[op-ed snap] Is NITI Aayog old wine in a new bottle?

Mains Paper 2 : Statutory, Regulatory & Various Quasi-Judicial Bodies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : nothing much

Mains level : Need of reforms in Niti Ayog


CONTEXT

There must be a review of what the think tank has achieved to adopt the new role described in its charter

Under scrutiny

Now, when the country’s economy has not performed to the high expectations Mr. Modi had created, and citizens’ aspirations for ‘ache din’ have not been realised, the performance of the NITI Aayog is under scrutiny, as it should be.

History of reforms

Dr. Singh declared that reform of the Planning Commission was long overdue.

Planning Commission Reforms

  • An outline was drawn of a substantially reformed institution which would, in Dr. Singh’s words, have a capability for “systems reform” rather than making of Five-Year Plans, and which would have the “power of persuasion” without providing budgets.
  • A commission chaired by C. Rangarajan, then chief economic adviser to the Prime Minister, examined budgetary processes, divisions of responsibilities between the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission, and distinctions between ‘plan’ and ‘non-plan’ expenditures.
  • Chief Ministers retorted that the Planning Commission must improve its ability to understand their needs and to develop ideas that they would want to adopt because they accepted the ideas as good for them, not because they would have to if they wanted the money.

A good starting point

  • The NITI Aayog charter is a good starting point for a new journey in transforming the governance of the Indian economy.
  • The NITI Aayog and the government would do well to conduct an open-minded review of what NITI Aayog has achieved so far to adopt the new role described in its charter — that of a catalyst of change in a complex, federal, socioeconomic system.
  • And assess whether it has transformed its capabilities sufficiently to become an effective systems reformer and persuader of stakeholders, rather than merely an announcer of lofty multi-year goals and manager of projects, which many suspect it is.

Concerns regarding independence

  • There is deep concern that NITI Aayog has lost its integrity as an independent institution to guide the government; that it has become a mouthpiece of the government and an implementer of the government’s projects.
  • Many insist that NITI Aayog must have the ability to independently evaluate the government’s programmes at the Centre and in the States.
  • Some recall that an Independent Evaluation Office set up in the last days of the UPA-II government was swiftly closed by the NDA government.
  • Others counter that the Planning Commission had a Programme Evaluation Organisation all along and which continues. They miss the need for a fundamental transformation in the approach to planning and change.

Way Forward

  • The transformational approach to planning and implementation that 21st century India needs, which is alluded to in NITI’s charter, requires evaluations and course-corrections in the midst of action.
  • It requires new methods to speed up ‘organisational learning’ amongst stakeholders in the system who must make plans together and implement them together.
  • The NITI Aayog’s charter has provided a new bottle.
  • It points to the need for new methods of cooperative learning and cooperative implementation by stakeholders, who are not controlled by any central body of technical experts with political and/or budgetary authority over them.

Conclusion

Merely filling this new bottle with old ideas of budgets, controls and expert solutions from above will not transform India. The debate about NITI Aayog’s efficacy must focus on whether or not it is performing the new role it must, and what progress it has made in acquiring capabilities to perform this role, rather than slipping back into the ruts of yesterday’s debates about the need for a Planning Commission.

NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[op-ed snap] St. Petersburg consensus: On Russia-China bonhomie

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 : increasing cooperation between Russia and China


CONTEXT

Russia and China are strengthening ties amid tensions with the U.S.

Background

  • The bonhomie between China’s and Russia’s leaders at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week was demonstrable.
  • In a sign of the heightened tensions between the U.S. and the two countries, Russia’s annual investment gathering was boycotted by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.
  • His absence was ascribed to the prevailing environment in Russia for foreign entrepreneurs, typified by the detention of U.S. private equity investor Michael Calvey on allegations of fraud.

Cooperation between China and Russia

  • Conversely, the Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei signed an agreement with Russia’s principal mobile operator to start 5G networks, in a rebuff to Washington’s attempts to isolate the firm internationally.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping made it clear in St. Petersburg that the tensions with the West had only drawn them closer.

Reasons for rift with USA

  • Annexation of Crimea – The rift with Russia began with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the stand-off in eastern Ukraine that continues.
  • Opposition to the 1,200-km-long Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline –  Russia’s tensions with the U.S. and some EU countries stem also from their opposition to the 1,200-km-long Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
  • U.S. objections draw in part from its eagerness to export liquefied natural gas to Europe, besides thwarting Moscow’s ambition to dominate the region’s energy market.
  • Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – Far more sensitive has been U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
  • Blacklisting of Huawei – Washington’s blacklisting of Huawei, prohibiting it from selling technology to the U.S. and barring domestic firms from supplying semiconductors to Beijing, falls into a class of its own among international trade disputes.

Historic high in bilatral relations

  • Amid these tensions, in St. Petersburg Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin emphasised that bilateral relations were at a historic high, marked by increased diplomatic and strategic cooperation.
  • China participated in Russian military exercises on its eastern border last September, marking a watershed. Moscow and Beijing, hostile rivals of the Cold War era, have for a while been adopting common positions at the UN Security Council on critical international issues.
  • Bilateral relations are also guided by pragmatism.
  • Central Asia – Russia appears realistic about the growing Chinese economic clout in Central Asia, once firmly in its sphere of influence, thanks to China’s massive infrastructure investments under the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Northern Sea Route – Chinese cooperation would moreover prove critical for Russia’s elaborate plans to exploit the Northern Sea Route along the Arctic as an alternative transportation hub.

Conclusion

International sanctions have not been very effective in isolating Russia. European states, notably Germany, recognise the importance of engaging with Russia to contain Mr. Putin’s expansionist aims. Equally, President Donald Trump’s “America first” policy is compelling potential rivals to make common cause.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Explained: Three Language Formula

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Three Language Formula

Mains level : Features of New Education Policy


News

Background

  • The union government released a draft NPE, a report prepared by a committee headed by space scientist K. Kasturirangan.
  • Its reference to mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States set off a political storm in Tamil Nadu, which is traditionally opposed to the compulsory study of Hindi.
  • The govt. sought to neutralize the hostile reaction by dropping the controversial reference to Hindi.

Backdrop to the Hindi imposition row

  • The State has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
  • The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965.
  • This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place.
  • However, as early as in 1959 Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

The Three Language Formula

  • It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.
  • Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallized into a policy in an official document only in the NEP, 1968.
  • This document said regional languages were already in use as the medium of education in the primary and secondary stages.
  • At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula.
  • It included the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.

For non-Hindi speaking States

  • In such States Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English.
  • It added: Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the university standards.

To Promote Hindi

  • The NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that in developing Hindi as the link language.
  • Article 351 of the Constitution provides for Hindi as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
  • The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged.
  • Incidentally, the NPE 1986 made no change in the 1968 policy on the three-language formula and the promotion of Hindi and repeated it verbatim.

Tamil Nadu’s stand on this

  • Tamil Nadu has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • TN leaders does not oppose the voluntary learning of Hindi and cite the unhindered work of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, established in Chennai by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918.
  • Also, there is no bar on private schools, most of them affiliated to the CBSE offering Hindi.
  • The State has been following the two-language formula for many decades, under which only English and one regional language are compulsory in schools.

English, the only link

  • An important aspect of the opposition to Hindi imposition is that many in Tamil Nadu see it as a fight to retain English.
  • English is seen as a bulwark against Hindi as well as the language of empowerment and knowledge.
  • There is an entrenched belief that the continued attempts to impose Hindi are essentially driven by those who want to eliminate English as the country’s link language.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Leader of Opposition

Mains Paper 2 : Parliament & State Legislatures |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LoP and its appointment

Mains level : Importance of LoP


News

  • A national political party has stated that it will not stake claim for the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament since it is short of the necessary numbers to be eligible for the position.
  • The second largest party in the house after the majority only has 52 members which is three short of the necessary figure.

Leader of Opposition

  • The LOP is leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house.
  • It is a statutory post defined in the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
  • The Act says that LoP is the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman/Speaker of the House.
  • In Lok Sabha, total strength is 545 members so any party that has 55 members can get the post as recognised as such by the speaker/chairman.

Importance of LoP: The shadow PM

  • The Westminster model that India follows the opposition is a recognizable entity and the LoP is referred to as the ‘shadow Prime Minister’.
  • She/he is expected to be ready to take over if the government falls.
  • The LoP also plays an important role in bringing cohesiveness and effectiveness to the opposition’s functioning in policy and legislative work.

Selection Procedure

  • The procedure for recognising the leader of the opposition is well laid down.
  • On a request being made by the numerically largest party in the opposition, its designated leader be recognised as the leader of the opposition.
  • After the request is examined by her or his secretariat, the speaker/chairman accords recognition to that person.

Legal position of 10% Formulation

  • The point to note here is that the statute gives the numerically largest party in the opposition the right to have a leader recognised as leader of the opposition by the speaker.
  • Former Deputy Chairman of RS P.J. Kurien pointed that legally the party is entitled to the position.
  • The 10% formulation is inconsistent with the law ‘the salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in Parliament Act, 1977’ which only says that the largest opposition party should get the post.
  • The “10%” rule was in fact brought in 1985 by the then LS Speaker Balram Jakhar to deny the position to a party from then Andhra Pradesh.

Way Forward

  • No matter whosoever gets the majority, the LoP is critical to effective functioning of the opposition in the Parliament.
  • Now that there is a law recognising the LoP, passed by the Parliament, it has to be enforced and
  • LoP plays a crucial role in bringing bipartisanship and neutrality to the appointments in institutions of accountability and transparency – CVC, CBI, CIC, Lokpal etc.
  • It can’t be overlooked or undermined, no matter what the flexibility or ambiguity that exist in the legal framework.

5G network in India

Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 5G and its comparison to 4G and 3G

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • Recently the Union Communications Minister has announced that the government will be holding an auction for spectrum, which includes airwaves that will be used to offer 5G or fifth-generation services.
  • While some countries such as South Korea and the U.S. have begun rolling out commercial 5G services, India is yet to begin trials for.
  • India is targeting 2020 as the launch year for 5G in the country.

What is 5G?

  • It is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra low latency.
  • A government panel report points out that with 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabits per second (Gbps).
  • This is in contrast to 4G link speeds in averaging 6-7 Megabits per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.
  • Once 5G becomes commercial, users will be required to change their current devices in favour of 5G-enabled ones.
  • However, it is likely that the primary use of the technology will go beyond delivery of services on personal mobiles devices.

Utility of 5G

  • 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine communications.
  • It would be supporting a much larger range of applications and services, including driverless vehicles, tele-surgery and real time data analytics.
  • One of the primary applications of 5G will be implementation of sensor-embedded network that will allow real time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
  • 5G can also help make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart.
  • 5G will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
  • The ultra low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases. Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.

Economic impact

  • 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, according to a report by a government-appointed panel.
  • According to a separate report by telecom gear maker Ericsson, 5G-enabled digitalization revenue potential in India will be above $27 billion by 2026.
  • Additionally, global telecom industry GSMA has forecast that India will have about 70 million 5G connections by 2025.

What about spectrum auction?

  • The government plans to undertake spectrum auction in the current calendar year.
  • In a first step towards preparing for these auctions, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had in August last year recommended that entire available spectrum be put to auction in the forthcoming sale.
  • As a result a total of 8,644 MHz of spectrum will be put on sale, making it the largest ever such auction.
  • For 5G spectrum, i.e. the spectrum in 3300-3600 MHz which will be put out for bids for the first time, the regulator has recommended a pan-India reserve price of about Rs. 492 crore per MHz for unpaired spectrum.

Needs infrastructural revamp

  • Besides the spectrum, 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system.
  • Simply upgrading the existing Long Term Evolution core will not be able to support the various requirements of all 5G use cases.
  • A report on 5G by Deloitte stated that it is anticipated that the industry might require an additional investment of $60-70 billion to seamlessly implement 5G networks.
  • With the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies (2G, 3G and 4G) will continue to remain in use and that it may take 10 or more years to phase them out.

Way forward

  • It is widely accepted that 5G’s value for India may be even higher than in advanced countries because of the lower levels of investments in physical infrastructure.
  • 5G may offer ‘leapfrog’ opportunities by providing ‘smart infrastructure’ that offers lower cost and faster infrastructure delivery.
Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Draft NEP proposes formal education from age of three

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anganwadis

Mains level : Features of New Education Policy



News

Draft NEP on early childhood education

  • All Indian children could soon enter the formal education system at the age of three, with the draft National Education Policy (NEP) projecting an expansion of the RTE Act.
  • It aims to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.
  • It wants early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of HRD as part of the school system.
  • This will be in addition to the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the 3-to-6 years age group.
  • The draft Policy suggests a new integrated curricular framework for 3 to 8-year olds with a flexible system based on play, activity and discovery, and beginning exposure to three languages from age 3 onwards.

Upheaval of Anganwadi System

  • The NEP could result in an upheaval in the anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of WCD for more than four decades.
  • Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the proposal to provide breakfast to young children).
  • The draft Policy praises the contribution of anganwadis to improving health and nutrition, but notes that their record in education is not so strong.

Flaws in Anganwadis

  • They are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education.
  • As a result, they tend to contain more children in the 2-4 year age range and fewer in the educationally critical 4-6 year age range.
  • They also have few teachers trained in or specially dedicated to early childhood education.

Anganwadis can do better

  • The new framework would be implemented by training and strengthening anganwadi capabilities and linking them to a local primary school, co-locating anganwadis and pre-schools with primary schools, or building stand-alone pre-schools also linked to a local primary school.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Foreigners Tribunals

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, Foreigners Tribunal

Mains level : Issues over NRC


News

NRC Issue: Quick Recap

  • The MHA has sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of publication of the final NRC by July 31.
  • As per directions of the SC, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year.
  • It aimed to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year.
  • The NRC is fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of the NRC.

What is Foreigners Tribunal?

  • With Assam’s NRC as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.
  • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and UTs to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
  • Earlier, such powers to constitute tribunals vested with the Centre only.

Why need such tribunals?

  • The foreigners tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
  • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before the local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The punishment ranges from imprisonment of three months to eight years.
  • Once the accused have completed the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

The amendment

  • The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said: “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose.
  • The amended order issued says – “for words Central Government may,’ the words ‘the Central Government or the State Government or the UT administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may’ shall be substituted.”

Impact of the Amendment

  • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals.
  • Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
  • If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal.
  • The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.
  • Opportunity will also be given to those who haven’t filed claims by referring their cases to the Tribunals.
  • Fresh summons will be issued to them to prove their citizenship.
Citizenship and Related Issues

Traffic Index 2018

Mains Paper 1 : Urbanization, Their Problems & Remedies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Vehicular Traffic in India



News

  • A recent study has ranked Mumbai as the most traffic-congested city in the world for the second straight year, and Delhi at fourth place.

Traffic Index 2018

  • The findings published are part of the Traffic Index 2018 published by TomTom, an Amsterdam-based company.
  • It offers traffic solutions, uses location technology to collect traffic information, and has been publishing city rankings for eight years.
  • The index factors for peak hours, accidents, inclement weather, construction work and all other factors likely to cause disruptions.
  • The latest index ranks 403 cities across 56 countries, including 13 new cities.

Defining Congestion

  • For this study, congestion has been defined in terms of the additional time taken to reach a destination as opposed to when the road would have been clear of traffic.
  • Mumbai’s 2018 congestion level of of 65%, therefore, means that the extra travel time is 65% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions.
  • For Delhi, by the same yardstick, the extra travel time is 58% more.

Around the world

  • Nearly 75% of the cities part of the 2018 index had increased or stable congestion levels between 2017 and 2018, with only 90 cities showing measurable decreases, states the report.
  • Congestion in Jakarta, for example, decreased by 8 percentage points while that in Lima rose by the same number of points.
Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.