Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

National Education Policy and current status of education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- National Education Policy

The article contrasts the targets set in the National Education Polity with the present state of education in the country.

Key recommendations

  • Redesigning the school curriculum to accommodate early childhood care and education.
  • Ensuring universal access to education.
  • Increasing gross enrolment in higher education to 50% by 2035.
  • Improving research in higher education institutes by setting up a Research Foundation.

Let’s take stock of the current situation on the above-suggested parameters.

1) Universal Access to Education

  • Despite the Right to Education Act-2009 retaining children remains a challenge for the schooling system.
  • As of 2015-16, Gross Enrolment Ratio was 56.2% at senior secondary level as compared to 99.2% at primary level.
  • Data for all groups indicates a decline in GER as we move from primary to senior secondary for all groups.
  • This decline is particularly high in case of Scheduled Tribes.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends strengthening of existing schemes and policies which are targeted for such socio-economically disadvantaged groups.
  • Further, it recommends setting up special education zones in areas with a significant proportion of such disadvantaged groups.
  • A gender inclusion fund should also be setup to assist female and transgender students in getting access to education.

2) GER to 50% in higher education

  • The NEP aims to increase the GER in higher education to 50% by 2035.  
  • As of 2018-19, the GER in higher education in the country stood at 26.3%.
  • The annual growth rate of GER in higher education in the last few years has been around 2%.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends increasing capacity of existing higher education institutes by restructuring and expanding existing institutes.
  • It recommends that all institutes should aim to be large multidisciplinary institutes, and there should be one such institution in or near every district by 2030.
  • Further, institutions should have the option to run open distance learning and online programmes to improve access to higher education.

3) Restructuring of Higher Education Institutes

  • The NEP notes that the higher education ecosystem in the country is severely fragmented.
  • At present, there is complex nomenclature of higher education institutes (HEIs) in the country such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university’, ‘unitary university’.
  • These shall be replaced simply by ‘university’.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends that all HEIs should be restructured into three categories:
  • 1)  research universities focusing equally on research and teaching.
  • 2)  teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching.
  • 3) degree-granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.
  •  All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy – academic, administrative, and financial.

4) National research foundation to boost research

  • The NEP states that investment on research and innovation in India, at only 0.69% of GDP, lags behind several other countries.
  • The total investment on R&D in India as a proportion of GDP has been stagnant at around 0.7% of GDP.
  • Of which 58% of expenditure was by government, and the remaining 42% was by private industry.

NEP 2020 recommendation

  • To boost research, the NEP recommends setting up an independent National Research Foundation (NRF).
  • The Foundation will act as a liaison between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry.
  • Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, will continue to fund independent projects.
  • The Foundation will collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.

5) Digital Education

  • The NEP states that alternative modes of quality education should be developed when in-person education is not possible.
  • But let’s look into the accessibility of such mode.
  • As of 2017-18, only 4.4% of rural households have access to a computer (excludes smartphones).
  • Nearly 15% have access to internet facility.  Amongst urban households, 42% have access to the internet.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • Several interventions are recommended-
  • (i) developing two-way audio and video interfaces for holding online classes.
  • (ii) use of other channels such as television, radio, mass media in multiple languages to ensure the reach of digital content where digital infrastructure is lacking.

6) Increasing public spending on education to 6% of GDP

  • Public spending of 6% of GDP was first made by the National Policy on Education 1968 and reiterated by the 1986 Policy.
  • NEP 2020 reaffirms the recommendation of increasing public spending on education to 6% of GDP.
  •  In 2017-18, the public spending on education-includes spending by centre and states-was budgeted at 4.43% of GDP.
  •  In 2020-21, states in India have allocated 15.7% of their budgeted expenditure towards education.
  • States such as Delhi, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra have allocated more than 18% of their expenditure on Education for the year 2020-21.
  • On the other hand, Telangana (7.4%), Andhra Pradesh (12.1%) and Punjab (12.3%) lack in spending on education, as compared to the average of states.

Consider the question “Examine the provision with regard to increasing research in the country in the National Education Policy 2020.”

Conclusion

The National Education Policy is an ambitious document with the potential to transform. What is required is the zeal to implement and assess the progress by analysing the outcomes.


Source-

https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/national-education-policy-recommendations-and-current-scenario

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

Finance Commission and Bank recapitalisation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Finance commission and related constitutional provisions

Mains level : Implication in federal relation; scope for reforms

The Financial Stability Report (FSR) released by RBI recently has once again underlined the vulnerability of the Indian public sector banks (PSBs). They have been under a severe balance sheet crisis even before the pandemic, and the crisis created by the pandemic, and the moratorium offered, will explode when the chickens come to roost.

Current banking scenario in India

According to the FSR

  • The gross non-performing assets would go up from 11.3% in March 2020 to 15.2% in March 2021, and to 16.3% under a very severe stress scenario. 
  • The CRAR is estimated to deteriorate from 14.6% in March to 13.3% in the baseline scenario, and to 11.8% under a very severe stress scenario. 
  • The volume of recapitalisation required is humongous.

What are the underlying problems of this situation?

  • Government lackadaisical approach in banking reforms:
      • The government will again take an easy solution of bailing out weak banks through recapitalisation instead of taking up serious reform alternatives.
      • The issue of stressed assets of the banks has continued for long but the government has been giving oxygen support to- neither the banks nor there has been any urgency seen in reforming the governance structure. 
      • role of the government owning and running commercial banks itself. 
  • Unclear role of Finance Commission:
    • Though Finance Commission has been tasked with multiple roles to manage the finances of the Central government but the major chunk is missing in the TOR-
      • Recapitalisation of public sector banks or the issue of resolving their stressed assets is not a part of the TOR.
    • If recapitalisation requirement is taken as a genuine expenditure commitment of the Centre, the resources available for distribution will be severely constrained, and the Commission may have to reduce the share of the states in tax devolution from the 41% recommended in the report for the year 2020-21.
    • The genuine question, which the Commission must consider, is not whether or not the issue of bank recapitalisation comes within its ambit, but the larger issue of the role of the government itself. 
    • The important questions that need to be answered are, 
      • Is there a case for government ownership of the banks on the grounds of market failure? 
      • If there is, what is the nature of the failure and does it warrant ownership?
  • Reducing the states’ share in the divisible pool of taxes on the grounds that the Union government requires fiscal space to recapitalise PSBs is tantamount to penalising them for the mistakes committed by the Union government.

How the Ownership of government in public banks affecting the actual work?

Ownership of banks by the government alters 

  • the structure of incentives 
  • accountability and 
  • hampers effective regulation and supervision 

The Narasimham committee in 1998 recommended that 

      • government ownership and management, and autonomy do not go hand in hand, and 
      • a review of functions of boards and enabling them to adopt a professional corporate strategy. 
    • The Nayak Committee-
      • recommended dilution of government ownership to 25%. 
    • Despite these recommendations, the successive governments have continued to soft-pedal the issue.
  • Problem with the banks themselves:
    • PSBs have been busy fighting one emergency after another, be it demonetisation or merger. 
    • They do not have any incentive to take risks and perform better as the government pumps in money from time to time. 

How can the Finance Commission play a vital role?

  • The Commission’s main focus should be to address the main issues mentioned in Article 280 (3 a, b, bb, and c), which relate to 
    • tax devolution, 
    • giving grants in aid of revenues, and 
    • measures needed to augment the consolidated funds of the states to supplement the resources of rural and urban local bodies
  • The tenure of the Commission is a short tenure, and out of this, substantial time is taken for finding the place, establishing the office and getting the staff to start functioning- this should be eliminated.
  • The Finance Commission is not a tax reforms commission, not an expenditure reforms commission, nor is it a public enterprise reform or banking reform commission.
  •  The Constitution envisaged it to be an impartial adjudicator of finances- 
    • to resolve vertical and horizontal imbalances
    • impart fiscal discipline in both the Union and states towards calibrating sustainable fiscal policy. 
  • The Commission’s interest in TORs may be to consider the recapitalisation requirement as a genuine liability of the Union government while assessing central finances

Other measures needed

  • Addressing the difficult issue of the role of the government owning and running commercial banks itself.
  • Expanded TORs must be utilised carefully: The expanded TORs include 
    1. the review of deficit and debt levels, 
    2. recommending a sound fiscal roadmap for sound management, 
    3. up-gradation in the standards of administration, prevention and mitigation of disasters,
    4. the impact of GST including the compensation payments, 
    5. introducing measurable performance-based incentives for the states in a number of areas.

Conclusion:

Hopefully, the Commission will stick to these basic tasks. It must come up with some sustainable solutions in the coming time so as to take out the states from their dire circumstances post-pandemic.

Digital India Initiatives

The digital lifeline provided by UPI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UPI

Mains level : Paper 3- Examining the success of UPI

The UPI sets the template for India in its journey toward digitalisation. This article by WhatsApp head Will Cathcart explains the success story of UPI and the future scope to build on its success.

The success story of UPI

  • The UPI system set a national open standard for all of India’s banks, more than 155 of which have adopted it.
  • UPI is open standard that technology companies can adopt on an equal and level-playing field.
  • This means that no one company, foreign or domestic, can write the rules for the other.
  • Since its launch, the UPI system has grown to manage a 100 million-strong user base.
  • NPCI has also set a goal to increase UPI’s user base to 500 million by 2022, which if achieved, would be a true game-changer for Digital India.

What the success of UPI means

  •  UPI has set important new frameworks around security and efficiency.
  • Because of the strong rules that India has put in place, payment transaction information remains with the banks and within the country.
  • And as a platform built on Indian technology and governed by Indian rules, UPI benefits Indians now and holds great potential for further innovation and commerce.

Future scope for UPI

  •  It is imperative more tech companies are able to leverage the power of UPI to expand the digital ecosystem to accelerate financial inclusion.
  • UPI can also anchor a broader suite of fintech applications like micro-pensions, digital insurance products, and flexible loans.
  • These are custom solutions created by Indian technology companies, on the public infrastructure of UPI.
  • These solutions will first solve large social, business and financial problems in India and then become templates for other countries to deploy.
  • COVID-19 has only underscored the importance of these tools that will serve as critical lifelines for small and micro-enterprises and individuals as they look to recover.

Consider the question “Within a short period from its launch the UPI has transformed the payment landscape in India. Examine the factors that contributed to the success of UPI and elaborate on its future scope.”

Conclusion

With courage, ambition, and boundless potential, India can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before — a leading democratic digital powerhouse that will lead the world in the 21st century.

B2BASICS

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

Image for post

  • It was launched in April 2016 and in the last two years, the platform has emerged as a popular choice among users for sending and receiving money.
  • UPI is a payment system that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
  • UPI allows a customer to pay directly from a bank account to different merchants, both online and offline, without the hassle of typing credit card details, IFSC code, or net banking/wallet passwords.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

National Education Policy needs scrutiny

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provisions in the National Education Policy

Mains level : Paper 2- National Education Policy

National Education Policy, while comprehensive in its approach misses out on some crucial issues. These issues are discussed here.

Following are the issues with the National Education Policy-

1) Implications for SEDGs

  •  Implications of the policy for SEDGs-Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups-needs to be considered.
  • The term “caste” is absent from the document apart from a fleeting reference to Scheduled Castes.
  • Also absent is any mention of reservation in academic institutions, whether for students, teachers, or other employees.
  • Reservation is the bare minimum required in terms of affirmative action in the highly differentiated socio-economic milieu in which we exist.

2) Education in tribal areas

  • There is the passing reference to educational institutions in tribal areas, designated as ashramshalas.
  • While there are sections of the document that describe ways in which SEDGs are supposed to gain access to higher education institutions, there is no time-frame that is specified.
  • In a situation of growing privatisation how these policies will be implemented is a matter of concern.

3) Multi-disciplinarity misses some disciplines

  • Multi-disciplinarity is an attractive and flexible proposition, allowing learners to experiment with a variety of options.
  • While the list of the disciplines in which multi-disciplinary approach is allowed is unexceptionable, it is worth flagging what is missed out.
  • Fields of studies such as Women’s Studies or Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Dalit Studies, Studies of Discrimination and Exclusion, Environmental Studies and Development Studies are missing.
  • Many of these have engaged with multi-disciplinarity/inter-disciplinarity in exciting and disturbing ways, bringing to the fore issues of diversity, difference and identity.

4) Problem of autonomy

  • While the documents mention autonomy and choice in the document, but there are limits.
  • For instance, the selection of vocational subjects in middle school is described as a fun choice.
  • At the same time, it is to be exercised “as decided by States and local communities and as mapped by local skilling needs”.
  • National Testing Agency, will be a centralised agency to conduct exams will be against the autonomy proposed in the policy.
  • HEIs will now be run by a Board of Governors backed by legislative changes where required.
  •  Further centralisation is envisaged through the setting up of “the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA).

5) Depriving the HEI democratic functioning

  • Several universities and HEIs have evolved and sustained democratic mechanisms, including academic and executive councils.
  • What has made them vibrant institutions is the presence of faculty and students, elected, as well as on the basis of seniority and rotation.
  • Abandoning them will deprive members of HEIs of an opportunity to engage with the challenges of democratic functioning.

6) No mention of Fundamental Rights

  • Several values are identified as constitutional and there is an occasional mention of fundamental duties.
  • But there is no mention of fundamental rights.

Consider the question “Examine the provision for governance of education in the National Education Policy. Also, examine the issues with the policy.”

Conclusion

The Education Policy has many novel ideas with the potential to transform the education system in the country, however, the issues discussed here highlights the need to revisit it, before it is actually implemented.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

The South Asian-Gulf Migrant Crisis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Indian diaspora in the Gulf countries

The pandemic has exacerbated the plight of the migrant workers in the Gulf countries. This article examines the issue and suggests the ways to deal with it.

Context

  • The Covid-19 exposed the precarious conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
  • Employers have used the crisis as an opportunity to retrench masses of migrant labourers without paying them wages or allowances.

Impact of Covid-19

  • The South Asia-Gulf migration corridor is among the largest in the world.
  • The South Asian labour force forms the backbone of the Gulf economies.
  • The pandemic, the shutdown of companies, the tightening of borders, and the exploitative nature of the Kafala sponsorship system have all aggravated the miseries of South Asian migrant workers.
  • They have no safety net, social security protection, welfare mechanisms, or labour rights.
  • Now, thousands have returned home empty-handed from the host countries.
  • Indians constitute the largest segment of the South Asian workforce.
  • Gulf migration is predominantly a male-driven phenomenon.
  • A majority of the migrants are single men living in congested labour camps.
  • The COVID-19 spike in these labour camps has mainly been due to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions.

Nationalisation of labour in Gulf

  • Now, the movement for nationalisation of labour and the anti-migrant sentiment has peaked in Gulf countries.
  • Countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia have provided subsidies to private companies to prevent native lay-offs.
  • However, the nationalisation process is not going to be smooth given the stigma attached to certain jobs and the influence of ‘royal sheikh culture’.

Challenges and solutions

  • The countries of origin are now faced with the challenge of rehabilitating, reintegrating, and resettling these migrant workers.
  • The Indian government has announced ‘SWADES’ for skill mapping of citizens returning from abroad.
  • But implementation seems uncertain.
  • Kerala, the largest beneficiary of international migration, has announced ‘Dream Kerala’ to utilise the multifaceted resources of the migrants.
  • Countries that are sending migrant workers abroad are caught between the promotion of migration, on the one hand, and the protection of migrant rights in increasingly hostile countries receiving migrants, on the other.

Way forward

  • The need of the hour is a comprehensive migration management system for countries that send workers as well as those that receive them.
  • No South Asian country except Sri Lanka has an adequate migration policy.

Conclusion

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to voice the rights of South Asian migrants and to bring the South Asia-Gulf migration corridor within the ambit of SAARC, the ILO, and UN conventions.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Global coalition of democracies amid Chinese assertion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Global coalition of democracies

In the recent speed Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, floated the idea of an ‘alliance of democracies’. This article discusses its implications for India.

Two propositions on China

  • The US Secretary of State laid out two propositions.
  • One is that nearly five decades of US engagement with China have arrived at a dead-end.
  • Second is that the US can’t address the China challenge alone and called for collective action.
  • He mused on whether “it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies.”

How it matters for India?

  • Both the propositions signal the breakdown of the relationship between the world’s two most important powers.
  • They also reflect on the need to create new frameworks to cope with emerging global challenges.
  • China, is a large neighbour of India and America, is India’s most important partner makes the new context rather different from the Cold War.

Concerns for India in the propositions

  •  Many in Delhi would like to know if the current direction of China policy will endure if Joe Biden wins the presidential election in November.
  • India must pay close attention to the unfolding China debate in the US.
  • India also note the structural changes in American engagement with China over the last two decades.
  •  Delhi will certainly avoid calling the group proposed by US Secretary of State an “alliance”.
  • India would rather have it described as a “coalition of democracies”.

Idea of ‘Coalition of democracies’

  • Over the last many years, India has become comfortable with the idea of a political partnership with the world’s leading democracies.
  • India also supported past US initiatives like-Clinton Administrations “Community of Democracies”, Bush Administrations democracy promotion fund at the UN.
  • Delhi has also welcomed President Trump’s initiative to convene an expanded gathering of the G-7 leaders.
  • The idea of democracies working together has an enduring appeal for the US.
  • India figures in this American vision is relatively new. So is Delhi’s readiness to reciprocate.

Consider the question “In the ongoing geopolitical situation the U.S. has proposed the idea of ‘alliance of democracies’. Where does India feature in this vision and what are the implications of it for India.”

Conclusion

Constructing a global coalition of democracies will take much work and quite some time. But engaging with that initiative, amidst the rise and assertion of China, should open a whole range of new possibilities for Indian foreign and security policies.

Transition From MDG to SDG: Issues & Concern

SDGs amid Covid

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Pandemic and SDGs

Context

  • As lockdown eases, return to business as usual is unimaginable in Asia and Pacific which was already off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
  • Efforts to respond to the pandemic have revealed how many people in our societies live precariously close to poverty and hunger.

Progress towards SDGs in pandemic

  •  The SDGs  can serve as a beacon in these turbulent times.
  •  SDGs are a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development, globally, by 2030.
  • The pandemic has exposed fragility and systemic gaps in many key systems.
  • Countries have used workable strategies during pandemic to accelerate progress related to development goals and strengthen resilience.
  • Countries have taken steps to extend universal health care systems and strengthen social protection systems.
  • Accurate and regular data have been key to such efforts.
  • Innovating to help the most disadvantaged access financing and small and medium-sized enterprise credits have also been vital.
  • Several countries have taken comprehensive approaches to various forms of discrimination, particularly related to gender and gender-based violence.
  • Partnerships with the private sector and financing institutions, have played a critical role in fostering creative solutions.

Focus on green recovery in Asia-Pacific countries

  • Countries in Asia and the Pacific are developing ambitious new strategies for green recovery and inclusive approaches to development.
  • South Korea recently announced a New Deal based on two central pillars: digitisation and decarbonisation.
  • Many countries in the Pacific are focusing on “blue recovery,” which promote more sustainable approaches to fisheries management.
  • India recently announced operating the largest solar power plant in the region.
  • China is creating more jobs in the renewable energy sector than in fossil fuel industries.

Suggestions for policymaking

  • We need a revolution in policy mindset and practice- following are part of the transformations needed.
  • 1) Inclusive and accountable governance systems.
  • 2) Adaptive institutions with resilience to future shocks.
  • 3) Universal social protection and health insurance.
  • 4) Stronger digital infrastructure.

Consider the question “Pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our systems. But it also emphasised the need to strive to achieve the SDGs. Comment.”

Conclusion

With the onslaught of pandemic disrupting us, we should base our recovery and progress trajectory firmly towards achieving SDGs.

 


Back2Basics: SDGs

Sustainable Development Goals and India

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
  • The 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities.
  • The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
  • The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations.
  • They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large.

The SDGs are an inclusive agenda. They tackle the root causes of poverty and unite us together to make a positive change for both people and planet. “Poverty eradication is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and so is the commitment to leave no-one behind,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said. “The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the whole world on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. In many ways, it reflects what UNDP was created for.”

The Goals

 

Case for presidential system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary vs presidential system

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the parliantary system of government

The article brings out the flaws in the parliamentary system of government in India and makes the case for the parliamentary system.

Problems with our parliamentary system

  • Our parliamentary system has created a unique breed of legislator, largely unqualified to legislate.
  • Those legislators has sought election only in order to wield executive power.
  • It has produced governments dependent on a fickle legislative majority.
  • Fickle majority leads the government to focus more on politics than on policy or performance.
  • Current system has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individuals it wants to vote for but not necessarily which parties.
  • It has given rise to parties that are shifting alliances of selfish individual interests, not vehicles of coherent sets of ideas.
  • It has forced governments to concentrate less on governing than on staying in office, and obliged them to cater to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions.

Problems with party system in India

  •  Parliamentary system, devised in Britain — is based on traditions which simply do not exist in India.
  • The parties in England are clearly defined, each with a coherent set of policies and preferences that distinguish it from the next.
  • In India, a party is all-too-often a label of convenience which a politician adopts and discards frequently.
  • So, a politician changing a party is not treated as an unusual event in India.
  • In the absence of a real party system, the voter chooses not between parties but between individuals.
  • The candidates are usually chosen on the basis of their caste, their public image or other personal qualities.
  • So, voters vote for a legislature not to legislate but in order to form the executive.

4 Problems with choosing executive from Parliament

  • 1) It limits executive posts to those who are electable rather than to those who are able.
  • Though he can bring some members in through the Rajya Sabha, but it too has been largely the preserve of full-time politicians, so the talent pool has not been significantly widened.
  • 2) It puts a premium on defections and horse-trading. The anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem.
  • 3) Legislation suffers. Most laws are drafted by the executive — in practice by the bureaucracy.
  • The ruling party inevitably issues a whip to its members in order to ensure unimpeded passage of a bill.
  • The parliamentary system does not permit the existence of a legislature distinct from the executive.
  • Accountability of the government to the people, through their elected representatives, is weakened.
  • 4) For those parties who do not get into government Parliament or Assembly serves as a theatre for the demonstration of their power to disrupt.

Case for presidential system

  • A directly elected chief executive at Centre and State would be free from vulnerabilities of coalition support politics, would have the stability of tenure free from a legislative whim.
  • He/she will be able to appoint a cabinet of talents, be able to devote his or her energies to governance, and not just to government.
  • The Indian voter will be able to vote directly for the individual he or she wants to be ruled by.
  • The president will truly be able to claim to speak for a majority of Indians rather than a majority of MPs.

The risk of dictatorship

  • The only serious objection to the presidential system is that it carries with it the risk of dictatorship.
  • The fear is of an imperious president, immune to parliamentary defeat and impervious to public opinion, ruling the country by fiat.
  • But under the current parliamentary system, a leader with absolute majority and subservient legislature could act in the same manner.

Consider the question “Examine the differences between the presidential system and the parliamentary system of government. Do you think that the parliamentary system has served well in the Indian context?”

Conclusion

With the needs and challenges of one-sixth of humanity before our leaders, we must have a democracy that delivers progress to our people.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-South Korea

Deepening ties with South Korea

South Korea’s technological advancement and manufacturing capabilities can be helpful in India’s economic growth and human resource development. Seoul’s successful development story of the last few decades can complement Modi’s vision of making a “New India” by 2022.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Transforming higher education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with higher education

The issues of quality of higher education explain the lack of employability of Indian youth. This article examines the issue and suggests the approach to deal with the issue.

Three learning outcomes

  • The first is to provide knowledge in the relevant discipline to the students.
  • Second, imparting students with the skills needed for their jobs/enterprises.
  • Third, students are expected to play a constructive role in shaping the society and the world at large, the values and ideals of a modern, progressive society.
  • The teaching-learning process is expected to mould their character accordingly.

Issues with the education system

  • Apart from a handful of institutions in the technology, management and liberal arts streams a vast majority of other students just meander through college and acquire a degree.
  • There is a huge gulf between the curriculum taught in the colleges and actual job requirements.
  • It is common to hear even the brightest of students mention that they learnt more on the job than through their curriculum in college.

Focus more on training

  • If most of the students learn so much on the job, it raises several questions.
  • Why should we bestow so much importance on a syllabus?
  • And why do we take such massive efforts to evaluate students’ knowledge of that syllabus through exams?
  • What we can do is completely re-evaluate the syllabus frequently considering the changing needs of the time.
  • We can have substantive industrial internships while retaining only a very basic outline of essential concepts.
  • The evaluation too can be a mix of regular assignments, performance in the internship.

Consider the question “The lack of employability in the youth of India could be a huge hurdle in India’s aim to reap the benefits of demographic dividend. Examine the reasons for and suggest the measures to deal with the issue.”

Conclusion

The higher education sector has multiple stakeholders and multiple vested interests. In normal times, maintaining the status quo or implementing incremental and marginal reforms was all one could hope for. The pandemic has opened the doors for ushering in massive, bold and transformational reforms. As John Lewis said, “If not now, then when?”

Digital India Initiatives

Key stakeholders in data regulation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-Personal Data

Mains level : Paper 3- Key stakeholder in the regulation of Non-Personal Data

The article examines the structures and role of key stakeholders in regulation of Non-Personal Data as per the report submitted by the committee headed by Kris Gopalakrishnan.

Context

  • There is a realisation that data should be unlocked in public interest beyond the use by a few large companies
  • Data, in many cases, are not just a subject of individual decision-making but that of communities, such as in the case of ecological information.
  • Therefore, it is critical that communities are empowered to exercise some control over how the data are used.
  • Recently the Non-Personal Data committee released a governance framework, which raises many concerns.

Following are the key stakeholder as defined in the report

1)Data principals

  • As per the report, the first keyholders are data principals, who/ which can be individuals, companies or communities.
  • The idea of communities as data principals is introduced ambiguously by the report.
  • The report does not address the translation of offline inequalities and power structures to data rights.

2) Data custodians

  • Data custodian is the one who undertake collection, storage, processing, and use of data in a manner that is in the best interest of the data principal.
  • The details in this section are unclear.
  • It is not specified if the data custodian can be the government or private companies only.
  • It is also not clear what best interest is, especially when several already vague and possibly conflicting principal communities are involved.
  • It is also not clear how communities engage with the custodian.
  • Suggestion that data custodians can monetise the data they hold is especially problematic as this presents a conflict of interest with those of the data principal communities.

3) Data trustees

  • The report talks about data trustees as a way for communities to exercise data rights.
  • Trustees can be governments, citizen groups, or universities.
  • There is no clarity on how “trust” is extended and fructified with the community, and how trustees are empowered to act on behalf of the community.
  • The principles of a legal trust and the fiduciary responsibility that come with role of trustees are critical.
  • Trustees, by definition, are bound by a duty of care and loyalty towards the principal and thus work in their best interests.
  • Trustee has to negotiate on behalf of Data Principals’ data rights with technology companies and regulators.
  • This thinking is not reflected in the report.
  •  Also, the relationship between the data principal communities and the trustees is not clear.

How will the ‘Trust’ function?

  • The report explains data trusts comprising specific rules and protocols for containing and sharing a given set of data.
  • Trusts can hold data from multiple custodians and will be managed by public authority.
  • But the power, composition and functions of the trust are not established.
  • One possible way to simplify the ecosystem would be to consider data trusts as a type of custodian.
  •  So that trustees can represent the community and act on behalf of the data principals.

Consider the question “What do you understand by Non-Personal Data. Examine its utility and need to treat as a public good.”

Conclusion

The committee should organise broader consultations to ensure that the objective of unlocking data in public interest and through collective consent does not end up creating structures that exacerbate the problems of the data economy and are susceptible to regulatory capture.

Railway Reforms

Privatisation of Indian Railways

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues with allowing operation of passenger trains by private players

Indian Railways has launched the process of opening up train operations to private entities on 109 origin-destination (OD) pairs of routes using 151 modern trains.

Objectives of privatisation

  • To introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance.
  • Reduced transit time.
  • Boost job creation.
  • Provide enhanced safety.
  • Provide world-class travel experience to passengers.
  • Reduce demand-supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.

Issues with the move

1) Responsibility issue

  •  Railway crew will work the trains (151 trains in 109 routes) which will be maintained by the private investor.
  • All the other infrastructure, track and associated structures, stations, signalling, security and their daily maintenance owned by the Railways will be fully utilised in running trains.
  • Thus, the responsibility of the private investor ends with investment in the procurement and maintenance of coaches.
  • Train operation, safety and dealing with every day problems rests with the Railways.
  • In case of an unfortunate event, fixing responsibility will be an issue.

2) Day-to-day problems

  • Provision of an independent regulator to resolve disagreement, discords and disputes.
  • But this regulator will not be able to solve day-to-day problems of dichotomy unless the basic issue is resolved.

3) Speed issue

  • Nearly all trunk routes in the existing network are speed limited to 110 kmph very few permit speeds of upto 120-130 kmph.
  • To raise it to 160 kmph, as proposed, there has to be track strengthening, elimination of curves and level crossing gates and strengthening of bridges.
  • There is no appreciable reduction in transit time for most proposed trains, when compared with the timings of the fastest train now operating on that route.

4) Passenger fare issue

  • In the proposal, the Railways or government have no role in fixing passenger fares.
  • Fares will be beyond the common man’s reach.
  • Fare concessions extended to several categories of people will not be made available by the private investor.
  • The very objective of commissioning the Railways as a public welfare transport organisation is defeated.

5) Reservation in Jobs

  • The private investor is not bound to follow reservation regulations in employment.
  • This, in turn, will deprive employment opportunities for those who are on the margins of society.

6) Limited Coverage:

  • An advantage of Indian Railways being government-owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit.
  • Privatisation of railways would mean the railways will become a profit-making enterprise, this would lead to the elimination of railways routes that are less popular.
  • Thus, the privatisation of railways can have a negative impact on connectivity and further increase the rural-urban divide.

7) Impact on the Economy:

  • Indian Railways is the backbone of India, it provides low fare transportation to agricultural and industrial trade.
  • Therefore, privatisation of Indian railways shall definitely affect the Indian economy at large.
  • Way forward
  • There should be no need for the government to take a dual role of a facilitator as well as a participant.
  • In the case of the metro railway services, Hyderabad, for example, an ideal PPP project, the concessionaire is solely responsible for daily maintenance, operation, passenger amenities and staff issues.
  • The State government steps in when it comes to land, power, permissions, law and order, etc. Fare determination is in consultation with the government.
  • Instead of a private entrepreneur, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a government undertaking which has gained experience in running the Tejas Express trains, could have been given the role.

Consider the question “Indian Railways often hailed as the lifeline of the country continues suffering from several issues. In light of this, evaluate the pros and cons of the privatisation of railways.”

Conclusion

This project of privatisation of trains should not result in the common man being deprived of travel facilities. The Indian Railways is a strategic resource for the nation hence it should not be judged solely on its profit-generating capability or market-based return on investment.

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Issue of Food subsidy in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Public Account

Mains level : Paper 3- PDS and FCI related issues

Solutions to Problems in Food Subsidy Delivery

The following solutions will help in addressing problems associated with PDS.

  1. Replacing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of food subsidy. National Food Security Act (NFSA) states that the centre and states should introduce schemes for cash transfers to beneficiaries.Cash transfers seek to increase the choices available with a beneficiary, and provide financial assistance.  It has been argued that the costs of DBT may be lesser than TPDS, owing to lesser costs incurred on transport and storage.  These transfers may also be undertaken electronically. As per a report given by a high level committee of Food Corporation of India, DBT would reduce Government subsidy bills by more than Rs 30,000 crores.
  2. Automation at the Fair Price Shops is another important step taken to address the problem in PDS. Currently more than 4.3 lakh (82%) Fair Price Shops have been automated across the country. Automation involves installation of Point of Sale (PoS) devices, for authentication of beneficiaries and electronic capturing of transactions.
  3. Aadhar and introduction of Biometrics was recommended to plug leakages in PDS. Such transfers could be linked to Jan Dhan accounts, and be indexed to inflation. It  facilitates the removal of bogus ration cards, check leakages and ensure better delivery of food grains. In February 2017, the Ministry made it mandatory for beneficiaries under NFSA to use Aadhaar as proof of identification for receiving food grains.
  4. 100% ration cards had been digitised.
  5. Between 2016 and 2018, seeding of Aadhaar helped in detection of 1.5 crore fake, duplicate and bogus ration cards and these cards were deleted.
  6. Increase the procurement undertaken by states known as Decentralised Procurement (DCP), and reduce the expenditure on centralised procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This would drastically reduce the transportation cost borne by the government as states would distribute the food grains to the targeted population within their respective states. As of December 2019,17 states have adopted decentralised procurement.
  7. The Fair Price shops operate at very low margins as per findings of the Government. Hence the fair price shops should be allowed to sell even non-PDS items and make it economically viable. This will motivate them to not to resort to unfair practices in the distribution of Government subsidized food grains meant for beneficiaries of Government schemes.
  8. A greater and more active involvement of the panchayats in the PDS can significantly improve access at the village level.
  9. There is also an urgent need to set up a proper and effective grievances redressal system for both the fair price shops as well as beneficiaries

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How to treat data as public good

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-personal data

Mains level : Paper 3- Issue of data sharing

This is the age of Big data. Even after anonymising it, we gain useful information using analytical tools. So, given its potential, there is a call for treating the public data as a public good. This article analyses the suggestion of Kris Gopalakrishnan panel in this regard.

Why data matter

  • By one brave count, the world generates over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
  • A significant chunk of it is highly valuable.
  • With the increasing sophistication of tools designed to analyse it, the value of the data is increasing further.
  • This analysis of data can yield market patterns, traffic predictions, epidemic risks and much more.[Remember why Google shows you only particular ads.]
  • Data need not be either big or personal for it to be highly sought after.

Non-personal data: A public good

  • Would it not be better if at least some data were treated as a public good?
  • Treating it as a public good will allow its open use by startups, do-gooders and government bodies.
  • Dealing with such questions, a centre-appointed panel, headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, submitted its draft report on the regulation of non-personal data in India.
  • “Non-personal data” is defined as that which is either devoid of people’s details or anonymized to prevent individual identification.

Proposals of Kris Gopalan panel

  • The panel has proposed a new data authority to regulate non-personal data.
  • It has also outlined the need of a framework that would require companies to share its databanks with others.
  • Sharing of databank will help the country catalyse business innovation, bolster India’s startup ecosystem, and help governments and local authorities frame data-enriched public policies. 

Challenges

  • What data a private entity can be forced to disclose must follow a commonly accepted set of principles.
  • Data authority demanding companies to share data painstakingly acquired often with large sums invested to acquire it won’t work.
  • Also, if sharing data blunts companies’ strategic edge over competitors, they would probably appeal against it in court.
  • If enterprises fear that their confidential learnings could be threatened by intrusive data authority, then the cause of innovation would actually be set back.

Way forward

  • A clear set of guidelines could be set down that specify what sort of data qualifies as a public good and must be kept open to all.
  • For other kinds of data, maybe a market mechanism could evolve that lets various parties bid for privately-held information.

Consider the question “There is a growing demand for treating the non-personal data as a public good. What are the benefits and challenges of treating the non-personal data as public good?

Conclusion

Given its potential, big data does deserve regulation. But it needs to be done with clarity.

Railway Reforms

Private trains on Indian Railways network and its implications

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Privatisation of railways

The article analyses the implications and issues with the Indian Railways recent move to allow the private investors to operate the passenger trains on selected routes.

Let’s understand the structure of IR’s passenger business

  • It operated a daily average of 13,523 passenger trains in 2018-19.
  • It includes 3,695 inter-city mail and express services.
  • 3,947 ordinary short-distance-stopping “regional” trains.
  • 5,881 electrical multiple units operated on suburban sections for intra-city passengers.
  • The regional/sectional trains, with multiple stops, cater to short-distance journeys (an average of 111 km in 2018-19) and contribute maximum loss in passenger business.
  • The inter-city mail and express services constitute IR’s core passenger business.
  • It needs to be duly nurtured and developed.
  • Within this category, only the upper-class portion will be of interest to private operators, due to flexibility in fixing fares.

Now, let’s analyse the implications of privatisation decision

The stated objectives are-

  • 1) Reducing the supply-demand deficit.
  • 2) Encouraging modal shift from air to rail.
  • 3) Significantly reducing transit time.

Let’s analyse the issues with the objectives

1) Reducing the supply-demand deficit

  • Passenger ridership on railways has almost been stagnant at 8,354 million in 2018-19.
  • The Railways’s endemic capacity constraint has kept its share in the nation’s transport market steadily decreasing.
  • Despite the demand for more trains, its seven high-density corridors stretched over 10,500 km remain clogged.
  • Its stations and maintenance wherewithal are over-stretched.
  • Speeds remain low and services far less than satisfactory.
  • Rail travel demand far outstrips supply and remains set to further grow substantially.
  • The steadily growing services sector continues to trigger high mobility and demand for passenger travel, generally in the upper classes.

2) Modal shift from air to rail

  • Transfer of traffic to rail will depend on-
  • 1) reduced journey time
  • 2) the frequency of rail services
  • 3) offering accommodation on demand.
  •  Rail travel needs to appropriately match air and road services in terms of pre-board and onboard convenience, reliability, and speed.
  • As it faces competition from budget airlines, high-capacity buses, and personal cars, IR needs to craft a concerted strategy to expand, accelerate and modernise its inter-city passenger services.

3) Reducing transit time

  •  Freight, as well as passenger trains across the network, have remained stuck in slow tracks over decades.
  • The “pilot project” of IRCTC-operated upscale “Tejas” train-sets clock virtually the same travel time as the older Shatabdis on these routes.
  • On completion of the two ongoing DFCs by December 2021, and the contemplated up-gradation of existing Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata rail routes will see trains running at 160 km/h.
  • Most other paths with mixed freight and passenger trains jostling for space and constrained by speed limits.
  • This will lead to the new train-sets to be substantially under-utilised in terms of their potential, and at far below expectations of customers for faster and frequent services.

Issues

1) Absence of regulator

  • An autonomous regulator, vital for the equitable and effective functioning of the private operators.
  • It is not without a challenge that the private train operators will strive to provide value for money to passengers and ensure their profitability in an environment of a price war.
  • So, the absence of an autonomous regulator is essential.
  • Experience of the licensed container train operators with the Railways alone driving policy and settling disputes has not been encouraging.

2) Concessions issue

  • A 35-year concession in an age of rapidly evolving technologies impacting design contours of train-sets as much as customer expectations raise plausible questions.
  • Taking a plunge in 100 paths without first testing the waters on few selected sections is could also give rise to issues.

Suggestions

  •  Some structural shifts in IR’s business management are now a clear imperative:
  • 1) Segregating its passenger and freight businesses for focussed attention.
  • 2) Restructuring the tariffs rationally and urgently.
  • 3) Developing terminal infrastructure.
  • 4) Leapfrogging the conversion of the existing dual-use high demand trunk routes into semi high-speed corridors.

Consider the question “What are the objectives of the recent move of the India Railways to invite the private investors to operate some passenger trains on selected routes? What are the issues railway’s passenger service faces? Suggest the measures to deal with the issues.

Conclusion

The result of the move would suggest the future path for the operation for railways. But it must ensure the level playing field to the private players to test the efficacy of the move.


Source:

https://www.financialexpress.com/infrastructure/railways/private-trains-on-indian-railways-network-why-one-cant-ignore-several-red-flags/2025432/

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Trade policy for India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Overview of trade statistics

Mains level : India and China trade comparison; Strategy for trade policy

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Enabling people to govern themselves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the governance, importance of decentralisation.

The article examines the issues exposed by the pandemic with the current system of governance in India as well as the global level. Strengthening the local governments is suggested as the need of the hour.

How pandemic exposed the limits of systems

  • Governance systems at all levels, i.e. global, national, and local, have experienced stress as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • There was a breakdown in many subsystems in health care, logistics, business, finance, and administration.
  •  Solutions for one subsystem backfired on other subsystems.
  • For example, lockdowns to make it easier to manage the health crisis have made but it was disastrous for the economy.

Following 3 are the problems exposed in the governance

1) Mismatch in abilities and functions

  • Human civilisation advances with the evolution of better institutions to manage public affairs.
  • Institutions of parliamentary democracy did not exist 400 years ago.
  • Institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, did not exist even 100 years ago.
  • These institutions were invented to enable human societies to produce better outcomes for their citizens.
  • The pandemic has revealed a fundamental flaw in their design.
  • There is a mismatch in the design of governance institutions at the global level with the challenges they are required to manage.

2) Interconnected issues

  • All 17 Sustainable Development Goal are interconnected with each other.
  • Environmental, economic, and social issues cannot be separated from each other.
  • Experts working in silos or by agencies focused only on their own problems cannot solve these problems.
  • As government responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic have revealed, a good solution to one can create more problems for others.

3) Local solution requires local problems

  • Even if experts in different discipline arrives at silo-ed solutions at the global level, they will not be able to solve the systemic problems of the SDGs.
  • Because, their solutions must fit the specific conditions of each country, and of each locality within countries too, to fit the shape of the environment and the condition of society there.
  • Solutions for environmental sustainability along with sustainable livelihoods cannot be the same in Kerala and Ladakh.
  • Solutions must be local.
  • For the local people to support the implementation of solutions, they must believe the solution is the right one for them.

Decentralisation of governance

  • Governance of the people must be not only for the people. It must be by the people too.
  • There are scientific explanations for why local systems solutions are the best.
  • Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, had developed the principles for self-governing communities from research on the ground in many countries, including India.
  • Indian Constitution requires devolution of powers to local government too.
  • During pandemic States in India, such as Kerala, have weathered the storm better than others.
  • A hypothesis is that those States and countries in which local governance was stronger have done much better than others.

Consider the question “Examine the issues with the current system of governance which were exposed by the pandemic. Also explain why decentralisation could improve many problems the governance faces.

Conclusion

The government has to support and enable people to govern themselves, to realise the vision of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’. Which is also the only way humanity will be able to meet the ecological and humanitarian challenges looming over it in the 21st century.

Original article:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/enabling-people-to-govern-themselves/article32071943.ece

Steel Industry – Current challenges, National Steel Policy 2017, etc

How friendly government policies can boost Indian steel industry

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues faced by steel industry

The steel industry forms the backbone of the economy. This article highlights the difficulties of the industry magnified the pandemic. Ans suggest ways to revive demand.

BAT could help

  • Introduction of a Border Adjustment Tax, known as BAT could help India’s steel industry.
  • Many countries use BAT to protect local steel manufacturers.
  • With economic pain unleashed by the pandemic and threat posed by Chinese state-subsidised steel imports, India hardly affords not to BAT.
  • BAT would create a level playing field.

Why Indian steel industry is non-competitive

  • Indian steel manufacturers bear multiple local taxes – electricity and cross-subsidy duties, clean energy cess and royalties on ore and there are more.
  • These taxes make up 12% of the price of steel.
  • In rival markets, these levies either do not exist or are comparatively lower.
  • So Indian steel is non-competitive even before it leaves our plants.

Impact of Covid

  • Impact of Covid on India’s biggest steel mills, which make up 65% of the country’s annual output of about 110 MT, was calamitous.
  • During the pandemic, the mills’ massive blast furnaces continued to burn.
  • Closure and reopening of furnaces can take up to 12 weeks; the process is complex, and maintenance costs are high.
  • So, the furnaces were burning during the lockdown.
  • India’s mills have continued to bear high fixed costs: firing furnaces but without making much steel.
  • Because of this, smaller mills, which account for about a third of national output, lack the strengths to survive a trough, and many have capitulated.

Significance of Steel Industry

  • Steel is front and centre in India’s recovery.
  • The industry rests on mutual support – investment is made by entrepreneurs, the government offers supportive policies.
  • Government will lend weight to India’s competitive and comparative advantages, especially in manufacturing, in a post covid-19 economic order.
  • Indian steel’s guiding light is a steel ministry vision of 300MT of capacity by 2030, currently at about 138 MT.
  • The pandemic will put pressure on this target.

Short term hurdles faced by Steel industry

  • Government capital expenditure is diverted to public health.
  • Real estate builders have an interest in large scale construction.
  • Car manufacturing will not see upturn until the second half of the year.
  • The pandemic has also hurt demand for capital utilisation, weighing heavily on capex.

How the demand can be improved

  • Steel needs more infrastructure projects. Also, the fillip would be for the government to pay on time. Expedite the work.
  • An initiative to consign old cars to the scrap heap would significantly lift demand for steel to build replacement cars.
  • Improving the logistics chain would help transport finished goods and materials more quickly and less expensively.
  • Make steel the material of choice in the construction of flyovers, roads bridges and crash barriers, improving their safety, durability and, as a result, their life-cycle cost.
  • Indian mills possess world-class infrastructure and capacities and have integrated backwards by acquiring mining rights, partly to mitigate costs. As mentioned, one is high taxes on input materials such as energy.

Consider the question “Examine the issues Indian steel industry faces. Suggest the ways to make it more competitive.”

Conclusion

A revived economy means a revived steel industry. The government should provide the wider and deeper support to the government to bring this vital sector back on the track and make help achieve global competitiveness.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Broader strategic challenge of dealing with China

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China tension and India's response

  • Identifying the nature of the threat posed by China is important to formulate a response. This article discusses the plan of action on the diplomatic, strategic and economic front to deal with Chinese aggression.

Economic angle of China’s expansionism

  • The Chinese growth model needed to find subservient emerging markets.
  • In these markets, China can park huge debts and make investments to keep feeding China’s high growth rates.
  • Friendly foreign debt-investment markets were needed to compensate for over-investment at home.
  • The Belt and Road Initiative was rolled out as a meeting point for China’s geo-strategic and geo-economic interests.
  • China has expanded its global footprint by signing on about 100 countries to the BRI.
  • China has made aggressive moves on most of its non-submissive neighbours in the South China Sea.
  • China has also made moves against its traditional rivals like Japan and Taiwan to independent-minded nations like South Korea and Australia.
  • China sees itself as a global power whose time has come.

India needs to play clearer role

  • Rise of China is shaking up global alignments and shaping new world order.
  • The Trump administration is increasingly being criticised for not providing global leadership.
  • India could afford to be largely non-aligned during the 20th century Cold War.
  • Our size and economic momentum necessitate that we play a clearer role in the Cold War’s 21st-century sequel.
  • India’s foreign policy has lacked a clear vision about China.
  • India has been deepening our strategic relationship with the US but without wanting to alarm China.

India’s relation with neighbours

  • India’s relations with other neighbouring nations have also become a cause of concern.
  • Pakistan has practically become a minion state for the Chinese – the $62-billion CPEC is a case in the point.
  • Nepal is no longer on our list of all-weather friends.
  • Chinese influence is growing in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — both signatories to the BRI.
  • And just last week, Beijing, sent another appallingly stern message to our loyal friend, Bhutan, by making ridiculous territorial claims.

What should be India’s plan of action

  • Dealing with China will require conviction and exercising a range of military, diplomatic and economic options.
  • One forum we need to build on and provide leadership to is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
  •  India should now propose the expansion of the Quad’s scope with a possible exploration of a collective defence architecture like NATO.
  • The membership of the Quad should be expanded to include Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand, and Malaysia.
  • On the economic front, India must welcome the US proposal to expand G7 to include India, Russia, Australia and South Korea without China as a member.
  • Next area of focus should be strengthening ties with our neighbourhood.
  • Effort must be made to regain the relationship with Russia.

Conclusion

China must be made to choose: Is it willing to push the equally proud, equally numerous, equally historical and glorious civilisation to the south in this long-term direction for a few square kilometres of territory and a round of chest-thumping?

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Rewriting the social contract to deal with the pandemic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gini coefficient

Mains level : Paper 2- Governance in pandemic, role of the government,

The article examines the theoretical basis on which the governments exercise power. That basis is encapsulated in the ‘social contract theory’. The role of government, however, came under the scanner in the pandemic in which the impact of pandemic was different for the different people.

Social contract theory: Then and now

  • In the course of evolution, formed the concept of social groups and resultant rules they would abide by.
  • This is the most rudimentary form of what is known as the ‘social contract theory’.
  • When monarchies and empires prevailed, it was easy to understand a social contract.
  • But democratically elected governments have found it more difficult to derive the same legitimacy.
  • Modern society and modern governments also use the social contract theory to claim legitimacy for their actions.
  • The social contract comprises people agreeing to live as one under common laws and in enforcing those common laws justly.

Modern-day governments’ approach

  • Modern-day governments fundamental credo is that society is best served if a government takes on an executive or sovereign power, with the consent of the people.
  • Governments also use the power democratically invested in them to decide what is in the best interest of the people.
  • Thus, there is a bending of individual free will towards the collective will.
  • So, the social contract is being used by modern governments to justify greater aggrandisement of power in the hands of the sovereign.

Governments role in pandemic and social contract

  • The novel coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the falsity of this image.
  • Access to information about this pandemic has not been equal.
  • Access to resources to avoid the disease has not been equal.
  • And, of course, access to treatment has not been equal.
  • All this led to uneven impact of the pandemic on people belonging to the different strata of the society.

Inequality and the impact of pandemic

  •  All societies have some measure of inequality.
  • However, in deeply unequal societies, where the Gini Coefficient exceeds 0.4, for instance, different strata of society will have very different needs to deal with a crisis of this nature.
  • We have seen societies with lower Gini Coefficients deal with the crisis far better.
  • This is because a uniform approach works perfectly when society is perfectly equal.

Centralised or decentralised approach: Which is better to deal with pandemic?

  • The social contract which imbues a centralised sovereign with overreaching powers has clearly failed on this occasion.
  • The centralised sovereign will work well against a mighty external aggressor, but not against a microscopic pathogen.
  • What is required is not just a decentralised approach but also a state which is sensitive.

Consider the question “The COVID pandemic has impacted the people with varying intensity and its impact was more on societies with more inequality. This highlights the centrality of the government. Critically examine.”

Conclusion

The novel coronavirus cannot be defeated by a centralised government. COVID-19 can only be defeated by an empowered populace. The social contract requires to be rewritten. It does not require anything drastic such as a revolution or anarchy. Rather, it only needs fundamental introspection and rethinking by the governing classes including bureaucrats.

Oped-snap

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-social-contract-needs-to-be-rewritten/article32025342.ece