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[op-ed of the day] Green shoots of economic growth

Mains Paper 3 : PDS, Buffer Stock & Food Security |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Investment in primary sector will be main driver of growth


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

India’s dream of becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2024 is now in the open with a ‘blue sky’ vision envisaged in the Economic Survey this year. T. However, unless there are adequate investment reforms in primary sectors, steps taken to augment growth in other sectors would be futile.

Investment is the key

1.Insufficient investment in the agriculture sector –

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), insufficient investment in the agriculture sector in most developing countries over the past 30 years has resulted in low productivity and stagnant production.

2.India’s Situation – In India, with a steadily decreasing share of 14.4% in Gross Value Added since 2015-16, the sector’s contribution to a $5-trillion economy would be around $1 trillion — assuming a positive annual growth rate hereafter.

 

1.Agri-tourism

  • First, the wave of investment should touch segments such as agro-processing, and exports, agri-startups and agri-tourism, where the potential for job creation and capacity utilisation is far less.
  • Integrating the existing tourism circuit with a relatively new area of agri-tourism (as a hub-and-spoke model), where glimpses of farm staff and farm operations are displayed to attract tourists, would help in boosting the investment cycle and generate in-situ employment.

2. Education and research in agriculture

  • Second, investment needs to be driven to strengthen both public and private extension advisory systems and the quality of agri-education and research through collaboration and convergence.
  • It would also serve as a stage to demonstrate resource conservation and sustainable use through organic, natural and green methods, and also zero budget natural farming.

3. Investment in livestock

  • Third, given that India has the highest livestock population in the world, investment should be made to utilise this surplus by employing next-generation livestock technology with a strong emphasis not only on productivity enhancement but also on conservation of indigenous germplasm, disease surveillance, quality control, waste utilisation and value addition.
  • This would lead to a sustained increase in farm income and savings with an export-oriented growth model.

4. Renewable energy data

Fourth, investment in renewable energy generation (using small wind mill and solar pumps) on fallow farmland and in hilly terrain would help reduce the burden of debt-ridden electricity distribution companies and State governments, besides enabling energy security in rural areas.

5. Private entities

  • Fifth, a farm business organisation is another source of routing private investment to agriculture.
  • Linking these organisations with commodity exchanges would provide agriculture commodities more space on international trading platforms and reduce the burden of markets in a glut season, with certain policy/procedural modifications.

Pivotal role for data

  • Currently, there are issues of enumeration, maintenance and accessibility to help maintain agri-data on various fronts.
  • There also needs to be a centralised institutional mechanism to help maintain farm level-data available for real time (virtual) assessment, while also helping plug the loopholes in subsidy distribution, funding and unrealistic assumption in production estimation.
  • This will help in effectively implementing and monitoring various schemes for a pragmatic food system.

Trickle-down effect

Though economic transition has seen significant growth contribution from services and industry, agriculture remains the most trusted sector in helping alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition and ensuring better income distribution.

Effect of agricultural Growth on the economy –

  • An earlier experience of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations has shown that a 1% growth in agriculture is at least two to three times more effective in reducing poverty than similar growth in non-agricultural sectors.
  • Public investment in agriculture research and development in terms of percentage share in agri GVA stands at 0.37%, which is fairly low in comparison to between 3% and 5% in developed countries.

Conclusion

  • Agriculture and its allied sectors are believed to be one of the most fertile grounds to help achieve the ambitious Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).
  • However, with the current pace of agriculture growth, India requires ‘patient capital’, as financial returns to investment are unlikely to materialise in the initial years.
  • An inclusive business model facilitating strong investor-farmer relations should be created, with a legal and institutional framework for governance.
  • Expanding institutions is essential to accommodate the developmental impacts of foreign agricultural investment.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] How MGNREGA transformed into a monument of failure

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : MGNREGA failing due to inadequate policy measures


CONTEXT

  • There is now a plethora of evidence that the economy has been cooling down over the last three years.
  • Official data was slow to pick up the trend, but data from private sources on indicators such as sales of consumer durables and automobiles clearly show that it is largely a result of declining demand, particularly in rural areas.
  • The Union budget presented on 5 July was expected to address some of these concerns.
  • However, it was a missed opportunity, with no effort being made to increase spending in rural areas, except for the electoral promise of cash transfer to farmers.

Effect of decline in Allocation to MGNREGA

  • Also disappointing was the government’s approach in dealing with most rural development programmes.
  • These not only directly contribute to creating rural infrastructure and assets, but also indirectly help increase rural demand and employment. For most of these programmes, the budget expenditure was kept constant or lowered.
  • Of particular importance is the all-India scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • Its budget allocation has fallen compared to the revised expenditure of last year, and is insufficient, given the wage-payment arrears.

Weakening of MGNREGA

  • The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) showed apathy towards the rural and agricultural sectors during its first term in government, and in many ways is continuing the flawed policies of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
  • The UPA, which enacted MGNREGA and reaped political dividends for its successful rollout during its first term, contributed to the weakening of the programme as well as the changing of its basic character.
  • The government kept the budget allocation low and created administrative bottlenecks that stifled the programme. This trend has continued under the NDA.
  • This alliance also altered the basic character of the scheme.

Original Vision for MGNREGA

  • MGNREGA was envisaged as a provider of rural employment to casual workers at government-mandated minimum wages set above market wages.
  • This was the case at its 2006 launch.
  • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has been tracking wages received by casual workers employed under MGNREGA and private markets since 2007-08, when it introduced a separate category for MGNREGA work.
  • This has been retained even in the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the report of which was released recently.
  • In 2007-08, the second year of MGNREGA implementation, wages under the programme were 5% higher than market wages for rural male workers and 58% higher for rural female workers.
  • This was one of the reasons that the programme attracted almost 50% female workers, in contrast to the trend of declining female workforce participation since 2004-05.

Changes in structure

  • By 2009-10, MGNREGA wages were only 90% of market wages for males, but 26% higher than market wages for females.
  • By 2011-12, they were lower than market wages for both category of workers, but for females, they were close to market levels.
  • The 2017-18 PLFS estimates show that private market wages for males were higher than MGNREGA wages by 74%, and female market wages were higher than MGNREGA wages by 21%.
  • Clearly, no male worker is going to demand MGNREGA work when he can get a much higher daily wage with the same effort .
  • However, women continue to demand and work under MGNREGA, though market wages are higher, because of non-availability of work and discrimination as well as exclusion from the private labour market.

Women participation more

  • A peculiar result of this is the overwhelming participation of women in MGNREGA in southern states, where casual wages are higher in general, with Kerala reporting only female workers.
  • However, many states, including Gujarat, did not report any MGNREGA work in 2017-18. Keeping MGNREGA wages significantly lower than market wages is a deliberate attempt to finish the programme.

Half of the national minimum wage

  • MGNREGA wages are less than half of the national minimum wage of 375 per day (as on July 2018) proposed by an expert group.
  • Even the Economic Survey presented on 4 July has a chapter on minimum wages, which argues in favour of keeping minimum wages at a sufficiently high level to reduce poverty and inequality.
  • At a time when the government is pushing for a minimum wage code, the largest government-run programme has been violating state minimum wages for almost a decade.
  • MGNREGA could have been the lifeline to revive the rural economy, which is in distress.

Ineffective MGNREGA at present

  • However, the political slugfest and flawed policies of the government have led to a situation where MGNREGA, bereft of its original character, is unable to provide a stimulus to the rural economy, despite the strong evidence of it having pushed up rural wages and incomes during the first five years of its implementation.
  • It also created rural infrastructure and provided much-needed employment to the country’s rural population.

 

MGNREGA Scheme

[op-ed snap] Inclusion over exclusion: on Assam NRC

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : NRC exercise is focusing on exclusion


CONTEXT

With the Supreme Court-led process of updating the National Register of Citizens in Assam nearing its deadline of July 31, the complexities involved in the gargantuan exercise have dawned upon the executive. Both the Central and State governments have sought an extension. But it remains to be seen whether the Court, which has insisted on sticking to the timelines, would relent when it hears the matter on July 23.

Background

  • The first draft NRC published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1, 2018 had the names of 19 million people out of the total 32.9 million who had applied for inclusion as citizens.
  • The second draft NRC, published on July 30 last, upped it to 28.9 million but left out four million found ineligible.
  • Around 3.6 million of them subsequently filed citizenship claims. An “additional exclusion list” was issued last month containing 1,02,463 names included earlier in the draft list.
  • In anticipation of millions being ultimately left out, the Assam government is moving to set up 200 Foreigners’ Tribunals to handle cases of people to be excluded from the final NRC, as part of a larger plan to establish 1,000 such tribunals.
  • The State government is also preparing to construct 10 more detention centres; six are now running out of district jails.

Problems

  • A humanitarian crisis awaits Assam whether the final NRC is published on July 31 or after. In the run-up to the final publication, case after case has emerged of persons wrongfully left out of the list.
  • The process has left no group out of its sweep, be it Marwaris or Biharis from elsewhere in the country, people tracing their antecedents to other Northeastern states, people of Nepali origin, and caste Hindu Assamese.
  • The prime targets of this exercise, however, are Hindu Bengalis and Bengali-origin Muslims of Assam — more than 80% of the 4.1 million people named in the two lists belong to these two groups.
  • Yet, the rationale of the Centre and State in seeking a deadline extension, as found in their submissions in the Supreme Court, betrays an exclusionary bias.
  • The joint plea sought time to conduct a 20% sample re-verification process in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the State to quell a “growing perception” that lakhs of illegal immigrants may have slipped into the list.
  • This, despite the State NRC Coordinator’s reports to the apex court suggesting that up to 27% of names have been reverified during the process of disposal of claims.

Conclusion

  • It hasn’t helped that the Central government keeps holding out the prospect of unleashing a nationwide NRC to detect and deport illegal aliens, when it has no index to base such an exercise on — the 1951 register was exclusive to Assam.
  • The accent should be on inclusion, not exclusion.
  • The wheels of justice cannot pander to the suspicions of a vocal majority without giving the excluded access to due process.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed of the day] Inappropriate template for a legitimate target

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 : Nothing Much

Mains level : Difference in Reforms in South east Asian Countries and India


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

The recently-released Economic Survey either glosses over or ignores many acute challenges faced by the Indian economy — like the severe agrarian crisis; the troubles of loss-making and debt-ridden public sector units; and the issues plaguing public sector banks.

Issue of Private Investment

  • One issue that the Survey rightly underlines is the need for India to revive private investment if it is to achieve the magical $5-trillion economy status by 2024-25.
  • However, what is odd here is that to stress this, the document invokes the age-old comparison between India and East Asian countries.

How the NIEs (newly industrialised economies ) prospered

Here, a question that arises is: Can the East Asian model help revive India’s floundering investment rates? Some crucial reminders are worth underlining.

The East Asian model was largely a story driven by the newly industrialised economies (NIEs) of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, and Japan earlier.

1.Raising gross savings rates –

  • Specifically, the prime goal in various NIEs from 1960s through to the 1990s (prior to the Asian Financial Crisis) was to raise gross savings rates.
  • While the rise in household savings was partly due to the positive demographic dividend, a variety of other factors, including macroeconomic stability, low inflation, lack of social safety nets, inability to leverage (due to a highly regulated banking system) and forced savings (fully-funded Provident Funds) also played a role.
  • State-owned enterprises had to operate with budget constraints.

2.Fiscal discipline – This, coupled with the fiscal discipline practised by the economies, ensured that the public sector did not crowd out private savings and, in some cases, actually added to national savings.

3.Integrating with formal financial system – Another goal was to ensure that the private savings were actually intermediated into the formal financial system, failing which the cost of capital would remain high and the availability of capital for investment would be low.

4.Public sector banking system –

To achieve this, importance was given to the establishment of a safe and secure public sector banking system (usually in the form of postal savings networks) where deposits were guaranteed by the central bank and interest incomes was taxed lightly, if at all.

The state-owned banks were tightly regulated as financial stability was the cornerstone of overall macroeconomic stability.

5.Financial inclusion

  • Financial inclusion was encouraged, though the focus was on actual use of the deposit accounts rather than just their opening.
  • While the manufacturing sector was viewed as a growth engine and open to export competition, the banking sector, in all economies apart from Hong Kong, remained tightly regulated and closed to foreign banks.
  • Even Singapore initially adopted a dual banking structure that sheltered the domestic economy largely from significant short-term bank flows.
  • It resorted to a calibrated policy to allow fully licensed foreign banks only in the late 1990s.

6.Tight financial oversight

  • So, while these economies were generally successful in encouraging savings, the cost of capital was rather high, not unlike the problem in India today.
  • To tackle this, the East Asian economies undertook financial repression — conventionally understood as a ceiling price keeping lending rates lower than market equilibrium.
  • This, in normal circumstances, would have led to disintermediation from the formal financial system, a consequent reduction in the quantity of financing and the creation of a shadow banking system.
  • However, central banks of these economies maintained tight oversight, and selective capital controls ensured that the low-yielding savings did not leave their countries of origin, while limited financial development forestalled the possibility of people looking for savings alternatives.

7.Sophisticated industrial policies

  • Along with these, the governments undertook sophisticated industrial policies to promote domestic investment, much of which was export-led (though not necessarily free-market based).
  • The governments understood that a vertical industrial policy (of ‘picking winners’) would not work without a sound horizontal industrial policy (dealing with labour and land reforms, bringing about basic literacy and raising women’s participation in the labour force).
  • Besides, incentives also had clear guidelines and sunset clauses and mechanisms were in place to phase out support.
  • Thus, winners prospered while losers were allowed to fail.

8.Embedded autonomy

  • In addition, the bureaucracies of these East Asian economies had what Berkeley sociologist Peter Evans referred to as “embedded autonomy”.
  • This allowed the state to be autonomous, yet embedded within the private sector and enabled the two to work together to develop policies or change course if the policies did not work.
  • This made industrial policy operate as a process of self-discovery, as emphasised by Harvard economist Dani Rodrik.
  • It is the lack of this embedded autonomy in the next-tier NIEs of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia that has been partly responsible for them being stuck in the ‘middle income trap’.

9.Heterodox policies, reforms

  • Thus, much of the investment and export acceleration in East Asian countries was due to heterodox policies and reforms that were carefully calibrated, well-sequenced and implemented at a time when the external environment was far less hostile than it is today.
  • These measures allowed the nations to benefit from their demographic dividends and transform themselves into developed economies in record time.

Problems with Indian Reforms

In contrast, due to political and other compulsions, India’s reforms since 1991 have been rather haphazard and of a ‘stop-and-go’ nature with perverse consequences, all of which has made it much more challenging for the country to take full advantage of its demographic dividend.

Conclusion

Though measures like reducing policy uncertainty; ensuring that the fiscal expenditures do not crowd out private savings and investment; enhancing the efficiency of financial intermediation; and dealing with land acquisition and environment clearances are all essential to reignite investment, we do not need to invoke the East Asian example to understand the importance of these.

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

[op-ed snap] A reprieve: on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case

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 : Implications of ICJ ruling in Jadhav Case


CONTEXT

The judgment of the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case has come as major relief for India, providing space and direction for Pakistan to reconsider the ill-formed process it pursued in convicting and sentencing to death the former naval officer.

Judgment

  • In its judgment, the ICJ ruled in favour of India’s petition on six counts, finding that Pakistan was in breach of its own commitments to the Vienna Convention on consular relations, and also rejecting its contention that the convention doesn’t apply to the charges of espionage and terrorism levelled against Mr. Jadhav.
  • Put plainly, the judgment castigates Pakistan’s legal process against Jadhav ab initio: from the initial failure to inform India of the arrest, besides the failure to inform him of his rights, to provide him legal representation, and to provide him an open and fair trial.
  • Pakistan’s leadership may choose to publicly rejoice over the fact that the ICJ didn’t annul the trial or direct a release, but the order should give it pause for thought, and allow saner minds within its establishment to order a comprehensive review of the trial process, if not a full retrial.

The precedent of the case

  • The ICJ has worked with precedents in the cases of Germany vs the United States (LaGrand)and Mexico vs the United States (Avena), both cases where it had ruled that the U.S. was in violation of the Vienna convention, and ordered a “review and reconsideration” of its process.
  • Pakistan must realise that it cannot now emulate the example of the U.S., which defied the ICJ’s ruling, and work instead in good faith to implement the ICJ’s detailed recommendations for an effective process of justice for Mr. Jadhav.
Connotations For India
  • Those recommendations, however, can only ensure a fair trial process for Mr. Jadhav in Pakistan, and not his release or eventual return home.
  • For its part, New Delhi must recognise that the verdict is only a breather, a window of opportunity in which to open talks with Islamabad, parallel to the trial review on Mr. Jadhav’s future.
  • Pakistan must recognise India’s resolve in securing the safety of its citizen, and any rash move to try and put his sentencing into effect will cause deep and lasting damage to its own attempts to restart bilateral talks.

Conclusion

  • This will be even more difficult to do than it was when Mr. Jadhav was arrested in March 2016, as at the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi had just visited Lahore, and despite the Pathankot attack the National Security Advisers had maintained their backchannel negotiations.
  • India had yet to call off its participation in the SAARC summit in Islamabad (which it did after the Uri attack in September 2016), and the Foreign Secretaries had met in Delhi to discuss the summit in April that year.
  • None of those avenues exists today, and new ones will need to be built, if not for the sake of a larger dialogue process, for the sake of Mr. Jadhav, who has secured a reprieve but still faces an uncertain future.

[op-ed snap] The threat of Ebola

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Ebola outbreak in Congo


The health emergency declared by the WHO can counter the risk of a global spread

Background

  • After holding itself back on three occasions, the World Health Organization has declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
  • The outbreak in Congo, officially declared on August 1, 2018, has killed nearly 1,700 people and made more than 2,500 people ill.
  • While cases in other areas are reducing, Beni is the new hotspot.
  • The announcement of the health emergency comes amid renewed concerns that the virus could spread to other countries.
  • A single imported case of Ebola in Goma, a city in Congo with two million people and with an international airport bordering Rwanda, served as a trigger to finally declare a global emergency.
  • Surprisingly, the spread to neighbouring Uganda last month did not seem to change the way the WHO assessed the situation.
  • Even when a handful of Ebola cases were confirmed in Uganda, all the infected people had travelled from Congo and there had been no local transmission or spread within Uganda — one of the criteria used by the WHO to assess if an outbreak is a global emergency.

Previous cases

  • This is the fifth time that the WHO has declared a global emergency. The earlier occasions were in February 2016 for Zika outbreaks in the Americas, August 2014 for Ebola outbreaks in western Africa, the spread of polio in May 2014, and the H1N1 pandemic in April 2009.
  • Declaring an event as a global emergency is meant to stop the spread of the pathogen to other countries and to ensure a coordinated international response.
Availability of a candidate vaccine
  • There have been several challenges in interrupting the virus transmission cycle and containing the spread — reluctance in the community, attacks on health workers, delays in case-detection and isolation, and challenges in contact-tracing.
  • But compared with the situation during 2014-2016, the availability of a candidate vaccine has greatly helped.
  • Though the vaccine has not been licensed in any country, the ring vaccination strategy where people who come into contact with infected people, as well as the contacts of those contacts are immunised, has helped .
  • Of the nearly 94,000 people at risk who were vaccinated till March 25, 2019, only 71 got infected compared with 880 unvaccinated who got infected.
  • The vaccine had 97.5% efficacy; a majority of those who got infected despite being vaccinated were high-risk contacts.

Shortage of Vaccine

  • Owing to vaccine shortage, the WHO’s expert group on immunisation has recommended reducing the individual dose to meet the demand.
  • What is equally important is for the G7 countries to fulfil their promise to the WHO to contain the spread.
  • The agency received only less than half of the $100 million that was requested to tackle the crisis. The global emergency now declared may probably bring in the funding.A
Zika Virus Outbreak

Explained: Why Assam is prone to floods and what’s the solution

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Controlling Floods


CONTEXT

Assam is in the grip of yet another flood, with 57 lakh people displaced, all 33 districts affected, and 36 people killed besides hundreds of animals. This is the first wave of floods this monsoon, and flood control experts expect at least two more.

Why are floods so destructive in Assam?

At the crux is the very nature of the river Brahmaputra —dynamic and unstable. Its 580,000 sq km basin spreads over four countries: China, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, with diverse environments.

In terms of sediment yield, two spots along the Brahmaputa’s course were at second and third places in 2008, behind the Yellow River whose annual sediment yield is 1,403 tonnes per sq km.

The Brahmaputra’s annual sediment yield was 1,128 tonnes per sq km at Bahadurabad of Bangladesh, and 804 tonnes per sq km at Pandu of Guwahati.

Assam, Assam floods, Assam flood news, Assam weather, Assam news, Assam rain news, Assam floods army, Baksa, Baksa assam, Kaziranga National Park, indian express, latest news
Assam floods: The vast amount of sediment comes from Tibet, where the river originates.

How do these characteristics of the river relate to flooding?

  • The vast amount of sediment comes from Tibet, where the river originates. “That region is cold, arid and lacks plantation. Glaciers melt, soil erodes and all of it results in a highly sedimented river.
  • By the time the river enters Assam — a state comprising primarily floodplains surrounded by hills on all sides — it deposits vast amounts of this silt, leading to erosion and floods.
  • As the river comes from a high slope to a flat plain, its velocity decreases suddenly and this results in the river unloading the sediment.
  • Again, because of the earthquake-prone nature of the region, the river has not been able to acquire a stable character.
  • Following the devastating earthquake of 1950, the level of the Brahmaputra rose by two metres in Dibrugarh area in eastern Assam.
  • Besides these natural factors are the man-made ones — habitation, deforestation, population growth in catchment areas (including in China) — which lead to higher sedimentation.
  • For example, the sediment deposition itself creates temporary sandbars or river islands.
  • It is common for people to settle in such places, which restricts the space the river has to flow. When rainfall is heavy, it combines with all these factors and leads to destructive floods. This happens very frequently.

Has the government tried to address the factors that cause floods?

  • In its master plan on the river in 1982, the Brahmaputra Board had suggested that dams and reservoirs be built to mitigate floods.
  • The idea of dams, however, has traditionally been a double-edged sword. While one of their objectives is to regulate the release of flood waters, the release when it comes can sometimes be beyond the capacity of the channels downstream.
  • In the Brahmaputra basin, locals and environmentalists protested against dam-building plans on grounds of displacement and destruction of evology, preventing the plans from moving forward.

Building embankments

  • As such, the government has been using only one approach towards floods: building embankments on the river. “Embankments were proposed only as an interim and ad hoc measure for short-term mitigation,” said Aaranyak’s Das. Their lack of durability has often been on display.
  • “Most embankments built in the 1980s are not strong enough.
  • Since they were temporary measures, the government did not spend on high-specification embankments. These are weak and are regularly breached.

Dredging

The government also considered dredging, basically digging up the riverbed and making the river “deeper”. However, experts have strongly advised against this simply because the Brahmaputra sediment yield is among the highest in the world.

But, is there a long-term solution?

  •  For a sustainable solution, there needs to be “a basin-wide approach” to the problem.
  • An “integrated basin management” system that should ideally bring in all the basin-sharing countries on board
  • Addressing the issues only in Assam when the flood strikes isn’t the solution — one needs the countries to come to an understanding about taking measures in the catchment areas.
  •  For that, interstate relationships, political cooperation and the role of the government are important.
  • Flood-plain zoning, which is done the US. “Depending on the vulnerability of the area, you divide them into categories, and accordingly ban certain activities on it: like farming, building a house etc,”
  • That is one option. We can’t help the rain but we can certainly control the damage caused by floods.”
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[op-ed of the day] At the UNSC, a three-point agenda

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : India's agenda at UNSC


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

  • India’s singular objective as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2021-22 should be to help build a stable and secure external environment.
  • In doing so, India will promote its own people’s prosperity, regional and global security and growth, and a rule-based world order. It could emerge a partner of choice for developing and developed countries alike.

Changing state of world

1.Dislocation in West Asia –

  • India finds itself in a troubled region between West and East Asia, a region bristling with insurgencies, terrorism, human and narcotics trafficking, and great power rivalries.
  • The Gulf is in turmoil.
  • Though the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) has been defeated, Iraq and Syria are not going to be the same as before.
  • Surviving and dispersed Daesh foot soldiers are likely preparing new adventures, many in their countries of origin.

2. Asia

  • The turbulence in West Asia is echoed in North and South Asia, a consequence of the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Afghanistan’s slow but unmistakable unravelling from the support, sustenance and sanctuary provided in its contiguity to groups such as the Haqqani network, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.
  • Other problems in Asia include strategic mistrust or misperception, unresolved borders and territorial disputes, the absence of a pan-Asia security architecture, and competition over energy and strategic minerals.

Fear, populism, polarisation, and ultra-nationalism have become the basis of politics in many countries.

No wonder that five years ago, when Henry Kissinger completed his latest work, World Order, he found the world to be in a greater state of disorder than at any time since the end of World War II.

Record of UN

  • Even so, the world is in a better place today than when the UN was first established.
  • The record on maintaining international peace and security, one of the prime functions of the UNSC, has been positive, with or without the UN.
  • The world has been distracted from its other shared goals, especially international social and economic cooperation.

What should India aim to do?

There is no need for India to fritter away diplomatic goodwill in seeking an elusive permanent seat in the UNSC.

 Increase its financial contribution – India will have to increase its financial contribution, as the apportionment of UN expenses for each of the P-5 countries is significantly larger than that for India.

Even Germany and Japan today contribute many times more than India.

Although India has been a leading provider of peacekeepers, its assessed contribution to UN peacekeeping operations is minuscule.

Promoting well-balanced, common solutions – At a time when there is a deficit of international leadership on global issues, especially on security, migrant movement, poverty, and climate change, India has an opportunity to promote well-balanced, common solutions.

Agenda as a member of UNSC

1.‘Responsibility to Protect

First, as a member of the UNSC, India must help guide the Council away from the perils of invoking the principles of humanitarian interventionism or ‘Responsibility to Protect’.

Given the fragile and complex international system, which can become even more unpredictable and conflictual, India should work towards a rules-based global order. Sustainable development and promoting peoples’ welfare should become its new drivers.

2.Sanctions –

Second, India should push to ensure that the UNSC Sanctions Committee targets all those individuals and entities warranting sanctions. Multilateral action by the UNSC has not been possible because of narrowly defined national interest.

3.Rational internationalism – 

  • Having good relations with all the great powers, India must lead the way by pursuing inclusion, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and rational internationalism. 
  • A harmonised response is the sine qua non for dealing with global problems of climate change, disarmament, terrorism, trade, and development. India could take on larger burdens to maintain global public goods and build new regional public goods.
  • For example, India should take the lead in activating the UNSC’s Military Staff Committee, which was never set into motion following the UN’s inception. Without it, the UNSC’s collective security and conflict-resolution roles will continue to remain limited.

Looking at polycentrism

  • A rules-based international order helps rather than hinders India, and embracing the multilateral ethic is the best way forward.
  • India will be a rich country in the future and will acquire greater military muscle, but its people will remain relatively poor.
  • India is a great nation, but not a great power.
  • Apolarity, unipolarity, a duopoly of powers or contending super-powers — none of these suit India.
  • India has a strong motive to embrace polycentrism, which is anathema to hegemonic powers intent on carving out their exclusive spheres of influence.

Conclusion

Finally, India cannot stride the global stage with confidence in the absence of stable relations with its neighbours. Besides whatever else is done within the UN and the UNSC, India must lift its game in South Asia and its larger neighbourhood. Exclusive reliance on India’s brilliant team of officers at its New York mission is not going to be enough.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Balance and tilt

Mains Paper 2 : Parliament & State Legislatures |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Anti-defection Issue


CONTEXT

The Supreme Court’s interim order stating that the 15 dissident Karnataka legislators cannot be compelled to attend the House, means they are not bound by any whip relating to the trust vote moved by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

Impact of order

  • This gives the numerical advantage in the House to the BJP-led Opposition. Without the support of the 15 lawmakers, the ruling coalition will be reduced to a minority.
  • The other limb of the order permits the Speaker to decide on the resignation of these MLAs in a time-frame he considers appropriate.
  • Although the court says there was an imperative necessity “to maintain the constitutional balance”, the order tilts the odds in favour of the Opposition in the vote.
  • It amounts to holding that provisions of the anti-defection law, under which parties can issue whips to their members to vote in a particular way, will not be applicable to the 15 MLAs.

Setting a dangerous precedent

  • The order raises the concern whether it does not constitute a perilous precedent for granting ad hoc judicial exceptions from constitutional provisions on defection and set the tone for future judicial intervention to suspend the operation of any whip in respect of a few.
  • Alternatively, the court, which is understandably reluctant to intervene in the Speaker’s power ahead of his decisions, could have refrained from making any orders about the legislators’ presence during the trust vote, and made it clear that any action against them arising out of their absence or manner of voting would be subject to judicial review.

Supreme Court burdened

  • To be fair to the Supreme Court, it is being burdened with the task of unravelling political knots created by amoral strategems. In this case, the “political thicket” into which the court has been dragged has its origins in manoeuvres to reduce the combined strength of the Janata Dal(S) and the Congress.
  • In a bid to thwart tactical resignations, the government and the Speaker adopted the counter-strategy of not immediately accepting them, but initiating or pursuing disqualification proceedings.

Questions in litigation

  • One of the questions in the litigation is whether it is resignation or disqualification that should get priority.
  • The objective of disqualifying the MLAs rather than allowing them to quit will not save the government, but it will prevent them from taking oath as ministers in an alternative Cabinet.
  • Though the court’s order recognises the Speaker’s authority to rule whether the resignations are genuine, and fixes no time-frame, it is a Pyrrhic victory; for, their continuance as members puts them under no obligation to vote for the government in view of the allowance given to stay away during the vote.

Conclusion

The dissident MLAs risk nothing other than their seats, certainly not the opportunity to join the Cabinet of a successor-government. When the court takes up the substantive questions of law for adjudication, it should squarely address the new-found interplay between issues of resignation and disqualification, lest it become a perennial source of political controversy.

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Sword against pen

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Freedom of press


CONTEXT

Journalists are facing heightened threats around the globe, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), covering 180 countries and territories.

Threats to journalist

  • It notes that the number of countries regarded as safe for journalists is on the decline; this should be a wake-up call. Hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence in many places, and India is no exception.
  • In 2018, at least six Indian journalists were killed in the line of their work, the report said. India’s rank fell by two places to 140 from 138 — in 2016 it was 133 and in 2017 it was 136.
  • In 2014 India’s ranking was 140, but this year’s setback is qualitatively different.

Reasons for the decline in ranking

  • The report notes that organised campaigns by supporters of Hindutva “to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate” is putting journalists in danger.
  • Women journalists are particularly at the receiving end, and covering sensitive but important topics of public interest such as separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and Maoist insurgency has become more difficult.
  • Authorities use anachronistic sedition laws against journalists, who also face the wrath of militants and criminal gangs.

Hyper-nationalist politics

  • Hostility towards the media is a defining feature of hyper-nationalist politics in many countries.
  • In India, the Centre and several State governments have not merely shown extreme intolerance towards objective and critical reporting but also taken unprecedented measures to restrict journalism.

Recent Events

  • The Finance Minister’s recent order barring credentialed reporters from the Ministry’s premises is a case in point but this is not an isolated measure.
  • There is a systematic attempt to limit the scope of journalism in India through physical restrictions, denial of information and hostile rhetoric against journalists by senior government functionaries.
  • The government is unlikely to take the RSF report seriously.

Perception’s Importance

While expression of concern by foreign countries or global bodies regarding human rights, religious violence or media freedom is routinely dismissed as external interference in India’s sovereignty, the government knows all too well that in a globalised world these perceptions matter.

Conclusion

  • What else would explain the Prime Minister’s single-minded pursuit to improve India’s position in the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business ranking?
  • If India is concerned about its reputation in terms of business and investment, it should be equally or even more concerned about its standing as a democratic, pluralist country with a free and dynamic press.
  • That is not so much for the inflow of investment or luring global corporations, which may care little about a destination-country’s democratic credentials — but for India’s well-being.
Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

[op-ed of the day] The wheels to a low-carbon transport system

Mains Paper 1 : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Improvement in Transport Sector


CONTEXT

Congested streets and polluted air are common experiences in India’s metropolises, although the average Indian contributes only minuscule amounts of transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to global climate change. Patterns of road transport, however, diverge wildly between cities and districts. Delhi tops the charts and emissions are more than twice as high as other Indian megacities, such as Mumbai, Bengaluru or Ahmedabad.

Poor Conditions

  • Studies show that India’s road transport emissions are small in global comparison but increasing exponentially.
  • In fact, the Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast as the global rise in 2018.
  • Globally, the transport sector accounts for a quarter of total emissions, out of which three quarters are from road transport.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions of road transport leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban areas.
  • Climate action also requires an understanding of how emissions vary with spatial context.
  • In India, we find in our new study (published in Environmental Research Letters), that income and urbanisation are the key determinants of travel distance and travel mode choice and, therefore, commuting emissions.

Public Transport’s Role

  • The way cities are built and the design of public transit are critical for low-carbon mobility systems.
  • The study is based on the most recent results of the Indian Census in 2011.
  • Average commuting emissions in high-emitting districts (Delhi) are 16 times higher than low-emitting districts (most districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh).
  • Average per capita commuting emissions are highest for the most affluent districts, which are predominantly urban, and that heavily use four-wheelers for commuting.
  • This is a surprising result, as in other parts of the world such as the United States, commuting emissions are low in urban areas but high in suburban or ex-urban settings.
  • In contrast, average per capita commuting emissions are lowest for Indian districts that are poor, and commuting distances are short and rarely use three-wheelers.

Suggestions To improve

Two policy implications follow.

1.Organise cities around public transport  –

  • First, mayors and town planners should organise cities around public transport and cycling, thereby improving mobility for many, while limiting car use.
  • Uptake of non-motorised transport emerges as a sweet spot of sustainable development, resulting in both lower emissions and better public health in cities.
  • According to the recent National Family Health Survey (2015-16), nearly 30% of all men are overweight or obese in southwest Delhi, but only 25% in Thiruvananthapuram and 13% in Allahabad.
  • These data correlate with high reliance of car use in Delhi and low demand for walking.

Effect on Health

  • Addressing Chronic Diseases – Another of our studies that investigates data from the India Human Development Survey shows that a 10% increase in cycling could lower chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for 0.3 million people, while also abating emissions.
  • Car use, in contrast, correlates with higher rates of diabetes.
  • Therefore, fuel price increases, congestion charges or parking management could be a strategy that improves the well-being of individuals living in urban areas.
  • In contrast, fuel price increases would be detrimental in poorer rural areas, impairing mobility where there is a lack of alternatives.

2.Technology transition

  • Electric Vehicles – Second, India should double down in its strategy to transition to electric two and three-wheelers.
  • A recent study reports that India has 1.5 million battery-powered three-wheeler rickshaw (over 300,000 e-rickshaws sold in 2018).
  • Rampant Growth – In the coming years, experts judge that the electric three-wheeler market is expected to grow by at least 10% per year. In 2019, nearly 110,000 electric two-wheelers were also sold, and the annual growth rate may be above 40% per year.
  • Make in India – India is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers in two- and three- wheelers and Indian companies can take a leading role in switching to electric vehicles. This will also help in transforming India’s vision of ‘Make in India’.

Way Forward

  • Compact cities improve accessibility and reduce emissions from transport and even the building sector.
  • Most Indian cities are already very dense, with few benefits expected by further high-rise.
  • Short routes and fast access – City managers should ensure that existing urban areas provide short routes and fast access to schools, hospitals and jobs, otherwise, residents would be required to travel long distances.
  • To achieve this aim, mayors and decision-makers need to rethink how to deliver basic services such as education and health.
  • Achieving low carbon development – Building schools and hospitals matters especially for informal settlements and are critical in achieving low carbon development as well as improving the quality of life.
  • Access to public service Centres – Providing access to public service, choosing rapid transit over car driving in cities and supporting the rise of electric two and three-wheelers will help drive India to a modern and low-carbon transport system fit for the 21st century.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Explained: Why power costs vary across states

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Discrepancies in Indian power sector


News

  • Recently a MP from Rajya Sabha suggested that power tariffs should be uniform across the country so that affordable power is available to all.
  • He complained that consumers in Punjab paid Rs 8 per unit of electricity, much more than consumers in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and J&K.

Power tariffs across state

  • The electricity tariff paid by consumers in each state is directly reflective of the cost of power procurement by the power distribution companies (discoms) in the state.
  • There are state-specific factors for this.
  • So, states such as Jharkhand or Odisha or Chhattisgarh, which have had coal-fired thermal capacity, would typically have lower tariffs because of the base-load capacities that they possess.
  • Or, states such as Himachal or Uttarakhand would have low tariffs because of hydropower capacities .
  • On the other hand, a state like Gujarat, which has capacities based on imported coal, will have comparatively higher tariffs.

So is the idea of having a flat countrywide rate feasible?

  • The State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) decide on the power tariff after utilities file their cost of power with the regulators.
  • Because power tariffs entail a number of state-specific factors a uniform nationwide tariff is a proposition that would be difficult to implement.
  • Electricity was a state subject and there has to be consensus for uniform power tariffs among state players.
UDAY Scheme for Discoms

[op-ed snap] Rethinking KUSUM

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Redesigning Kusum


CONTEXT

  • Earlier this year, the Cabinet approved the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM).
  • There is a budgetary allocation of ₹34,000 crore to KUSUM and a similar contribution is expected from the States.

Features of KUSUM

  • KUSUM aims to provide energy sufficiency and sustainable irrigation access to farmers.
  • Objective – Providing financial and water security to farmers.
  • The components of the proposed scheme are
    1. Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralized Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants.
    2. Component-B: Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
    3. Component-C: Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.

Current Situation

  • Despite growing farm power subsidies, nearly 30 million farmers use expensive diesel for their irrigation needs.
  • This is because they have no access to electricity. More than half of India’s net sown area remains unirrigated.
  • KUSUM could radically transform the irrigation economy if the government chooses an approach of equity by design and prudence over populism.

Approach of Equity 

  • Reducing disparity among States with regard to solar pumps deployment and irrigation access should be the first aim.
  • This disparity highlights poor State budget allocation towards solar pumps and the lack of initiative by State nodal agencies.
  • To encourage equitable deployment, the Centre could incentivise States through target linked financial assistance and create avenues for peer learning.
  • Addressing inequity within a State – This is addressed by a share of central financial assistance under KUSUM should be appropriated for farmers with small landholdings and belonging to socially disadvantaged groups.
  • By providing greater financial assistance to smaller farmers, instead of a one­size­fits­all approach.
  • KUSUM proposes a 60% subsidy for the pumps, borne equally by the Centre and the States, and the other 40% will be the farmer’s contribution.
  • This will exacerbate the inter farmer disparity given the inequity in access to credit and repayment capacity between small and large farmers.
  • A more economical and equitable alternative – A higher capital subsidy support to small and marginal farmers and long-term loans with interest subsidies for large and medium farmers.

 Prudence over populism

  • Solarising existing grid connected pumps needs a complete rethink.
  • Existing grid connected farmers would receive the same financial support as that received by an off-grid farmer.
  • In addition, the farmer would earn regular income from the DISCOM on feeding surplus electricity, furthering the inequitable distribution of taxpayers’ resources.
  • Instead of this, the scheme should only provide Central government subsidy of up to 30% for solarisation, and use the proposed State support to incentivise DISCOMs to procure energy from the farmers.
  • Instead of feeding surplus energy to the grid, solar pump capacity could be used to power post harvesting processes, which complement the seasonal irrigation load.
  • The entire feeder could be solarised through a reverse bidding approach, and provide water conservation linked incentives to farmers as direct benefit transfer.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[op-ed snap] Chinese check: on economic troubles

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 : China's Growth is slowing down


CONTEXT

The Chinese economy is seeing the first signs of trouble after long years of sustained growth that rode on cheap labour and high volumes of exports.

Background

  • Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday revealed that the economy grew by 6.2% in the second quarter, its slowest pace in 27 years.
  • This is in contrast to the growth rates of 6.4% and 6.6% reported for the first quarter and the full year of 2018, respectively.
  • The faltering growth rate was due to a slump in exports in June amidst China’s ongoing trade war with the United States and the downturn witnessed by sectors such as housing construction, where investor sentiments play a major role.
  • Many economists believe that the worst may not yet be over for China and that economic growth could further worsen in the coming quarters.

Rise in Domestic Demand –

  • But just as growth seems to be faltering, the latest growth figures also showed that the retail sales and industrial output components of the growth numbers witnessed steady growth, suggesting that domestic demand may be compensating for the dropping appetite for Chinese exports weighed down by high tariffs.
  • But with China still heavily reliant on exports and its trade war with the U.S. showing no signs of coming to an end, the pressure on growth is likely to remain for some more time.

Measures tried by Chinese Government –

So the Chinese government, which has tried to boost the economy through measures such as tax cuts, increased public spending and a relaxation in bank reserve requirements to encourage banks to increase lending, will hope that domestic demand for its goods will hold up the economy.

Challenges in data credibility –

China’s quarterly GDP numbers, while useful in many ways, don’t reveal very much about the underlying challenges facing the country. One is the need to improve the credibility of data released by the Chinese government.

Restructuring of Chinese Economy –

Driven primarily by market forces – An even larger challenge is the urgent need to restructure the Chinese economy from one that is driven heavily by state-led investment and exports to one that is driven primarily by market forces.

Huge amount of liquidity – The high-growth years of the Chinese economy were made possible by the huge amount of liquidity provided by the Chinese state and the large and affordable workforce that helped build China into an export powerhouse.

Conclusion

More sustainable model – But now, with China’s tried and tested growth model facing the threat of getting derailed as the export and investment boom comes to an end, the Chinese will have to build a more sustainable model, or forfeit hopes of double-digit economic growth in the future.

Restructure the economy – As of now, there are no signs to suggest that the Chinese authorities are looking at implementing deep-seated structural reforms reminiscent of its early decades of liberalisation that can help fundamentally restructure the economy.

Boosting domestic consumption –  There might not be a need for radical macroeconomic changes, but China’s economic troubles will not go away unless the government boosts domestic consumption and reduces the reliance on exports.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed of the day] A test of law and justice

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Challenging 103rd Constitutional Amendment


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

  •  The challenges made to the 103rd constitutional amendment, though, which a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court is slated to hear this month, present a rather more difficult test.Here, the issues involved concern questions both over whether the amendment infringes the extant idea of equality, and over whether that idea is so intrinsic to the Constitution, that departing from it will somehow breach the document’s basic structure.
  • The court’s answers to these questions will operate not merely within the realm of the law but will also likely have a deep political bearing — for at stake here is the very nature of justice that India’s democracy embodies.

Background

The law, which was introduced in January this year, amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, and grants to the government the power to provide for reservation in appointments to posts under the state and in admissions to educational institutions to “economically weaker sections of citizens [EWS]”.

Reasons for Challenging the amendment

  • According to the petitioners in the Supreme Court, the central hypothesis of the amendment, where reservation is predicated on individual economic status, violates the Constitution’s basic structure.
  • In their belief, the law, by providing for affirmative action unmindful of the structural inequalities inherent in India’s society, overthrows the prevailing rationale for reservations.
  • In doing so, they argue, the amendment destroys the Constitution’s idea of equal opportunity.
  • The Union of India argues that while the Constitution demands equality, it does not confine Parliament to any singular vision.
  • According to it, the power to amend the Constitution must necessarily include a power to decide how to guarantee equal status to all persons.

Meaning and purpose

Constitution’s Idea –

  • The Constitution’s framers saw the measure as a promise against prejudice, as a tool to assimilate deprived groups into public life, and as a means of reparation, to compensate persons belonging to those groups for the reprehensible acts of discrimination wrought on them through history.
  • Marc Galanter has called this a compensatory discrimination principle.

Dismantling the hierarchical structure –

  • By providing for a more proportionate distribution of the share in administration, the programme of reservations, it was believed, would end at least some of caste-based domination of jobs, particularly of employment in the public sector — a domination that was built over thousands of years, where Dalits and Adivasis were denied access to equal status.
  • The strategy behind reservations could, therefore, never have involved an attack on pure economic backwardness.
  • The idea was always to disavow caste-monopoly in the public sector.

The idea of Justice – Behind this thinking was a distinctive theory of justice: that by according a greater share in public life to historically disadvantaged groups the relative position of those groups would stand enhanced.

Challenging Caste Monopoly – No doubt such a policy would not, in and of itself, help eliminate the various inequalities produced by the caste system, but it was believed it would represent a resolute effort to eliminate at least some of the caste-based domination prevailing in society.

Based of Social and educational Backwardness – Indeed, the policy and the idea of justice that undergirds it have been seen as so indispensable to the Constitution’s aims and purposes that the Supreme Court in State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas (1975) held that reservations based on social and educational backwardness, far from being an exception ought to be seen as an intrinsic facet of the idea of equality.

Problem with new logic 

  • Idea of equality is changed – It is in departing from this logic that the 103rd amendment unseats the Constitution’s code of equality.
  • Transient criterion – Pure financial ability is a transient criterion; it doesn’t place people into a definite group requiring special privileges.
  • Favoring powerful – If anything, allowing for reservation on such a principle only further fortifies the ability of powerful castes to retain their positions of authority, by creating an even greater monopolisation of their share in administration.

Court’s Responsibility

  • When the court hears the challenges made to the 103rd amendment, it must see the petitioners’ arguments as representing a credibly defensible view.
  • The least the court ought to do, therefore, is to refer the case to a constitution bench, given that Article 145(3) mandates such an enquiry on any issue involving a substantial question of law concerning the Constitution’s interpretation, and, in the meantime, stay the operation of the amendment until such a bench hears the case fully.
  • Should the court fail to do so the government will surely one day present to it a cruel fait accompli.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A WASH for healthcare

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Wash and Primary health Sector


CONTEXT

Without adequate water, sanitation and hygiene amenities, infection control is severely compromised.

Background

Healthcare facilities are many and varied. Some are primary, others are tertiary. Many are public, some are private. Some meet specific needs, whether dentistry or occupational therapy, and some are temporary, providing acute care when disaster strikes.

  • Whatever their differences, and wherever they’re located, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) amenities, including waste management and environmental cleaning services, are critical to their safe functioning.
  • When a healthcare facility lacks adequate WASH services, infection prevention and control are severely compromised.
  • This has the potential to make patients and health workers sick from avoidable infections.
  • As a result (and in addition), efforts to improve maternal, neonatal and child health are undermined. Lack of WASH facilities also results in unnecessary use of antibiotics, thereby spreading antimicrobial resistance.

Report’s Findings

  • As a joint report published earlier this year by the World Health Organization and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) outlines, WASH services in many facilities across the world are missing or substandard.
  • According to data from 2016, an estimated 896 million people globally had no water service at their healthcare facility.
  • More than 1.5 billion had no sanitation service.
  • One in every six healthcare facilities was estimated to have no hygiene service (meaning it lacked hand hygiene facilities at points of care, as well as soap and water at toilets), while data on waste management and environmental cleaning was inadequate across the board.

Enhancing primary healthcare

  • In WHO’s South-East Asia region, efforts to tackle the problem and achieve related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets are being vigorously pursued.
  • As outlined at a WHO-supported meeting in New Delhi in March, improving WASH services in healthcare facilities is crucial to accelerating progress towards each of the region’s ‘flagship priorities’, especially the achievement of universal health coverage.
  • Notably, improving WASH services was deemed essential to enhancing the quality of primary healthcare services, increasing equity and bridging the rural-urban divide.

WHO’s Initiative 

  • A World Health Assembly Resolution passed in May is hoping to catalyse domestic and external investments to help reach the global targets.
  • These include ensuring at least 60% of all healthcare facilities have basic WASH services by 2022; at least 80% have the same by 2025; and 100% of all facilities provide basic WASH services by 2030.
  • For this, member states should implement each of the WHO- and UNICEF-recommended practical steps.
  • Assessments – First, health authorities should conduct in-depth assessments and establish national standards and accountability mechanisms. Across the region, and the world, a lack of quality baseline data limits authorities’ understanding of the problem.
  • National Road Maps  – As this is done, and national road-maps to improve WASH services are developed, health authorities should create clear and measurable benchmarks that can be used to improve and maintain infrastructure and ensure that facilities are ‘fit to serve’.

Educating the health workers

Cleanliness in centres – Second, health authorities should increase engagement and work to instil a culture of cleanliness and safety in all healthcare facilities.

Information Campaign – Alongside information campaigns that target facility administrators, all workers in the health system — from doctors and nurses to midwives and cleaners — should be made aware of, and made to practise, current WASH and infection prevention and control procedures (IPC).

Pre Service Training – To help do this, modules on WASH services and IPC should be included in pre-service training and as part of ongoing professional development.

Inclusive Approach – In addition, authorities should work more closely with communities, especially in rural areas, to promote demand for WASH services.

And third, authorities should ensure that collection of data on key WASH indicators becomes routine. Doing so will help accelerate progress by promoting continued action and accountability. It will also help spur innovation by documenting the links between policies and outcomes. To make that happen, WHO is working with member states as well as key partners to develop a data dashboard that brings together and tracks indicators on health facilities, including WASH services, with a focus on the primary care level.

As member states strive to achieve the ‘flagship priorities’ and work towards the SDG targets, that outcome is crucial. Indeed, whatever the healthcare facility, whoever the provider, and wherever it is located, securing safe health services is an objective member states must boldly pursue.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed of the day] India’s foreign policy needs rework in the next five years

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 : Changes required in India's Foreign Policy


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

In the coming five years, a host of geopolitical and economic issues need to be reconciled.

Background

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained a frenetic pace, renewing contacts with world leaders ever since the results of general election 2019.
  • G-20 – He was the cynosure of all eyes at the G-20 meeting in June, in Osaka.
  • BRICs informal meeting – At the BRICs informal meeting, also in Osaka, he called for the strengthening of the World Trade Organisation and for a global conference on terrorism. He discussed counter-terrorism and climate change issues at separate meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
  • Japan-India-U.S. trilateral grouping – He participated in the Japan-India-U.S. trilateral grouping, arguing for a “rules based order” in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • He met with U.S. President Donald Trump, to discuss the future of India-U.S. relations.

Present Situation

  • The global situation has altered.
  • Rivalries among nations have intensified.
  • There is virtual elimination of the middle ground in global politics, and it has become far more adversarial than at any time previously.
  • Even the definition of a liberal order seems to be undergoing changes.
  • Several more countries today profess support for their kind of liberalism, including Russia and China.
  • At the other end, western democracy appears far less liberal today.

China, U.S. and Asian realities

1.South Asia –

  • South Asia, in particular, and the region of our highest priority, according to the new External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, needs close attention.
  • The region is one of the most disturbed in the world and India has little or no say in any of the outcomes taking place.
  • Pakistan – India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at their lowest point.
  • Afghanistan – India has no role in Afghan affairs and is also excluded from current talks involving the Taliban, the Afghan government, Pakistan, the U.S. and even Russia and China.
  • India might have recouped its position more recently in the Maldives, but its position in Nepal and Sri Lanka remains tenuous.

2.China

  • Across much of Asia, China is the major challenge that India has to contend with.
  • BRI – Smaller countries in the region are being inveigled to participate in China’s programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • India and Bhutan are the only two countries in this region that have opted out of the BRI, and they seem like the odd men out.
  • The challenge in the coming years for India is to check the slide, especially in Asia, and try and restore India to the position it held previously.

3.USA

  • New Cold War – Deepening India-U.S. relations today again carry the danger of India becoming involved in a new kind of Cold War.
  • Not to be a paw – India must ensure that it does not become a party to the conflicts and rivalries between the U.S. and a rising China, the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, and also avoid becoming a pawn in the U.S.-Iran conflict.
  • National Defence Authorisation Act  – There is little doubt that current India-U.S. relations provide India better access to state-of-the-art defence items; the recent passage of the National Defence Authorisation Act in the U.S. makes India virtually a non-NATO ally. However, such close identification comes with a price.
  • Tensions between India and China – Closer relations with the U.S. also carries the risk of aggravating tensions between India and China, even as China and the U.S. engage in contesting every domain and are involved in intense rivalry in military matters as well as competition on technology issues.

The U.S.-China-Russia conflict –

  • The U.S.-China-Russia conflict has another dimension which could affect India adversely.
  • The strategic axis forged between the Mr. Putin’s Russia and Mr. Xi’s China will impact not only the U.S. but also India’s position in both Asia and Eurasia, with India being seen as increasingly aligned to the U.S. Hence, India needs to devise a policy that does not leave it isolated in the region.

Disruptive Technology domain

  • Dominant power – Today, disruptive technologies have tremendous danger potential and nations that possess these technologies have the ability to become the dominant powers in the 21st and 22nd Centuries.
  • Lagging Behind others – A major challenge for India will hence be how to overcome our current inadequacies in the realm of disruptive technologies rather than remaining confined to the purely military domain.
  • Cyberspace – The U.S., China, Russia, Israel and few other countries dominate these spheres as also cyberspace and cyber methodologies.
  • Growth in disruptive technology matrix – New policy parameters will need to be drawn up by India, and our capabilities enhanced in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and cyber methodology, all of which constitute critical elements of the disruptive technology matrix.

Focus on Economy

Notwithstanding India’s ambition to become a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25, the reality today is that the economy appears to be in a state of decline. Jobs, especially skilled jobs, are not available in sufficient numbers and this should be a matter for concern.

Conclusion

The looming challenge for India in the coming five years, therefore, would be how to build a strong economic foundation, one that is capable of providing the kind of power structure needed for an emerging power, and also one possessing the best liberal credentials.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[op-ed snap] Karnataka conundrum

Mains Paper 2 : Parliament & State Legislatures |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Issues in Anti-defection


CONTEXT

The Supreme Court’s decision to ask the parties to the political crisis in Karnataka to maintain the status quo until it examines the questions of law involved, is pragmatic and expedient.

Details Of Order

  • The Speaker has been asked not to decide the issue of MLAs’ resignation or disqualification.
  • An order has been passed when one of the questions to be decided is whether the court can give such a direction to the Speaker.
  • It now transpires that legislators can be prevented from resigning by claiming that they have incurred disqualification.

Order of events

  • It was argued in court that “the rebel MLAs are trying to avoid disqualification by tendering resignations.”
  • This is astounding, as the penalty for defection is loss of legislative office.
  • Quitting the current post before joining another party is a legal and moral obligation.
  • Defection is condemnable, especially if it is to bring down one regime and form another.
  • But politicians cannot be tied down to parties against their will by not letting them leave even their legislative positions.
  • Even if it can be argued that two MLAs had pending disqualification proceedings against them, what about the rest?
  • They say they tried to meet the Speaker, but could not.
  • They may have been wrong to rush to the court without getting an appointment with the Speaker, but in the few intervening days, their parties issued a whip to all MLAs to be present in the House and vote for the government.
  • Converting resignation into a disqualification matter is an attempt to deny a member’s right to quit his seat in the legislature before joining another party, even if the crossing-over is a politically expedient measure.
  • The logic seems to be that a disqualified member cannot become a Minister without getting elected again, whereas one who resigns can be inducted into an alternative Cabinet without being a member.
  • Accepting a resignation is a simple function of being satisfied if it is voluntary, while disqualification is decided on evidence and inquiry.
  • The two should not be mixed up.

Constitutional Issue

  • The ongoing proceedings represent an increasingly common trend in litigation on constitutional issues: the propensity of the political class to twist and stretch the law in their favour and leave it to the court to set things right.
  • The Speaker already enjoys extraordinary powers under the Constitution.
  • In addition to immunity from judicial scrutiny for legislative matters, such as whether a Bill is a money bill, presiding officers get to decide whether a member has incurred disqualification under the anti-defection law.
  • Though the decision is subject to judicial review, many Speakers have evaded judicial scrutiny by merely not acting on disqualification matters.

Conclusion

  • The question whether the Speaker’s inaction can be challenged in court is pending before another Constitution Bench. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have instances of Speakers not acting on disqualification questions for years.
  • The current crisis in Karnataka has exposed a new dimension to such partisan action.
Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Ecological perils of discounting the future

Mains Paper 1 : Urbanization, Their Problems & Remedies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Managing urban water bodies


CONTEXT

  • In a report last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) called the Chennai floods of 2015 a “man made disaster”, a pointer to how the encroachment of lakes and river floodplains has driven India’s sixth largest city to this ineluctable situation.
  • The Chennai floods are a symbol of consistent human failings and poor urban design which are common to most urban centres in India if not urban centres across the world. Now, Chennai is in the midst of another crisis — one of water scarcity.

Urban Situation

  • Unlike issues such as traffic congestion or crime which are visible, environmental degradation is not what most people can easily see or feel in their every day lives.
  • Therefore, when the consequences of such degradation begin to wreak havoc, it becomes difficult to draw the correlation between nature’s vengeance with human failings.
  • In Chennai, more than 30 waterbodies of significance have disappeared in the past century.
  • Concretisation or the increase in paved surfaces has affected the percolation of rainwater into the soil, thereby depleting groundwater levels to a point of no return.

Urbanisation without vision

  • Chennai, however, is not alone in terms of suffering from the consequences of human folly.
  • Urbanisation at the cost of reclaiming water bodies is a pan-India if not worldwide phenomenon.
  • There are examples in cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and even Mexico city.
  • In Bengaluru, 15 lakes have lost their ecological character in less than five years according to a High Court notice to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city’s administrative body responsible for civic amenities and some infrastructural assets.
  • The lakes, which are now encroached areas, find use as a bus stand, a stadium and, quite ironically, as an office of the Pollution Control Board.
  • In Mexico city, what was once a network of lakes built by the Aztecs in the 11th and 12th centuries, has given way to a downtown city centre.
  • Parts of the city, especially downtown, sink a few metres every year causing immense damage to buildings.
  • Mismanaged urbanisation and encroachments: Chennai continues to lose out on its water resources

     

    Case study of Telangana

  • In Telangana, the byzantine network of tanks and lakes built by the Kakatiya dynasty has disappeared over the years.
  • However, the question is not about what follies were committed in the past, but about what we can do in the present and, more importantly, for the future.
  • In Telangana, “tanks have been the lifeline of the State because of its geographical positioning”.
  • The State’s “topography and rainfall pattern have made tank irrigation an ideal type of irrigation by storing and regulating water flow for agricultural use”.
  • The Telangana example of water rejuvenation
  • The Chief Minister of Telangana launched a massive rejuvenation movement in form of “Mission Kakatiya” which involves the restoration of irrigation tanks and lakes/minor irrigation sources built by the Kakatiya dynasty.
  • From the perspective of inter-generational justice, this is a move towards giving future generations in the State their rightful share of water and, therefore, a life of dignity.
  • The city of Hyderabad is now moving towards a sustainable hydraulic model with some of the best minds in the country working on it.
  • This model integrates six sources of water in a way that even the most underdeveloped areas of the city can have equitable access to water resources and the groundwater levels restored in order to avoid a calamity of the kind that has gripped Chennai now.

 

International Examples

  • When Mexico city can create a new executive position of a “resilience officer” to save its sinking urban sprawls, Bengaluru can reclaim Kundalahalli lake (once a landfill) through corporate social responsibility funds in a Public Private Partnership model, and Hyderabad and the larger state of Telangana rebuild its resilience through a combination of political will and well-designed policies such as the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme and Mission, what stops us from learning from each other?
  • Why should other urban centres shy away from adopting, remodelling and implementing some of the best water management practices to avoid disaster?
  • The answer perhaps lies in the tendency of policymakers to discount the future and of their obsession of focussing on the here and now.

 

Conclusion

  • It is estimated that in just 30 years from now, half of India will be living in cities.
  • If we truly envision a great future for this country, how can we possibly risk the lives of half of our people and the next generations who could be facing a life in cities parched by drought, stranded by floods, mortified by earthquakes or torn by wars over fresh water?
  • What has happened in Chennai now or what happened in Kerala last year in the form of floods are not a case of setting alarm bells ringing, but one of explosions.
  • If we do not wake up now, we have to be prepared to face the consequences of nature wreaking great havoc on humanity.
  • We would not need nuclear bombs for our obliteration.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

HR 1044

Mains Paper 2 : Effect Of Policies & Politics Of World On India'S Interests |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HR 1044

Mains level : Changing visa norms by US and its implication on Indians


News

HR 1044

  • The US lawmakers passed a Bill titled Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 1044).
  • It is aimed at lifting the current seven per cent country-cap on issuing Green Cards, a development which would benefit thousands of highly-skilled Indian IT professionals.

What the HR 1044 means for India?

  • A change in the existing law can mean that immigrants from countries like India and China seeking permanent residency could expect shorter wait times.
  • Indian IT professionals, who under the existing law would have to wait up to 70 years as some studies suggest, can now hope for a fairer system with lesser processing time.
  • Apart from removing caps for employment-based Green Cards, caps for family-based categories have also been increased to 15%.
  • A US based institute released a study in 2018 saying, that based on current law and backlog, Indian nationals holding advanced educational degrees may have to wait over 150 years in order to get a Green Card.

Back2Basics

What is a Green card?

  • A Permanent Resident Card, also known as a ‘Green Card’, allows a non-US citizen to live and work permanently in America.
  • Green Card holders can qualify for US citizenship generally after three to five years.
  • Over 10 lakh migrants from around the world are known to receive Green Cards yearly.

Popular Green Card categories

  • Categories of employment-based visas under which Indian professionals are known to apply are the:
  1. ‘EB-1’, or priority workers with extraordinary ability
  2. ‘EB-2’ or those holding advanced degrees, and
  3. ‘EB-3’ or skilled workers.
  • The EB-2 category generally sees the most number of applicants.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States
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