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[Burning Issue] Age of Cyber Warfare

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Context

The war between Russia and Ukraine is not only being fought on the ground, but also in cyberspace. Cyberattacks on state-owned digital assets, including websites and banking services, have gradually increased in both frequency and sophistication, beginning with Distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks before escalation with the use of complex wiper malware and ransomware.

What has happened in Ukraine so far?

  • Ukraine has been one of the primary targets of Russia since 2020. The recent spate of attacks started in mid-January and knocked out websites of the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of education.
  • The attacks have intensified in the last few weeks and now, banks in Ukraine are being targeted.
  • DDoS attacks disrupt online services by overwhelming websites with more traffic than their server can handle.

What is cyberwarfare?

  • Another front of war: Cyberwarfare has emerged as a new form of retaliation or passive aggression deployed by nations that do not want to go to actual war but want to send a tough message to their opponents.
  • A cyber-attack can maliciously disable computers, steal data, or use a breached computer as a launch point for other attacks.
  • Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to launch a cyber-attack, including malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service, among other methods.
  • Case with India: In 2020, Gothic Panda and Stone Panda, two China-based hacker groups, targeted media and critical infra companies in India with large-scale attacks amid the border stand-off between India and China.
  • For many countries, cyberwarfare is a never-ending battle as it allows them to constantly harass and weaken geopolitical rivals.

What do cyber attackers target?

Cyberattacks happen because organizations, state actors, or private persons want one or many things, like:

  • Business financial data
  • Clients lists
  • Customer financial data
  • Customer databases, including personally identifiable information (PII)
  • Email addresses and login credentials
  • Intellectual property, like trade secrets or product designs
  • IT infrastructure access
  • IT services, to accept financial payments
  • Sensitive personal data
  • US government departments and government agencies

When Did Cyber Warfare Start?

  • Cyber warfare began in 2010 with Stuxnet, which was the first cyber weapon meant to cause physical damage. Stuxnet is reported to have destroyed 20% of the centrifuges Iran used to create its nuclear arsenal.
  • Then, between 2014 and 2016, Russia launched a series of strategic attacks against Ukraine and the German parliament.
  • During the same period, China hacked 21.5 million employee records, stealing information from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
  • In 2017, the WannaCry attack impacted upwards of 200,000 computers in 150 countries. The attack targeted Windows computers with ransomware.
  • The NotPetya attack originated in Ukraine, destroyed files, resulting in more than $10 billion in damage.

Why do cyber-attacks happen?

  • In addition to cybercrime, cyber-attacks can also be associated with cyber warfare or cyberterrorism, like hacktivists.
  • Motivations can vary, in other words. And in these motivations, there are three main categories: criminal, political and personal.
  • Criminally motivated attackers seek financial gain through money theft, data theft or business disruption.
  • Personally motivated, such as disgruntled current or former employees, will take money, data or a mere chance to disrupt a company’s system.
  • Socio-political motivated attackers seek attention for their causes. As a result, they make their attacks known to the public—also known as hacktivism.
  • Other cyber-attack motivations include espionage, spying—to gain an unfair advantage over competitors—and intellectual challenge.

Which countries are behind state-backed cyberattacks?

  • Russia is one of the top perpetrators of state-backed cyberattacks.
  • According to an October 2021 report by Microsoft Corp., Russia accounted for 58% of state-backed attacks worldwide, followed by North Korea (23%), Iran (11%), and China (8%).
  • North Korea is said to have built a cyber-army of 7,000 hackers.

Which companies are targeted and why?

  • State-backed cyberattacks are usually carried out to steal state secrets, trade deals and weapons blueprint, or target large multinationals to steal their intellectual property (IP) and use it to build local industry.
  • Cryptos are also on the radar now. North Korean hackers reportedly stole cryptos worth $400 million in 2021.
  • However, when states launch cyberattacks on other states as a result of worsening of geopolitical relations, the target is usually critical infrastructure firms to disrupt economic activity.

How often is India targeted?

  • Such cyberattacks rose 100% bet-ween 2017 and 2021, according to a global study by Hewlett-Packard and the University of Surrey.
  • In 2019, the administrative network of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was hit by a malware attack by North Korea-backed Lazarus Group.
  • China-backed hackers were believed to be behind a power outage in Mumbai in 2020.
  • According to Black Lotus Labs, Pakistan-based hackers targeted power firms and one government organization in India in early 2021 using Remote Access Trojans.

What are common types of cyber-attacks?

Common types of cyber-attacks are:

(1) Backdoor Trojan

  • A backdoor Trojan creates a backdoor vulnerability in the victim’s system, allowing the attacker to gain remote, and almost total, control.
  • Frequently used to link up a group of victims’ computers into a botnet or zombie network, attackers can use the Trojan for other cybercrimes.

(2) Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack

  • XSS attacks insert malicious code into a legitimate website or application script to get a user’s information, often using third-party web resources.

Denial-of-service (DoS)

  • DoS and Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks flood a system’s resources, overwhelming them and preventing responses to service requests, which reduces the system’s ability to perform.
  • Often, this attack is a setup for another attack.

(3) DNS tunnelling

  • Cybercriminals use DNS tunnelling, a transactional protocol, to exchange application data, like extract data silently or establish a communication channel with an unknown server, such as a command and control (C&C) exchange.

(4) Malware

  • Malware is malicious software that can render infected systems inoperable. Most malware variants destroy data by deleting or wiping files critical to the operating system’s ability to run.

(5) Phishing

  • Phishing scams attempt to steal users’ credentials or sensitive data like credit card numbers.
  • In this case, scammers send users emails or text messages designed to look as though they’re coming from a legitimate source, using fake hyperlinks.

(6) Ransomware

  • Ransomware is sophisticated malware that takes advantage of system weaknesses, using strong encryption to hold data or system functionality hostage.
  • Cybercriminals use ransomware to demand payment in exchange for releasing the system. A recent development with ransomware is the add-on of extortion tactics.

(7) Zero-day exploit

  • Zero-day exploit attacks take advantage of unknown hardware and software weaknesses. These vulnerabilities can exist for days, months or years before developers learn about the flaws.

What can cyber-attacks do?

  • If successful, cyber-attacks can damage enterprises.
  • They can cause valuable downtime, data loss or manipulation, and money loss through ransoms. Further, downtime can lead to major service interruptions and financial losses. For example:
  • DoS, DDoS and malware attacks can cause system or server crashes.
  • DNS tunnelling and SQL injection attacks can alter, delete, insert or steal data into a system.
  • Phishing and zero-day exploit attacks allow attackers entry into a system to cause damage or steal valuable information.
  • Ransomware attacks can disable a system until the company pays the attacker a ransom.

How cyber-attacks can be reduced?

  • Organizations can reduce cyber-attacks with an effective cybersecurity system.
  • Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting critical systems and sensitive information from digital attacks, involving technology, people and processes.
  • An effective cybersecurity system prevents, detects and reports cyber-attacks using key cybersecurity technologies and best practices, including:
  1. Identity and access management (IAM)
  2. A comprehensive data security platform
  3. Security information and event management (SIEM)
  4. Offensive and defensive security services and threat intelligence

What are recent Cyber Attacks in news?

(1) Russia/Ukraine conflict

  • Check Point Research (CPR) has released information on cyber-attacks that have been seen in the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • In the first three days of battle, cyber-attacks on Ukraine’s government and military sector increased by an astounding 196%. The number of cyber-attacks on Russian businesses has climbed by 4%.
  • Phishing emails in East Slavic languages grew sevenfold, with a third of those malicious phishing emails being sent from Ukrainian email addresses to Russian receivers.

(2) SolarWinds Sunburst Attack

  • The world is now facing what seems to be a 5th generation cyber-attack – a sophisticated, multi-vector attack with clear characteristics of the cyber pandemic.
  • Named Sunburst by researchers, this is one of the most sophisticated and severe attacks ever seen.
  • The attack has been reported to impact major US government offices as well as many private sector organizations.
  • This series of attacks was made possible when hackers were able to embed a backdoor into SolarWinds software updates.
  • Over 18,000 companies and government offices downloaded what seemed to be a regular software update on their computers, but was actually a Trojan horse.

(3) HermeticWiper malware

  • This was named after the false digital certificate used to sign the file, which is issued under the name of a company named Hermetica Digital Ltd.
  • This is wiper malware which means it is designed to wipe the hard drives or system storage of the systems it infects.
  • The malware used against Ukrainian targets misused legitimate drivers of popular disk management software to corrupt data on the infected machine.
  • The wiper was used to target Ukrainian organisations.
  • Due to this attack, customers of Privatbank, Ukraine’s largest state-owned bank, and Sberbank, another state-owned bank reported problems with online payments and the banks’ applications.
  • The hosting provider for Privatbank and the Ukrainian army were among the attackers’ targets.

Way forward

  • The need to be aware of the nature of the cyber threat and take adequate precautionary measures, has become extremely vital.
  • New technologies such as artificial intelligence, Machine learning and quantum computing, also present new opportunities.
  • Pressure also needs to be put on officials in the public domain to carry out regular vulnerability assessments and create necessary awareness of the growing cyber threat.
  • It is time that cybersecurity as a specialised discipline becomes an integral component of any IT syllabus being taught within our university systems as well as outside.
  • Coordination among CERTs of different countries. Ensure that vulnerable sections of our society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals.
  • Need for India to move on from IT security to cyber security.
  • Organisations that are hit by cyber-attacks must inform law enforcement immediately instead of worrying about their reputations.
  • Important to have crisis management plans so that it helps to react in a given situation.
  • A dedicated industry forum for cyber security should be set up to develop trusted indigenous solutions to check cyber-attacks.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India and Latin America Relations

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Context

Latin America is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean whose inhabitants speak a Romance language such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

History of Indo-Latin American Ties

  • India’s ties with certain Latin American nations are longstanding and Mexico was the first Latin American country to recognize India after its independence in 1947.
  • When Fidel Castro ousted the Batista regime in Cuba in 1959, India was one of the first countries to recognize the new government, set-up an embassy in Havana and establish diplomatic relations.
  • However, relations between India and Latin America did not gather momentum throughout most of India’s post-independence history.
  • India and Latin American nations were both colonies of European powers. After achieving independence, both adopted socialist policies, which did little to enhance relations.
  • Many Latin America and the Carribbean (LAC) countries joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
  • India also supported LAC countries against United States (US) interventions in the United Nations (UN) and other multilateral gatherings, but this did not address the deficit in relationship.

Why does Latin America Matter?

  • Energy demand is rising: In a view of India’s growing demand for energy and its interest in seeking overseas investments, Latin America attracts New Delhi’s interest. After all, the region is rich in extractive resources.
  • Important markets: Given that three G20 economies, i.e. Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina are in Latin America, Indian businesses are keen to tap its expansive market.
    • During the last two decades, India’s trade with Latin American countries has grown substantially and its investments are diversified in sectors such as Information Technology (IT) and manufacturing.
    • Moreover, the region has emerged as an important market for the Indian pharmaceutical and automobile industries.
  • China’s emergence in the region: Analysts within India’s strategic community are of the view that China is fast emerging as Latin America’s economic and strategic partner, and that India must begin expanding its own footprint in the region.
  • India’s Soft Power is making difference: To its advantage, India’s status as a rising power, its economic growth, as well as its soft power in the form of its cultural and civilizational practices such as yoga have gained traction in Latin America.

Why Indo-Latin American Ties did not grow?

  • Relations between India and Latin America did not gather momentum owing mainly to the geographical distance between the two regions, and differing domestic and international priorities.
  • Thousands of miles away, Latin America played a small role in New Delhi’s strategic and geopolitical considerations.
  • There has also been a lack of cultural, linguistic and diaspora connections between the two regions in the past.

Current Trade Relations with the LAC Region

  • Following liberalisation of the Indian economy, Latin American governments and their private sectors saw opportunities in India’s growing market.
  • Indian industries also discovered that some, middle-income countries of Latin America offered better markets than those of North America and Western Europe.
  • Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Panama are currently India’s top ten trading partners in the LAC.
  • There has been an upward swing in the relations between India and Mexico after Prime Minister’s visit to Mexico in June 2016, when both countries decided to upgrade bilateral relations to the level of ‘strategic partnership’.
  • India is currently Mexico’s ninth most important global trading partner, after the US, India is Mexico’s largest supplier of automobiles.
  • Brazil has historically been the cornerstone of India’s relations with Latin America, but recently there is a dip in bilateral trade.
  • However, India has invested billions of dollars in Brazil’s hydrocarbon reserves and crude imports.

Significance of Indo-Latin American Ties

  • India also exports a billion dollars’ worth of generic medicines to Latin America, which has helped these countries reduce the cost of healthcare.
  • The entry of Indian generic pharmaceuticals in Latin America over the last two decades has also put pressure on local and multinational companies to reduce their prices.
  • Latin American firms have invested about a billion dollars in India in areas such as soft drinks, multiplexes, theme parks, and auto parts.
  • Latin American software firms have also established development and delivery centres in India, employing over a thousand Indian software engineers
  • Latin America has also emerged as a key contributor to India’s energy security.
    • India now imports 20% of its crude oil from Brazil, Columbia, Mexico and Venezuela
    • In 2012, India overtook China as the largest Asian buyer of Venezuelan oil.
  • India also constitutes one of the largest suppliers of IT services to Latin America
    • Over 35,000 Latin Americans are employed in Indian IT companies operating in the region
    • New Delhi is also actively promoting official policies intended to further expand Indian IT services in Latin America.

Countering Chinese Expansion in the Region

  • Although India has steadily expanded its footprint in Latin American countries over the past several years, it is still dwarfed by China’s immense presence in the region.
  • Many Latin Americans governments resent Chinese imports, which flood their markets at the cost of local businesses. They are also worried by their growing dependence on Chinese investments.
  • By contrast, India’s modest trade and investments are welcomed with virtually no opposition. This gives New Delhi an unexpected, long-term competitive advantage over China.

India’s interests in Latin America

(1) Economic

  • Latin America is also very rich in minerals such as copper, lithium, iron ore, gold and silver. It gives India an opportunity to increase investments for their extraction as well as for their imports at cheaper rates.
  • India’s exports to Latin America increased by 9.6% in 2018-19 (April to March) reaching $13.16 billion from $12 billion in 2017-18.

(2) Strategic 

  • The region is very important for India in order to achieve its global ambitions such as in order to pursue its membership of the UNSC, the NSG and at various other negotiations like climate change, terrorism, trade, etc
  • India is cooperating with Brazil at platforms like BRICS, IBSA which has provided an alternative platform for developing countries and reduces their dependence on existing institutions controlled by west.

(3) Energy security

  • Currently India sources 15% of its crude oil from Latin America countries.
  • Latin America is also an important partner in the India led International Solar Alliance.

(4) Food security

  • Latin America region is five times that of India and only has half as much population.
  • India is importing pulses and oil seeds from many of African and Southeast Asian countries at very high costs.

Why India should expand ties with Latin American countries

  • Growth prospect: With a collective GDP of more than $6 trillion, and a combined population of more than 600 million, half of which is under the age of thirty, Latin America constitutes a dynamic, growing and resource-rich part of the world with huge economic prospects for India.
  • Food Security: Latin America can also contribute towards food security. The region is five times the size of India and has only half the population. India is currently importing pulses and oilseeds from other countries at high costs.
  • Cheaper imports: Latin America is also very rich in minerals such as copper, lithium, iron ore, gold and silver, and could give India an opportunity to increase investments for their extraction as well as for their import at cheaper rates.

Way Forward

  • Bringing India and Latin America together will require effective institutional framework as well as businesses and people-to-people networks.
  • India must also promote Latin American studies, invest in shipping industries, and conclude preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements at the earliest.
  • Latin American languages must be encouraged in India to incentivise Indian professionals to take jobs in these countries, and to promote trading ties.
  • The commerce ministry should revive its ‘Focus:LAC’ programme, which has previously helped encourage and support Indian exporters to explore business opportunities in the region.

Conclusion

  • Latin America is being increasingly considered as an important investment destination due to its growing industrial and manufacturing strength.
  • India offers immense opportunities for collaboration, trade and investment for partner countries from Latin America. Latin American nations have long been seeking more diplomatic representation from India.
  • Despite recent improvements on many fronts, however, both India and the LAC countries face some formidable challenges.
  • They still have some of the highest inequality indices in the world, as well as serious deficiencies in infrastructure, technology, innovation and competitiveness.
  • India and the LAC region could approach these challenges as opportunities to forge new partnerships to promote growth and development through increased trade and investment.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Ukraine Crisis and India

Context

  • It is being perceived as a tightrope walk for India, taking a more neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • It is widely said that India’s statement at the UN lacked condemnation of the Russian invasion.
  • War makes no sense to anyone. But during these circumstances, we may raise one question:

“Why the West is pretending to need India against the war in Ukraine?”

Ans. For a country that claims to be a vishwaguru or world teacher, India’s shortsighted stance on critical geopolitical is a big surprise to the world.

Another narrative is– The west in spite of averting the crisis alone, is seeking our help. They are just trying to demonize India (as they usually did). They understand India’s interests and compulsions perfectly.

India-Ukraine Relations: A backgrounder

  • With a population of over 40 million and an area of about 600,000 sq km, Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe.
  • India has an extensive bilateral relationship with Ukraine, spanning all spheres of cooperation. India was one of the first countries to recognize Ukraine.
  • India recognized the Republic of Ukraine as a sovereign country in December 1991 and established diplomatic relations in January 1992.
  • The Embassy of India in Kyiv was opened in May 1992.  Ukraine opened its Mission in Delhi in February 1993 – its first in Asia.

(1) Trade

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown significantly in the last 25 years.
  • As per data from the Indian government, the bilateral trade between the two nations stood at $2.3 billion so far this fiscal, compared with $2.5 billion in the last fiscal (FY21). 
  • India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia-Pacific and the fifth largest overall export destination.

(2) Diplomacy

  • India and Ukraine have signed several MOUs/Agreements in many spheres.
  • These include Diplomatic relations, visa matters, consular matters, trade and commercial matters, space, science and technology, defense, etc.

(3) Culture

  • There is a great interest in Indian culture in Ukraine at the public level, covering various aspects such as dances, yoga, philosophy, Ayurveda and spirituality.
  • Many Indian movies have also been shot in Ukraine, for example most recent being the ‘Bahubali 2: The Conclusion’.
  • A small but vibrant Indian community lives in Ukraine, comprising mostly of business professionals and students.
  • There are about 18,000 Indian students studying in Ukraine, mainly in the field of medicine.

Why is Russia invading Ukraine now?

  • Undoing historic injustice: President Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014 after months of protests against his rule.
  • Ukraine’s affinity towards West and NATO: Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards the European Union and the West’s defensive military alliance, NATO.
  • So-called ‘oppression’ in Ukraine: It is now clear that Russia is seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Its aim is that Ukraine be freed from oppression and “cleansed of the Nazis”.

Why is this war a no-lesser significant event?

Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a clear violation of the rules-based international order.

  • First war of the century: These are terrifying times for the world, witnessing a major power invading a European neighbour for the first time since World War II.
  • Annexation of a democratic nation: For Europe’s leaders, this invasion has brought some of the darkest hours since the 1940s.
  • Covid disruptions: The global economic landscape, in a post-Covid situation, is in a shambles.
  • Intense militarization: The military industrial complex everywhere will be strengthened. As more and more armament is used up in the conflicts and more arms are manufactured.
  • Heading up towards mutually assured destruction

India’s position on this war so far

(1) India is subtle to Russia

  • New Delhi has taken a subtle pro-Moscow position on the question of Russian attacks against Ukraine.
  • This pro-Russia tilt is not just the position of the Indian government, but is something, somewhat surprisingly, shared by much of the Indian strategic community as well.

(2) Evacuation of Indians remain a priority

  • Ukraine has sought India’s support in its fight against the Russian forces.
  • In an emotional appeal, Ukrainian ambassador urged PM Modi for a personal intervention.
  • Hundreds of Indian students remain stranded in Ukraine and its border which is seemingly India’s topmost priority.

How would the war impact India?

(1) Economic Impact

  • This war has immediate consequences for global trade, capital flows, financial markets and access to technology.
  • It can hurt Asia through multiple channels, such as:
  • Tighter global financial conditions
  • Elevated uncertainty and the risk of weaker global demand
  • Higher commodity prices, especially oil

(2) Impact on diaspora

  • According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science, there are around 18,095 Indian students in the country. In 2020, 24 per cent of its overseas students were from India.
  • Ukrainian medical colleges are a godsend for students who are unable to get seats in government colleges or afford the hefty prices charged by private institutions in India. 

(3) Geo-political impact

(discussed below)

India’s dilemma

  • India may not share a border with either Russia or Ukraine, and as many intellectual elites have already argued, the case for New Delhi not taking sides is straightforward.
  • The West’s critical sanctions will inhibit any nation (including India) from doing business with Russia and potentially diversify Russia-India ties.

India needs Russia

  • Arms trade: Russia is one of India’s largest arms suppliers and a key strategic ally. More than half of India’s arms imports between 2016-2020 were from Russia.
  • Independent foreign policy: India’s special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia as a totem of Indian strategic autonomy.
  • Multi-polarity and institutional reforms: India shares Russia’s goal of a multipolar world. It is a member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and of BRICS, a loose grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

What message has India’s silence conveyed?

  • India is neither openly criticizing nor endorsing Russian actions.
  • However, this radio silence is seen as an endorsement of war.

Why is India silent?

Ans. The elephant in the room is China. Because “Power often triumphs principles.

  • China’s political patronage to Russia: A deepening global crisis would allow Russia to deepen its ties with China for political support, market access and technology.
  • Decline of US hegemony: A US-led international order now seems pretty much over, anchored as it was by financial imperialism through dollar-dependence, a petro-dollar market and via strategic military dominance.
  • Open opportunism for China: It is likely to use this opportunity to exhaust America’s foreign policy attention-capital away from its strategic objectives in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
  • Balancing China: This circumstances could negatively affect the coordinated approach that Delhi seeks among like-minded partners to balance China.

Western narratives of India’s position

  • Maintaining influence: India’s recent effort aims to “reclaim” or expand its “sphere of influence” in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Endorsing unification through revivalism: It creates a rhetoric around the integrated creation of Akhand Bharat is part of the thought process of right wing factions.
  • India’s territorial overtures for future: There have been voices of reclaiming Pakistan occupied Kashmir using the clouds of this war.

Is India doing a mistake?

  • Russian justifications for its actions against Ukraine are similar to those Beijing makes versus India:
  • Historical claims on territory
  • Ethnic Linkages
  • This military action would go against the respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty for which India frequently advocates.
  • Moscow may or may not be able to moderate Chinese antagonism towards New Delhi.
  • The hawks and the far right wing will gain popularity due to this war.

Threats remain to India

This war on Ukraine could have major implications for India’s strategic calculus:

  • Increasing Chinese assertion: It will no doubt embolden China and its territorial ambitions.
  • Sanctions on defense trade: India may be sanctioned by the US if it continues with the S-400 missile system deal, but also could extend to future defense purchases.
  • Pakistan Proximity: Pressure from the West on Russia will move it closer to India’s adversaries, China and Pakistan.

Options for India

There are four potential options India can/could choose from:

  1. Condemn
  2. Support
  3. Stay silent or
  4. Express displeasure and call for diplomacy

The first option will pit India against Russia, the second will pit it against the U.S. and its allies, the third option will be read as pro-Russia, and the fourth option — which it has taken — is the least harmful.

Way forward

  • Geopolitical priority: India’s Russia tilt should be seen not just as a product of its time-tested friendship with Moscow but also as a geopolitical necessity.
  • Upholding morality: However, with the rise of right-wing populism and authoritarianism across the globe, moments such as this in history, warrant bold, corrective action – and more importantly, a principled, moral outlook.
  • Upholding democratic principles: Silently siding with Russian imperial nostalgia, India’s “balanced posturing” and silent endorsement of the Russian president may hurt India’s credentials as a democratic republic.
  • No factionist divisions: India must also make it clear to coercing countries that their “with us or against us” formulations are hardly constructive. There are no innocents in this conflict.
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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-UAE Relations

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Context

India’s approach towards FTAs is now focusing more on gaining meaningful market access and facilitating the Indian industry’s integration into global value chains. As Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal has repeatedly emphasized, India would no longer be signing trade agreements just to join a group, but the new approach of FTA negotiations would respond to the need of new emerging dynamics in international trade and the Indian economy.

What is a Free Trade Agreement (FTA)?

It is an arrangement between two or more countries under which they agree to end tariffs and non-tariff barriers on a large value of imports from partner countries.

Coverage: The agreement may also cover, among others, services, investment, and economic cooperation.

  • FTA normally covers trade in goods (such as agricultural or industrial products) or trade in services (such as banking, construction, trading etc.).
  • FTA can also cover other areas such as intellectual property rights (IPRs), investment, government procurement and competition policy, etc.

Main focus: The focus of an FTA is primarily on economic benefits and encouraging trade between the countries by making it more efficient and profitable. But FTAs may also have political, or strategic benefits.

India’s revamped FTA strategy

  • Gaining meaningful market access: India’s approach towards FTAs is now focusing more on gaining meaningful market access and facilitating Indian industry’s integration into global value chains.
  • Under the revamped FTA strategy, the Government of India has prioritised at least six countries or regions to deal with, in which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) figures at the top of the list for an early harvest deal.
  • The others are the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel and a group of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
  • The early harvest deal is to be enlarged into a comprehensive FTA in due course of time.

Why does the FTA with UAE matter?

  • Important economic hub: The UAE has emerged as an important economic hub not just within the context of the Middle East/West Asia, but also globally.
  • Strategic location: The UAE, due to its strategic location, has emerged as an important economic centre in the world.
  • Although the UAE has diversified its economy, ‘the hydrocarbon sector remains very important followed by services and manufacturing.
  • Within services, financial services, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate and business services are the main contributors.
  • As part of the GCC, the UAE has strong economic ties with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, meaning the UAE shares a common market and a customs union with these nations.
  • Under the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) Agreement, the UAE has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

India-UAE Bilateral Relations

  • The relation has greatly flourished especially after the accession of H. H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as the ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966, and subsequently with the creation of UAE federation in 1971.
  • The greater push has been achieved in bilateral relations when the visit of India’s Prime Minister to the UAE in August 2015 marked the beginning of a new strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • Further, during the visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to India in January 2017 as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, it was agreed that bilateral relations were to be upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
    • This gave momentum to launching negotiations for an India-UAE comprehensive economic partnership agreement.
  • Indian Diaspora in UAE: Around 3 million Indians are living harmoniously in the UAE.
  • UAE – A willing partner: As India seeks to enhance economic engagement and deepen security cooperation with the Gulf, it finds a willing partner in the UAE.
  • India being a natural partner: As UAE ‘Look[s] East’ to find partners for its economic growth and with security concerns emanating from turmoil in West Asia and growing threat from terrorism, it finds a natural partner in India.
  • UAE has a special place due to its business-friendly atmosphere, willingness to invest in the Indian economy and its important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
  • India’s West Asia policy:  The UAE occupies a key place in India’s West Asia policy. The high-level visit from both sides has given a new impetus to this partnership.
  • In 2017 the two sides signed the agreement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

Why UAE is tilting towards India?

  • Geopolitical conditions as Iran is threatening continuously to close the Strait of Hormuz in case there is a conflict with Saudi Arabia or US. This will adversely affect UAE as well.
  • Failure of Pakistan to meet expectations: UAE saw Pakistan as a partner and incorporated a deep economic and security relationship with it. But in the present day, Pakistan does not seem to be of much help to UAE.
    • Already facing internal issues, Pakistan failed to come to the aid of Saudi Arabia in its war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen and has been unable to curb jihadists operating from its land across West Asia.
  • India is an important destination for oil and energy purchase as the US is on the way of becoming hydrocarbon independent.
  • UAE’s massive sovereign wealth funds can act as a great resource in the development of infrastructure in India.
  • Issue of Terrorism: There has been a rising convergence between India and UAE on the terror issue and both the countries talked of the need to combat terror groups without any discrimination.
    • Recently,five UAE diplomats were killed in an attack in Kandahar in Afghanistan.
  • Violent conflicts around without any resolutions: Countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are suffering from violent conflicts. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has not produced expected results.

What is the Economic Significance of the UAE?

  • The UAE has emerged as an important economic hub not just within the context of the Middle East/West Asia, but alsoglobally.
    • The UAE, due to its strategic location, has emerged as an important economic centre in the world.
  • In recent years, the UAE, through its ‘Vision 2021’, has sought to diversify its economy and reduce its dependency on oil.
    • Since 2012, growth has been led, according to a World Trade Organisation document, by the non-hydrocarbon sectors reflecting the successful diversification of the economy.
  • Although the UAE has diversified its economy, the hydrocarbon sector remains very important followed by services and manufacturing.
    • Within services, financial services, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate and business services are the main contributors.

India-UAE trade and investment ties

  • Trade and commerce forms the backbone of the bilateral relations. UAE has been one of India’s leading sources of FDIs. India and the UAE established diplomatic relations in 1972.
  • The India-UAE total trade merchandise has been valued at U.S.$52.76 billion for the first nine months of the fiscal year 2021-22, making UAE India’s third largest trade partner after China and the United States.
  • The UAE accounts for 8 percent of India’s oil imports and was fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India.
  • As India and the UAE strive to further deepen trade and investment ties, the soon-to-be-announced early harvest agreement comes at the most opportune time.
  • The aim is to boost bilateral merchandise trade to above U.S.$100 billion and services trade to U.S.$15 billion in five years.
  • Attractive export market: As we are witnessing a big turnaround in manufacturing, the UAE would be an attractive export market for Indian electronics, automobiles, and other engineering products.
  • Ninth biggest investor: The UAE’s investment in India is estimated to be around U.S.$11.67 billion, which makes it the ninth biggest investor in India.
  • On the other hand, many Indian companies have set up manufacturing units either as joint ventures or in Special Economic Zones for cement, building materials, textiles, engineering products, consumer electronics, etc.

Advanced Technology and the Knowledge Economy

  • In 2018, in an effort to keep pace with the changing technological imperative to attain their national aspirations, India and UAE signed a MoU to generate an estimated $20 billion in the span of a decade.
  • The Emirates have stepped up efforts to invest in the development of the knowledge economy by expanding “golden visa” residency permits in order to attract the best minds to the country so as to fuel the knowledge economy.
  • These ten-year visas are granted to doctors, engineers, PhD scholars and specialists in high-end technology fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, virology and epidemiology.

Space Cooperation

  • Space is a new arena in which India and the UAE have collaborated through the work of the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
  • Space cooperation between India and the UAE gained quick momentum during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Emirates in 2015.
  • Together, the two space agencies have developed the nano-satellite, Nayif-1, which was launched from the Satish Dhavan Space Centre, Sriharikota in India.
  • The two countries are likely to work together on Emirates’ ‘Red planet Mission’

Security and Defence Cooperation

  • Another significant pillar of India-UAE ties is reflected in their growing cooperation in security and defense sector.
  • With the spread of radicalism in Gulf and South Asia, India looks to enhance security cooperation with UAE to counter terrorist threats and combat radicalization.
  • ‘Desert Eagle II’, a ten day air combat exercise, was held between the air forces of India and UAE.

What is an Interim Trade Agreement (ITA)?

  • An interim or early harvest trade agreement is used to liberalise tariffs on the trade of certain goods between two countries or trading blocs before a comprehensive FTA is concluded.
  • Government’s emphasis on interim agreements may be tactical so that a deal may be achieved with minimum commitments and would allow for contentious issues to be resolved later.
  • Recently, India and Australia have announced plans to conclude an ITA in March 2022.
    • India is also looking to complete an early harvest agreement with the UAE and the UK in the first half of 2022.

Challenges

  • The UAE tariff structure is bound with the GCC, and the applied average tariff rate is 5%. Therefore, the scope of addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) becomes very important.
  • The reflection of NTBs can be seen through Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) which have mostly been covered by Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
  • The UAE has 451 SPS notifications.
  • Most of the notifications are related to consumer information, labelling, licensing or permit requirements and import monitoring and surveillance requirements.
  • These compliances pose a challenge for Indian exporters.

Way Forward

(1) Needs to ensure the execution of the investment projects with the required expertise

  • Potential areas to enhance bilateral trade include defence trade, food and agricultural products as well as automobiles. Medical tourism can be an important area where India can attract Emiratis.
  • Indian companies with expertise in renewable energy sector can invest in UAE.
  • In defence sector, there is a need to further enhance cooperation through joint training programmes.

(2) Manifold Benefits of India-UAE Trade Agreements

  • With India’s newfound strength in exports, a trade agreement with an important country such as the UAE would help sustain the growth momentum.
  • As we are witnessing a big turnaround in manufacturing, the UAE would be an attractive export market for Indian electronics, automobiles, and other engineering products.
  • As both the UAE and India are aggressively pursuing FTAs with several important countries, not only companies from these two countries but also MNCs from other geographies too would find the UAE and India an attractive market to invest in.

(3) Improving the relations with the GCC

  • As part of the GCC, the UAE has strong economic ties with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman and shares a common market and customs union with these nations.
  • Under the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) Agreement, the UAE has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
  • This FTA with the UAE will pave the way for India to enter the UAE’s strategic location, and have relatively easy access to the Africa market and its various trade partners.
  • This can help India to become a part of that supply chain especially in handlooms, handicrafts, textiles and pharma.

(4) Solving the issue of UAE’s Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) 

  • The UAE tariff structure is bound with the GCC (applied average tariff rate is 5%), therefore, the scope of addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) becomes very important.
  • The reflection of NTBs can be seen through Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) mostly covered by Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
  • The SPS notifications are mainly related to live poultry, meat, and processed food and the TBT notifications are related to fish, food additives, meat, rubber, electrical machinery, etc.
  • The FTA agreement must try to bring more transparency and predictability in the use of NTBs so that their compliance becomes less cumbersome.

Conclusion

India-UAE Relations have become a pivot of India’s Extended Neighborhood and Look West Policy in the region. Shared economic visions and geopolitical outlooks have spurred the two sides to seek to expand cooperation across multiple domains, notably in investment, technology, the knowledge economy, and defense and security. The recently signed India-UAE free trade agreement will enable two-way investment flows and help achieve ambitious export targets.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Status of Women in Sex Work

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Context

A recently launched Bollywood film is facing legal trouble after individuals claiming to be family members of the main protagonist, Gangubai Kathiawadi, have objected to her portrayal in the film.

This issue has brought a long slated debate of legalizing sex work in India. In this context let us know about various dimensions of the issue.

Who are sex workers?

  • Sex worker means a female, male or a transgender over the age of eighteen years who receives money or goods in exchange for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally.

What is the status of sex workers in India?

  • Three million women are engaged in commercial sex activity (CSA) in India, a 50% rise from 1997.
  • Over 60% of those trafficked into sex work are adolescent girls in the age group of 12-16 years. More than 35% girls in India enter CSA before 18 years of age.
  • India has three lakh brothels in 1,100 identified red-light areas, housing nearly five million children in addition to commercial sex workers.
  • More than 25 percent women in commercial sex activity in India are in Maharashtra (14.20 percent) and West Bengal (13 percent).
  • Despite increasing public outcry about violence against women in India, systematic large scale abuse in the name of commercial sex work remains socially acceptable.
  • The report aims to draw attention to the growing victimization of women, highlights high impact non-profits working on the issue and the outlines the role of philanthropy in scaling their efforts.

Forms of violence faced by sex workers

(1) Physical violence

  • Being subjected to physical force which can potentially cause death, injury or harm.
  • It includes, but is not limited to: being slapped, pushed, shoved, hit with the fist or with something else that could hurt, being kicked, dragged, beaten up, choked, deliberately burnt, etc.
  • These acts are operationally defined and validated in WHO survey methods on violence against women.

(2) Sexual violence

  • Rape, gang rape, sexual harassment, being physically forced or psychologically intimidated to engage in sex or subjected to sex acts against one’s will or that one finds degrading or humiliating.

(3) Emotional or psychological violence

  • Being insulted or made to feel bad about oneself; being humiliated or belittled in front of other people; being threatened with loss of custody of one’s children; being confined or isolated from family or friends; being threatened with harm to oneself or someone one cares about, etc.

(4) Human-rights violations that should be considered in conjunction with violence against sex workers are:

  • having money extorted
  • being denied or refused food or other basic necessities
  • being refused or cheated of salary, payment or money that is due to the person
  • being forced to consume drugs or alcohol
  • being arbitrarily stopped, subjected to invasive body searches or detained by police
  • being arbitrarily detained or incarcerated in police stations, detention centers and rehabilitation centers without due process
  • being arrested or threatened with arrest for carrying condoms
  • being refused or denied health-care services
  • being subjected to coercive health procedures such as forced STI and HIV testing, sterilization, abortions
  • being publicly shamed or degraded (e.g. stripped, chained, spat upon, put behind bars)
  • being deprived of sleep by force

Covid-19 pandemic and sex workers

  • The pandemic has hit millions of people and caused a great deal of suffering across communities. But there is one community that is especially hard hit and that is sex workers.
  • Owing to the non-recognition of sex work as “legitimate work”, sex workers have mostly been kept at arm’s length from the government’s relief programmes.
  • COVID-19 has thus provided more reason to consider a long-pending demand of sex workers in India — decriminalisation of sex work and a guaranteed set of labour rights.

What are the current legal protections?

  • The legislation governing sex work in India is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  • The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act was enacted in 1956.
  • Subsequent amendments were made to the law and the name of the Act was changed to Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  • The legislation penalises acts such as:
    1. keeping a brothel,
    2. soliciting in a public place,
    3. living off the earnings of sex work and
    4. living with or habitually being in the company of a sex worker.
  • Article 23(1) of the Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings and beggars and other similar forms of forced labor. 
  • Article 23(2) declares that any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law.

What are the issues with the Immoral Traffic Act?

  • This act represents the archaic and regressive view that sex work is morally wrong and that the people involved in it, especially womennever consent to it voluntarily.
  • After all, in popular depiction, entry into sex work is involuntary, forced, and through deception.
  • As a consequence, it is believed that these women need to be “rescued” and “rehabilitated”, sometimes even without their consent.
  • While this is a valid argument for minor girls, for many consenting adult sex workers, it has been a problem.

What are the consequences of the ‘archaic belief system’ on sex workers?

  • This is what has led to the classification of ‘‘respectable women” and “non-respectable women”.
  • This view is based on the belief that sex work is “easy” work and no one will or should choose to practise it. It thus perpetuates the prejudice that women who do practise sex work are morally devious.
  • The Act has not only criminalised sex work but also further stigmatised and pushed it underground thus leaving sex workers more prone to violence, discrimination and harassment.
  • The Act denies an individual their right over their bodies. Moreover, it imposes the will of the state over adults articulating their life choices.
  • It gives no agency to the sex workers to fight against the traffickers and in fact, has made them more susceptible to be harassed by the state officials.
  • The Act fails to recognise that many women willingly enter into agreements with traffickers, sometimes just to seek a better life as chosen by them.
  • Evidence shows that many women choose to remain in sex work despite opportunities to leave after ‘rehabilitation’ by the government or non-governmental organisations.

Major judicial observations

(1) Justice Verma Commission

  • Itacknowledged that there is a distinction between women who are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and adult, consenting women who are in sex work of their own volition.

(2) Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal (2011)

  • The judiciary is moving in the direction of recognising sex workers’ right to livelihood.
  • The Supreme Court opined that sex workers have a right to dignity.

Intended benefit sought from legalization

  • If prostitution is legalized, the State will acquire responsibility to manage brothels and it can fulfil this obligation by issuing a license to authorized persons.
  • It shall also formulate guidelines regarding the age of prostitutes, database on clientele, adequate remuneration and medical facilities to the prostitutes.
  • By this method, the prostitutes can acquire some rights such as the right to medical care, the right to education of their children, right against exploitation and rape, etc.
  • This method can facilitate the eradication of sex racquet operations, hidden and street prostitution, abuse of prostitute, etc.
  • There shall be protection houses established for those prostitutes who have lost their livelihood, or those who were forced into prostitution but do not want that lifestyle anymore.
  • Also, the government can impart training and basic education to these prostitutes so that they find other means to earn money and sustain their livelihood.

Threats posed by legalization

  • On the flipside, legalization of prostitution could be misinterpreted as the promulgation of prostitution.
  • This could pave the way for easy money for prostitutes and could encourage more women to practice prostitution.
  • There is a great possibility that this could be a revenue-generating industry for the Government.

National scheme for rehabilitation of sex workers

  • A panel constituted by the Supreme Court of India to look into the rehabilitation of sex workers has submitted a rehabilitation scheme to the Supreme Court.
  • The scheme is first of its kind and provides rehabilitation to sex workers as well as victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Some of the important high lights of the scheme are –
    • Provision for shelter – institutional & non institutional.
    • Scheme provides various kinds of options – education, vocational training, job, economic enterprise, etc.
    • Support for education of children of sex workers
    • Victim can be referred for the scheme by any one –social work organization, department of women & child development, self-group, police, sex work collective, etc.
    • Victims can themselves make an application for the scheme
    • Introducing, the concept of “Mentor”, a person to assist the victim in her rehabilitation and he will be paid for providing services
    • A monitoring team consisting of victims, district collector, social workers, and representatives from department of women and child development, police, district chambers of commerce and industries
    • Provision of assisting the sex worker to get voting card, ration card, Aadhar card, etc. to get benefits from government schemes

Values and principles for addressing violence against sex workers

  • Promote the full protection of sex workers’ human rights: This includes the rights to: nondiscrimination; security of person and privacy; recognition and equality before the law; due process of law and the highest attainable standard of health; employment, and just and favorable conditions of employment; etc.
  • Rescue and Rehabilitation: Reject interventions based on the notion of rescue and rehabilitation. Even when supposedly focused on minors, such raids deprive sex workers of their choice, control and power to act for themselves and increase the likelihood that they will experience violence.
  • Promote gender equality: Intervention strategies should aim for more equitable power relationships between sex workers and others in the wider community.
  • Respect the right of sex workers to make informed choices about their lives, which may involve not reporting or seeking redress for violence, not seeking violence-related services, or continuing in an abusive relationship.
  • Use participatory methods: Sex workers should be in decision-making positions where they can engage in processes to identify their problems and priorities, analyses causes and develop solutions.
  • Use an integrated approach in designing interventions: Holistic programmes that include provision of health services, work with the legal and justice sectors and are community-based so that it can have a greater impact on violence against sex workers and the risk of HIV.
  • Evaluate programmes to identify strategies that reduce risk factors and levels of violence faced by sex workers, in order to build the evidence base and ensure that resources are directed to the most beneficial strategies.
  • Provide necessary infrastructure: This may include local mobile phone numbers and/or hotlines staffed by trained community members. The availability of support services may need to be advertised through word of mouth, fliers and other communication channels.
  • Providing health services to sex workers who experience violence

Way Forward

  • The Supreme Court, in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal (2011), opined that sex workers have a right to dignity.
  • Parliament must also take a re-look at the existing legislation and do away with the ‘victim-rescue-rehabilitation’ narrative.
  • The country must thus rethink sex work from a labour perspective and guarantee basic labour rights to sex workers.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Freedom of religion and attire

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Context

Recently, six students were banned from entering a college in Karnataka’s Udupi district for wearing a hijab (a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women).

The issue throws up legal questions on reading the freedom of religion and whether the right to wear a hijab is constitutionally protected.

How is religious freedom protected under the Constitution?

  • Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
  • It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty — which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
    • However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
  • Observations made by the Supreme Court in this matter:
    • People have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion (Article 25).
    • Every person is the final judge of his/her choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
    • Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy.

Karnataka Education Act, 1983

  • It stated that students will have to wear dress chosen by the appellate committee of the administrative board of pre-university colleges or college development committee.
  • The Act seeks to provide for:
  1. Planned development of educational institutions
  2. Inculcation of healthy educational practice
  3. Maintenance and improvement in standards of education
  4. Better organisation discipline and
  5. Control over educational institutions in the State,
  6. With the objective of fostering harmonious development of mental and physical faculties of students.

What is section 133 (2)?

  • Section 133 (2) of the act mandates that, a uniform style of clothes has to be worn compulsorily. However, private school administration can choose uniform of their choice.  
  • It provides state the power to “give directions to officers or authorities under its control, which are necessary or expedient to carry out purposes of the Act.
  • It shall be the duty of officer or authority to comply with the directions.

Current status

  • The court is considering the issue whether the wearing of head scarf comes within fundamental right under Article 25.
  • One more question which may require consideration is whether the wearing of a head scarf is part of essential religious practice.
  • Interim order passed by Karnataka HC: The court said that till the matter is pending consideration before the Court, these students and all the stakeholders, shall not insist on wearing religious garments, maybe a head dress or saffron shawl.

Why do some Muslim women wear burkas?

  • According to Muslim scholars, the Koran calls for both men and women to ‘cover and be modest’.
  • As with many other religious scriptures, the reference to dress is open to interpretation and has been shaped by centuries of cultures in different nations.
  • Some scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the Muslim world. There are many variations and interpretations.

What is Hijab?

  • Hijab is a scarf or clothing worn by Muslim women to cover their hair in order to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males either in public or at home.
  • The concept, however, is not unique to Islam but embraced by other religions too such as Judaism and Christianity. 

History of Hijab in Islam

Veiling during Mohammad’s lifetime

  • Historic pieces of evidence suggest that veiling was not introduced in Arabia by the last Prophet of Islam, but already existed there and was associated with high social status. 

Spread of Islam and its traditions

  • As Islam propagated through the Middle East to parts of Africa and Central Asia, and different societies around the Arabian Sea, it incorporated local veiling customs and influenced others. 
  • However, the veil was neither compulsory nor widely accepted by many generations after Mohammad.
  • But it gained momentum after male scriptural and legal scholars began using their religious and political authority to regain the dominance they lost in society due to the Prophet’s egalitarian reforms. 

Veiling by upper-class Arab women

  • Soon, the Upper-class Arab women adopted veiling while the poor ones were slow to adopt as it interfered with their work in the fields.
  • The practice was both adopted as an appropriate expression of Qur’anic ideals regarding modesty and as a silent announcement that the women’s husband was rich enough to keep her idle. 

Westernization of Muslim Countries 

  • Westernization started dominating Muslim countries between the 1960s and 1970s. However, in 1979, widespread demonstrations were carried out in Iran after the hijab law was brought in.
  • The law decreed that the women in the country would have to wear scarves to leave their houses. While the law over hijab was passed in Iran, it was not the same for all Muslim countries.
  • The resurgence of hijab began in Egypt in the late-twentieth century as a means to reunite and rededicate to the Islamic faith.
  • The movement was known as Sahwah and the female pioneers of the movement adopted the Islamic dress.
  • The movement gained impetus and the practice became more widespread among Muslim women. They wore it publicly to announce their religious beliefs as well as reject western influences of dress and culture that were prevalent at the time. 

Different kinds of Islamic clothing

  1. Hijab: The hijab covers the hair and chest and is common among Muslim women in South East Asia. Hijab is also a general term referring to the practice of wearing veils of all kinds. 
  2. Niqab: It is a veil that covers the face and head, keeping the eye area open. 
  3. Burqa: covers the entire body including the whole face, with a mesh window for the woman to see out of. 
  4. Khimar: It is a long scarf that covers the head and chest but keeps the face uncovered. 
  5. Shayla: A rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the head and pinned in place. 

What is the essential religious practices test?

  • Shirur Mutt case: In 1954, the Supreme Court held that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practices “integral” to a religion.
    • The test to determine what is integral is termed the “essential religious practices” test.
  • The test, a judicial determination of religious practises, has often been criticised by legal experts as it pushes the court to delve into theological spaces.
  • In criticism of the test, scholars agree that it is better for the court to prohibit religious practices for public order rather than determine what is so essential to a religion that it needs to be protected.

Several instances of a court applying the test

  • In a 2004 ruling, the SC held that the Ananda Marga sect had no fundamental right to perform Tandava dance in public streets, since it did not constitute an essential religious practice of the sect.
  • While these issues are largely understood to be community-based, there are instances in which the court has applied the test to individual freedoms as well.
  • For example, in 2016, the SC upheld the discharge of a Muslim airman from the Indian Air Force for keeping a beard.
  • Armed Force Regulations, 1964, prohibits the growth of hair by Armed Forces personnel, except for “personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of hair or shaving of face”.
  • The court essentially held that keeping a beard was not an essential part of Islamic practices.

How have courts ruled so far on the issue of a hijab?

  • There are two set of rulings of the Kerala High Court, particularly on the right of Muslim women to dress according to the tenets of Islam, throw up conflicting answers.
  • In 2015, at least two petitions were filed before the Kerala High Court challenging the prescription of dress code for NEET exam which prescribed wearing clothes with certain dress code.
  • Here the Kerala HC directed the CBSE to put in place additional measures for checking students who“intend to wear a dress according to their religious custom, but contrary to the dress code”.
  • Amna Bint Basheer v Central Board of Secondary Education (2016): Here, the Kerala HC examined the issue more closely.
    • The Court held that the practice of wearing a hijab constitutes an essential religious practice but did not quash the CBSE rule.
    • The court once again allowed for the “additional measures” and safeguards put in place in 2015.
  • Fathima Tasneem v State of Kerala (2018): On the issue of a uniform prescribed by a school, the Kerala HC held that collective rights of an institution would be given primacy over individual rights of the petitioner.

Seven questions pending before Supreme Court

The row over wearing hijab has brought back into focus a case on the “scope and ambit” of religious freedom, which has been pending before a Constitution Bench of nine judges for two long years.

The seven questions pending an answer from the nine-judge Bench are:

  1. What is the scope and ambit of right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution;
  2. What is the inter-play between the rights of persons under Article 25 of the Constitution and rights of religious denomination under Article 26;
  3. Whether the rights of a religious denomination are subject to other provisions of Part III of the Constitution apart from public order, morality and health;
  4. What is the scope and extent of the word ‘morality’ under Articles 25 and 26 and whether it is meant to include constitutional morality;
  5. What is the scope and extent of judicial review with regard to a religious practice as referred to in Article 25;
  6. What is the meaning of expression “sections of Hindus” occurring in Article 25 (2) (b);
  7. Whether a person not belonging to a religious denomination or religious group can question a practice of that religious denomination or religious group by filing a PIL?”

Way Forward

  • Pluralism and inclusiveness are characterised by religious freedom. Its purpose is to promote social harmony and diversity.
  • There is no one uniform code today which is mandated throughout the State. It would be a depressing response from a government that prioritises uniformity over diversity.
  • Religious fanaticism, whether by the majority or the minority, has only damaged the secular mosaic.
  • Despite many criticisms of the practice of hijab being oppressive and detrimental to women’s equality, many Muslim women view the way of dress to be a positive thing. 
  • The dress code was seen as a way to avoid harassment and unwanted sexual advances in public and works to desexualize women in the public sphere to allow them to enjoy equal rights of completely legal, economic, and political status.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] ‘Climate Smart’ Agriculture and GHG Emissions

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Context

In the backdrop of the 2070 carbon neutrality target set by India at the CoP26 in Glasgow, the Union Budget for 2022-23 has listed “climate action” and “energy transition” as one of the four priorities for the Amrit Kaal.

Agriculture contributes 73 percent of the country’s methane emissions. India has kept away from the recent EU-US pledge to slash methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, despite the country being the world’s third-largest emitter of methane.

India’s status with respect to emissions

  • World Air Quality Report 2020: 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India and Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital.
  • Global Carbon Atlas: India ranks third in total greenhouse gas emissions by emitting annually around 2.6 billion tonnes (Bt) CO2eq.
  • India’s per capita emission is just 1.8 tonnes, significantly lower than the world average of 4.4 tonnes per capita.
  • India ranked seventh on the list of countries most affected due to extreme weather events, incurring losses of $69 billion (in PPP) in 2019 (Germanwatch, 2021).
  • In India, energy sector contributes highest emission (44 %), followed by manufacturing and construction sector (18 %), agriculture, forestry and land use sectors (14 %), with remaining being shared by transport, industrial processes and waste sectors.
  • Share of agriculture in total emissions has gradually declined from 28% (1994) to 14% (2016).
  • But in absolute terms, emissions from agriculture have increased to about 650 Mt CO2 in 2018, which is similar to China’s emissions from agriculture.
  • Agricultural emissions in India are primarily from livestock sector (54.6 %), use of nitrogenous fertilizers (19 %), rice cultivation (17.5 %), livestock management (6.9 %) and burning of crop residues (2.1 %).

Agriculture and Greenhouse gases

  • Farming in particular releases significant amounts of methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gases.
  • Methane is produced by livestock during digestion due to enteric fermentation and is released via belches.
  • It can also escape from stored manure and organic waste in landfills. Livestock is alone responsible for 44% of methane emissions.
  • 53% of Nitrous oxide emissions are an indirect product of organic and mineral nitrogen fertilizers. Fertilizers rich in nitrogen pollute water and threaten the aquatic ecosystem.

Monoculture

  • Monocultures along with pesticides and herbicides lead to the loss of biodiversity. Monoculture cropping systems leave soil bare for much of the year, rely on synthetic fertilizer, and plow fields regularly.
  • These practices leave soils low in organic matter and prevent formation of deep, complex root systems leading to reduced water holding capacity.
  • Clearing uncultivated land for farming can lead to the destruction of natural ecosystems, which may have a devastating effect on the local wildlife and biodiversity and the micro-climate.
  • Many agricultural sectors need large amounts of water, which may cause water scarcity and drought.

Reasons for agricultural emissions to be so high

  • Subsidies: The damage is largely a result of the various kinds of subsidies — on urea, canal irrigation and power for irrigation.
  • The Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and procurement policies concentrated on a few states and largely on two crops, rice, and wheat has led to their overproduction.
  • Unplanned wheat and rice production: As of 1 January 2022, the stocks of wheat and rice in the country’s central pool were four times higher than the buffer stocking requirement.
  • Despite the record distribution of rice in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and exports in 2020-21, the rice stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) are seven times the buffer norms for rice.
  • This data not only reflects inefficient use of scarce capital, but also the large amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) embedded in these stocks.

Changing Climate Affecting Agriculture

  • Extreme heat: Crops need suitable soil, water, sunlight, and heat to grow. However, extreme heat events and reductions in precipitation and water availability have hampered the crop productivity.
  • Changing Rainfall Patterns: Rainfall patterns have already begun shifting across the country, and such changes are expected to intensify over the coming years.
    • This is likely to mean more intense periods of heavy rain and longer dry periods, even within the same regions.
  • Floods: Flooding in many agricultural regions of the country have been witnessed and these floods have devastated crops and livestock, accelerated soil erosion and have polluted water.

What is climate-smart agriculture?

  • Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach to help the people who manage agricultural systems respond effectively to climate change. 
  • The CSA approach pursues the triple objectives of:
    • Increased Productivity: Produce more and better food to improve nutrition security and boost incomes, especially of 75% of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and mainly rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
    • Enhanced Resilience: Reduce vulnerability to drought, pests, diseases and other climate-related risks and shocks, and improve capacity to adapt and grow in the face of longer-term stresses like shortened seasons and erratic weather patterns.
    • Reduced Emissions: Pursue lower emissions for each calorie or kilo of food produced, avoid deforestation from agriculture and identify ways to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • Different elements of climate-smart agricultural systems include:
    1. Management of farms, crops, livestock, aquaculture and capture fisheries to balance near-term food security and livelihoods needs with priorities for adaptation and mitigation.
    2. Ecosystem and landscape management to conserve ecosystem services that are important for food security, agricultural development, adaptation and mitigation.
    3. Services for farmers and land managers to enable better management of climate risks/impacts and mitigation actions.
    4. Changes in the wider food system including demand-side measures and value chain interventions that enhance the benefits of CSA.

What are the issues raised in global negotiation on climate change?

  • Nations are still quibbling about historical global emitters and who should take the blame and fix it.
  • Global negotiations on climate change often talk about emissions on a per capita basis and the emission intensity of GDP.
  • Per capita emission: Of the top five absolute emitters, the US has the highest per capita emissions (15.24 tonnes), followed by Russia (11.12 tonnes).
  • India’s per capita emissions is just 1.8 tonnes, significantly lower than the world average of 4.4 tonnes per capita.
  • If one takes emissions per unit of GDP, of the top five absolute emitters, China ranks first with 0.486 kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP, which is very close to Russia at 0.411 kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP.
  • India is slightly above the world average of 0.26 (kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP) at 0.27 kg, while the USA is at 0.25, and Japan at 0.21.
  • In our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted in 2016, India committed to “reduce emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.”

Way Forward

  1. Reward farmers through carbon credit: A carbon policy for agriculture must aim not only to reduce its emissions but also reward farmers through carbon credits which should be globally tradable.
  2. Focus on livestock: With the world’s largest livestock population (537 million), India needs better feeding practices with smaller numbers of cattle by raising their productivity.
  3. Efficient fertiliser use: Agricultural soils are the largest single source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in the national inventory.
  4. An alternative for better and efficient fertiliser use would be to promote fertigation and subsidise soluble fertilisers.
  5. Incentives and subsidies: The government should incentivise and give subsidies on drips for fertigation, switching away from rice to corn or less water-intensive crops, and promoting soluble fertilisers at the same rate of subsidy as granular urea.
  6. Revisiting Policies: The Economic Survey 2021-22 points out that the country is over-exploiting its ground water resource, particularly in the northwest and some parts of south India which is primarily due to paddy cultivation on 44 million hectares.
  1. This calls for revisiting policies to subsidise power and fertilisers, MSP and procurement and reorient them towards minimising GHG emissions.
  2. Three-Pronged Approach for GHG Emissions: India has the potential to cut 18% of its annual greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture and livestock sector. 50% of this reduction could be achieved by implementing these three measures:
    1. Efficient use of fertiliser
    2. Adoption of zero-tillage
    3. Management of water used to irrigate paddy
  3. Carbon Pricing: According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world needs a carbon tax of $75 per tonne by 2030 to reduce emissions to a level consistent with a 2℃ warming target.
    1. Many countries have begun to implement carbon pricing; Sweden leads the pack with a carbon price as high as $137 per tonne of CO2 equivalent while EU is at $50/tonne of CO2 equivalent.
    2. It is high time for India to announce indicative carbon pricing and create a vibrant carbon market to incentivise green growth in Amrit Kaal.
  4. Increasing Farmer Awareness: The right approach is to give the rice-producing-farmers the right advice and incentives at the right time so that they add only as much water or fertilisers as the rice plant needs.
    1. Rice farming shall be made more sustainable, without having a negative impact on farmers livelihood.
  5. Sustainable Dairy Practices: There is a need to proactively ramp up sustainable dairy practices, which may include:
    1. Realising the existing potentials for GHG emission reduction through technological and farm best practices interventions and solutions.
    2. Reducing its demand for resources by better integrating livestock into the circular bio-economy.
    3. This can be achieved by recycling and recovering nutrients and energy from animal waste.
    4. Closer integration of livestock with crops and agro-industries at various scales to make use of low value and low-emission biomass.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Inequality in India

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Context

Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, Oxfam International presented its annual global Inequality Report titled ‘Inequality Kills’ which presented the quantum growth in wealth of a minuscule few, and the simultaneous impoverishment of millions of working people. The findings of the report remain dismal for India as well.

The report discussed India’s governance structures that promote wealth accumulation by a few and fail to provide safety nets to the rest of the population.

What is the “Inequality Kills” Report?

  • “Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19” is a report released in January 2022 by Oxfam, a U.K.-based consortium.
  • The report argues for sustained and immediate action to end the pandemic, address global inequality and initiate concerted measures to tackle the climate emergency.
  • The central argument of the report is that inequality is a death sentence for people that are marginalized by social and economic structures and removed from political decision-making.
Constitutional Provisions to Tackle Inequality
There is a constitutional mandate in India to reduce inequality – Articles 38 and 39 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) mandate a policy path.
Article 38(1): “The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life.”
Article 39 (c): The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards ensuring that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.

What are the key highlights of the report?

  • Inequality: a death sentence: The central argument of the report is that inequality is a death sentence for people that are marginalised by social and economic structures and removed from political decision making.
  • A new billionaire created every 26 hours since the pandemic began: The world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes, while over 160 million people are projected to have been pushed into poverty.
    • Meanwhile, an estimated 17 million people have died from COVID-19—a scale of loss not seen since the Second World War.
  • Covid-19 effect: The wealth of the 10 richest men has doubled, while the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off, because of COVID-19.
    • The 10 richest men in the world own more than the bottom 3.1 billion people. If the 10 richest men spent a million dollars each a day, it would take them 414 years to spend their combined wealth.
  • Vaccine Apartheid: It identifies “vaccine apartheid” (unequal access to vaccines between countries) and the lack of universal vaccination programs in many countries as a cause of the emergence of multiple new strains of the coronavirus that has led to the continuation of the pandemic.
  • Government expenditure resulting into inflation: It also demonstrates how emergency government expenditure (estimated at $16 trillion) that was meant to keep economies afloat during this crisis, inflated stock prices.
    • This resulted in billionaires’ collective wealth increasing by $5 trillion during the pandemic.
  • A 99% windfall tax on the COVID-19 wealth gains of the 10 richest men could pay to make enough vaccines for the entire world and fill financing gaps in climate measures, universal health and social protection, etc.

What Does The Report Say About India?

  • Inequality of Wealth: During the Covid-19 pandemic, the report reveals –
    • more than half the world’s new poor are from India,
    • 84% Indian households have suffered a loss of income,
    • with 4.6 crore people falling into extreme poverty
  • In this period, the richest 142 people have more than doubled their wealth to more than ₹53 lakh-crore.
  • And India’s top 10 per cent had around 45 per cent of the country’s total national wealth in 2020. Imposing tax on the rich in India can take care of vital public services like health and education.
  • Decline in Social Security Expenditure: As Covid continued to ravage India, the country’s healthcare budget saw a 10% decline from RE (Revised Estimates) of 2020-21.
    • The budgetary allocation for social security schemes declined from 1.5% of the total Union budget to 0.6%.
  • Increasing Fiscal Deficit: Lowering corporate taxes from 30% to 22% to attract investment last year (2020) resulted in a loss of Rs 1.5 lakh crore, which contributed to the increase in India’s fiscal deficit.
  • Imposing a 4 per cent tax on 98 wealthiest families in the country can look after –
    • the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for more than two years,
    • the Mid-Day Meal Programme for 17 years or
    • the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan for six years
  • The report also revealed that one-third of respondents with a ration was were not able to buy ration at a PDS outlet.

What are the factors of inequality?

  • Budgetary Decline: India is one of the few countries in the world where during the Covid pandemic the health Budget has declined — and that too by a huge 10% in 2021.
  • Social security expenditure has declined from an already low 1.5% in 2020-21 to 0.6% of the Union Budget in 2021-22. People are deprived of the most basic services and entitlements and are unable to survive.
  • Inequality in Salaries and Allowances: Social security pensions, for the elderly, for the disabled, and widows have been frozen at ₹200-₹300 a month for almost 15 years. However, in contrast, there has been an increment in the salaries and pensions of the policymakers.
  • The increase for one crore central government employees and pensioners has cost the exchequer more than the total social security pension budget for 3.3 crore beneficiaries.
  • Unavailability of Subsidized Food grain: The priority list of households under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been frozen in absolute numbers, based on a percentage determined from the 2011 Census.
    • In the last 11 years, population increases amounting to approximately 10 crore eligible beneficiaries have been kept out.
    • Therefore, approximately 12% legally entitled people — even children of existing “priority households” — cannot get subsidized foodgrain.
  • Unequal Access to Education: The pandemic has also produced a generation of children who have forgotten what formal education is. Many teenagers from poor households have already joined the workforce.
    • In this period, there has been a 6% cut in the education Budget. Relying on online teaching, accompanied by Budget cuts, amounts to the institutionalization of endemic multidimensional poverty.

How does the report propose to rectify global inequality?

The “Inequality Kills” report proposes far-reaching changes to structures of government, economy, and policymaking to fight inequality.

  • It urgently asks for “vaccine recipes” to be made open source so that every qualified vaccine manufacturer can manufacture them.
    • In doing so the report asks for monopolies over vaccines held by pharmaceutical giants and anchored in place through the World Trade Organisation, to end.
  • The report then asks for governments to “claw” back the wealth from billionaires by administering solidarity taxes higher than 90% especially on the billionaires that have profited during and because of the pandemic.
  • In addition to this, the report asks for permanent cancellation of tax havens, progressive taxation on corporations and an end to tax dodging by corporations.
  • The report then suggests that all of this regained wealth be redirected towards building income safety nets, universalising healthcare for everyone, investing in green technologies and democratising them, and, investing in protecting women from violence.
  • Finally, the report advocates for redistributing power along with wealth by strengthening workers’ unions, boosting political representation of marginalised groups, and asserting human rights.
  • Change rules and shift power in the economy and society: Governments must rewrite the rules within their economies that create such colossal divides, and act to pre-distribute income, change laws, and redistribute power in decision-making and power in the economy.
  • That includes ending sexist laws, including those which mean that nearly 3 billion women are legally prevented from having the same choice of jobs as men.
  • It must include tackling the barriers to representation for women, racialized groups, and working-class people. Women still make up only 25.5% of parliamentarians globally.

Implications of inequality

  • Crime and violence: The report identifies higher inequality with more crime and violence and less social trust.
  • Impact on marginalized: The brunt of inequality and the violence is borne, for instance, by women across the world, Dalits in India, Black, Native American and Latin persons in the US and indigenous groups in many countries.
  • Victimization of women: Pointing to the example of women, the problem runs a lot deeper as 13 million women have not returned to the workforce and 20 million girls are at risk of losing access to education.
  • Inequality causes a wide range of health and social problems, from reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality to poor educational attainment, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence and mental illness.
  • Societal breakdown: It further leads to a societal breakdown in trust, solidarity and social cohesion, reducing people’s willingness to act for the common good.
    • For instance, social conflict among the social groups in India, like Patidar unrest and Jaat Andolan.
  • Denial of basic services: Due to the prevailing inequality in digital access, the digital solutions offered for providing basic services such as health and education face failure.
  • Environmental degradation: Greater inequality can lead to more rapid environmental degradation because low incomes lead to low investment in physical capital and education
  • The gap between the top 1% and the bottom 50% is wider for India than the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France.

What is the pattern of inequality over the years?

  • During Independence– In the Nehruvian years and after that too, a bid was made to battle the basic absence of social democracy in India, but it remained confined to States and regions.
    • The Five Year plans contributed to reducing the share of the top 10% who had 50% of the income under colonial rule to 35%-40% in the early decades after Independence.
  • During economic reforms– Since the mid-1980s, deregulation and liberalisation policies have led to the top 1% majorly profiting from economic reforms whereas the growth among low- and middle-income groups has been relatively slow.
    • The income of the bottom 50% in India grew at the rate of 2.2% per year between 1951 and 1981, but that the growth rate remained exactly the same over the past 40 years.
  • Post-2014– India seems to have got into a phase of an even greater reliance on big business and privatisation to fix economics and the latest World Inequality Report concludes that the bottom 50% share has gone down to 13%.

What flaws can be attributed to this?

  • Moving away from secularisation-The Union government’s now-stated policy to prioritise members of one religion and one language, has severe economic consequences widening the income inequality.
  • Reverse modernisation– By choosing to reverse the idea of modernisation, linking religion firmly into the public sphere, trying to unmake the modernity, we may be setting ourselves on a narrow path that nations in the world have already arrived at.
  • One size nation– The quick descent into a one size nation does not fit its much diversity. The state is now fanning systems and principles to further inequalities.
  • Denial of equality– B.R. Ambedkar had issued a grim warning in 1949 that if we continue to deny social and economic inequality for long, we could blow up the structure of political democracy.

What are the different forms of inequality prevalent in India?

  • Income and wealth inequality, as mentioned above in the findings of the World Inequality Report.
  • Digital inequality: According to National Sample Survey (2017), only 6% of rural households and 25% of urban households have a computer. Only 17% in rural areas and 42% in urban areas have access to internet.
  • Social inequality: It is the differential access to wealth, power, and prestige. Social inequality may exist on gender, race, age, ethnicity, religion, and kinship. This form of inequality is widely prevalent in India.

What are the reasons behind high inequality in India?

  • The slow economic and GDP growth: GDP growth has been rather slow since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and has completely lost its momentum since the start of 2017. For a relatively poor country such as India, the most durable and dependable way to reduce inequality is to increase the size of GDP.
  • Lack of digital access: Poor households are not able to afford devices to ensure digital access for their children. Most of the rural students could not access online classes, due to lack of devices, shared devices, inability to buy “data packs”, etc.
  • Increased penetration of technology and industrialization: Some experts argue that as technology is skill biased, so those who are able to use technology experience an increase in productivity and wages compared to their less-skilled counterparts.
    • The increase in productivity leads to the spread of technology, which, in turn, creates a higher demand for skilled workers. This self-reinforcing cycle increases wealth and income inequality.
  • Large numbers of the labor force work in sectors with low productivity. Consider agriculture. It provides 53 per cent jobs, while contributing only 17% to the GDP

Way Forward

  • Multi-Pronged Approach to Tackle Inequality: Programs such as the National Food Security Act must receive the quantum of allocations needed.
    • Also, the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) has estimated that approximately ₹2,64,000 crore will be needed to guarantee 100 days work for currently active job cards.
  • The social security pensioners need to be protected from hunger, sickness and poverty. The election season offers an opportunity to fetch the basic rights of the unorganized and vulnerable people.
  • Gains from Tax: All the governments should immediately tax the gains made by the super-rich during this pandemic period.
  • Increasing the Reach of Basic Necessities: Given the growing inequality in India, the direction that public policy should now take is evident, there is a need to spread health and education far more widely amidst the population.
    • By ensuring universal access to public funded high quality services like Public health and education, social security benefits, employment guarantee schemes, inequality can be reduced to a great extent.
  • Employment Generation: The labor-intensive manufacturing sector of India has the potential to absorb millions of people who are leaving farming while the service sector tends to benefit the urban middle class.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Russia-Ukraine Crisis

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Context

Recently, a report stated that the tension on the Russia-Ukraine border represents a major security crisis for the region. The massive mobilization of Russian troops on the Ukraine border and occasional outbreak of violence in the contested Donbass region has pushed both countries to the brink of an open conflict.

History of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia

Annexation of Crimea

  • Ukraine was one of the republics within the USSR during the cold war days, and has remained a strong ally of Russia till 2013.
  • While it was planning to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 2013, Russia sternly objected to it leading to tensions.
  • Russia subsequently annexed “Crimea” (Russian speaking province in Ukraine) by force and declared its sovereignty over it with people’s support.
  • The resultant conflict has so far claimed about 10,000 lives and displaced millions with no lasting resolution in sight.

The naval skirmish over the Sea of Azov

  • After Crimea’s annexation in 2014, Russia gained control over both sides of the Kerch strait.
  • In May 2018, Russian opened a 12-mile-long bridge over the Kerch Strait, which has also become the physical gateway to the Sea of Azov.
  • To prevent the Ukrainian boats from passing under the bridge, Russia placed a cargo ship below it.
  • Later, the Ukrainian vessels’ attempt to travel from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov was denied by the Russian coast guard.
  • However, Ukraine insists that the patrol of the Kerch Strait was authorized under a bilateral agreement with Moscow.
  • Thus the naval skirmish over the Sea of Azov proves again the Russia’s irreversibility of its annexation of Crimea.

Russian backed rebels

  • Russia has been criticized for its involvement in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
  • There, Russian-backed separatists have been fighting with Ukrainian troops.
  • In May 2021, Moscow has allegedly deployed thousands of troops as well as tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border and has mobilized troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea.
  • Current conflict – Belarus, a Russian ally was blamed for the migration crisis in the EU’s Polish border.
  • Russia flew bombers near Poland’s borders earlier this month.
  • In the Black Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched vessels to shadow U.S. warships.

Cause of Conflict

(1) Shared history

  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links. 
  • As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally. 

(2) Emotional Exploitation of People

  • For many in Russia and in the ethically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.

(3) Balance of Power

  • Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.

(4) Acts as a buffer

  • For the United States and the European Union, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West. 
  • As tensions with Russia rise, the US and the EU are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.

What is Euromaidan Movement?

Origin of the movement

  • November 2013 saw the start of mass protests across Ukraine, but particularly in Kiev’s Maidan, or central square. 

Protest

  • Protesters were angry at Ukraine’s then pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union instead of the EU. 
  • The protests, known as the Euromaidan movement, saw massive clashes between the protesters and security forces that reached their peak in February 2014 and led to the ouster of Yanukovych.

Annexing Crimea

  • Amid fears of growing Western influence in Ukraine, Russia decided to take action by invading Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine. 
  • It also began fomenting a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, which is home to many who are ethnically Russian.

Result of this annexation

  • The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea have given Russia a maritime upper hand in the region. 
  • It also gave Russia’s President a significant boost in popularity ratings inside Russia. 

Criticism received globally

  • It was widely condemned by world powers and resulted in the US and EU imposing sanctions on Moscow. 
  • It also resulted in a strengthened commitment by both the US and the EU to protect the integrity of Ukraine’s borders.

Separatist Movement

  • The Donbass region (the Donetsk and Luhansk regions) of eastern Ukraine has been facing a pro-Russian separatist movement since 2014.
  • According to the Ukrainian government, the movement is actively supported by the Russian government and Russian paramilitaries make up between 15% to 80% of the separatists fighting against the Ukraine government.

How big is the risk of invasion?

  • Russia says it has no plans to attack Ukraine.
  • But tensions are high and President Vladimir Putin has threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” if what he calls the West’s aggressive approach continues.
  • Russia has offered no explanation for the troops posted close to Ukraine – and Russian troops and tanks have

What are Russia’s and the West’s interests in Ukraine?

  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links.
  • As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally.
  • Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.
  • For many in Russia and in the ethically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.
  • For the US and the EU, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West. As tensions with Russia rise, the US and the EU are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.
  • Efforts to induct Ukraine into NATO have been ongoing for many years and seems to have picked up pace recently.

What does Russia want from NATO?

  • Russia do not want Ukraine to become a member of NATO.
  • Moscow accuses NATO countries of “pumping” Ukraine with weapons and the US of stoking tensions.
  • It demands no more eastward expansion and an end to NATO military activity in Eastern Europe.
  • That would mean combat units being pulled out of Poland and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and no missiles deployed in countries such as Poland and Romania.
  • Russia has also proposed a treaty with the US barring nuclear weapons from being deployed beyond their national territories.

What does Russia want with Ukraine?

  • Russia seized Crimea in 2014 arguing it had a historic claim to it.
  • Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in December 1991 and Russia said it was the “disintegration of historical Russia”.
  • Russia has also become frustrated that a 2015 Minsk peace deal for eastern Ukraine is far from being fulfilled.

Minsk Agreements

Minsk I

  • Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed a 12-point ceasefire deal in the capital of Belarus in September 2014.
  • Its provisions included prisoner exchanges, deliveries of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.

Minsk II

  • In 2015, an open conflict was averted after the ‘Minsk II’ peace agreement was signed, under the mediation of France and Germany.
  • It was designed to end the fighting in the rebel regions and hand over the border to Ukraine’s national troops.
  • It was signed by Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of two pro-Russian separatist regions.
  • OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organisation. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.

Concerns for ‘Nord Stream 2’ gas pipeline’s future

  • The US threatened to halt the opening of a key pipeline that would send Russian gas to Western Europe, if Russia invades Ukraine.
  • Nord Stream 2 would run from Russia to Germany.

What is Nord Stream 2?

  • The 1,225km (760-mile) pipeline took five years to build and cost $11bn (£8bn). The energy project, which would run under the Baltic Sea, is designed to double Russia’s gas exports to Germany.
  • If it comes to fruition, the pipeline will be able to pump 55 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany each year.

So why is it so controversial?

  • The pipeline is a tool of Russian foreign policy – and there has been strong opposition from the US, Ukraine and Poland.
  • The US fears the pipeline makes Europe much more dependent on Russian energy, handing significant power over Berlin and the EU to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Russia sends much of its gas to Europe through Ukraine. But Nord Stream 1 and 2 bypass the country.
  • That means that with the new pipeline Kyiv could lose out on €1.8bn in “transit” fees it earns on gas passing through its territory. Ukraine says it is being punished for its warm relations with the West.
  • Poland is unhappy about being overlooked as a transit country for Russian gas supplies into Europe.

So what happens if it doesn’t open?

  • Europe is already grappling with soaring energy prices and lower-than-usual supplies of Russian gas.
  • Germany badly needs the pipeline’s gas. It could warm 26 million German homes and ease the nation’s transition to renewable energy.
  • But the bigger danger would come from Russia halting gas supplies from existing pipelines through Ukraine.

India’s Stand

  • During a UNSC meeting in May 2021, India signaled its backing for traditional partner Russia on the Ukraine issue.
  • India has advocated political and diplomatic solutions that protect the legitimate interests of all countries in the region and ensure long term peace and stability in Europe and beyond.
  • The path forward can only be through peaceful dialogue for a lasting solution acceptable to all concerned.
  • Last November India voted against a Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the UN that condemned alleged human rights violations in Crimea thereby backing old ally Russia on the issue.

Way Forward

  • Ukraine’s reluctance to implement the agreement and its growing military, economic and political ties with the West seem to have prompted Russia to put Ukraine under direct military pressure.
  • Ukraine lacks the military resources to deter its giant neighbor and there is no guarantee that the West would come to its help in the event of a Russian invasion.
  • Russia might make tactical gains from an invasion but such a move could further deteriorate its already ruptured ties with the West.
  • The practical solution is to revive the Minsk peace process.
  • The West should push both sides to resume talks and live up to their commitments as per the Minsk agreement to restore relative peace on the border.
  • International cooperation is needed to solve the ever-increasing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Both the countries should restrain from any move leading to escalation of the tension.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Supreme Court Guidelines for Quotas in Promotions

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Context

The Supreme Court refused to lay down the “yardstick” for determining the inadequacy of representation for granting reservation in promotions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in government jobs.

The court’s judgement came in a batch of petitions from across the country seeking further clarity on the modalities for granting reservation in promotion.

Current Scenario of Reservations in Promotions for SC/ST

  • The 2006 verdict on Nagaraj vs Union of India brought in a creamy layer filter for promotions for SC/ST employees.
  • Also, the judgement ruled that the state had to collect ‘quantifiable data on backwardness’ of the SC/ST class if it wished to provide reservation in promotions.
  • The judgement finally held that when it comes to promotion of SC/ST employees, the creamy layer concept does apply.
  • So now, only in direct recruitment of the SC/STs, the creamy layer concept does not apply.

What does the Supreme Court rule?

Cadre for Collecting Data

  • It held ‘cadre’ and not class, group or the entire service as the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data for giving promotion quotas.
  • It said otherwise the entire exercise of reservation in promotions would be rendered meaningless if data pertaining to the representation of SCs and STs was done with reference to the entire service.

No Yardstick

  • The question of adequate representation of an SC/ST community ought to be left to the respective States to determine and it cannot lay down any yardstick for determining the inadequacy of representation.

Set Aside the Judgement in B.K. Pavithra Case (2019)

  • With the recognition of ‘cadre’ as the unit for collection of quantifiable data, the court set aside its earlier judgement in the B.K. Pavithra case.
  • SC held that the conclusion of this court approving the collection of data on the basis of groups and not cadres is contrary to the law laid down by the SC in Nagaraj and Jarnail Singh judgments.
  • The court held that the Nagaraj judgement would have “prospective effect.”

Review Ordered

  • The SC ordered that a review had to be conducted regarding the data for the purpose of determining the inadequacy of representation in promotions.
  • However, the court left it to the Union government to fix a “reasonable” time for the States to conduct the review.

What does the Constitution say on reservations?

  • Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of laws to everyone.
  • Similarly, Article 16(1) and 16(2) assure citizens equality of opportunity in employment or appointment to any government office. 
  • Article 15(1) generally prohibits any discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth. 
  • However, Articles 15(4) and 16(4) state that these equality provisions do not prevent the government from making special provisions in matters of admission to educational institutions or jobs in favor of backward classes, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Article 16(4A) allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.

What do the precedents say?

(1) Reservation in Promotions

  • The Central and the State Government since the 1950s have been following a policy of reserving seats in promotions in favours of SC and ST communities on the ground that they are not adequately represented at the decision making level of public services.

(2) Mandal judgment/ Indra Sawhney case 1992

  • The Supreme Court’s Indra Sawhney vs Union of India(1992) has been hailed as a landmark judgment as it upheld reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • However, this judgment also held that reservations in appointments, under Article 16(4) of the constitution, don’t apply to promotions.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the Mandal Commission’s 27% quota for backward classes, as well as the principle that the combined SC, ST and backward-class beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of cap.
  • The court also struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes in 1992.
  • It held that, backward classes of the citizens of in Article 16(4) can be identified on the basis of caste and not only on the economic basis.
  • Reservation shall not exceed 50%. The court said that this rule should be applied every year. However, it may be relaxed in favour of people from far-flung and remote areas because of their peculiar conditions.
  • Carry forward rule is valid but it is subject to 50%. There should be NO reservation in the Promotions.

(3) 77th and 85th Constitutional Amendment Acts

  • The Constitution (77th Amendment) Act, 1995
    • According to this Act, the Government has decided to continue the existing policy of reservation in promotion for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 
    • It inserted Article 16(4A) which allows the State to provide reservations to SCs/STs in matters of promotion, as long as the State believes that this category of the marginalized populations –the SCs and STs – aren’t adequately represented.
  • The Constitution (85th Amendment) Act, 2001 provided for consequential seniority in the case of promotion by the virtue of rule of reservation for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.

(4) Nagraj Case

  • In this case applying the creamy layer concept in SC/ST reservation in promotions, the SC reversed its earlier stance in the Indra Sawhney case (1992), in which it had excluded the creamy layer concept on SCs/STs (that was applicable on OBCs).
  • The SC had upheld the Constitutional amendments by which Articles 16 (4A) and 16 (4B) were inserted, saying they flow from Article 16 (4) and do not alter its structure.
  • It also laid down three conditions for promotion of SCs and STs in public employment.
    • The SC and ST community should be socially and educationally backward.
    • The SC and ST communities are not adequately represented in Public employment.
    • Such a reservation policy shall not affect the overall efficiency in the administration.
  • The court held that the government cannot introduce a quota in promotion for its SC/ST employees unless it proves that the particular community was backward, inadequately represented and providing reservation in promotion would not affect the overall efficiency of public administration.
  • The opinion of the government should be based on quantifiable data.

(5) Jarnail Singh Case 2018

  • Later in 2018, in the Jarnail Singh case, SC modified the Nagaraj judgement to the extent that State need not produce quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.
  • The court had given a huge fillip to the government’s efforts to provide “accelerated promotion with consequential seniority” for Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members in government services.

(6) Karnataka’s Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation act 2017

  • It was passed by the Karnataka Government to protect thousands of SC/ST employees who faced demotion in view of the 2017 judgment.
  • It allows the reservation in promotion for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with consequential seniority(Consequential seniority is seniority given to employees from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in government jobs as a consequence of reservation. It provides reservation in the first promotion as well as subsequent ones. This is not the case for general category employees).
  • It gives the state government to make rules to carry out the purpose of this act.
  • The repeals the Karnataka Determination of Seniority of the Government Servants Promoted on the basis of Reservation (to the posts in the civil services of the State) Act, 2002

Arguments against Quota in Promotions

  • Not a Fundamental Right: The Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment that reservation in promotion in public posts cannot be claimed as a fundamental right.
  • Impact on Efficiency: Promotions to SCs and STs during appointments to services and promotions may make it difficult to maintain the efficiency of administration.
  • Redundancy of Reservation: The SCs and STs are getting the benefits of reservation in the appointments to various servicers. Therefore, it is undesirable and inefficient to provide quota in promotions for key posts.
  • Not a Compulsion for Government: The Constitution empowers the State to make reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only “if in the opinion of the State they are not adequately represented in the services of the State”.

Need for Quota in Promotions

  • Representation in Higher Echelons: The main reason for giving promotions in promotions is that there are very few SC/ST candidates in the higher echelons of government.
  • Proper Access to Opportunity: Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity.
  • Constitutional Mandate: Constitution mandates realisation of substantive equality in the engagement of the fundamental rights with the directive principles
  • Special Measures Needed: Unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs in promotions also, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.
  • False Notion of Efficiency: The Constitution does not define what the framers meant by the phrase efficiency of administration. It is a stereotypical assumption that the promotees drawn from the SCs and STs are not efficient or that efficiency is reduced by appointing them.

Why does reservation matter for equality?

  • Reservation is no more seen by the Supreme Court as an exception to the equality rule; rather, it is a facet of equality.
  • The terms “proportionate equality” and “substantive equality” have been used to show that the equality norm acquires completion only when the marginalized are given a legal leg-up.

 Substantive Equality under question

  • Formal equality is about treating all people alike and distributing resources equally among them.
  • However, someone at a disadvantage needs support to a greater extent than someone who is comfortably placed. Substantive equality recognizes this qualitative difference.
  • Unlike formal equality, it classifies the prospective beneficiaries on the basis of their need and the likely scope of benefit to them.
  • It takes into account people’s location along an axis of advantages and disadvantages. If substantive equality is part of our right to equality, it is untenable to insist that reservation is not a right.
  • While a limited interpretation of fundamental rights may be technically correct, it will not make for sound policy.

Way forward

  • Meanwhile, calls for reform and ret­hinking reservation policies get louder; one question is whether there’s a need to continue with reservation and if benefits have reached targets.
  • The challenge for India is that while many sections of the society remain disadvantaged, political action has resulted in the relative discrimination within reserved groups.
  • As the reservation pie grows larger, in effect, it becomes a method of exclusion rather than inclusion.
  • It is time that India has to make a critical assessment of its affirmative action programs.
  • Simplification, legislative sunsets, and periodic reviews should be important principles in the redesign.

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] IAS cadre rules amendments

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Context

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

Historical background of All India Services

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

Central deputation of All India Service officers

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

The politicization of the deputation process

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

Proposed amendments

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

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

Is the problem acute?

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

Issues with the proposed amendments

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

Conclusion

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Anti-defection Law

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Context

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

What is Anti-defection Law?

  • The Anti-Defection Law under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution punishes MPs/ MLAs for defecting from their party by taking away their membership of the legislature.
  • It gives the Speaker of the legislature the power to decide the outcome of defection proceedings.
  • It was added to the Constitution through the Fifty-Second (Amendment) Act, 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was PM.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.

Cases consider under the anti-defection law

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

(1) Voluntary give-up

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

(2) Independent members

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

(3) Nominated MPs

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

Covering independent members

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

Powers to disqualification

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

Issues with the Anti-defection cases these days

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

1) Defection proceeding

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

2) Summoning the house

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

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

3) Floor test

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

4) Time Limit for defection plea

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

5) Deciding on merger or split

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

Yet another feature: ‘Resort’ Politics

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

What we can learn from the ongoing situation?

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

1)  Loopholes are present in the law itself

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

2) Judiciary can ‘conditionally’ intervene

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

3) Political commitment is under question

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

4) Horse-trading persists in Indian politics

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

5) Role of Legislators is being compromised

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

6) Accountability of the government is compromised

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

7) Overall decision making is hindered

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

8) Clueless voters are the ultimate losers

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

Article 164(1B)

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

Need for urgent attention to Article 164(1B)

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

Way forward

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

Conclusion

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Women and the military

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

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

India’s women in uniform: A timeline

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

A timeline of women’s inductions into the military –

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

Present context

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

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

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

Women in Uniform: A global scan

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

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

Let’s have a look:

United States

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

Israel

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

Other Countries

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

Why males have ever dominated the armed forces?

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

Dimensions of the Issue

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

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

The road is not so simple

Capabilities of women

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

Adjusting with the masculine setup

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

Fear of sexual misconduct

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

Gender progressiveness could be an illusion

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

Battle of ‘Acceptance’

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

Job Satisfaction

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

Doubts about Role Definition

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

Societal Impact

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

Physical and Physiological Issues

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

Comfort Level

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

Whose concern is National Security…

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

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

Way Forward

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

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

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Pakistan Relations

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

New Security Policy

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

Key highlights of the document

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

Significance of such policy

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

Concerns with Pakistan’s National Security Policy

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

Implications of the National Security Policy of Pakistan on India

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

China as anchor

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

Factors behind the complex bilateral ties between the two countries

(1) Cross-border Terrorism

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

(2) Kashmir

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

(3) Siachen Glacier

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

(4) Sir Creek Dispute

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

(5) Water disputes

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

Major Achievements

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

(1) Military CBMs

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

(2) Non-military CBMs

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

Failures in the CBM process

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

Way Forward

(1) Reforming Pakistan’s political structure

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

(2) People-to-people relations

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

(3) Promote trade

Steps that can be undertaken to improve bilateral trade include:

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

(4) Promoting soft diplomacy

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Gig Economy in India

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

What is the gig economy?

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

Is Gig economy a new concept?

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

Trends in Gig Economy 

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

Gig Economy in India

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

Key Drivers for Gig Economy

(1) Unconventional work approach by millennials

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

(2) Emergence of a start-up culture

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

(3) MNCs are hiring contractual employees

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

(4) Rise in freelancing platforms

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

(5) Business Models

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

(6) Impact of Covid-19

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

Why is Gig Economy preferred by workers?

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

Why is Gig Economy preferred by Employers?

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

Challenges faced in Gig economy

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

What are the major impacts of the gig economy?

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

Gig Economy and the women empowerment

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

Code on Social Security 2019

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

Way Forward

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) Quota

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

What is NEET?

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

What is the All-India Quota?

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

What was the reservation policy followed so far?

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

What led to the decision?

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

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

EWS Quota: A Backgrounder

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

Inception of EWS Quota

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

Why was the new committee constituted?

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

Significance of the quota

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

What are the criteria to identify the section?

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

What are the court’s questions about the criteria?

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

What is the current status of the EWS quota?

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

Practical issues with EWS Quota

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

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

Should India need reservation?

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

Way forward

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

Conclusion

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Consumer Protection

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

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

What is consumerism?

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

Why consumerism is important?

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

What are the Consumer Rights?

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

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

(1) Right to Safety

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

(2) Right to be Informed

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

(3) Right to Choose

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

(4) Right to be Heard

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

(5) Right to Seek redressal

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

(6) Right to Consumer Education

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

Consumer Protection Laws in India

(1) The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

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

(2) The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

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

Key Features

1) Definition of consumer

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

2) Rights of consumers

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

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

3) Establishment of Central Consumer Protection Authority

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

4) Penalties for misleading advertisement

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

5) Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

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

6) Jurisdiction of CDRCs

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

7) Product liability

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

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

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

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

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

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

Changes in Consumer Protection Rules, 2021

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

Time for disposal of Complaint

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

e-Filing of complaint: E-Daakhil Portal

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

Mediation

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

Way Forward

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Internet of Things (IoT)

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Introduction

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

What is the Internet of Things?

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

Advantages of IoT

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

Applications of Internet of Things

(1) Daily Lives

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

(2) Industry

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

(3) Agriculture

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

(4) Healthcare

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

(5) Media

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

(6) Transportation

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

(7) Smart cities

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

(8) Smart Retail

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

(9) Energy Engagement

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

What is the case with India?

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

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

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

Challenges with the IoT

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

How is IoT impacting the digital transformation of education?

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

Way forward

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

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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] India-Japan Ties in Recent Times

Introduction

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

Background of India-Japan Ties

[I] Ancient times

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

[II] India’s freedom movement

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

[III] Present times

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

Post cold war relations

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

Recent developments in India-Japan Relationship

(1) India-Italy-Japan trilateral partnership

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

(2) 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue

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

(3) Supply Chain Resilience Initiative

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

(4) Other MEA led-bilateral dialogues

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

(5) Currency Swap Agreement

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

Areas of cooperation

(1) Economic and Commercial relations

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

Investment and Official Development Assistance (ODA)

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

(2) Security and Defence

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

(3) Strategic

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

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

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

1) Start-up Initiative

2) Corporate Partnership

3) ESDM promotion

4) Digital talent exchange

5) R&D Cooperation

6) Security related strategic collaboration

(5) Disaster Risk Reduction

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

(6) Skill Development

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

(7) Health-care

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

(8) Education Cooperation

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

(9) S&T Cooperation

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

(10) Energy

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

What lies at the fulcrum of ties?

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

Way forward

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

Categories
Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] 50 Years of Bangladesh’s Independence

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Context

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

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

Why did East Pakistan want to become independent?

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

How did the fighting begin?

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

How was the war won?

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

What happened after the war?

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

Bangladesh @ 50

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

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

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

Beyond geographical inheritance

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

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

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

India-Bangladesh ties: An organic transformation

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

What are its various dimensions?

(1) Geopolitics

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

(2) Connectivity

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

(3) Security

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

(4) Trade

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

(5) Financial assistance

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

(6) Security 

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

(7) Settlement of boundaries

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

There are a few irritants as well…

(1) Illegal migration

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

(2) Dragon is the elephant in the room

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

(3) NRC conundrum

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

(4) Rohingya Issue

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

(5) River disputes

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

Why India still needs Bangladesh?

(1) South Asian geopolitics

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

(2) Connectivity

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

(3) Countering China

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

(4) Fight against terror

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

Way forward

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

Conclusion

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

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