and recurrent floods in Bihar, the Joint Project Office (JPO), Biratnagar, was established in Nepal in August 2004.
  • It aimed to prepare a detailed project report to construct a high dam on the Nepal side (on the Kosi, Kamla and Bagmati rivers).
  • Despite the best efforts made by the Government of Bihar, the task remains unaccomplished even after 17 years.
  • The Central Water Commission (CWC) has convened several meetings with Nepali Authorities.
  • However, what is evident is Nepal’s lack of prompt reciprocation. India has long-standing water sharing issues with Nepal.

[II] India-Nepal Border Issue

Construction of an 80-km-long road through the Lipulekh Pass got the 2 Himalayan neighbors into the fighting arena. The road was constructed with the purpose to reduce the travel time for Indian pilgrims visiting the religious shrine at Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet. Nepal claims it to be a violation of its borders.

So, what is the issue?

  • The inauguration of the “new road to Mansarovar” by India has strained the relations between Nepal and India.
  • While India argues that Kalapani is a part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, Nepal claims it falls in its Darchula district.
  • The 1816 Sugauli Treaty between Nepal and British India placed all the territories east of the Kali (Mahakali) river, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh at the northwestern front of Nepal, on its side.
  • Lipu Lekh pass is 4 km northwest and Limpiyadhura 53 km west of Tinker pass. The borders of Nepal, India and China intersect in this area.
  • Given the situation in 1961, Nepal and China fixed pillar number one at Tinker pass with the understanding that pillar number zero (the tri-junction of Nepal, India, and China) would be fixed later.

Why is Lipulekh important for India?

  • For India, the Lipulekh pass has security implications.
  • After its disastrous 1962 border war with China, it was concerned about a possible Chinese intrusion through the pass and has been keen to hold on to the strategic Himalayan route to guard against any future incursions.
  • The link road via Lipulekh Himalayan Pass is also considered one of the shortest and most feasible trade routes between India and China.
  • The Nepalese reaction would probably have triggered in response to Chinese assertion.

Various facets of India-Nepal ties

1. Cultural ties

  • While enjoying their own peculiarities, both India and Nepal share a common culture and ways of life.
  • Religion is perhaps the most important factor and plays a predominant role in shaping the cultural relations between these two countries, marked by a cross country pilgrimage on Char Dham Yatra, Pashupatinath Temple and some Buddhist sites.
  • A considerable section of Nepalese comprises of Madhesi population which has familial & ethnic ties with states of Bihar, UP.

2. Strategic ties

  • Nepal is a buffer state between India and China.
  • Several Nepali Citizens are also deployed in Indian defence forces as well.

3. Political ties

  • Constitutional turmoil is not new in Nepal. India has played a vital role in the democratic transition in Nepal against the monarch King Gyanendra.
  • Nepali Congress (NC) is one of the country’s oldest parties which supports relations with India, but the communist parties show a tilt towards China.

4. Economic ties

  • Nepal is an important export market for India.
  • Himalayan rivers flowing through Nepal can be used for Hydroelectric power projects which will benefit border states of UP, Bihar and other adjacent areas.
  • There are three major water deals between Nepal and India, namely the Kosi Agreement, the Gandak Treaty and the Mahakali Treaty. India also exports Power to Nepal.
  • Also, Nepal is the largest borrower of Indian Currency in South Asia.

India’s importance to Nepal

  • India is the nearest foreign employer to Nepali Citizens, which provides various avenues of work and ease in assimilation into a foreign culture.
  • Nepal’s reluctance to Mandarin has overturned several Nepali students into Indian universities.
  • India is the only potential neighbour who could harness Nepal’s hydropower.
  • Moreover, Indian tourists are the major movers of Nepal’s tourism sector.

Major Irritants in bilateral ties

1) Nepali nationalism and Anti-India sentiments

  • Anti-India Sentiment in Nepal is largely politically motivated as it is wrongly perceived as India’s backing to Monarchy.
  • The widening gap in understanding each other’s concerns has helped feed Nepali nationalism and create a dense cloud of distrust and suspicion between the two countries.
  • The gap widened after India chose to impose an economic blockade in response to Nepal’s sovereign decision to promulgate a democratic constitution.

2) China factor

  • Increasing Chinese presence in Nepal is one of the major concern for India. China’s move to extend the rail link to its border with Nepal can reduce its dependence on India.
  • Fundamentally these Chinese agencies are building up anti-India sentiments in Nepal.
  • Nepal’s assent for “One Belt One Region” (OBOR) initiative of China is viewed by India with suspicion.
  • Nepal has been slowly fallen prey to China’s inroad debt trap policy.

3) India has ignored the changing political narrative for long

  • The reality is that India has ignored the changing political narrative in Nepal for far too long.
  • For too long India has invoked a “special relationship”, based on shared culture, language and religion, to anchor its ties with Nepal.
  • The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship which was sought by the Nepali authorities in 1949 is viewed as a sign of an unequal relationship, and an Indian imposition.

4) Open borders

  • The issue of open borders has also been a point of debate in Nepal in recent years- Nepalese people argue that India is benefiting more from it than Nepal.
  • It has an open border with India which leads to problems such as illegal migrants, counterfeit currency entry, drug and human trafficking.

5) Madhesis Issue

  • Madhesis share extensive cross-border ethnic and linguistic links with India. India’s involvement in Nepali politics and the upsurge in Madhesi have deep roots in history and unless resolved.
  • Madhesis protest and India’s blockade soured the relations for the worst.

Way Forward

  • In the best spirit of friendship, Nepal and India should restart the water dialogue and come up with policies to safeguard the interests of all those who have been affected on both sides of the border.
  • It is time the two friendly countries come together and assess the factors that are causing unimaginable losses through flooding every year.
  • The onus is on India to rethink on a long-term basis how to recalibrate its relationship with Nepal provided Nepal should not ignore its relations with India.
  • Broader engagement from both sides is essential towards finding a solution that satisfies both sides.
  • There are many possible modalities. Maybe it could include joint military deployment, special access rights for Nepali citizens or even a free-trade zone with China.
  • The India-Nepal border issues appear more easily solvable, so long as there is political goodwill and statecraft exercised on both sides.
  • The way to move forward is to formally approve the strip maps, resolve the two remaining disputes, demarcate the entire India-Nepal boundary, and speedily execute the work of boundary maintenance.

Conclusion

  • Water cooperation should drive the next big India-Nepal dialogue, and despite the challenges, wisdom should prevail to turn the crisis into an opportunity, for the sake of development and environmental protection.
  • The Indian road was not built overnight and the Nepal government was surely aware and monitoring the situation in Kalapani over the preceding months and years.
  • As both countries are laying claim to the same piece of land, the time has come for both countries to sit for talks to solve this issue.
  • India may continue to defuse the crisis through back channels but this is no longer sustainable as the dispute had become a “permanent irritant” after Nepal’s new map.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Nagaland Incident and Furore over AFSPA

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Context

The recent killing of civilians by security forces in a case of alleged mistaken identity in Nagaland has once again rekindled the debate over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Six civilians said to be workers in a coal mine were killed by security forces in an area between Tiru and Oting village in Nagaland’s Mon district. The incident triggered violence in the area in which eight more civilians were killed after security forces allegedly opened fire.

The killing of civilians has been condemned by local civil society organizations, Naga outfits, national political parties, and the state government itself. The Government has promised an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team.

What can be the impact of the killings?

  • Retard the peace process: It can stall the ongoing Naga peace process and has the potential to revive the narrative of India versus the Naga people.
  • Threat to internal security: The incident can be used by the insurgent groups to recruit and even strengthen the positions.
  • Resentment among groups:
    • NSCN(I-M), the key Naga group negotiating with the Centre, has already declared the incident as a “black day” for all Nagas.
    • While, Naga National Political Group (NNPG) has blamed the continued implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 for such incidents.
  • Demand for repeal of AFSPA: There have been mounting demands for repeal of AFSPA in the Nagaland region.

Multiple views of the incident

  • Opportunity for Naga separatists to push their demands: For those sympathetic to the rebel Nagas, this is an opportunity to tarnish the image of the Army, demand its withdrawal from the area, and push their agenda to demand a separate Constitution and a separate flag for the Naga separatists.
  • Difficult task for security forces amidst insurgencies: It must be remembered that the security forces are performing an extremely difficult and complicated task in the midst of multiple insurgencies in the Northeast.
    • Counterinsurgency operations are full of uncertainties and in such a situation, mistakes and blunders happen.
  • Political failure: In fact, they are paying the price for our political mis-management and blunders since the mid-fifties when trouble erupted in the Naga Hills.
  • Other international examples of such mishaps: In Iraq, on March 1, 2017, during a strike on ISIS near Mosul, there was an unintentional death of 14 civilians because the blast set off a secondary explosion.
    • Recently, on August 30, a drone strike by the US forces killed 10 civilians near the Kabul International Airport.
  • Proper enquiry is must: However, it cannot be denied that the incident was negligible, but it needs to be carefully investigated, and if there was any malafide or excessive use of force, the guilty must be punished.

Let us learn about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 in detail.

AFSPA: A Backgrounder

  • The AFSPA, 1958 came into force in the context of insurgency in the North-eastern States decades ago.
  • It provides “special power” to the Armed Forces applies to the Army, the Air Force and the Central Paramilitary forces etc.
  • It has been long contested debate whether the “special powers” granted under AFSPA gives total immunity to the armed forces for any action taken by them.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to put it simply, gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas.”
  • AFSPA gives armed forces the authority use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • The Act further provides that if “reasonable suspicion exists”, the armed forces can also arrest a person without warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.

What are the Special Powers?

The ‘special powers’ which are spelt out under Section 4 provide that:

(a) Power to use forceincluding opening fireeven to the extent of causing death if prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more persons or carrying arms and weapons, etc are in force in the disturbed area;

(b) Power to destroy structures used as hide-outs, training camps, or as a place from which attacks are or likely to be launched, etc;

(c) Power to arrest without warrant and to use force for the purpose;

(d) Power to enter and search premises without a warrant to make arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunition and stolen property, etc.

What are the Disturbed Areas?

  • A disturbed area is one that is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
  • As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.

Who can declare/notify such areas?

  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
  • A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette.

Presently ‘Disturbed Areas’

  • AFSPA is currently in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, 3 districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of 8 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam.
  • In Jammu and Kashmir, a separate law Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 has been in force.

AFSPA: Is it a License to Kill?

While the operation of the Section has been controversial in itself, it has attracted much criticism when actions have resulted in the death of civilians.

  • Power to kill: Section 4 of the Act granted officers the authority to “take any action” even to the extent to cause the death.
  • Protection against prosecution: This power is further bolstered by Section 6 which provides that legal can be instituted against the officer, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government.

The case for repeal of AFSPA

  • The repeal of AFSPA is necessary not just for restoring constitutional sanity, but also as a way of acknowledging dark history of our conduct in Nagaland.
  • If the moral case for repealing AFSPA is strong, the political case points in the same direction as well.
  • Need for ensuring individual dignity: The political incorporation of Nagaland (and all other areas where this law applies) will be set back if the guarantees of individual dignity of the Indian Constitution are not extended.
  • Not state of exception: We often describe AFSPA in terms of a “state of exception”.
  • But this theoretical term is misleading. How can a law that has been in virtually continuous existence since 1958 be described as an “exception”.

Why AFSPA is counterproductive to Army

  • Distortion of choice: First, giving wide immunity to the forces can distort the choice of strategy in counter insurgency operations.
  • Reduce professionalism: Second, wider immunity can often reduce rather than increase the professionalism of the forces.
  • Against federalism: Third, we are constantly in the vicious circle that leads to central dominance in a way that undermines both Indian federalism and operational efficiency.

Powers and limits under AFSPA

  • The Act grants extraordinarily sweeping powers to the armed forces of search, seizure, arrest, the right to shoot to kill.
  • No blanket immunity: It is true that AFSPA does not grant blanket immunity.
  • The SC guidelines: The Supreme Court laid down guidelines for the use of AFSPA in 1997; and in principle, unprofessional conduct, crimes and atrocities can still be prosecuted.
  • But this will run into two difficulties.
  • Lack of accountability mechanism: As the Jeevan Reddy Committee that advocated the repeal of AFSPA pointed out, the accountability mechanisms internal to AFSPA have not worked.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court ordered a probe into 1,528 extra-judicial killings in Manipur.
  • At the least, this order seemed to suggest the problems with AFSPA were systemic.
  • But there have apparently been no hearings in this case for three years.
  • Lack of human empathy: At the heart of AFSPA is a profound mutilation of human empathy.
  • Our discourse is a rather abstract one, balancing concepts of human rights and national security.

Supreme Court’s Observations over AFSPA

  • These extra-judicial killings became the attention of the Supreme Court in 2016.
  • It clarified that the bar under Section 6 would not grant “total immunity” to the officers against any probe into their alleged excesses.
  • The judgment noted that if any death was unjustified, there is no blanket immunity available to the perpetrator(s) of the offense.
  • The Court further noted that if an offense is committed even by Army personnel, there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by the criminal court constituted under the CrPC.

Constitutionality of AFSPA

  • Attempts have been made to examine the constitutionality of the Act on the grounds that it is contravention to the:
  1. Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21) and
  2. Federal structure of the Constitution since law and order is a State subject

Recommendations to repeal AFSPA

(1) Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Commission

  • The 2004 Committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, the content of which has never officially been revealed by the Government, recommended that AFSPA be repealed.
  • Additionally, it recommended that appropriate provisions be inserted in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA) instead.
  • It also recommended that the UAPA be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.

(2) ARC II

  • The Administrative Reforms Commission in its 5th Report on ‘Public Order’ had also recommended that AFSPA be repealed.
  • It recommended adding a new chapter to be added to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
  • However, the recommendation was considered first and then rejected.

Other issues with AFSPA

(1) Sexual Misconduct by Armed Forces

  • The issue of violation of human rights by actions of armed forces came under the consideration of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law (popularly known as Justice Verma Committee) set up in 2012.
  • It observed that- in conflict zones, legal protection for women was neglected.

(2) Autocracy

  • The reality is that there is no evidence of any action being taken against any officer of the armed forces or paramilitary forces for their excesses.

The caution given by the Supreme Court

A July 2016 judgment authored by Justice Madan B. Lokur in Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association quoted the “Ten Commandments” issued by the Chief of the Army Staff for operations in disturbed areas:

  1. Definite circumstances: The “power to cause death is relatable to maintenance of public order in a disturbed area and is to be exercised under definite circumstances”.
  2. Declaration preconditions: These preconditions include a declaration by a high-level authority that an area is “disturbed”.
  3. Due warning: The officer concerned decides to use deadly force on the opinion that it is “necessary” to maintain public order. But he has to give “due warning” first.
  4. No arbitrary action: The persons against whom the action was taken by the armed forces should have been “acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area”.
  5. Minimal use of force: The armed forces must use only the “minimal force required for effective action against the person/persons acting in contravention of the prohibitory order.”
  6. Empathy with perpetrators: The court said that: the people you are dealing with are your own countrymen. All your conduct must be dictated by this one significant consideration.
  7. People friendliness: The court underscored how the Commandments insist that “operations must be people-friendly, using minimum force and avoiding collateral damage – restrain must be the key”.
  8. Good intelligence: It added that “good intelligence is the key to success”.
  9. Compassion: It exhorted personnel to “be compassionate, help the people and win their hearts and minds. Employ all resources under your command to improve their living conditions”.
  10. Upholding Dharma (Duty): The judgment ended with the final Commandment to “uphold Dharma and take pride in your country and the Army”.

Conclusion

  • Despite demands by civil society groups and human rights activities, none of the recommendations have not been implemented to date.
  • It is high time that all parties come together to repeal AFSPA. It will also be in the fitness of things if all parties got together to acknowledge the trauma in Nagaland and elsewhere.
  • This will strengthen, not weaken, the comatose Indian constitutional project.

Try this question for mains:

Q.  Evaluate the need for AFSPA in disturbed areas. Discuss in the context of the recent Nagaland incident. 


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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Green Revolution in India

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Introduction

  • Richard Bradly in 1940 called India a “begging bowl” due to its heavy import dependence of food grains from the USA.
  • The Green Revolution was an endeavor initiated by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. He is known as the ‘Father of Green Revolution’ in world.
  • It led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in developing High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of wheat.
  • Green Revolution refers to the multiple growths in crop production in 3rd world countries based on the use of modern inputs, technologies, HYVs, farm mechanization, and irrigation facilities.

Green Revolution in India

  • In India, the Green Revolution was mainly led by M.S. Swaminathan.
  • In 1961, M.S. Swaminathan invited Norman who suggested a revolution like what has happened in Mexico, Japan, etc in Indian agriculture. 
  • Green Revolution was introduced with the Intensive Agriculture District Program (IADP) on an experimental basis in 7 districtin India.
  • In 1965-66 the HYV program was started which is the starting point of the Green Revolution in India.
  • The Green Revolution, spreading over the period from 1967-68 to 1977-78, changed India’s status from a food-deficient country to one of the world’s leading agricultural nations.
  • The Green Revolution resulted in a great increase in production of food grains (especially wheat and rice) due to the introduction into developing countries of new, high-yielding variety seeds, beginning in the mid-20th century.
Green Revolution in India

Background

  • The history of Green Revolution is drawn back to the 1940s when the USA established a scientific operation to help the development of agricultural technology in Mexico. HYVs were at the focus of the novel technology.
  • Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Norway-born, U.S-based agricultural scientist was the innovator of ‘miracle seeds’ (HVY) of dwarf varieties of wheat.
  • In 1943, India suffered from the world’s worst recorded food crisis; the Bengal Famine, which led to the death of approximately 4 million people in eastern India due to hunger.
  • Even after independence in 1947, until 1967 the government largely concentrated on expanding the farming areas. But the population was growing at a much faster rate than food production.
  • This called for an immediate and drastic action to increase yield. The action came in the form of the Green Revolution.
  • The Green Revolution in India begun in the late 1960s. Green Revolution was functional in the period from 1967 to 1978 basically in parts of Punjab and Haryana.
  • At this stage, the Green Revolution was concern only with Wheat & Rice. Dr. M S Swaminathan from India led the Green Revolution as the Project.
  • In contrast, the agricultural growth in the 1980s (the second wave of the Green Revolution) involved almost all the crops including rice and covered the whole country.

What are the Objectives of Green Revolution?

  1. Short Term: The revolution was launched to address India’s hunger crisis during the second Five Year Plan.
  2. Long Term: The long term objectives included overall agriculture modernization based on rural development, industrial development; infrastructure, raw material etc.
  3. Employment: To provide employment to both agricultural and industrial workers.
  4. Scientific Studies: Producing stronger plants which could withstand extreme climates and diseases.
  5. Globalization of the Agricultural World: By spreading technology to non-industrialized nations and setting up many corporations in major agricultural areas.

Basic Elements of the Green Revolution

  • High Yielding Varieties (HYVs): These are the genetically modified seed which can yield 2 to 3 times more than normal crop.
    • They are dwarf variety with dense canopy and needs grater amount of water, use of chemical fertilizer, protection from pest and weeds as it very tender and fragile.
    • It also requires on farm activities like soil preparation. It has short generation period and leads to greater production in short period of time.
  • Irrigation facilities: The net irrigated area in 1960 was only 30 million hectare and it was a daunting task to extend irrigation to rest of India.
  • Credit Requirements: Green Revolution required a good network of rural credit and micro financing for supporting the needs of farmers.
  • Commercialization of agriculture: Introduction of Minimum Support Prices for crops gave farmers extra reason to grow more crops.
  • Farm Mechanization: It was required for increasing the crop production.
  • Command Area Development Program (CADP): CADP was introduced in 1974. It consisted of two methods:
    • On farm development activities: It includes construction of agricultural channels, ploughing, leveling, budding etc.
    • Off farm development activities: It includes construction of roads, rural connectivity, marketing, transportation communication etc.
  • Use of chemical fertilizer: Indian soil is deficient in Nitrogen so NPK fertilizers were used with standard ratio of 4:2:1 but the actual ratio used was 3:8:1.
  • Use of insecticide, Pesticide, weedicide
  • Rural electrification: It was the precondition for increasing farm mechanization practices.
  • Land holding and land reforms: Land holding refers to consolidation of land and land reforms involves various steps such as abolition of intermediaries, abolition of Zamindari, tenancy reforms etc.
  • Important Crops in the Revolution:
    • Main crops were Wheat, Rice, Jowar, Bajra and Maize.
    • Non-food grains were excluded from the ambit of the new strategy.
    • Wheat remained the mainstay of the Green Revolution for years.

Phases of Green Revolution

(1) Phase I (1965-66 to 1980)

  • India was in ardent need of immediate food supply and self sufficiency in food grain production. Wheat revolution was successful in various 3rd world countries like Mexico, Egypt, etc.
  • This phase was not only crop specific but also region specific because –
    1. The agriculture infrastructure was well developed in Punjab while Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh took advantage of its vicinity where irrigation facility could be easily extended.
    2. This region was free from natural hazards.
  • This phase stared with IADP and IAAP program on experimental basis but main initiative was the HYV program during the Annual Plan of 1965-66.
  • In 1974 with Command Area Development Program, Green Revolution was reemphasized.
  • The food production in 1950-51 was merely 25 MT and it was 33 MT in 1965-66. In 1980 it jumped to 100 MT which was three times increase in a span of 10 years.
  • It was more centralized towards wheat production which was increased by 2.5 times in 5 years. This was termed as Green Revolution.
  • This provided India with self sufficiency in food grain production and the incidences of malnutrition, famine, poverty, starvation were mitigated. India was successful in coming out of the Begging Bowl image.
Phase to Dominated by extensive agriculture. Reforms in the form of land grant and land reforms. Phase to Productivity enhancement measures through green revolution technologies. Phase till now. Attempted liberalization of agriculture.

(2) Phase II (1980-1991)

  • During the 6th and 7th plan, wet agriculture (mainly rice) was targeted.
  • During the first phase, rice production was increase merely 1.5 times. The regions having rainfall more than 100 cm like West Bengal, Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Coastal plains were targeted.
  • It met with partial success and Krishna-Godavari delta and Cauvery basin yielded the coveted results. West Bengal and Bihar also showed increased productivity.
  • The full potential of productivity in rice was however not realized due to institutional factors like land reforms, tenancy etc.
  • The traditional outlook of farmers was also a major limiting factor in the success of Second phase of Green revolution.

(3) Third Phase (1991-2003)

  • During the 8th and 9th plan, dry land agriculture was targeted and HYV was introduced in cotton, oilseeds, pulses, millets etc. This met with partial success.
  • Integrated Watershed Management Programme was initiated to improve the conditions in sub- humid and semi-arid regions of India.
  • However, it was not very successful except in the Narmada – Tapi doab and the Tungbhadra basin and also the Bhima – Krishna basin.
  • After the end of 9th plan, there was a paradigm shift in approach of the govt policies. 
  • The ecological repercussion in the green revolution areas led to relatively new concept of balanced Agriculture growth based on agricultural ecology, conversation method and sustainable development (10th plan).
  • The entire agricultural sector was targeted and it is known as the Rainbow Revolution.
  • The process of Rainbow Revolution had affiliated in 1980’s with Yellow revolution (oilseeds), Blue Revolution, White Revolution (milk earlier in 1970’s), Brown Revolution (fertilizers) and Silver revolution (poultry).
  • In the 11th plan, the idea has been further elevated to sustainable agriculture with balanced growth referred to as inclusive growth.
Allocation of the harvested area under cereal production

Advantages of Green Revolution

  • Tremendous Increase in Crop Produce: It resulted in a grain output of 131 million tonnes in the year 1978-79 and established India as one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers.
  • Reduced Import of Food-Grains: India became self-sufficient in food-grains and had sufficient stock in the central pool, even, at times, India was in a position to export food-grains.
    • The per capita net availability of food-grains has also increased.
  • Benefits to the Farmers: The introduction of the Green Revolution helped the farmers in raising their level of income.
    • Farmers ploughed back their surplus income for improving agricultural productivity.
    • The big farmers were particularly benefited by this revolution by investing large amounts of money in various inputs like HYV seeds, fertilizers, machines, etc. It also promoted capitalist farming.
    • Green Revolution gave rise to capitalistic farming practices in India.
    • Surplus was generated in agriculture which led to its commercialization.
  • Industrial Growth: The Revolution brought about large scale farm mechanization which created demand for different types of machines like tractors, harvesters, threshers, combines, diesel engines, electric motors, pumping sets, etc.
    • Besides, demand for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, etc. also increased considerably.
    • Several agricultural products were also used as raw materials in various industries known as agro based industries.
    • Development of agro-processing industries, food-processing industries led to industrialization of tier – II/III towns. It led to higher rate of urbanization.
  • Rural Employment: There was an appreciable increase in the demand for labour force due to multiple cropping and use of fertilizers.
    • The Green Revolution created plenty of jobs not only for agricultural workers but also industrial workers by creating related facilities such as factories and hydroelectric power stations.
    • Green Revolution led to the removal of hunger and famine.
    • Green Revolution led to the development of rural infrastructure which was a pre condition to Green Revolution.

Repercussions of Green Revolution

  • Focus on limited food-grains: Although all food-grains including wheat, rice, jowar, bajra and maize have gained from the revolution, other crops such as coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds were left out of the ambit of the revolution.
    • Major commercial crops like cotton, jute, tea and sugarcane were also left almost untouched by the Green Revolution.
  • Limited Coverage of HYVP: High Yielding Variety Programme (HYVP) was restricted to only five crops: Wheat, Rice, Jowar, Bajra and Maize.
  • Economic Repercussions
    • Inter – personal disparity emerged which led to differences between people due to difference in earning at different places.
    • Inter – regional disparity emerged due to difference in crop production e.g. West UP vs. East UP.
    • Inter – state disparity emerged, for e.g. in 1960 Punjab and Bihar, both states contributed same in terms of crop production but due to Green Revolution there became a huge gap in crop production between the two states by 1990.
    • Due to increase in informal credit services labors and cultivators got into the vicious cycle of debt – trap.
  • Excessive Usage of Chemicals: The Green Revolution resulted in a large-scale use of pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilisers for improved irrigation projects and crop varieties.
    • However, little or no efforts were made to educate farmers about the high risk associated with the intensive use of pesticides.
    • This causes more harm than good to crops and also becomes a cause for environment and soil pollution.
  • Increased Water Consumption: The crops introduced during the green revolution were water-intensive crops.
  • Impacts on Soil and Crop Production: Repeated crop cycle in order to ensure increased crop production depleted the soil’s nutrients.
    • To meet the needs of new kinds of seeds, farmers increased fertilizer usage.
    • The pH level of the soil increased due to the usage of these alkaline chemicals.
    • Toxic chemicals in the soil destroyed beneficial pathogens, which further led to the decline in the yield.
  • Social Repercussions:
    • Increased rural landlessness, smaller marginal farmers were rendered landless and became agricultural labourers which led to rural handicapness and health hazards.
    • Greater unemployment due to mechanisation.
    • Patriarchy was strengthened, female discrimination, female foeticide, dowry increased.
  • Health Hazards: The large-scale use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as Phosphamidon, Methomyl, Phorate, Triazophos and Monocrotophos resulted in resulted in a number of critical health illnesses including cancer, renal failure, stillborn babies and birth defects.

Conclusion

  • Green Revolution was directed towards food sufficiency for the country. The goal has been achieved. Thus it requires sustainable agricultural pattern.
  • Also, much wider area could be brought under the Green Revolution and instead of Green Revolution it can be transformed into evergreen Revolution.
  • It represented the successful adaptation and transfer of the same scientific revolution in agriculture that the industrial countries had already appropriated for themselves.
  • However, lesser heed was paid to factors other than ensuring food security such as environment, the poor farmers and their education about the know-how of such chemicals.
  • As a way forward, the policymakers must target the poor more precisely to ensure that they receive greater direct benefits from new technologies and those technologies will also need to be more environmentally sustainable.

Try this question for mains:

Q.  In spite of having several achievements, the green revolution has several defects. Examine


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[Burning Issue] Surrogacy in India

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Recently, the Lok Sabha has passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2021. The Bill seeks to regulate and supervise assisted reproductive technology clinics and banks, prevent misuse of the technology, and promote the ethical practice of the services. The bill has excluded live-in couples, single men, and the LGBTQ community.

What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) refers to fertility treatments and procedures that can help with difficulties or an inability to conceive children.
  • ART techniques involve the manipulation of eggs, sperm, or embryos to increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
  • It works by removing eggs from a woman’s body. The eggs are then mixed with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are then put back in the woman’s body.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common and effective type of ART.

Surrogate vs. gestational carrier

  • ART procedures sometimes use donor eggs, donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. It may also involve a surrogate or gestational carrier.
  • A surrogate is a woman who becomes pregnant with sperm from the male partner of the couple.
  • A gestational carrier becomes pregnant with an egg from the female partner and the sperm from the male partner.
  • The most common complication of ART is a multiple pregnancy. It can be prevented or minimized by limiting the number of embryos that are put into the woman’s body.

What is Infertility?                     

  • Infertility is when people cannot conceive after a period of regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control.
  • Primary infertility: Women who are currently married for more than 5 years, currently not pregnant, having no terminated pregnancy, never used contraceptives and have zero total children ever born.
  • Childlessness: Women who are currently married for more than 5 years, currently not pregnant, having no terminated pregnancy, never used contraceptives and have no living children.
  • Census of 1981 estimates infertility in India around 4-6 percent and according to NFHS-1 childlessness is around 2.4 percent of currently married women over 40 years in India.
  • Childlessness in India is around 5.5 percent for 30-49 age group and 5.2 percent for 45-49 age group.
  • According to World Health Organization estimate the overall prevalence of primary infertility in India is between 3.9 to 16.8%.
  • In Indian states prevalence of infertility varies from state to state such as 3.7 percent in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, to 5 percent in Andhra Pradesh, and 15 percent in Kashmir and prevalence varies in same region across tribes and caste.

Childlessness: A cause of emotional and psychological distress

  • The inability to have children affects couples and causes emotional and psychological distress in both men and women.
  • Despite the various social, psychological, economic and physical implications, infertility prevention and care often remain neglected public health issues especially for low-income countries that are already under population pressure.
  • But in recent years there is increased awareness to integrate infertility prevention, care and treatment into the basic health care services.

IVF

  • IVF involves a doctor extracting eggs and fertilizing them in a special lab. Specialists can combine this with an embryo transfer (IVF-ET) and transfer the resulting embryos into a person’s uterus.
  • The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology states that IVF-ET accounts for 99% of ART procedures.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the 2018 success rates of IVF treatments for one oocyte retrieval from people using their own eggs as:
    • 52% for people aged 35 or younger
    • 38.1% for people aged 35–37
    • 23.5% for people aged 38–40
    • 7.6% for those over the age of 40

Features of the ART Regulation Bill, 2020

(1) Defining ART

  • The Bill defines ART to include all techniques that seek to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or the oocytes (immature egg cell) outside the human body and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive system of a woman.
  • Examples of ART services include –
    1. gamete (sperm or oocyte) donation,
    2. in-vitro-fertilization (fertilizing an egg in the lab), and
    3. gestational surrogacy (the child is not biologically related to surrogate mother)
  • ART services will be provided through:
    1. ART clinics, which offer ART related treatments and procedures, and
    2. ART banks, which store and supply gametes.

(2) Regulation of ART clinics and banks

  • The Bill provides that every ART clinic and the bank must be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India.
  • The National Registry will be established under the Bill and will act as a central database with details of all ART clinics and banks in the country.
  • State governments will appoint registration authorities for facilitating the registration process.
  • Clinics and banks will be registered only if they adhere to certain standards (specialized manpower, physical infrastructure, and diagnostic facilities).
  • The registration will be valid for five years and can be renewed for a further five years. Registration may be cancelled or suspended if the entity contravenes the provisions of the Bill.

(3) Conditions for gamete donation and supply

  • Screening of gamete donors, collection and storage of semen, and provision of oocyte donor can only be done by a registered ART bank.
  • A bank can obtain semen from males between 21 and 55 years of age, and oocytes from females between 23 and 35 years of age.
  • An oocyte donor should be an ever-married woman having at least one alive child of her own (minimum three years of age).
  • The woman can donate oocyte only once in her life and not more than seven oocytes can be retrieved from her.
  • A bank cannot supply gamete of a single donor to more than one commissioning couple (couple seeking services).

(4) Conditions for offering ART services

  • ART procedures can only be carried out with the written informed consent of both the party seeking ART services as well as the donor.
  • The party seeking ART services will be required to provide insurance coverage in the favor of the oocytes donor (for any loss, damage, or death of the donor).
  • A clinic is prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex. The Bill also requires checking for genetic diseases before the embryo implantation.

(5) Rights of a child born through ART 

  • A child born through ART will be deemed to be a biological child of the commissioning couple and will be entitled to the rights and privileges available to a natural child of the commissioning couple.
  • A donor will not have any parental rights over the child.

(6) National and State Boards

  • The Bill provides that the National and State Boards for Surrogacy constituted under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 will act as the National and State Board respectively for the regulation of ART services.
  • Key powers and functions of the National Board include:
    1. advising the central government on ART related policy matters,
    2. reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the Bill,
    3. formulating code of conduct and standards for ART clinics and banks, and
    4. overseeing various bodies to be constituted under the Bill
  • The State Boards will coordinate enforcement of the policies and guidelines for ART as per the recommendations, policies, and regulations of the National Board.

(7) Offences and penalties

  • Offences under the Bill include:
  1. abandoning, or exploiting children born through ART,
  2. selling, purchasing, trading, or importing human embryos or gametes,
  3. using intermediates to obtain donors,
  4. exploiting commissioning couple, woman, or the gamete donor in any form, and
  5. transferring the human embryo into a male or an animal
  • These offences will be punishable with a fine between five and ten lakh rupees for the first contravention.
  • For subsequent contraventions, these offences will be punishable with imprisonment for a term between eight and 12 years, and a fine between 10 and 20 lakh rupees.
  • Any clinic or bank advertising or offering sex-selective ART will be punishable with imprisonment between five and ten years, or fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, or both.
  • No court will take cognizance of offences under the Bill, except on a complaint made by the National or State Board or any officer authorized by the Boards.

Need for the ART Regulation Bill

  • To regulate and standardize protocols
    • There are so many such ART clinics that have been running without regulation and there are implications on the health of those who undertake the procedure.
    • Without proper regulation, the unethical practices will increase.
  • To Protect Women and Children
    • The need to regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services is mainly to protect the affected Women and the Children from exploitation
    • The oocyte (a cell in an ovary) donor needs to be supported by an insurance cover. Multiple embryo implantations needs to be regulated and children born through ART need to be protected.
  • Overcoming social stigmas: The ART Bill can overcome the social stigma of being childless and respecting the reproductive rights of a woman.
  • Increasing popularity of ART technique in India
    • India is among countries that have seen the highest growth in the number of ART centers and ART cycles performed every year.
    • India has become one of the major centers of the global fertility industry (ART), with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity the need to regulate it is a much needed step.

Concerns

(1) Excludes single men, cohabiting heterosexual couples, and LGBTQ+ individuals

  • The Bill shows progressive attitude by allowing a married heterosexual couples and a woman above the age of marriage to use ARTs however, it excludes single men, cohabiting heterosexual couples and LGBTQ+ individuals and couples from accessing ARTs.
  • LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others. The “plus” represents other sexual identities including pansexual, intersex, and asexual.
  • The Bill seems to violate:
  1. Article 14 of the Constitution
  2. Right to Privacy (In the Puttaswamy case, the Supreme Court held that “the sanctity of marriage, the liberty of procreation, the choice of a family life and the dignity of being” concerned all individuals irrespective of their social status and were aspects of privacy.)
  3. Court’s direction to the States to take positive steps for equal protection for same-sex couples (Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India, 2018).

(2) No prohibition on foreign citizens accessing the ARTs: Foreigners can access ART but not Indian citizens in loving relationships. This is an illogical result that fails to reflect the true spirit of the Constitution.

(3) Bill restricts egg donation to a married woman with a child (at least three years old). Even here, egg donation as an altruistic act is possible only once a woman has fulfilled her duties to the patriarchal institution of marriage.

(4) Little protection for donors

  • The Bill does little to protect the egg donor. Harvesting of eggs is an invasive process which, if performed incorrectly, can result in death.
  • Need for counseling: The Bill requires an egg donor’s written consent but does not provide for her counseling or the ability to withdraw her consent before or during the procedure.
  • Exploitation of women: A woman receives no compensation or reimbursement of expenses for loss of salary, time and effort. Failing to pay for bodily services constitutes unfree labor, which is prohibited by Article 23 of the Constitution.
  • Only an insurance policy is not enough: The commissioning parties only need to obtain an insurance policy in her name for medical complications or death with no amount or duration specified.

(5) Ambiguity in disorders

  • The Bill requires pre-implantation genetic testing and where the embryo suffers from “pre-existing, heritable, life-threatening or genetic diseases”, it can be donated for research with the commissioning parties’ permission.
  • These disorders are not specified and the Bill risks promoting an impermissible programme of eugenics.
  • Eugenics is the practice or advocacy of improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific desirable hereditary traits.

(6) Hides information

  • Children born from ART do not have the right to know their parentage, which is crucial to their best interests and was protected under previous drafts.

(7) Possible Gamete Shortage

  • Gamete shortage is likely to happen as there is no clarity on if gametes could be gifted between known friends and relatives now, which was not allowed earlier.
  • Gametes are an organism’s reproductive cells. They are also referred to as sex cells. Female gametes are called ova or egg cells, and male gametes are called sperm.

(8) Poorly Drafted

  • Further, Bill’s prohibition on the sale, transfer, or use of gametes and embryos is poorly worded and will confuse foreign and domestic parents relying on donated gametes.

(9) Enhanced Punishments

  • The SRB and the Bill impose high sentences (8-12 years) and hefty fines.
  • The poor enforcement of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 demonstrates that enhanced punishments do not secure compliance.

ART Bill vs. Surrogacy Bill

  • Although the Bill and the SRB regulate ARTs and surrogacy, respectively, there is considerable overlap between both sectors. Yet the Bills do not work in tandem.
  • Core ART processes are left undefined; several of these are defined in the SRB but not the Bill. Definitions of commissioning “couple”, “infertility”, “ART clinics” and “banks” need to be synchronized between the Bills.
  • A single woman cannot commission surrogacy but can access ART. The Bill designates surrogacy boards under the SRB to function as advisory bodies for ART, which is desirable.
  • However, both Bills set up multiple bodies for registration which will result in duplication or worse, lack of regulation, e.g. surrogacy clinic is not required to report surrogacy to National Registry.
  • Also, the same offending behaviors under both Bills are punished differently; punishments under the SRB are greater. Offences under the Bill are bailable but not under the SRB.

Way Forward

  • ART Regulation Bill 2020 follows the introduction in Parliament of the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020, and the approval of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020. These legislative measures are path breaking steps to protect women’s reproductive rights.
  • However, the above mentioned concerns have to be addressed in order to make India an egalitarian society.
  • Heterosexual couples and LGBTQI community have fought a long way for recognition of their rights, to give them their equal share of rights is the duty of the law makers in the country.

Try this question for mains:

Q. What is Assisted Reproductive Technology? Discuss the salient features of ART Regulation Bill, 2020?


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[Burning Issue] NANOTECHNOLOGY

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Introduction

Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.

Nanotechnology proposes the construction of new nanoscale devices that possess extraordinary properties as they are lighter, smaller and less expensive, and more precise. Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show properties compared to what they exhibit on a macro-scale, enabling unique applications.

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology:

  1. Bottom-up approach – materials and devices are built from molecular components that assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.
  2. Top-down approach – nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.

Why do we need it?

(1) Health sector

  • Nanomedicine: It has healthcare applications such as treatment and diagnostics of various diseases using nanoparticles in medical devices, as well as nanoelectronic biosensors and molecular nanotechnology.
  • Smart pills: Nano-level electronic devices that are shaped and designed like pharmaceutical pills but perform more advanced functions such as sensing, imaging, and drug delivery.
  • Cancer detection and treatment: Regular chemotherapy and radiation damages body’s healthy cells during the treatment. New nanomedicine approaches are being used in the treatment of skin cancer, which enables efficient delivery of drugs and other therapeutic treatments to specific tumor sites and target cells with low toxic side-effects.
  • Nanobots: Nanobots are micro-scale robots, which essentially serve as miniature surgeons. They can be inserted into the body to repair and replace intracellular structures. They can also replicate themselves to correct a deficiency in genetics or even eradicate diseases by replacing DNA molecules. Nanobots can also be used to clear artery blockages by drilling through them.
  • Nanofibers: Nanofibers are being used in wound dressings and surgical textiles, as well as in implants, tissue engineering, and artificial organ components.
  • Nanotech-based wearables: Such wearables have embedded nanosensors in the cloth that record medical data such as heartbeat, sweat components, and blood pressure. It helps save lives by alerting the wearer and medical professionals of any adverse changes faced by the body

 (2) Food Industry

  • Nanotechnology provides the potential for safe and better quality food and improved texture and taste of the food.
  • A contamination sensor, using a flash of light can reveal the presence of E-coli.
  • Antimicrobial packaging made out of cinnamon or oregano oil or nanoparticles of zinc, calcium, etc., can kill bacteria.
  • The nano-enhanced barrier can keep oxygen-sensitive food fresh.
  • Nano-encapsulating can improve the solubility of vitamins, antioxidants, healthy omega, etc.
  • Nanobarcodes are used to tag individual products and trace outbreaks.

(3) Electronic components

Nanotechnology has greatly improved the capacity of electronic components by:

  • Reducing the size of the integrated circuits’ transistors
  • Improving the display screens of the electronic devices
  • Reducing power consumption, weight, and thickness of the electronic devices.

(4) Energy-efficient

  • This technology can improve the efficiency of the existing solar panels. It can also make the manufacturing process of solar panels cheaper and efficient.
  • It can improve the efficiency of fuel production and consumption of petroleum materials.
  • It is already being made use of in many batteries that are less-flammable, efficient, quicker-charging and are lightweight and higher power density.

(5) Textile industry

  • Nanotechnology has already made revolutionary changes in the textile industry and is estimated to make a market impact worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • Nanoscience has now produced stain and wrinkle resistant cloths and may further improve upon the existing innovations.

(6) Environment

  • It has the potential to address the current problem of pollution.
  • It can provide for affordable, clean drinking water through swift detection of impurities and purification of water.
  • The nanotechnology can be used to remove industrial water pollutants in the groundwater through chemical reactions at a cheaper rate.
  • Nanotechnology sensors and solutions also have the potential to detect, identify, filter and neutralise harmful chemical or biological agents in the air and soil.

(7) Transport

  • Nanotechnology contributes to manufacturing lighter, smarter, efficient and greener automobiles, aircraft and ships.
  • It also allows various means to improve transportation infrastructures like providing resilience and longevity of the highway and other infrastructure components.
  • The nanoscale sensors and devices can also provide for cheap and effective structural monitoring of the condition and performance of the bridges, rails, tunnels, etc. They can also enhance transportation infrastructure that makes the drivers avoid collisions and congestions, maintain lane position, etc.

(8) Space

  • Materials made of carbon nanotubes can reduce the weight of the spaceships while retaining or increasing the structural strength.
  • They can also be used to make cables that are needed for the space elevator. Space elevators can significantly reduce the cost of sending materials to the orbit.
  • The nanosensors can be used to monitor the chemicals in the spacecraft to look into the performance of the life support system.

(9) Agriculture

  • The nanocapsule can enable effective penetration of herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and genes into the targeted part of the plant. This ensures a slow and constant release of the necessary substance to the plants with minimized environmental pollution.
  • The nanosensors and delivery systems can allow for precision farming through the efficient use of natural resources like water, nutrients, chemicals etc.
  • The nanosensors can also detect the plant viruses and soil nutrient levels.
  • Nano-barcodes and nano-processing could also be used to monitor the quality of agriculture produce.

Carbon Nanotubes

  • Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are cylindrical molecules that consist of rolled-up sheets of single-layer carbon atoms (graphene).
  • They can be single-walled (SWCNT) (dia<1nm) or multi-walled (MWCNT) (dia>100nm), consisting of several concentrically interlinked nanotubes. Their length can reach several micrometers or even millimeters.
  • Like their building block graphene, CNTs are chemically bonded with sp2 bonds, an extremely strong form of molecular interaction

Applications:

  • Used in electric wires to reduce losses
  • It can replace silicon made transistors as they are small and emit less heat and it can revolutionise electronics
  • Can be used in solar cell

Graphene

  • Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern. Graphene is considered to be the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material – of both electricity and heat.
  • All of these properties are exciting researchers and businesses around the world – as graphene has the potential to revolutionize entire industries – in the fields of electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries, sensors and more.

Issues in Nanotechnology

  • The nanotechnology may pose a potential risk to the environment, health and other safety issues.
  • Since this field is still at its nascent stage, the likely risks are contentious. As for whether or not this technology requires special government regulation, the issue is still debated.
  • The regulatory authorities like the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission have started assessing the potential risks posed by the nanoparticles.
  • The organic food sector is the first to be regulated so that the engineered nanoparticles are excluded from the organic produce. It has been implemented in Australia, UK and Canada as well as all the food certified under the Demeter International Standards.
  • Nanotoxicology is the study of potential health risks of nanomaterials.  The human body can easily take up the nanomaterials as they are small in size.
  • However, there is a need for detailed research on how it would behave inside an organism. The behaviour of nanoparticles based on their size, shape and surface reactivity must be thoroughly analysed before launching them into the market.
  • Nanopollution is the generic term that is used to describe the waste generated by the nanodevices or nanomaterials during the manufacturing process.
  • Nanowastes may be of risk due to their size and different properties and interactions. Since the man-made nanoparticles are not naturally made, living organisms may not have the appropriate means to deal with them.
  • The risk of nanotechnology on health, environment, society, economy, security, and trade is not yet fully assessed. This in itself is a threat.

Government Measures

  • Nanotechnology regulatory board to regulate industrial nano products
  • Nano technology institutes like Indian Institute of Nano sciences at Bangalore,Mumbai,kolkata
  • Nano technology initiatives program by Department of Information technology and for nano electronic products
  • Nano mission:1000 crore allotted for 5 years for development of nano technology
  • Department of Science and Tech-Nanomission (nano-biotechnology activities) through DBT, ICMR, and CoE in Nanoelectronics by MeitY support nanoscience, nanotechnology, nanobiotechnology, and nanoelectronics activities.
  • Eighteen sophisticated analytical instruments facilities (SAIFs) established by DST across India play a major role in the advanced characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials for various applications.
  • The Center of Excellence in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology established by DSTNanomission helps research and PG students in various thrust areas.
  • Thematic Units of Excellence (TUEs) for various areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology play a major role in product-based research to support nanotechnology.
  • Visveswaraya Ph.D. fellowships offered by MeitY supports various nanotechnology activities in the country.
  • INSPIRE scheme supports research fellows to work in interdisciplinary nanotechnology, nanoscience, and nano-biotechnology areas.
  • DST-Nanomission supports more than 20 PG teaching programs to create a baseline for nanoscience and nanotechnology in India, out of about 70 PG programs currently running in India.

 Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission)

  • Launched in 2007.
  • It is as an “umbrella capacity-building programme”.
  • The Mission’s programmes will target all scientists, institutions and industry in the country.
  • It will also strengthen activities in nano science and technology by promoting basic research, human resource development, research infrastructure development, international collaborations, among others.
  • It will be anchored in the Department of Science and Technology and steered by a Nano Mission Council chaired by an eminent scientist.

 Outcomes and significance of the mission

  • As a result of the efforts led by the Nano Mission, today, India is amongst the top five nations in the world in terms of scientific publications in nano science and technology (moving from 4th to the 3rd position).
  • The Nano Mission itself has resulted in about 5000 research papers and about 900 Ph.Ds and also some useful products like nano hydrogel based eye drops, pesticide removal technology for drinking water, water filters for arsenic and fluoride removal, nanosilver based antimicrobial textile coating, etc.
  • The Nano Mission has thus helped establish a good eco-system in the country to pursue front-ranking basic research and also to seed and nurture application-oriented R&D, focused on useful technologies and products.

Conclusion

Nanotechnology provides a bright future for humankind. However, much is yet to be known about its impacts and risks. The government, before indulging in the promotion and launch of this new technology, must invest more in basic research to understand this field.


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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Non-Aligned Movement

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This month has the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru and the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement. The concept of a country’s policy not aligning with others can be traced to Congress of Vienna (1814–15) when Switzerland’s neutrality, by which that country would stay away from the conflicts of others, was recognized.

Not attending that last few summits, had signaled India’s sudden departure away from NAM and having adopted the policy of multi-alignment. This has raised eyebrows of those who still believe in the true spirit of Non-Alignment of which India has been the champion for a long time.

What is NAM?

  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
    • After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.
  • Drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the NAM was established in 1961 in Belgrade, SR Serbia, and Yugoslavia.
  • It was an initiative of then PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian President Sukarno, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito.
  • The countries of the NAM represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members and contain 55% of the world population.

Membership of NAM

  • Diverse members: Membership is particularly concentrated in countries considered to be developing or part of the Third World, though the NAM also has a number of developed nations.

The reason behind NAM creation

  • Balancing the US and USSR: Non-alignment, a policy fashioned for the Cold War, aimed to retain the autonomy of policy (not equidistance) between two politico-military blocs i.e. the US and the Soviet Union.
    • The NAM provided a platform for newly independent developing nations to join together to protect this autonomy.

Relevance TODAY

  • Changing with emerging scenarios: Since the end of the Cold War, the NAM has been forced to redefine itself and reinvent its purpose in the current world system.
  • Focus towards development: It has focused on developing multilateral ties and connections as well as unity among the developing nations of the world, especially those within the Global South.

Fading significance of the NAM

  • Loosing relevance: The policy of non-alignment lost its relevance after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of unipolar world order under the leadership of the US since 1991.
  • De-colonization was largely complete by then, the apartheid regime in South Africa was being dismantled and the campaign for universal nuclear disarmament was going nowhere.
  • Freed from the shackles of the Cold War, the NAM countries were able to diversify their network of relationships across the erstwhile east-west divide.

India and the NAM

  • Important role played by India: India played an important role in the multilateral movements of colonies and newly independent countries that wanted into the NAM.
    • India’s policy was neither negative nor positive.
  • India as a leader: Country´s place in national diplomacy, its significant size and its economic miracle turned India into one of the leaders of the NAM and upholder of the Third World solidarity.
  • The principle of ‘acting and making its own choices’ also reflected India’s goal to remain independent in foreign policy choices, although posing dilemmas and challenges between national interests on international arena and poverty alleviation.
  • Preserving the state’s security required alternative measures: Namely, the economic situation with the aim to raise the population’s living standards challenged the country’s defense capacity and vice versa.
  • Fewer choices: Wars with China and Pakistan had led India to an economically difficult situation and brought along food crisis in the mid-1960s, which made the country dependent on US food.
    • India’s position was further complicated due to agreements with the Soviet Union about military equipment.
    • This placed India again in a situation where on one hand the country had to remain consistent on the principles of NAM while on the other hand to act in a context with fewer choices.

What is meant by Strategic Autonomy?

  • Strategic autonomy for India denotes its’ ability to pursue its national interests and adopt its preferred foreign policy without being constrained in any manner by other states.
  • In its pure form, strategic autonomy presupposes the state in question possessing overwhelmingly superior power.
  • This is what would enable that state to resist the pressures that may be exerted by other states to compel it to change its policy or moderate its interests.
  • Today’s ideation of ‘strategic autonomy’ is much different from the Nehruvian era thinking of ‘non-alignment’.
  • Strategic autonomy is today a term New Delhi’s power corridors are well-acquainted with. It is an issue & situation-based, and not ideological.

Beyond Power-Politics nexus

  • Strategic autonomy for India is both about power-politics and responsibilities.
  • India’s quest for strategic autonomy is more about justice in terms of creating the international system where all states’ voices will be heard and decisions are made on value-based consensus.
  • Such an idea is often misunderstood and confused with ‘opposing some states and allying the others.’

What dictates India’s alignment now?

India acknowledged the importance of economic growth as a factor in domestic poverty alleviation and for the realization of national interests in the international arena.

(1) National security

  • China’s rise and assertiveness as a regional and global power and the simultaneous rise of middle powers in the region mean that this balancing act is increasing in both complexity and importance, simultaneously.
  • China’s growth presents great opportunities for positive engagement, but territorial disputes and a forward policy in the region raise concerns for New Delhi, particularly in the Indian Ocean and with Pakistan.

(2) Global decision-making

  • Another distinctive feature of India’s foreign policy has been the aim to adjust international institutions consistent with changes in international system.
  • The support for strengthening and reforming the UN as a multilateral forum, restructuring the international economic system and preserving independence in its decision-making has become an integral part of India’s foreign policy.

(3) Prosperity and influence

  • India’s 21st century’s strategic partnerships with two of the biggest economies, the USA and EU rely heavily on trade and technology cooperation.
  • In addition, the partnership with the USA has touched the boundaries of strategic issues like cooperation on counter-terrorism, defence trade, joint military exercises, civil nuclear cooperation and energy dialogue.

(4) Multi-polarism

  • Another means to execute India’s foreign policy strategy of autonomy has been forming extensive partnerships with other emerging powers.
  • India has been an active G4 country speaking for the reform of the UN Security Council and having been elected seven times as a non-permanent member.
  • As a result, there is an overlap of countries in different platforms, as can be seen in cases of India’s partnership with BRICS, SAARC, etc.
  • The purpose of India is to increase the participation and share of developing countries in global policy-making.

Benefits out of strategic alignment

  • India needs investments, technology, a manufacturing ecosystem to employ millions of its young population and improve its living standards.
  • It requires advanced weapons and technologies for its military. India is ambitious and wants to be a great power and the US and the Western world recognise this and are willing to partner India.
  • US along with France, are India’s principal backers in the UN Security Council and also support its membership in it.
  • The Quad of India, US, Japan and Australia is also slowly institutionalizing the multilateral partnership that is committed to an open, secure, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

China’s “not-peaceful rise”

  • India is a long term rival for China, which does not want India’s rise. It wants to keep India boxed into South Asia, and tries to keep it off balance using Pakistan which it arms and supports.
  • It has made inroads into the region using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It continues to block India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and continues to needle in the UNSC over Kashmir.
  • We all know the recent heat up after Ladakh standoff. It occupies parts of Indian Territory and also claims the entire state of Arunachal.

Hence, the Non-alignment is difficult because,

  • We have to safeguard ourselves from a power which has trampled upon all her neighbours most blatantly and the whole world has seen and withstood them with deafening silence.
  • China has kept our territory since 1962 violating all international norms and we could do nothing with this diplomatic tool called Non- Alignment.
  • Any policy formulation has to serve the national interest.
  • The US prefers its partners to pay for and manage their own security, but collaborate in all possible ways — weapons sale, sharing civil and military arsenals, diplomatic support, intelligence sharing etc.
  • It will be pragmatic to take advantage of the great power rivalry by suitably aligning with a power that India can derive maximum benefit from.

But Wait, NAM still matters!

(1) Global perception of India

  • India’s image abroad has suffered as a result of allegations that creep into our secular polity and a need arises to actively network and break out of isolation.
  • India’s partnership with America faces an uncertain future in the post-pandemic period ahead of the regime change under Joe Biden.
  • Indeed, India is overtly keen to upgrade a quadrilateral alliance with the US, Japan and Australia — but there too, we’re all dressed up and nowhere to go. There is no concrete commitment yet.
  • We can sense the growing proximity between the NAM member countries and China.
  • As it is, one-half of NAM comprises members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which remains highly critical of the plight of Indian Muslims.

(2) For the Impulsive U.S.

  • For India complete dependence on the U.S. to counter China would be an error.
  • As the U.S. confronts the challenge to its dominance from China, the classical balance of power considerations would dictate accommodation with Russia.
  • A strong stake in India’s relations with the US could reinforce Russia’s affinity for China.
  • Russia, these days looks less pragmatic to see Indian ties with its rivals as a joint venture, not an alliance in which they could pursue shared objectives to mutual benefit.

Importance of NAM: As a power booster for multilateralism

The NAM  can never lose its relevance because-

  • Cold War has revitalized with time: Critics of NAM who term it as an outcome of the Cold War must also acknowledge that a new Cold War is beginning to unfold, this time between the US and China, which if reflected in Trade War, Protectionism, Indo-Pacific narrative, etc.
  • NAM provides a much bigger platform:  NAM becomes relevant to mobilize international public opinion against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), nuclear proliferation, ecological imbalance, safeguarding interests of developing countries in WTO (World Trade Organization) etc.
  • NAM as a tool for autonomy: NAM’s total strength comprises 120 developing countries and most of them are members of the UN General Assembly. Thus, NAM members act as an important group in support of India’s candidature as a permanent member in UNSC.
  • A podium for India’s leadership: India is widely perceived as a leader of the developing world. Thus, India’s engagement with NAM will further help in the rise of India’s stature as the voice of the developing world or global south.
  • NAM for multilateralism:  Though globalization is facing an existential crisis, it is not possible to return to isolation. In the world of complex interdependence, countries are linked to each other one way or another. With rising threats such as climate change, terrorism, and receding multilateralism, the global south and NAM countries find themselves in a precarious condition.
  • NAM as a source for soft power: India can use its historic ties to bring together the NAM countries. India’s strength lies in soft power rather than hard power. Therefore, NAM cannot be based on the current political structure where military and economic power is often used to coerce countries.
  • NAM as a tool for institutional reforms: Global institutions such as WTO and the UN are facing an existential crisis because only a few nations dictate their functions. India can use the NAM platform to push for reforms in these institutions for a more equal and democratic world order.

Way Forward

In the post-COVID-19 world, India will have to make a disruptive choice — of alignment.

  • In the threat environment marked by a pushy China, India should aim to have both- American support and stay as an independent power centre by cooperation with middle powers in Asia and around the world.
  • Complete dependence would be detrimental to India’s national interest such as its ties with Iran and Russia and efforts to speed up indigenous defence modernization.
  • Rather than proclaiming non-alignment as an end in itself, India needs deeper engagement with its friends and partners if it is to develop leverage in its dealings with its adversaries and competitors.
  • A wide and diverse range of strategic partners, including the U.S. as a major partner is the only viable diplomatic way forward in the current emerging multipolar world order.

Conclusion

Though sections of the Indian establishment still want to reinvent non-alignment under ever new guises, India is showing signs of pursuing strategic autonomy separately from non-alignment.

  • India continues to practice a policy of non-alignment in an attempt to maintain sovereignty and oppose imperialism.
  • Indo-US ties are complementary, and a formal alliance will only help realize the full potential of these relations.
  • India, thus, emphasizes the relations with the region and emerging powers not only in terms of economic development but also as actors with similar understandings and expectations of the world system.
  • In some way, the relations can be described as expectations without expectations. States interact with each other in expectations to change the international system, but without expectations to ‘ally or oppose.’
  • India believes in making value-based decisions and maintains its coherent foreign policy. As it is familiar with the phrase ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy, it is high time to maximise its potential.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Ports Development

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Ports infrastructure is key to the development of any nation. India has a coastline spanning about 7,500 km. Around 90 percent of India’s external trade by volume and 70 percent by value are handled by ports. Imports of crude petroleum, iron ore, coal, and other essential commodities are all through the sea route. Twelve major ports and 205 non-major ports operate on India’s coast.

The blockage of the Suez Canal by the giant container ship had educated many about the necessity of state-of-the-art shipping and the dependence of the world trade on modernized ports. The alarm created by the shutdown raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages, and rising costs for consumers.

Background

What are ports?

A port can be defined as a harbor or an area that is able to provide shelter to numerous boats and vessels (transferring people or cargo) and can also allow constant or periodic transactions of shipment.

Types of the port according to cargo handled

1) Industrial Ports: These ports specialize in bulk cargo-like grain, sugar, ore, oil, chemicals, and similar materials.

2) Commercial Ports: These ports handle general cargo-packaged products and manufactured goods and passenger traffic.

3) Comprehensive Ports: Such ports handle bulk and general cargo in large volumes. Most of the world’s great ports are classified as comprehensive ports.

Types of port on the basis of location

1) Inland Ports: These ports are located away from the sea coast. They are linked to the sea through a river or a canal. Such ports are accessible to flat bottom ships or barges.

Eg. Kolkata is located on the river Hoogli.

2) Out Ports: These are deep water ports built away from the actual ports. These serve the parent ports by receiving those ships which are unable to approach them due to their large size.

Significance of port development and port connectivity for India

1) Reducing Logistics cost

  • Defragmented logistics: The World Bank Logistics Index released in 2018 ranked India 44th, far behind the US at 14 and China at 26.
  • Cost-effective: India aims to reduce the logistics cost from the present 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022 using coastal shipping and inland waterways as they would be 60 to 80 percent cheaper.

2) Blue Economy: Blue Economy as a concept includes all the economic activities related to oceans, seas, and coastal areas and emerges from a need for integrated conservation and sustainability in the management of the maritime domain.

  • India’s blue economy supports 95% of the country’s business through transportation and contributes an estimated 4% to its GDP.
  • India is also among the top 5 fish and aquaculture fish producing countries in the world.

3) Security

  • Ensuring safety of strategic installations: Port development would result in development of India’s coasts that harbor several strategic installations such as naval bases, nuclear power plants, satellite and missile launching ranges.
  • Curtailing transnational organized crime at sea: India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking as it is located between two largest Opium producing regions of the world i.e. Golden Crescent (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) in the west and Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) in the east.
  • Port development and efficient management of port resources would curtail such illegal practices and ensure safety of Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC).

4) Keeping an eye on maritime traffic: Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is also the busiest maritime trade route, with 11,000 to 12,000 ships present in it at any given time.

  • Monitoring these vessels and regulating their movement is challenging but a necessity for prosperity of the country.

5) International Relations

  • Countering the influence of China: Through its Belt and Road Initiative, China has proactively exacerbated India’s pre-existing Sri Lanka-linked trans-shipment problem. Sri Lanka has already leased Hambantota port to China for 99 years. Therefore, port development and ensuring local trans-shipment facilities is a vital strategic necessity for India.
  • Regional integration: India’s eastern seaboard can help recreate an integrated hub and spoke model for regional connectivity in the Bay of Bengal as South Asia remains one of the least integrated areas.
  • Net Security Provider in the IOR: Many western countries are hedging on India’s ability to counter China in the IOR. India could hedge on their support to realize its ambition of Net Security Provider in the IOR by enhancing its coastal security and ensuring port modernizations and its connectivity with the hinterland.

6) Environment: The Indian Ocean is warming three times faster than the Pacific Ocean. Overfishing, coastal degradation, and pollution are also harming the marine ecosystem. Hence, good design and sound environmental impact management of construction and operational activities of the port are critical.

7) Social

  • Inclusive development: Industries require a safe and cheap means of exporting finished goods and importing raw materials. Hence, most industries in the world are located in the coastal belts, in the vicinity of major ports.
  • Sustainable livelihood development in the fisheries sector: India is the second largest fish producer in the world. By enhancing the capability to ship them to foreign countries, India could raise the income of fisher folk and secure the food security and nutrition security.
Examples of Port-led Development
1. Singapore: Singapore’s natural deep-sea ports and the geographical location at the crossroads of important shipping channels make its trade a major economic sector, next to production and services.
2. China: According to the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI), several of China’s container ports rank among the most connected in the world.
3. UK: It is estimated that in 2017 the ports industry directly contributed to 61% of turnover, 57% of GVA, and 52% of employment.  

Significance of Port-led development

  • To improve the ease of trading across borders, port-led development is crucial.
  • Developing ports enables efficient and cost-effective import and export.
  • For this, India needs to develop major transshipment ports, provide last-mile connectivity to ports, develop linkages with new regions, and enhance multi-modal connectivity with ports.

Governance of ports in India

Ports in India are classified as Major and Minor Ports. Major Ports are owned and managed by the Central Government and Minor ports are owned and managed by the State Governments. India has 12 major and 205 notified minor and intermediate ports.

Major Ports:

  • Major Ports are under the Union list of the Indian Constitution and are administered under the Indian Ports Act 1908 and the Major Port Trust Act, 1963.
  • Each major port is governed by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Government of India. Their functions include planning, management and operations of ports.

Minor Ports

  • Minor ports are managed at the State level by the department in charge of ports or the State Maritime Board, if created, as is the case in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.
  • The functions of the State maritime boards are similar to those of port trusts, and also include the authority to set tariffs.
  • They also focus on attracting private investment by awarding concession contracts, providing incentives, exclusivity rights and assuring land acquisition.

Service port model vs. Landlord port model

  • The service port model: The port authority owns the land and all available assets—fixed and mobile—and performs all regulatory and port functions.
  • The landlord port model: The publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body and as landlord while private companies carry out port operations—mainly cargo-handling activities.
    • Here, the port authority maintains ownership of the port while the infrastructure is leased to private firms that provide and maintain their own superstructure and install own equipment to handle cargo.

The recent performance of India’s port sector

  • Almost a quarter of India’s maritime trade is shipped through ports in other countries and over 80 percent of its trans-shipment cargo uses facilities at ports in Singapore, Colombo in Sri Lanka, and Klang in Malaysia.
  • Trans-shipment costs are leading to Indian port industry losses of Rs 15 billion annually. Thus, India has huge potential to harness when it comes to port utilization.

Issues and challenges in India’s port connectivity

  • High turnaround times: Ports in India suffer from high turnaround times for ships. For example, in Singapore, average ship turnaround time is less than a day. However, in India, it is over two days.
  • Port congestion: Port congestion due to container volume, shortage of handling equipment and inefficient operations is a major concern. Eg. Nhava Sheva port
  • Sub-optimal Transport Modal Mix: Lack of requisite infrastructure for evacuation from major and non-major ports leads to sub-optimal transport modal mix.
  • Limited Hinterland Linkages: There is inefficiency due to poor hinterland connectivity through rail, road, highways, coastal shipping and inland waterways. This in turn increases the cost of transportation and cargo movement.
  • Lengthy inspection and scrutiny: Though customs operations in India are rapidly going paperless and converting to digital, inspections and scrutiny continue to be lengthy for cargo and other shipping operations.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and Technology Issues:
    • Lack of adequate berthing facility, number of berths, and sufficient length for proper berthing of the vessels at the Non-Major Ports.
    • Most Non-Major Ports do not have proper material handling equipment in place which could facilitate a quick turnaround.
    • lack of equipment for handling large volume
    • lack adequate navigational aids, facilities and IT systems
  • Issues with Regulations:
    • Major and non-major ports fall under different jurisdictions. Further, the regulatory framework is rigid.
    • Foreign-flagged vessels are not allowed to ship cargo from one Indian port to another as that remains a protected turf for domestic shippers
    • Land acquisition and environmental clearances
  • Issues with PPP Model:
    • Most port PPPs impose strict limits on what private operators are allowed to do, usually in terms of the types of cargo they are allowed to handle.
    • Until recently, Other problems were related to tariff regulation and absence of dispute resolution mechanism
  • Environmental impact:
    • During the operation of ports, spillage or leakages from the loading and unloading of cargo and pollution from oil spills are common due to poor adherence to environmental laws and standards.
    • The water discharged during the cleaning of a ship and the discharge of ballast water is a threat to marine ecosystems
    • Dredging causes environmental problems (increased sedimentation) affecting local productivity of the local waters and its fisheries.
  • Social impacts of Port Development:
    • Most port projects and development results in displacement (such as Gangavaram Port in Andhra and Mundra in Gujarat).
    • other important concern expressed by fishing communities is the restriction of access to fishing grounds around a port
  • Manpower and Labor Issues: Lack of adequate training, falling manpower quality, opposition to reform are major issues
  • Unhealthy Competition: Analysts have cited the concerns over development of multiple ports in close vicinity handling similar cargo as it might lead to ports competing for the same cargo arrivals.

Government initiatives

1) Sagarmala program

  • It focuses on modernizing and developing ports, enhancing port connectivity, supporting coastal communities, and stimulating port-linked industrialization.
  • Sagarmala aims to reduce the logistics costs for foreign and domestic trade. It also aims to double the share of water transportation in the modal mix.

2) Jal Marg Vikas project (JMVP)

  • It is a project for the development of National Waterways in India.
  • It was implemented as an initiative towards national integration with an aim to reduce rail and road congestion, carbon footprint, and minimal resource depletion.

3) Central Road and Infrastructure Fund

  • The Ministry of Finance has amended the Central Road Fund Act, 2000 to include a list of projects and infrastructure sub-sectors, including inland waterways, for which the CRF could be used.
  • The CRF has since been renamed the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund.

4) The Draft Indian Ports Bill 2021 aims to centralize the administration of minor ports that are currently managed by state governments.

5) The Inland Vessels Bill 2021

  • Instead of distinct regulations created by the states, the bill attempts to include a single legislation for the country.
  • The registration certificate will be valid throughout the country and state approvals will not be necessary.
  • It also establishes a single database for recording vessel and crew information on an Internet portal.

6) Marine Aids to Navigation Bill 2021: It was passed by the Parliament, incorporating global best practices, technological developments and India’s international obligations in this field.

Way Forward

  • Environmental clearances, Tariff norms, land acquisition etc. need to be standardized and implemented for the port sector so as to boost foreign investments
  • It is important to provide rail and road connectivity to major and minor ports in order to ensure seamless multimodal transport and improve efficiency
  • Priority should be given on expanding capacity and improving operational efficiency. Emphasis should be placed on installing advanced cargo handling processes, scalability in processes and mechanization of port operations.
  • Technologies like big data and advanced GPS navigation systems should be optimally used for better functioning of ports
  • The regulatory regime should be made less complex and less rigid. Further, there should be vertical integration of all stakeholders for holistic development of ports in India
  • Port modernization and new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-linked industrialization and coastal community development under the Sagarmala project has an immense scope for reduction in transportation and logistics costs and boosting export competitiveness.
  • The government needs to open up the dredging market to attract more players, particularly international players, in dredging activities to increase and maintain draft depth at ports to attract large vessels and enable them to become hub ports.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Farm Laws and Farmers Protest

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Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the central government will repeal all three farm laws. Farmers have been protesting against the farm laws and demanding their rollback since 2020.

The Modi government has been confrontational with farmers’ organizations, giving so far an impression that it would not repeal the laws as the protesting farmers didn’t represent the “real” farmers. These laws will be repealed in the Winter Session of Parliament.

Let us look at the topic in detail and try to understand the factors behind the policy retreat of the government.

Background

  • Long pending reforms: Government wanted to convert the COVID-19 crisis into a reform opportunity by undertaking long pending reforms in agriculture marketing.
  • Out of 11 measures, 3 measures seek to liberalize agricultural marketing and hence hailed as 1991 moment for agriculture.
  • The 3 farms acts ware:  
    1. Act to promote Inter-state and Intra-State Trading
    2. Act to promote Contract farming
    3. Amendments to Essential Commodities Act
  • However, these 3 farm Acts have been opposed by various stakeholders- Farmers, Traders and State Governments on account of various reasons:
    1. Discontinuation of MSP via open-ended procurement
    2. Gradual dismantling of the Public Distribution System (PDS),
    3. Loss of price discovery mechanism established by the APMC mandis
    4. Exploitation by the corporates,
    5. Fear of a reduction in the scope and size of PDS

In what circumstances were the laws passed?

  • Ordinance route: The government initially cleared them as ordinances in June 2020, there were token protests with the country’s attention gripped by the first wave of Covid-19.
  • Without consultation and haste: In Parliament, there was no thorough scrutiny of the Bills by a parliamentary panel. The government dismissed these demands and pushed the legislation through.
  • Opposition disregard: The Opposition benches were suspended for a week for their “disorderly conduct” while protesting against the rushed passage of the laws.

The Three Contentious Laws: A quick recap

 (1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020:

  • It expands the scope of trade areas of farmers produce from select areas to “any place of production, collection, and aggregation”. It allows electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers’ produce.
  • It prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

(2) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020:

  • It creates a national framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produce.
  • It provides farmers engaging with Agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce by a mutually agreed price framework.

(3) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020:

  • It allows for the center to regulate food items through essential commodities. 
  • It also requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce be based on price rise.

Why are farmers fuming over these laws?

These bills sought to bring much-needed reforms to the agricultural marketing system. However, farmers are apprehensive that the free market philosophy supported by these bills could undermine the MSP system and make farmers vulnerable to market forces.

Let us look at all their concerns one by one:

(1) Fear against the end of Mandi System

  • The APMC regulates the mandi (marketplace) where farmers bring their produce, and therefore, guarantees that they receive the MSP.
  • Since the state governments will not be able to regulate the trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

(2) Fear over MSPs and procurement guarantee

  • Farmers believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP.
  • Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.
  • They are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

(3) Fear of Arhatiyas

  • The arhatiyas (commission agents) and farmers enjoy a friendship and bonding that goes back decades.
  • On an average, at least 50-100 farmers are attached with each arhatiyas, who takes care of farmers’ financial loans and ensures timely procurement and adequate prices for their crop.
  • Farmers believe the new laws will end their relationship with these agents and corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need.

 (4) Fear over the end of subsidized electricity

  • Farmers concerns are also fuelled by the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 which might end their access to subsidized electricity.
  • The bill seeks to create an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA), a move aimed to further centralization.
  • Another concern is the transfer of subsidies through DBT. Farmers will have to pay first from their own pocket, after which they will get subsidies.

(5) Fear over Contract Farming

  • The FAPA Act formalizes contract cultivation through a “national framework” and explicitly prohibits any sponsor firm from acquiring the land of farmers through purchase, lease or mortgage.
  • But farmers fear over the big corporate players’ monopoly over food processing industry and its supply chain dynamics.
  • They fear that their ownership rights would be at risk as the Act provides for debt instruments for the companies which have their own recovery mechanisms.

(6) Fear over dispute resolution

  • The FAPA Act provided for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism by the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
  • Since the highest level of appeal for the farmer against any private entity was the Appellate Authority, the farmer is effectively prevented from moving the Court.
  • Thus, they claim that the Act was highly skewed in favor of private entity as the individual farmers did not have the resources that private companies had.

(7) Fear over EC Amendment Act

  • The original EC Act de-regulated food items including cereals, pulses, potato, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils, and could only be regulated in the extraordinary circumstances.
  • The new law states that government regulation of stocks will be based on rising prices.
  • This stock-limiting puts farmers at the peril of the government and thus prevent them from making from any profit during any extra-ordinary circumstances as most of the time they only have to bear losses.

How were protests could sustain for so long?

  • Unity: The leaders of farmers unions were very strategic in their approach to the protest and decided to work together very early in the agitation.
  • Finances: The protest sites at the Delhi border needed a steady injection of resources to keep going. Aware of this need, the unions had begun making monthly collections.
  • People: The unions behind the farm stir are well-organised machineries with committees at the level of villages, blocks and districts.
  • Communication: Social media has been central to the scale of this agitation.
  • Engagement: The unions kept the stakeholders engaged by ensuring that there was never a dull moment in this agitation.

In practical terms, what was the status of the three laws until the repeal?

  • The farm laws were in force for only 221 days — June 5, 2020, when the ordinances were promulgated to January 12, 2021, when the Supreme Court stayed their implementation.
  • The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three laws on January 12 this year.
  • Since the stay, the laws have been suspended.
  • The government has used old provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to impose stock limits, having amended the Act through one of the three farm laws.

Reasons for the repeal

There are contrasting suggestions about the timing of the decision to announce the repeal.

  • Forthcoming elections: There are crucial Assembly elections early next year in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
  • Public appeasement: The PM sought to announce this on Guru Nanak Jayanti probably in a move to appease a community, to which a significant segment of protesting farmers from Punjab belongs.
  • Rising anxiety among Public: There was a risk that anxiety among the protesters could lead to tensions as there had been many deaths since the protests began.
  • Fury over year-long protests: The protest had created a ruckus on the streets of capital due to continuous blockades even after the intervention of Supreme Court.
  • Rising political differences: Given that it took the government a year to realise the socio-political costs, the repeal also signals a weakened political feedback mechanism within the party.

Significance of the repeal

  • Reflects popularity of the govt: In the immediate term, the repeal exposes the government to charges of being on the wrong path and against popular sentiments, notwithstanding its claims to the contrary.
  • Dedication over farmers cause: The govt moves were increasingly perceived as being not in tune with the needs of rural farming communities.
  • Political stewardship: The PM was clearly balancing his political posture that has thrived on the image of a strong and decisive leadership.

Implications of the repeal

  • CAA standpoint: Although the anti-CAA protests were called off,almost two years on, the Home Ministry has not yet framed the rules for implementation of the CAA.
  • Statehood for J&K: There is no such unanimity over Article 370. Most of these parties have largely been united for the restoration of statehood to J&K, and early elections.

An analysis of the enactment-repeal conundrum

(1) Reforms are must

  • There may be some deficiencies in the exact design and mechanism of the reforms proposed in the three farm laws.
  • However, most advocates of agricultural reform would agree that they were in the right direction.

(2) Reforms don’t occur overnight

  • These laws could be a great example for passionate reforms.  However, Legislative tapasya (penance) is all about listening to outer world (i.e the farmers), not inner self.
  • It requires listening to those for whose benefit laws and policies are crafted. It can’t be a meditation in isolation and implementation as a divine ordeal.

(3) Answerability and consultation matters

  • That the government chose to push these reforms through its own set of consultations left many stakeholders feeling left out, and created a backlash.
  • The repeal underlines that any future attempts to reform the rural agricultural economy would require a much wider consultation.

(4) Success lies in the acceptance of reforms

  • The better design of reforms ensures wider acceptance.
  • The repeal would leave the government hesitant about pursuing these reforms in stealth mode again.

Way forward

  • Parliamentary scrutiny is must: Parliament approved the laws even as dialogue around them was missing. While the Union government did speak to farmer leaders, it always maintained it would implement the laws.
    • It is very essential to take various stakeholders under consideration including opposition leaders.
  • Consultation with Farmers: There were no dialogues or inputs from farmers. They were simply bulldozed into implementation, fuelling an impression that some vested private interests were guiding them.
    • That could be the reason why many such laws have been brought in as ordinances and were then approved in Parliament using brute majority. Public scrutiny for laws is always treated as seditious.
    • The government has to do away with such forceful imposition of laws on public without giving due consideration to their demands.
  • A lesson for the upcoming legislations: Many similar legislations will be passed in the next few months. Amendments to the Forest Conservation Act will be one of them.
    • Here also there are many stakeholders at the receiving end government must consider their demands.
  • No stopping here: Though not accepted, reforms are necessary and government should strive to bring them with necessary changes. Agriculture is the backbone of the majority of Indian population and their concerns and wellbeing should be the priority of the government.

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