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[op-ed of the day] Having the last word on ‘population control’

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Better Ways to ensure Population Control


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

On July 11, World Population Day, a Union Minister expressed alarm, in a Tweet, over what he called the “population explosion” in the country, wanting all political parties to enact population control laws and annulling the voting rights of those having more than two children.

Demographic transition – The Economic Survey 2018-19 notes that India is set to witness a “sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades”. The fact is that by the 2030s, some States will start transitioning to an ageing society as part of a well-studied process of “demographic transition” which sees nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.

Reasons

  • The demand for state controls on the number of children a couple can have is not a new one.
  • It feeds on the perception that a large and growing population is at the root of a nation’s problems as more and more people chase fewer and fewer resources.
  • This image is so ingrained in the minds of people that it does not take much to whip up public sentiment which in turn can quickly degenerate into a deep class or religious conflict that pits the poor, the weak, the downtrodden and the minorities against the more privileged sections.
1.Target free approach –The essence of the policy was the government’s commitment to “voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services” along with a “target free approach in administering family planning services”.

2.Lifecycle framework –  “lifecycle framework” which looks to the health and nutrition needs of mother and child not merely during pregnancy and child birth but “right from the time of conception till the child grows… carrying on till the adolescent stage and further”.

3.Offering More Choices – This argument is not about denying services but about offering choices and a range of services to mother and child on the clear understanding that the demographic dividend can work to support growth and drive opportunity for ordinary people only when the population is healthy.

Crucial connections

1.The health and education status – Thus, family health, child survival and the number of children a woman has are closely tied to the levels of health and education of the parents, and in particular the woman; so the poorer the couple, the more the children they tend to have.

2.Not particular to religion – This is a relation that has little to do with religion and everything to do with opportunities, choices and services that are available to the people.

3.Relation with poverty – The poor tend to have more children because child survival is low, son preference remains high, children lend a helping hand in economic activity for poorer households and so support the economic as well as emotional needs of the family.

Comparison –

1.On the basis of wealth – As the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) notes, women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, translating to a total fertility rate of 3.2 children versus 1.5 children moving from the wealthiest to the poorest.

2.On the basis of education – Similarly, the number of children per woman declines with a woman’s level of schooling. Women with no schooling have an average 3.1 children, compared with 1.7 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling. 

Control is not the desired way –

  • Demographers are careful not to use the word “population control” or “excess population”.
  • The NPP 2000 uses the world “control” just thrice: in references to the National AIDS Control Organisation; to prevent and control communicable diseases, and control of childhood diarrhoea.
  • This is the spirit in which India has looked at population so that it truly becomes a thriving resource; the life blood of a growing economy.
  • Turning this into a problem that needs to be controlled is exactly the kind of phraseology, mindset and possibly action that will spell doom for the nation.
  • Today, as many as 23 States and Union Territories, including all the States in the south region, already have fertility below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
  • So, support rather than control works.

Conclusion

  • The damage done when mishandling issues of population growth is long lasting.
  • Let us not forget that the scars of the Emergency are still with us. Men used to be part of the family planning initiatives then but after the excesses of forced sterilisations, they continue to remain completely out of family planning programmes even today.
  • The government now mostly works with woman and child health programmes. Mistakes of the Emergency-kind are not what a new government with a robust electoral mandate might like to repeat.

 

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s shifting strategic concerns

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 : India Pakistan and third party mediation


CONTEXT

The U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest gaffe has introduced another thorn in what is now clearly an unsettled India-U.S. relationship. While India’s hand is not as strong as we sometimes believe it to be, there might be opportunities to leverage the international situation further down the road.

 Perceived advantage

  • If we step back and evaluate the India-Pakistan equation over the past five years, what stands out is that both sides proceeded from a perception that each holds an advantageous position.
  • India’s confidence emanated from Mr. Modi’s electoral victory in 2014 that yielded a strong Central government and expectations of stable ties with all the major powers.
  • Mostly overlooked in India, Pakistani leaders too have displayed confidence that the international environment was moving in a direction that opened options for Pakistan that were unavailable in the previous decade.
  • This included the renewed patterns of Pakistan’s ties with the U.S. and China, with the latter reassuring Pakistan and, most importantly, the Army on their respective strategic commitments and bilateral partnerships.

Pakistan’s leverage

  • China’s angle – Historically, U.S. policymakers have always sought to restore the alliance with Pakistan whenever Islamabad’s ties with China became stronger. India has borne the brunt of this recurring geopolitical dynamic.
  • Afghan Situation – Much of Pakistan’s contemporary leverage can of course also be traced to the ongoing phase of the Afghan conflict. It fended off the most dangerous phase when U.S. policy might have shifted in an adversarial direction, or instability in the tribal frontier areas might have completely exploded.
  • So, both India and Pakistan perceive themselves to be in a comfortable strategic position.

Pakistan’s benefactors

  • Both the U.S. and China have overlapping interests in regional stability and avoidance of a major subcontinental conflict.
  • While each maintains deep ties with Pakistan for different reasons, it is unclear to what extent their longer term interests coincide with India, which seeks a structural transformation in Pakistan’s domestic politics and external behaviour.
  • The U.S. and China appear content with, or probably prefer, a Pakistan with a strong Rawalpindi, along with competent civilian governance structures and an elite with a wider world view.
  • For China, a stable Pakistan can be a partner in the Belt and Road initiative and future continental industrial and energy corridors.
  • In sum, both the U.S. and China seek a strong, stable and secure Pakistan that controls its destabilising behaviour because that undermines their wider regional interests. For the U.S., a revisionist Pakistan pulls India inward and away from potential India-U.S. cooperation on Asian geopolitics.
  • For China, it undermines its industrial and connectivity projects in Pakistan, while negatively impacting India-China ties.

India’s Stand –

Maintaining that India has the right and the capacity to adopt an active defence posture — that is, blocking the flow of cross-border terror by proactive operations on the Line of Control (LoC) along with reserving the option for more ambitious punitive strikes in response to major terrorist attacks on Indian military targets — would play an important part in shaping how third parties view Indian interests and thereby assume constructive roles in managing Pakistani behaviour.

Conclusion

If India ever asks third parties to assist in the region, it should be for a cessation of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir, and, once an atmosphere of peace has been established, to persuade Pakistan to accept the LoC as part of a final territorial settlement similar to the offer by Indira Gandhi in the 1972 Shimla negotiations.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] Share of the state

Mains Paper 2 : Constitutional Bodies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Maintaining Fiscal Federalism


CONTEXT

Last week, the Union cabinet passed an amendment to widen the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission.

Background

  • The Commission has now been asked to examine the possibility of setting up a mechanism for funding defence and internal security.
  • As capital spending on defence continues to fall well short of what is required, it is difficult to contest the premise that it needs to be bolstered.
  • But, as the creation of “secure and non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security” may end up reducing the divisible tax pool further, the move could face resistance from states, especially when several of them are arguing for a greater share in tax revenues.
  • While the commission is yet to spell out its views on the subject, this request raises fundamental questions over the spending priorities of different levels of government and the framework that governs Centre-state fiscal relations.
  • The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution specifies the separate as well as concurrent responsibilities of the Centre and state governments, with defence falling in the Union list.
  • The inability of the Centre to ramp up its spending on defence indicates the limited fiscal space available to it.
  • In large part, this is due to an increase in spending on items in the state and concurrent list, and a corresponding decline in spending on items in the Union list.
  • In 2015-16 alone, the Centre spent 16 per cent of its revenue expenditure on items in the state list, and another 16.4 per cent on items in the concurrent list.

Reduced Fiscal space for states –

  • In a federal structure, the Centre must address regional imbalances in the delivery of public services.
  • But the bulk of this spending is routed through sector-specific transfers or centrally sponsored schemes that curb the autonomy of the states in deciding their own expenditure priorities.
  • The added fiscal pressures on the Centre have, in turn, contributed to reduced fiscal space for states.
  • Over the years, the Centre has begun to rely increasingly on taxes collected through cesses and surcharges to meet its expenditure priorities.
  • But revenue from these sources does not form part of the divisible tax pool, it is not shared with states — squeezing them from both ends.

Conclusion

While the compulsions of the political economy have ensured greater central government spending on items in the state and concurrent lists, the current juncture may well be an opportune moment to rethink the spending priorities of different levels of the government. There is a need, particularly, to address legitimate concerns of states about increasing encroachment by the Centre.

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

[op-ed of the day] A bridge across the India-Pakistan abyss

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 : Impact of kartarpur talks on future bilateral talks


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

Ties between India and Pakistan are at an ebb — their lowest in two decades. The thread from this phase, as a series of events — the Kargil war (1999), the Agra Summit (2001), the attack on Parliament (2001) and Operation Parakram (2001-02) — meant a sustained period of deep hostilities, with diplomatic missions downgraded and travel routes truncated.

Kartarpur corridor

  • What has been disconnected from all those tensions are the talks on the Kartarpur corridor.
  • That the talks have continued through one of the most difficult years in the relationship is equally remarkable; there have been three rounds of technical-level meetings to ensure both sides complete the infrastructure needed before November 2019, the 550th anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak.
  • The symbolism for pilgrims who will be able to travel from Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur just a few kilometres inside Pakistan, which are sites where Guru Nanak spent his last few years, goes well beyond the date and year.

Some irritants

  •  The Kartarpur corridor project is an issue that has been raised by India for several decades, with New Delhi’s reasons for wanting the corridor clear.
  • However, in the case of Pakistan, these have not been as transparent, with the military establishment’s surprise backing only raised doubts on whether Islamabad has an ulterior motive.

1.Allowing Separatist groups –

  • In a dossier handed over during the last round of talks on Kartarpur on July 14, India spelt out its apprehensions over Pakistan allowing separatist Khalistani groups, including those funded by groups based in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to try and influence pilgrims.
  • Of specific concern is the ‘Referendum 2020’ plan by the Sikhs for Justice group (banned by India).

2.Drugs and Arms Supply –

  • The other irritant is the possible use of the corridor for drugs and arms movement; there are many routes and tunnels at the border between the two Punjabs.
  • The terror threat by Pakistani Punjab-based anti-India groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad is also a constant concern.

Hope for future Talks

  • With such strictures in place, New Delhi’s decision to embark on a course that will need regular and repeated India-Pakistan meetings is nothing short of a breach of its otherwise firm “no talks without terror ending” policy.
  • For example, at a time when Indian and Pakistani Ministers do not even hold talks when they meet at multilateral conferences, New Delhi sent two senior Ministers to Pakistan to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for the event.

A range of possibilities

1.Other faith-based corridors – The obvious extension from this would be for having other faith-based “corridors” for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims in both countries; this would be in addition to the list of 20 shrines (15 in Pakistan, five in India) that were negotiated under the 1974 Protocol on visits to Religious Shrines.

2.Template for bilateral negotiations

  • The template that Kartarpur has given both sides is also worth considering for the format of other bilateral negotiations given that the talks have been immunised from both terror attacks and election rhetoric.
  • The venue of the talks, at the Attari-Wagah zero point, lends itself to more successful outcomes too away from the glare of the media, without focus on arrangements for both parties.
  • The two sides can cross over, meet for the duration of talks and return after issuing a pre-arranged joint statement.

Impact of FATF

  • Ahead of the next plenary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October, Pakistan will remain under pressure to keep terror groups subdued.
  • According to various reports, infiltration figures at the LoC are significantly lower (a 43% reduction since the Balakot strikes in February); officials have marked about 20 terror camps in PoK they believe have been “shut down” recently.
  • Civilian and military casualties from ceasefire violations have also reduced.

Way Forward

Thus, it would be a travesty to waste the opportunity made possible by the Kartarpur corridor, and by extension, the founder of the Sikh faith himself (revered by Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan) to bring both countries back to the table for talks.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] The complexities of Naga identity

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) issue


CONTEXT

The Nagaland government’s move to compile a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) opens up possibilities in the context of the decision to link the register to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system without a consensus on the definition of an ‘indigenous inhabitant’.

Cut off date

Though the official notification on RIIN has not mentioned a cut-off date to compile the proposed register, the authorities in Nagaland have till date issued indigenous inhabitant certificates using December 1, 1963 as the cut-off date.

Opposition from NSCN (I-M)

  • The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which has been engaged in peace talks with the government of India since 1997, has opposed the compilation of RIIN asserting that “all Nagas, wherever they are, are indigenous in their land by virtue of their common history”.
  • On June 29, the Nagaland government notified that RIIN “will be the master-list of all indigenous inhabitants” of the State.
  • All those to be included will be issued “barcoded and numbered indigenous inhabitant certificates”.
  • It added that all existing indigenous inhabitant certificates would become invalid once the process of compiling RIIN is completed and fresh certificates issued.
  • RIIN is different from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) as exclusion or inclusion in RIIN is not going to determine the Indian citizenship of anyone in Nagaland.

Three conditions

Since 1977, a person, in order to be eligible to obtain a certificate of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland, has to fulfil either of these three conditions:

a) the person settled permanently in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963;

b) his or her parents or legitimate guardians were paying house tax prior to this cut-off date; and

c) the applicant, or his/her parents or legitimate guardians, acquired property and a patta (land certificate) prior to this cut-off date.

The compilation of RIIN also involves the complexities of deciding claims in respect of children of non-Naga fathers as well as non-Naga children adopted by Naga parents.

Issues

  • If the Nagaland government goes ahead with a compilation of RIIN with this cut-off date, then all Naga people who have migrated to the State from the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in India after this day will have to be excluded.
  • The NSCN(I-M) statement adds, “Nothing is conclusive on the Naga issue, until and unless a mutually agreed honourable political solution is signed between the two entities.
  • Therefore, any attempt to dilute the final political settlement by justifying any past accord of treasons should be seriously viewed by all Nagas.”
  • This clearly indicates the opposition the Nagaland government may have to face if it goes ahead with the move to compile RIIN.

Conflicts

  • The Centre and the NSCN (I-M), which is the largest among all armed Naga rebel groups, signed a Framework Agreement in 2015, the content of which has still not been made public, in turn leaving room for speculation on the contentious issue of integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Unless otherwise clarified through an official notification, the proposed linking of RIIN with the ILP system may require large numbers of non-indigenous inhabitants of Dimapur district, more particularly the commercial hub (Dimapur town), to obtain an ILP to carry out day-to-day activities.
  • Most of them migrated from other States and have been carrying out trade, business and other activities for decades.
  • Migration also explains the higher density of population in Dimapur district (409 persons per sq. km) when compared to all the other districts in the State.
  • The ILP is a travel document issued by the government of India to allow a ‘domestic tourist’ to enter Nagaland, and is valid for 30 days.

 

Challenges

1.Cut-off date – While the move to streamline the ILP system to curb the influx of “illegal migration” to Nagaland has been welcomed by civil society, public opinion is still divided on compiling RIIN without a consensus on the cut-off date.

2.De-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism – As the Nagaland government has begun a consultation process on RIIN, it will be under pressure to de-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism from the proposed register and put it on hold till the ongoing peace process concludes and the final solution is worked out.

3. Issues in streamlining the ILP-  Besides this, the complexities that may arise in streamlining the ILP mechanism due to non-issuance of domicile certificates or permanent residence certificates to a large number of non-Naga, non-indigenous inhabitants could also make the task even more difficult for the Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland government

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Kashmir mediation

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 : USA's stand on Kashmir Issue


CONTEXT

Facing a furore in Parliament over the issue, the government has clarified in no uncertain terms that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not request U.S. President Donald Trump to “mediate or arbitrate” on the Kashmir issue, as Mr. Trump claimed on Monday.

Response by government

  • Addressing Parliament, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India remains committed to its policy of discussing all outstanding issues with Pakistan only bilaterally, and assured the House that Mr. Modi did not raise this with Mr. Trump at their recent meeting in Osaka during the G-20 summit.
  • In making the claim that has been roundly denied by New Delhi, Mr. Trump breached several well-laid diplomatic protocols, including one against discussing privileged conversations with a leader, during a public conversation with another.

Statements

Mr. Trump also said a “lot” of his talks with the Pakistan Prime Minister would focus on India and Afghanistan, an odd departure from the precept of putting bilateral issues to the fore, and being more discreet when discussing sensitive relations involving other countries.

New Realities

  • For New Delhi, it may be time to recognise that Mr. Trump’s comments are a sign of new realities in international diplomacy, where leaders care less about niceties and more about open communication.
  • Mr. Modi will have to prepare accordingly for some plain-speaking when he visits the U.S. and meets with Mr. Trump, as he is expected to, in September this year.
  • In the short term, the government’s decision to address the claim by Mr. Trump will have nipped any repercussions in the bud.

Way Forward

The government should pursue the issue through diplomatic channels with the U.S. government, and determine whether Mr. Trump made the comments out of confusion or deliberately.

Stand on Kashmir

Opposition to third part mediation – India has always opposed any suggestion of third-party mediation on Jammu and Kashmir; both the 1972 Shimla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore declaration included India’s and Pakistan’s commitment to resolving issues between them.

It is unlikely that Mr. Modi would have spoken out of line with this policy, and the most charitable explanation for Mr. Trump’s new contention is that he mistook India’s appeal to the international community to hold Pakistan accountable for terror groups on its soil that carry out attacks in Kashmir, for a general desire for mediation.

Contentious Issues

  • Mr. Trump’s comment in March that the U.S. successfully mediated for the release of captured fighter pilot Abhinandan by Pakistan may have even given him some hope that the U.S. could play a larger role on the Kashmir issue, and New Delhi would need to address that.
  • A more worrying proposition is that Mr. Trump took the line favoured by his Pakistani interlocutors on Kashmir as a way of enhancing his own plans for a pullout from Afghanistan with Pakistan’s help on security and talks with the Taliban.

Conclusion

While the damage from Mr. Trump’s words may not have a very lasting impact on India-U.S. ties, that from any rushed measures to force a resolution in Afghanistan will have far-reaching and lasting impact, including on India.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed of the day] The judicial presumption of non-citizenship

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 : Citizenship Process in Assam and challenges therein


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

  • On May 17, in a very short hearing, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court (the Chief Justie of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna) decided a batch of 15 petitions under the title Abdul Kuddus v Union of India.
  • Innocuously framed as resolving a “perceived conflict” between two paragraphs of the Schedule to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, the judgment — little reported in the media — nonetheless had significant consequences for the ongoing events in Assam surrounding the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (“the NRC”).

Process concerning citizenship.

The issue arose because, in the State of Assam, there are two ongoing processes concerning the question of citizenship.

 Foreigners Tribunals – The first includes proceedings before the Foreigners Tribunals, which have been established under an executive order of the Central government.

NRC – The second is the NRC, a process overseen and driven by the Supreme Court. While nominally independent, both processes nonetheless bleed into each other, and have thus caused significant chaos and confusion for individuals who have found themselves on the wrong side of one or both.

Arguments

  • The petitioners in Abdul Kuddus argued that an opinion rendered by the Foreigners Tribunal had no greater sanctity than an executive order.
  • Under the existing set of rules, this meant that an adverse finding against an individual would not automatically result in their name being struck off the NRC.
  • Furthermore, the Tribunal’s opinion could be subsequently reviewed, if fresh materials came to light.
  • In short, the petitioners’ case was that the two processes — that of the Foreigners Tribunal and of the NRC — should be kept entirely independent of each other, and without according primacy to one over the other.

Flawed tribunals

The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ arguments, and held that the “opinion” of the Foreigners Tribunal was to be treated as a “quasi-judicial order”, and was therefore final and binding on all parties including upon the preparation of the NRC.

Problems with judgement and tribunals

1. Establishment – First, Foreigners Tribunals were established by a simple executive order.

2.Qualifications- Second, qualifications to serve on the Tribunals have been progressively loosened and the vague requirement of “judicial experience” has now been expanded to include bureaucrats.

3. No specific process – And perhaps, most importantly, under the Order in question (as it was amended in 2012), Tribunals are given sweeping powers to refuse examination of witnesses if in their opinion it is for “vexatious” purposes, bound to accept evidence produced by the police, and, most glaringly, not required to provide reasons for their findings.

But in further strengthening an institution — the Foreigners Tribunal — that by design and by practice manifestly exhibits the exact opposite of this principle, the Supreme Court failed to fulfil its duty as the last protector of human rights under the Constitution.

Unwelcome departure

  • The Court attempted to justify this by observing that “fixing time limits and recording of an order rather than a judgment is to ensure that these cases are disposed of expeditiously and in a time bound manner”.
  • Departure from rule of law –  When the stakes are so high, when the consequences entail rendering people stateless, then to allow such departures from the most basic principles of the rule of law is morally grotesque.

Background Cases

Sarbananda Sonowal  –

  • The Court’s observations in the Kuddus case, and indeed, the manner in which it has conducted the NRC process over the last few months, can be traced back to two judgments delivered in the mid-2000s, known as Sarbananda Sonowal Iand II.
  • In those judgments, relying upon unvetted and unreviewed literature, without any detailed consideration of factual evidence, and in rhetoric more reminiscent of populist demagogues than constitutional courts, the Court declared immigration to be tantamount to “external aggression” upon the country; more specifically, it made the astonishing finding that constitutionally, the burden of proving citizenship would always lie upon the person who was accused of being a non-citizen.
  • A parliamentary legislation that sought to place the burden upon the state was struck down as being unconstitutional.

Conclusion

1.Presumption of non-citizenship- What the rhetoric and the holdings of the Sonowal judgments have created is a climate in which the dominant principle is the presumption of non-citizenship.

Dehumanisation – Apart from the absurdity of imposing such a rule in a country that already has a vast number of marginalised and disenfranchised people, it is this fundamental dehumanisation and devaluation of individuals that has enabled the manner in which the Foreigners Tribunals operate, the many tragedies that come to light every week in the context of the NRC, and judgments such as Abdul Kuddus.

The right to life – It is clear that if Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to life, is to mean anything at all, this entire jurisprudence must be reconsidered, root and branch.

Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] What’s NEXT?

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : NEXT and medical education in India


CONTEXT

In its second iteration, the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill seems to have gained from its time in the bottle, like ageing wine. The new version has some sharp divergences from the original.

Background

  • Presented in Parliament in 2017, it proposed to replace the Medical Council Act, 1956, but it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
  • The NMC will have authority over medical education — approvals for colleges, admissions, tests and fee-fixation.
  • The provisions of interest are in the core area of medical education. The Bill proposes to unify testing for exit from the MBBS course, and entry into postgraduate medical courses.
  • A single National Exit Test (NEXT) will be conducted across the country replacing the final year MBBS exam, and the scores used to allot PG seats as well.
  • It will allow medical graduates to start medical practice, seek admission to PG courses, and screen foreign medical graduates who want to practise in India.

Changes in National Exit Test (NEXT)

  • Per se, it offers a definite benefit for students who invest much time and energy in five years of training in classrooms, labs and the bedside, by reducing the number of tests they would have to take in case they aim to study further.
  • There are detractors, many of them from Tamil Nadu — which is still politically opposing the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) — who believe that NEXT will undermine the federal system, and ask whether a test at the MBBS level would suffice as an entry criterion for PG courses.
  • The Bill has also removed the exemption hitherto given to Central institutions, the AIIMS and JIPMER, from NEET for admission to MBBS and allied courses.

Benefits

  • In doing so, the government has moved in the right direction, as there was resentment and a charge of elitism at the exclusion of some institutions from an exam that aimed at standardising testing for entry into MBBS.
  • The government also decided to scrap a proposal in the original Bill to conduct an additional licentiate exam that all medical graduates would have to take in order to practise, in the face of virulent opposition.
  • It also removed, rightly, a proposal in the older Bill for a bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to make a lateral entry into allopathy.

Way Forward

  • It is crucial now for the Centre to work amicably with States, and the Indian Medical Association, which is opposed to the Bill, taking them along to ease the process of implementation.
  • At any cost, it must avoid the creation of inflexible roadblocks as happened with NEET in some States.
  • The clearance of these hurdles, then, as recalled from experience, become fraught with legal and political battles, leaving behind much bitterness.
  • NEXT will have to be a lot neater.
Medical Education Governance in India

[op-ed snap] Soaring to the moon

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayaan

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2 mission


CONTEXT

A decade after the first successful mission to the moon with Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched its sequel, Chandrayaan-2, to further explore the earth’s natural satellite.

Moon exploration

  • Earlier this year, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon, in a first-ever attempt.
  • Now India is attempting a similar feat — to land its rover Pragyan in the moon’s South Polar region, attempted so far by none.
  • The equatorial region has been the only one where rovers have landed and explored.

Significance of launch

  • The launch by itself is a huge achievement considering that it is the first operational flight of the indigenously developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mark-III) to send up satellites weighing up to four tonnes
  • The orbiter, the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) together weigh 3.87 tonnes.
  • Having reached the earth parking orbit, the orbit of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be raised in five steps or manoeuvres in the coming 23 days before it reaches the final orbit of 150 x 1,41,000 km.
  • It is in this orbit that Chandrayaan-2 will attain the velocity to escape from the earth’s gravitational pull and start the long journey towards the moon.
  • A week later, on August 20, the spacecraft will come under the influence of the moon’s gravitational pull, and in a series of steps the altitude of the orbit will be reduced in 13 days to reach the final circular orbit at a height of 100 km.
  • The next crucial step will be the decoupling of the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) from the orbiter, followed by the soft-landing of the lander-rover in the early hours of September 7.
  • Despite the postponement of the launch from July 16 owing to a technical snag, the tweaked flight plan has ensured that the Pragyan robotic vehicle will have 14 earth days, or one moon day, to explore.

Innovation

  • Unlike the crash-landing of the Moon Impact Probe on the Chandrayaan-1 mission in November 2008, this will be the first time that ISRO is attempting to soft-land a lander on the earth’s natural satellite.
  • A series of braking mechanisms will be needed to drastically reduce the velocity of the Vikram lander from nearly 6,000 km an hour, to ensure that the touchdown is soft.

Aims of mission

  • The presence of water on the moon was first indicated by the Moon Impact Probe and NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 a decade ago. The imaging infrared spectrometer instrument on board the orbiter will enable ISRO to look for signatures indicating the presence of water.
  • Though the Terrain Mapping Camera on board Chandrayaan-1 had mapped the moon three-dimensionally at 5-km resolution, Chandrayaan-2 too has such a camera to produce a 3-D map.
  • But it will be for the first time that the vertical temperature gradient and thermal conductivity of the lunar surface, and lunar seismicity, will be studied.

Conclusion

While ISRO gained much with the success of Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan, the success of Chandrayaan-2 will go a long way in testing the technologies for deep-space missions.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: A win-win deal

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Agricultural subsidy reforms


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 her budget speech, the Union finance minister (FM) said: “At the centre of everything that we do, we keep gaon, garib aur kisan in mind.”

Background

  • Here then is a small mantra for her to transform the lives of the kisan and the poor in rural areas.
  • Just streamline the food and fertiliser subsidies by converting them to direct cash transfers to identified beneficiaries.
  • This can be done through the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile). Such a measure would not only empower the poor and farmers but also usher in a policy shift that can save the exchequer least Rs 50,000 crore every year.
  • The government can invest this in agri-R&D and better water management, in measures to ensure the country’s food security for the next 25 years and to augment farmers’ incomes.
  • The food subsidy allocation in the budget is Rs 1,84, 220 crore — let us say Rs 1.84 lakh crore.
  •  Pending Dues – The pending dues of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) stand at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
  • Under-provisioning of the food subsidy- Year after year, there is under-provisioning of the food subsidy in the budget and the FCI is being asked to borrow from the banks so that the fiscal deficit can be shown under control.
  • The FCI’s loans from the banks have now crossed Rs 2.48 lakh crore (see figure).
(Illustration by Suvajit Dey)

 

2.Efficiency, equity and sustainability

  •  Does 67 per cent of the population covered under the NFSA cannot afford basic food?
  • There is more than 90 per cent subsidy on rice and wheat under the PDS — the economic cost of rice hovers around Rs 35 per kg and that of wheat is about Rs 25 per kg, while rice is being sold via the PDS at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg

Selling price is less than MSP  –

  • Interestingly, in rural areas in a majority of states, rice (paddy) is sold at less than the minimum support price (MSP).
  • The landless labourers and small and marginal farmers, most of whom are covered under PDS, produce these staples.
  • The government first buys paddy and wheat from rural areas and, after adding almost 50 per cent cost for procurement, stocking and distribution on top of the MSP price, sells the back most of this grain to people in rural areas.

Benefits of cash transfer to beneficiary

  • The government can achieve its ends in a much more cost-effective way if it transfers an equivalent amount of food subsidy in the form of cash to the beneficiary’s accounts.
  • More Choices – The beneficiary will have the freedom to buy anything — rice, wheat, coarse cereals, pulses or even milk and eggs, which are more nutritious. Diversified diets will signal the need for diversification in farms.
  • Environmentally Sound – The government can keep some stocks for strategic purposes but gradually reduce procurement and shrink the size and operations of FCI, especially in areas where the water table is depleting fast — the northwest of the country, for example.

Coverage under FSA

  • Further, the government has to think whether the coverage under PDS should be 67 per cent of the population or if it should be brought down to, say, 40 or even 30 per cent.
  • Why should the price of rice be kept at Rs 3 per kg and that of wheat at Rs 2 per kg?
  • This leads to massive diversion of PDS supplies to the open market.
  • Leakages – The Shanta Kumar Panel had estimated the leakages in PDS at 46 per cent.

Fertiliser Subsidy

  • The FM has allocated Rs 80,000 crore for fertilisers in the budget.
  •  Under Provisioning – The fertiliser industry says that there is massive under-provisioning.
  • Pending Dues- The industry also claims that Rs 38,000 crore of its dues are pending with the government.

 

  • The problem is that the government does not have the will to revise the urea price, which at roughly $80 per tonne, is the lowest in the world.
  • The average cost of production of the industry is around $250 per tonne, import parity hovers around $300 per tonne and keeps fluctuating, depending on global prices.
  • The government has revived some almost dead plants (for example at Gorakhpur and Ramgundam) that produce urea at more than $400 per tonne.

Lack of economic rationale –

  • It seems there is no economic rationale either in the pricing of urea for the farmers at $80 per tonne or producing urea, at the margin, at $400 per tonne.
  • This is leading to large leakages and inefficient use, besides polluting the groundwater table — in fact, the environment at large.
  • Interestingly, crops do not absorb more than 25 per cent of the urea being applied in India.
  • So, basically, we are subsidising the pollution of the environment.

Conclusion

Can the Modi government rationalise these subsidies by converting them into direct cash transfers on a per hectare basis?  Back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the government can save about Rs 50,000 crore every year through such measures. The money can be invested in agri-R&D and water management. That would be the biggest reform in agri-food space

Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] Sucking up surplus

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 : SEBI's autonomy


CONTEXT

The Centre’s decision to clip the wings of the Securities and Exchange Board of India has not gone down too well with its members. Yet, the Centre is refusing to budge. In a letter dated July 10, SEBI Chairman Ajay Tyagi said the Centre’s decision to suck out SEBI’s surplus funds will affect its autonomy.

Background

  • As part of the Finance Bill introduced in Parliament, the Centre had proposed amendments to the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 that were seen as affecting SEBI’s financial autonomy.
  • To be specific, the amendments required that after 25% of its surplus cash in any year is transferred to its reserve fund, SEBI will have to transfer the remaining 75% to the government.
  • On Friday, the government rejected the plea from SEBI’s officials asking the government to reconsider its decision, thus paving the way for further conflict.
  • Prima facie, there seems to be very little rationale in the government’s decision to confiscate funds from the chief markets regulator.

Impacts

  • For one, it is highly unlikely that the quantum of funds that the government is likely to receive from SEBI will make much of a difference to the government’s overall fiscal situation.
  • So the amendment to the SEBI Act seems to be clearly motivated by the desire to increase control over the regulator rather than by financial considerations.
  • This is particularly so given that the recent amendments require SEBI to seek approval from the government to go ahead with its capital expenditure plans.
  • A regulatory agency that is at the government’s mercy to run its financial and administrative operations cannot be expected to be independent.
  • Further, the lack of financial autonomy can affect SEBI’s plans to improve the quality of its operations by investing in new technologies and other requirements to upgrade market infrastructure.

Long term impacts

  • This can affect the health of India’s financial markets in the long run. In the larger picture, this is not the first time that the government at the Centre has gone after independent agencies.
  • The Reserve Bank of India and the National Sample Survey Office have come under pressure in recent months, and the latest move on SEBI adds to this worrisome trend of independent agencies being subordinated by the government.
  • The Centre perhaps believes it can do a better job of regulating the economy by consolidating all existing powers under the Finance Ministry.
  • But such centralisation of powers will be risky.

Conclusion

Regulatory agencies such as SEBI need to be given full powers over their assets and be made accountable to Parliament. Stripping them of their powers by subsuming them under the wings of the government will affect their credibility.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] The tremor of unwelcome amendments to the RTI Act

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Problems with proposed amendments


CONTEXT

  • “Amendments” have haunted the Right to Information (RTI) community ever since the RTI Act came into effect almost 14 years ago.
  • Rarely has a law been so stoutly defended by activists. It is not possible to pass a perfect law.
  • But it was a popular opinion strongly held by most RTI activists that a demand for progressive amendments could be used as a smokescreen by the establishment to usher in regressive changes.

Background of amendments

  • Nevertheless, the sword of Damocles of regressive amendments has hung over the RTI with successive governments.
  • Amendments have been proposed since 2006, just six months after the law was implemented and many times thereafter.
  • Peoples’ campaigns, through reasoned protest and popular appeal, have managed to have them withdrawn.

The proposed amendments

  1.Challenging Autonomy

In the form of the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, they seek to amend Sections 13, 16, and 27 of the RTI Act which carefully links, and thereby equates, the status of the Central Information Commissioners (CICs) with the Election Commissioners and the State Information Commissioners with the Chief Secretary in the States, so that they can function in an independent and effective manner.

2. Giving central overarching power – The deliberate dismantling of this architecture empowers the Central government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners, both at the Centre and the States.

Why is there a need of change?

Some feel that it is because the RTI helped with the cross-verification of the affidavits of powerful electoral candidates with official documents and certain Information Commissioners having ruled in favour of disclosure.

Challenge to the misuse of power – It is unlikely to be a set of instances but more the fact that the RTI is a constant challenge to the misuse of power.

Empowering a citizen’s access to power and decision-making –

  • In a country where the rule of law hangs by a slender thread and corruption and the arbitrary use of power is a daily norm, the RTI has resulted in a fundamental shift — empowering a citizen’s access to power and decision-making.
  • It has been a lifeline for many of the 40 to 60 lakh ordinary users, many of them for survival.
  • It has also been a threat to arbitrariness, privilege, and corrupt governance.
  • More than 80 RTI users have been murdered because their courage and determination using the RTI was a challenge to unaccountable power.

Impact of RTI

  • The RTI has been used brilliantly and persistently to ask a million questions across the spectrum — from the village ration shop, the Reserve Bank of India, the Finance Ministry, on demonetisation, non-performing assets, the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, electoral bonds, unemployment figures, the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Election Commissioners, and the (non)-appointment of the Information Commissioners themselves.
  • The information related to decision-making at the highest level has in most cases eventually been accessed because of the independence and high status of the Information Commission.

RTI 

  • The RTI movement has struggled to access information and through it, a share of governance and democratic power.
  • The Indian RTI law has been a breakthrough in creating mechanisms and platforms for the practice of continual public vigilance that are fundamental to democratic citizenship.
  • The mostly unequal struggle to extract information from vested interests in government needed an institutional and legal mechanism which would not only be independent but also function with a transparency mandate and be empowered to over-ride the traditional structures of secrecy and exclusive control.
  • An independent Information Commission which is the highest authority on information along with the powers to penalise errant officials has been a cornerstone of India’s celebrated RTI legislation.

Part of checks and balances

  • The task of the Information Commission is therefore different but no less important than that of the Election Commission of India.
  • Independent structures set up to regulate and monitor the government are vital to a democratic state committed to deliver justice and constitutional guarantees.
  • The separation of powers is a concept which underscores this independence and is vital to our democratic checks and balances.
  • When power is centralised and the freedom of expression threatened no matter what the context, democracy is definitely in peril.
  • Sections being amended – Apart from Section 13 which deals with the terms and conditions for the Central information Commission, in amending Section 16, the Central government will also control through rules, the terms and conditions of appointment of Commissioners in the States. This is an assault on the idea of federalism.

Opaque moves

Checks by committee –

  • All the provisions related to appointment were carefully examined by a parliamentary standing committee and the law was passed unanimously.
  • It has been acknowledged that one of the most important structural constituents of any independent oversight institution, i.e. the CVC, the Chief Election Commission (CEC), the Lokpal, and the CIC is a basic guarantee of tenure. In the case of the Information Commissioners they are appointed for five years subject to the age limit of 65 years.
  • It was on the recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee that the Information Commissioner and CIC were made on a par with the Election Commissioner and the CEC, respectively.

Challenges in the manner of amendment being pursued

1.Bypassing examination by the standing committee – The manner in which the amendments are being pushed through without any citizen consultation, bypassing examination by the standing committee demonstrates the desperation to pass the amendments without even proper parliamentary scrutiny.

2.Pre-legislative consultative policy – The mandatory pre-legislative consultative policy of the government has been ignored.

Previous governments eventually introduced a measure of public consultation before proceeding with the amendments.

2.Violation of Constitutional Values –

  • If the amendments are discussed by citizens and RTI activists in the public domain, it would be apparent that these amendments fundamentally weaken an important part of the RTI architecture.
  • They violate the constitutional principles of federalism, undermine the independence of Information Commissions, and thereby significantly dilute the widely used framework for transparency in India.

Conclusion

The RTI has unshackled millions of users who will continue to use this democratic right creatively and to dismantle exclusive power. The RTI has been and will be used to withstand attacks on itself and strengthen the movement for transparency and accountability in India. Eventually, the Narendra Modi government will realise that while it might be able to amend a law, it cannot stop a movement.

RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[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.

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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
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