Front Page / NATIONAL
Front Page / NATIONAL
. Cyclone Vardah heads towards Chennai shores
Cyclonic storm Vardah is likely to make landfall by Dec 12 afternoon along north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coast, close to Chennai, accompanied by strong winds with speeds of 80 to 90 kmph.
• Gradual increase in rain: Rains would gradually increase from the morning of December 12 and were expected to last until the next day in the northern districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram
• Light to moderate rain: Most places along north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts would get to light to moderate rain with possibilities of heavy rainfall of up to 20 cm as the system makes landfall
• High tidal waves: Due to the storm surge, the seas are expected to be rough and the tidal wave will be 1 m higher than normal. Fishermen have been warned not to venture out into the sea
• National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force teams have been stationed at Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts as a precautionary measure
• Anticipating their contribution to rescue and relief works in the impact of cyclone Vardah, the Indian Air Force Station in Tambaram has been placed on a state of high alert
Read more: Naming the cyclones
. Cancel illegal salt pans in Sambhar Lake: NGT
The central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in the Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.
• Vinod kumar fact-finding report: The illegal business of brine extraction in the Sambhar Lake was first highlighted in the Vinod Kapoor fact-finding report in 2010.
The report had mentioned that 15-20 borewells were operating in every bigha of land during that period and over exploitation of water resources had lowered the groundwater level by almost 60 metres in the area
• PIL filed: In 2013, a PIL was filed by Naresh Kadyan in the Supreme Court accusing salt manufacturers of digging unauthorised borewells around the lake and exploiting the groundwater.
However, the court had dismissed the PIL in August 2016 directing the petitioner to approach the NGT.
• Bench directed State wetland authority to review the allotments made so far after the submissions of the Vinod Kapoor and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Committee reports and asked it to submit the compliance report within six months
• The bench, in a recent order, also directed the State government not to make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas or in the ‘no construction zone’ identified for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010
• The bench, referring to the reports on the matter, directed the authority to examine the sensitive issue in light of observations and recommendations made by the two expert committees in the year 2010.
• The bench gave six months’ time to implement the recommendations which should not be later than the 2017 monsoon.
Petitioner had alleged that in and around the Sambhar Lake, commercial and other activities detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland were being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts of 1986 and 2010.
. Parliamentary panel says SC showing a ‘zeal for primacy’
As the Supreme Court and the Centre differ over the delay in appointment of judges in the High Courts, lawmakers have for the first time joined the fray. They have tabled a Parliamentary Standing Committee report accusing the Supreme Court of distorting the original constitutional mandate and showing an “unnecessary zeal” for primacy in judicial appointments.
The committee had taken suomotu cognisance of the “sad state of affairs” caused by the “inordinate delay in filling the vacancies in the Supreme Court and High Courts”. The report may act as a trigger for kick-starting legislative efforts to overcome the impact of the Supreme Court’s October 16, 2015 judgment scrapping the NJAC law.
What has happened?
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance, Law and Justice, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, has directly contradicted the Supreme Court’s judgment on the National Judicial Appointments Committee (NJAC) law, which upheld the concept of judicial primacy.
Committee recommends that,
• The original constitutional position on judicial appointments be brought back. The appointment of High Court judges is “essentially” an executive function and a shared responsibility of the government and the judiciary.
• The distortion in the original mandate of the Constitution arising from the judgments of the apex court in the Second Judges Case and subsequent cases needs to be reversed and the original constitutional position needs to be respected in letter and in spirit, for which the government may take appropriate measures
• The parliamentary report may also have hinted that the NJAC judgment was not heard by a sufficient quorum of judges. It recommended that the Supreme Court ought to set up a Bench of a minimum 11 judges while deciding the validity of a constitutional amendment.
The committee said the Constitution’s makers believed that only an equal involvement of multiple constitutional authorities in judicial appointments would mould an independent judiciary.
• On this, the committee quotes Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who said that “after all, the Chief Justice is a man with all the failings, all the sentiments and all the prejudices which we as common people have”.
. U.S. arms technologies come closer
With Major Defence Partner status, India will be offered simplified licensing requirements.
What has happened?
US has accorded India, MDP status i.e. Major Defense Partner status
• Simplification of licensing regulations: With U.S. designating India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP), licensing regulations to acquire sensitive military technologies, such as those that go into the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, will be simplified
This comes at a time when India is considering proposals for a new fighter aircraft to be built under the “Make in India” initiative, in significant numbers, with technology transfer. U.S. aerospace majors Boeing and Lockheed have submitted proposals to build their F-18 and F-16 fighter jets. Saab of Sweden has done so for Gripen.
Officials have expressed confidence that the progress achieved under initiatives such as the Defence Technology Trade Initiative (DTTI) and the India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) in the Pentagon would continue in the next U.S. administration as it is now enshrined in the U.S. law.
Project announcement by year end
India and the U.S. are expected to announce a major new project under the DTTI. An official said it would be announced by year-end.
. Time to blow the whistle
Parliament is considering an amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act which would only end up helping the corrupt. Its passage would administer a big blow to our already weak anti-corruption mechanism.
Prevention of Corruption Amendment bill 2013 was was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2013, following massive anti-corruption protests.
• This Bill had some worrisome provisions. In 2014, government introduced some more of them into the bill to weaken the PCA Act
• Select Committee of Rajya Sabha & Cabinet has cleared the amendments
Narrowing down the definition of corruption
Existing provision: Section 13(1)(d) of the existing PCA covers various indirect forms of corruption including the obtaining of “any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage” by illegal gratification or by “abusing his position as a public servant
Proposed amendment: The present Bill removes this section and under new definition, any benefit that is not economic, that is indirect or that cannot be proven to be intentional fraud will not be punished as corruption.
Law commission’s view on this amendment
Law commission studied this proposed amendment and disagreed with the narrow definition. Instead it proposed an even wider definition
• Suggestion: The Law Commission suggested that any “undue advantage” that results from “improper performance of public function or activity” of a public servant should be punishable.
Arguments given against Section 13 (1) (d)
A section of bureaucrats have been demanding deletion of this section as it criminalizes corruption. They reason that this section inhibits fearless decision-making that may involve exercise of discretion and bona fide errors
Raising threshold of proof
The Bill makes it more difficult to hold someone guilty of disproportionate assets as it raises the threshold of proof
• Present situation: As per existing provisions, the possession of monetary resources or property disproportionate to the public servant’s known sources of income is enough to prove corruption.
• New provision: Now the prosecutor will also have to prove that this disproportionate asset was acquired with the intention of the public servant to enrich himself illicitly.
Select Committee’s view
Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha agrees that proving intention should not be made mandatory but final position of the government is not known
Definition of known sources of income
Present situation: Currently, “known sources of income” are limited only to those receipts which had been “intimated in accordance with the provisions of any law, rules or orders for the time being applicable to a public servant”.
• Backdrop: This provision was made in 1988 in order to cover an earlier loophole, whereby many accused persons would cite fresh sources of income at the stage of trial, resulting in acquittal in a large number of disproportionate assets cases.
New provision: Government has proposed to delete this requirement without any recommendation to this effect from any stakeholder. Thus the big offenders have secured a vital escape route for themselves
Risk for the Bribe-giver: Bribe giving equally punishable
The proposed amendment makes it more risky for a bribe-giver to give evidence against a bribe-taker
Present situation: Under the existing law, if a person makes a statement during a corruption trial that he gave a bribe, it would not be used to prosecute him for the offence of abetment (aiding) of corruption
New provision: The amendment omits this provision and proposes that bribe-taking and bribe-giving will be equally punishable. This would obviously deter bribe-givers from appearing as witnesses in cases against public officials.
Author states that although there is some merit in punishing bribe-givers too but the earlier provision shouldn’t have been completely done away with. Government had other options like,
• Report of 2nd ARC: The report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has recommended a distinction between “coercive” and “collusive” bribing. Those who are coerced into bribing but report it thereafter should be given some protection
• Exemption window: A seven-day window for declaration by the bribe-giver in order to qualify for exemption, can also be considered.
Reduction of punishment chances
Present provision: The existing PCA requires the governments’ or higher officials’ sanction before any serving public servants can be prosecuted under the Act. The basic idea is to protect honest public officials from harassment, persecution and frivolous litigation.
Amendment proposed: The proposed amendment extends this protection to retired public servants, if the case pertains to the period when they were in office. This means that if a private person approaches the government for sanction to prosecute a public servant for corruption, he would now need a court order to this effect. This additional layer of protection for the accused would discourage victims of corruption and anti-corruption activists from prosecuting corrupt public servants
Author states that the most deadly provision of them all is the new Section 17A that would bar investigating agencies from even beginning an inquiry or investigating the offences under this Act without prior approval
Amendment proposed: The amendment proposed by the government said this sanction was to be obtained from a Lokayukta or Lokpal.
Select Committee’s views
The Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha makes it worse: it shifts the power to give this sanction to an “authority competent to remove” the person from office.
Author points out that,
Section 19: Section 19 of the Act already protects officials from mala fide litigation. If someone wishes to harass an innocent officer without any credible evidence of corruption, the government can refuse to give sanction for prosecution.
Author states that a requirement of sanction even before an inquiry is initiated against an official means,
• No credible evidence: If Government doesn’t grant sanction then there would be no credible evidence against corrupt official to prosecute him, if he is indeed corrupt.
• Time to hide evidence: If Government gives the sanction then the corrupt officer will get ample time to hide the evidence as he will get to know of the impending inquiry against him
Reactivating the Single Directive
Author states that bureaucracy has thus successfully managed to bring back single directive which refers to an older governmental order that no senior officer (of the rank of Joint Secretary or above) could be investigated without permission from the government
VineetNarain Judgement: In the famous VineetNarain judgment, the Supreme Court had held this order as illegal, in 1997.
The government brought it back, this time as provision of law, in 2003.
• In 2014, a Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court held that this provision was unconstitutional, as it violated the right to equality
Author states that such is the power of babudom and its hold over netas that it has managed to bring this immunity clause back for the third time.
Author concludes by stating that it is time to bring back the anti-corruption movement
Read More: PCA Amendment Bill
. Binding friendship
Major defence partner status for New Delhi marks the institutionalization of India-US defence cooperation
What has happened?
US has granted “Major Defence Partner” status to India. This follows the signing of Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) earlier this year.
Major Defense Partner status
Major Defense Partner” is based on the concept of the US treating India as its closest ally and partner for the purpose of technology transfer.
• It eases US licensing requirements for Indiaparticularly from the US commerce department on dual-use items. The status hopes that India will become part of all the four export control regimes at the earliest.
Export control regimes
Currently there are 4 Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR),
• The NSG
• The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
• The Australia Group
• The Wassenaar Arrangement
These regimes have emerged as the leading forums of the global export controls system and are the oldest multilateral bodies for export controls. Though these are small informal groupings, they derive their importance from the nature of their membership. Most of the major suppliers of high technology or sensitive technology, mostly dual use in nature, are members of these regimes
. Demonetisation for behavioral change
Throwing millions of lives in disarray to seemingly change their cash usage behavior sounds primordial.
In the first few paragraphs, Author has taken up the example of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. He states as to how a change in behavior wrt Open Defecation was desired to be achieved by inspiring and creating awareness among citizenry rather than a shock and awe treatment like demonetization.
Initially demonetization as being defined as a move against black money but over the period of weeks, it is being touted as a move to transform India into a cashless society
Open Defecation: A far more serious problem
Author states that 61% of rural India defecating in the open is a far more serious and significant problem than India’s 12% cash to gross domestic product ratio (amount of cash floating in Indian economy right now)
• Culture and habits are a significant reason for open defecation in India. So, if any, altering this behavior of 564 million Indians is far more vital for the future of this nation.
• Author states that this behavioral change is being sought through motivation & awareness rather than coercion
Author’s main line of argument: Removing 86% of a country’s currency overnight and throwing hundreds of millions of lives in disarray to seemingly change their cash usage behavior sounds primitive
Author concludes by stating that in matters of public policy, the means and ends matter equally. The manner in which government has chosen to achieve a cashless economy is truly abominable
. Don’t cry over dead trade agreements
If we can manage our own economies well, new trade pacts will become largely redundant.
In the first few paragraphs, author has stated that after the WWII there were a host of trade agreements. Most famous of them were the,
• General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
• Treaty establishing World Trade Organization
But, in the present times, with a rising global sentiment against globalization & with events that portray further problems for such trade agreements like BREXIT, Outcome of US presidential elections, there will be a race for smaller agreements now while the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, are as good as dead after the election of Donald Trump as US president.
Smaller countries need no trade agreements
Author puts forward his view that we should not worry about the rising sentiment against global trade agreements because,
• Smaller countries need no trade agreements since they have no bargaining leverage over bigger countries. So, for them free trade is the way to go
Author states that bigger countries enter trade agreements because they can manipulate the world prices of the goods they export and import.
Example: By imposing an import tariff on, say, steel, the US can reduce the prices at which Chinese producers sell their products. Or, by taxing aircraft exports, the US can raise the prices that foreigners have to pay.
Thus, a trade agreement that prohibits such policies can be useful to all countries to achieve collective good
Actual situation: Politics is involved
Author states that above listed rationale for trade agreements is seldom adhered to in reality. In practice, political considerations outweigh the economic interests. Policymakers design such policies which favor certain industries that have a powerful lobbies inside the corridors of power.
So, author argues that, in essence, it is the trade lobby that shapes the trade policies.
In the light of above argument, author raises following questions
• If trade policies are largely shaped by political lobbying, wouldn’t international trade negotiations similarly be at the mercy of those same lobbies?
• Can trade rules written by a combination of domestic and foreign lobbies, rather than by domestic lobbies alone, guarantee a better outcome?
Author states that newer trade agreements incorporate rules on “intellectual property”, capital flows, and investment protections that are mainly designed to generate and preserve profits for financial institutions and multinational enterprises at the expense of other legitimate policy goals. Such rules suffer from following problems,
• They come in conflict with public health or environmental regulations
• They make it harder for the developing countries to access technology and diversify their economies through industrial policies
Author points out that trade policies driven by domestic political lobbying and special interests are beggar-thyself policies.
Author states that if we manage our own economies well, new trade agreements will be largely redundant.
. Preparing for Policy Implementation 3.0
The government needs to change its approach to development and policy implementation.
Author has categorized policy implementation into
• Policy implementation 1.0 – It refers to the ability to deliver a standard policy or a product like polio vaccine (with same dose), or a process like elections (with same procedure for voting) across the country
• Policy implementation 2.0 – It refers to the ability to change the behaviour of citizens and obtain cooperation of communities
• Policy implementation 3.0
Policy implementation 1.0
Author states that India has the ability to carry out a standard procedure in millions of locations, many in very difficult conditions
• Elections: It conducts the world’s largest elections, bringing electronic voting machines even to remote places in the high mountains
• Aadhaar project:The issuance of unique, electronic identity cards to all Indians—the Aadhaar project—was the latest illustration of the country’s logistical capabilities in implementing a public policy
Policy Implementation 2.0
In this case, behaviors of the citizenry need to be changed.
• Sanitation: Large programmes for installing toilets have not been able to change behaviour to eradicate open defecation. Public health programmes invariably require better local governance, rather than central delivery of services. India’s persistent neglect of local governance capabilities is the principal reason for public health in India lagging behind China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and many other developing countries.
Policy implementation 3.0
Author states that complex changes in economy requires a policy implementation 3.0 capabilities. In this case, along with behaviors, several other conditions in the economy must be changed together to improve conditions for enterprises to be productive and to attract more investments into the economy.
• Physical infrastructure must be improved
• An array of regulations and institutions must be streamlined concerning labour management, corporate governance, land acquisition, and other subjects
• Often, financial institutions need change too
• Industrial policy
Author points out that complexity of policy implementation 3.0 generally evokes two responses,
• Leaving it to the market: When market is not generating enough jobs then citizens demand that government should act to create more jobs by inducing more production within their countries. This is the challenge for many ideologically pro-market governments today. In the US and the UK
• Central planning: This approach was adopted by many countries, including India, for industrial development following the example of the Soviet Union. Central planning down to the last level—how much of what will be produced by whom—was basically a Policy Implementation 1.0 approach applied to a Policy 3.0 challenge. It created red tape thereby stifling innovation and entrepreneurship. India liberalized in 1991 and threw out central planning.
Which approach should India choose?
Author states that jobs cannot be planted into the economy top-down by the government (except jobs on government’s own rolls). A jobs policy must stimulate changes in behaviour of entrepreneurs, employees, and investors.
• To do this, it must make many changes in many areas in a coherent and coordinated manner. It must apply a Policy Implementation 3.0 process.
Policy implementation 3.0: Way to go
Author states that policy Implementation 3.0 requires participation of many ministries and agencies, and many stakeholders (trade unions, employers, environmentalists, landowners and communities)
Author concludes that India’s progress will not be as fast as it could be, and needs to be, until governments at the Centre and in the states change their approaches to development and implementation of policies. Less top-down control; more systematic participation. In fact, a principal role of the Centre must be to build capabilities at various levels of governance, in cities, in states, and in the Centre itself, for participative policy formulation and implementation.