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December 2018

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Changing the Indian state from bully to ally


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The burden of compliances on MSMEs and the need for its reduction


MSMEs overburdened with compliances

  1. Policy imagination and rhetoric often romanticize MSMEs over large employers because it believes that MSMEs are a source of massive job creation, are the salvation of less-skilled job seekers, and embody solid middle-class values
  2. But India’s 63 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can’t hear what policymakers say because of what they do—unleashing a universe of 60,000-plus possible compliances and 3,300-plus possible filings for enterprises
  3. No MSME can possibly keep track of this regulatory cholesterol that is made even more toxic by 5,000-plus changes annually

Using expressivism

  1. much of India’s regulatory cholesterol for employers is not driven by economic justifications—consumer protection, market failures, information asymmetry and externalities—but reflects what economist Cass Sunstein calls expressivism
  2. In this concept, values rather than facts are used to make policy

Three challenges for technocratic policymakers

  • Distribution (hard to identify who bears costs and obtains benefits)
  • Welfare (nobody has a welfare metre and proxies are useful but can produce serious errors)
  • Knowledge (nobody knows enough, and guesswork and unintended consequences are inevitable)

MSMEs need to be protected from this regulation burden

  1. The progress made in Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rankings is real, but it’s time for another exercise that takes a ground-up look at our current regulatory frameworks
  2. India’s next wave of EODB should have three vectors
  • Rationalization (cutting down the number of laws)

Rationalization could start with clustering our 44 labour laws into a single labour code and should include reviewing levels and increasing competition (There can be a competition for mandatory employer payroll deduction monopolies like provident fund and Employee’s State Insurance that offer expensive products and treat customers badly)

  • Simplification (cutting down the number of compliances and filings)

Simplification would include replacing our 25-plus different numbers issued by various government arms to every employer with a unique enterprise number (an Aadhaar for enterprises)

  • Digitization (architecting for true paperless, presence-less and cashless)

We must move away from the current approach to digitization as a website, where you log in with a password and upload files and shift to open architecture-based API frameworks, where multiple players compete in providing services to employers (GST Network is a good template)

Way forward

  1. Changing regulations every three hours makes life miserable for MSMEs and breeds informality (a sense of humour about the rule of law)
  2. The next avatar of our EODB programme must aim to decisively shift the Indian state from being an MSME bully to an MSME ally
  3. The upside could be about 50 million more formal jobs

Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] The fear of executive courts


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Overaching judicial activism and its conseqences


Opinionated judiciary

  1. Justice S.R. Sen of the Meghalaya High Court recently observed in a judgment that “anybody opposing Indian laws and the Constitution cannot be considered citizens of the country”
  2. He thought it fit to further note that in 1947 India “should have been declared a Hindu country”, and that “our beloved Prime Minister” ought to legislate to grant automatic citizenship to (non-Muslim) religious minorities “who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan”
  3. Justice Sen’s ill-advised and ill-judged diatribe is only the latest in a series of instances where judges have inserted themselves into fraught political controversies, and have deployed the prestige of judicial office to lend weight to one side of the controversy

What does judicial independence entail?

  1. We normally think about judicial independence as independence from the government
  2. Our Constitution is designed to ensure that judges can do their work “independent” of government influence: fixed salaries, security of tenure, and an appointments process that — through the Supreme Court’s judgments — is insulated from executive control
  3. Independence, however, means something more. It also requires that judges perform their constitutional role independent of personal biases, political and moral beliefs, and partisan ideologies
  4. Of course, adjudication is a political task, and there is no doubt that a judge’s political vision will inform her work but that does not authorise the judge to turn into a politician
  5. At all times, she is bound to maintain primary fidelity to the law and the Constitution: to the text of legal instruments, to the canons of legal interpretation, and to the body of judicial precedent that holds the field
  6. Judicial independence, therefore, depends on judges recognising that law, while being influenced by politics, is not reducible to it

The need of accountability

  1. Law and adjudication must remain autonomous from partisan politics in important ways
  2. And the more we strengthen judicial independence in its first sense — independence from the government — the more attention we must pay to independence in this second sense
  3. This is because control brings with it accountability
  4. Politicians, for example, remain “accountable” to the people in at least some sense, because they depend upon them in order to continue in office after five years
  5. Judges who are insulated from any external control are accountable only to themselves, and their own sense of the limits of their constitutional role
  6. Accountability only to oneself, however, is a very weak form of constraint. The temptation to overstep is always immense, more so when such immense power has been placed in one’s own hands

How this crisis deepened?

  1. In the 1980s, there was a rapid expansion of judicial power. This expansion was motivated by a sense that the judiciary had long been a conservative institution, taking the side of landed interests against “the people”. This needed to change
  2. In order to accomplish this, the Supreme Court began to dispense with procedural checks upon its power
  3. Some of these steps were important and necessary, such as allowing “public interest” cases to be filed on behalf of those who were unable to access the courts
  4. Others, however, were double-edged swords, such as diluting the evidentiary standards required to prove disputed facts, and vastly expanding the courts’ discretion to shape and fashion remedies
  5. By the 1990s and the 2000s, under the misleading label of “judicial activism”, the court was beginning to engage in a host of administrative activities, from managing welfare schemes to “beautifying cities” to overseeing anti-corruption initiatives
  6. The constitutional court had become a Supreme ‘Administrative’ Court
  7. A combination of viewing the judiciary as an infallible solution to all social problems, and viewing procedure — that would otherwise constrain judicial power — as an irritant that stands in the way of a truer, purer justice has created the perfect storm that we see today

Towards ‘Executive’ courts

  1. Judgments like the national anthem order, the Tirukkural order (that every student in Tamil Nadu must study the Tirukkural), the NRC process and Justice Sen’s recent foray raise an altogether more frightening prospect: that of an “executive court”
  2. An executive court is a court whose moral and political compass finds itself in alignment with the government of the day, and one that has no compunctions in navigating only according to that compass
  3. Instead of checking and limiting government power, an executive court finds itself marching in lockstep with the government, and being used to set the seal of its prestige upon more controversial parts of the government’s agenda

Way forward

  1. We urgently need the return of a thriving legal culture, one that uncompromisingly calls out political posturing
  2. Only a principled consistency in requiring that judges must always give reasons for their judgment can halt the transformation of the constitutional court into an executive court

J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] J&K Resettlement Law


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: J&K resettlement act, article 35A etc.

Mains level: Governance challenges in J&K


  • A challenge to an Act popularly known as the “Jammu & Kashmir resettlement law” has been listed for hearing by a Supreme Court Bench headed by CJI.

What is the Law ?

  1. The J&K Grant of Permit for Resettlement in the State Act, 1982, was passed to “provide for regulation of procedure for grant of permit for resettlement in or permanent return to the State of the permanent residents”
  2. It envisages grant of permit for resettlement of Pakistani nationals who had migrated to Pakistan from Jammu and Kashmir between 1947 and 1954 after India’s partition.
  3. Mass killing of Muslims in Jammu in 1947 and its ramifications are the main reason why the law was introduced.

The controversy

  1. The Bill was introduced in 1980 and became law on October 6, 1982.
  2. But then President Giani Zail Singh had already sent a presidential reference to the Supreme Court seeking its opinion regarding the law’s constitutional validity.

Constitutionality check

  1. Section 6 of the J&K Constitution has a provision for those who were stuck in areas that became Pakistan in 1947.
  2. They can return under a resettlement law enacted by the state legislature.
  3. There is a provision that those who migrated to Pakistan can return under a law of the legislature.

The challenge

  1. The Supreme Court in 2011 refused to intervene on the presidential reference, saying it has already become law
  2. Through this law, we would be inviting trained Pakistani terrorists.
  3. Apart from this, those people on return will reclaim property including agricultural land allotted to refugees from PoK.
  4. This will have severe implications on law and order.

Where parties stand

  1. Within J&K’s major political parties, there is an apprehension that the Governor’s administration would “dilute” the stance of elected state governments that have defended the law in court.
  2. They look at a precedent in the case relating to the challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution, which empowers the J&K legislature to define “permanent residents”.

Top Court’s Observance

  1. The Supreme Court wondered how “descendants” of those who had moved to Pakistan between 1947 and 1954 could be allowed to resettle.
  2. CJI said “How can it be extended to wives and other persons? It can only be such persons who had migrated. The Constitution does not contemplate return of those descendants.”
  3. If descendants of those who had migrated are allowed to return, “Several lakhs of those born in Pakistan will be able to come to India and this will affect the security of the country”.
  4. Citizenship is a subject in the Union list and hence outside the legislative competence of the state legislature.

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Explained: Golden Visas


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Golden Visa

Mains level:  Prevent fugitive economic frauds



  • Ever since a fugitive billionaire jeweller bought citizenship in Antigua, in November 2017, interest among wealthy Indians in schemes that offer citizenship or residence rights in return for investment has soared.
  • The UK government has put on hold plans to suspend “golden visa” category in reference to its use by super-rich foreign nationals, including Indians, to acquire fast-track settlement rights in Britain.

Golden Visa scheme

  1. A golden visa is a permanent residency visa issued to individuals who invest, often through the purchase of property, a certain sum of money into the issuing country.
  2. In UK, a 2-million-pound investment could bring a visa and indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after five years.
  3. An investment of 5 million pound cut down the eligibility period for ILR to three years.
  4. 10 million pound meant the investor could be eligible for permanent settlement within two years along with his or her dependents.

More Indian Inquiries

  1. Some UK-based firms that arrange foreign citizenship claim they have seen enquiries from Indians more than double since then.
  2. Henley & Partners, headquartered in Jersey, not only advises but also sets up citizenship and residence-by-investment programmes.
  3. It saw global enquiries rise by 320%, and a ‘significant increase’ from India in the past year.
  4. Knightsbridge Capital Partners, a London-based company which sells second citizenship to high-net-worth individuals, claims a “70-80% year-on-year increase in enquiries from Indians.”

Indians queuing up to settle abroad

  1. As India does not allow dual citizenship, many Indians opt for residence-by-investment schemes.
  2. The push factors are lifestyle, education, transport, clean air and healthcare.
  3. They want to send their kids to school in another country, or have somewhere safe to park their money — they want political stability.
  4. They employ all kinds of methods and strategies to protect their wealth.
  5. It’s about moving to a jurisdiction that offers benefits and flexibility, where there is stable law and order, and a good financial system.

Major reasons

  1. A second passport or residence is also a hedge against the risk of politically-motivated tax prosecution.
  2. Sometimes potential violations of tax laws are used as a tool to go after certain people, and it is very politically motivated, and less than transparent, so they feel vulnerable.
  3. These tend to be forward-thinking individuals who are hedging against unforeseen risks and are mindful of their friends being investigated.

Rohingya Conflict

India hands over first 50 houses built for Rohingya refugees in Myanmar


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Need for immediate repatriation of Rohingyas


  • India has handed over to Myanmar the first 50 houses built by the country for the displaced minority Rohingya Muslims in the restive Rakhine province.

Concerns for India

  1. Illegal Rohingya immigrants are staying mostly in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka and Kerala.
  2. There is no accurate data regarding the number of such migrants living in the country.
  3. Moreover they have fraudulently obtained Indian identity documents like Aadhaar card, PAN card and even passports.

Measures for Repatriation

  1. India is building 250 houses in Rakhine province as part of a developmental project.
  2. The housing units were handed over during the President’s held delegation-level talks and decided to step up bilateral ties.
  3. India signed a development programme for Rakhine State in Myanmar late last year which was designed to assist the Myanmar government in Rakhine State to build housing infrastructure for displaced persons.
  4. This move was appreciated not just by the government of Myanmar but also by the United Nations and other agencies.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Water traces found on asteroid Bennu


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Osiris-Rex

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


Water traces on asteroid

  1. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid that may hold clues to the origins of life on the earth.
  2. OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 19 km of the asteroid Bennu some 2.25 million km from the earth, has found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules.


  1. The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is a NASA asteroid study and sample-return mission launched in 2016.
  2. The mission’s main goal is to obtain a sample of at least 60 grams (2.1 oz) from 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid, and return the sample to Earth for a detailed analysis.
  3. Bennu orbits the Sun at roughly the same distance as the earth.
  4. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting earth late in the 22nd century.

Why study asteroids?

  1. Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.
  2. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life.
  3. Atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

Sample collection and fly-back

  1. When samples of this material are returned by the mission to the earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.
  2. OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.9 km from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analysing its terrain.
  3. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiralling to within 2 meters of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.
  4. The spacecraft will later fly back to the earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen in September 2023.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

India’s ‘Help Us Green’ wins UN Climate Action Award


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Help Us Green, UN Climate Action Award

Mains level: Problem of ceremonial wastes in India and its disposal



  1. Indian group ‘Help Us Green’ has received a UN Climate Action Award.
  2. Help Us Green is based in four cities of Uttar Pradesh and got the award in the Women for Results category.

Why awarded?

  1. It is doing its part to clean up the Ganges by recycling flowers from temples and mosques.
  2. It gives marginalized women a chance to earn livelihoods and be respected in their communities through collecting temple ceremonial flowers tossed into the Ganges and turning them into sustainable incense.
  3. Over eight million tonnes of flowers are discarded in the river every year for religious purposes. This is contributing to the pollution of the Ganges, which provides drinking water for over 420 million people.

Help Us Green

  1. Help Us Green has come up with the world’s first profitable solution to the monumental temple waste problem: flowercycling.
  2. Women working with Help Us Green collect floral-waste daily from temples.
  3. The waste is up-cycled to produce organic fertilizers, natural incense and biodegradable packaging material.
  4. Till date, 11,060 metric tonnes of temple-waste has been flowercycled and 110 metric tonnes of chemical pesticides that enter the river through temple waste have been offset.
  5. So is the income of 73 manual scavenger families has increased at least six-fold.
  6. A total of 365 families have been impacted by Help Us Green through increased living standards and stable incomes.
  7. By 2021, Help Us Green, which plans to expand to Bangladesh, and Nepal, aims to provide livelihoods to 5,100 women and recycle 51 tonnes of temple waste daily.