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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 13th January 2017



  1. Front Page / NATIONAL[The Hindu]
  2. Niti Aayog calls for review of RTE Act
  3. Set up mechanism to hear plaints about TV content: SC
  4. SC refuses plea on alleged dilution of whistleblower law
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
  1. Strategic partnership. Really?
  2. Surviving the drought
  3. The city’s bleak future
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]
  1. Industrial output at 4-year high of 5.7%
  2. Infrastructure spending must be raised in budget’
  • Indian Express
  1. Project Of Defiance
  2. Give credit
  • Live Mint
  1. How to make publicly-funded elections a reality
  2. Improving India’s scientific capabilities

Front Page / NATIONAL[The Hindu]


[1] Niti Aayog calls for review of RTE Act


The Hindu

Context

The Niti Aayog has called for a review of the provisions of the Right To Education Act

What has happened?

  • The Niti Aayog has called for a review of the provisions of the Right To Education Act that stipulate that children who don’t perform well cannot be held back up to class VIII. It said the good intention behind the norm is detrimental to the learning process.
  • Choice: It has also suggested a system where direct benefit transfers offer the poor a choice between subsidised purchases or equivalent cash to buy their requirements from private suppliers.

The provision

The Right to Education (RTE) Act, which aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6-14 years, stipulates that no child can be held back in a grade, regardless of his performance, all the way up to the eight grade

  • This means that a child is entitled to an eighth grade diploma even if he cannot recognise a single letter or a number if he has spent eight years in school.

NITI Aayog’s rationale

  • Taking away the pressure to learn: The Aayog pointed out that the purpose behind this provision is to minimize the drop-out rate, since demoralization resulting from failing a class leads to children withdrawing from school altogether. But despite this good intention, the provision has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete

Backdrop

It should be noted that ASER (Annual Status of Education Report), one of the largest non-governmental household survey, has found out that,

  • More than 50 per cent of the fifth graders cannot read second standard level text.

Ghost ration cards

The Aayog pointed out that the Public Distribution System suffers from substantial leakages and there is an urgent need to look into avenues to eliminate them. Aayog stated that

  • Aadhaar platform is one such avenue. It can eliminate multiple ration cards held by the same household and also weed out ghost ration cards
  • A choice: In the longer run, an even more effective instrument would be to give households the option to choose between subsidised purchases and equivalent cash.Such an approach will give the beneficiaries the option to buy their grain from private shops, thereby putting competitive pressure on public distribution shops
  • Access to banking: A key element in the success of this approach, however, is to ensure access to banking. Beneficiaries receiving cash transfers into their bank accounts have to be able to withdraw that cash to effectively use it

 


[2] Set up mechanism to hear plaints about TV content: SC


The Hindu

Context

The Supreme Court has asked the government to set up, streamline and publicise a complaint redressal mechanism under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act to deal with citizens’ complaints about content telecast or aired by private TV channels and radio

Give it a go-through once


[3] SC refuses plea on alleged dilution of whistleblower law


 

The Hindu

 

Context
The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to examine a petition alleging dilution in the Whistleblower Protection Act and seeking interim measures to protect whisteblowers who expose corruption in public administration and governance

A fairly simple article.

Give it a go-through once 


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Strategic partnership. Really?


The Hindu

 

Context
Bilateral relations coast on diplomatic niceties and joint statements invariably use flowery language to describe relationships in the best possible terms

Author’s contention

India’s decisions over the past two decades to upgrade more than 30 of its bilateral relationships to “strategic partnerships” is excessive

  • The term strategic partnership has been used lightly by various governments in India

 What is meant by a strategic partnership?

It defines a bilateral relationship more important than others, but stops short of an actual alliance. The term “strategic” further implies a future convergence of interests in areas that are vital: security, defence and investment

Rwanda: India’s latest strategic partner

Author questions the decision to declare Rwanda a strategic partner. He states that Rwanda is still recovering from the mass murder of large sections of its Hutu population in 1994, though the country has registered remarkable progress and growth in the last few years. While it may therefore be an important destination for India’s development assistance, it is difficult to see how it qualifies as a “strategic partner”, particularly given that India is yet to set up a full diplomatic mission in the country

Author questions

Author presents us with an important question,

If all the countries on the list are strategically important, what does this mean for countries on the UN Security Council such as the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China, or others such as Japan, Australia, and some of the neighbors who genuinely contribute to India’s security and economic interests and who have also signed strategic-partnership agreements with New Delhi?

 Author suggests

Author suggests that a,

  • A clear policy: A convincing policy with a clear cut criteria for strategic partnerships, with the focus on countries with which there is a long-term vision on securing India’s needs, coupled with a convergence of strategic interests should be considered by MEA 

[2] Surviving the drought


The Hindu

Context
Bilateral relations coast on diplomatic niceties and joint statements invariably use flowery language to describe relationships in the best possible terms

Author’s contention

India’s decisions over the past two decades to upgrade more than 30 of its bilateral relationships to “strategic partnerships” is excessive

  • The term strategic partnership has been used lightly by various governments in India

 What is meant by a strategic partnership?

It defines a bilateral relationship more important than others, but stops short of an actual alliance. The term “strategic” further implies a future convergence of interests in areas that are vital: security, defence and investment

Rwanda: India’s latest strategic partner

Author questions the decision to declare Rwanda a strategic partner. He states that Rwanda is still recovering from the mass murder of large sections of its Hutu population in 1994, though the country has registered remarkable progress and growth in the last few years. While it may therefore be an important destination for India’s development assistance, it is difficult to see how it qualifies as a “strategic partner”, particularly given that India is yet to set up a full diplomatic mission in the country

Author questions

Author presents us with an important question,

If all the countries on the list are strategically important, what does this mean for countries on the UN Security Council such as the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China, or others such as Japan, Australia, and some of the neighbors who genuinely contribute to India’s security and economic interests and who have also signed strategic-partnership agreements with New Delhi?

 Author suggests

Author suggests that a,

  • A clear policy: A convincing policy with a clear cut criteria for strategic partnerships, with the focus on countries with which there is a long-term vision on securing India’s needs, coupled with a convergence of strategic interests should be considered by MEA

[3] The city’s bleak future


 The Hindu

Context

Over the past decade, despite flow of funds for infrastructure, most Indian cities have been unable to expand road networks and metro lines in keeping with the growing demand

Problem

Despite funds, uncontrolled population of the cities have made plans for public facilities ineffective

Example:

  • Delhi metro: In the case of Delhi Metro, for instance, since it opened in 2002, it has had to increase the number of coaches, the frequency of trains, the size of stations and the length of platforms. Yet, it struggles to accommodate the mounting numbers
  • Burgeoning cars:In big towns, 3,000-4,000 cars are registered each week, so more roads are constructed, lengthening already clogged networks. Yet, distances between home and work are rising, commutes increasing 3-7 km on an average
  • Increased migrant flow:Migrant flow into cities has exceeded all expectations, with a weekly influx of 4,000 families in Mumbai alone
  • Lack of public projects: In housing, while builders have promoted high-end luxury homes, public projects in most cities remain woefully inadequate

Types of Indian cities

Indian cities are vastly varied. They range in three types:

  • Metropolitan accretions such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, with the cumbersome statistical dimensions of small States, spreading by usurping surrounding towns
  • Tier-2 cities such as Pune, Jaipur, Bhopal and Lucknow, merely smaller replicas of the metros, but similarly unable to control the suburban sprawl and increasing numbers
  • Small towns such as Meerut and Hubli — part rural, part cantonment — mandi townships, essential to maintaining commercial links to surrounding villages. Restricted in growth and size, it is there that the Prime Minister needs to direct his efforts.

What should government do?

  • It must devise a development strategy for small Tier-3 towns that is itself a departure from conventional practices. It must take into account new forms of public housing, regulate bye-laws that restrict commuting and delineate public space over private commerce
  • The process must simultaneously relieve larger towns of the burden of new citizens. Government should encourage outlooks that include pedestrianisation (removal of vehicular traffic from city streets), conversion to mixed-use streets, reduction of commercial activity and an eradication of gated neighbourhoods
  • Government should encourage a sense of community and inclusion that erodes differences of ethnicity, profession, caste, social and economic position.  

ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] Industrial output at 4-year high of 5.7%


The Hindu

Context

Industrial output expanded by 5.7%, the fastest pace in more than four years, largely on account of a low base effect

Article states that the improvement in the IIP is due to the positive base effect.

What is base effect?

The consequence of abnormally high or low levels of inflation in a previous month distorting headline inflation numbers for the most recent month. A base effect can make it difficult to accurately assess inflation levels over time. It wears off over time if inflation levels are relatively constant.

Example: Inflation is calculated from a base year in which a price index is assigned the number 100. For example, if the price index in 2010 was 100 and the price index in 2011 rose to 110, the inflation rate would be 10%. If the price index rose to 115 in 2012, what would be the best way to assess inflation? On the one hand, prices have only risen 5% over the previous year, but they’ve risen 15% since 2010. The high inflation rate in 2011 makes the inflation rate in 2012 look relatively small and doesn’t really provide an accurate picture of the level of price increases consumers are experiencing. This distortion is the base effect. 


[2] Infrastructure spending must be raised in budget’


 The Hindu

Context

The Centre should prioritise measures that will boost spending on infrastructure creation to shore up demand in the upcoming budget, FICCI said

What FICCI wants?

Industry body FICCI wants the government to ensure greater investments in the infrastructure sector and measures to expedite the completion of ongoing projects

  • The money that came into the system following demonetisation should be used for infrastructure creation, in a manner that leads to employment generation and higher demand
  • Set up funds: Government should set up funds like the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund with other nations as co-investors

Backdrop

India’s infrastructure sector requires investments of more than $1.5 trillion in the coming decade.  


Indian Express


[1] Project Of Defiance


Indian Express

Context

Governments are making Aadhaar mandatory in contravention of court orders

SC’s 2015 directions

In August 2015, the court issued a set of directions making it clear that Aadhaar was not a precondition for the delivery of any state benefits and further limiting its use to PDS schemes.

  • Optional, not mandatory: Aadhaar was directed to be optional, and even such voluntary use was allowed only for the distribution of foodgrains and cooking fuels
  • Such a restraint was passed after the Union government took a stand that the constitutional basis of the right to privacy did not clearly emerge in case law. Acting on this, the court referred the Aadhaar petitions to a larger bench. Such a bench has yet to be constituted with the larger Aadhaar case hanging in the balance.

SC relaxes its order

On October 15, 2015, 11 state governments and institutions went back to the SC seeking permission to use Aadhaar beyond PDS schemes.

  • The court agreed to relax its order but limited the use of Aadhaar to four schemes, in addition to PDS and cooking fuel allowed by the earlier order. It clarified that the use of Aadhaar would be, “purely voluntary” even while Aadhaar is used in these schemes.

Passing of Aadhar Act

On March 16, 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 was passed as a money bill

  • Petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act were filed, which the court has agreed to hear but will have to wait until the larger question of right to privacy is decided by a yet to be constituted larger bench

Defying court’s orders

Irrespective of the court’s directions, many state institutions have started demanding Aadhaar as a precondition (mandatory, not voluntary) for services (beyond the five permitted schemes)

  • For instance, the joint entrance examination notification for the IIT competitive exam requires compulsory online registration through Aadhaar. A subsequent clarification makes a reference to the Aadhaar Act to justify this imposition

Aadhar Act doesn’t invalidate SC’s earlier directions

The Aadhaar Act does not have a provision that excludes or nullifies existing orders.

  • An order on September 14, 2016, stayed the imposition of Aadhaar in three scholarship schemes, thereby indicating that the Aadhaar Act does not materially alter the SC’s past orders

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that a healthy relationship between the government and the judiciary warrants respecting court’s orders.


[2] Give credit


 Indian Express

Context

RBI governor is right — structural reform and public expenditure are key to growth.

Give it a go-through once 


Live Mint


[1] How to make publicly-funded elections a reality


Live Mint

Context

The MPLAD and MLALAD schemes should be discontinued. The money saved should be used for public funding of elections

Author’s contention

Election Commission has been unable to ensure a level playing field in the contest for political power

  • The reason for its failure in this domain lies in election finances

Evolution of money in politics

Author point out that the role of money in politics, which surfaced after 1967, gathered momentum in the 1970s and 1980s to become established practice by 1990, spread in range and depth with the passage of time

  • Earlier on, votes were purchased at the time of elections and not in every election but in those which were close contests. The practice spread with those having money acquiring advantage over those with no money thus creating barrier to political entry
  • The process soon evolved into a full-fledged practice wherein even legislators were bought and sold
  • Group interests such as the land mafia, real-estate developers, mining interests, corporate lobbies, and even criminals began using money as a tool to further their unethical interests

How technology has added another dimension to money in the politics?

Technology esp media has added another dimension to the use of money in the political arena.

  • Expensive advertising campaigns: Outrageously expensive media campaigns just before the elections tend to swing the votes in the favor of a particular candidate

Expenditures of the candidates

Author states that it is becoming increasingly difficult to estimate the election expenditures of candidates who contest elections to Parliament or state legislatures.

  • Conversations with leaders or contestants across political parties suggest that actual expenses of serious electoral candidates, on average, are in the range of Rs10 crore for a Lok Sabha constituency and Rs2 crore for a state assembly constituency

Limit on electoral expenses

The Election Commission imposes a limit on the total campaign expenditure of each candidate which is, at present,

  • Rs28 lakh for state assembly constituencies
  • Rs70 lakh for Lok Sabha constituencies

Issues with electoral expenses

  • No limit: There is no stipulated limit on what political parties can spend on behalf of their candidates. It is almost impossible for the election authorities to monitor actual expenses
  • Funds via donations: There is no rule about what candidates or parties can receive as contributions or donations. The only stipulation is that if the sum is Rs20,000 or more it has to be received as payment by cheque. The claim of political parties that 80%, if not more, of contributions received are small donations of less than Rs20,000 each, is hardly surprising.

It is here, that author suggests state funding of elections as a solution to eliminate the unethical role of money in the electoral finance

Before moving forward, author presents the following questions,

  • Where is the money to come from? How can it be disbursed?

Author suggests

In his view, the MPLAD and MLALAD schemes should be discontinued. The money saved should be used for public funding of elections.

Problem with MPLAD and MLALAD

  • No social audit: Money under these schemes is often underutilized or misused without social audit or public accountability
  • Against political democracy:Such schemes are also contrary to the principles of political democracy because they provide an unfair advantage to incumbents (currently in power) over potential new entrants.

In the light of the above table, author suggests that,

  • No funds to RS MPs: Rajya Sabha MPs are elected through indirect elections in their respective state assemblies. In principle, they should not incur any expenditure on their elections. Thus, the entire amount can be allocated for public funding of elections for 543 Lok Sabha members, so that the amount available for distribution among candidates in each constituency would be Rs36 crore. This is more than enough.

For table 2, author has divided the states into 4 groups,

Group 1: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu

  • This group accounts for 39% of MLAs
  • Amount available per constituency is Rs 10 crore

Group 2: Kerala (Rs25 crore), Delhi (Rs 20 Crore), Jharkhand (Rs 15 Crore) and Uttarakhand (Rs 12.5 Crore)

  • This group accounts for 9% of MLAs

Group 3: Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Jammu and Kashmir

  • This group accounts for 15% of MLAs
  • Amount available per constituency Rs 7.5 Crore

Group 4: Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Puducherry

  • This group accounts for 15% of MLAs
  • Amount available per constituency is less than Rs 5 Crore

about Rs3 crore in West Bengal and the small states (17% of MLAs)

For the first three groups of states, the amount available for public funding of elections would be a large multiple of Rs2 crore, which is an average for expenses per serious electoral candidate in each state assembly constituency

Mechanisms for disbursal of money

There are two possible mechanisms for distributing these funds among electoral candidates both for the Lok Sabha and for state legislatures.The sums could be disbursed either

  • Directly to the electoral candidates
  • To political parties

Idea behind disbursal

Based on: The distribution would have to be based on the share of each candidate or each political party in the votes polled.

  • Obviously, only candidates or political parties that get a critical minimum percentage of the vote stipulated beforehand would be eligible for such public funding
  • It might be preferable to begin with disbursements to candidates even if disbursements to political parties might be easier to administer. The reason is that intra-party democracy has diminished rapidly with the passage of time, and no political party, irrespective of its ideology, is an exception to this rule

Supplementing the funding through donations

Author suggests that such public funding could be supplemented by contributions or donations from individuals or entities.

  • Through cheque only: All such payments, irrespective of the amount, must be through cheques only. It is imperative that there is complete disclosure and absolute transparency in this process, whether it is contributions or donations received by candidates or by political parties
  • Transparency:In fact, contributions by political parties to their electoral candidates must be subject to the same transparency and disclosure. The information should be made available not only to the Election Commission but also be put in the public domain, on websites of candidates and parties

Way ahead

Author points out that idea of public funding will meet resistance from the political class thus an increased pressure from the citizenry is critical

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that the problems of large scale corruption and black money can be eliminated if a blow is struck at their root i.e. malafide electoral finance


[2] Improving India’s scientific capabilities


Live Mint

Context

Making India a top destination for science and technology will require getting the basics right.

Give the article a go-through once.


 

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