Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Issues with the nuclear deterrence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Nuclear deterrence and issues with it

On 6 August 1945 world witnessed the destructive potential of the nuclear weapons. Today’s nuclear weapons are several times more destructive than the one used there. This calls for the close scrutiny of the idea of the nuclear deterrence. This article dwells over the same issue.

Context

  • While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been the last two cities to be destroyed by nuclear weapons, we cannot be sure that they will be the last.
  • Since 1945, several countries have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Vulnerability

  • Over 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age.
  • There is no realistic way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons.
  • The invention of ballistic missiles has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched.
  • Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defence systems have succeeded in negating this vulnerability.
  • Nuclear weapon states are targets of other nuclear-weapon states, but non-nuclear-weapon states are vulnerable as well.

Issues with the nuclear deterrence

  • The idea of nuclear deterrence consists of following two proposition.
  • 1) That nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them.
  • 2) Such use would invite retaliation in kind, and no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens.

Issues with the idea of deterrence

  • 1) It is claimed that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability.
  • These claims do not hold up to evidence.
  • 2) The apparent efficacy of deterrence in some cases may have been due to the more credible prospect of retaliation with conventional weapons.
  • 3) Implicitly, however, all nuclear-weapon states have admitted to the possibility that deterrence could fail.
  • they have made plans for using nuclear weapons, in effect, preparing to fight nuclear war.
  • 4) The desire to believe in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous.
  • Overconfidence is more likely to lead to accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons.

So, what prevented the nuclear war if not deterrence?

  • While a comprehensive answer to this question will necessarily involve diverse and contingent factors, one essential element in key episodes is just plain luck.

Consider the question “What are the problems involved in the idea of nuclear deterrence. Also, examine the factors responsible for the failure of nuclear disarmament.”

Conclusion

Humanity has luckily survived 75 years without experiencing nuclear war, can one expect luck to last indefinitely?

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

How to pay for the stimulus package

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Debt financing versus money financing

The article addresses the issue of apprehensions over money financing. It also compares the option of borrowing from international institutions.

Issues with public spending

  • Greater public spending will increase the fiscal deficit and this expansion has to be financed.
  • Theoretically, it can be financed by higher taxes.
  • But when the economy is in a recession, this option cannot be explored even though the balanced-budget multiplier is one.
  • When the multiplier is one, output expands by exactly the same amount as the increase in government spending.

So, what are the options?

There are two options

1) Issuing debt to the public (Debt financing)

2) Borrowing from the RBI (Money financing)

Borrowing from World Bank and IMF?

This borrowing has 4 issues with it-

  • 1) This borrowing will have to be paid back in hard currency.
  • This would involve India having to earn hard currency by stepping up exports.
  • If a stimulus of approximately 10% of the GDP is envisaged, with exports at 25% of the GDP, it would imply stepping up exports by close to 50%.
  • This would be a herculean task under present circumstances.
  • 2) There is the issue of conditionalities.
  •  It is not obvious what conditionalities will come along with the loan.
  • 3) The loan is bound to take some time to be negotiated, taxing the energies of a government that ought to be engaged in the day to day battle with COVID-19.
  • 4) The external debt is truly national which, arguably, government bonds held by the country’s private sector are not.

Issues with money financing

  • The standard economic argument against money financing is that it is inflationary.
  • However, whether a fiscal expansion is inflationary or not is related more to the state of the economy than the medium of its financing.
  • When resources are unemployed, output may be expected to expand without inflation.

Consider the question “Examine the issues with the money financing of the fiscal deficit.”

Conclusion

There is no reasoned case for denying ourselves the option of money financing to take us back to pre-COVID-19 levels of output and employment.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Self reliance in defence is a national imperative

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3-Self reliance in defence manufacturing.

India is one of the largest importers of defence equipment. This should have naturally made India a manufacturing hub of the defence equipment. But this is not the case. This article deals with this issue. 

Context

Following China’s stance of open belligerence towards India, making war preparedness a top priority. It is against this backdrop, the Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 was unveiled.

Key features

  • It aims for domestic output worth 1.75 trillion of aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025.
  • Of which exports is aimed at 35,000 crore.
  • It has various strategic initiatives that would aid the indigenous development of modern weaponry from hypersonic missiles and ace sensors to stealth submarines and fly-by-wire fighter jets.

Why India lacks indigenous capacity

  • If India’s dependence on foreign suppliers of armaments was not for lack of trying.
  • Our Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) exists for this very purpose.
  • DRDO scientists claim success in several projects, including the Tejas design.
  • But decisions on procurements for our armed forces are made through a complex process—involving service chiefs, technocrats and politicians—that ends up favouring foreign purchases.
  • This is this convenient, as off-the-shelf wares are readily available abroad.
  • The finer details of defence deals are usually confidential, after all, and the payments huge.
  • By one estimate, India was the world’s third largest military spender in 2019, with a bill of over $71 billion, after the US and China.

Issues and Challenges in partnership with private players

  • So far, efforts to get our private sector into the act have not fared too well, despite all our schemes to attract them.
  • Long-drawn out acquisition processes may partly be to blame for this.
  • Companies are apprehensive of investment without an assurance of a ready market.
  • But by the time their prototypes are tested and approved for induction by our forces, they risk being outmoded by advances made abroad.
  • In the US, spin-offs from defence research have been behind many technological innovations of everyday utility.
  • So, the knowledge acquired in defence research has the potential to benefit the other sectors as well.

Consider the question “Being one of the top importers of defence equipment India is well placed to enhance its domestic manufacturing capacity of defence equipment. Yet, India lacks it after repeated attempts to achieve it. Examine the reasons for this and suggest measures to overcome this anomaly.” 

Conclusion

If a big push for “made in India” defence systems calls an entire ecosystem of experiments, ideas and technical wizardry into being, it could help our economy leap ahead too.

Railway Reforms

Reforms driven agenda for the modernisation of railways

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Adoption of PPP model by the Indian Railways and related issues

Adoption of the PPP model by the Indian Railways will help it get rid of the many issues it suffers from. This article analyses the two initiative by the railways in this regard and spells out their advantages and challenges.

Significance of railways

  • Its route spans about 68000 km.
  • It employs over 1.2 mn people and generates approximately Rs 2 lakh cr annually.
  • So, a major contributor to jobs, GDP, and mobility.
  • Efficient and optimal use of the railways could further add up to 1% to GDP.

Adopting PPP model

  • The time has come to modernise the Indian Railways, make it world-class, and a key driver of the country’s growth.
  • To do so, India must involve the best resources via PPP to bring in the latest technology, leading practices, and efficiencies.
  • PPP has been actively deployed as a mechanism in Europe and Japan.

Two initiatives of Indian Railways involving PPP model

1. Operation of trains on selected route

  • Indian Railways’ proposal features a list of 109 pairs of routes through 151 trains to private operators.
  • Proposed routes include Delhi–Mumbai, Delhi–Chennai, Mumbai–Chennai, and others.
  • PPP operators are expected to finance, procure, operate, and maintain the allocated trains.
  •  The concession period will be for 35 years.

Advantages

  • The initiative will bring in cutting-edge, technologically advanced rolling stock, shorter journey times, enhanced job growth, better safety, and best-in-class service standards.
  • It will bridge the demand-and-supply deficit for passengers.
  • The PPP investment is expected to be in the range of Rs 30,000 cr—in a Make in India–led growth strategy.
  • Encouraging domestic manufacturing of rolling stock, these projects will also create direct and indirect employment.

2. Redevelopment of railway stations

  • Initially, 50 stations will be bid out and funded through land monetisation as well as user charges.
  • The modernisation and redevelopment of stations will be conducted primarily through Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited, Rail Land Development Authority and other central government entities.
  • The PPP basis is under the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer model.
  • It entails utilising the potential of real estate for excess land and air space in and around the stations for development through PPP.
  • The 50 big stations have been planned to be bid out through the PPP route aimed at bringing in investments exceeding Rs 50,000–60,000 crores.

Challenges involved in the adoption of PPP model

  • One of the primary challenges will be independence of adjudication in disputes.
  • Other issues will be the pricing strategy to remain competitive yet stay profitable, given the competition through air, road, and to some extent, water transport.
  • An independent regulator could go a long way towards allaying concerns of equitable treatment of PPP operators and ought to be considered strongly.

Consider the question “Examine the opportunities and challenges in the adoption PPP model by the Indian Railways.”

Conclusion

The introduction of PPP in Railways is a welcome step and can lead to the kind of reforms that can help transform India and make it a global leader.


Source

https://www.financialexpress.com/infrastructure/railways/reforms-driven-agenda-why-its-time-to-modernise-the-indian-railways-make-it-world-class/2044774/

J&K – The issues around the state

Mythmaking and Article 370

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Issues around J&K; Federalism in India

The articles talk about various myths that have been building around the issues of Jammu and Kashmir. Not only does these myths affect the political outlook towards the state but is also responsible for people’s perspective on this whole story. Go on and read to understand further..

The myths

Kashmir has been a favourite site of our national mythmaking; myths that have over the years assumed larger-than-life manifestations in our collective psyche.

#Myth1

  • Article 370 is considered as the root cause of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • But there is a little material basis to it — neither Article 370 can be considered as responsible for terrorism in the Valley nor has its removal ensured a reduction in terrorism.

#Myth2

  • Article 370 is also held responsible for ruining J&K, stalling its development, preventing proper health care and blocking industries. Once again, these arguments also lack merit and evidence.
  • J&K, as a matter of fact, has been doing much better than most other Indian States and one of the reasons for this was the land reforms carried out in the State in the early 1950s which was possible precisely because of the presence of Article 370.
  • Also, private investors do not set up shop in Kashmir due to militancy which is a product of an existing conflict; not because of Articles 370 or 35A.

#Myth3

  • If J&K is doing better than the other Indian States, it is because of the massive amounts of funds provided by New Delhi.
  • The real argument here is not whether Kashmir received funding from New Delhi but massive funding as it is often made out to be.
  • Funds from the center can be divided as:
  • Funds to take care of J&K government’s revenue deficit: J&K, for historical reasons, has had a bloated bureaucracy in comparison to other States and their salaries and pensions have been financed by the central government. But these funds do little for the State’s economy or the general population.
  • Then there are routine transfers of funds from the Centre to J&K just as transfers take place from New Delhi to other States.
  • Finally, J&K also received funds due to its special category State status which again is a case with several other Indian States.
  • Put differently, J&K’s better performance in comparison to most other Indian States is at least partly because of Article 370, and its well-being is not necessarily a result of New Delhi’s economic packages.

#Myth4

  • Development can defeat militancy and insurgency.
  • The reality is that development may not lead to the pacification of the conflict in Kashmir.
  • The Kashmir conflict is a function of complex historical grievances, politico-ethnic demands, increasing religious radicalisation, and Pakistan’s unrelenting interference in the Kashmir Valley.
  • It would be simplistic to imagine that such a multi-layered and complex conflict can be resolved by development alone.
The deep impact of mythmaking
  • Changed the way how common people understand and treat Kashmir and Kashmiris.
  • Ideas like “Kashmir needs to be reunited with the rest of India” have become a powerful claim made by such representations and political articulations.
  • Yet another popular perception about ‘Kashmiris as troublemakers and sympathisers of terror’ has led to a noticeable increase in the mistreatment of Kashmiri Muslims in the rest of the country.
Conclusion

The way forward here is not in celebrating the scrapping of Article 370. It lies in critically examining various outcomes of this process. It is essential that New Delhi work the local people and leaders to reduce the trust and legitimacy deficit that we see today.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Understanding text and context of National Education Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues in National Education Policy

The article critically examines the various aspects of the National Education Policy 2020 and the issue of flexibility and exams has been analysed closely.

Context of scepticism

  • The New Education Policy is a forward-looking framework for transforming Indian education.
  • But the past record on implementation of polity raises the concern that the New Education Policy should not turn out to be just “another document”.
  • Also, the emphasis in the document on critical thinking and free inquiry is entirely well placed.
  • But universities are being intimidated into political and cultural conformity.
  • The document lays down objectives; the strategy has yet to come.

Walking the tightrope

  • On the language issue it prefers the long-standing recommendation of primary education in the mother tongue.
  • But does not categorically recommend curb English.
  • On the basic architecture of delivery, policy does not show an inclination towards public or private education both in school and higher education.

School education: Most promising part

  • The policy focus on early child development, learning outcomes, different forms of assessment, holistic education, and,  recognises the centrality of teacher and teacher education.
  • The document recognises that “the very highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational numeracy and literacy.”
  • The suggestions for school education are ambitious, centred on the students, cater to their pedagogical diversity, and take on board the world of knowledge as it is now emerging.

Multidisciplinary education

  • The document mentions the word multidisciplinary a bit too much, without explicating what it means.
  • One way of thinking about this is not in terms of multiple subjects.
  • It is reorienting education from disciplinary content to modes of inquiry that allow students to access a wide variety of disciplines.

Two concerns

1) Flexibility issue

  • Under the policy, students might need different exit options.
  • But it is unclear if the diploma or early exit options all be made available within a single institution, or different institutions.
  • If it is within single institutions, this will be a disaster.
  • Because structuring a curriculum for a classroom that has both one-year diploma and four-year degree students takes away from the identity of the institution.
  • There is also a risk that without adequate financial support, the exercising of exit options will be determined by the financial circumstances of the student.
  • The flexibility offered through multidisciplinary education is against the principle that different institutions have a different characters and strengths.
  • A healthy education system will comprise of a diversity of institutions, not a forced multi-disciplinarity.

2) Issue of exams conundrum

  • The document rightly emphasises that focus needs to shift from exams to learning. But it contradicts itself.
  • Exams are burdon because of competition and cost in terms of opportunities.
  • So the answer to the exam conundrum lies in the structure of opportunity.
  • This will require a less unequal society both in terms of access to quality institutions.
  • Exams are also necessary because in a low trust system people want objective measures of commensuration.
  • So the policy reintroduces exams back into the picture by recommending a national aptitude test.
  • But the idea that this will reduce coaching is wishful thinking, as all the evidence from the US and China is showing.

Consider the question “The National Education Policy 2020 moves away from rigidity and offers flexibility in many ways. In light of this examine the flexible dimensions offered in the policy and issues with it.”

Conclusion

The policy is commendable for focussing on the right questions. But the hope is that with this our education policy can be transformed into a treat, not another trick.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Issues metropolitan cities face

Metropolitan cities of India suffers from various issues. This article analyses such issues and suggests some steps to deal with them.

Inadequate public health infrastructure

  • India’s public health expenditure in 2018 was a mere 1.28% of GDP.
  • According to the World Bank, India’s out-of-pocket health expenditure was 62.4% in 2017, against the world average of 18.2%.
  • Manpower in the health sector is low with India’s doctor-population ratio being 1:1,457  against WHO norm of 1:1,000.

Governance issues

  • Factors underlying city governance include spatial planning, municipal capacities, empowered mayors and councils and inter-agency coordination, and ward-level citizen participation.
  • Twenty-seven after the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, these reform agendas continue to be slow in implementation.
  • India’s metropolitan cities have weak capacities in finance and staffing.
  • Bengaluru’s average percentage of own revenue to total expenditure is 47.9%, Chennai 30.5%, Mumbai 36.1% and Kolkata at 48.4%.
  • According to ASICS 2017, Mumbai has the highest number of officers per lakh population at 938 in the country.
  • Yet it is abysmally low compared to global cities such as Johannesburg with 2,922 and New York with 5,446 officers per lakh population

Limited powers of mayors

  • The leaders steering India’s metropolitan cities are toothless.
  • No big metropolitan cities with 10 million-plus population has a directly-elected Mayor.
  • Mumbai’s Mayor has a tenure of 2.5 years, Delhi and Bengaluru, a mere one year.
  • Mayors do not have full decision-making authority over critical functions of planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services in most cases.
  • Our metropolitan cities are far from being local self-governments.
  • Parastatal agencies for planning, water and public transport report directly to State governments.
  • The State government also largely controls public works and police.
  • Globally, metropolitan cities are steered by a directly-elected leader.
  • Evolved examples include the Tokyo metropolitan government and recent experimental models such as combined authorities in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Suggestions

  • India needs home-grown solutions suited to its context and political realities while imbibing lessons on institutional design from global examples.
  • It is time the Central and State governments lead efforts towards a metropolitan governance paradigm.
  • The first steps should include empowered Mayors with five-year tenure, decentralised ward level governance, and inter-agency coordination anchored by the city government.

Lack of transparency, accountability and citizen participation

  • Transparent cities with institutional platforms encouraging citizen participation improve urban democracy.
  • No metropolitan has functional ward committees and area sabhas.
  • An absence of citizen participation is worsened by poor transparency in finance and operations.
  • As per ASICS 2017, India’s big metropolitan cities on average score 3.04/10 in transparency, accountability and participation.

Significance of smaller cities

  • A World Bank report notes that despite the emergence of smaller towns, the underlying character of India’s urbanisation is “metropolitan”.
  • Under this metropolitan character, new towns emerge around existing large cities.
  • According to a McKinsey report, in 2012, 54 metropolitan cities and their hinterlands accounted for 40% of India’s GDP.
  • The report also estimates that by 2025, 69 metropolitan cities, combined with their hinterlands, will generate over half of India’s incremental GDP between 2012 and 2025.
  • Despite this, India is yet to begin an active discourse on cohesive metropolitan governance frameworks.
  •  Studies by the Centre for Policy Research point that India’s spatial feature exhibits the growth of small towns beyond the economics of large agglomerations.
  • This indicates that while India’s urban vision should focus on its metropolitan cities to reap the benefit of scale, it shouldn’t ignore smaller cities.

Consider the question “Examine the issues in the governance of metropolitan cities. To what extent the limited power of mayors contributes to the issues of the metropolitan cities in India?”

Conclusion

India should use the current pandemic as an opportunity to introspect and reform the way its metropolises are governed.


Back2Basics: ASICS 2017

  • The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 evaluates quality of governance in cities, covering 23 major cities in India across 20 states based on 89 questions.
  • Indian cities scored between 3.0 and 5.1 on 10, with Pune topping the charts for the first time.
  • Other cities that came in the top five include Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar and Surat, with scores in the range of 4.6 to 4.5.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Overview of National Education Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Education Policy 2020

Mains level : Paper 2- Proposals in Education Policy 2020

The Education Policy 2020 comes with many changes in education in the country. Key aspects of the policy are discussed in the article.

Context

  •  National Education Policy 2020 is the fourth major policy initiative in education since Independence.
  • The last one was undertaken a good 34 years ago and modified in 1992.
  • NEP 2020 seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies.

Challenges India faces in education

  • Lack of resources and capacity.
  • Dozens of mother tongues, a link language that despite being the global language of choice is alien to most.
  • A persistent mismatch between the knowledge and skills imparted and the jobs available.

Follwing are the key aspects of the policy-

1) 5+3+3+4 Model

  • A 5+3+3+4 model recognises the primacy of the formative years from ages 3 to 8 in shaping the child’s future.
  • It also recognises the importance of learning in the child’s mother tongue till at least Class 5.
  • As picking up languages is easy between ages 3 and 8, children will learn English and mother tongue together.
  • Multilingual felicity could become the USP of the educated Indian.
  • The policy envisages 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.

2) Flexibility in choosing subjects and vocational education

  • Another key aspect of new policy is the breaking of the compartments of arts, commerce and science streams in high school.
  • Policy also aims at introducing vocational courses with internship.
  • The ‘blue-collarisation’ of vocations in our society is also a hurdle to be overcome.
  • NEP 2020 proposes a multi-disciplinary higher education framework with portable credits.
  • An ambitious GER of 50% in higher education is envisaged by 2035.
  • At the apex will be Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities, where research will be supported by a new National Research Foundation.

3) Question of regualtion

  • NEP 2020 aims to free our schools, colleges and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and voluntary declaration.
  • Transparency, maintaining quality standards and a favourable public perception will become a goal for the institutions.
  • This will lead to all-round improvement in their standard.
  • A single, lean body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.

4) Addressing deprivation

  • Inequality and challenges faced by the disadvantaged and disabled have been considered in NEP.
  • The NEP lays particular emphasis on providing adequate support to ensure that no child is deprived of education, and every challenged child is provided the special support she needs.

5) Ancient knowledge

  • The long-neglected ancient Indian languages and Indic knowledge systems are also identified for immediate attention.

Resource challenge

  •  An ambitious target of public spending on education at 6% of GDP has been set.
  • This is certainly a tall order, given the current tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer by other key sectors.
  •  If public and political will can be mustered, resources will find their way from both public and private sources.

Consider the question “What are the measures proposed in the Education Policy 2020 for higher education.”

Conclusion

Resources are never the main roadblock to success in education. NEP 2020 provides the ingredients and the right recipe. What we make of it depends entirely on us.

Banking Sector Reforms

Will capping the bank CEO tenure make difference

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bank CEO tenure and appointement

Mains level : Paper 3- Governance of the banks

The article examines the utility of the proposed limit on the banks CEO tenure.

Context

  • Last month, the Reserve Bank of India released a discussion paper on governance in commercial banks in India.
  • It has a proposal to cap the tenure of bank CEOs.

Details of the proposed limit and rationale

  • The paper proposes to cap the maximum tenure of a promoter/major shareholder of a bank as a CEO or a Whole Time Director (WTD) at 10 years.
  • This move aims to separate ownership from management.
  • The rationale offered is that 10 years is an adequate period for a promoter/major shareholder of a bank as CEO/WTD to stabilise its operations and to transition the managerial leadership to professional management.
  • The corresponding limit for a CEO who is not a promoter/major shareholder is 15 consecutive years. T
  • Thereafter, that individual is eligible for re-appointment as CEO or WTD only after the expiration of three years.

Why banks are different from other companies: 3 Reasons

  • Ordinary corporate governance norms exhort managers to run a company in the interest of shareholders but it may not be suitable approach for all types of banks.
  • 1) Banks are highly leveraged, creating powerful incentives for shareholders to engage in risky strategies at great risk to creditors, including retail depositors.
  • 2) Bank failure could involve systemic risk, which could result in a government bail-out.
  • This moral hazard creates even more high-powered incentives for shareholders to engage in risky strategies.
  • 3) Financial assets held by a bank are hard to monitor and measure.
  • Consequently, external scrutiny of a bank by depositors and creditors is difficult.
  • These unique factors are likely to encourage bank managers to take excessive risks to maximise shareholder value.

Purpose of Bank governance

  • Bank governance seeks to curb such excessive risk-taking discussed above.
  • It encourages prudent risk-taking such that shareholders’ interests are secondary to depositors’ interests.
  • This is the main logic as suggested in the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision guidelines and the Financial Stability Board principles respectively.

Will capping the CEO tenure help

  • It is unclear whether imposing a maximum cap on CEO tenure would encourage prudent risk-taking by the management.
  • For Indian banks, the limited empirical evidence seems to suggest that bank performance improves with increasing CEO tenure.
  • A paper published in International Journal of Financial Studies finds that an increase in CEO tenure is associated with significant improvements in asset quality and performance of the bank.
  • The effect of CEO tenure increases rapidly with the year of CEO tenure.
  • Concerning public sector banks (PSBs), the P J Nayak Committee report had identified shorter tenure of chairmen and executive directors as a key reason for weaker empowerment of their boards.
  • These findings seem to be at odds with RBI’s suggestion to cap CEO tenure.

Consider the question “Examine the factors that justify the application of stricter governance principle for the banks. What would be the impacts of the RBI’s proposed limit on the CEO term of the banks on governance?

Conclusion

It may be prudent for the RBI to publish an empirical study on the impact of CEO tenure on bank performance before translating this proposal into an enforceable regulation.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Russia-India-China: A triangle that is still relevant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : Paper 2-India's relations with Russia and China

RIC engagement started on the promising note but the geopolitical changes over the last two decades have set the three countries on diverging paths. It is against this backdrop, the article articulates why RIC is still relevant.

Background of RIC

  • The RIC dialogue commenced in the early 2000s.
  • At that time the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order.
  •  It was not an anti-U.S. construct though.
  • The initial years of the RIC dialogue coincided with an upswing in India’s relations with Russia and China.
  • The 2003 decision to bring a political approach to India-China boundary dispute and to develop other cooperation, encouraged a multi-sectoral surge in relations.
  • An agreement in 2005, identifying political parameters applicable in an eventual border settlement, implicitly recognised India’s interests in Arunachal Pradesh.

Growing India-U.S. relations

  • During the same period in which RIC dialogues took place, India’s relations with the U.S. surged.
  • This involved trade and investment, a landmark civil nuclear deal and a burgeoning defence relationship.
  • This rising relations with the U.S. met India’s objective of diversifying military acquisitions away from a near-total dependence on Russia.
  • The U.S. saw value in partnering with a democratic India in Asia as China was rapidly emerging as a challenger.

How India-U.S. relations affected RIC

  • China went back on the 2005 agreement.
  • It launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and worked to undermine India’s influence in its neighbourhood.
  • And expanded its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean.
  • As U.S.-Russia relations imploded in 2014 after the annexation/accession of Crimea.
  • Russia’s pushback against the U.S. included cultivating the Taliban in Afghanistan and enlisting Pakistan’s support for it.
  • The western campaign to isolate Russia drove it into a much closer embrace of China.

Thus, the RIC claim of overlapping or similar approaches to key international issues, sounds hollow today. But it is still holds significance.

Why RIC is still significant for India

1) SCO

  • Central Asia is strategically located, bordering our turbulent neighbourhood.
  •  Pakistan’s membership of SCO and the potential admission of Iran and Afghanistan heighten the significance of the SCO for India.
  • It is important for India to shape the Russia-China dynamics in this region, to the extent possible.
  • The Central Asian countries have signalled they would welcome such a dilution of the Russia-China duopoly.
  • The ongoing India-Iran-Russia is an important initiative for achieving an effective Indian presence in Central Asia, alongside Russia and China.

2) Significant bilateral relations

  • India’s defence and energy pillars of partnership with Russia remain strong.
  • Access to Russia’s abundant natural resources can enhance our materials security.
  • With China too, while the recent developments should accelerate our efforts to bridge the bilateral asymmetries, disengagement is not an option.

3) The Indo-Pacific issue

  • For India, it is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power.
  • China sees our Indo-Pacific initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing China.
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry sees the Indo-Pacific as an American ploy to draw India and Japan into a military alliance against China and Russia.
  • India should focus on economic links with the Russian Far East and the activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.
  • This may help persuade Russia that its interests in the Pacific are compatible with our interest in diluting Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific.

4) Strategic autonomy of India

  • The current India-China stand-off has intensified calls for India to fast-track partnership with the U.S.
  • National security cannot be fully outsourced.
  • India’s quest for autonomy of action is based on its geographical realities, historical legacies and global ambitions.

Consider the question “The changing geopolitical landscape should not dampen the importance of India’s engagement in the RIC (Russia-India-China) triangle. Comment.” 

Conclusion

India should continue its engagement in the RIC while keeping and protecting its interests.

Important Judgements In News

The issue of powers of Speaker and Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 10th Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Power of the Speaker/Chairman, Kohito Hollohan case

The article examines the larger issue of powers of the Speaker under 10th Schedule and the current interim order of the Rajasthan High Court.

Context

  • The Rajasthan High Court had admitted the petition by the Congress faction group challenging the notice of the Speaker.
  • In the interim order, the High Court had ordered to maintain the status quo.

Why Kihoto Hollohan Case matters

  • The Kihoto Hollohan decision of the Supreme Court delivered in 1992 forms the basis in such decisions.
  • The Constitution Bench which heard it was split 3:2.
  • The majority on the bench upheld the constitutionality of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The High Court is not empowered to unsettle Kihota Hollohan and must apply its ratio that the Chairman/Speaker is the final arbiter on the disqualification of a member.
  • Rajasthan High Court has raised the issue about whether disqualification under Tenth Schedule is applicable in the case of “intra-party dissent”.
  • Para 2(1) a of 10th Schedule deals with disqualification of a member of a House belonging to any party “if he has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party”.

Let’s look at what the Supreme Court said  in Kihoto Hollohan case:

“paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution is valid. Its provisions do not suffer from the vice of subverting democratic rights of elected members of Parliament and the legislatures of the States. It does not violate their freedom of speech, freedom of vote and conscience as contended”.

Consider the question “Examine the issue of powers of Speaker/Chairman in the matters of disqualification of the member against the powers of the Courts in such matters. What are the reasons for frequent frictions between the two authorities on this matter?”

Conclusion

The high courts and the Supreme Court routinely refuse to interfere in matters where the concerned authority has merely issued a show-cause notice or granted an opportunity of being heard. So, it must fix the issue raised by the Rajasthan High Court interim order.

Indian foreign policy and decline in soft power in neighbourhood

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's declining soft power in the neighbourhood

The article examines the issue of declining political capital in India’s neighbourhood and the factors responsible for this. 

India’s standing in neighbourhood: Past

  • Not long ago, India was seen as a natural rising power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.
  • It was the de facto leader of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • It has historical and cultural ties with Nepal.
  • It enjoyed traditional goodwill and influence in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  • It had made investments worth billions of dollars in Afghanistan and cultivated vibrant ties with the post-Taliban stakeholders in Kabul.
  • It had committed itself to multilateralism and the Central Asian connectivity project, with Iran being its gateway.
  • It was competing and cooperating with China at the same time.

India’s relations in with the neighbourhood: Present

  • India is perhaps facing its gravest national security crisis in 20 years, with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • SAARC is defunct.
  • Nepal has turned hostile having adopted a new map and revived border disputes with India.
  • Sri Lanka has tilted towards China.
  • Bangladesh is clearly miffed at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • When Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition, India is out of the multi-party talks.
  • Iran has inaugurated a railway link project connecting the Chabahar port, on the Gulf of Oman, to Zahedan.

What are the factors responsible for this?

When we dig deep, three problems can be found which are more or less linked to this decline.

1) Alignment with US

  • As India started moving away from non-alignment, there has been a steady erosion in India’s strategic autonomy.
  • India’s official policy is that it is committed to multilateralism.
  •  When India started deepening its partnership with the United States, New Delhi began steadily aligning its policies with U.S. interests.
  • The case of Iran is the best example.
  • India’s deepening defence and military ties with the U.S.  probably altered Beijing’s assessment of India.
  • One of the reasons for the shift could be Beijing’s assessment that India has already become a de facto ally of the U.S.
  • The forceful altering of the status quo on the border is a risky message as much to New Delhi as it is to Washington.

2) Domestic politics

  • The passing of the CAA is regionalisation of the domestic problems of the countries in India’s neighbourhood.
  • Bangladesh took offence at the CAA and the National Register of Citizens, there were anti-India protests even in Afghanistan.
  • CAA also drove new wedges between India and the countries that had a Muslim majority and were friendly to India in the neighbourhood.
  • The abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was another such move.
  • But it damaged India’s reputation as a responsible democratic power and gave propaganda weapons to Pakistan.
  • The change of status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, could be another factor that prompted the Chinese to move aggressively towards the border in Ladakh.

3) Misplaced confidence

  • Great powers wait to establish their standing before declaring that they have arrived.
  • China bided its time for four decades before it started taking on the mighty U.S.
  • India should learn from at least these modern examples.
  • If it did, it would not have used high-handedness in Nepal during the country’s constitutional crisis and caused a traditional and civilisational ally to turn hostile.
  • The updated political map which India released in November rubbed salt into the wound on the Nepal border.

Consider the question “India’s standing in its neighbourhood has been on the decline for some time now. Examine the factors responsible for this.”

Conclusion

To address the current crises, India has to reconsider its foreign policy trajectory. It does not lack resources to claim what is its due in global politics. What it lacks is strategic depth.

Judicial Reforms

Issues with contempt of court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Contempt of court

Mains level : Paper 2- Contempt of court and issues

The article discusses the issues that law for contempt of the court give rise to. The practice has monarchical origins. Its continuance conflicts with the ideals of democracy. 

Objective

  • The objective for contempt is stated to be to safeguard the interests of the public if the authority of the Court is denigrated and public confidence in the administration of justice is weakened or eroded.
  •  Need to “respect the authority and dignity of the court” has monarchical origins.

Issues in India

  • With adjudicatory role having been handed over to judges, showing extreme deference to judges does not sit well with the idea of a democracy.
  • But the definition of criminal contempt in India is extremely wide, and can be easily invoked.
  •  Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer famously termed the law of contempt as having a vague and wandering jurisdiction, contempt law may unwittingly trample upon civil liberties.
  • Criminal contempt is completely asynchronous with our democratic system which recognises freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right.
  • Excessively loose use of the test of ‘loss of public confidence’, combined with a liberal exercise of suo motu powers, can be dangerous.
  •  It can amount to the Court signalling that it will not suffer any kind of critical commentary about the institution at all.

Lessons from other democracies

  • Contempt has practically become obsolete in foreign democracies.
  • Canada ties its test for contempt to real, substantial and immediate dangers to the administration.
  • American courts also no longer use the law of contempt in response to comments on judges or legal matters.
  • In England, too, the legal position has evolved.

Approach of Indian judiciary

  • Truth and good faith were not recognised as valid defences until 2006, when the Contempt of Courts Act was amended.
  • Indian courts have not been inclined to display the same maturity and unruffled spirit as their peers in the other democracies.

Consider the question  “A law for criminal contempt is completely asynchronous with our democratic system which recognises freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. Examine the issue in India context and suggest the major to strike the balance.”

Conclusion

Besides needing to revisit the need for a law on criminal contempt, even the test for contempt needs to be evaluated. If such a test ought to exist at all, it should be whether the contemptuous remarks in question actually obstruct the Court from functioning. It should not be allowed to be used as a means to prevent any and all criticism of an institution.

Internal Security Trends and Incidents

Information war

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Information war against India

Information war waged against India from across the border needs consideration. Three factors have triggered the war in the realm of information. This article examines the way in which it is perpetrated.

Factors

  •  Following three triggers are responsible for Pakistan’s information war.
  • 1) The Balakot attack of February 2019.
  • Balakot demolished Pakistan’s presumed nuclear equivalence that guaranteed that India would not retaliate against terrorist attacks
  • 2) The return of the BJP government in the May 2019 elections-which signalled that India would follow aggressive muscular policy.
  • 3) The August 2019 revision of Article 370.
  • The Article 370 decision demolished the centrepiece of Pakistan’s nationalism build on Kashmir.
  • The move also raised apprehensions about India’s plans for Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
  • These developments have forced it to shift the emphasis of its anti-India strategy from fomenting terrorism supported by an information war component to an information war supported by terrorism.

How the information war is waged

  • The ISI and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) two main instruments for the furtherance of this policy.
  • The ISPR has, over the years, recruited thousands of youth, trained them in the mechanics of social media and used them to project anti-India themes.
  • The core Pakistani objective is to demolish “Brand India” by attacking its key components — an inclusive and secular society, democratic polity, decisive government, a developing economic powerhouse and strong foreign policy.
  • The expectation is that such a strategy would adversely impact India’s secular and democratic credentials, scare foreign investment and lead to questions about its international image.
  • The key platforms for this strategy are Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook.
  • A large number of fake social media accounts, especially on Twitter, have been created.
  • The use of handles with phoney Middle Eastern identities is the latest addition to its bag of tricks.

Themes of information war

  • Internal developments and dissent in India have been manipulated, packaged and used to develop a narrative damaging India’s social fabric.
  • On J&K, the key themes are: Kashmir is a “disputed territory” awaiting solution under the UN resolutions; India needs to talk to Pakistan to resolve the issue and since India refuses to talk, there must be international intervention, the Indian Army is violating the human rights of Kashmiris.

Consider the question “Internet has made waging information war easier. Examine the threat posed by the information war to Indian polity. Suggest the measures to contain the threat emanating from the information war.”

Conclusion

Even though the Indian polity is strong, such persistent venomous attacks can temporarily damage our social fabric. We must not allow ourselves, wittingly or unwittingly, to fall prey to such machinations to polarise society, even temporarily.

Digital India Initiatives

Need for open protocols and networks in the realm of internet

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : API

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues of dominance of some platforms on the internet and solution

We are familiar with the dominance of some platforms on the internet. That dominance start to create problems. This article discusses the issues with dominance and suggests the solution drawing on the success of UPI.

Platforms on the internet

  • Platforms are technology layers that leverage the internet to bring together producers, resellers and consumers.
  • Platforms reduce transaction costs by cutting out intermediaries.
  • Amazon started by selling books but became a profitable giant by creating the e-commerce platform called Amazon Marketplace.
  • The most valuable companies today are platforms for search, social interaction, advertising, insurance, travel, real estate, etc.

Issues with the platforms

  • 1)The promise of the internet was disintermediation, but the process has hit a speed breaker with major platforms taking on the role of mediation. 
  • 2) There may be multiple platforms in the game to start with, but due to network effects and the non-portability/lock-in, only a few monopolies space.
  • 3) Big platforms have tried to create a sort of  cartel in which to trap the customers while fencing off the rest of the internet.
  • 4) The platforms amass data about users which is used to influence user behaviour, which is not limited to guiding the buying decisions.

So, what is the solution?

Let’s look at the success story of  the UPI

  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is a set of protocols that standardises the language of money transfer.
  • It is an interface: a simple and structured protocol for instructions and a clearinghouse that relays well-formed requests to concerned parties for execution.
  • Once the language is there, a user may choose any app to link their bank account to a UPI ID and make a pay or collect request involving any other bank account.
  • UPI handled 1.3 billion transactions in June 2020, overtaking the aggregate number of transactions of all legacy “platforms”.
  • UPI succeeded because it treated all players, big or small, equally.
  • This allowed third-party innovators to drive adoption by creating solutions that addressed the need of the people.

Solution: Adopting of open protocols

  • Application Programming Interfaces (or API) are protocols that define the meaning of data exchanged between two computers.
  • Universally accepted API definitions could allow a cabbie to be discovered by any cab aggregator app the rider may choose.
  • In healthcare, it could facilitate finding a doctor, booking an ambulance, taking out insurance, filing a claim, sharing a medical report or purchasing medicines from a pharmacy.

Advantages of open protocols

  • Open protocols create ecosystems that are non-rivalrous and non-excludable by design.
  • Even smallest of application developers or start-ups can offer low-cost, locally relevant solutions using the protocol.
  • We can address the needs of the diverse business community and achieve much greater penetration for e-commerce than the 10 per cent of today.
  • Open systems have the potential to transform education, food delivery, by enabling entrepreneurs to compete on their quality and reputation alone.
  • Portability from one application to another, privacy and data empowerment will be some of the issues taken care of.
  • We can reduce our dependence on foreign platforms.

Consider the question “What are APIs? Examine the issues created by the dominant internet platforms and how the adoption of open protocols for API could address the problem?”

Conclusion

With such a huge potential in APIs open protocols, the government must bring out the policy for the creation of open protocols and realise the untapped potential it offers.

Important Judgements In News

Relations between judiciary and legislature

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 10th Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Role of judiciary and Speaker

The article discusses the relation between the judiciary and the legislature. Recent development in Rajasthan assembly serves as the backdrop.

Context

  • The political tussle in Rajasthan entered the High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court itself proposed to rule on the larger question of the jurisdiction of courts to entertain such pleas.

Historical background

  • The President of India made a presidential reference to the Supreme Court on the relative powers of legislative assemblies and constitutional courts.
  • The Supreme Court held that there is a broad separation of essential powers of each organ of the State.
  • However, the Court went on to hold that a judge who entertains a petition challenging any order of the legislature does not commit contempt of the said legislature.
  • Since then court have restrained themselves from interfering in the workings of legislative assemblies or Parliament is concerned.
  • The sole exception is under the anti-defection law-after a final order of disqualification has been passed.

Let’s look into Kihoto Hollohan’s case

  • Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in 1992 held that the Speaker acting in a disqualification matter acts as a tribunal and is subject to judicial review.
  • However, the same judgment makes it clear that the Court will not intervene at an interim stage.
  • The same judgment further holds the Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House.

Let’s now look into Rajasthan episode

  • In this case, issuance of a possible disqualification notice by the Speaker, has been contested in constitutional courts.
  •  Even in routine petitions against notices of proposed administrative actions, the petitioner is told to answer the show cause notice and to challenge the final action only.
  • The Rajasthan High Court, however, entertained a petition to challenge the Speaker’s authority to decide, if MLAs had committed an act of defection.
  • The Rajasthan High Court reserved its judgment, requested the Speaker to defer further proceedings and proceeded to direct him to await judgment.

Co-equality of Constitutional authorities

  • Rajasthan assembly Speaker moved the Supreme Court, questioning the court’s power to direct a Constitutional authority.
  • The principle of law applied is that Constitutional authorities cannot issue directions to each other.
  • They can, at best, make a polite request.
  • The single judge in Calcutta, recorded in his judgment that the Supreme Court was only co-equal with the High Court, as a Constitutional Court.
  • Appellate powers of the Supreme Court did not make it a superior authority to which the High Court was subordinate.
  • Ever since, the Supreme Court has been careful to couch its orders as requests to any High Court, or Constitutional authority.
  • Constitutional courts have followed the same principle, in addressing other Constitutional authorities.

Role of judiciary in maintaining the balance

  • Unnecessary conflict between organs of state may well invite some Speaker, backed by a solid majority at State and Centre, to defy the courts.
  • Courts are apolitical but keep getting pulled into political thickets, especially in matters of mass defections resulting in regime change.
  • The walls of separation between constitutional organs, once breached, cannot be then repaired against future intrusions.

Consider the question “Analyse fine balance Indian Consitution strikes between the various Constitutional authorities. Also examine how role of judiciary in dealing with the anti-defection law.”

Conclusion

Even under a sovereign Constitution, parliamentary and legislative supremacy in their areas of working must be respected.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Gold and forex reserves cannot finance stimulus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Debt monetisation, RBI balance sheet etc

Mains level : Paper 3-Ways to raise funds to finance the stimulus package

The article analyses the issues with suggestions like printing of currency and using forex reserves to finance the stimulus. They also lead to an increase in government debts.

Context

  • Prime Minister announced a stimulus package of 20 trillion to fight the economic fallout of the covid pandemic.
  • Since then, several unorthodox ideas have been floated to raise funds for it without straining government finances.
  • Among the suggestions are the printing of currency, and using foreign exchange reserves or household gold.

Let’s look at entries in the RBI’s balance sheets

  • On the liabilities side of it is the currency in circulation, commercial bank reserves  and government reserves.
  • On the asset side of it is forex reserves, government securities and gold.
  • The balancing item represents the central bank’s equity and accumulated surplus.

Let’s look at 3 options suggested above and issues with them-

1) Printing currency

  • Doing this would increase the liabilities of the RBI under “currency in circulation”.
  • But it first needs to acquire assets to offset this increase in liability.
  • These assets could be government securities, forex reserves or gold.
  • Thus, one way for the government to finance its expenditure would be to issue government bonds and ask RBI to print currency with which to subscribe to such bonds.
  • This is known as deficit monetization.
  •  It is important to note that for the central bank to print money, the government would have to issue bonds to it.
  • It will increase government debt.

2) Monetisation of gold held by household

  • This would first involve the government buying gold from households in exchange for its bonds.
  • Then, the accumulated gold would be bought by RBI from the government with newly printed currency.
  •  In this case, instead of creating new money to acquire government bonds, RBI would be doing the same to acquire gold.
  • This too involves the Centre taking on additional debt.
  •  Moreover, gold monetization schemes in the past have yielded only mild success.

3) Using RBI’s forex reserves

  • Against every dollar of forex reserves shown by RBI on the asset side, an equivalent rupee amount has already been created on the liability side.
  • This is because whenever RBI acquires foreign currency, it pays for it using the Indian rupee.
  • Thus, no additional currency can be printed against such already-acquired reserves.
  • The only way our forex reserves can be used for generating additional resources is by pledging them to a third party.
  • The pledging of RBI’s assets to raise funds is done only under extreme circumstances, for instance, during the 1991 balance of payments crisis.
  • We are certainly not in a situation that warrants a repeat of an exercise where RBI’s assets, be it gold or forex reserves, have to be mortgaged.

So, what is the way out?

  • There are only three ways to finance government expenditure: taxes, debt and asset sales.
  • Taxes and asset sales can pitch in a bit towards the stimulus bill.

Consider the question “Examine the ways in which government can raise the funds to finance the stimulus package and also discuss the issues with each move.”

Conclusion

There is no escaping the fact that we are staring at a higher build-up of government debt in the future. When we stop harbouring the notion that we can pay the stimulus bill without any deterioration in government finances, we will be able to see the bitter truth: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Read more about the issue here:

India’s rising Forex Reserves

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

False urban rural binary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AMRUT

Mains level : Paper 1-Urbanisation and issues

The article brings out the issues in the rural-urban binary, which leads to the disparity in the allocation of resources to the urban areas.

Congestion and health issues in cities

  • The congestion in large cities has turned out to be their worst enemy during this pandemic.
  • Congestion is most evident in slums in large cities and poses a grave health and environmental challenges.
  • Yet, the Centre’s allocation for the rural component of the Swachh Bharat Mission is about seven times more than for urban areas.
  • Class I cities have 1.4 beds per 1,000 people. (with the population more than 1 lakh)
  • However, the urban support under the National Health Mission is just three per cent of the total allocation, while 97 per cent of the funds are set aside for rural areas.

Issues with the present urban development programs

  • The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (2005-2014) allocated the bulk of funds to large cities: 70 per cent to large cities and 30 per cent to smaller towns.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission, focus on Class I cities.
  • Both these schemes provide funds for the more developed cities that already have relatively better infrastructure.
  • But these schemes overlook the nearly seven crore people who live in smaller towns.
  • These are towns that lag behind in services and infrastructure as compared to the big cities.

Consider the question “The rural-urban binary has led to the policy formulation in which there is a huge disparity in the allocation of resources and attention on the urban area. Comment.”

Conclusion

The pandemic has forced us to reflect on the unequal and unplanned development of urban settlements and the absence of infrastructure to provide for the teeming millions.  The challenges of urban poverty and congestion cry for more attention, more government support.

Original article:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-india-urban-cities-6520574/

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India should not jump to conclusion in dealing with Iran

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jask Port

Mains level : Paper 2- Iran-China deal and concerns for India

Two events which happened in quick succession raised concern in India. Iran’s decision to continue the railway project on its own and the reports of deal with China, both the events weighs heavily on India’s interests. This article examines the future course of action which India must adopt in such a situation.

Context

  • Iran and China are close to concluding a 25-year strategic partnership.
  • This is being linked to reports that Iran has decided to undertake the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line on its own.
  • The project has not been handed over to China — at least not yet — so the “India loses, China wins” narrative is premature.

What does the China-Iran deal indicate?

  • China attaches importance to Iran, which is a key source of energy supplies, a part of Belt and Road Initiative, and a potentially lucrative market.
  • However, like India, China has also in parallel cultivated closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • China continues to have a strong relationship with Israel.
  • As China’s economic, military and technological capabilities have increased, its profile in this strategically important region has also expanded.

What should be India foreign policy approach towards Iran

  • While acknowledging changed regional geopolitical landscape, India should pursue continue the policy of maintaining positive relations with Iran, the Arab states and Israel.
  • India will have more room for manoeuvring in the region by continuing to maintain a strong and friendly relationship with Iran.
  • One should also not exclude the possibility of a Democratic US President reviving the Iran nuclear deal.
  •  The revival of the deal will open the door for US and European companies to resume business with Iran.
  • It is the reinstatement of severe economic sanctions that has led Iran to turn to China, but the latter has remained cautious.
  • The pursuit of a closer security partnership with the US does not mean that India should follow the US lead on its other important relationships.

Concerns for India

  • While maintaining the relations, India should not monitor closely the development of relations between China and Iran, which could complicate our security interests on our western flank. 
  • Of particular concern is a reference to China constructing a new port at Jask at the mouth of the Hormuz strait.
  •  If the port were operated by China, India’s maritime security would be at further risk.
  • It would also be of deep concern to the Arab states who will suffer from any closing of the Hormuz Strait while Iran remains less affected.
  • This is an issue on which the Arab states may well react adversely to China.
  • India, too, should press its concerns on Iran while working on a counter-strategy.

Consider the question “Balancing the contrasts has been the basis of India’s relations with Iran. Comment.”

Conclusion

India should continue its engagement with Iran while pressing for its concerns at the same time in particular when it comes to Iran’s relations with China endangering India’s interest.

Anti Defection Law

Time to revisit the practice of floor test

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provisions under 10th Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Anti-defection law, 10th Schedule

The growing trend of the toppling of the government by luring the MLAs of ruling party. The SC needs to reconsider the floor test usually ordered in such cases. The article analyses this issue here.

Reading Article 191(2) and 10th Schedule

  • Article 191(2) declares that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of the legislative assembly or legislative council of a state if he is so disqualified under the Tenth Schedule.
  • The Tenth Schedule to the Constitution contains “provisions as to disqualification on ground of defection”.
  • Tenth Schedule also fixes the relationship between a member and a political party which selected him as a candidate.
  • It also provides one of the grounds for disqualification: “If he voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party”.
  • The decision as to disqualification is left to the absolute discretion of the Speaker.

Constitutional morality and 10th Schedule

  • Tenth Schedule brings to the fore the need to emphasise “constitutional morality”.
  • Constitutional morality means “strict adherence to the core principles of constitutional democracy”.
  • So, Constitutional transgressions by MLAs coming through a “party platform” to serve the people for five years (Article 172), cannot be accepted.
  • In so doing, these MLAs forget the oath, taken under Article 188 of the Constitution to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as established by law.
  • Legislators do not have absolute freedom to behave in any way they like.

Issues with the floor test

  • When ruling party MLAs are lured with rewards, political or otherwise, then the “floor test” becomes constitutionally immoral and unjust.
  • This will amount to circumventing the Tenth Schedule through engineered defections through the judicial process.
  • It is high time the judiciary revisited the use of a “floor test” to prove a majority in a legislature.

Consider the question “Examine the ways in which a member of the house is deemed to have given up his membership under the 10th Schedule as interpreted in the various judgements. Also, analyse the implications of conducting a floor test in a situation when members of the ruling party are lured with rewards.”

Conclusion

Judiciary must take note of the toppling of the majority government through luring of the MLAs and subsequent floor test by the courts. The floor test in such a situation needs reconsideration.