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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Issue of Undertrials and Custodial Deaths

Justice delayed is justice denied.

-William Gladstone

The term ‘Under-trial’ denotes an unconvicted prisoner i.e. one who has been detained in prison during the period of investigation, inquiry, or trial for the offense s/he is accused to have committed. The share of undertrials lodged in prisons for more than a year has increased over time as the percentage of cases pending judgment in courts has also increased sharply.

The continued incarceration of under-trials in overcrowded prisons represents a failure of our democratic society as well as the rule of law. After the death of Stan Swamy in custody, questions about the conditions of jails and treatment of the incarcerated have been raised once again.

What is the status of under trial in India?

data: Undertrials in India
  • 65% of the people in Indian jails are under trials – those detained in prisons during trial, investigation or inquiry but not convicted of any crime in a court of law.
  • The share of the prison population awaiting trial or sentencing in India is extremely high. Two of every three persons incarcerated in India have not yet been convicted of any crime.
  • Comparing this with India, it is 11% in the UK, 20% in the US and 29% in France.
  • More than 25% of under trial prisoners in 16 out of 36 states and union territories have been detained for more than one year in 2014.
  • The number of convicts in jails grew by 1.4% from 2012 to 2013, but the number of under trials shot up by 9.3% during the period.
  • Men make up more than 90% of all prison inmates. Nearly 2,000 children of women inmates live behind bars, 80% of those women being under trials.

What are the issues involved in undertrials in India?

The report ‘Justice Undertrial: A Study of Pre-trial Detention in India’ analyzed data available with the National Crime Records Bureau and records collected by the human rights organization from the country’s 500-odd district and central jails through Right to Information petitions.

The issues involved in under trials are:

(1) Mostly Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis – Marginalized communities form the bulk of the under-trial population in India.

(2) Rarely produced in a court-Records show that in states such as Rajasthan Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka under-trials are routinely not produced in court.

(3) Inadequate legal aid –

  • According to the report, at least 23 prisons reported having no legal aid lawyers.
  • Haryana has the highest number of legal aid lawyers in the country but the number of prison visits by each lawyer per month is strikingly low.
  • This shows that legal aid is not efficiently provided in most of the country’s prisons.

(4) Legal aid lawyers are poorly paid – The paucity of legal aid lawyers is hardly surprising given the poor remuneration they receive for filing bail applications.

(5) Wrongly released –

  • If under trials are held for a period equal to half their potential sentence then under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure they are eligible for release on a personal bond.
  • After release, they are required to appear at all future court dates. However, the report states that a large number of undertrials have been incorrectly released under the law.

(6) Supreme Court guidelines on bail are not followed – Some of the judges even at the High Court level are not following the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court on bail and grant of the same is dependent upon the attitude of each judge. The right to bail is denied even in genuine cases.

(7) Politicization of Legal Aid Schemes – In the absence of a system that takes a proactive role in providing legal services to prisoners their right to effective Legal Aid is also violated due to the politicization of legal aid schemes as many lawyers are hired on political consideration who get a fixed salary without the pressure of disposing-off cases at the earliest.

(8) Sanitation, unhygienic food, and health problems

  • No serious effort is taken about basic human rights once a person falls behind bars. There is a lack of sanitation and many times food offered is not worthy of even offering to the animals.
  • There are cases of sexual violence, especially in isolated environments people tend to forget all boundaries.
  • Homosexuality leads to possible HIV/STD cases. For women prisoners, custodial sexual exploitation by fellow prisoners and a male security guard is also prevalent. There is a clear lack of respect for human dignity here.
  • In 1994, an IPS officer Kiran Bedi tried to offer condoms to prisoners to control STD cases, but it was taken back due to huge protest seen thereafter.

(9) Staff crunch

  • While 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled. The manpower recruited inside this prison is almost 50% short of its actual requirement.
  • States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand have the most scantily guarded jails, seeing over 65% of staff vacancies among jailers.
  • In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.

(10) Lack of use of provisions – Even though the provisions to avoid unnecessary detention of prisoners have been in existence for years, they are not implemented because of the following reasons:

  1. Most prisoners are not only unaware of their right to seek release but also too poor to furnish surety.
  2. Lack of sympathy by the administration.

(11) The Right to Speedy Trial – as recognized by the Supreme Court in Hussainara Khatoon vs. Home Secretary Bihar is violated due to protracted delays.

Reasons behind the delays in trials:

  • Systemic delays
  • Grossly inadequate number of judges and prosecutors.
  • Absence or belated service of summons on witnesses.
  • Presiding judges proceeding on leave.
  • Remands being extended mechanically due to lack of time and patience with the presiding judge.
  • Inadequacy of police personnel and vehicles which prevents the production of all prisoners on their due dates.
  • Many a times the escorting police personnel merely produce the remand papers in the courts instead of actually producing the prisoner in front of the magistrate.

State of Indian Prisons

The ‘Prison Statistics India 2015’ report was released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The data are given in the report tell us about the following things regarding the state of Indian prisons:

(1) The problem of overcrowding – The report calls overcrowding “one of the biggest problems faced by prison inmates.” It results in poor hygiene and lack of sleep among other problems.  Dadra & Nagar Haveli is reported to have the most overcrowded prisons followed by Chhattisgarh Delhi and Meghalaya.

(2) Two-thirds of the prisoners are under trial – Sixty-seven per cent of the people in Indian jails are undertrials — people not convicted of any crime and currently on trial in a court of law. Among the larger States, Bihar had the highest proportion of undertrials followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Delhi.

(3) Foreign Convicts – Over two thousand foreign convicts were lodged in various jails in India at the end of 2015. The highest numbers of foreign convicts were in the jails of West Bengal followed by Andaman & Nicobar Island.

(4) Prisoner Profile – Seventy per cent of the convicts are illiterate or have studied only below class tenth.

(5) Capital Punishment – Over a hundred people were awarded the death penalty (101) in 2015. Forty-nine were commuted to a life sentence.

What are the basic rights of under-trials?

  • Hence, all such rights except those that are taken away in the legitimate process of incarceration still remain with the prisoner.
  • These include rights that are related to the protection of basic human dignity as well as those for the development of the prisoner into a better human being.
  • Every convict and under trial has been conferred with certain rights which have been enumerated in Part III of the Constitution of India so that their life as a prisoner is dignified and comfortable because a prisoner remains a ‘person’ in prisoner.

Custodial death in India

  • Open secret – In a country where custodial torture and killing is an open secret, it is baffling that we still do not have a domestic law that enables torture prosecution by accounting for the particularities of custodial torture.
  • There were on an average 5 custodial deaths per day in India during 1st April 2017 and 28th February 2018.
  • As per the report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of deaths in police custody between 2001 and 2018 was 1,727. But, only 810 cases were reported, 334 were charge-sheeted out of which just 26 policemen were convicted.
  • Legal burdens – If a person dies in police custody the burden should be on the police to show that they are not responsible for it, the law still requires the prosecution to prove that the police caused the death.
  • UNCAT ratification – India’s political commitment to address torture is symbolized by its failure to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, and thereby putting itself in the list of only 19 countries to have not adopted it.
  • Magisterial inquiry – Besides the usual police investigation into a custodial death, the law mandates an independent magisterial inquiry.
  • Institutional Apathy – It is perhaps a reflection of our institutional apathy that such inquiries have happened in only about 20% of custodial deaths. Prosecution of police officials for custodial torture requires the sanction of the government.
Stan Swami case
Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist, was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in October 2020 by the National Investigation Agency. He is alleged to have been involved in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence in 2018 and his links with Maoists. Father Swamy reportedly made an application to be provided with a sipper and straw as he was unable to hold a glass as he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. His request was inexplicably deferred for 20 days. The NIA later informed the court that it did not have a straw and sipper to give to him. The court has sought a report from the jail authorities on allowing Father Swamy to receive a straw and sipper at his own cost. After this, he had been provided with a sipper and straw by the jail authorities. The above events demonstrate the insensitivity of legal procedures. Apart from this, it outlines another fundamental issue which is the rights of prisoners with disabilities. The death of Swamy represents negligence of the prison administration as well as a systematic failure in our legal and prison system. The injustice in his case is magnified by the fact that he still awaits trial. The fundamental tenet on which Indian criminal law operates is that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. His guilt or innocence is ultimately a matter for the court to decide. But the denial of his rights by the justice system not only constitutes a legal wrong but also displays an absence of compassion.  

Way forward

  • Under trials should be lodged in separate institutions away from convicted prisoners. There should be proper and scientific classification even among undertrials to ensure the contamination of first-time and petty offenders into full-fledged and hardcore criminals.
  • Establishment and strengthening of fast-track courts.
  • Provisions of Section 167 of the CrPC with regard to the time limit for police investigation in case of accused undertrials should be strictly followed by both the police and courts.
  • Automatic extension of remands has to stop. All undertrials should be effectively produced before the presiding magistrates on the dates of the hearing.
  • Video conferencing between jails and courts should be encouraged and tried in all states beginning with the big Central jails and then expanding to District and Sub jails.
  • Police functions should be separated into investigation and law and order duties and sufficient strength be provided to complete investigations on time and avoid delays.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment should be tried out and incorporated in the IPC.
  • Remand orders should be self-limiting and indicate the date on which the undertrials would be automatically entitled to apply for bail.
  • Computerize the handling of criminal cases and with the help of the National Informatics Centre develop programs that would help in managing pendency and delay of different types of cases.
  • There should be an immediate increase in the number of judges and magistrates in some reasonable proportion to the general population.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Coercive Population policy and related issues

In recent years, there have been ongoing debates, campaigns, and demands for the implementation of coercive population control policies in India. Evidence shows no effectiveness of policy measures enforcing a two-child or one-child norm and instead highlights their adverse outcomes. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – 4 revealed that 24 states in the country have already achieved replacement level fertility of 2.1, which means that couples are increasingly choosing to have two children.

India’s declining fertility can largely be attributed to key determinants like the increasing emphasis on women’s education and their participation in the labor force.

Let us look at the future prospectus of population growth and related government policies and measures in India.

What are the causes of Over Population in India?

The two main common causes leading to overpopulation in India are:

(1) The birth rate is still higher than the death rate. We have been successful in declining the death rates but the same cannot be said for birth rates.

(2) The fertility rate due to the population policies and other measures has been falling but even then it is much higher compared to other countries.

Various social issues which are leading to overpopulation

  • Early Marriage and Universal Marriage System: Even though the marriageable age of a girl is legally 18 years, the concept of early marriage still prevails. Getting married at a young age prolongs the child bearing age.
  • Poverty and Illiteracy: Impoverished families have this notion that more the number of members in the family, more will be the numbers to earn income. Some feel that more children are needed to look after them in their old age. Indian still lags behind the use of contraceptives and birth control methods and are not willing to discuss or are totally unaware about them.
  • Age old cultural norm: Sons are the bread earners of the families in India. This age old thought puts considerable pressure on the parents to produce children till a male child is born.
  • Illegal migration: Last but not the least, we cannot ignore the fact that illegal migration is continuously taking place from Bangladesh and Nepal is leading to increased population density.

What are the effects of over-population?

Some major impacts of the high population are as follows:

Population Policy by Uttar Pradesh government

Recently, the government of Uttar Pradesh released a “Population Policy” in which it stated its intention to bring the gross fertility rate in the State down from the existing 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026.

What are the provisions in the Bill?

  • This draft law, titled the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021, seeks to provide a series of incentives to families that adhere to a two-child norm.
  • The Bill also intends on disentitling families that breach the norm from benefits and subsidies.
  • It promises public servants who undergo sterilization and adopt a two-child norm several benefits.
  • The draft Bill also contains a list of punishments.
  • A person who breaches the two-child norm will be debarred from securing the benefit of any government-sponsored welfare scheme and will be disqualified from applying to any State government job.
  • Existing government employees who infringe the rule will be denied the benefit of promotion.
  • Transgressing individuals will be prohibited from contesting elections to local authorities and bodies.

Issues with coercive population control policies

With such types of coercive population policies, there come a number of issues associated with them. Let us look at some issues in context with India.

(1) Counter-productive measure

  • International experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions.

(2) Against international obligations

  • India is committed to its obligations under international law, including the principles contained in the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, 1994.
  • Foremost in those principles was a pledge from nations that they would look beyond demographic targets and focus instead on guaranteeing a right to reproductive freedom.

(3) Against the right to reproductive freedom and privacy

  • In Suchita Srivastava & Anr vs Chandigarh Administration (2009), the Court found that a woman’s freedom to make reproductive decisions is an integral facet of the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
  • This ruling was endorsed by the Supreme Court’s nine-judge Bench verdict in K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017).
  • The Constitution sees a person’s autonomy over her body as an extension of the right to privacy. U.P.’s draft law, if enacted, will grossly impinge on the right to reproductive freedom.
  • However, In Javed & Ors vs State of Haryana & Ors (2003), the Court upheld a law that disqualified persons with more than two children from contesting in local body elections.
  • But the present UP Bill is far more disproportionate; therefore, the judgment in Javed can no longer be seen as good law.
  • The UP government will likely argue that there is no violation of privacy here because any decision on sterilization would be voluntary. But, as we know, making welfare conditional is a hallmark of coercion.
  • Therefore, the proposed law will fall foul of a proportionality analysis.

(4) Sex-selective practices and forced sterilizations

  • The Economic Survey of 2018 points out that ‘son meta preference’ – the desire to have a male child – has resulted in 21 million “unwanted girls” in India.
  • Imposing a two child norm will add to the burden on women, by way of sex selective practices and forced sterilizations.
  • In Devika Biswas vs Union of India (2016), the Court pointed to how these camps invariably have a disparate impact on minorities and other vulnerable groups.
  • This could result in a setback to population stabilization efforts, as it happened during the emergency period in mid-1970s

(5) Violation of human rights

  • A population control policy is not only a gross violation of fundamental human rights but will also have the maximum impact on the poorest, weakest and most marginalized sections of a country.
  • The National Population Policy, 2000 had “voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing reproductive health care services, and continuation of the target-free approach in administering family planning services”.
  • A coercive population control measure would be in direct contradiction to the tenets of this policy.

(6) Impact poor and marginalized people adversely

  • Disincentives through denial of benefits under subsidized food grains through the PDS will impact the poorest and most marginalized sections of the population and worsen their impoverishment.

(7) High population is not always bad

  • A high population is not necessarily a bad thing for the economy.
  • Population controlling measures will result in:
    • There would simply not be enough people to work for the economy,
    • A large non-productive aging population to support and the government may not have enough resources to support pensions
    • This would lead to de-industrialization.

(8) Factor of religion

  • Religious polarization makes population control an even more contentious issue in India.
  • The bogey of population explosion is often used (directly or indirectly) to target a particular minority in India. The population controlling measure will impact social harmony.

China’s experience

China’s infamous one-child-per-couple policy and the subsequent two-child policy in 2015, have had several unintended consequences ranging from forced sterilizations and abortions to the abandonment of girl children, falling birth rates, skewed sex ratios, a rapidly growing ageing population, and a shrinking workforce.

What did we learn from our past experiences?

  • The implementation of a one-child or two-child policy law will not result in immediate population reduction.
  • Past trends in fertility and mortality from 1951 to 1981 have shaped the Indian population structure in such a way that there is a ‘bulge’ in the proportion of people in their prime reproductive age.
  • This group accounts for 53% of India’s population today. Even if this group were to produce fewer children compared to previous generations, there will still be an increase in the absolute number of people.
  • This pattern of growth is termed as “Population Momentum”. Approximately 70 percent of the total projected population increase today is due to this large young population in their childbearing years.
  • India with its large proportion of young persons will take some time before the results of declining fertility start showing explicitly.
  • The population of India in 1951 was 35 crore, but by 2011, it had increased to 121 crore. There have been few shortcomings.
    • Firstly, the NPP have a narrow perspective; give much importance to contraception and sterilization. The basic prerequisite of controlling population includes poverty alleviation, improving the standards of living and the spread of education.
    • Secondly, on national scale the policy was not publicized and failed to generate mass support in favor of population control.
    • Thirdly, we have insufficient infrastructure owing to the lack of trained staff, lack of adequate aptitude among the staff and limited use or misuse of the equipment for population control resulted in failure of the policy.
    • Lastly, the use of coercion during the Emergency (1976-77) caused a serious resentment among the masses. This made the very NPP itself very unpopular.

Way forward

  • Increasing the welfare and status of women and girls, spread of education, increasing awareness for the use of contraceptives and family planning methods, sex education, encouraging male sterilization and spacing births, free distribution of contraceptives and condoms among the poor, encouraging female empowerment, more health care centers for the poor, to name a few, can play a major role in controlling population.
  • The government should raise budgetary allocations in order to ensure expanded contraceptive choices for delaying and spacing births and better access and quality of health care for young people.
  • Social Measures: Population outburst is considered to be a social problem and it is intensely rooted in the civilization. It is therefore necessary to make efforts to eliminate the social iniquities in the country.
  • Minimum age of Marriage: As fertility depends on the age of marriage therefore the minimum age of marriage should be raised. In India minimum age for marriage is 21 years for men and 18 years for women fixed by law. This law should be strongly implemented and people should also be made aware of this through promotion.
  • Raising the Status of Women: There are prevalent biases to women. They are restricted to house. They are still confined to rearing and bearing of children. So women should be given opportunities to develop socially and economically. Free education should be given to them.
  • Spread education: The spread of education changes the views of people. The educated men take mature decisions and prefer to delay marriage and adopt small family custom. Educated women are health mindful and avoid frequent pregnancies and thus help in lowering birth rate.
  • Adoption: is also effective way to curb population. Some parents do not have any child, despite expensive medical treatment. It is recommended that they should adopt orphan children. It will be helpful to orphan children and children to couples.
  • Social Security: is necessary for people. It is responsibility of government to include more and more people under-social security schemes. So that they do not depend upon others in the event of old age, sickness, unemployment with these facilities they will have no desire for more children.
  • Economic Measures: Government must devise policies for more employment opportunities and development of Agriculture and Industry. When their income is increased they would enhance their standard of living and accept small family norms.
  • Urbanization: This can reduce population increase. It is reported that people in urban areas have low birth rate than those living in rural areas.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Whatsapp snooping with Pegasus Spyware

A global collaborative investigative project has discovered Israeli spyware Pegasus was used to target thousands of people across the world.

In India, at least 300 people are believed to have been targeted, including two serving Ministers in the government, three Opposition leaders, several journalists, social activists and business persons.

What is Pegasus?

  • All spyware do what the name suggests — they spy on people through their phones.
  • Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
  • A presumably newer version of the malware does not even require a target user to click a link.
  • Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.
  • A worrying aspect that has been revealed is the ability of the spyware to infect a device by a ‘zero-click’ attack, which does not require any action from the phone’s user.

A ‘Black Hole’ with no escape

  • What makes Pegasus really dangerous is that it spares no aspect of a person’s identity.
  • It makes older techniques of spying seem relatively harmless.
  • It can intercept every call and SMS, read every email and monitor each messaging app.
  • Pegasus can also control the phone’s camera and microphone and has access to the device’s location data.
  • The app advertises that it can carry out “file retrieval”, which means it could access any document that a target might have stored on their phone.

Dysfunctions created by Pegasus

Privacy breach: The very existence of a surveillance system, whether under a provision of law or without it, impacts the right to privacy under Article 21 and the exercise of free speech under Article 19.

Curbing Dissent: It reflects a disturbing trend with regard to the use of hacking software against dissidents and adversaries. In 2019 also, Pegasus software was used to hack into HR & Dalit activists.

Individual safety: In the absence of privacy, the safety of journalists, especially those whose work criticizes the government, and the personal safety of their sources is jeopardised.

Self-Censorship: Consistent fear over espionage may grapple individuals. This may impact their ability to express, receive and discuss such ideas.

State-sponsored mass surveillance: The spyware coupled with AI can manipulate digital content in users’ smartphones. This in turn can polarize their opinion by distant controller.

National security: The potential misuse or proliferation has the same, if not more, ramifications as advanced nuclear technology falling into the wrong hands.

Snooping in India:  Legality check

For Pegasus-like spyware to be used lawfully, the government would have to invoke both the IT Act and the Telegraph Act. Communication surveillance in India takes place primarily under two laws:

  1. Telegraph Act, 1885: It deals with interception of calls.
  2. Information Technology Act, 2000: It was enacted to deal with surveillance of all electronic communication, following the Supreme Court’s intervention in 1996.

Cyber security safeguards in India

  • National Cyber Security Policy: The policy was developed in 2013 to build secure and resilient cyberspace for India’s citizens and businesses.
  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In): The CERT-In is responsible for incident responses including analysis, forecasts and alerts on cybersecurity issues and breaches.
  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C): The Central Government has rolled out a scheme for the establishment of the I4C to handle issues related to cybercrime in the country in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  • Budapest Convention: There also exists Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. However India is not a signatory to this convention.

The bigger question: Government Involvement

It is worth asking why the government would need to hack phones and install spyware when existing laws already offer impunity for surveillance. The wide array of victims clearly brings the central government and its role to question.

In the absence of parliamentary or judicial oversight, electronic surveillance gives the executive the power to influence both the subject of surveillance and all classes of individuals, resulting in a chilling effect on free speech.

Is Right to Privacy a myth?

  • Only in such exceptional circumstances, however, can an individual’s right to privacy be superseded to protect the national interest.
  • In today’s times, when fake news and illegal activities such as cyber terrorism on the dark web are on the rise, the importance of reserving such powers to conduct surveillance cannot be undermined.

What should be the basis for surveillance?

The existing provisions are insufficient to protect against the spread of authoritarianism since they allow the executive to exercise a disproportionate amount of power.

  • There should be some reasonable basis or some tangible evidence to initiate or seek approval for interception by State authorities.
  • Any action without such evidence or basis would be struck down by courts as arbitrary, or invasive of one’s right to privacy.
  • Any digression from the ethical and legal parameters set by law would be tantamount to a deliberate invasion of citizens’ privacy and make India a surveillance state.

Solution lies in Judicial Oversight

Surveillance reform is the need of the hour in India.

  • The need for judicial oversight over surveillance systems in general, and judicial investigation into the Pegasus hacking in particular is very essential.
  • Only the judiciary can be competent to decide whether specific instances of surveillance are proportionate, whether less onerous alternatives are available, and to balance the necessity of the government’s objectives with the rights of the impacted individuals.
  • Not only are existing protections weak but the proposed legislation related to the personal data protection fails to consider surveillance while also providing wide exemptions to government.

Way forward

  • The security of a device becomes one of the fundamental bedrocks of maintaining user trust as society becomes more and more digitized.
  • There is an urgent need to take up this issue seriously by constituting an independent high-level inquiry with credible members and experts that can restore confidence and conduct its proceedings transparently.

Conclusion

  • We must recognize that national security starts with securing the smartphones of every single Indian by embracing technologies such as encryption rather than deploying spyware.
  • This is a core part of our fundamental right to privacy.
  • This intrusion by spyware is not merely an infringement of the rights of the citizens of the country but also a worrying development for India’s national security apparatus.

References:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/surveillance-reform-is-the-need-of-the-hour/article35414371.ece

https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/project-pegasus-experts-fears-apple-android-duopoly-making-life-easier-for-spyware-a-losing-battle-for-users-7413430/

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/pegasus-spyware-malware-attack-nso-group-cyber-security-bjp-india-whatsapp

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2021

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has invited suggestions for the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.

  • The bill once finalized will need the Cabinet approval and assent from both the houses of Parliament to become a Law.
  • The new Bill comes after a long process of revisions after the Trafficking of Persons Bill 2018 that was passed by the Lok Sabha’s nod amid a heated debate, never made it to Rajya Sabha.

What is the objective of the new bill?

To prevent and counter-trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them.

Human Trafficking in India

According to statistics of India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), trafficking has manifold objectives.

  • These include forced labor, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation. According to the NCRB, three out of five people trafficked in 2016 were children below the age of 18 years. Of these, 4,911 were girls and 4,123 were boys.
  • Sexual exploitation for prostitution was the second major purpose for human trafficking in India, after forced labor.
  • Victims of trafficking in India disproportionately represent people from traditionally disadvantaged gender, caste, and religious groups.
  • People from these groups have been systemically kept at a disadvantage in education, access to productive resources and spaces and legal remedies enhancing their vulnerability.
  • Across regions, studies have found that majority of victims are women and children belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and minority religions.
  • Children are trafficked first and then placed in labor either forced or for earning a sub minimal wage or in case of the more unfortunate ones, i.e. particularly girls and young boys, are forced into sexual exploitation.
  • Usurious money-lending and debt bondage will also become a force-multiplier for sourcing child labor from the country-side, from desperate families for bondage and trafficking.

Why the old bill was criticized so much?

  • According to the United Nations’ human rights experts; it was not in accordance with the international human rights laws.
  • The Bill seemed to combine sex work and migration with trafficking.
  • The Bill was criticized for addressing trafficking through a criminal law perspective instead of complementing it with a human-rights based and victim-centred approach.
  • It was also criticized for promoting “rescue raids” by the police as well as the institutionalization of victims in the name of rehabilitation.
  • It was pointed out that certain vague provisions would lead to blanket criminalization of activities that do not necessarily relate to trafficking.

What are the provisions in the new bill?

(1) Coverage

  • Persons on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be or carrying Indian citizens wherever they may be,
  • A foreign national or a stateless person who has his or her residence in India at the time of commission of offence under this Act, and
  • The law will apply to every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.

(2) Wider definition of trafficking

  • It extends beyond the protection of women and children as victims to now include transgender as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking.
  • It also does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.
  • “Trafficking in Persons” is defined to include –

a) any person who recruits, transports, transfers, harbors or receives another person;

b) by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of authority or of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person;

(c) for the purpose of exploitation of that person;

(3) Defines ‘Exploitation’

  • Exploitation will include the “prostitution of others” or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography, any act of physical exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research or the like.
  • Examples of aggravated offences listed in the Bill include offences that result in the death of the victim or his dependent or any other person, including death as a result of suicide.
  • This also includes cases where the offence has been caused by administering any chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity.

(4) Government Officers as Offenders

Offenders will also include defense personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.

(5) Stringent penalty

  • It is proposed that whoever commits the offence shall be punishable with a term for ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Offence against a child of less than twelve years of age, or against a woman for the purpose of repeated rape, the person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for twenty years, but which may extend to life.
  • In case of second or subsequent conviction, the accused may be punished with death sentence. The fine may extend up to Rs 30 lakh.
  • When a public servant, or a police officer, or a person in charge of or a staff of a women’s or children’s home or institution is involved, he shall be punishable on conviction for the remainder of natural life.
  • A person advertising, publishing, printing, broadcasting or distributing any material that promotes trafficking of a person or exploitation of a trafficked person will invite punishment.

(6) Similarity to Money laundering Act

  • Property bought via such income as well as used for trafficking can now be forfeited with provisions set in place, similar to that of the money laundering Act.

(7) Investigation agency

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for the prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.

(8) Timeframe for granting compensation

  • The district legal services authority (DLSA) shall provide immediate relief to the victim and dependent, including aid and assistance for medical and rehabilitation needs, within seven days.
  • The DLSA shall award interim relief to a victim or any dependant within a period of thirty days of an application submitted and after due assessment.
  • The bill also says the investigation needs to be completed within 90 days from the date of the arrest of the accused.

(9) National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee:

  • Once the law is enacted, the Centre will notify and establish a National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, for ensuring overall effective implementation of the provisions of this law.
    • This committee will have representation from various ministries with the home secretary as the chairperson and secretary of the women and child development ministry as co-chair.
    • State and district level anti-human trafficking committees will also be constituted.

Why this bill is significant?

  • The transgender community, and any other person, has been included which will automatically bring under its scope activity such as organ harvesting.
  • Also, cases such as forced labour, in which people lured with jobs end up in other countries where their passports and documentation are taken away and they are made to work, will also be covered by this new law.

What are the legislations in India that prohibits human trafficking?

  • Article 23 (1) in the constitution of India prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labour.
  • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) penalizes trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • India also prohibits bonded and forced labour through the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986, and Juvenile Justice Act.
  • Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, prohibits kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively.
  • The Factories Act, 1948 guaranteed the protection of the rights of workers.

International Conventions, Protocols and Campaigns

  • Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in 2000 as a part of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
  • This protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol.
  • It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
  • Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. It entered into force on 28 January 2004.
  • This also supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. The Protocol is aimed at the protection of rights of migrants and the reduction of the power and influence of organized criminal groups that abuse migrants.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a non-binding declaration that establishes the right of every human to live with dignity and prohibits slavery.
  • Blue Heart Campaign: The Blue Heart Campaign is an international anti-trafficking program started by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
  • Sustainable Development Goals: Various SDGs aim to end trafficking by targeting its roots and means viz.
  • Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls),
  • Goal 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all) and
  • Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels).

Concerns over the new bill

  • The bill is not clear about how the NIA will gather information and intelligence from different parts of the country through Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) at district level and State level.
  • The bill is largely silent on rescue protocols except the “reason to believe” by a police officer not below the rank of a sub-inspector. This makes the role of the AHTUs unclear in the rescue and post-rescue processes.
  • There are also concerns about absence of community-based rehabilitation, missing definition of reintegration and also about the funds related to rehabilitation of survivors in the bill.
  • In absence of rescue protocol there is always the fear of forced rescue of adult persons who may have been trafficked but do not wish to get rescued.
  • The proposed Bill criminalizes sex work and the choice of sex work as profession. The Draft Trafficking Bill has mixed up the issue of trafficking and sex work.

Way Forward

  • Foresight and preparedness: in the midst of the current lockdown can save the lives of crores of women, men and children and avoid an impending humanitarian crisis
  • Collaboration is key: A lot of work needs to be done in a collaborative manner, between key stakeholders such as the government and civil society organizations, for any substantial change to be seen.
  • Assessment and review of legal framework: The central government must assess the existing criminal law on trafficking and its ability to counter the crime and meet the needs of the victim.
  • Increase in budgetary allocation for law enforcement and victim rehabilitation: There is a gross deficit in the budgetary allocation to combat human trafficking.
  • Curbing the rise of online Child Sexual Abuse material: The upsurge of child sexual abuse material and its easy access can only be controlled by placing greater accountability on Internet Service Providers and digital platforms that host this content.
  • Safety net in source areas of trafficking: Schools, communities, religious authorities and the local administration need to recognize and control trafficking and bonded labour in villages.
  • Intensive campaignings: must educate communities about the threat and modus operandi of trafficking agents, especially in the source areas such as Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Assam.
  • Monitoring: The railway and other transport facilities have to be intensely monitored.
  • Public Awareness and Sensitization: Awareness around existing government social welfare schemes and the means to access them should be generated and the government must immediately initiate registration of unorganized workers.
  • Financial protection: Special financial protection should be extended for the next year in order to keep the wolf away from the door.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Rise of Taliban in Afghanistan and its implications for India

The Taliban’s possible triumph threatens not just India’s diplomatic stakes in Afghanistan, but also 20 years and $3 billion worth of Indian investment in various projects — dams, roads, trade infrastructure. India has been becoming more central to the negotiations with the Taliban. In this article, we will discuss and analyze all aspects of rising of the Taliban in Afghanistan and its implications for India.

Background of the Taliban

The Taliban (literally meaning “students”) or ‘Taleban’, who refer to themselves as the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA)’ is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country.

Their aims were to end the political chaos that had been ongoing in Afghanistan since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and to impose a strict interpretation of Islam.

How it came into existence?

  • After the Soviet Union intervened and occupied Afghanistan in 1979, Islamic Mujahedeen fighters engaged in war with those Soviet forces.
  • A while later, the US CIA and the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate (GID) provided funding and equipment through the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) to the Afghan Mujahedeen.
  • About 90,000 Afghans, including several bountied terrorists, were trained by Pakistan’s ISI during the 1980s.
  • Hence it can be concluded that the Taliban have arisen from those US-Saudi-Pakistan-supported Mujahedeen: ‘The West helped the Taliban to fight the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan.’

What is its ideology?

  • Early Taliban were motivated by the suffering among the Afghan people, which they believed resulted from power struggles between Afghan groups not adhering to the moral code of Islam; in their religious schools they had been taught a belief in strict Islamic law.
  • The military ambitions of the afghans led to it’s the infamous civil war from 1992-96 which ultimately demanded a political emirate.

The 9-11

  • The United States invasion of Afghanistan occurred after the September 11 attacks in late 2001 and was supported by close US allies.
  • Its public aims were to dismantle Al-Qaeda and deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power.
  • US demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and expel Al-Qaeda; bin Laden had already been wanted by the FBI since 1998.
  • The Taliban declined to extradite him unless given what they deemed convincing evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
  • They ignored demands to shut down terrorist bases and hand over other terrorist suspects apart from bin Laden.

Taliban prowess is ever-increasing

  • Every single day since the ceasefire, the Taliban is strengthening and violence is mounting high.
  • Taliban is now more organized as an organization with diplomats on par with modern democratic nations with state apparatus propaganda.
  • The Taliban strategy seems to be to capture power in Kabul by violence and intimidation despite warnings from the international community.
  • At the core of its diplomacy lies the untenable violent extremism based on radical religious ideology.

Afghan Peace Process: A failure

  • The Afghan peace process comprises the proposals and negotiations in a bid to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
  • This ‘US-Taliban deal signed in February 2020 was seen in India as a “victory for Taliban and Pakistan”.
  • Besides the US, major powers such as China, India, Russia, as well as NATO play a part that they see as facilitating the peace process.
  • The peace process has not made much headway mainly because violence by the Taliban continues unabated.
  • The Taliban now view this as an important milestone and is busy trying to establish their military superiority on the ground.

What are the implications of the deal for India?

  • India has been backing the Ghani-led government and was among very few countries to congratulate Ghani on his victory.
  • There has not been formal contact with top Taliban leaders, the Indian mission has a fair amount of access to the Pashtun community throughout Afghanistan through community development projects of about $3 billion.
  • Due to so, although the Pakistan military and its ally Taliban have become dominant players in Kabul’s power circles, South Block insiders insist that it is not all that grim for New Delhi.
  • These high-impact projects, diplomats feel India has gained goodwill among ordinary Afghans, the majority of whom are Pashtuns and some may be aligned with the Taliban as well.

What are India’s key investments in Afghanistan?

India’s contribution has been phenomenal in every area in Afghanistan since India built the Afghan Parliament. India has been a major military and developmental assistance partner for Afghanistan. Let us have a look at various projects India has built across Afghanistan.

(1) Salma Dam:

  • It is one of India’s high-visibility projects is located — the 42MW Salma Dam in Herat province.

(2) Zaranj-Delaram Highway:

  • The other high-profile project was the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram highway built by the Border Roads Organisation.
  • India had transported 75,000 tonnes of wheat through Chabahar to Afghanistan during the pandemic.

(3) Parliament building:

  • The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at $90 million. It was opened in 2015.

(4) Stor Palace:

  • It is the restored Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century, and which was the setting for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country.

(5) Power Infra:

  • Other Indian projects in Afghanistan include the rebuilding of power infrastructure such as the 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri, to the north of Kabul.  

(6) Health Infra:

  • India has reconstructed a children’s hospital it had helped build in Kabul in 1972 —named Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health in 1985 — that was in shambles after the war.
  • ‘Indian Medical Missions’ have held free consultation camps in several areas. Thousands who lost their limbs after stepping on mines left over from the war have been fitted with the Jaipur Foot.

(7) Transportation:

  • India gifted 400 buses and 200 mini-buses for urban transportation, 105 utility vehicles for municipalities, 285 military vehicles for the Afghan National Army, and 10 ambulances for public hospitals in five cities.
  • It also gave three Air India aircraft to Ariana, the Afghan national carrier, when it was restarting operations.

 (8) Ongoing Projects:

  • India had concluded with Afghanistan an agreement for the construction of the Shatoot Dam in Kabul district, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents.

India’s and the Taliban

  • As the world and India have changed there is an aspiration that Afghan can’t be brought back from the brink.
  • India wants to play a positive role and sabotage those countries that support other terror groups in Afghan.
  • It is visibly clear and Taliban has claimed that the US withdrawal is a victory for them. At the same time, the democratically elected Afghan government is crashing.
  • India is pressing on a peace process all around Afghanistan so that all countries shall be peaceful.

Why Taliban’s control over Afghanistan is a matter of concern for India and the world?

(1) Taliban is strengthening its control in Border areas:

  • The Taliban is occupying the border areas with other countries instead of central Afghanistan and have taken control of the districts bordering Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
  • And this time, the Taliban’s strategy is clear that it will strengthen itself on the border areas so that when its government comes there, the neighboring countries cannot put pressure on it, and once again it can run its brutal rule in Afghanistan.

(2) Taliban’s presence near Indian Borders:

  • The Taliban is only 400 km away from the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The Taliban have captured the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, which borders PoK.
  • If Taliban establish their government by capturing all the districts of Afghanistan, then they will be able to easily send their terrorists to Jammu and Kashmir and help Pakistan.

(3) China factor:

  • Apart from Pakistan, China can also become a challenge for India. That is because while Pakistan has influence over the Taliban, China is currently the biggest investor for Afghanistan.
  • At present, there are big Chinese projects going on in Afghanistan and the Taliban knows that if it wants to keep its position strong then it will need Chinese money the most.

(4) Silence of Western countries and UN over the situation in Afghanistan:

  • It is also an irony that the think tanks of Western countries and the United Nations, which give lectures to the whole world on human rights, are not very active about the current situation in Afghanistan.
  • At that time, the Taliban strictly enforced Sharia law. It had issued a Taliban decree for men to keep beards and women to keep their full bodies covered, violating which was publicly punished.
  • Apart from this, there was also a ban on watching music, movies and television at that time and girls above the age of 10 were not allowed to go to school.

(5) Violence and loss of lives:

  • India is concerned over the violence and loss of lives in Afghanistan. Violence has increased manifold after peace talks have started.
  • New Delhi wants an all-inclusive “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace process—not one that is remote-controlled by Pakistan, seen as the backers of the Taliban.
  • It supports zero tolerance against violence.
  • Our EAM has iterated that there is need of double peace i.e., within and around Afghan indirectly pointing towards the terror breeding centre, Pakistan.

(6) India’s investments are at stake:

India, which has committed $3 billion in development aid and reconstruction activities, backs the Ashraf Ghani government in the war-torn country.

What are the stakes for India?

  • Afghanistan is a part  of  India’s extended  neighbourhood and a link to Central Asia. But for PoK, India would have had a direct border with Afghanistan.
  • Despite claims that the Taliban have changed in the past two decades, there is no proof that it has shed any of its obscurantist ideology which leans heavily towards Pakistan’s official foreign policy towards India.
  • A Taliban-controlled government in Kabul would mean Pakistan controlling Afghan policy on India.
  • And a repeat of the past when Pakistan used Afghanistan territory for anti-India activities.

Way Forward

  • India’s role in Afghan’s peace process and the road ahead is difficult as we see more process and less peace. India has urged for a permanent & comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan.
  • Durable peace requires peace within & around Afghanistan. India also asserted the need for zero tolerance for terrorism.
  • Diplomatic, policing, and intelligence cooperation with countries that border Afghanistan can help to contain terrorist groups and inhibit their ability to travel beyond the region.
  • International organizations like the UN must come forward to stop Pakistan sponsor of terrorism. The FATF should move beyond grey-listing itself.
  • Aid and developmental cooperation through the UN, India, USA must be done simultaneously for the restoration of democracy.

Conclusion

Terrorism safe havens are mostly a myth. A lot of complexities are involved in the Afghan theatre; tangible demonstration of commitment is required from all stakeholders for a political settlement and to have a permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Middle Income Trap and India

India has a nearly 34-year window of opportunity to leverage its human resources and realize its growth potential before a phase of demographic burden sets in. This period will coincide with another important part of India’s growth story: the pursuit of high-income status. Too many countries have failed to make the leap from the middle-income to high-income group, afflicted by a malady now commonly referred to as ‘the middle-income trap’.

What is the middle-income trap?

  • The “middle-income trap” is a theory of economic development in which a country lost its competitive edge in the export of manufactured goods because of rising wages.
  • The wages rise to the point that the growth potential of that country is exhausted before it attains the innovative capability needed to boost productivity and compete with developed countries.
  • The countries caught in the Middle Income Trap are unable to compete with low-income, low-wage economies in manufactured exports and with advanced economies in high-skill innovations.
  • The middle-income trap is associated with a relatively sustained growth slowdown with both direct effects (e.g. income losses) as well as indirect effects (e.g. social conflicts).
  • Fuelled by the global slowdown, many countries, particularly in South East Asia, Africa and Latin America currently face the predicament of the Middle-income trap.
  • This has impeded their transition from middle income to high income.

What is the basis for the categorization of countries?

World Bank has used the 2018 data of gross national income (GNI) per capita to categorize countries into the following four categories:

CategoryReal Per-Capita Income* (2016)
Low-Income Countries (LICs)Less than 5% of the US.
Lower Middle-Income Countries (LMICs)About 5-15% of the US
Upper Middle-Income Countries (UMICs)About 15-35% of the US.
High-Income Countries (HICs)All those above that line – including some above US’ level.

Why do Countries fall into the Middle Income Trap?

  • Inability to shift growth strategies: If a country cannot make a timely transition from resource-driven growth, with low-cost labor and capital, to productivity-driven growth, it might find itself trapped in the middle-income zone.
  • Lower export potential: Traditional exports cannot be as easily expanded as before because wages are higher and cost competitiveness declines. Middle-income countries also face varying levels of access to product and financial markets and diverse social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.
  • Skewed income distribution & stagnation in middle-class population: Wealth inequality and the hierarchical distribution of income in developing countries is a downward drag on domestic demand, which results in stagnation. It slows down the upward mobility of families that are at lower levels, into the middle class that is prepared to pay more for quality and differentiated products.
  • Recurring boom-bust cycles & pro-cyclical lending: Many middle-income countries in Latin America have been through cycles of growth based on credit extended during commodity booms, followed by crisis, and then recovery. This stop–go cycle has prevented them from becoming advanced economies despite enjoying many periods of fast growth. This is in sharp contrast with successful countries in East Asia—Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea that have been able to sustain high growth over some 50 years.

India’s Case

  • In 1960, India was a low-income country with per capita income around 6% of the US. However India attained status of lower middle income in 2008 with per capita income of about 12% of the US.
  • But the growth has occurred with limited transfer of labor resources to high productivity and dynamic sectors, despite relatively modest agricultural growth.
  • Thus, the late converger stall risk remains for India too.

Why India might get caught in a middle-income trap?

(1) Backlash against globalization:

  • Hyper globalization (benefited the China, South Korea & Japan) led to a backlash in the advanced countries, as seen through increasing protectionism & lowering World Trade-GDP ratios since 2011.
  • This means that similar trading opportunities may no longer be available for the middle-income countries.

(2) Thwarted Structural Transformation:

  • The manufacturing sector is identified as a critically important sector for ensuring transformation. Successful development requires two kinds of structural transformations:
  • a shift of resources from low productivity to high productivity sectors; and
  • a larger share of resources devoted to sectors that have the potential for rapid productivity growth.
  • However, in late economies like India, ‘premature deindustrialization’ (tendency for manufacturing to peak at lower levels of activity and earlier in the development process) is a major cause of concern.
  • Also, there is a negative share of good growth over time along with weakening of the positive correlation between growth and good growth.
  • There are various outliers to the convergence process in this regard like India and China. China’s good growth persists and India’s share of the same declined.

(3) Human Capital Regression:

  • Human capital frontier for the new structural transformation has shifted further away making the transformation costlier.
  • This is because the new advances in technology not only require skilled human capital, but also demands them to learn continually.
  • As opposed to these requirements, there is a wider educational attainment gap and skill deficit between lower income countries and advanced economies.
  • If this gap persists or widens, the kind of transformation enjoyed by the early convergers might prove more difficult for late convergers.
  • This gap is highly stark for India given its absolute Learning Poverty Count between 40-50% and Learning Poverty Gap is about 25% for reading and a little lower for math.

(4) Climate change-induced Agricultural Stress:

  • Agricultural productivity is crucial both for feeding people and for ensuring human capital moves from agriculture to modern sectors.
  • The agricultural growth rates of richer countries have been consistently greater than for developing countries in each time period.
  • With climate change, weather extremities have become a recurrent phenomenon. This is, in particular, a threat to India where agriculture is heavily dependent on precipitation.
  • Fall in private consumption, muted rise in fixed investment and sluggish exports have led to a slowdown in the economy and increase India’s vulnerability to the middle-income trap.
Learning Poverty Count- measures the number of children who do not meet the basic learning benchmark. Learning Poverty Gap- Takes into account how far each student is from the benchmark.

Avoiding the Middle Income Trap

  • In 1960, India was a low-income country with per capita income around 6% of the US. However, India attained the status of lower middle income in 2008 with per capita income of about 12% of the US.
  • But, the growth has occurred with limited transfer of labor resources to high productivity and dynamic sectors, despite relatively modest agricultural growth.
  • Thus, the risk of getting trapped in a middle-income zone remains.
  • To avoid becoming trapped without a viable high-growth strategy, India needs to:

(1) Transitioning from diversification to specialization in production:

  • Specialization allowed the middle-income Asian countries to reap economies of scale and offset the cost of disadvantages associated with higher wages (E.g. Electronics industry in South Korea).
  • High levels of investment in new technologies and innovation-conducive policies are two overarching requirements to ensure specialized production.
  • Developing good social-safety nets and skill-retraining programs can ease the restructuring process that accompanies specialization.

(2) Shifting to productivity-led growth:

  • Total factor-productivity growth requires major changes in education, from primary & secondary schooling to tertiary education so that workers adept new skills as per the demands of the markets.
  • Creating such knowledge economy requires long term planning and investment.
  • Middle-income countries need better access to technologies, research, and innovation, and also better management practices.
  • That requires redesigning development strategies and gradually shifting to higher-value-added sectors with a focus on innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth.

(3) Opportunities for professional talent:

  • To attract and retain a critical mass of professional talent that is becoming more internationally mobile, India must develop safe & livable cities that provide attractive lifestyles to professionals.

(4) Addressing barriers to effective competition:

  • There is a need to address rigidities that can arise from bankruptcy laws, stringent tax regulations, limited enforcement of IP regulations, imperfect information, discrimination etc.

(5) Decentralized economic management:

  • Greater powers should be vested in local governments, address the insufficiency of judges in lower courts, etc. to ensure speedier decision making.

(6) Sustaining macroeconomic stability:

  • Flexible fiscal framework that limited deficits and debt, and a flexible exchange rate mechanism backed up by a credible inflation-targeting monetary policy could help sustain long periods of growth.
  • Effective restructuring, regulating, and supervising of the financial sector must be ensured so that the present NPA crisis can be effectively handled.

(7) Changing orientation of social programs:

  • Social programs should target the middle class as well as poorer sections of society.
  • Ramping up domestic demand is also important—an expanding middle class can use its increasing purchasing power to buy high-quality, innovative products and help drive growth.
  • Inequality is a barrier to the broadening of the demand base in an economy.
  • This could be achieved through initiatives like low-cost housing for first-time homebuyers in cities, programs to ensure that recent graduates get suitable employment opportunities, etc.

Way forward

  • Rapidly improving human capital–– healthy individuals, including all women, with the basic education to continually learn and adapt––will be key to sustaining India’s dynamic growth trajectory.
  • Rapidly improving agricultural productivity––against the headwinds of climate change and water scarcity––will be another key to achieving good growth and hence sustainable growth.
  • And, of course, the hyper globalization backlash in advanced countries, over which India has little control, must recede to create a favorable external climate to sustain rapid growth.
  • There is no Late Converger Stall, as yet, but it would be wise to act to head it off.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Integrated Theatre Command

Content

India is set to begin a formal roll-out of its long-awaited theaterisation plan to best utilise its military’s resources amid growing security threats, with the Air Defense Command and the Maritime Theatre Command set to be launched by May.

Present structure

  • The Indian armed forces currently have 17 commands.
  • There are 7 commands each of the Army [Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, South-western and Army Training Command (ARTRAC)].
  • Air Force has [Western, Eastern, Southern, South-western, Central, Training and Maintenance].
  • The Navy has 3 commands [Western, Eastern and Southern].
  • Each command is headed by a 4-star rank military officer.
  • Interestingly, none of these 17 commands is co-located at the same station, nor are their areas of operational responsibility contiguous.
  • In addition, there are 2 tri-service commands [Strategic Forces Command (SFC)] and Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC)], which is headed by rotation by officers from the 3 Services.

How do the 17 commands coordinate during the war?

  • Coordination of operations is expected to be carried out at the level of Service Headquarters through the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), which is headed by the senior-most Service Chief who is designated as Chairman, COSC.
  • He is expected to simultaneously perform both the roles of Chief of his Service as well as the Chairman, COSC.
  • The COSC generally functions on the principle of consensus, and this makes decision making on jointness very difficult.
  • India has an integrated theatre command only in ANC.
  • The other tri-service command, the SFC, looks after the delivery and operational control of the country’s nuclear assets.
  • It was created in 2003, but because it has no specific geographic responsibility and a designated role, it is not an integrated theatre command but an integrated functional command.
  • There has been a demand for other integrated functional commands, such as the cyber, aerospace and Special Operations commands, but the government is yet to approve any.

What is a theatre command?

  • An integrated theatre command envisages a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander, for geographical theatres that are of security concern.
  • The commander of such a force will be able to bring to bear all resources at his disposal (from the IAF, the Army and the Navy) with seamless efficacy.
  • It will not be answerable to individual Services and will be free to train, equip and exercise his command to make it a cohesive fighting force capable of achieving designated goals.
  • The logistic resources required to support his operations will also be placed at the disposal of the theatre commander so that he does not have to look for anything when operations are ongoing.
  • This is in contrast to the model of service-specific commands which India currently has, wherein the Army, Air Force and Navy all have their own commands all over the country.
  • In case of war, each Service Chief is expected to control the operations of his Service through individual commands, while they operate jointly.

The committee, which was headed by Lt General DB Shekatkar (retd) has recommended the creation of 3 integrated theatre commands i.e.;  

  1. Northern for the China border,
  2. Western for the Pakistan border and
  3. Southern for the maritime role.

Why is the need to integrate Armed Forces?

  • The remarkable technological advancements in science and technology in the 20th century have revolutionized the art of warfighting.
  • The nature of warfare itself has witnessed a paradigm shift in the planning and execution of operations.
  • The modern concept of warfighting relies on the tenets of real-time battlefield transparency 24 x 7, swift all-weather mobility under all battlefield conditions and immense lethality of firepower independent of range limitations.
  • The modern-day wars will be fought with simultaneity in a non-linear pattern across the spectrum of land, sea and air.
  • The execution of operations would entail well-coordinated offensive-defensive manoeuvres, net-centric operations, information warfare, cyber-attacks, possibly under nuclear overhang etc.
  • India has two hostile nuclear neighbours. Additionally, India’s security threats include Pak sponsored terror in J&K as part of an instrument of state power, Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in almost half the districts in the country and international power play unfolding in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) as well as Asia-Pacific Regions.
  • India today, as an economic & military power, must play a much larger role in the evolving geo-strategic environment in the region, particularly in the maritime domain.
  • In such a complex operational environment, militaries have little option but to adopt methods of integrated warfighting.
  • To effectively counter the list of security challenges, India will have to integrate the Armed Forces.

How is Joint Command different from Integrated Command?

  • Jointness means that while the 3 Services progress and develop in their respective spheres with their independent identity, they function together and so coordinate their operations in war.
  • Integrated commands, on the other hand, seek to merge individual service identities to achieve a composite and cohesive whole.
  • It implies enmeshing the three Services together at different levels and placing them under one commander for the execution of operational plans.

Pros

  • Better acclimatisation of troops to the given battle space, which will assist them to comprehend the operational requirements correctly in the assigned area of operation.
  • Training needs and administrative requirements of the troops can be better understood, which would allow specialisation and suitable honing of battle drills at all levels.
  • Equipment can be procured, maintained and pre-positioned for quick mobilisation and apt application during the envisaged, short-duration, high-intensity war.
  • The allocation of military hardware, in terms of weapon systems, command, control and communication equipment and combat support elements will be theatre specific and result in optimisation of the resources.
  • Unified command of the three Services under one designated commander will allow for prompt and precise decision making and will remove unnecessary tri-services one-man-up ship.
  • Hence, it goes without saying, that the theatre commands will afford better coordination, intelligence sharing, apt advice and seamless conduct of operations in a given theatre of operation.

Challenges

  • The very first challenge is the mindset of the military hierarchy. There is deep-rooted insecurity among the Services, arising out of loss of absolute authority over its Service, loss of identity of each Service in an integrated set up and erosion of empire within each Service. This may lead to unwillingness among the Armed Forces to integrate.
  • Secondly, the lack of political will despite being convinced about the requirement of integration of the Armed Forces. There is a sense of reluctance arising out of insecurity to bestow the complete authority of Armed Forces with one individual.
  • Thirdly, the structure of command, i.e. who will report to who within the tri-services and joint theatre command configurations, and who will have operational command over personnel and machinery, service chiefs or theatre commanders.
  • Fourthly, shortage of resources within the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has only 31 operational squadrons against a modest sanctioned strength of 42, would make it difficult for the IAF to permanently station assets in a particular command with territorial boundaries.
  • The fifth challenge is the inter-services competition wherein each service zealously oversees its own assets and strives for a greater share of the defense budget and influence might prove to be an obstacle in creating synergy among the services.
  • Last but not the least, India’s limited experience with integrated command structures may require a fair bit of mid-course corrections which would require problems to be timely identified and remedied, and slow down the integration process regardless.

Is everybody happy with the proposed idea?

  • While the Army and the Navy are on board with the proposal, the Air Force has certain reservations.
    • One, the Air Force does not want the Air Force chief to lose operational control of Air assets.
    • Two, the Air Force is concerned that all of its assets might be divided within these integrated theatres.
  • All such concerns need to be addressed before such a significant transformation of the defence set-up takes place.

Conclusion

  • Even though both merits and demerits highlight logical arguments, the truth is this was a much-needed reform in Indian Armed Forces.
  • Thus this integration would lead to theaterisation which would further lead to the modernization of forces. Until now, modernization was implemented from the equipment and weapons system per se but this restructuring into unified commands is the other side of modernization of forces.
  • Even though there is a line of difference between Jointmanship among armed forces and Integration of Armed Forces, cooperation is a prerequisite of armed forces.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Model Tenancy Act-2019

Context

    The ministry of housing and urban affairs recently came out with the draft Model Tenancy Act 2019. The draft Act is aimed at increasing accountability in the rental home ecosystem. It addresses factors like the need to have a formal rent agreement, how much security deposit should be paid, rate of rent increase and grounds for eviction. While the draft tries to strike a balance between the rights of the tenants and homeowners, there is some debate about whether it promotes the interests of one over the other

Why this act?

  • Restrictive Laws: As per Census 2011, more than 1 crore houses were lying vacant in urban areas. The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession. 
  • Large scale informalisation in sector: One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.
  • Lack of Uniformity: Since it is a state subject, states have enacted their laws and it differs from one state to another.
  • Housing Poverty: 2013 report by a Task Force for Rental Housing held that affordable rental housing “addresses the issues of the underprivileged and inclusive growth, in an even more direct manner than affordable ownership housing”. Model Tenancy Act helps bring investment in the sector as the sector provides better safeguards.

Features of act

  • Mandatory Rent Agreement: The act makes it mandatory to create a written lawful rent agreement between the owner and tenant. 
  • Rent Authority: The Act requires establishing rent authorities in every district to regulate renting of premises.
    •  Both the landlord and tenant will have to submit a copy of the rent agreement to the district Rent Authority.
    •  The proposed authority will also provide a speedy adjudication mechanism for the resolution of disputes.
  • Tribunal and Courts: It calls for creating dedicated tribunals and courts for dealing with tenancy related disputes.
  •  Security Deposit: The act puts a cap on the amount of security deposit. It will be a maximum of two months of rent in case of residential premises and six months in case of non-residential premises.
  • Subletting: The act bars tenants from subletting the property in part or whole.
  • Vacating Rental Premises: It says that if a landlord has fulfilled all the conditions stated in the rent agreement, then the tenant has to vacate the premises. 
    • If the tenant fails to vacate the premises, then the landlord is entitled to double the monthly rent for the first two months and four times after that.
  • Increase in Rent: The rent can be revised according to the terms and conditions mentioned in the agreement. If there is no such agreement, the landowner will have to give a 3 months notice to the tenant before revising the rent.
  • Coverage: The Act will apply to premises rented for residential, commercial, or educational use but not for industrial use. It also won’t cover hotels, lodging, etc. This model law will be applied prospectively and will not affect existing tenancies.

Need for Model tenancy act

(1) Unlocking homes

  • It will unlock vacant houses for rental purposes
  • It will enable the creation of adequate rental housing stock for all the income groups thereby addressing the issue of homelessness.

(2) Helping migrants

  • Rental housing is a preferred option for students and migrants.
  • It will balance the rights of both landlords and tenants.

(3) Effective negotiations

  • There is no monetary ceiling under MTA, which enables parties to negotiate and execute the agreement on mutually agreed terms.
  • It will give confidence to landlords to let out their vacant premises, the housing ministry said.
  • The Act also tries to address how a renter can legitimately increase the rent.

(4) Control over encroachments

  • It has proposed limiting the advance security deposits to two months’ rent and has also suggested heavy penalties for tenants who decide to overstay.
  • Those who do may have to shell out double the rent for two months and even four months.

(5) Rights of tenants

  • The landowner cannot cut power and water supplies in case of a dispute and would have to provide a 24-hour notice to tenants to carry out repair work.
  • Should the landlords wish to increase the rent, they will need to provide a three-months notice to the tenants.
  • These measures would go a long way in protecting the rights of a tenant as it regulates the rent hikes that tenants have had to face.

Scope of coverage

MTA applies to any premises, which is, let separately for residence or commercial or educational use except industrial use.

However, MTA does not provide what constitutes residence/commercial/educational/industrial use. Besides, MTA does not apply to the following premises–

  • Hotel, lodging house, dharamshala or inn etc.
  • Premises owned or promoted by:
  • The Central/ State/ UT Government.
  • Local Authority.
  • Government undertaking or enterprise.
  • Statutory body.
  • Cantonment board.
  • Premises owned by a company, university or organization given on rent to its employees as part of service contract.
  • Premises owned by owned by religious or charitable institutions as may be specified by notification.
  • Premises owned by owned by any trust registered under the Public Trust Act of the State.
  • Premises owned by owned by Wakfs registered under the Wakf Act, 1995.
  • Any other building specifically exempted in public interest through notification.

However, if the owner of any of the premises mentioned in (b) to (g) wishes a tenancy agreement to be regulated under MTA, then he can inform the same to the Rent Authority.

Significance

  • The model act will be applied prospectively and will not affect existing tenancies.
  • When enforced in all states, it will lead to a better regulated rental house market for middle and high-income segments.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana( Housing for all by 2022 mission ) has a component of having 20 per cent of 2 crore houses shall be created exclusively for rent.
  • This informality is the key reason why this housing segment, despite its huge potential, remains largely untapped. When landlords and tenants have a common platform to refer to understand the market dynamics, the rental housing segment would slowly march towards transparency and a formal setup.
  • A segment-specific court would mean the grievance redressal mechanism would work efficiently. This would generate in landlords the confidence to let out their units, which they otherwise shy away from, fearing squatting and other such unfavourable consequences.
  • A cap on security deposits would make a correction in these markets, where housing is expensive and renting is not cheap either.
  • Squatting by tenants is the key reason why landlords are wary of letting their unoccupied property. Since the policy sets monetary penalties for squatting, landlords will have greater confidence.
  • This would work as an alternative to eliminate the problem of the housing shortage in view of the ever-increasing population in India.

Drawbacks of the MTA

  • Non-Binding nature: Land and Urban Development is a state subject. The states may or may not adopt the proposed law, as done by them in the case of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act.
  • Prospective effect: The new model act would have a prospective effect. This means it would be applicable to future disputes only, hence past disputes would continue to linger on for years.
  • Inadequate Security Cover: Security Cap for two months may not be enough to cover damages, especially during the last month when tenants adjust their rent in the security deposit.
  • Lacunae in the formation of the Act: The act fails to properly define the term ‘habitation’. Further, it fails to mention the penalty if the owner delays in paying back the security deposit. Also, it is altogether silent on sudden leave and license arrangements.

What is the impact on Real Estate?

  • Model Tenancy Act will fuel the rental housing supply by attracting more investors
  • More rental housing stock will help students, working professionals and migrant populations to find urban accommodation.
  • Aimed at bridging the trust deficit between tenants and landlords by clearly delineating their obligations that will open up more players in the field confidence to landlords.
  • Attract corporate players to provide serviced apartments for their employees.

Way forward

  • Protection of rights: The Model Tenancy Act, 2019 is a progressive step in matters related to rent and rental housing in the Indian real estate sector. By combining a range of clauses covering aspects from the security deposit to rent tribunals, the draft policy will aid in protecting the rights of the tenants as well as the property owners.
  • Special authority setup: It also proposes the establishment of adjudicating authorities in an effort to lessen the burden on lower courts in the matters relating to tenancy. In doing so, it offers a comprehensive and well-structured approach to solving tenancy-related issues in India.
  • Needs improvement: Although the provisions offer a win-win situation for both tenants and landowners, the scope can still be broadened. For instance, the draft policy should draw a clear distinction between residential tenancies and commercial rental accommodations, which attract higher institutional investments. 
  • Must be made binding: The central and state governments can work in tandem to provide affordable rental housings. This will not only attract a lot of tenants but will also increase the supply of formal rental accommodations. 
  • Taking all the factors into consideration, including the setting up of tribunals and courts, the act does bring transparency, fixes accountability, and promotes fairness in the rental housing segment. 
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India and Israel-Palestine conflict

Content

When it comes to mediating international crises, India’s track record is a mixed bag. In recent decades, India has been unwilling or unable to be effective in resolving some of the conflicts in its immediate neighborhood. The recent 11-day Israel-Hamas conflict has encouraged some journalists, foreign policy elites, academics, and retired diplomats to flag India’s candidacy as a possible mediator.

India Israel relations

Background

  • Both nations became independent almost at the same time, in the late 1940s, following a long struggle against British Colonialism.
  • They both follow the democratic form of governance in a neighborhood where democracy is either frail or non-existent.
  • India announced its recognition of Israel on September 17th, 1950, following which the Jewish Agency established an immigration office in Bombay. This later became a Trade Office and subsequently a Consulate.
  • The diplomatic relationship between India and Israel was previously based on popular consensus and only much later became official.
  • However, while Israel had tried to forge close ties with India, the latter was reluctant to respond in kind.
  • This was because during that time India was a young state that needed to take into account Arab states’ numerical impact at the United Nations.
  • Furthermore, it could not afford to antagonize its Muslim population by establishing ties with a Jewish state. Sympathizing the Palestinian cause is a by-product of these motives.
  • In 1961, India is one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement along with President Nasser of Egypt. This significantly complicated India’s ties with the Jewish state.
  • Another hurdle that prevented the bilateral ties was India’s close ties with the Soviet Union while Israel inclined towards the US.

India’s shift towards Israel

Though India voted against a UN resolution for the creation of Israel, once Israel is created, India officially recognized Israel (in 1950). But full diplomatic ties were established only in 1992.

The reasons for this tectonic shift in the foreign policy stand were:

  • During these years, the popular perception of Israel was negative as it was a state formed on religion and analogous to Pakistan. However, the formation of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1969 which neglected the sentiments of Indian Muslims by blocking of India’s membership to this group by Pakistan is one of the primary triggers for the change instance. (Even today India is not a member of OIC).
  • India has received no backing from the Arab countries on Kashmir Issue. There have been no serious attempts by the Arab world to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in the cross-border insurgency in Kashmir.
  • Israel supported India during the Indo-Pak wars even before full diplomatic ties were established.
  • With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the US as a superpower, India started aligning itself with the US, and this further added to our improved relations with Israel.
  • After decades of Non-Alignment and Pro-Arab policy, in 1992 India changed its stance and established full diplomatic ties with Israel.

Collaborations between India and Israel

Military collaboration

  • India and Israel have increased collaboration in military ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The rise of Islamic extremist terrorism has helped both the countries to join hands against the global threat of terrorism.
  • India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest defense supplier to India after Russia.
  • In February 2014, India and Israel signed three important agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Cooperation in Homeland Security, and Protection of Classified Material.
  • Four working groups in areas of border management, internal security and public safety, police modernisation and capacity building for combating crime, crime prevention and cybercrime were established.
  • IAI is developing the Barak 8 missile for the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force which is capable of protecting sea vessels and ground facilities from aircraft and cruise missiles.
  • In 2016, the Indian government approved the purchase of two more Phalcon AWACS. India and Israel are also planning to hold their joint military exercise soon.

Political collaboration

  • Since the up-gradation of relations in 1992, defense and agriculture have become the two main pillars of the bilateral engagement.
  • The political ties have become especially cordial under the Modi Government.
  • In 2017, Prime Minister Modi became the first-ever Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel.
  • During this visit, the diplomatic relationship was upgraded to a strategic level and seven agreements/MoUs were signed in the areas of R&D, innovation, water, agriculture and space.
  • In 2018, the Israeli Prime Minister visited India, during which Government to Government (G2G) agreement on cybersecurity, oil and gas cooperation, film cooperation and air transport were signed, along with five other semi-government agreements.
  • An increase in the high-level exchanges in recent times has expanded cooperation in areas like trade, agriculture, science and technology and security.

Agriculture collaboration

  • India has chosen Israel as a strategic partner (G2G) in the field of agriculture.
  • This partnership evolved into the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project (IIAP), under the Indo Israel Action Plan, based on a MOU signed by Indian and Israeli ministers of Agriculture in 2006.
  • The partnership aim to introduce crop diversity, increasing productivity & increasing water use efficiency. 
  •  IIAP is implemented via establishment of Centers of Excellence (CoE), in which Israeli Technologies and know-how are disseminated tailored to local Indian conditions. 
  • India has a lot to learn from dryland agriculture of Israel. The Economic Survey 2016-17 batted for Indo-Israel cooperation in drip-irrigation technologies.
  • Israel has mastered water conservation techniques and India can learn from it.  It helps India to face its water stressed condition.
  • Another area of potential cooperation is cleaning polluted rivers.

Space collaboration

  • India and Israel have signed a cooperative agreement promoting space collaboration between both nations. 
  • The two countries have also signed an agreement outlining the deployment of TAUVEX, an Israeli space telescope array, on India’s GSAT-4, a planned navigation and communication satellite.
  • In 2008, TecSAR was successfully inserted into orbit by India’s PSLV. One of TecSAR’s primary functions is to monitor Iran’s military activities.

Economic collaboration

  • The bilateral merchandise trade stood at $5.02 billion (excluding defense) in 2016-17.
  • While exports from India were $3.06 billion, the import to India from Israel was $1.96 billion.
  • The diamond trade constitutes more than 53% of the bilateral trade.
  • India is Israel’s third-largest trading partner in Asia after China and Hong Kong.
  • In recent years, bilateral trade has diversified to include several sectors like pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT and telecom and homeland security.
  • Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones and metals, chemical products, textiles and textile articles etc.
  • Major imports from Israel include chemicals and mineral products, base metals and machinery and transport equipment. Potash is a major item of Israel’s exports to India.

Challenges in INDO-Israel relations

Sticky Points in the Relations:

  1. Bilateral Trade and investment still below potential: From just $200 million in 1992, bilateral trade (excluding defense) peaked at about $5 billion in 2012 but since then it has dropped to about $4 billion. Also, bilateral trade has not diversified much—diamonds and chemicals still make up for the large chunk of the pie.
  2. Private Sector still finding feet: Indian companies like Sun Pharma and ATG, a specialty tyre-maker, have big interests in Israel. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chinese are streets ahead of us in bilateral trade and their companies are investing heavily in Israel’s cutting-edge start-ups.
  3. Connectivity between two countries still poor with just one direct flight from Mumbai 3 times a week and no direct flights from Delhi.
  4. Historical retrenchment: India’s consistent support for a sovereign, independent, viable and united Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel and Pro-Arab stance has been a sticky point.
  5. Limited People to People ties and cultural differences: Israelis and Indian approach business differently and often find it difficult to get on the same page. Though formal ties were established in 1992, the ideological divide resurfaces time and again.

India- Palestine Relations

Background

  • The relationship with Palestine was almost an article of faith in Indian foreign policy for over four decades. 
  • At the 53rd UN session, India co-sponsored the draft resolution on the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. 
  • In the 1967 and 1973 wars, India lashed out at Israel as the aggressor. 
  • In the 1970s, India rallied behind the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) and its leader Yasser Arafat (received as Head of State) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
  • In 1988, when the PLO declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately. 
  • India opened a Representative Office in Gaza on 25 June 1996 which was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003.
  • India has thus consistently supported the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to a State and the consequent imperative need for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

Reasons for India siding with Palestine 

  • India’s own Partition along religious lines (Historical basis)
  • Solidarity with the Palestinian people who would be dispossessed (HR Perspective)
  • To ward off Pakistan’s plan to isolate India over Kashmir (Geopolitical reason) 
  • Later, India’s energy dependence on the Arab countries also became a factor (Economic & Pragmatism)
  • To appeal to the sentiments of India’s own Muslim citizens (Domestic Politics)

Changes after 1991- Pragmatism

  • The opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992 marked an end to four decades of giving Israel the cold shoulder.
  • India’s decision to normalize ties with Israel in 1992 came against the backdrop of the break-up of the Soviet Union, the need for economic pragmatism (i.e. access to Israeli technology), common threats of terrorism and massive shifts in the geopolitics of West Asia on account of the first Gulf War in 1990. 
  • The India-Israel relationship continued to grow, mostly through defense deals, and in sectors such as science and technology and agriculture.
  • There were few high-profile visits, and they all took place when the BJP-led NDA-1 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in office.

Balancing act with Palestine

  • India voted in favour of a resolution in the General Assembly opposing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
  • At the UNHRC’s 46th session in Geneva earlier this year, India voted against Israel in three resolutions – 
    • one on the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people 
    • A second on Israeli settlement policy, and
    • A third on the human rights situation in the Golan Heights.
  • In the current context of violence, India in its official statement appears to implicitly hold Israel responsible for triggering the current cycle of violence by locating its beginnings in East Jerusalem rather than from Gaza. 
  • The statement was also emphatic that “the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem including the Haraml al Sharif/Temple Mount must be respected. (The site, administered by Jordan, is revered in both Islam and Judaism. Jewish worshippers are not allowed inside, but have often tried to enter forcibly)

Recent Israel-Palestine dispute and India’s stand on it

Recently Israeli armed forces have penetrated Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem. Hamas retaliated by firing rockets on Israel. In retaliation, Israeli airstrikes targeted the Gaza Strip. This invoked the Indian response to the Israel-Palestine dispute once again. The India’s stand can be observed by following points,

  • Not resolutely standing with Israel: Recently, the Israeli Prime Minister mentioned the 25 countries that support Israeli actions. The countries include United States, Albania, etc. But India was not among the list of 25 countries.
  • Concern towards Palestine: India expressed deep concern over the violence in Jerusalem. Especially on Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount that too in the holy month of Ramzan.
  • Advocating Status-quo: India urged both sides to “refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo”. Further, India also demanded, “the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem, including Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount must be respected“.
  • Respecting the sentiments of both Israel and Palestine: India in its official statement mentioned both the “Haram esh-Sharif and Temple Mount”. This is a symbol of mutual respect by India on the religious sentiments of Israel and Palestine.
  • According to the Palestinian narrative, they only maintain Haram esh-Sherif. I.e. exclusive Islamic control and ownership.
  • On the other hand, the Israelis mention only Temple Mount. I.e. exclusive control and ownership of Jews.
  • All these signifies India’s commitment towards its de-hyphenation policy on Israel and Palestine

India’s de-hyphenation policy on Israel and Palestine

As a part of the Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine. It means India’s relationship with Israel will depend upon its own merits. Also, it will be independent and separate from India’s relationship with the Palestinians. In simple terms, it means, India will have its bilateral strategic ties with Israel irrespective of its political stance on the Israel-Palestine issue. Instead, India will treat both countries as mutually independent and exclusive. The developments under this phase are:-

  • No Indian PM has visited Israel supporting the Palestinian cause. But the de-hyphenation policy enabled the first Indian PM visit to Israel in 2017. During the visit, both countries signed 7 MoUs. This includes sectors such as Agriculture, Water Conservation, India-Israel Industrial Research and Development and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F), etc.
  • To commemorate 25 years of Indian-Israeli relations, the Israeli Prime Minister visited India in 2018. During that, he honoured the Indian soldiers who perished in the Battle of Haifa during World War I.
  • So far India has maintained the image of a historical moral supporter for Palestinian self-determination.  At the same time, the policy of de-hyphenation allowed India to engage in the military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel.
  • India voted for a resolution criticising the U.S. for recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. This reassured India’s principle on long-standing policy on Palestine.

Way Forward

  • Continuation of approach: Given the constraints faced by opponents to government policy, it is unlikely that India is going to change course regarding its approach towards Israel and the Palestinians. The political establishment is broadly supportive of the direction which began under Congress in the 1980s-90s and which has sharpened under Modi and the BJP since 2014.
  • Balancing Act: As the UN vote over Jerusalem demonstrated, Indian policymakers believe that they can accommodate both the demands of the international community to maintain previous commitments regarding Jerusalem (and the Palestinians) while also developing more extensive ties with Israel. They therefore pursue what they believe is a balanced approach without regard for the underlying dynamics and structural disparities between the conflict parties.
  • In sum, Indian policy appears to be guided primarily by strategic considerations. In a context in which India has developed a strategic partnership with the United States — Israel’s foremost ally — it seems highly unlikely that New Delhi will embrace the role of a peacemaker, no matter how many times it votes to uphold prior international commitments regarding the status of Jerusalem or the Palestinian question. 
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Central Bureau of Investigation

Context

The 1985 batch officer from Maharashtra cadre, and currently posted as director-general of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Subodh Kumar Jaiswal has been appointed as the new director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused the government of adopting a “casual and superficial” approach in selecting the new CBI director and questioned the shortlisting process, saying it is in conflict with the mandate of the selection committee.

Background

  • The Bureau of Investigation traces its origins to the Special Police Establishment, a Central Government Police force, which was set up in 1941 by the Government of India to investigate bribery and corruption in transactions with the War and Supply Department of India.
  •  It had its headquarters in Lahore. The first legal adviser of the War Department was Rai Sahib Karam Chand Jain.
  • After the end of the war, there was a continued need for a central governmental agency to investigate bribery and corruption by central-government employees.
  • The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated 1.4.1963. The founding director of the CBI was D. P. Kohli, who held office from 1 April 1963 to 31 May 1968.
  • The CBI established a reputation as India’s foremost investigative agency with the resources for complicated cases, and it was requested to assist the investigation of crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and terrorism.
  •  In 1987, the CBI was divided into the following divisions: the Anti-Corruption Division, the Special Crimes Division, the Economic Offences Division, the Policy and International Police Cooperation Division, the Administration Division, the Directorate of Prosecution Division, and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory Division.

Mandate of CBI

  • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the GOI. It is not a statutory body; it derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. 
  • Its important role is to prevent corruption and maintain integrity in administration. It works under the supervision of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) in matters pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. 
  • Investigate cases connected to infringement of economic and fiscal laws, i.e., breach of laws concerning customs and central excise, export and import control, income tax, foreign exchange regulations, etc. But cases of this nature are taken up by the CBI either at the request of the department concerned or in consultation with the concerned department.
  • Investigate crimes of a serious nature that have national and international ramifications, and committed by professional criminals or organized gangs.
  • To coordinate the activities of the various state police forces and anti-corruption agencies.
  • At the behest of a state govt., the CBI can also take up any case of public importance and investigate it.
  • Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
  • The CBI is India’s representative for correspondence with the INTERPOL. 

Notable cases cracked by CBI

  • Bhanwri Devi missing case: Jat leader and former Rajasthan minister Mahipal Maderna, Congress MLA Malkhan Singh and Bhanwari’s husband Amarchand were all part of the conspiracy to abduct and eliminate Bhanwari. Bhanwari had threatened to expose Malkhan’s relationship with her at the Bishnoi mahapanchayat.  Maderna, Malkhan, the three kidnappers and Sahiram along with Amarchand were arrested by the CBI.
  • Noida double murder case: In May 2008, the nation was shocked with the sensational double murders in Noida. The victims were Arushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade. Initially, there was no clarity about the motive or the perpetrator of this ghastly crime. After a lengthy investigation which spanned close to 6 years, the CBI based on circumstantial evidence established that the parents of Aarushi Talwar, Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar were the perpetrators of this crime. 
  • The Satyam Case:  B Ramalinga Raju, the disgraced chairman of Satyam Computers Services Ltd, along with 13 individuals and entities including Chintalapati Srinivasa Raju of iLabs, made Rs 2,000 crore in illegal wealth in the Satyam scam. The CBI constituted a Multi-Disciplinary Investigation Team (MDIT) to investigate the case. The team worked hard, burnt midnight oil and achieved success in a record time of 45 days when it filed its first chargesheet against the accused for offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and falsification of accounts.

Issues with CBI

  • The Supreme Court of India has criticised the CBI by calling it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”, due to excessive political interference in its functioning.
  • It has often been used by the government of the day to cover up wrongdoing, keep coalition allies in line and political opponents at bay.
  • It has been accused of enormous delays in concluding investigations – For example, the inertia in its probe against the high dignitaries in Jain hawala diaries case [of the 1990s].
  • Loss of Credibility: Improving the image of the agency is one of the biggest challenges till now as the agency has been criticised for its mismanagement of several cases involving prominent politicians and mishandling of several sensitive cases like Bofors scandal; Hawala scandal, Sant Singh Chatwal case, Bhopal gas tragedy, 2008 Noida double murder case(Aarushi Talwar).
  • Lack of Accountability: CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act, thus, lacking public accountability.
  • Acute shortage of personnel: A major cause of the shortfall is the government’s sheer mismanagement of CBI’s workforce, through a system of inefficient, and inexplicably biased, recruitment policies – used to bring in favoured officers, possibly to the detriment of the organisation.
  • Limited Powers: The powers and jurisdiction of members of the CBI for investigation are subject to the consent of the State Govt., thus limiting the extent of investigation by CBI.
  • Restricted Access: Prior approval of Central Government to conduct inquiry or investigation on the employees of the Central Government, of the level of Joint Secretary and above is a big obstacle in combating corruption at higher levels of bureaucracy.

Why was it called caged carrot by the Supreme Court?

  • Politicisation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been a work in progress for years.
  • Corruption and Politically biased: This was highlighted in Supreme Court criticism for being a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice.
  • CBI has been accused of becoming ‘handmaiden’ to the party in power; as a result high profile cases are not treated seriously.
  • Since CBI is run by central police officials on deputation hence chances of getting influenced by government was visible in the hope of better future postings.

Way Forward

  • Need for autonomy:   As long as the government of the day has the power to transfer and post officials of its choice in the CBI, the investigating agency will not enjoy autonomy and will be unable to investigate cases freely. A new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision.
  • Selection of director/ Officers: To ensure that the CBI is a robust, independent and credible investigation agency, there is an urgent need to work out a much more transparent mechanism for selection of the Director and induction of officers on deputation.
  • The Lokpal Act already calls for a three-member committee made up of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the chief justice of the Supreme Court to select the director. However, not enough has been done to administratively protect CBI from political interference. For this to happen, the new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference. 
  • CBI should be bifurcated into an Anti-Corruption Body and a National Crime Bureau.
  • A comprehensive new central law should govern the working of the institution. The law should specifically provide for appointment of a special public prosecutor who will have full independence to deal with the politically and nationally sensitive cases and take a stand safeguarding public interest.
  • Develop own cadre: One of the demands that have been before Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers. The CBI did recruit some officers in the past to its cadre, but that effort has gone nowhere, and all senior posts in the CBI are now held by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers.
  • Annual social audit should be carried out by ten reputed, knowledgeable persons with background of law, justice, public affairs and administration and the audit report should be placed before the parliament.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Should sedition law be scrapped?

Two orders given by India’s Supreme Court in two separate cases early this month have, once again, brought into sharp focus the issue of the colonial-era law relating to sedition in the context of media freedom. Both cases involve journalists and their reporting.

One of the cases relates to the booking of two journalists of Telugu language news channels under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for telecasting a speech by a dissident leader of Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress Party. The other case pertains to an FIR filed against noted journalist Vinod Dua, who was accused of having made remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government’s handling of the migrant labor crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. In the hearings in both cases, the top court has made important observations that have a strong bearing on media freedom and the future of the sedition law.

Background

  • Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for sedition. 
  • The Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1860, under the British Raj. The then British government in India feared that Muslim preachers on the Indian subcontinent would wage a war against the government. Particularly after the successful suppression of the Wahabi/Waliullah Movement by the British, the need was felt for such law. 
  • Throughout the Raj, this section was used to suppress activists in favor of national independence, including Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom were found guilty and imprisoned.
  •  Sedition was made a cognizable offense for the first time in history in India during the tenure of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973, that is, arrest without a warrant was now permissible.
  • In 1962 the Supreme Court of India interpreted the section to apply only if there is, say, “incitement to violence” or “overthrowing a democratically elected government through violent means”.

What is Sedition?

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines Sedition (Section 124A) as an offence committed when “any person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India”.
  • Disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. 
  • However, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offence.
  • Sedition is a non-bailable offence.
  • Punishment under Section 124A ranges from imprisonment up to three years to a life term with/without a fine.

The debate around

Arguments in favor

  • Section 124A is needed in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
  • It protects the elected government from attempts to be overthrown with violence and illegal means.
  • Many districts in different states are affected by Maoist insurgency and rebel groups virtually run a parallel administration. These groups openly advocate the overthrow of the state government by revolution. Hence the abolition of Section 124A would be ill-advised.

Arguments against

  • Before Independence, this charge was used by the British to suppress the freedom movement.
  • Ironically, the same draconian law has become a tool that the country is now using against its own people.
  • During the colonial period section, 124-A was interpreted by the Privy Council in a way to suppress every act that expressed discontent against the govt.
  • Many freedom fighters were slapped with these charges for invoking feelings of nationalism and educating the people of India against the policies adopted by the colonial power.
  • Instead of critically analyzing why citizens, be they in Kashmir or Chhattisgarh or Bhima Koregaon, are driven to dissent, the government is using an iron-fist policy with the sedition law playing a leading role to completely shut out contrarian views.
  • Despite the clearly set out guidelines for applying the charge of sedition, lower courts have routinely failed to apply these parameters while considering sedition cases. There is a complete lack of percolation of settled judicial opinion to lower levels of the judiciary. Judiciary should address this systemic lapse.
  • Magistrates have the power to order a police investigation into cognizable offenses. And the Supreme Court has, in Lalita Kumari vs. Uttar Pradesh (2013), laid down that registration of an FIR is mandatory if information received by the police discloses a cognizable offense, However, in recent cases, it is unclear how the court or the police could conclude that the contents were seditious.

Supreme Court judgments on it

  • In 1962, the Supreme Court decided on the constitutionality of Section 124A in Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar.
  • It upheld the constitutionality of sedition, but limited its application to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence”.
  • It distinguished these from “very strong speech” or the use of “vigorous words” strongly critical of the government.
  • Maneka Gandhi case, 1978:
  • The Maneka Gandhi judgment was a balanced judgment and is one of the best judgments that Indian Supreme Court has ever given.
  • The judgment’s importance can be seen today also because the way in which the bench construed Article 21and expanded its horizons has given way for the resolving of problems left unsolved by the Parliament.
  • The SC stated that Criticizing and drawing general opinion against the Govt. policies and decisions within a reasonable limit that does not incite people to rebel is consistent with the freedom of speech.
  • In 1995, the Supreme Court, in Balwant Singh v State of Punjab, held that mere sloganeering which evoked no public response did not amount to sedition.

Way Forward

  • The sedition law should not be abolished as some measurements are needed to check communal violence & insurgency activities like Naxals.
  • The court also needs to examine the classification of the offense of sedition as cognizable and non-bailable.
  • India is the largest democracy in the world and the right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy.
  • Section 124A should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech. The SC caveat, given in the Kedar Nath case, on prosecution under the law can check its misuse.
  • The definition of sedition should be narrowed down, to include only the issues pertaining to the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Global Minimum Corporate Tax

Content

Finance Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations have reached a landmark accord setting a global minimum corporate tax rate, an agreement that could form the basis of a worldwide deal.

Global Minimum Corporate Tax

  • Major economies are aiming to discourage multinational companies from shifting profits – and tax revenues – to low-tax countries regardless of where their sales are made.
  • Increasingly, income from intangible sources such as drug patents, software, and royalties on intellectual property has migrated to these jurisdictions.
  • This has allowed companies to avoid paying higher taxes in their traditional home countries.
  • With a broadly agreed global minimum tax, the Biden administration hopes to reduce such tax base erosion without putting American firms at a financial disadvantage.

How would such tax work?

  • The global minimum tax rate would apply to companies’ overseas profits.
  • Therefore, if countries agree on a global minimum, governments could still set whatever local corporate tax rate they want.
  • But if companies pay lower rates in a particular country, their home governments could “top-up” their taxes to the agreed minimum rate, eliminating the advantage of shifting profits to a tax haven.
  • The Biden administration has said it wants to deny exemptions for taxes paid to countries that don’t agree to a minimum rate.

Reasons why the USA is proposing it

  • Hike in tax rates: The plan seeks to increase the US corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The ex-US President had reduced the corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent.
  • Revitalization: It aims to revitalize the transportation infrastructure, water systems with other goals.
  • An increase in the tax rate and other measures to prevent the offshoring of profits will fund it.
  • More cooperation: It will support integration instead of isolationism.
  • Tax evasion: The plan will stop firms from shifting profits to tax haven countries.
  • Stability: The bill aims to stabilize tax systems to raise enough revenue to invest in public welfare.

Significance

  • This measure will help close cross-border tax loopholes used by some of the world’s biggest companies, thus will help limit base erosion and profit sharing (BEPS).
  • Increasingly, income from intangible sources such as drug patents, software and royalties on intellectual property has migrated to the low tax jurisdictions, allowing companies to avoid paying higher taxes in their traditional home countries.
    • As per some estimates, countries are losing $427 billion every year to tax havens. India suffers an annual loss of $10.3 billion from global tax abuse.
  • This agreement marks a much necessary reform of the global tax system to make it fit for the current global digital age where cross-border digital services are gaining prominence.
  • The introduction of a global minimum corporate tax will contribute to ending the decades-long “race to the bottom on corporate tax rates”, in which countries have resorted to ultra-low tax rates and tax exemptions to lure multinationals companies to invest.
  • Such measures have cost such countries hundreds of billions of dollars whereas the corporate entities have only grown richer.
  • This landmark agreement could form the basis of a worldwide deal.
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has been coordinating tax negotiations among 140 countries on rules for taxing cross-border digital services and curbing tax base erosion, including a global corporate minimum tax. The OECD and G20 countries aim to reach consensus on both by mid-year.
  • The agreement has committed to reaching an equitable solution on the allocation of taxing rights. It will focus on protecting the interest of the market countries by awarding such countries certain degree of taxing rights on the profits of the multinational enterprises.
  • This will help ensure that MNCs would pay taxes where they operate and record their profits from based on the concept of ‘Significant Economic Presence’.

International Stand

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been coordinating tax negotiations among 140 countries for years on rules for taxing cross-border digital services and curbing tax base erosion, including a global corporate minimum tax.
  • The International Monetary Fund has long favored the adoption of a global minimum tax on corporate profits as it would help in the reduction of current disparities in the national corporate tax rate.
  • It would largely help in reducing tax shifting and tax avoidance.
  • It would reduce the tax base on which governments could collect revenues for funding economic and social spending.

Criticism/ Challenges

  • A global minimum rate would essentially take away a tool that countries use to push policies that suit them.
  • For instance, in the backdrop of the pandemic, IMF and World Bank data suggest that developing countries with less ability to offer mega stimulus packages may experience a longer economic hangover than developed nations. A lower tax rate is a tool they can use to alternatively push economic activity.
  • Also, a global minimum tax rate will do little to tackle tax evasion.
  • The inclusion of investment funds and real estate investment trusts under such a system could also lead to some differences during the negotiations.
  • Lack of consensus: Several countries have taken a different approach to the rate of global minimum tax.

India’s Stand

  • Indian Government has said that it is open to participate and engage in discussions about the Global Minimum corporate tax structure.
  • It said that the government will look into the pros and cons of the new proposal and take a view thereafter.

How Global Minimum Tax would benefit India?

  • The proposal, along with the increased tax bill for U.S. companies, may benefit the Indian revenue department.
  • The State of Tax Justice report of 2020 notes that India loses over $10 billion in tax revenue due to the use of offshore structures, particularly through investments made by Indian residents through Mauritius, Singapore and the Netherlands.
  • This is supported by the overseas direct investment (ODI) data from 2000 to 2021 published by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • Start-ups and large Indian conglomerates commonly use offshore structures for conducting global operations.
  • Revenue from such operations is often retained offshore and not repatriated to India.
  • Tax advantages incentivise such structures, due to which taxes on such income are not paid in India.
  • Once these proposals are implemented, Indian companies would have to pay additional taxes on their offshore structures to the extent that the effective rate of tax is lower than the global minimum tax rate.

Way Forward

  • The agreement will be discussed in detail at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in July in Venice with an expectation to get broader support from countries that may lose investment due to the new policy.
  • There is a need to support this effort by the US government to build a consensus among the G20 countries to increase the corporate tax rate and to end the race to reduce corporate tax in the world so that the pandemic ridden world is able to come out fast of its economic problems and efforts of development can be speeded up in all the countries of the world.
  • Even though a lot more remains to be done to achieve parity in international financial relations and the advancement of the goals of global tax justice, the global corporate minimum tax could go a long way in the accomplishment of these aims.
  • Countries like India should not be recalcitrant about signing on to this proposal, and should approach this idea with cautious optimism.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Rise of DarkNet/Darkweb

Context

The dark web refers to websites on the darknet, a network built over the internet which provides added anonymity. Many users surf the dark web due to its greater privacy levels compared to the regular internet, AKA the ‘clear web’. It can also, however, offer a platform to criminals looking to trade illegal goods and orchestrate darknet scams.

Introduction

  • A darknet or darknet is an overlay network within the Internet that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorization, and often uses a unique customized communication protocol.
  • Dark Web is the virtual equivalent of a black market. Like Silk Road that marketed illegal drugs through the Dark Web, entities that want to operate out of the arms of the law seek refuge in the Dark Web.
  • The darknet, also known as the “dark web,” is a component of the greater “deep web,” a network of encrypted Internet content that is not accessible via traditional search engines.
  • The darknet is most often used for illegal activities such as black markets, illegal file sharing, and the exchanging of illegal goods or services (including stolen financial and private data), and the anonymity of the darknet attracts drug dealers, hackers, and child pornography peddlers.
  • Darknet markets have been instrumental in the development of cryptocurrencies because transactions completed on darknet markets using cryptocurrency protect both the buyer and seller.

Darknet Vs Darkweb

  • The terms “darknet” and “deep web” are occasionally used interchangeably. However, this is not correct.
  • The darknet is part of the greater deep web. The deep web encompasses all unindexed sites that don’t pop up when you do an Internet search.
  • Not all activities associated with the deep web are nefarious. In most cases, these pages are not searchable through traditional channels.
  • The darknet is part of the deep web, but it refers to websites that are specifically used for nefarious reasons. Darknet sites are purposefully hidden from the surface net by additional means. 

How it works

  • One of the most common ways that darknet websites are separated out from the surface net is through encryption. Most darknet websites use the Tor encryption tool to help hide their identity.
  • Tor allows individuals to hide their location, appearing as if they are in a different country. 
  • When individuals use Tor, their IP addresses and other identifying information are similarly encrypted.
  • It is not difficult for an individual to access the darknet as long as they have the proper encryption tools. 
  • The Tor encryption tool uses many layers of encryption and anonymizes all traffic by routing it through a dense network of secure relays. 
  • Tor software is not illegal but the way that it is used can be illegal. Tor is not always used to access darknet services.

Advantages

  • Express views: The dark web helps people to maintain privacy and freely express their views. Privacy is essential for many innocent people terrorized by stalkers and other criminals. 
  • Facilitate whistleblowing :The dark net can facilitate whistleblowing and news leaks, act as a tool to allow individuals to circumvent censorship networks, and can be used as a means of protecting political dissidents from reprisal.
  • Journalists seeking to interview citizens of repressive countries where communications are monitored might use the dark net. 
  • Undercover activities: The popularity of the dark web with criminals makes it a perfect way for undercover police officers to communicate.

Disadvantages

  • Computer crime (cracking, file corruption, etc.)
  • File sharing (warez, personal files, pornography, confidential files, illegal or counterfeit software, etc.)
  • Sale of restricted goods on darknet markets
  • Purchase or sale of illicit or illegal goods or services
  • Circumventing network censorship and content-filtering systems, or bypassing restrictive firewall policies.
  • While the dark web promises privacy to its users, it can also be used to violate the privacy of others. Private photos, medical records, and financial information have all been stolen and shared on the dark web.

Need of a data protection law

Data protection is a must in the age of digital era. The law should encompass all the aspects- data collection, processing and sharing practices in an integrated manner. The Kerala Police has set up a ‘state-of-the-art lab’ to intervene and crack down on the rising criminal activities over the Darknet, also known as the underworld of the Internet. The state must prevent and investigate digital crimes, prevent misuse of data and encourage data security through legislation.

  • Data theft protection: Unlike the data protection regulations in place in the European Union and in the U.S., India still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect data privacy. Considering the manner in which public data are being stored and used by both the state and private entities, data of individuals is at high risk for being misused in Darknet. For efficient management of data in the age of digitisation, a data protection law is needed.
  • Right to privacy: The Supreme Court (SC) in Justice K.S Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, declared that the right to privacy is an inherent part of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. Thus, it is the duty of the state to safeguard individual’s privacy through legislation.
  • Rising cyber-crime: Public data leaks have been quite common in India from government websites enabling the download of Aadhaar numbers to electoral data rolls being downloaded in bulk, among others. Due to increased digitisation and increased digital complexities, data protection is needed for the hour. Recent rise of crimes like WhatsApp, Pegasus scam demands a data protection law in place.
  • Regulating companies: Large amounts of personal data have been collected by state agencies and private companies and their flow across national boundaries has been a cause for concern. There are many instances that the state and private agencies that are using the personal data are not transparent on the purpose for which the data is being used. To curtail the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data a legislation must be in place.
  • Digital India: With a billion population, India has the second highest internet user base in the world. India has 450 million internet users and is expected to increase to 730 million by 2020. With emphasis on digital India, the government must ensure the safety of citizen’s data.

Darknet and India

  • The Centre has directed all law enforcement agencies to have eye over foreign-based content providers of data and metadata and to make legislative changes to provide immunity for cyber hackers, which law enforcement agencies use to counter Dark web transactions.
  • In India, the Information Technology Act deals with cybercrime and comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. There are only six sections in the law that deal with cybercrime.
  • Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is working with CSIR on developing a darknet telescope base cyber security monitoring and interference framework.  This will help law enforcement agencies track cyber criminals who are selling illegal products and services on such platforms and also track terrorism relate communications and activities.

Way Forward

Since the dark web serves as both a hotbed for illegal activity and a platform for users to anonymously voice their thoughts freely, there is demand for its continued existence. In the future, the dark web community will develop advanced tactics to evade detection by the authorities. To minimize the illegal activities on darknet following steps must be taken:-

  • Nodal agency: As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, it will increasingly be used to facilitate dark web transactions. To stop or minimize this a nodal agency must be set up so as to keep a check on crypto transactions used for nefarious activities.
  • Cybercrime units around the world must be kept updated with advancements in the darknet society thereby giving them enough power to handle and tackle any illegal activity across the darknet. There must be international cooperation to deal with the issue.
  • Kerala Police Department’s initiative, Cyberdome, a premier facility dedicated to prevent cybercrime and mitigate cybersecurity threats to the State’s critical information infrastructure, is a step in the right direction which other concerned authorities across the nation can learn from.
Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Achieving Carbon Neutrality

Context

For the country to transition to carbon neutrality is easier said than done, say, climate experts, as it needs to balance growth with eco-goals. A TERI and Shell report, ‘India: Transforming to a net-zero emissions energy system’, says it is “technically possible” to achieve the goal, but cautions that it would be a highly challenging pathway. TERI, warns that a complete phase-out of coal plants by 2050 is likely to be difficult because of the economics of harnessing incremental RE potential and subsequent integration to the grid system.

Introduction

Insights into Editorial: Deconstructing declarations of carbon-neutrality -  INSIGHTSIAS
  • Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. 
  • This can be done by balancing emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal (often through carbon offsetting) or by eliminating emissions from society.
  •  It is used in the context of carbon dioxide-releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industry.
  •  The term carbon neutral also includes other greenhouse gases, usually carbon-based, measured in terms of their carbon dioxide equivalence. 
  • The term “net-zero” is increasingly used to describe a broader and more comprehensive commitment to decarbonization and climate action. Net-zero emissions are achieved when your organization’s emissions of all greenhouse gases (CO2-e) are balanced by greenhouse gas removals

Methodology

Carbon-neutral status can be achieved in two ways:

  • Carbon offsetting: Balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon offsets — the process of reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make up for emissions elsewhere. If the total greenhouse gasses emitted is equal to the total amount avoided or removed, then the two effects cancel each other out and the net emissions are ‘neutral’.
  • Reducing emissions: Reducing carbon emissions can be done by moving towards energy sources and industrial processes that produce fewer greenhouse gases, thereby transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Shifting towards the use of renewable energy such as hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar power, as well as nuclear power, reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Agreement and Target

  • The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.
  • Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Article 4.1 of the Paris Agreement asks countries to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
  • It also requires countries to undertake rapid reductions in carbon emissions to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases.
China Beat the U.S. to a Carbon Neutrality Pledge

Global Actions regarding the agreement

  • Several other countries, including the UK and France, have already enacted laws promising to achieve a net-zero emission scenario by the middle of the century.
  • The EU is working a similar Europe-wide law, while many other countries including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Germany have expressed their intention to commit themselves to a net-zero future.
  • Even China has promised to go net-zero by 2060.
  • The hollowness of nation-level carbon neutrality declarations by developed countries is brought out starkly when we consider the details, as in the case of the United States.
  • Emissions in the U.S. peaked in 2005 and have declined at an average rate of 1.1% from then till 2017, with a maximum annual reduction of 6.3% in 2009, at the height of a recession.
  • Even if it did reach net-zero by 2050 at a steady linear rate of reduction, which is unprecedented, its cumulative emissions between 2018 and 2050 would be 106 GtCO2, which is 22% of the total remaining carbon budget for the whole world so high, that unless others reduced emissions at even faster rates, the world would most certainly cross 1.5°C warmings.
  • Regrettably, a section of the climate policy modeling literature has promoted the illusion that this three-way compatibility is feasible through speculative “negative emissions”, ostensibly through a dramatic expansion of carbon capture, primarily by the biosphere.
  • They have also been promoting the other illusion that not resorting to any serious emissions increase at all is the means to guarantee the successful development of the Third World.

India @Net Zero emission

  • India is the only one opposing this target because it is likely to be the most impacted by it.
  • Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
  • No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions.
  • Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.

Why does India object to net-zero emissions?

  • The net-zero goals do not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the new global architecture to fight climate change.
  • The Paris Agreement only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can.
  • Countries need to set five- or ten-year climate targets for themselves, and demonstrably show they have achieved them.
  • Implementation of the Paris Agreement has begun only this year.
  • Most of the countries have submitted targets for the 2025 or 2030 period.
  • India has been arguing that instead of opening up a parallel discussion on net-zero targets outside of the Paris Agreement framework, countries must focus on delivering on what they have already promised.

India’s step towards Net Zero emissions

  • India is hoping to lead by example. It is well on its way to achieving its three targets under the Paris Agreement and looks likely to overachieve them.
  • Several studies have shown that India is the only G-20 country whose climate actions are compliant with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C.
  • Even the actions of the EU, which is seen as the most progressive on climate change, and the US are assessed as “insufficient”.
  • In other words, India is already doing more, relatively speaking, on climate than many other countries.

How to achieve Net Zero emissions

  • Fossil fuels: The use of fossil fuels must go down steeply for the production of energy and electricity. Alternate sources must be bought into majority practices so as to achieve the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. Within renewables, the focus ought to be more on solar and wind energy—hydroelectricity, given its impact on aquatic ecology, at best maybe a filler. 
  • More electrification: Electricity is zero-emission when consumed, and the world needs to rely on it a lot more to hit its decarbonization goals. Much progress has been made in emerging economies, especially in Asia. But in many developed markets, the share of electricity in the total energy mix has stood still, or even slipped. For power companies, there needs to be a move away from fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
      (Wind & solar growth as part of global electricity generation)
https://www.investmentbank.barclays.com/content/barclaysmicrosites/ibpublic/en/our-insights/Emission-impossible-closing-in-on-net-zero/_jcr_content/parsys2/textimage_467205113.adaptive.full.med.image
  • Bioenergy to the fore once more: Focus must be shifted away from the “food versus fuel” dilemma, under which crop-based biofuels were linked with rising food prices, deforestation and conflict over land. Now there is a new generation of biofuels that can be made from inedible crops and oils, and from agricultural and municipal waste. 
               
                  (The production of biofuels from forestry waste)

   https://www.investmentbank.barclays.com/content/barclaysmicrosites/ibpublic/en/our-insights/Emission-impossible-closing-in-on-net-zero/_jcr_content/parsys2/textimage_1491388980.adaptive.full.med.image

  • Greater use of hydrogen: Hydrogen is light and storable and produces no direct CO2 emissions when converted into energy. That is why society needs to use more of it – and why governments should keep providing incentives to do so.
  • Carbon sequestration: Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.

 

                     (Global carbon capture and storage capacity)

     https://www.investmentbank.barclays.com/content/barclaysmicrosites/ibpublic/en/our-insights/Emission-impossible-closing-in-on-net-zero/_jcr_content/parsys2/textimage_197974798.adaptive.full.med.image

Way forward

  • Ours is the last generation that can prevent global disaster. The need for action is immediate. It therefore falls upon this generation of business, government and society leader to accelerate action individually and through collaboration.
  • All stakeholders – corporations, governments, investors and, ultimately, individuals – can take unilateral initiative to lower emissions, often with positive economic implications. Collective actions can support and amplify individual ones.
  • Where the costs and risks of taking action for individual companies are higher (for example, in emission-intensive sectors), ecosystems of industry peers, value chain players or public-private partnerships can work together, sharing the burden.
  • The world needs decisive action at every level to change the trajectory of ever-increasing emissions. In light of the facts, it should be viewed as an opportunity for businesses, countries and individuals to create an advantage in building a better, more sustainable world.
Categories
Burning Issues

CYCLONES in India

Context

Recently Cyclone Tauktae and Cyclone Yaas wreaked havoc in several states of India with  the credit for the cyclogenesis can be given to exceptionally warmer Indian seas this year, making atmospheric and ocean conditions favourable for frequent formation of cyclones and their rapid intensification.

Cyclones in India: Why cyclones are becoming severe - Times of India

Introduction

  • Cyclones are rapid inward air circulation around a low-pressure area. The air circulates in an anticlockwise direction in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern hemisphere.
  • Cyclones are usually accompanied by violent storms and bad weather.
  • The word Cyclone is derived from the Greek word Cyclos meaning the coils of a snake. It was coined by Henry Peddington because the tropical storms in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea appear like coiled serpents of the sea.

What are tropical Cyclones?

https://d18x2uyjeekruj.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/cu.jpg

  • A Tropical cyclone is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
  • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters. The temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 meters, need to be at least 28°C to support the formation of a cyclone.
  • This explains why the April-May and October-December periods are conducive for cyclones.
  • Then, the low level of air above the waters needs to have an ‘anticlockwise’ rotation (in the northern hemisphere; clockwise in the southern hemisphere).
  • During these periods, there is an ITCZ in the Bay of Bengal whose southern boundary experiences winds from west to east, while the northern boundary has winds flowing east to west.
  • Once formed, cyclones in this area usually move northwest. As it travels over the sea, the cyclone gathers more moist air from the warm sea which adds to its heft.

Formation of a Cyclone

https://sites.google.com/site/disasterportal/_/rsrc/1467134717099/stroms_cyclones/cyclone-formation/cy1.jpg

(The above figure shows how cyclones form. The green arrows show where warm air is rising. The red arrows indicate where cool air is sinking)

Requirements for a Cyclone to form

There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis:

  • Sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures.
  • Atmospheric instability.
  • High humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere.
  • Enough Coriolis force to develop a low-pressure center.
  • A preexisting low-level focus or disturbance.
  • Low vertical wind shear.

Origin

Tropical Cyclones: Favorable Conditions for Formation, Stages of Formation  & Structure | PMF IAS

  • The formation and initial development of a cyclonic storm depends upon the transfer of water vapour and heat from the warm ocean to the overlying air, primarily by evaporation from the sea surface.
  • It encourages formation of massive vertical cumulus clouds due to convection with condensation of rising air above the ocean surface.
  • Under favorable conditions, multiple thunderstorms originate over the oceans. These thunderstorms merge and create an intense low pressure system (wind is warm and lighter).

Early Stage 

Tropical Cyclone - hurricane -typhoon formation

  • In the thunderstorm, air is uplifted as it is warm and light. At certain height, due to lapse rate and adiabatic lapse rate, the temperature of air falls and moisture in the air undergoes condensation.
  • Condensation releases latent heat of condensation making the air more warmer. It becomes much lighter and is further uplifted.
  • The space is filled by fresh moisture laden air. Condensation occurs in this air and the cycle is repeated as long as the moisture is supplied.
  • Due to excess moisture over oceans, the thunderstorm intensifies and sucks in air at much faster rate. The air from surroundings rushes in and undergoes deflection due to Coriolis force creating a cyclonic vortex (spiraling air column. Similar to tornado).
  • Due to centripetal acceleration (centripetal force pulling towards the center is countered by an opposing force called centrifugal force), the air in the vortex is forced to form a region of calmness called an eye at the center of the cyclone. The inner surface of the vortex forms the eye wall, the most violent region of the cyclone.
  • All the wind that is carried upwards loses its moisture and becomes cold and dense. It descends to the surface through the cylindrical eye region and at the edges of the cyclone.
  • Continuous supply of moisture from the sea is the major driving force behind every cyclone. On reaching the land the moisture supply is cut off and the storm dissipates.
  • If ocean can supply more moisture, the storm will reach a mature stage.

Mature Stage

The classic diagram of a mature tropical cyclone (after Palmén and... |  Download Scientific Diagram

  • At this stage, the spiraling winds create multiple convective cells with successive calm and violent regions.
  • The regions with cumulonimbus cloud (rising limbs of convective cell) formation are called rain bands below which intense rainfall occurs.
  • The ascending air will lose moisture at some point and descends (subsides) back to surface through the calm regions (descending limbs of convection cell – subsiding air) that exist between two rain bands.
  • Cloud formation is dense at the center. The cloud size decreases from center to periphery.
  • Rain bands are mostly made up of cumulonimbus clouds. The ones at the periphery are made up of nimbostratus and cumulus clouds.
  • The dense overcast at the upper levels of troposphere is due to cirrus clouds which are mostly made up of hexagonal ice crystals.
  • The dry air flowing along the central dense overcast descends at the periphery and the eye region.

Destruction Caused by Cyclones

Photos of destruction after Cyclone Kenneth ravages Mozambique | Mozambique  | Al Jazeera

Cyclones are disastrous in many ways. They do more harm than any good to the coastal areas.

1) Strong Winds

  • Cyclones are known to cause severe damage to infrastructure through high-speed winds.
  • Very strong winds which accompany a cyclonic storm damages installations, dwellings, communications systems, trees etc., resulting in loss of life and property.

2) Torrential rains and inland flooding

  • Torrential rainfall (more than 30 cm/hour) associated with cyclones is another major cause of damages. Unabated rain gives rise to unprecedented floods.
  • Heavy rainfall from a cyclone is usually spread over a wide area and cause large scale soil erosion and weakening of embankments.

3) Storm Surge

  • A Storm surge can be defined as an abnormal rise of sea level near the coast caused by a severe tropical cyclone.
  • As a result of which seawater inundates low lying areas of coastal regions drowning human beings and life stock.
  • It causes eroding beaches and embankments, destroys vegetation and leads to the reduction of soil fertility.

Recent Cyclones

Cyclone Tauktae

Cyclone Tauktae Strikes India

  • Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Tauktae was a powerful tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea that became the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in the Indian state of Gujarat since the 1998 Gujarat cyclone and one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever affect the west coast of India.
  • Tauktae brought heavy rainfall and flash floods to areas along the coast of Kerala and on Lakshadweep. There were reports of heavy rain in the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra as well.
  • Tauktae resulted in at least 169 deaths in India, and left another 81 people missing.
  • 66 people died, at least 20 people are still missing after Barge P305 sank near Heera oil field, off the coast of Mumbai, although the Indian Navy said it had rescued 186 survivors of the 270 people aboard by May 19.
  • Losses from Tauktae are estimated at 15,000 crore or US$2.1 billion.

Cyclone Yaas

Cyclone Yaas Swamps India and Bangladesh

  • Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Yaas was a relatively strong and highly damaging tropical cyclone that made landfall in Odisha and brought significant impacts to West Bengal during late May 2021.
  • Yaas formed from a tropical disturbance that the Indian Meteorological Department first monitored on May 23.
  •  Evacuations were also ordered, starting on May 24 on low-lying areas in East Midnapore and West Midnapore and Jhargram. 
  • As of May 28, 20 people have been reported dead due to Yaas.
  • The total damages in West Bengal, the most heavily impacted state from Yaas, were estimated to be around 20 thousand crore (US$2.76 billion).

Management of Cyclones in India

31 Odisha firemen, 12 NDRF staff test Covid-19 positive on return from  cyclone-hit Bengal | Hindustan Times

  • In 2005, the country introduced new laws to set up what’s called the National Disaster Management Authority, a central agency charged with one thing: responding to and minimizing the impact of disasters.

A year later, in 2006, India established a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), a specialized corps of highly trained men and women focused on disasters such as cyclones and earthquakes. It’s now comprised of almost 25,000 personnel.

Apart from institutional measures, there are many structural and non-structural measures that have been taken for effective disaster management of cyclones:

  • The structural measures include construction of cyclone shelters, construction of cyclone-resistant buildings, road links, culverts, bridges, canals, drains, saline embankments, surface water tanks, communication and power transmission networks etc.
  • Non-structural measures like early warning dissemination systems, management of coastal zones, awareness generation and disaster risk management and capacity building of all the stakeholders involved.
  • These measures are being adopted and tackled on State to State basis under National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) being implemented through World Bank Assistance.

Issues in Cyclone Mitigation

  • Post than pre focus: Disaster management in India is largely confined to post-disaster relief works. It is more about management than loss prevention.
  • Population: One-third of the population in India lives in the coastal area. Most of them are marginalized people who are ill-prepared and unable to cope up with a disaster.
  • Poor response: The warning of a cyclone is not properly communicated between the concerned agencies. In many cases, the warning is not taken seriously by the agencies which cause delayed effort for the prevention of a disaster. This was evident in the recent Ockhi cyclone disaster.
  • Lack of awareness: among people about the impact and magnitude of the disaster. Also what to act during and post disasters.
  • Coordination Issues: There is also a lack of coordination between the local communities for search and rescue missions. Also poor coordination state and center coordination and its agencies.

Measures need to be taken for effective mitigation

on Twitter: "Prepare for tropical cyclones and heavy rains. Monitor weather  news and updates. Follow evacuation orders. #ResiliencePH Please share.…  https://t.co/tGaBJ0Od47"

Pre Disaster

  • Provide cyclone forecasting, tracking and warning systems
  • Construction of cyclone shelters, cyclone-resistant buildings, road links, bridges, canals, drains etc.
  • Establishing Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS) and Capacity building for coastal communities.

During disaster

  • Cautionary advice should be put out on social platforms urging people to stay safe
  • The perception of people decides the intensity of the disaster. If people take necessary proactive steps to deal with disaster then even the severe disaster can be dealt with minimum damage.
  • Delivery of food and health care via mobile hospitals, with priorities to women child & elders.
  • Protection of the community and their evacuation and quicker response.

Post-disaster

  • It is vital that the learning from each event is shared nationally, and the capacity of officials and communities to manage disasters built continuously.
  • Among the securities available to individuals in many countries is insurance against property losses. Viable policies should be made available in India too.
  • Providing alternative means of communication, energy and transport just after the disaster.

Way Forward

  • Infrastructure of the regions that are vulnerable to cyclonic activities must be made/ designed so that evacuation process gets easy and damage gets minimized.
  • Forecast techniques must be improved so as to get more time for preparing before a cyclonic storm.
  • School and social awareness campaigns must be organized in the vulnerable areas for better individual preparedness.
  • NDRF and other emergency forces must be made more equipped with emergency kits and modern machinery for them to play a better role in keeping them and others safe.
  • Now the imperative for India is not only to have infrastructure that is resilient, functional and that can bounce back after a disaster, but also to have infrastructure withstand and be operational during a crisis.
  • For this India need to employ more technology, strict following of command structure, and most importantly the participation and cooperation of local communities in the affected area.
  • There must be test facilities made for the emergency forces to prepare themselves better for the actual situations.
Categories
Burning Issues

Different types of fungus due to Covid

Context

As India is still reeling under the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, Black, White and Yellow Fungus infections have brought along unending woes, pressuring the already stressed healthcare system. These fungal infections have been attributed to COVID-19 and led to prolonged morbidity and mortality in COVID-19 patients

Black Fungus

What is black fungus (Mucormycosis)?

  • Mucormycosis, previously known as zygomycosis and sometimes called black fungus, is a serious fungal infection, generally in people with less ability to fight infection.
  • Mucormycosis is a rare but serious infection that is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes.
  • It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
  • It reduces the ability to fight environmental pathogens.
  • It can also happen on the skin after a burn, cut or other type of skin wound through which the fungus enters the skin. It can also affect the brain
  • People having co-morbities, variconazole therapy, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression by steroids or prolonged ICU stay can get predisposed to the fungal infection.

Types of Mucormycosis

  • Sinuses and brain (rhinocerebral): Most common in people with poorly controlled diabetes and in people who have had a kidney transplant.
  • Lungs (pulmonary): The most common type of mucormycosis in people with cancer and in people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.
  • Stomach and intestine (gastrointestinal): More common among young premature and low birth weight infants, who have had antibiotics, surgery, or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight infection.
  • Skin (cutaneous): After a burn, or other skin injury, in people with leukaemia, poorly controlled diabetes, Graft-versus-host disease, HIV and intravenous drug use.
  • Widespread (disseminated): When the infection spreads to other organs via the blood.

Symptoms of Mucormycosis

The symptoms of Black Fungus infection are:

For Brain Mucormycosis

1- One-sided facial swelling
2- Headache
3- Nasal or sinus congestion
4- Black lesions on nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth
5- Fever

For Pulmonary Mucormycosis

1- Fever
2- Cough
3- Chest pain
4- Shortness of breath

For Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis

1- Abdominal pain
2- Nausea and vomiting
3- Gastrointestinal bleeding

Who are at risk of getting infected with Black Fungus?

1- Diabetes
2- Cancer
3- Organ transplant
4- Stem cell transplant
5- Neutropenia 
6- Long-term corticosteroid use
7- Hemochromatosis (excess of iron)
8- Skin injury due to surgery, burns, or wounds
9- Pre-maturity 
10- Low birth weight 

Where are these fungi found?

  • Mucormycosis is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. It is naturally found in air, water and even food.
  • It enters the body through fungal spores from the air or can also occur on skin after a cut, burn, or skin injury.

Mucormycosis affecting COVID-19 patients

  • Patients who have high levels of diabetes are at a higher risk of contracting covid-19. When this occurs, they are treated with steroids which compromises their immunity.
  • According to doctors, steroids can prove to be a trigger for mucormycosis. While steroids help in reducing inflammation in lungs they can decrease immunity and increase blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic covid-19 patients alike.
  • Medicines used in treating Covid-19 tend to bring down the count of lymphocytes.
  • Lymphocytes are one of the three types of white blood cells whose job is to defend our body against disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
  • The reduced count of lymphocytes leads to a medical condition called lymphopenia, making way for opportunistic fungal infection in Covid-19 patients.

Treatment

  • While it is treated with antifungals, mucormycosis may eventually require surgery.
  • To maintain adequate systemic hydration, the treatment includes infusion of normal saline (IV) before infusion of amphotericin B and antifungal therapy, for at least 4-6 weeks.

Life after surgery for mucormycosis

  • Mucormycosis can lead to loss of the upper jaw and sometimes even the eye.
  • Be it the eye or upper jaw, these can be replaced with appropriate artificial substitutes or prostheses.

Yellow Fungus

  • Yellow Fungus, dangerous than white or black fungus, is another fungal infection that has been attributed to COVID-19. Health experts say it is a fatal infection.
  • Yellow Fungus is commonly found in reptiles.
  • Yellow fungus initially develops by the presence of moulds (a type of fungi) in the environment. It may be present with unnecessary fatigue, rashes, burning sensation on skin etc.
  • It may not start from the lungs but it invades internal organs of the body and affects the entire functioning.

Potential causes of yellow fungus

  • Prolonged use of steroid.
  • Contaminated environment.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Unhygienic or dirty surroundings.
  • Unhygienic habits.
  • Lesser immunity.
  • Co-morbidities.

Symptoms of Yellow Fungus

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Pus leakage
  • Sunken eyes
  • Organ failure

Treatment

  • Like mucormycosis, the treatment for yellow fungus is Amphoteracin-B injection

Prevention

  • Keep your room, home and surroundings as clean as possible
  • Remove stale food and fecal matter immediately to check bacterial and fungal growth.
  • Keep the humidity of the room and home under check as excessive humidity promotes bacteria growth. Just like for Covid patients maintaining clean air flow inside the room and homes is necessary.
  • Coronavirus positive patients must immediately start treatment so complications like yellow fungus do not develop.

White Fungus

  • White Fungus or Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida.
  • Candida normally lives on the skin and inside the body, in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing any problems.
  • Candida can cause infections if it grows out of control or if it enters deep into the body (for example, the bloodstream or internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain).
  • The most common species that causes infection is Candida albicans.
  • Patients of white fungus show Covid-like symptoms but test negative; the infection can be diagnosed through CT-Scan or X-ray.

Cause

  • This infection can be caused due to low immunity, or if people come in contact with things that contain these moulds like water, etc.
  • Children and women are more at risk of contracting the fungal infection.
  • Like the black fungus, white fungus is also more likely to afflict people with compromised immune systems, pre-existing medical conditions, AIDS, a recent kidney transplant or diabetes.

Symptoms

  • People experience symptoms similar to Covid if it reaches the lungs such as chest infection, despite testing negative for the virus.
  • White fungus affects the lungs as well as other parts of the body including the nails, skin, stomach, kidney, brain, private parts and mouth.

Diagnosis/Treatment

  • CT scans or X-Rays can reveal the condition.
  • Patients with the white fungus are currently being treated with known anti-fungal medication.

Prevention

  • Special caution is required of moulds in water that can lead to infection.
  • Proper sanitation is very important.

Way Forward

  • Use of Steroids must be curbed down in the treatment of Covid to prevent low immunity in patients.
  • The fungus must be dealt as a pandemic and not just a regular post Covid complication.
  • All necessary medicines needed for the treatment of above mentioned Fungus must be made available in the hospital.
  • Government should run awareness campaigns about these funguses as a preventive measure.
Categories
Burning Issues

Israel-Palestine conflict explained

Context

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most enduring hostilities, with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching 53 years. Various attempts have been made to resolve the conflict as part of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.

British Palestine & Jew Migration

  • The British, after the First World War, established a colony in Palestine maintaining that they would rule the area until the Palestinians were ready to govern themselves. This was called Mandatory Palestine as it was according to the League of Nations mandate.
  • Even before this time, there was a massive influx of Jews from Europe into Palestine in the hope of creating their homeland after being expelled from it for centuries.
  • Meanwhile, in the 1920s and 1930s, the Jewish population in Palestine increased by hundreds of thousands, facilitated by the British (who were honouring the Balfour Declaration).
  • During this time, tensions between the growing Jewish communities and the Arabs were increasing.
  • In 1936, the Palestinian Arabs revolted against the British as a result of the Palestinian Arabs viewing themselves increasingly as a nation.
  • This revolt was suppressed by the British with help from Jewish militias.
  • After the revolt, however, the British issued a white paper that limited Jewish immigration into Palestine and called for the establishment of a joint Jewish-Arab state in Palestine within ten years.
  • During the course of World War II, many Jews escaping Europe from the Holocaust were brought to Palestine illegally (because of the immigration limit) by Jewish organisations.
    Tensions escalated and the British handed over the problem to the newly established United Nations.
  • In 1947, the UN voted to establish separate Palestinian and Jewish states in the region dividing Palestine. This plan was rejected by the Arabs.

Background of the Israel Palestine conflict

Following the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the Arab League decided to intervene on behalf of Palestinian Arabs, marching their forces into former British Palestine, beginning the main phase of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

1948 Arab Israel War

  • The overall fighting, leading to around 15,000 casualties, resulted in cease-fire and armistice agreements of 1949, with Israel holding much of the former Mandate territory, Jordan occupying and later annexing the West Bank and Egypt taking over the Gaza Strip, where the All-Palestine Government was declared by the Arab League on 22 September 1948.
  • Through the 1950s, Jordan and Egypt supported the Palestinian Fedayeen militants’ cross-border attacks into Israel, while Israel carried out reprisal operations in the host countries.
  • Over the following years, tensions rose in the region, particularly between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Following the 1956 Suez Crisis and Israel’s invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria signed mutual defense pacts in anticipation of a possible mobilization of Israel troops.
  • The 1956 Suez Crisis resulted in a short-term Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and exile of the All-Palestine Government, which was later restored with Israeli withdrawal.
  • The All-Palestine Government was completely abandoned by Egypt in 1959 and was officially merged into the United Arab Republic, to the detriment of the Palestinian national movement. Gaza Strip then was put under the authority of the Egyptian military administrator, making it a de facto military occupation.
  • In 1964, however, a new organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was established by Yasser Arafat.[29] It immediately won the support of most Arab League governments and was granted a seat in the Arab League.

1967 Six day War

  • The 1967 Six-Day War exerted a significant effect upon Palestinian nationalism, as Israel gained military control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
  • The PLO was unable to establish any control on the ground and established its headquarters in Jordan, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and supported the Jordanian army during the War of Attrition, which included the Battle of Karameh.
  • However, the Palestinian base in Jordan collapsed with the Jordanian–Palestinian civil war in 1970. The PLO defeat by the Jordanians caused most of the Palestinian militants to relocate to South Lebanon, where they soon took over large areas, creating the so-called “Fatahland”.

Camp David Accords 1978

1)  The Camp David Accords were a pair of political agreements signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978.

2)  The Camp David Accords established the so framework for peace in the Middle East and brought about the end of simmering conflict between Egypt and Israel.

3)  They also called for the creation of Palestinian state in the area known as Gaza and on the West Bank of river Jordan.

4)  However since the Palestinians were not represented at the talks, the resulting agreement was not formally recognized by the United Nations.

  • In 1982, following an assassination attempt on one of its diplomats by Palestinians, the Israeli government decided to take sides in the Lebanese Civil War and the 1982 Lebanon War commenced. The initial results for Israel were successful. Most Palestinian militants were defeated within several weeks, Beirut was captured, and the PLO headquarters were evacuated to Tunisia in June by Yasser Arafat’s decision.
  • First Intifada: The tension between Israel and Palestine escalated with Israel’s increased settlement in West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip fomented the riots begun in 1987, known as the first intifada.
  • Second Intifada (2000-05): In 2000, a more violent Palestine Uprising started and a large number of civilians died on both sides. This is known as the second intifada. As a defensive measure, Israel constructed a West Bank Barrier along West Bank to separate Israel and Palestine settlements.

Road Map for Peace

  • 1993 OSLO Accord: The Oslo Accords are a pair of peace agreements between the     Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO

1) Oslo 1 Accord: It was officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. It was signed in Washington, D.C., in 1993.

  • The accords called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and affirmed a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority.
  • Palestinian rule was to last for a five-year interim period during which “permanent status negotiations” would commence in order to reach a final agreement.
  • Israel was to grant interim self-government to the Palestinians in phases.
  • Along with the principles, the two groups signed Letters of Mutual Recognition—the Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism as well as other violence, and its desire for the destruction of the Israeli state.
  • In order that the Palestinians govern themselves according to democratic principles, free and general political elections would be held for the council.
  • Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council would cover the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for issues that would be finalized in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides viewed the West Bank and Gaza as a single territorial unit.
  • The five-year transitional period would commence with Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. There would be a transfer of authority from the Israel Defense Forces to the authorized Palestinians, concerning education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism. The council would establish a strong police force, while Israel would continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats.

2) Oslo 2 Accord: It was called The Interim Agreement on the             West Bank and the Gaza Strip and was signed on the 28th    September, 1995 in Taba (Egypt).

  • Oslo I also set the agenda for the follow-up agreement that became known as Oslo II, which would include discussion of the future governance of the city of Jerusalem (both sides claim it as their respective capital) as well as issues concerning borders, security and the rights, if any, of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
  • A protocol for free elections for Palestinian Authority leadership was also established.
  • Oslo II, which was signed two years later, gave the Palestinian Authority, which oversees Gaza and the West Bank, limited control over part of the region, while allowing Israel to annex much of the West Bank, and established parameters for economic and political cooperation between the two sides.
  • As part of the treaty, both sides were prohibited from inciting violence or conflict against the other.
  • Israel was to collects taxes from Palestinians who work in Israel but live in the Occupied Territories, distributing the revenue to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Israel was also to oversee the trade of goods and services into and out of Gaza and the West Bank.

3) Aftermath of the Oslo Accords

  • Unfortunately, any momentum gained from the ratification of the Oslo Accords was short-lived.
  • In 1998, Palestinian officials accused Israel of not following through on the troop withdrawals from Gaza and Hebron called for in the Oslo Accords.
  • After initially slowing down settlement construction in the West Bank, at the request of the United States, the building of new Israeli housing in the region began in earnest again in the early 2000s.
  • Conversely, critics of the Accords said that Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens increased in their aftermath, coinciding with the increasing power of the Palestinian Authority.
  • These critics felt that the Palestinian Authority was failing to adequately police Gaza and the West Bank, and identify and prosecute suspected terrorists.
  • With these disagreements providing the backdrop, negotiators from both sides reconvened, once again at Camp David, with the hope of following up on the Oslo Accords with a comprehensive peace treaty.
  • In September 2000, Palestinian militants declared a “Second Intifada,” calling for increased violence against Israelis after Sharon, who as prime minister visited the Temple Mount—a site sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

Camp David Accord 2000

  • The 2000 Camp David Summit was a summit meeting at Camp David between United States president Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat. The summit took place between 11 and 25 July 2000.
  • Barak put forward the following as “bases for negotiation”, a non-militarized Palestinian state split into 3–4 parts containing 87–92% of the West Bank including only parts of East Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip.
  • The offer also included that 69 Jewish settlements (which comprise 85% of the West Bank’s Jewish settlers) would be ceded to Israel, no right of return to Israel, no sovereignty over the Temple Mount or any core East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, and continued Israel control over the Jordan Valley.
  • Arafat rejected this offer. According to the Palestinian negotiators the offer did not remove many of the elements of the Israeli occupation regarding land, security, settlements, and Jerusalem.

Taba Summit (2001)

  • The Israeli negotiation team presented a new map at the Taba Summit in Taba, Egypt in January 2001. The proposition removed the “temporarily Israeli controlled” areas, and the Palestinian side accepted this as a basis for further negotiation.
  • The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections.
  • The following month the Likud party candidate Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak in the Israeli elections and was elected as Israeli prime minister on 7 February 2001. Sharon’s new government chose not to resume the high-level talks.

Arab Peace Initiative

  • The Arab Peace Initiative was first proposed by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Beirut Summit (2002). The peace initiative is a proposed solution to the Arab–Israeli conflict as a whole, and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in particular.
  • The initiative was initially published on 28 March 2002, at the Beirut Summit, and agreed upon again in 2007 in the Riyadh Summit.
  • Unlike the Road Map for Peace, it spelled out “final-solution” borders based explicitly on the UN borders established before the 1967 Six-Day War. It offered full normalization of relations with Israel, in exchange for the withdrawal of its forces from all the occupied territories, including the Golan Heights, to recognize “an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugees.
  • The Israeli government has expressed reservations on ‘red line,’ issues such as the Palestinian refugee problem, homeland security concerns, and the nature of Jerusalem.

What led to Recent Crash

  •  In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled that several Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah—a neighborhood in East Jerusalem—were to be evicted by May 2021 with their land handed over to Jewish families.
  • In February 2021, several Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah filed an appeal to the court ruling and prompted protests around the appeal hearings, the ongoing legal battle around property ownership, and demanding an end to the forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem.
  • In late April 2021, Palestinians began demonstrating in the streets of Jerusalem to protest the pending evictions and residents of Sheikh Jarrah—along with other activists—began to host nightly sit-ins.  In early May, after a court ruled in favor of the evictions, the protests expanded with Israeli police deploying force against demonstrators.
  • On May 7, following weeks of daily demonstrations and rising tensions between protesters, Israeli settlers, and police during the month of Ramadan, violence broke out at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, with Israeli police using stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons in a clash with protestors that left hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
  • On May 10, after several consecutive days of violence throughout Jerusalem and the use of lethal and nonlethal force by Israeli police, Hamas, the militant group which governs Gaza, and other Palestinian militant groups launched hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory.
  • Israel responded with air strikes and later artillery bombardments against targets in Gaza, including launching several air strikes that killed more than twenty Palestinians. While claiming to target Hamas, other militants, and their infrastructure—including tunnels and rocket launchers—Israel has expanded its aerial campaign and struck targets including residential buildings, media headquarters, and refugee and healthcare facilities.

Rival claims over Jerusalem

  • Both Israel and Palestine have declared Jerusalem their capital.
  • In July 1980, the Israeli Parliament passed the Jerusalem Law declaring it the country’s capital.
  • Palestinians declared Jerusalem the capital of the putative state of Palestine by a law passed by the Palestinian Authority in 2000.
  • The 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence also declared Jerusalem as the capital.
  • For the present, the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters in Ramallah.

Hamas and Fatah

  • In 1987, Hamas (Islamic Militant group) for the liberation of Palestine through Jihad came into existence. It refused to recognize Israel as a country. It has received support from Iran and Syria.
  • On the other hand, Fatah, a faction of PLO under Yasser Arafat received support from Western nations.

(Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza)

What is happening in GAZA

  • Gaza is a densely populated strip of land that is mostly surrounded by Israel and peopled almost exclusively by Palestinians. Israel used to have a military presence, but withdrew unilaterally in 2005. It’s currently under Israeli blockade.
  • Egypt controlled Gaza until 1967, when Israel occupied it (along with the West Bank) in the Six-Day War.
  • Until 2005, Israeli military authorities controlled Gaza in the same way they control the West Bank, and Jews were permitted to settle there. In 2005, then–Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pulled out Israeli troops and settlers unilaterally.
  • Gaza is governed by the Islamist group Hamas, which formed in 1987 as a militant “resistance” group against Israel and won political power in a 2006 US-based election.
  • Hamas’s takeover of Gaza prompted an Israeli blockade of the flow of commercial goods into Gaza, on the grounds that Hamas could use those goods to make weapons to be used against Israel.
  • Israel has eased the blockade over time, but the cutoff of basic supplies like fuel still does significant humanitarian harm by cutting off access to electricity, food, and medicine.
  • Hamas and other Gaza-based militants have fired thousands of rockets from the territory at Israeli targets.
  • Israel has launched a number of military operations in Gaza, including an air campaign and ground invasion in late 2008 and early 2009, a major bombing campaign in 2012, and another air/ground assault in the summer of 2014.

International Scenario

Stand of USA

  • For decades, the U.S. has played a partisan role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • It became involved shortly after World War II, joining the United Kingdom in a 1946 inquiry that recommended one hundred thousand Holocaust survivors relocate to Palestine, which would be neither a Jewish nor an Arab state.
  • The United States then became the first country to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948.
  • Shortly after the 1967 war, Israel began building settlements in some of the territories it had seized. For years, the United States officially condemned these settlements—branding them an obstacle to peace—but avoided outright calling them illegal to avoid the possibility that Israel would face international sanctions.
  • After the failed 2000 Camp David summit, Washington never made any meaningful attempt to push the Israelis to accept the two-state proposal.
  • The 2007 Annapolis conference was a failure too. The previous U.S. administration launched a peace bid which also collapsed at an early stage.
  • In 2018, the Trump administration canceled funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, and relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a reversal of a longstanding U.S. policy.  The decision to move the U.S. embassy was met with applause from the Israeli leadership but was condemned by Palestinian leaders and others in the Middle East and Europe.
  • Biden has said he will continue the nearly two decades of , which calls for separate Israeli and Palestinian states with borders resembling those that existed before the 1967 war; this territory includes the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and parts of East Jerusalem.

Stand of Arab Countries

a)   EGYPT

  • Egypt wants a unified Palestinian leadership. Therefore, it invests a lot in supporting a Palestinian reconciliation.
  • Egypt wants Gaza, the branches of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, and other forces in Gaza, to have a bigger say in the Palestinian decision-making process.
  • Egypt wants to eradicate terror cells in Sinai.
  • Egypt wants Hamas to be less dependent (at least) on Iran, Turkey and Qatar. The Saudis and the Emiratis concur, and they can fund Gaza.

b) Turkey

  • In December 1987, Turkey had already declared support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.  It described Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip as “state-sponsored terrorism”
  • The Turkish government’s condemnation of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict strained relations between the two countries.

c) Syria

  • Syria announced its complete support to Palestine after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War broke out, and had sent troops to fight against newly-formed Israel Defense Forces
  • Syria also joined the Six-Day War hoping to expel Israeli Army in order to restore Palestinian state, in which ended with a complete failure.

d)  Lebanon

  • Lebanon did take a formal part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War against Israel, but Lebanon was the first Arab league nation to signal a desire for an armistice treaty with Israel in 1949.
  • Israel also supported the secessionist Free Lebanon State during 1979-1984 and its successor South Lebanon Army.
  • In all Lebanon has maintained a pro Israeli stance.

e)   Jordan

  • Jordan was not a member of the United Nations when the vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was taken in November 1947, but following the establishment of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, Jordan, then known as Transjordan, was one of the Arab League countries that invaded the former Palestinian Mandate territory precipitating the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
  • By war’s end, Jordan was in control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (including the Old City). It expelled its Jewish population, and formally annexed the territories in 1950.
  • Promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a major priority for Jordan. It supports U.S. efforts to mediate a final settlement, which it believes should be based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia.

f)    Saudi Arabia

  • Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have any official diplomatic relations.
  • Saudi Arabia played an active role in attempting to bring the Palestinians towards a self-governing condition which would permit negotiations with Israel. It has done so primarily by trying to mend the schism between Fatah and Hamas, most notably when King Abdullah invited the two factions to negotiations in Mecca resulting in the Mecca Agreement of 7 February 2007. The agreement soon failed, but Saudi Arabia has continued to support a national unity government for the Palestinians, and strongly opposed the war in Gaza in early 2009.

3)   Stand of India

  • India was one of the few countries to oppose the UN’s partition plan in November 1947, echoing its own experience during independence a Few Months Earlier.
  • In the decades that followed, the Indian political leadership actively supported the Palestinian cause and withheld full diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • India recognised Israel in 1950 but it is also the first non-Arab country to recognise Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian. India is also one of the first countries to recognise the statehood of Palestine in 1988.
  • In 2014, India favoured UNHRC’s resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza. Despite supporting the probe, India abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC IN 2015.
  • As a part of Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries mutually independent and exclusive.
  • In June 2019, India voted in favour of a decision introduced by Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian non-governmental organization

Way Forward

  • Though not a shining example, Israel can learn a lesson from its neighbour, Lebanon. The sectarian model of power sharing, where Christians, Shias, Sunnis, Druze, Armenians etc. are offered government positions demographically, did help enable Lebanon transition to some degree of stability after the civil war ended in 1990.
  • There must be change in leadership in both the countries. Leaders are that are ready mentally and physically for a truce must be brought to power.

To start a peace process following steps must be taken:

  • Israel must  end settlement expansion beyond the wall.
  • Easing restrictions on Gaza
  • Redesignating parts of the West Bank currently falling under full Israeli administration (Area C) as areas that fall under partial or full Palestinian administration (Areas B or A)
  • Removing impediments to Palestinian economic development
  • Ending home demolitions and other forms of collective punishment
  • Removing impediments to Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza
  • Alleviating restrictions on movement and access
  • Gradually releasing Palestinian prisoners
  • Allowing the reopening of Palestinian institutions, such as the Orient House, in East Jerusalem

Categories
Burning Issues

Cryptocurrency

Context

Vitalik Buterin, co-creator of the crypto network Ethereum, has made a 1 billion dollar cryptocurrency donation for India’s relief funds as the country battles the latest deadly COVID-19 wave.

Definition

The 2019 Bill defined cryptocurrency as any information, code, number or token, generated through cryptographic means or otherwise, which has a digital representation of value and has utility in business activity, or acts as a store of value or a unit of account. According to professionals a system must need these six points to be called a cryptocurrency system:

  • The system does not require a central authority; its state is maintained through distributed consensus.
  • The system keeps an overview of cryptocurrency units and their ownership.
  • The system defines whether new cryptocurrency units can be created. If new cryptocurrency units can be created, the system defines the circumstances of their origin and how to determine the ownership of these new units.
  • Ownership of cryptocurrency units can be proved exclusively cryptographically.
  • The system allows transactions to be performed in which ownership of the cryptographic units is changed. A transaction statement can only be issued by an entity proving the current ownership of these units.
  • If two different instructions for changing the ownership of the same cryptographic units are simultaneously entered, the system performs at most one of them.

History/Background

  • In 1983, the American cryptographer David Chaum conceived an anonymous cryptographic electronic money called ecash. Later, in 1995, he implemented it through Digicash, an early form of cryptographic electronic payments which required user software in order to withdraw notes from a bank and designate specific encrypted keys before it can be sent to a recipient.
  • In 1998, Wei Dai published a description of “b-money”, characterized as an anonymous, distributed electronic cash system.
  • Shortly thereafter, Nick Szabo described bit gold. Like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that would follow it, bit gold (not to be confused with the later gold-based exchange, BitGold) was described as an electronic currency system which required users to complete a proof of work function with solutions being cryptographically put together and published.
  • In 2009, the first decentralized cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was created by presumably pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto. It used SHA-256, a cryptographic hash function, in its proof-of-work
  • In April 2011, Namecoin was created as an attempt at forming a decentralized DNS, which would make internet censorship very difficult.
  • In October 2011, Litecoinwas released. It used scrypt as its hash function instead of SHA-256. Another notable cryptocurrency, Peercoin used a proof-of-work/proof-of-stake
  • On 6 August 2014, the UK announced its Treasuryhad been commissioned a study of cryptocurrencies, and what role, if any, they could play in the UK economy. The study was also to report on whether regulation should be considered.

Types of cryptocurrency

  • The most common and valued cryptocurrency is Bitcoin.
  • All the other cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin are together as a set are known as alternate coins or commonly called “Altcoins”. Most famous alt coins are:-
  • Litecoin
  • Cardano
  • Polkadot
  • Stellar(XLM)
  • Binance Coin
  • By the end of March 2021 the total share of altcoins in the cryptocurrency market was estimated to be at 40% of the total market value.

How it works?

  • Cryptocurrencies work using a technology called blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized technology spread across many computers that manages and records transactions. Part of the appeal of this technology is its security.

What is Blockchain Technology?

  • Simply, blockchain is decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger.  Blockchains is a new type of network infrastructure (a way to organize how information and value move around on the internet) that create ‘trust’ in networks by introducing distributed verifiability, auditability, and consensus.
  • Blockchains create trust by acting as a shared database, distributed across vast peer-to-peer networks that have no single point of failure and no single source of truth, implying that no individual entity can own a blockchain network, and no single entity can modify the data stored on it unilaterally without the consensus of its peers.
  • New data can be added to a blockchain only through agreement between the various nodes of the network, a mechanism known as distributed consensus. Each node of the network keeps its own copy of blockchain’s data and keeps the other nodes honest – if one node changes its local copy, the other nodes can reject it.
  • Imagine a blockchain as a ledger—because that’s essentially how most blockchains function. Each block of data represents some new transaction on the ledger, whether that means a contract or a sale or whatever else you’d use a ledger for.
  • Interestingly, blockchains leverage techniques from a field of mathematics and computer science, known as cryptography, to sign every transaction (e.g. the transfer of assets from one person to another) with a unique digital signature belonging to the user who initiated the transaction.

Advantages

  • Low transaction Fee: Because miners are simply rewarded cryptocurrency from network itself, there are typically little or no fees for core transactions.
  • Ownership: With your digital key, access to your currency is yours alone. Unlike money you store at a bank, your use of cryptocurrency cannot be frozen or limited by any entity.
  • Identity Protection: Paying with credit/debit cards requires submitting sensitive banking information that could be stolen or compromised. Cryptocurrency can be sent directly to a recipient without any information other than total amount you want to send.
  • Risk-free for sellers: Payments using Cryptocurrency can’t be reversed, which means merchants don’t have to worry about stopped payments. The blockchain makes it difficult for you to be defrauded.

Disadvantages

  • Privacy Concerns: The privacy of users’ data is at stake. There is concern regarding privacy of users data in using cryptocurrencies as all the transaction information is stored in distributed ledger (called blockchain), which is publicly visible. Thus Hacker can easily observe how the money flows.
  • High Volatility: The price of Bitcoin suddenly rose to almost $20,000 and then dropped to $6,000. Due to such incidents, it is complicated for the investors to trust the ecosystem.
  • Destination for black money: The fear among regulators and policymakers is that cryptocurrencies, being an alternative source of value to fiat currency, could be misused to launder black money or finance terrorist activities.
  • Cybersecurity Concerns: Cryptocurrencies are prone to cybersecurity breaches and hacks. Various attacks are common, even companies and governments are not full proof to them. For example, the Swiss blockchain company, Trade.io, has reported that crypto tokens worth almost $8 million have been stolen from their cold wallet.
  • Dark activities: The possibility that the new money will nurture illicit activities and markets like drug selling, weapons etc. through Darknet is always high using cryptocurrency anonymously. It also increases the risk of its use in various terrorist activities across the border.
  • Monetary control and economic behavior: It could dramatically change global monetary policymaking. People will exchange their national currencies for the new digital coin in order to buy and sell the many products that will be priced in it. This will further impact the profit of banks and will put stress on their balance sheet.
  • Inflation: Governments and policymakers will have reduced ability to control inflation. Usually, when inflation picks up, central banks take steps to control it through various monetary rates. Cryptocurrency will be out of control of the central bank so liquidity control will be an issue.

Cryptocurrency and India

  • The country, at present, has around 75 lakh cryptocurrency investors who have together pooled over Rs 10,000 crore into Bitcoins and other such digital currencies.
  • The prices have surged by over 900%, courtesy of the worldwide boom – a single bitcoin that used to cost around Rs 4 lakh in 2020 now costs somewhere around Rs 41 lakh now.
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Centre will take a “calibrated approach” and leave a window open for experiments with blockchain technology.

Legitimacy of Cryptocurrency in India

  • Finance minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech on 1 February 2018, stated that the government will do everything to discontinue the use of bitcoin and other virtual currencies in India for criminal uses.
  • He reiterated that India does not recognise them as legal tender and will instead encourage blockchain technology in payment systems. “The government does not recognise cryptocurrency as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payments system,” Jaitley said
  • In early 2018 India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) announced a ban on the sale or purchase of cryptocurrency for entities regulated by RBI
  • In March 2020, the Supreme Court of India passed the verdict, revoking the RBI ban on cryptocurrency trade.
  • In 2021, the government is exploring the creation of a state-backed digital currency issued by the Reserve Bank of India, while banning private ones like bitcoin.

Cryptocurrency Bill India 2019

  • Cryptocurrency cannot be used as a legal tender or currency at any place in India.
  • The bill prohibits everyone to mine, generate, hold, sell, deal in, issue, transfer, dispose of or use cryptocurrency in the territory of India.
  • The central government is allowed to declare Digital Rupee to be the legal tender with the consent of Reserve Bank of India.
  • The use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for creating a network for delivery of any financial or other services or for creating value , without involving any use of cryptocurrency is not prohibited.
  • Direct or indirect use of cryptocurrency shall be punishable with fine or imprisonment of 1 year which may be extended o 10 years or both.
  • The court is empowered to transfer any fees recovered to the consolidated fund of India.
  • The central government on the recommendation of the investigating agency without being bound to it is empowered to grant immunity for any offense under this act.
  • The bill also provides that no such immunity can be granted by the central government in cases where the proceedings for any such offence have been instituted before the date of receipt of application for grant of such immunity.
  • The Bill promises to “allow for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency (blockchain) and its uses.”
  • The way the technology is built, an ownerless, consensus-driven, distributed ledger like a blockchain needs cryptocurrency to grease its wheels.

International Scenario

United states of America

  • The U.S. has the highest number of cryptocurrency users, the highest number of Bitcoin ATMs and also the highest Bitcoin trading volumes globally.
  • The US government, in 2013, accepted bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency that can be used for performing transactions. It was classified as a commodity by CFTC in September 2015.
  • Bitcoin is also taxable as a property. To sum up, bitcoin is legal in the USA, however, there is no clarification about the legalization of other cryptocurrencies.

Japan

  • Japan has eliminated the consumption tax on Bitcoin trading on April 1, 2017, when it officially declared Bitcoin as a legal tender. Japan also eliminated the possibility of double taxation on trading of Bitcoins.
  • Japan is now widely considered a hub for cryptocurrency trading/exchange in Asia.

Canada

  • Bitcoin is viewed as a commodity by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  This means that Bitcoin transactions are viewed as barter transactions, and the income generated is considered as business income. The taxation also depends on whether the individual has a buying-selling business or is only concerned with investing.
  • Canada considers Bitcoin exchanges to be money service businesses. This brings them under the purview of the anti-money laundering (AML) Bitcoin exchanges need to register with Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC)
  • In addition, some major Canadian banks have banned the use of their credit or debit cards for Bitcoin transactions.

European Union

  • On Oct. 22, 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that buying and selling digital currencies is considered a supply of services, and that this is exempt from value-added tax (VAT)in all European Union (EU) member states.
  • Some individual EU countries have also developed their own Bitcoin stances.
  • In Finland, the Central Board of Taxes (CBT) has given Bitcoin a VAT exempt status by classifying it as a financial service. Bitcoin is treated as a commodity in Finland and not as a currency.
  • The National Revenue Agency (NRA) of Bulgaria has also brought Bitcoin under its existing tax laws.
  • Germany is open to Bitcoin; it is considered legal but taxed differently depending upon whether the authorities are dealing with exchanges, miners, enterprises, or users.

China

  • Bitcoin is essentially banned in China. All banks and other financial institutions like payment processors are prohibited from transacting or dealing in Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency exchanges are banned.
  • The government has cracked down on miners.

Way Forward

  • A worldwide regulatory authority must be established to control the volatility, security and inflation of the cryptocurrency market.
  • While the number of merchants who accept cryptocurrencies has steadily increased, they are still very much in the minority. For cryptocurrencies to become more widely used, they have to first gain widespread acceptance among consumers.
  • The more popular they become, the more regulation and government scrutiny they will likely to attract, which erodes the fundamental premise for their existence. And therefore the central authority must be made so in keeping mind that the fundamental of the cryptocurrency existence must not be mended.
  • For cryptocurrencies to become part of the mainstream financial system must :
    • Be made mathematically complex (for frauds and hackers) but graphically easy for the users to make them understand better.
    • Be Decentralized but with adequate consumer safeguards and protection.
    • Preserve user anonymity without being a conduit for tax evasion, money laundering and other nefarious activities.
Categories
Burning Issues

Indo-Japan Relations

Context

India’s growing economic strength in recent years has seen it adapting 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

Prehistoric relations

India’s earliest documented direct contact with Japan was with the Todai-ji Temple in Nara, where the consecration or eye-opening of the towering statue of Lord Buddha was performed by an Indian monk, Bodhisena, in 752 AD.

Hinduism In Japan

  • Japan has indirect connection with Hinduism as four of the seven gods of fortune originated from Hindu deities named:
    a) Benzaiten Sama (Sarasvati).
    b) Bishamon (Vaiśravaṇa or Kubera).
    c)  Daikokuten (Mahākāla/Shiva).
    d)  Kichijōten (Lakshmi)
    Other examples of Hindu influence on Japan include the belief of “six schools” or “six doctrines” as well as use of Yoga and pagodas.

Buddhism

  • Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since its official introduction in 552 CE.
  • The Indian monk Bodhisena arrived in Japan in 736 to spread Buddhism and performed eye-opening of the Great Buddha built in Tōdai-ji.
  • Ancient records from the now-destroyed library at Nalanda University in India describe scholars and pupils who attended the school from Japan. One of the most famous Japanese travellers to the Indian subcontinent was Tenjiku Tokubei (1612–1692).

Pre-World War-2 era – Rising Japan and Admiring India

  • In the rise of Japan from the late 19th century onwards, other Asian nations including India saw the promise of their own revival, hailing both the speed as well as content of Japan’s transformation.
  • The victory of Japan over Czarist Russia in 1904 and its skill in modern warfare stimulated nationalist movements in Asia against the colonial powers.
  • It put new confidence in the Indian National Congress of being able to wage and win the struggle against British rule in India.
  • When the Indian freedom struggle entered the swadeshi phase, Japan was seen as a source of new equipment and machines to increase the supply of home-made goods and displace foreign, mostly British, goods.
  • Trade links have existed between the two countries for more than a century. India replaced China as Japan’s main market in 1915, and retained that position until 1925 with cotton goods contributing the most to Japanese exports to India.

Independent India and Japan

  • Following WWII, during which Indian troops under the British Empire fought Japanese troops and Indians under the Indian National Army, fought the British with Japanese support.
  • India played a limited role in the Allied Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952.
  • Justice Radha Binod Pal was the lone dissenting voice on the war crimes tribunal set up to try Japanese war criminals, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
  • Once India became independent, it expressed support for Japanese interests; its delegation at the Far Eastern Commission, for example, was sympathetic to Japanese concerns about rebuilding their nation and to encouraging Japanese industry and finance.
  • In 1949, the Indian delegation stopped pressing the question in the Commission regarding its share of reparations from Japan and proposed halting the reparations altogether, noting that the burden of making such payments told heavily on the living standards of the Japanese people.
  • India welcomed the relaxation of controls on Japan because of the flow of Japanese technical expertise to the rest of Asia.
  • Although 52 nations assembled to sign a peace treaty with Japan at San Francisco in September 1951, India did not participate because of its belief that the Japanese Peace settlement was part of the Cold War and the principal parties to it were more interested in enlisting support for their respective positions than to bringing peace to Asia.
  • The Japanese public responded favourably to India’s stand, particularly its opposition to linking the peace treaty with a bilateral security arrangement.
  • Given the high esteem in which India, and particularly Nehru, was held by most Japanese in those years, there was an appreciation that India had raised its voice and expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of the treaty in so far as they concerned the prospects for peace in Asia.

(Monument honouring Radhabinod Pal, at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, Japan)

The cold war and Indo-Japan Relations

  • Indo-Japanese political connections remained weak despite the exchange of ambassadors, mutual visits by goodwill groups and parliamentary delegations. India received its first Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in 1958.
  • On specific international questions such as the Sino-Indian border conflict and the India-Pakistan wars, Japan showed no overt interest either in lending support to India or in opposing it.
  • The Japanese consciously treated India and Pakistan evenhandedly, participating in their economic development programmes without getting drawn into their disputes.
  • During the India-Pakistan conflict, Japan’s diplomatic moves in the UN were not necessarily hostile to India, but its action on the aid front could be interpreted thus.
  • Soon after the US suspended its aid to India, Japan also enforced an embargo on flow of credits and all fresh loans.
  • Despite the initial enthusiasm and high hopes of the 1950s, the Indo-Japan relationship failed to take off politically and the relationship was essentially dormant from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  • Nevertheless, during the Cold War period Japan became the largest bilateral donor to India. Thus, the relationship was primarily sustained by Japanese ODA.

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.
  • Keeping aside the sanctions due to nuclear tests a new global partnership over issues of worldwide importance was envisaged.

Areas of cooperation

Economic

  • Special economic partnership initiative (SEPI) was signed during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2006.
  • The main elements of SEPI include Dedicated Freight Corridor-West (DFC-W) project, Delhi- Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project, setting up of multi-product special economic zones/cluster, free trade and warehousing zones at select locations, and encouraging investment by Japanese companies in India, including through assistance in development of infrastructure relating to SEZs and industrial estates, etc.
  • ODA is being provided to infrastructural sectors like telecommunication, transport, Yamuna action plan and other projects in the power sector.
  • India and Japan has formed the Act East Forum wherein ODA is being provided for the development of north eastern states.
  • India and Japan are cooperating in smart community projects such as seawater desalinization project in Gujarat (Dahej), the model solar project in Rajasthan (Neemrana) and the gas fired independent power producer (IPP) project in Maharashtra.
  • The 1st India-Japan Ministerial-level Economic Dialogue was held at New Delhi on 30 April 2012. Economic interaction is the fundamental driver of the India- Japan relationship. India continues to be the largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA). Disbursement of ODA in FY 2011-12 reached a record high of Yen 139.22 billion (approx. Rs 8497 crores). This is being utilized in several important projects across India, largely in infrastructure projects such as Metro rail projects in different metropolitan cities.
  • Japan also announced ODA loans totalling Yen 184.81 billion (approx. Rs 11,000 crores) to two projects, namely the Dedicated Freight Corridor Western Project Phase II and the Chennai Metro Rail Project.
  • The flagship India-Japan infrastructure projects made steady progress in 2012. The Dedicated Freight Corridor (West) between Mumbai and Delhi is on track for completion in 2017, during the current Plan Period. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) Project has moved ahead with the Cabinet approving a 26% equity stake in the Special Purpose Vehicle DMIC Development Corporation (DMICDC) by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) on 23 August 2012.

Trade

  • There is Japan India strategic dialogue on economic issues which reviews the current status of bilateral economic issues from time to time.
  • CEPA being one of the most comprehensive of all such agreements concluded by India as it covers more than 90% of the trade , vast gamut of services, rules of origin, investment, intellectual property rights, customs and other trade related issues.
  • In 2012-2013 India-Japan bilateral trade touched US$ 18.6 billion.
  • RBI and Bank of Japan signed a 3 year bilateral swap agreement (BSA) amounting to USD 50 Billion for addressing short term liquidity issues, financial market stability as well as supporting bilateral trade.
  • The two countries have reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate in the commercial production of the rare earths by the Indian and Japanese enterprises.
  • Avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of physical evasion with respect to taxes on income were signed between India and Japan.

Investment

  • Japan is currently ranked sixth in the foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to India.
  • A total of US$ 4.63 billion was invested by Japanese companies in India between 2000-2010.
  • Japan Plus was established by the government of India in October 2014 to further enhance the investment and assist Japanese companies in India.
  • 3.5 trillion Yen of public and private financing to India in 5 years under the Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership.
  • Japan is also financing bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahemdabad.

Security and Defense

  • The two nations have frequently held joint military exercises and co-operate on technology. India and Japan concluded a security pact on 22 October 2008.
  • 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.
  • Japan India maritime exercise (JIMEX) was conducted off Japanese coast in January 2012.
  • Indian Navy participated in the JMSDF fleet review 2015.

Strategic

  • After the cold war Japan looked out to extend its diplomatic options beyond US and India became the best option possible.
  • In addition being a big economic giant, there similar democratic political systems, non western societies, desire to gain permanent seats in the UN Security Council and security environments are all the factors two countries can use to build a strong strategic alliance.
  • 2+2 dialogue is taking place between the foreign and defense 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 United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), WTO.
  • 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.

Cultural

  • The two nations announced 2007, the 50th anniversary year of Indo-Japan Cultural Agreement, as the Indo-Japan Friendship and Tourism-Promotion Year, holding cultural events in both the countries.
  • One such cultural event is the annual Namaste India Festival, which started in Japan over twenty years ago and is now the largest festival of its kind in the world.
  • At the 2016 festival, representatives from Onagawa town performed, as a sign of appreciation for the support the town received from the Indian Government during the Great East Japan Earthquake.
  • On 10 April 2006, a Japanese delegation proposed to raise funds and provide other support for rebuilding the world-famous ancient Nalanda University, an ancient Buddhist centre of learning in Bihar, into a major international institution of education.

Energy

  • The two sides in 2015 reached an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of Nuclear energy. India became the first Non proliferation country to do so.
  • India rare Earths Limited (IREL) and the Toyotsu Rare Earths India (TREI) a subsidiary of Toyota-Tsusho Corporation (TTC) , Japan has an agreement of supply of mixed rare earth chloride.

Issues

1. Hindrances in trade/ Investment relations

  • Though India and Japan have come a long way in their economic cooperation, that still is a penny when compared to the China-Japan economic ties.
  • Compared to the US$ 300 billion trade with China, India-Japan trade still languishes at mere US$15 billion.
  • Japanese investors lament lack of clarity in the policy guidelines, labor laws, tax laws, legal and regulatory framework.
  • For Japanese corporations some other inhibiting factors are differences in business practices, environment and culture etc.

2. Limited Defense cooperation

  • India and Japan defense relations after multiple defense exercises and agreements are primarily focused and revolve around China.
  • Japan does not give major importance to India when it comes to Indo-China border issues or Indo-Pak border conflicts.
  • There is hardly any exchange or procurement of defense equipment or technology from Japan.

3. Balancing between Quad and Brics:

  • India is a member of groups like the BRICS, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • In addition, though New Delhi has not joined the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is a member of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).So India has to do a balancing act between Quad and Brics.
  • India has long adopted a non-aligned approach as opposed to the stauncher, pro-US foreign policy stances of Japan and Australia.
  • The failure of these nations to come up with a joint statement points to an inherent struggle to reconcile their competing views on how best to counter the rise of China.

4. Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) project

  • There is a great deal of scepticism on the feasibility of the AAGC itself as well as the nature of the projects embedded in it.

Way Forward

1) Continuation of balancing security policy

  • First, one can expect a continuation of the balancing security policy against China that began in 2014.
  • Crucially, India’s clashes with China in Galwan have turned public opinion in favour of a more confrontational China policy.
  • In just a decade, both countries have expanded high-level ministerial and bureaucratic contacts, conducted joint military exercises and concluded military pacts such as the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) logistics agreement.
  • Both countries need to affirm support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and continued willingness to work with the Quad.
  • Both countries need to take stock of the state of play in the security relationship while also pushing the envelope on the still nascent cooperation on defence technology and exports.

2) Expanding cooperation in various sectors

  • The two powers will look to expand cooperation in sectors such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies.
  • Digital research and innovation partnership in technologies from AI and 5G to the Internet of Things and space research has increased between the two countries in the recent past.
  • There is a need to deepen cooperation between research institutes and expand funding in light of China’s aforementioned technology investment programme.
  • Issues of India’s insistence on data localisation and reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention needs to be discussed.
  • Defense ties need to be made more stable. There should be more exchange of defense equipment and technologies.
  • Focus must just not be on countering China but helping each other in every state and frame.

3) Economic ties

  • Economic ties and infrastructure development are likely to be top drawer items on the agendas of New Delhi and Tokyo.
  • Though Japan has poured in around $34 billion in investments into the Indian economy, Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner.
  • Trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade.
  • India-Japan summit will likely reaffirm Japan’s support for key manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and the Japan Industrial Townships.
  • Further, India will be keen to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects currently under way in the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

4) Joint strategy toward key third countries

  • In years past, India and Japan have collaborated to build infrastructure in Iran and Africa.
  • Both countries have provided vital aid to Myanmar and Sri Lanka and hammer out a common Association of Southeast Asian Nations outreach policy in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in these corners of the globe.
  • However, unlike previous summits, the time has come for India and Japan to take a hard look at reports suggesting that joint infrastructure projects in Africa and Iran have stalled with substantial cost overruns.
  • Tokyo will also likely try to get New Delhi to reverse its decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

5) Nuclear cooperation

  • Both the countries must work to begin the exchange of nuclear fuel for the energy sector that has been stopped after the Fukushima incident.
  • And not just that, other energy cooperation and agreements must be signed to increase the flow of fuel and equipment for the benefit of the energy and other sectors related to nuclear energy.

References

  • The mint
  • Mea.gov.in
  • Orfonline.org
  • www.wikipedia.com
  • The global post
  • Rajya sabha Tv
  • Official Japan archives
Categories
Burning Issues

Controversies associated with Election Commission

Context

Recently, in a letter to the President of India, a group of retired
bureaucrats and diplomats, in the context of recent incidents, expressed concern over the EC’s “weak-kneed conduct” and the institution “suffering from a crisis of credibility today”.

Introduction

India being the biggest democracy in the world needs a body that
guarantees free and fair elections and that is where the Election
Commission of India comes into the picture. Established in the year 1950, Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of the president of India and the office of vice-president of India shall be vested in the election commission.

But is the Indian highest electoral body free and fair as it should be?

What is E.C.I?

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.

Background

  • Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
  • Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc of the commission and the member.

Articles related to Elections

324 -Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.

325 -No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be
included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion,
race, caste or sex.

326 –Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative
Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.

327 -Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.

328 –Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.

329 -Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.

Structure of the Commission

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
    At the state level election commission is helped by the Chief
  • Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
    The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.

Functions

  • Election Commission of India superintendents, direct and control the entire process of conducting elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
  • The most important function of the commission is to decide the election schedules for the conduct of periodic and timely elections, whether general or bye-elections.
  • It prepares electoral rolls, issues Electronic Photo Identity Cards (EPIC).
  • It decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centers, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centers and all allied matters.
  • It grants recognition to political parties & allot election symbols to them along with settling disputes related to it.
  • The Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • It issues the Model Code of Conduct in election for political parties and candidates so that the no one indulges in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
  • It sets limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.

Importance of ECI for India

  • The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952. In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play the more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
  • The Commission had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
  • It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality,
    equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over electoral governance.
  • It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
  • It ensures participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process in an inclusive voter-centric and voter-friendly environment.
  • It engages with political parties and all stakeholders in the interest of the electoral process.
  • It creates awareness about the electoral process and electoral
    governance amongst stakeholders namely, voters, political parties, election functionaries, candidates and people at large; and to enhance and strengthen confidence and trust in the electoral system of this country.

Powers of E.C.I

In details, these powers of Election Commission of India are:

  • Determining the Electoral Constituencies’ territorial areas throughout the country on the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
  • Preparing and periodically revising electoral rolls and registering all eligible voters.
  • Notifying the schedules and dates of elections and scrutinising
    nomination papers.
  • Granting recognition to the various political parties and allocating them election symbols.
  • Acting as a court to settle disputes concerning the granting of
    recognition to political parties and allocating election symbols to the parties.
  • Appointing officers for inquiring into disputes concerning electoral arrangements.
  • Determining the code of conduct to be followed by the political parties and candidates during elections.
  • Preparing a program for publicising the policies of all the political parties on various media like TV and radio during elections.
  • Advising the President on matters concerning the disqualification of MPs.
  • Advising the Governor on matters concerning the disqualification of MLAs.
  • Cancelling polls in case of booth capturing, rigging, violence and
    other irregularities.
  • Requesting the Governor or the President for requisitioning the staff required for conducting elections.
  • Supervising the machinery of elections throughout the country for ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.
  • Advising the President on whether elections can be held in a state that is under the President’s rule, in order to extend the period of emergency after 1 year.
  • Registering political parties and granting them the status of national or state parties (depending on their poll performance).

Important initiatives taken by E.C.I

  • Introduction of voter ID’s to stop fraudulent voting.
  • EVM (electronic voting machine) was introduced in 2003 to stop the violence due to booth capturing agenda.
  • EVMs also solved the logistical problem of printing paper ballots, transporting and safely storing them, and then physically counting millions of votes.
  • To enhance transparency and credibility of the election process,
    VVPAT was introduced with EVM at every polling station.
  • Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation program, better known as SVEEP was introduced in 2009 which is the flagship program of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.
  • NOTA (none of the above) voting system was introduced to facilitate voters who support none of the candidates.
  • Totaliser was introduced, which is a mechanism in the voting
    machines in India to hide the booth-wise voting patterns.
  • Street plays and Braille equipped EVM’s were introduced in the 2019 election for the awareness of rural, illiterate and blind voters.
  • Multiple mobile apps were launched to facilitate various kinds of
    voters.

Issues with E.C.I

 1. Flaws in the composition

  • The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC.
  • Terms of the members of EC are not specified.
  • They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or
    resigning.
  • Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with
    security of tenure.

2. Violation of Model code of conduct

  • The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • A.For example, Mission shakti speech – The letter mentioned the PM’s recent announcement of India’s first anti-satellite (ASAT) test. It is described as a serious breach of propriety amounting to giving unfair publicity to the party in power.
  • B.Launch of NAMO TV without license and thereby telecasting it throughout the 48 hour warm period before the elections which is not allowed under section 126 of the Representation of the People act.

3. Allegation of partisan role:

  • The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the prime minister.
  • Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of
    money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.
  • Allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not
    registering votes, corrodes the trust of the general masses in ECI.

4. Transfer of officials

  • Observers of ECI report to it about the conduct of certain
    officials of the States where elections are to be held.
  • Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of
    the government.
  • It is actually not clear whether the ECI can transfer a State
    government official in exercise of the general powers under
    Article 324 or under the model code.
  • Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of
    the government.
  • It is actually not clear whether the ECI can transfer a State
    government official in the exercise of the general powers under
    Article 324 or under the model code.
  • Further, to assume that a police officer or a civil servant will be able to swing the election in favour of the ruling party is extremely unrealistic and naive.

5. ECI’s intervention in administrative decisions

  • According to the model code, Ministers cannot announce
    any financial grants in any form, make any promise of
    construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities,
    etc or make any ad hoc appointments in the government.
    departments or public undertakings.
  • These are the core guidelines relating to the government.
  • But in reality, no government is allowed by the ECI to
    take any action, administrative or otherwise, if the ECI
    believes that such actions or decisions will affect free and
    fair elections.
  • A recent decision of the ECI to stop the Government of
    Kerala from continuing to supply kits containing rice, pulses,
    cooking oil, etc is a case in point.
  • The Supreme Court had in S. Subramaniam Balaji vs
    Govt. of T. Nadu & Ors (2013) held that the distribution of
    colour TVs, computers, cycles, goats, cows, etc, done or
    promised by the government is in the nature of welfare
    measures and is in accordance with the directive principles of state policy, and therefore it is permissible during an election.
  • So, how can the distribution of essential food articles which are used to stave off starvation be electoral malpractice?

Way Forward

Strengthening the EC itself:

  • The constitutional protection given to CEC must also be given to the other election commissioners.
  • To stop the Favouritism to any of the political parties or candidates there must be a cooling off period from any political or constitutional appointments for the retiring CEC’s and EC’s post retirement.
  • Institutionalize the convention where the senior most election
    commissioner should automatically be elevated to the post of chief election commissioner in order to instill a feeling of security in the minds of EC’s and that they are insulated from the executive interference.
  • The expenditure of the commission must be charged upon the
    consolidated fund of India for its unbiased working.
  • The dependence on DOPT, Law Ministry and Home ministry must be reduced and the ECI should have an independent secretariat for itself.
  • The ECI must be vigilant and watchful against the collusion at the lower level of civil and police bureaucracy in favour of the ruling party of the day.
  • VVPAT must be used in all the polling booths to curb down the
    controversy related to the bugged EVM’s.
  • The moral code of conduct must be strengthened and special
    permanent powers be given to ECI for the better implementation of rules and conducts.
  • ECI must modernize itself technically and therefore must punish the people flaunting the MCC on social and visual audio platforms.

References:

  • The Hindu
  • The Indian express
  • Wikipedia
  • www.eci.gov.in
  • The times