[op-ed snap] Beyond the free trade idealism

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WTO

Mains level : Need for policy intervention to boost growth.


CONTEXT

The U.S. has begun trade skirmishes with India. It objects to India increasing import duties on electronic goods and wants India to reduce duties on U.S.-made motorcycles. Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation seems to be in the intensive care unit. It is time to apply fundamental principles to reshape a trade regime that is fair to all.

What is Free Trade?

  • The macro-economic case for free trade is that if each person would do only what he or she does better than everyone else and all would trade with each other, everyone’s welfare will increase.
  • Also, the size of the global economic pie would be larger because there will be no inefficiencies.

Problems emerging

  • The problem is that, at present, many people in the world are doing what others, in other countries, can do better than them.
  • To get to the economists’ ideal state, many people will have to stop doing what they are doing and learn to do something else.

Theory of efficient Production

  • Dani Rodrik has estimated that for every unit of overall increase in global income, six or seven units of incomes will have to be shuffled around within. Moreover, according to this theory, people should not start producing what others are already producing, because they will produce less efficiently until they learn to do it well.
  • According to this theory of free trade, Indians should not have bothered to learn how to produce trucks, buses and two-wheelers when the country became independent.
  • They should have continued to import them from American, European and Japanese companies.
  • Pillars of free trade – Free trade purists say that easy import of products from other countries increases consumer welfare.

Resistance to Free Trade

  • Milton Friedman had observed that, in international trade, exports help companies and imports help citizens.
  • Therefore, resistance to free trade does not come from consumers.
  • It generally comes from companies which cannot compete: companies in less developed countries which are not able to compete until their country’s infrastructure is improved and they have acquired sufficient capabilities, or even from companies in developed countries when producers in developing countries overtake them.

Need for good Jobs

  • However, to benefit from easy imports, citizens need incomes to buy the products and services available.
  • Therefore, they need jobs that will provide them adequate incomes. Any government responsible for the welfare of its citizens has to be concerned about the growth of jobs in the country.
  • Domestic producers can provide jobs.
  • Ergo, a developing country needs a good ‘industrial policy’ to accelerate the growth of domestic production, by building on its competitive advantages; and by developing those capabilities, it can compete with producers in countries that ‘developed’ earlier.

Next Step

1.Not Unsustainable Income Guarantee Schemes –

  • By 2019, it has become clear that India’s policy-makers must find a way for economic growth to produce more income-generating opportunities for Indian citizens.
  • Employment and incomes are the most pressing issues for Indian citizens according to all pre-election surveys of what citizens expect from the next government.
  • All parties are responding in panic with schemes for showering various versions of unearned ‘universal basic incomes’ on people who are not able to earn enough.
  • This approach is unlikely to be economically sustainable. Therefore, an ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the highest priority for the next government.

Way Forward

1.More income-generating opportunities

The ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ should guide the Industrial Policy to where investments are required, and also what is expected from those investments to produce more income-generating opportunities for young Indians.

2.Broaden Industry definition –

  • The scope of ‘industry’ must be broadened to include all sectors that can build on India’s competitive advantages.
  • For example, the tourism and hospitality industry, taking advantage of India’s remarkable diversity of cultures and natural beauty, has the potential to support millions of small enterprises in all parts of the country.
  • By building on India’s competitive advantage of large numbers of trainable youth, and with digital technologies to increase the reach of small enterprises, manufacturing and services can provide many domestic and export opportunities that India has so far not seized.

3.Lessons from Indian History

  • In Automobile – With the government’s insistence in the pre-liberalisation era that production and technology must be indigenised in phased manufacturing programmes, India’s automobile sector was able to provide Indian consumers with good products.
  • It now provides millions of people with employment and incomes in widespread domestic supply chains.
  • Moreover, Indian auto-component producers and commercial vehicle producers export to the world’s most competitive markets.
  • In electronics – In contrast, the Indian electronics sector has languished, while China’s has flourished.
  • India signed the Information Technology Agreement of WTO in 1996 and reduced import duties on IT-related manufactured products to zero.
  • China withheld for some time until its electronic sector was stronger. Now the U.S. and Europe are trying to prevent China’s telecom and electronic goods in their markets.

Conclusion

To conclude, the WTO’s governance needs to be overhauled to promote the welfare of citizens in all countries, especially poorer ones, rather than lowering barriers to exports of companies in rich countries in the guise of free trade idealism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

[op-ed snap] CJI Sexual Harassment Case: How Fragile Is Judicial Independence?

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Judicial Independence rhetoric should not impede Justice


CONTEXT

Since the infamous Saturday morning emergency hearing in the Supreme Court on an “issue of great public importance”, several legal and political commentators have raised noteworthy concerns over the apparent absence of due process, and the possibility of abuse of the office of the Chief Justice of India.

Wrong Focus

  • Instead, the focus was mainly on how the incident represents an ‘attack’ on the independence of the judiciary. This view was then echoed by the Chairman of the Bar Council of India in a statement, and the Finance Minister on his website.
  • The Finance Minister, in fact, claimed that “a mass intimidation of judges is on”.
  • This approach suffers from two fundamental flaws that command a critical assessmen.

Is it threatening Judicial Independence?

1. Is there a connection?

  • For such an allegation to amount to a threat to judicial independence, there would have to be some connection between the individual and the institution – apart from the fact that the individual happens to be a member of the institution.
  •  The allegations made by the complainant are rather complex, and are seemingly reflected in a series of documents bearing the imprimatur of the Supreme Court administration.
  • Without any detailed inquiry or investigation, it is impossible to dismiss the allegations as necessarily false, and to do so constitutes a violation of due process that the complainant is entitled to.

2.Jeopardising Checks and balances

  • For individuals representing the government to assert that the allegations against the CJI are false – without demanding an impartial inquiry through proper channels – jeopardizes the system of checks and balances.

Questions that should be raised

  • How can we find out if the allegations are false?
  • What if the allegations are not false?
  • Does the victim’s right to access to justice deserve to be ignored owing to possibilities of other false allegations?
  • Can a mechanism can be put in place for an inquiry to be carried out by an independent committee efficiently and without delay?
  • What if an inquiry committee must give preliminary findings before judicial work is taken away from a judge?
  • What are the possible measures that can be instituted to deter politically motivated allegations of sexual harassment?

Perceived Fragility of ‘Judicial Independence

  • This view of the fragility of judicial independence is now rather familiar.
  • RTI case – Earlier this month, in the case concerning whether the judiciary’s decision on judicial appointments should be subject to the Right to Information Act, the government argued that making the judiciary amenable to the RTI Act would destroy “judicial independence”, without explaining how lack of transparency is a necessary facet of the independence of the judiciary.
  • Contempt of court Case –Similarly, in contempt of court proceedings, it is often asserted that criticism of judgments can compromise confidence in the judicial system, and therefore interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

Problems With Judicial Independence Recourse

  • Non- elected – It is important to remember that the judiciary consists of non-elected individuals.
  • Trust of people –Its power as an institution – in terms of issues of governance – has been amassed over time, and is predicated on the trust of the people.
  • Transparency –Judicial decisions on the importance and need for openness and transparency ought to be applied with equal – if not greater force – to the judiciary.

Way Forward

  • It is not enough to assert that judicial independence will be at risk whenever any matter related to the judiciary is sought to be debated. Instead, mechanisms must be evolved to ensure due process to both parties, where protecting judicial independence is one of the factors involved.
  • Thus, any committee that undertakes an inquiry into the allegations must not let the question of judicial independence eclipse the inquiry.

 

 

Judiciary Institutional Issues

[op-ed snap] India’s perilous obsession with Pakistan

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Obsession with Pakistan is detrimental for India's growth in political as well as economic sphere


CONTEXT

Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers’ relentless branding of the Congress/Opposition as ‘anti-national’ and as ‘agents of Pakistan’. Further, the Prime Minister even made an unprecedented threat of using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.The hyper-nationalistic frenzy to ‘defeat’ Pakistan comes with huge human and material costs.

Historical Hostility

  • As a country born of the two-nation theory based on religion, and then having to suffer dismemberment and the consequent damage to the very same religious identity, it is obvious why Islamic Pakistan must have a hostile Other in the form of a ‘Hindu India’.
  • But what is not obvious is why India, a (much larger) secular nation, must have a hostile antagonist in the form of Pakistan.

Self-defeating goal

  • It is widely recognised that the fulcrum of the Pakistani state and establishment is an anti-India ideology and an obsession with India.
  • But what has scarcely received notice is that India’s post-Independence nationalism has been equally driven by an obsession with Pakistan. .
  • Huge cost associated with jingoism – But, this hyper-nationalistic urge to ‘defeat’ Pakistan and to gloat over every victory, both real and claimed, is ultimately self-defeating, and comes with huge human and material costs. Much of these costs are hidden by jingoism masquerading as nationalism.

Self destructive to Pakistan

  • Words often used regarding the Pakistani state’s actions, even by critical Pakistani voices, are ‘delusional’ and ‘suicidal’, and rightly so.
  • For, no level-headed state would seek to attain military parity with a country that is six and half times larger in population, and eight and a half times bigger economically.
  •  Disproportionate spending on the military  –Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani diplomat and scholar, compared it to “Belgium rivalling France or Germany”. Pakistan’s vastly disproportionate spending on the military has been self-destructive for a poor nation.
  •  Ruinous policies – In 1990, Pakistan was ahead of India by three places in the Human Development Index. In 2017, Pakistan was behind India by 20 ranks, a sad reflection of its ruinous policies.
  • Sponsorship of Islamist terror groups – More critically, the Pakistani state’s sponsorship of Islamist terror groups has been nothing less than catastrophic.
  •  Victims of Islamist terrorism – What the world, including India, does not recognise is that Pakistan, ironically, is also one of the worst victims of Islamist terrorism.
  • In the period 2000-2019, 22,577 civilians and 7,080 security personnel were killed in terrorism-related violence in Pakistan (the number of civilian/security personnel deaths from Islamist terrorism in India, excluding Jammu and Kashmir, was 926 in during 2000-2018).

Muscular policy

1.No dialogue’ policy –

The fact that Pakistan has suffered much more than India in their mutual obsession cannot hide the equally serious losses that India has undergone and is willing to undergo in its supposedly muscular pursuit of a ‘no dialogue’ policy with Pakistan.

 2. Human and economic costs

  • Wars and military competition produce madness. Nothing exemplifies this more than India-Pakistan attempts to secure the Siachen Glacier, the inhospitable and highest battle terrain in the world.
  • India alone lost nearly 800 soldiers (until 2016) to weather-related causes only. Besides, it spends around Rs. 6 crore every day in Siachen.
  • Operation Parakram (2001-02), in which India mobilised for war with Pakistan, saw 798 soldier deaths and a cost of $3 billion. This is without fighting a war. Add to this the human and economic costs of fighting four wars.

Power Complex in Sub continent

Ten years ago, Stephen P. Cohen, the prominent American scholar of South Asia, called the India-Pakistan relationship “toxic” and notably termed both, and not just Pakistan, as suffering from a “minority” or “small power” complex in which one is feeling constantly “threatened” and “encircled”.

Why is India competing with Pakistan?

  • Here, one should ask the most pertinent question: why does India compete with Pakistan in every sphere, from military to sport, rather than with, say, China, which is comparable in size and population, and which in 1980 had the same GDP as India? (China’s GDP is almost five times that of India’s now.)
  • Of course, emulating China need not mean emulating its internal authoritarianism or its almost colonial, external economic expansionism.
  • On the contrary, it is to learn from China’s early success in universalising health care and education, providing basic income, and advancing human development, which as Amartya Sen has argued, is the basis of its economic miracle. It is precisely here that India has failed, and is continuing to fail.
  • Therefore, despite India being one of the fastest growing major economies in the world since 1991 (yet, only ranked 147 in per capita income in 2017), its social indicators in many areas, including health, education, child and women welfare, are abysmal in comparison with China’s.
  • Worryingly, in the focus on one-upmanship with Pakistan, India’s pace in social indicator improvement has been less than some poorer economies too. The phenomenal strides made by Bangladesh in the social sector are an example.

Conclusion

  • The more India, the largest democracy in the world, defines itself as the Other of Pakistan, a nation practically governed by the military, the more it will become its mirror. Any nation that thrives by constructing a mythical external enemy must also construct mythical internal enemies.
  • That is why the number of people labelled ‘anti-national’ is increasing in India. India has to rise to take its place in the world.
  • That place is not being a global superpower, but being the greatest and most diverse democracy in the world. That can only happen if it can get rid of its obsession with Pakistan.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Khasi ‘kingdoms’ to revisit 1947 agreements

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Khasi Kingdom, Himas

Mains level : Reorganisation of States in India


News

  • A federation of 25 Himas or Khasi kingdoms that have a cosmetic existence today has planned to revisit the 1948 agreements that made present-day Meghalaya a part of India.

Concerns of Khasis

  • The revisiting is aimed at safeguarding tribal customs and traditions from Central laws in force or could be enacted, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
  • The bill is one of the factors in move to strengthen the Federation of Khasi States that were ruled by a Syiem (king-like head of a Hima).
  • Himas are expecting to come to a conclusion on how best it can insulate their customs and traditions from overriding central rules and policies.
  • The Constitution has provided self-rule to a considerable extent through tribal councils, there has been an increasing demand for giving more teeth to the Khasi states.

History of Khasi Merger in India

  • During the British rule, the Khasi domain was divided into the Khasi states and British territories.
  • At that time, the British government had no territorial right on the Khasi states and they had to approach the chiefs of these states if they needed land for any purpose.
  • After independence, the British territories became part of the Indian dominion but the Khasi states had to sign documents beginning with the Standstill Agreement that provided a few rights to the states.
  • The 25 Khasi states had signed the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement with the Dominion of India between December 15, 1947, and March 19, 1948.
  • The conditional treaty with these states was signed by Governor General C. Rajagopalachari on August 17, 1948.

Back2Basics

Statehood to Meghalaya

  • Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on 21 January 1972.
  • Before attaining full statehood, Meghalaya was given semi-autonomous status in 1970.
  • The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdoms until they came under British administration in the 19th century.
  • Later, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835.
  • The region enjoyed semi-independent status by virtue of a treaty relationship with the British Crown.
  • At the time of Indian independence in 1947, present-day Meghalaya constituted two districts of Assam and enjoyed limited autonomy within the state of Assam.
  • A movement for a separate Hill State began in 1960.
  • The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 accorded an autonomous status to the state of Meghalaya.
  • The Act came into effect on 2 April 1970, and an autonomous state of Meghalaya was born out of Assam.
  • In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971, which conferred full statehood on the autonomous state of Meghalaya.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Scientists create speech from brain signals

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Synthetic Specch

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • Scientists have created a virtual vocal tract – completes with lips, jaw and tongue – that can generate natural-sounding synthetic speech by using brain signals.
  • The brain-machine interface is created by neuroscientists at University of California, San Francisco in the US.

Synthetic Speech

  1. The apparatus comprised:
  • two “neural network” machine learning algorithms:
  • a decoder that transforms brain activity patterns produced during speech into movements of the virtual vocal tract, and
  • a synthesizer that converts these vocal tract movements into a synthetic approximation of the participant’s voice.
  1. The algorithms produced sentences that were understandable to hundreds of human listeners in crowdsourced transcription tests.

How it works

  • Patients are implanted with one or two electrode arrays: stamp-size pads, containing hundreds of tiny electrodes that were placed on the surface of the brain.
  • As each participant recited hundreds of sentences, the electrodes recorded the firing patterns of neurons in the motor cortex.
  • The researchers associated those patterns with the subtle movements of the patient’s lips, tongue, larynx and jaw that occur during natural speech.
  • The team then translated those movements into spoken sentences.Native English speakers were asked to listen to the sentences to test the fluency of the virtual voices.
  • As much as 70 percent of what was spoken by the virtual system was intelligible, the study found.

Utility of the project

  • The interface could one day restore the voices of people who have lost the ability to speak due to paralysis and other forms of neurological damage.
  • Many people with epilepsy do poorly on medication and opt to undergo brain surgery.
  • Stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis often result in an irreversible loss of the ability to speak.
  • We can hope that individuals with speech impairments will regain the ability to freely speak their minds and reconnect with the world around them coming days.

Overcoming challenges

  • The biggest clinical challenge may be finding suitable patients: strokes that disable a person’s speech often also damage or wipe out the areas of the brain that support speech articulation.
  • Still, the field of brain-machine interface technology, as it is known, is advancing rapidly, with teams around the world adding refinements that might be tailored to specific injuries.
  • Before operating, doctors must first locate the “hot spot” in each person’s brain where the seizures originate which may take weeks.
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Dentists can practise as General Physicians after bridge course

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Adressing shortage of doctors in India


News

  • The Niti Aayog has agreed to a Dental Council of India proposal to allow dentists to practice as general physicians after a bridge course.

Meeting shortage of doctors

  • The DCI had last year also sent a proposal to the medical education regulator—Medical Council of India — but the previous council did not take it forward.
  • It was urged that unconventional methods be adopted to address the shortage of doctors in the country, particularly in rural areas.
  • Country’s largest body of private doctors—Indian Medical Association—which had earlier opposed a similar course for AYUSH practitioners has vehemently protested the proposed move too.

About the bridge course

  • The DCI has proposed a post Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS) bridge course running for 3 years.
  • The admissions would be either through a common entrance exam or through cumulative marks secured in the BDS course, or even a combination.
  • As per the DCI, the syllabus curriculum, scheme of examination, method of evaluation, degrees and registration all these criteria will be the same as recommended for MBBS.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

India extends ban on import of Chinese milk products, chocolates

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Melanin

Mains level : Preventing Adulteration of Milk


News

  • The government has extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China till laboratories at ports for testing presence of toxic chemical melamine are upgraded.

Ban over Melamine

  • Food regulator FSSAI had recommended extending the ban until all labs at ports are modernized to test the chemical.
  • The ban was first imposed in September 2008 and extended subsequently from time to time.
  • Although India does not import milk, milk products from China, it has imposed the ban as a preventive measure.
  • However, it has not mentioned any timeline for upgradation of that capacity of all laboratories.

Why Ban?

  • Melamine content of more than 1 ppm in infant formula and more than 2.5 ppm in other foods should be viewed with suspicion of adulteration.
  • Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/ WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.
  • Chinese milk scandal: In 2008, at least four babies in China died and around 100,000 became sick after consuming powdered milk baby food laced with melamine.

About Melamine

  • Melamine is a chemical compound that has a number of industrial uses, including the production of laminates, glues, dinnerware, adhesives, molding compounds, coatings and flame retardants.
  • It is a name used both for the chemical and for the plastic made from it. In this event, all references are to the chemical.
  • It is illegally added to inflate the apparent protein content of food products.
  • Because it is high in nitrogen, the addition of melamine to a food artificially increases the apparent protein content as measured with standard tests.

Back2Basics

Milk Production in India

  • India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. It produces around 150 million tonne milk annually.
  • Uttar Pradesh is the leading state in milk production followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

WHO guidelines on physical activity for children under 5 years of age

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Details of the Guidelines

Mains level : Global obesity crisis


News

  • The WHO issued guidelines as part of a campaign to tackle the global obesity crisis and ensure that young children grow up fit and well, particularly since development in the first five years of life contributes to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.

Recommendations at a glance:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.