06-12-2017 (Important News Clippings)
To Download Click Here.
25 blighted years
Constitution offers a better India than anything in our past. Make it an article of faith
Today is a day that can make one pause and wonder about an India that might have been. It is usually marked as the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Few also remember it as the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar, principal draftsman of the Constitution whose vision undergirds the Indian Republic. On August 15, 1947, and again on January 26, 1950, India “solemnly resolved” to leave the past behind and build a new republic, guaranteeing equality and protection to all, irrespective of religion, caste and other identity markers. By failing to stop karsevaks from entering the Masjid premises, the central and UP governments dishonoured that promise.
Therefore, it’s well worth reiterating on this occasion that if the declaration of the Indian Republic marks a break in time, this also means that after 1950, a citizen of India who happens to be a descendant of Aurangzeb or Rana Pratap has absolutely equal rights with any other citizen of India. The 1576 battle of Haldighati is definitively over. And in any case, the habit of looking at pre-colonial history as a perennial war between Hindus and Muslims is a British colonial construct (which unfortunately has duped many Indians). Indians now need to focus their energies on social, political and economic reforms that abolish poverty and pave the way for development, not on religious wars.The Supreme Court has begun final arguments on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, which Allahabad high court had clumsily resolved by effecting a three-way division of the disputed land, a relief none of the claimants had sought. Embracing a fractious past makes the dispute seem intractable. But amidst all the politics of grievance surrounding it, one yearns for an India where the simple and reasonable would also seem an obvious way of ending the dispute.
Why can’t, for instance, a grand Ram temple be built at a nearby location on the Sarayu’s banks, since all of Ayodhya is holy for Hindus? Demolition of the mosque was a criminal act, therefore it would be unreasonable to reward such an act by handing over the site to the very people who demolished it. As for what to do with the site itself, surely some creative solution can be thought of that fosters reconciliation and harmony – such as a museum commemorating religious syncretism in India.
Focus on working capital for exporters
In its mid-term review of the foreign trade policy, the government has offered incremental sops to exporters in specific sectors such as leather, textiles and agriculture and eased procedure.Course corrections — an additional 2% incentive for labour-intensive sectors under the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme and the Services Exports from India Scheme (in the form of freely transferable duty scrips that can be used by exporters to pay customs duties), extending the validity of duty scrips to 24 months from 18 months, and self-certification of documents wherever required — to perk up exports are fine.Anew trade analytics division for data-based policy action is also welcome. But what about exporters’ working capital shortage?
The incentives are estimated at around Rs 8,450 crore. More than sops, exports need lower transaction costs, less red tape in clearances, efficient and functional infrastructure and rational labour laws.Also, the country’s performance in crossborder trade as per the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report is poor, calling for vast improvements in trade facilitation. Exports fell for the first time in 14 months in October, owing to delays in refunds that resulted in a working capital crunch for exporters following the adoption of the goods and services tax. With the goods and services tax network up and running, exporters must be given refunds swiftly, within a month at the most. Exporters should also encourage their vendors to file goods and services tax returns to be able to claim their refunds.Sustained growth in exports also depends on the pace of global recovery, and the US, EU and Japan are growing. Worries of a stronger rupee hurting exports might not have a long life, as the advanced countries withdraw from a policy of extra-easy money, and some footloose capital flows out of India.
Andhra Pradesh offers glimpse of the future of power
Andhra Pradesh plans to set up a renewable power plant comprising 120 MW of solar generation and 40 MW of wind generation. What is new is that this will come with 40 MW of battery backup. As of now, what the cost of the battery storage would be is not clear. In South Australia, where Tesla has set up a 100 MW, 129 MWh battery, to back up the grid, the cost of storage has been $50 million. Right now, the cost of such storage of renewable power might not be compelling. But the Andhra Pradesh initiative deserves attention because it offers a glimpse of the future of power generation and distribution.
It has been clear for some time that what really holds back a paradigm shift in energy from fossil fuels to renewables is storage technology. Right now, the higher the installed capacity of renewable power, the higher the total cost of power, as the capacity charge of conventional power has to be added to the cost of renewable power even if the entire power juicing up the grid comes from renewables — you cannot junk conventional generation because you need it when the wind slows and the sun goes down, and you must pay for its availability.
Things would change, if the power generated by the sun and the wind could be stored and drawn at will, the way one can store data these days. Advances in battery technology offer precisely that possibility. If large capacity storage of power becomes possible and affordable, renewable sources can totally displace fossil fuels: battery-supported, modular micro-grids that can be islanded off in case of emergencies will make the grid more reliable, the Internet of Things and digital circuitbreakers could allow individual metering of different power applications, leading to differential pricing and better energy management.
Most of the research in radical power storage is taking place in the west and in China. India probably needs a technology mission on energy storage, to have a piece of the action that would transform power generation, the grid, automobiles and electronics. Can India afford to be shut out from the future of energy?
महिला-पुरुष अंतर को पाटने के लिए तय करना होगा लंबा सफर
हैदराबाद में पिछले सप्ताह गुरुवार को समाप्त वैश्विक उद्यमिता सम्मेलन अपने मुख्य विषय- ‘महिलाएं सबसे पहले, सभी के लिए समृद्धि’ पर खरा उतरा है। इस सम्मेलन में आमंत्रित 1,500 उद्यमियों में महिलाओं की तादाद पुरुषों से अधिक थी। हर किसी ने बहुत से वादे किए और सफलता की बहुत सी कहानियां साझा की गईं। ऐसा होना बहुत उत्साहवर्धक है क्योंकि ऐसे सम्मेलन उद्यमियों के सामने आने वाली दिक्कतों के बारे में जागरूकता पैदा करने में मदद करते हैं। लेकिन सम्मेलन का असली माहौल इवांका ट्रंप ने बनाया, जिन्होंने महिलाओं की ताकत की प्रशंसा करते हुए उनकी वास्तविक तस्वीर पेश की। उन्होंने कहा कि भारत जैसे देशों में स्त्री-पुरुष समानता के लिए कार्यबल में महिलाओं की भागीदारी को सुधारने की जरूरत है, लेकिन खुद अमेरिका भी इस समस्या से जूझ रहा है। अमेरिका में केवल 13 फीसदी इंजीनियर और 24 फीसदी कंप्यूटर विज्ञान पेशेवर महिलाएं हैं।निस्संदेह भारत के आंकड़े और निराशाजनक हैं। नैशनल सैंपल सर्वे ऑर्गनाइजेशन (एनएसएसओ) के मुताबिक भारत में केवल 14 फीसदी व्यवसायों को महिला उद्यमी चला रही हैं। हालांकि इनमें से ज्यादातर छोटे कारोबार हैं, लेकिन 80 फीसदी उनके खुद के पैसे से चल रहे हैं। वर्ष 2015 में वैश्विक उद्यमिता एवं विकास संस्थान ने एक रिपोर्ट जारी की थी, जिसमें उसका महिला उद्यमिता सूचकांक पेश किया गया था। इस सूचकांक में देशों को उन स्थितियों के आधार पर क्रम (रैंकिंग) दिया गया था, जो महिला उद्यमिता के विकास की संभावनाएं बढ़ाएंगी। इस सूचकांक में भारत पैंदे के आसपास था, जिसे 77 देशों की सूची में 70वां स्थान मिला था। वर्ष 2017 में मास्टरकार्ड ने महिला उद्यमिता का अपना सूचकांक जारी किया, जिसमें 54 देशों की सूची में भारत 49वें पायदान पर था।
A lifeline, interrupted
Government is prioritising savings over MGNREGA and rights of the poor.
Written by Nikhil Dey , Aruna Roy (The writers work with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan)
In 1983, in Sanjit Roy v. the State of Rajasthan the Supreme Court stated, “where a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the meaning of the words ‘forced labour’. if anything less than the minimum wage is paid to him, he can complain of violation of his fundamental right under Article 23 and ask the Court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him…”
As a part of a judgment in an ongoing case in the SC, Justice Lokur and Ramana built upon the Sanjit Roy judgment and stated: “It is quite clear, therefore, that when the rights of tens of thousands of people are affected by delayed payment of their legitimate dues, there is a clear constitutional breach committed by the State — be it the Government of India or a State Government.” Commenting on the deliberate circumvention of the payment of compensation for delay, the SC stated, “We are quite pained to note that the Government of India has made no provision for this compensation while releasing the wages for 2015-16. This is extremely unfortunate and certainly does not behove a welfare state in any situation, more so in a drought situation. Social justice has been thrown out of the window by the government.”
A recent independent study by three social scientists in two phases, traces the central government’s conscious delay in wage payments and the deliberate denial of responsibility to pay compensation. Analysing over 90 lakh transactions in the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS) for 3,446 gram panchayats for FY 2016-17 and 45 lakh transactions in 3,603 gram panchayats in FY 2017-18, it shows that only 32 per cent of payments are being made in time, against the government claim of 85 per cent. In the sample, compensation due is a wilfully under-calculated by 86 per cent. Only about 6.5 per cent of what should be paid as compensation has been paid so far.
The first phase of the study was reviewed internally by the Ministry of Finance, which accepted that “In cases of delays in making large number of payments, it has been found that funds have not been available either of Centre and State shares… It was found that the delay in payment to states was mainly due to infrastructural bottlenecks, availability of funds and lack of administrative compliance.”The SC’s judgment holding such delays and denial to be forced labour continues to be wilfully circumvented. Little can be said about the dignity of labour in a government where the prime minister mocked the law on the floor of the Lok Sabha.India’s high levels of rural distress in the last few years can be partially addressed by the MGNREGA — a potential lifeline for rural workers. However, if Rambeti’s voice of anguish is to be attended to, we have to collectively make sure that the dignity of workers is protected. For MGNREGA workers to state that they are going through “a living death” is the most disturbing judgement that can be delivered.
चाबहार का द्वार
अपने परंपरागत विरोधी पाकिस्तान को अलग-थलग कर भारत, ईरान के रास्ते अफगानिस्तान तक पहुंचने वाले वैकल्पिक मार्ग यानी चाबहार बंदरगाह को चालू कराने में कामयाब हो गया है। इसके परिचालन का पहला चरण रविवार को पूरा हो गया। भारत के लिए रणनीतिक और कारोबारी लिहाज से बेहद अहम इस बंदरगाह का उद्घाटन ईरान के राष्ट्रपति हसन रोहानी ने किया। इस मौके पर भारत के जहाजरानी राज्यमंत्री पी. राधाकृष्णन समेत दूसरे कई देशों के मंत्री और राजदूत वगैरह भी मौजूद थे। इससे एक दिन पहले यानी शनिवार को शंघाई सहयोग संगठन की रूस में संपन्न बैठक से वापस लौटते हुए विदेशमंत्री सुषमा स्वराज तेहरान रुकी थीं। वहां उन्होंने अपने ईरानी समकक्ष जावेद शरीफ से मुलाकात की और दूसरे मुद््दों के साथ-साथ चाबहार पर भी चर्चा की। रोहानी ने कहा कि यह बंदरगाह कई इलाकों को जोड़ेगा; यह एक ऐतिहासिक दिन है।
इस परियोजना के पहले चरण को ‘शाहिद बेहश्ती पोर्ट’ के नाम से जाना जाएगा। अब भारत अपने उत्पादों को अफगानिस्तान तक बिना किसी रोक-टोक केभेज सकेगा। गौरतलब है कि पाकिस्तान ने अपने क्षेत्र से भारतीय उत्पादों को अफगानिस्तान ले जाने की इजाजत देने से मना कर दिया था। तब भारत ने चाबहार को वैकल्पिक मार्ग के तौर पर विकसित करने की योजना बनाई, जो आखिरकार अब पूरी हुई। मगर गौरतलब है कि यह बंदरगाह महज एक रास्ता नहीं है। यह भारत की कारोबारी और कूटनीतिक, दोनों नजरिए से एक बड़ी कामयाबी है। चीन पाकिस्तान के बलूचिस्तान प्रांत में ग्वादर बंदरगाह को विकसित कर रहा है। वह अपने साजोसामान वहां बेरोकटोक लाना चाहता है। ऐसे में ईरान की जमीन पर भारत द्वारा चाबहार को विकसित करना कारोबार के अलावा सामरिक दृष्टि से भी महत्त्वपूर्ण है, क्योंकि वहां से ग्वादर की दूरी महज अस्सी किलोमीटर है।असल में चीन जिस आक्रामक तरीके से हिंद महासागर में भारत को घेरने के लिए विभिन्न देशों में बंदरगाहों को विकसित कर रहा है, उसके मद््देनजर चाबहार उसे एक तगड़ा जवाब है। ‘स्ट्रिंग आॅफ पर्ल्स’ नामक परियोजना के तहत चीन, पाकिस्तान के ग्वादर से लेकर श्रीलंका के हम्बनटोटा तक बंदरगाह विकसित रहा है। अब चाबहार के चालू होने से पहला झटका पाकिस्तान को लगा है, क्योंकि भारत-अफगानिस्तान के बीच बढ़े व्यापार को रोकने की उसकी कोशिश नाकाम हो गई है। इसके अलावा, यह बंदरगाह मध्य एशिया तक भारत की पहुंच बढ़ाने में सहायक होगा। पाकिस्तान के रास्ते चीन की सुरक्षित लाइन बनाने की कोशिश को किसी संकट की स्थिति में भारत अब बाधित कर सकता है। भारत ने इस बंदरगाह को विकसित करने के लिए पचास करोड़ डॉलर का करार किया था। इस करार की नींव 2002 में भारत के तत्कालीन प्रधानमंत्री अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी और तब के ईरानी राष्ट्रपति सैयद मोहम्मद खातमी ने डाली थी। अब भारत इस रास्ते भारी मात्रा में अपना माल भेज सकता है। यों भी ‘चाबहार’ का वहां की स्थानीय भाषा में मतलब होता है- ऐसी जगह जहां बारहों मास बहार छाई रहती हो। उम्मीद की जानी चाहिए कि ईरान और अफगानिस्तान से भारत के संबंधों में छाई यह बहार यों ही कायम रहे।
The one-election idea is a farce
The case for holding simultaneous elections in the diverse, federal Indian polity is weak
Praveen Chakravarty,Praveen Chakravarty is Senior Fellow at the IDFC Institute and founding trustee of IndiaSpend
n his address on National Law Day 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again sounded the bugle for simultaneous elections to Parliament and all State Assemblies, under the banner of “one nation one election”. Mr. Modi also cited four reasons: massive expenditure; diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties; impact on governance due to the model code of conduct, and disruption to normal public life. The case is weak and the reasons are a mere alibi.
The cost factor
The Election Commission incurs a total cost of roughly ₹8,000 crore to conduct all State and federal elections in a span of five years, or roughly ₹1,500 crore every year. Nearly 600 million Indians vote in India’s elections, which means, it costs ₹27 per voter per year to keep India an electoral democracy. Is this a “massive” expense? To put this in context, all the States and the Centre combined incurred an expenditure of nearly ₹30 lakh crore in FY2014. Surely, 0.05% of India’s total annual expenditure is not a large price to pay for the pride of being the world’s largest and most vibrant electoral democracy. The notion that elections are prohibitively expensive is false and misleading.
Code of conduct and polls
The model code of conduct for elections was agreed to by political parties in 1979, and prohibits the ruling party from incurring capital expenditure for certain projects after elections are announced. If India is indeed embarking on a path of “cooperative federalism” as the Prime Minister also claims, then more such projects will be undertaken by each State and not by the Centre. So, why should elections in one State hinder governance in the rest of the States? And if all political parties still feel the need to reform the code, they are free to do so. The solution is to reform the code and not the electoral cycle.
Governance paralysis due to State elections is a mere alibi. The real reason is that the two national parties are excessively dependent on their national leaders’ campaigns in State elections, as seen in Gujarat. This is certainly a drain on the Prime Minister’s time and a distraction from governance. Depending on their national leaders is the problem and the prerogative of the national parties. It is not the fault of the electoral system. In the elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, in 2016, and where the two national parties and their leaders had a minimal role, nothing stopped the Union government from continuing its governance for the rest of India. Thus it is wrong to conflate the interests of the national parties with those of the “flaws” of the electoral system.
Diversion of civil staff and disruption of public life were the two other reasons cited, but these sound more like reasons against holding elections in general. Surely, a disruption to public life twice in five years is not a binding constraint in the larger interests of interim accountability. The right of a voter to exercise her choice twice in a span of five years and hold governments accountable is much more important than just casting her vote once and having no option to express her opinion for the next five years. These two reasons are very weak when measured against the costs of limiting electoral opportunities for citizens.
My research on all simultaneous elections to State Assemblies and Parliament between 1999 and 2014 shows that simultaneous elections do have an impact on voter behaviour. These elections comprised 513 million voter choices. In 77% of these constituencies, voters chose the same political party for both State and Centre. When elections were held even six months apart, only 61% chose the same political party. When elections became disparate, there was no evidence of the voter choosing the same party. This analysis is not based on mere headline victory in a State but on vote shares and the winners in each constituency. There is clear empirical evidence that most Indian voters tend to choose the same party when elections are held simultaneously to both Centre and State, with the relationship diminishing as elections are held farther away.
Further, simultaneous elections impinge on the political autonomy of States. Today, any elected State government can choose to dissolve its Assembly and call for fresh elections. If elections are to be held simultaneously, States will have to give up this power and wait for a national election schedule. There can be legitimate reasons for State governments to dissolve their Assemblies and call for fresh elections, as should be the case in Tamil Nadu. Under a simultaneous elections regime, the State will be beholden to the Union government for elections to its State, which goes against the very grain of political autonomy under our federal structure.There is still much that is wrong with our nation in its governance and elections. But disparate elections to States and Parliament are not one of them. There is much to improve in terms of efficiency of our governance. But “oneness” is not the desired path to efficiency in a diverse polity such as India.