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NOVEMBER
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THE STIMULUS AND AFTER

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the govt has proposed recapitalisation of public sector banks. The govt has decided to inject ₹2.11 lakh crore
of capital into public sector banks.

Indicator of economic growth

 One of the most reliable leading indicators of economic growth is the growth of non-food credit.
 High growth in credit foretells healthy growth of GDP, since credit goes mostly into investment and building of
new capacity.
 India is predominantly a bank finance-led economy, so when bank lending slows down, it surely impacts future
growth.
 Bank credit growth has been at nearly a 60-year low. Even the growth of money supply is at a 55-year low. This
stark metric tells us about the growth slowdown.
 Credit offtake slowed down because of both demand and supply side factors.
o On the demand side is the fact that industry has low capacity utilisation rates (factories lie idle);
domestic industry is losing market share to low cost imports, and also by the strong currency. The
corporate sector is also deleveraging and paying off its past high debts. All this means demand from the
private sector for large-scale new credit is muted.
o On the supply side, the big constraint on fresh lending is the burden of non-performing assets (NPAs).
The NPA ratio has been deteriorating for more than six years.

Factors responsible for worsening NPAs

 The first is the disproportionate share of loans that went to infrastructure. These projects are of long gestation
and long payback period, so unsuitable for bank lending. That creates an asset liability mismatch for banks,
since the liability side is of a short-term nature. During the UPA regime, public-sector banks were under
pressure to fund the ambitious $1 trillion infrastructure vision. Normally such projects ought to be funded by
long-term bonds or developmental organisations like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank, or the
IDBI in its original avatar. But in the absence of those options of development finance, it fell to public sector
banks to provide infrastructure finance. This led to over-exposure.

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 The second reason for deterioration of loans could be the impact of key judicial decisions like abrupt
cancellations of coal mines and spectrum allocation. When the same were re-allocated through expensive
auctions, it proved to be a fatal burden on respective business models of power, steel and telecom.
 The third reason for worsening NPA ratios could be the delays caused by land acquisition and environmental
clearances.

 The fourth reason is the Asset Quality Review mandated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2015.Various
options were made available, including extending duration of loans, debt restructuring, swapping equity for
debt and so on. But it does not seem to have made any significant difference. The NPA recovery process has
since got a boost due to the new insolvency and bankruptcy law. The government too announced the
Indradhanush scheme focused on banking reforms and recapitalisation of NPA-burdened banks. However,
infusions in the past two years proved woefully inadequate as the NPA ratio continued to mount.
 The fifth reason for worsening NPA is an omnibus called “malfeasance”. This includes cosy relationships
between banker and borrower, crony capitalism, political interference in lending decisions (a legacy of the
past), a less than vigorous attempt to recover past dues, careless due diligence, etc.

Recapitalization and fiscal deficit

 The recapitalisation is a clever decision because it has been done without busting the promised fiscal deficit
target. It has been financed by the sale of recapitalisation bonds.
 Banks are currently flush with cash which was deposited after demonetisation. Much of that same cash will be
used to buy those bonds. The proceeds of the sale of these bonds will be put back into the bank as fresh equity
by the government. It’s a neat roundtrip of depositors’ cash coming back as capital. To that extent it is
taxpayers who are funding this equity injection.

Way forward

 The recapitalisation effort is useless without accompanying reforms which can prevent a recurrence. Those
reforms are mostly about governance, meaning granting genuine autonomy to banks in their functioning,
including all aspects such as lending, recovery, and recruitment decisions.
 Banks have to be accountable to shareholders, including the government, through their respective boards.
That’s the fourth crucial “R” that was part of this recap package – recognition, recapitalisation, resolution and
reform.

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Conclusion

Suffice to say that this capital infusion provides banks with the much-needed room to make fresh loans. In the coming
days of Basel-3 where much capital is needed for risk provisioning, the NPAs are a millstone which prevent fresh
lending. With this big bang recap effort, we can expect the growth pipes to be unclogged.

Relevance : GS 3

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MOVING UP

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

India has moved up the ease of doing business ranking from the 130th position last year to the 100th.

Factors that led to the improvement in the rankings

 Specific steps taken to cut red tape


 Introduction of the new insolvency and bankruptcy resolution process
 Simplifications in the payment of statutory dues such as provident fund contributions and corporate taxes
 Easier access to credit

Challenges

 Enforcement of contracts now takes longer than it did 15 years ago


 procedures to start a business or secure a construction permit remain cumbersome.
 Mumbai and Delhi cannot host the kind of large factories that India needs to generate adequate employment.
It is critical that such procedural reforms reach the hinterland and a road map be drafted for the larger
legislative changes needed in matters such as land acquisition.
 While foreign investors are important, they often take their cue from the mood of domestic businesses.

Conclusion

The ease of doing business remains a concern despite the government’s best intentions, a structured dialogue
between India Inc. and policy-makers on the irritants to investment is needed.

Relevance : GS 3

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THE WAR ON TB INDIA

Points to be noted in this article:

India has registered a slight drop in the number of new tuberculosis cases and TB deaths in 2016 compared with 2015.

What needs to be done?

With India accounting for the highest TB incidence (23%) and mortality (26%) globally, success in realising the End TB
targets hinges largely on the country strengthening its systems.

 The first step in defeating the disease and achieving the targets is to record every diagnosed patient through
case notification (that is, when a person is diagnosed with TB, it is reported to the national surveillance system,
and then on to the WHO). Though notification was made mandatory in 2012, multiple surveys and surveillance
data still show large under-reporting of detected TB cases, especially in the private sector.
 With a higher number of people with TB being tested for drug resistance, the percentage with resistance to
the drug rifampicin alone more than doubled in 2016 over the previous year. This has to be checked.

 The number of estimated multi-drug-resistant TB cases increased to 84,000. But the number of people with
MDR-TB enrolled for treatment improved only marginally between 2015 and 2016 (from 26,996 to 32,914).
This needs to be improved.
 Significant steps have to be taken to offer preventive TB treatment to a people who are HIV-positive, and
children below five years who are household contacts of people recently diagnosed with pulmonary TB.
 Domestic funding for anti-TB work has been more than that from international sources but this needs to be
augmented.
 While better funding might help India inch closer to its stated goal of ending TB by 2025, much more is needed
in terms of funding and commitment on all fronts.

Relevance : GS 2

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TRYING POLITICIANS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to frame a scheme to establish special courts exclusively to try
cases against politicians. This marks another milestone in the higher judiciary’s continuing campaign to cleanse
politics of the taint of crime.

Recent rulings of the court against tainted politicians

 In 2013, the court removed the statutory protection for convicted legislators from immediate disqualification;
 In 2014, it directed completion of trials involving elected representatives within a year.
 The court is now keen on establishing a time-bound and exclusive judicial mechanism to expedite trials
involving “political persons”. The order requires the Centre to provide details of the funding necessary to set
up special courts, and indicates that State governments be involved in the exercise.

The present political scenario

 Cases involving offences by serving or past legislators move rather gingerly in the present criminal justice
system.
 Those with political influence have taken full advantage of its inherently languid nature by delaying hearings,
obtaining repeated adjournments and filing innumerable interlocutory petitions to stall any meaningful
progress.
 A few prominent leaders have been successfully tried and sentenced, but these are exceptions rather than the
rule.
 For influential politicians, a criminal prosecution is no more than a flea bite; and, sometimes, even a badge of
victimhood that redounds to their electoral benefit.

Are special courts and ideal solution?

 Establishing special courts may not be the ideal way to expedite cases. From the viewpoint of the accused, the
idea could smack of victimisation and engender a feeling of being chosen for discriminatory treatment.

 There is already a provision for special courts to try various classes of offences. For instance, corruption,

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terrorism, sexual offences against children and drug trafficking are dealt with by special courts. However,
creating a court for a class of people such as politicians is discriminatory.
 While corruption charges against public servants are being handled by special courts, it is a moot question
whether there can be special treatment for offences under the Indian Penal Code solely because the accused is
a politician.
 It is in the public interest to expedite cases in which those in public life face serious charges. It would be
primarily in their own interest to clear their names quickly, lest their candidature be tainted.
 The earlier order for completion of trial within one year appears to have had no significant impact. Special
courts may indeed address these issues, but the ideal remedy will always be a speedy trial in regular courts.

Conclusion

If only the routine criminal process is pursued with a universal sense of urgency, and if enough courts, judges,
prosecutors and investigators are available, the expediency of special courts may not be needed at all.

Relevance : GS 2

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HOW TO BREAK INTO THE TOP 50

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

In the last three years India's Ease of Doing Business rank has jumped up from 142 to 100 a jump of 42 positions.

Why is the ranking important?

The World Bank's ranking is important as it is widely publicized and plays a significant role in positioning and branding
a nation.

How can India radically improve its ranking further?

 India is a very large country, and much of the action relating to investments has shifted to states. It is therefore
necessary that we make states easy and simple to do business in. Government has initiated competition
amongst states and union territories on defined outcomes of Ease of Doing Business.
 While we have challenged the states, we are also partnering them to radically improve their performance
before ranks are announced. This in many ways has been a unique experience of competitive federalism.
 India needs to radically improve in dealing with construction permits, enforcement of contracts, starting a
business , trading across borders, and registering property.
o In registering property the critical challenge is that records related to land are spread across many
departments, subregistrar's office, land records, banks for mortgages and courts in cases of disputes.
This means that a buyer must visit every single department separately to find the records. Therefore
reducing the search time will require massive digitisation at various offices and linking records together
using a unique ID.
o In enforcement of contracts the establishment of dedicated commercial courts at the district court
level in Delhi and Mumbai can go a long way towards reducing time taken for resolving commercial
disputes. These courts should also introduce online electronic case management systems and should
rigorously abide by the civil procedure code limit of a maximum of three adjournments per case.
o Despite important reforms in starting a business India continues to be ranked poorly because other
countries have reformed faster. India's rank can benefit from further integrating registration processes
into a single form. It also needs business process re-engineering to reduce the propensity to inspect by
switching to real time registration and a culture of risk-based verifications. This requires cutting layers
of bureaucracy .

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o In trading across borders, India has implemented far reaching reforms but private sector feedback
seems to indicate that the impact is still to be felt. We need to do extensive process re-engineering to
ensure that all approving authorities in the customs clearance process deliver seamless online
approvals and bring shipping lines on board to deliver timely online service.
o Further reforms require integration of central and state governments' NOC departments with the
municipal corporation, single windows to ensure online approvals and service delivery , using GIS to
provide transparent and conclusive information on permissions required and risk based principles to
reduce the number of inspection and approvals.
o Lastly, we need to train staff in all our departments so that they become champions of reforms and
provide correct advice to applicants.

Conclusion

India must continue to accelerate the momentum of reforms in the coming years. It has demonstrated the political
will for structural reforms and the ability to converge and integrate across departments. Providing greater vigour,
energy and dynamism to this movement will enable India to definitely break into the top 50 in the next two years.
There will be many challenges. Bureaucracy must continue to be an active agent of process re-engineering, hard
reforms must be pushed vigorously, administrative blocks eliminated and silos broken down. India's ambition must be
to become the easiest and simplest place for investors to do business in.

Relevance : GS 3

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A DUTY TO BE TOLERANT

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

It appears that there has been a rise in intolerance in our society.

Rights and duties

 The Constitution originally did not make any specific provision for duties of citizens. However, on analysis,
duties are implicit because the Constitution permits reasonable restrictions on exercise of fundamental rights
in public interest, which is on the premise that exercise of fundamental rights entails duties.
 The co-relation between rights and duties has been recognised by our ancient rishis and in our sacred texts.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that “Your duty is your right”.
 Gandhiji summed up the matter admirably: “I learned from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be
deserved and preserved come from duty well done”.
 According to Walter Lippman, the renowned American political commentator, “For every right that you
cherish you have a duty which you must fulfil”.
 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) recognises the vital link between human rights and
duties in Article 29 of the Declaration which states, “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the
free and full development of his personality is possible”.
 In 1976, a specific Chapter IV-A was incorporated in the Constitution and Article 51-A was enacted which lists
certain duties to be performed by a citizen. The basic premise underlying Article 51-A is that freedom without
acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are
balanced, freedom is enhanced and a better world order can be created.

Duties and tolerance

 One cannot effectively exercise fundamental rights nor perform fundamental duties unless tolerance is
prevalent in society.
 Tolerance enjoins a positive attitude which permits and protects not only expression of thoughts and ideas
which are accepted and are acceptable but which also accords freedom to the thought we hate.
 Tolerance is desirable, nay essential, because it recognises that there can be more than one path for the
attainment of truth and salvation.
 A tolerant society protects the right to dissent. If there is pervasive intolerance the inevitable consequence

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will be violence and that would ultimately pose a serious threat to our democracy. Intolerance has a
chilling, inhibiting effect on freedom of thought and expression.

 Development and progress in any field of human endeavour are not possible if tolerance is lacking.
o We know how Galileo suffered for his theory that the sun was the centre of our solar system and
not the earth.
o Darwin was also a victim of intolerance and was lampooned and considered as an enemy of religion
for his seminal work, The Origin of Species.
o Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s efforts for reform in the Hindu religion, especially for the abolition of Sati,
evoked virulent opposition because of menacing intolerance. We must ensure that we do not
revert to those dark days.
 In its celebrated judgment in S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram, the Supreme Court emphasised that “we must
practice tolerance to the views of others. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person
himself.”
 At present the rise of intolerance is alarming. Even a moderate expression of a different point of view is
viewed with resentment and hostility and there are vociferous demands for bans. The consequence is that
dissent is smothered and self-censorship inevitably takes place. Healthy and vigorous debate is no longer
possible. And when that happens democracy is under siege.
 Therefore it is of the utmost importance to include the practice of tolerance as a fundamental duty in Article
51-A.

Way forward

 The problem is that tolerance cannot be legislated. Hence, we must develop the capacity for tolerance by
fostering an environment of tolerance, a culture of tolerance.
 The Press and news channels have an important role to play in this. They should incessantly preach the
message that no group or body has the monopoly of truth and wisdom and we must respect the point of view
of the “other minded”.
 The Press must unequivocally condemn instances of intolerance without fear of adverse consequences. There
should be no dereliction of this duty or practice of tolerance.

Conclusion

If this duty is conscientiously performed it would result in a salutary change in our society and also bring about
understanding and harmony in relations between the peoples of our vast country. Is this utopian? Maybe. But
remember that progress is the realization of utopias.

Relevance : GS 2

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KEEP THE ARMY OUT OF IT

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

Army was asked construct railway footbridges in Mumbai.

Is this the first time that army has been used for such tasks?

This is not the first time the army has been used for such tasks.
 In 2016, the government had asked army engineers to make a pontoon bridge in the Yamuna flood plains for a
mega event of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
 In 2010, when a foot-bridge fell days before the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the army engineers came in
to erect a bridge in double-quick time.
 The army also makes pontoon bridges during the Kumbh mela, and to restore communication in inaccessible
areas after natural disasters.
 Before the 1962 war, soldiers were growing crops in vast swathes of military lands.
 Recently, the army was asked to clean the trash left behind by civilian tourists as part of the Swachh Bharat
campaign.

How is the Mumbai situation different?

 One, it is not a far-flung area where civilian agencies are unavailable. The Railways in Mumbai have the
engineering resources, technical expertise, funds and experience of constructing such a bridge. Even private
infrastructure creation agencies are available in India’s biggest megacity.
 Two, this is a permanent infrastructure while the army is employed to make bridges which are needed
temporarily, say for Kumbh.
 Three, the army comes in a public emergency where relief is needed in days, if not hours. A month had already
passed since the incident at Elphinstone Bridge.

Is the use of army for such works justified?

 A democratic government is within its rights to employ soldiers in the manner it deems fit. As the armed forces
seem to be doing nothing urgent when no fighting is on, it is tempting to employ them in other routine duties.

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 But this violates a fundamental premise of a modern military that during peace-time, it must be left free to
prepare for war. Or as the armed forces put it: The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.
 The government must also realize the institutional dangers inherent in employing soldiers in non-emergency
civilian duties. Such employment is an acknowledgement of civilian institutional failure to the larger public,
and reinforces the belief that only the army can provide an effective substitute.
 Besides forestalling a badly needed reappraisal of civilian institutions, it is a trend which holds potentially
negative consequences for the delicate balance of civil-military relations, if extended to other spheres of
governance.

Conclusion

An unthinking diversion of the armed forces for routine civilian tasks seems highly affordable but has long-term costs
for the country.

Relevance : GS 2, 3

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A QUICKER JUSTICE

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to set up special courts to try criminal cases against MPs and MLAs.

What’s special about this suggestion of the Supreme Court?

Though the apex court has suggested special courts to try lawmakers several times in the past two years, this is the
first time it has given explicit directions to constitute such courts. The court gave the Centre six weeks to put in place a
scheme to “set up courts on the lines of fast track courts”.

Why has the Supreme Court asked for special courts?

The court reasoned that the backlog of cases before the judiciary made it difficult for courts to give speedy verdicts in
cases involving politicians.

Crime and politics

 There is scarcely any doubt that the country’s political system requires an urgent clean-up.
 The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2005) had noted that the “opportunity to influence crime
investigations and to convert policemen from being potential adversaries to allies is the irresistible magnet
drawing criminals to politics.”
 The situation seems to have worsened more than a decade later. More than a third of the members of the
current Lok Sabha have criminal cases against them.
 More than 50 lawmakers in the country face charges of crimes against women.
 Candidates’ criminal reputation is often perceived as an asset in an election.
 It take years, probably decades, to complete a trial against a politician. By which time, he would have served as
a minister or legislator several times over.

Are fast track courts the right instruments for this purpose?

 More than 50 per cent of the fast track courts were not functioning.
 More than 6.5 lakh cases are pending in fast track courts in the country.

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 Without adequate infrastructure and qualified judges, many of the fast track courts are ill-equipped to deal
with such a huge volume of cases.
 Given the shortage of judges in the country, fast-tracking criminal cases against lawmakers will inevitably
mean slowing down the pace of other litigation.
 With deadlines hanging over their heads, the judges will be under pressure to process evidence without due
consideration.
 Rulings will inevitably be challenged, defeating the purpose of setting up these courts.

Conclusion

The SC should re-think its directive to the Centre — and both should find other ways to speed up proceedings in
criminal cases against politicians.

Relevance : GS 2

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FEEDING INDIA

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

India’s ranking in the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI’s) 2017 Global Hunger Index has slipped to
100 among 119 countries in the 2017 Global Hunger Index, down from 97 among the 118 countries in 2016.

Does India deserve such a poor rank?

IFPRI has been accused of being misinformed and faulty analysis. According to NSSO surveys, hunger declined from 16
per cent of the population in 1983 to an incredible 1.9 per cent in 2004-05.

What can be done to show the actual state of hunger?

There is a need to show that India is far less hungry than critics allege. This can be done in the following ways:
 One, restart measuring hunger in National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) surveys: International organisations
will find that difficult to ignore.
 Two, revise Indian calorie norms in view of widespread mechanisation and urge world bodies to follow suit.
FAO’s norms are already substantially lower than Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of
Nutrition (ICMRNIN) norms. Indian norms of 2,400 kcal per-person per-day for rural and 2,100 kcal per-person
per-day for urban areas imply a much higher incidence of undernourishment.
 Three, combat critics spinning data with counter-spin. We need to emphasise on gender equality to say it also
attacks maternal mortality and child stunting.
 Four, spin the Swachh Bharat scheme to boast that, it targets not just cleanliness but malnutrition.

What can be done to reduce hunger?

 Implement the Food Security Act’s promised cash benefit to pregnant and lactating women.
 Sanitation improvement is key, but so too are improving diets, especially for very young children.
 Access to PDS should be improved as compared to cash trasnfers as only a small portion of cash is spent on
calories.
 Access to pulses through public distribution should be increased as it has considerable impact on malnutrition.

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Conclusion

Poor nutrition affects early childhood development, learning and earning potential with life-cycle effects on national
health and economic growth. For an emerging country with one of the fastest economic growth rates, India needs to
implement its announced strategy with a focus on evidence, results and learning. That calls for a true commitment at
the level of the states and communities with a focus on improved outcomes for the poor and accountability for those
in governance, and the solutions need to go far beyond the expansion of sanitation, important as that is.

Relevance : GS 2

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THE MISSING WOMEN

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

The World Economic Forum’s just-released report — the Global Gender Gap Index, 2017 — shows that India’s poor
showing on gender equity has hit rock-bottom. It has been ranked 108 out of 144 countries, a fall of 21 places from
last year’s 87 — and its lowest since the index was developed in 2006.

The two worst indicators

The report flags two indicators as being particularly guilty.


 The first is “health and survival”, where India is in the bottom four, largely as a result of its losing battle against
a falling sex ratio at birth and the lack of access to healthcare.
 The second is “economic participation and opportunities for women”.
o Despite gains in education, women’s work participation rate stands at an abysmal 27 per cent.
o Even when women earn, they are paid 60 per cent less than men for similar work done.
o Most of the work they do is unpaid labour — at home, in the fields and in childcare.

What can be done?

 The govt needs to re-assess ongoing schemes.


 It needs to reinvest more heavily in the nutrition and health of women.

Conclusion

For a society to be gender-just, there is no substitute for a greater participation of women in the workforce — and
more women in leadership roles. Bangladesh, at the 47th spot, is an example of how political empowerment — 20 per
cent of its legislators in parliament are women, 45 per cent of women are in the workforce — has leveled the field
considerably for its women. In contrast, only 12 per cent of legislators in India are women. The time for change is
now, and it ought to start at the top — with the political class, otherwise , at this rate, it would take centuries to close
the wide gap between Indian men and women.

Relevance : GS 1, 2

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COMMONWEALTH IN THE TIME OF BREXIT

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

Prince Charles is coming to India to invite Prime Minister to attend the Commonwealth Summit in London in April
2018.

Why is the London summit important?

The London Summit of the 52-nation forum, formally called the “Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting” is
significant for many reasons.
 Charles, who has been taking considerable interest in Commonwealth affairs in recent years, is likely to take
over from Queen Elizabeth as the head of the organisation.
 As the largest country in the Commonwealth — with more than half of its population — India will have a key
role in formalising this transition.
 Britain has renewed interest in the Commonwealth amidst its impending separation from the European Union.
In wake of Britain’s messy divorce from Europe, London is making a big push to reconnect with its historic
partners in the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
 Charles has been talking up the Commonwealth. Recently, Charles declared that “the Commonwealth should,
and does, have a pivotal role” in resolving contemporary global problems like climate change, urbanisation and
sustainable development.

Why has India been cold to Commonwealth in recent times?

 After the Second World War, Britain saw the Indian connection as a critical factor in sustaining its great power
role in the international system. As the strategic trajectories of India and Britain diverged in the last few
decades and multiple irritants bedeviled the bilateral relationship, it was inevitable that the Commonwealth
would simply fall off the radar in both the capitals.
 Delhi’s lack of interest in the Commonwealth in recent decades was reinforced by the preoccupation with
managing the complex relationships with its immediate neighbours, reordering its ties with the major powers,
and becoming part of regional institutions like the Association of the South East Asian Nations in the decades
after the Cold War came to an end. Indian leadership stayed away from the last three Commonwealth summits
in Malta, Colombo and Perth for one reason or another.

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Commonwealth and the Nehru era

 This recent Indian attention to Commonwealth stands in contrast to the significance attached to the
Commonwealth by Jawaharlal Nehru and his immediate successors.
 Despite considerable opposition from the Indian National Congress and many others, Nehru decided to join
the Commonwealth.
 Nehru understood that the Commonwealth and British connection gave India a measure of flexibility in a world
engulfed by the Cold War.
 It allowed him to maintain a substantive political and economic link to the West even as he refused to become
part of its alliance system.
 Nehru’s successors, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi built on Nehru’s legacy of leveraging Commonwealth for
promoting decolonisation and countering White South Africa’s racism and apartheid.

How has the imprtance of Commonwealth increased now?

The essence of the original idea — that the Commonwealth can serve the interests of both countries — has not just
survived but has come back to the fore today.
 For a Britain that is reinventing itself politically after Brexit, the Commonwealth has become an important
forum to recalibrate London’s international relations.
 For a rising India, the Commonwealth is the most natural theatre to demonstrate its credibility as a “leading
power”.
 With a globally dispersed membership — from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and Southern Africa to East
Asia — the Commonwealth can easily reinforce India’s expanding international footprint.

Way forward

 The question today is no longer about whether India and Britain should resurrect the Commonwealth, but
how.
 Central to a new Indo-British partnership would be an equitable framework for bilateral burden-sharing, a
strong commitment to promote the collective interests of the Commonwealth members including sustainable
growth and climate change, and joint contributions to the global public good.

Conclusion

PM’s consultations with Charles this week should be the first step towards a revival of the Commonwealth at the
London summit next April.

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SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Supreme Court passed an order in relation to cases against sitting Members of Parliament (MP)
and Members of Legislative Assemblies, who have charges framed against them for serious offences specified in
Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The court said that the trial should be conducted
expeditiously, within a year..If this was not possible, the Chief Justice of the High Court should be notified. This
order is hopefully a game changer for cleaner politics in India.

Crime and politics

 It is not just a few politicians, and not just any criminal background — out of the 542 members of Lok
Sabha, 112 (21%) have themselves declared the pendency of serious criminal cases against them —
murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc. These are
the people who make laws for us.
 Those with criminal tendencies do not compartmentalise them. They also engage in corruption and infect
the bureaucracy and the police.
 If virtually every aspect of public governance is tainted — from tenders and contracts to safety of
buildings and roads to postings and transfers — lay the blame squarely on the decline and fall of political
morality.

Hurdles in way of judicial action and the way forward

People acknowledge that those with criminal backgrounds cannot govern us. Urgent judicial relief is therefore a
necessity. It is also a real possibility. Few things stand in its way.
 The argument that we will be somehow breaching the law of equality by creating special courts to try this
lot can be brushed aside; Article 14 permits classification based on criteria and nexus; MPs and MLAs
form a distinct class and their early trial is a democratic must. They thus deserve to be given priority
treatment (as they get in so many other instances).
 A shortage of judges can be overcome. The Constitution, under Article 224A, provides for the
reappointment of retired High Court Judges as ad hoc judges. There is thus a large pool of judges of
integrity and experience to choose from.
 There is a necessity of having prosecutors who are not attached to any political party. A directorate of

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prosecution, headed by a retired senior judge, who chooses prosecutors in turn vetted by the Chief
Justice of the High Court, should be able to address this aspect.

 The other danger is that the main trial will be obstructed by interim orders. Experience has shown that
political leaders are adept at finding legal counsel who file multifarious interim applications which stymie
the trial; High Courts and the Supreme Court have sometimes failed to address these expeditiously. This
needs to be avoided, and can be if Chief Justices have a superintending mission.
 One concern expressed is to find funds to create the infrastructure and staffing for the special courts. A
government which comes up with ₹2.11 lakh crore to clean up bank balance sheets should have no
difficulty in finding a fraction to clean up political criminal spread sheets. And if required, the Finance
Minister can devise a ‘Swachh Politics Bharat Bond’. It is bound to be oversubscribed, many times over,
by delighted citizens.

Relevance : GS 2, 4

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PLOTTING SOCIAL PROGRESS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The accomplishments of modern India are recognised around the world. A country that was a symbol of hunger
and poverty at the time of Independence and admonished for its Hindu rate of growth during the initial decades
has now transformed itself into one of the the fastest growing major economies.. But the potential for growth
remains strong despite some slackening.

How India lacks in quantifying social progress?

The societal reach of the economic growth still remains unquantified. There have been efforts to track individual
social outcomes such as health, education and safety by computing an Educational Development Index, health,
education and water index, human development index but that does not isolate the impact of economic growth.
A common measure to quantify the social progress of Indian States that can pinpoint the achievements and the
challenges is still missing.

How can India achieve social progress?

 The country performs better in the provision of basic human needs rather than opportunities for its
citizens. Therefore, creation of a society with equal opportunities for all still remains an elusive dream.
But it is encouraging to note that the scores for opportunity have increased over the years followed by
smaller, but important improvements in the areas of basic human needs and foundations of well-being.
 Second, all the States have climbed the social progress ladder, with the group of States that had the
worst performance in 2005 — Tripura, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Bihar
— now showing improvement. This suggests that States with a relatively low level of social progress can
improve rapidly. Similarly, in States that have achieved a threshold level of social progress, driving
improvements becomes more difficult.
 Third, the greatest improvements have been in areas where social progress most often accompanies
economic prosperity. On the other hand, areas where performance has declined or stagnated is where
the correlation with economic development is weak. For instance, “Access to Information &
Communication and Inclusion” depicts a strong relationship with per capita GDP and are the ones that
have improved the most over the years. And “Health and Wellness & Environmental Quality”, that are
least correlated with economic development, have eroded. This suggests that States should focus on
policies that target social issues. The focus on economic parameters will result in unbalanced social

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development.

Conclusion

While the economy is on the right track, there is an urgent need to identify and focus on social parameters. The
reliance on the idea that economic development will automatically transform social conditions will hamper
further improvements in social progress. Social progress needs to be stimulated by focussing on policies directly
targeting social issues.

Relevance : GS 2

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BEYOND BIG GAME HUNTING

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

India has accepted an invitation to join the Japan-proposed, U.S.-endorsed plan for a “Quadrilateral” grouping
including Australia.

Change in India’s stand and reasons for it

 To provide alternative debt financing for countries in the Indo-Pacific, India has taken a significant turn in
its policy for the subcontinent.
 It is argued that inviting other countries, into what India has always fiercely guarded as its own turf, also
makes our neighbours feel more secure. For example, India is working with the U.S. on transmission lines
in Nepal or with Japan on a liquefied natural gas pipeline in Sri Lanka.

India’s ‘forgetting the neighbours’ attitude

As a growing economy with ambitious domestic targets, India’s own needs often clash with those of its
neighbours. More connectivity will eventually mean more competition, whether it is for trade, water resources,
or energy.
 Its is alleged by India’s neighbours that India chases its neighbours to cooperate on various projects, but
once it ‘bagged the game’, it forgets about them.
 Over the past decade, since the defeat of the LTTE, India passed up offers to build the port in
Hambantota, Colombo, and Kankesanthurai, despite Sri Lanka’s pressing need for infrastructure. At the
time, given India’s crucial support in defeating the LTTE, Sri Lanka was considered “in the bag”.

India’s strategic loss in the neigbourhood due its policies

 Chinese companies stepped in Srilanka and won several projects such as Hambantota port.
 Now India is to win some projects in Srilanka such as Trincomalee port to counter China but it may be
too little, too late and a little too expensive.
 India has also been ambivalent on tackling political issues in Srilanka, often trapped between the more
interventionist approach of the U.S., which has openly championed concerns over ‘democratic values’
and human rights in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh, and the approach of China, which is to turn a
blind eye to all but business and strategic interests.

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 In Nepal, India lost out to China when it allowed a five-month-long blockade at the border, calling for a
more inclusive constitution to be implemented by Kathmandu.
 In the case of Myanmar, it lost precious ground in Bangladesh when India refused to mention the
Rohingya refugee situation during PM’s visit to Myanmar.

Probable fallouts of India’s involvement of other countries in its neighbourhood

 While the government’s new plan to involve the U.S. and Japan in development projects in South Asia will
yield the necessary finances, it will come at the cost of India’s leverage in its own backyard.
 India’s counter to China’s persistent demand for a diplomatic mission in Thimphu, for example, could be
to help the U.S. set up a parallel mission there — but once those floodgates open, they will be hard to
shut.
 In Sri Lanka, the U.S. and Japan will now partner in India’s efforts to counter China’s influence, but
whereas India objected to Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean, it will not be able to object to an
increase in U.S. naval warships and Japanese presence there.

Conclusion

The emergence of new players like the U.S., Europe and Japan has only increased multiple regional rivalries in
the region. This does partly benefit India, who is no longer isolated vis-à-vis Beijing. But New Delhi’s political
profile has consequently diminished.” India which began his pitch for his “neighbourhood first” plan by inviting
the neighbours to PM’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014, must look before he leaps while inviting other powers,
howsoever well-meaning, into the neighbourhood.

Relevance : GS 2

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SPIRIT OF PARIS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Bonn.

Objective of the Bonn conference

Bonn faces the challenge of raising the ambition of the world’s leaders, and giving practical form to the
provisions of the Paris Agreement.

The menace of climate change

 Major risks from climate change, such as extreme weather phenomena, loss of agriculture, water stress
and harm to human health, pose a threat to millions around the world.
 For some countries, such as Fiji, which holds the presidency of the Bonn conference, and other small
island-states, the future is deeply worrying because of the fear that sea levels may rise sharply due to
climate change

Hurdles in the way of Paris Agreement

 Although 169 countries have ratified the accord, and there is tremendous support for greener, low-risk
pathways to growth worldwide, the Trump administration in the U.S., one of the top emitters of
greenhouse gases (GHGs), has announced it will withdraw from the pact. Even if it will take until 2020 to
achieve an actual withdrawal, the U.S. action reverses the overall momentum achieved in Paris in 2015.
 The Agreement has a benchmark of raising $100 billion a year by 2020. The recent Emissions Gap Report
from the UN underscores the terrible mismatch between the voluntary pledges made by countries for the
Paris Agreement and what is necessary to keep a rise in global average temperature below 2º C,
preferably 1.5º C

Factors in favour of the Paris Agreement

 It is heartening that China, which has achieved rapid economic growth and leads in GHG emissions, is
firmly behind the pact to reduce the risk of climate change.
 There is steady progress in the growth of renewable energy sources as they become cheaper and the

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efficiency of solar, wind and energy storage technologies improves.

Climate change mitigation efforts and India

 India’s emissions have been rising overall, but it has committed itself to lowering the emissions intensity
of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level.
 India has been awarded among the highest levels of multilateral climate funding at $745 million since
2013.
 Securing funds for mitigation and adaptation is a high priority for India, but it must ensure that States
acquire the capacity to absorb such assistance efficiently.
 While the emphasis on a giant renewable energy programme has won global acclaim, the focus is equally
on India’s readiness to embrace green technologies across the spectrum of activity, including buildings
and transport.

Conclusion

The time is now to firm up the tasks set out in the agreement reached in Paris, notably on funds to mitigate and
adapt to climate change.All major countries, especially those that have depleted the global carbon budget by
releasing massive amounts of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution, have to respond with stronger caps in their
updated pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Relevance : GS 3

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CAPITAL CRISIS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Delhi’s air quality deteriorated to extremely hazardous levels this winter.

Factors responsible for poor air quality

 The smog that envelops the region is exacerbated by the burning of biomass in Punjab and Haryana.
o The post-monsoon — as opposed to pre-monsoon — burning of rice and wheat residue releases
maximum aerosols that contribute to the volume of PM2.5, which gets embedded in the lungs.
 The winter atmosphere is marked by weak ventilation
 Construction dust, vehicular pollution, and domestic and industrial emissions are other major factors.
 The burden of such chronic problems has outweighed the benefits conferred by measures such as the ban
on Deepavali crackers, and in the past, the shift to compressed natural gas for commercial vehicles and
restricting car use to odd and even number plates on alternate days.

What can be done ?

 A comprehensive solution demands that the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh,
assisted by the Centre, address farm residue burning and construction dust.
 Automation of farm operations leaves root-bound crop waste after machine harvesting, running to millions
of tonnes, requiring a solution of scale. Sustainable residue removal cannot be achieved by the farmers
alone, and requires help from the state machinery. Here, Delhi Chief Minister should be commended for his
initiative to discuss the modalities of joint action with the Punjab and Haryana governments.
 The national capital needs a major greening effort. Unpaved surfaces raise dust levels as in all Indian cities,
but civic agencies ignore the problem.
 Shifting more of the city’s travel to comfortable public transport can cut fine particulates in congested areas
and improve the air for residents.

Conclusion

Only a determined response to the crisis can spare Delhi of its infamous tag as one of the most polluted cities on the
planet.

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FROM FARM TO FORK

The twin problems

Many people are not eating the right food:


 For some, it’s simply a decision to stick with food they enjoy, but which isn’t too healthy. This is leading to an
increase in non-communicable diseases. This in turn leads to major burdens on our health-care systems that
have the potential to derail the economic progress that is essential for the poor to improve their lives.
 For others, it’s about limited access to nutritious foods or a lack of affordability, leading to monotonous
diets that do not provide the daily nutrients for them to develop fully.

Major factor responsible for malnutrition

Part of the reason nutrition is under threat worldwide is that our food systems are not properly responding to
nutritional needs. In other words, somewhere along that long road from farm to fork, there are serious detours
taking place.

International efforts that are being taken

 There is now a major international effort to improve global food systems and link those improvements to
better nutrition and diets. Last year, in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) and
the World Health Organisation convened an International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for
Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition.
 While these big conferences might seem somewhat distant to the realities faced by food producers, farmers,
fishers, supply chains and processors, they are placing nutrition at the centre of the debate on improving our
food systems.

What can be done?

 The vast majority of the food we eat is produced by smallholder farmers, many of whom are poor and
undernourished themselves. Improvements to food systems must be achieved in ways that benefit their
livelihood and nutritional needs.
 The Sustainable Development Goals have a target that recognises that smallholders provide a critical entry
point for building dynamic rural economies and they need to be resourced with inputs and technology and
linked to higher market value.

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 Diets are changing, but not always for the better – and that’s a big worry. Bringing together the key players
in the food system makes sense because the policymakers who can push the nutrition agenda forward need
to hear what works and what doesn’t from the people who grow our food, and from the people who
transport it, process it, market it and sell it.

Conclusion

We must all work together to equip our food systems to produce and deliver more nutritious food. Only then can
the goal of achieving zero hunger be realized.

Relevance : GS 3

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FOR A WIDER COVER

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

In 2015, India made a Bonn Challenge commitment to place into restoration 13 million hectares (Mha) of degraded
land by 2020 and an additional 8 Mha by 2030. India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have also
pledged to sequester 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent additionally by 2030 through enhanced tree cover.

How can India enhance its tree cover target?

 To achieve this, India will need to extend tree cover on at least 28-34 million hectares, outside of the existing
forest cover.
 As different States work to achieve these commitments, it appears that there is an over-reliance on
plantations. However, neither the Bonn Challenge nor the NDCs are about large-scale plantations alone.
o The Bonn Challenge, for instance, lays emphasis on landscape approaches — a model aimed at
improving the ecology of a landscape as a whole in order to benefit local livelihoods and conserve
biodiversity.
o The NDC lays emphasis not only on carbon sequestration but also adaptation to climate change
through a strengthened flow of benefits to local communities that are dependent on forests and
agriculture for sustenance. This also reflects the spirit of India’s policy framework on forests which
lays emphasis on a landscape approach to manage forest and tree cover, so that the flow of multiple
ecosystem services — including food security, climate mitigation and adaptation, conservation of
biological diversity and water supplies — is secured.
 large-scale plantation drives, which often do not lay stress on species selection, the quality of planting
materials or survival rates, nor recognise tenure and resource rights to ensure that the benefit flows to
communities, do not really achieve the goals. Plantations do have their space, but as one among a larger
suite of interventions.
 to operationalise a landscape approach, we must protect healthy forest areas from deforestation,
degradation and fragmentation.
 We must also creatively integrate trees into different land uses. India has numerous models that are suited
for different regions and farm household sizes to draw upon, and must not rely on plantation drives alone to
secure environmental and developmental outcomes.

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 The nation practises at least 35 types of agroforestry models that combine different trees that provide
timber, fruits, fodder, fuel and fertilizers with food crops. This diversifies income from farming, and
improves land productivity.
 Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) systems where farmers protect and manage the growth of
trees and shrubs that regenerate naturally in their fields from root stock or from seeds dispersed through
animal manure can also deliver several economic and ecosystem benefits. In Niger, West Africa, farmers
operating on 5 Mha of land added roughly 200 million on-farm trees using FMNR in the past 30 years. This
has sequestered 25-30 million tonnes of carbon and increased annual agricultural production by about
500,000 tonnes.
 In India, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NABARD’s) ‘Wadi’ model and the
Foundation for Ecological Security’s re-greening of village commons project are good examples of tree-
based interventions which are proving to have great value in terms of cost-effectiveness as well as the range
of benefits they deliver to communities.
 An important success factor in large-scale tree-based programmes is security of tenure and land rights. In
several parts of the world, securing tenure over forests has been established as a cost-effective way of
achieving climate sequestration.

 It is also important to have in place a performance monitoring system to quantify tree survival rates and the
benefits to communities. This can be achieved through a combination of remote sensing, crowd sourced,
ground-level monitoring with support from communities and civil society organisations.
 As we regenerate trees through different interventions, it is critical to ensure that owners have the right to
manage and use these trees.
 It is also critical to use scientific evidence-based methodology with a participatory approach to determine
the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to a certain land use. A tool called the Restoration
Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is being used in 40 countries to find the best methods for
landscape restoration. In India, this tool is being piloted in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.

Conclusion

India has the policy framework, the political will and financing to endorse landscape restoration. What we really
need now is innovation and imagination to build replicable and scalable models with a participatory approach to
achieve the country’s climate goals through landscape restoration.

Relevance : GS 3

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HOW TO FIX ACCOUNTABILITY IN SCHOOL EDUCATION?

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

For some time now, accountability has become the buzzword in school education. Everyone seems to have
suggestions about “fixing” education by holding teachers accountable for student test scores.

Questions that arise

 Are test scores the only way to assess how well education systems are performing?
 Are teachers the only ones to blame for low-performing systems?
 Is ‘blame’ itself is the right approach at all?

UNESCO’s report

 UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/18 is a comprehensive and nuanced look at the
role of accountability in global education systems in the effort to achieve the vision of the UN Sustainable
Development Goal (SDG) 4: to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, and to promote lifelong
learning.
 The report points out that providing universal quality education depends not on the performance of
teachers alone, but is the shared responsibility of several stakeholders: governments, schools, teachers,
parents, the media and civil society, international organisations, and the private sector. It does indeed take
an entire village.

Are teachers alone to blame?

 Teachers, doing a complex and difficult job against many odds, are only one rung in the complex chain that
makes up the education system. Hence it is both unfair and short-sighted to turn every discussion of the
performance of education systems into a blame game and fix responsibility only on teachers,
disproportionately, for poor test scores and absenteeism.
 Using poor test scores to punish teachers is a bad idea for many reasons, including the risk that it might
result in teachers simply teaching ‘to the test’. Teaching to the test is never a good way forward for any
education system: examination scores by themselves are an inadequate way of assessing the complex
process of teaching and learning. Not only does an exclusive focus on test scores have the risk of leaving
weaker students behind, it also leaves academically better-performing students with a narrow

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understanding of what education is all about.
 As for teacher absence, very often the reasons for this are beyond the teachers’ own control. It is unfair to
hold them responsible for factors that are not in their hands. For example, nearly half of teacher
absenteeism in Indonesia in one year was due to excused time for study, during which substitutes should
have been provided. For instance, it was found that while the overall percentage of teachers not in school
was 18.5%, most of these were either out of school on other official duty, or on bonafide leave. Actual
teacher absenteeism because of teachers’ truancy was 2.5%.

Conclusion

If the larger problem is of teacher shortages, perhaps it is time to talk of accountability with a constructive focus on
the role of each stakeholder in the education system.

Relevance : GS 2

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WHY ABBA MUST GO

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently , the death of an 11-year-old Dalit child, Santoshi Kumari, of Jharkhand, was widely reported. She had been
pleading with her mother to give her rice as she slipped into unconsciousness and lost her life. After Santoshi’s
death, more hunger deaths have been reported.

Seeding with the Aadhar

 The Central government has been insisting on 100% Aadhaar “seeding” across schemes such as the PDS,
MGNREGA and pensions.
 Seeding refers to the practice of entering Aadhaar numbers for each household member on the ration card.
It is a pre-requisite for the Aadhaar-based Biometric Authentication (ABBA) system, the practice of using an
electronic point of sale (PoS) machine to authenticate each transaction.
 The government has made seeding and the ABBA mandatory in the PDS.
 Santoshi’s family ration card was cancelled because they failed to seed it with Aadhaar.

Case against seeding and ABBA

 Some people blame the aggrieved for failing to seed Aadhaar. But many of them are unaware of the seeding
requirement.
 Seeding is not as simple as it sounds.
 At the time of purchase, the ABBA requires power supply, a functional PoS machine, mobile and Internet
connectivity, State and Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) servers to be ‘up’, and for fingerprint
authentication to be successful.
 There is enough evidence to show that the ABBA does not work.
o The latest Economic Survey reports high biometric failure rates.
o In Rajasthan, government data for the past year show that around 70% of cardholders are able to use
the system successfully. The rest have either been tripped up by one of the ABBA hurdles or, less
likely, they did not attempt to buy PDS grain.
o In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the ABBA’s poster child States, it is used to disburse MGNREGA
wages and pensions: biometric failure rates are between 8 and 14%. In some months, one in four
pensioners returns empty-handed.
 ABBA has no role in reducing corruption. Quantity fraud is the practice of cheating on quantities sold.
Neither seeding nor the ABBA can stop quantity fraud. In a survey in Jharkhand, dealers continue to swindle

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people by cutting up to a kg of their grain entitlement despite successful ABBA authentication.
 Identity fraud, for example in the form of duplicate ration cards, only requires Aadhaar-seeding; the ABBA is
unnecessary.
 Two caveats on seeding: it can be foolproof against identity fraud only in a universal system. More seriously,
it raises privacy issues.
 Further, in Aadhaar’s rulebook for example, an elderly person asking a neighbour to fetch their grain would
count as identity fraud. In fact, it is flexibility that is lost when the ABBA is made mandatory.

Conclusion

Thus, each month, people are being forced to cross five meaningless hurdles in the form of electricity, functional
PoS, connectivity, servers and fingerprint authentication in order to have access to their ration. Failing any one
hurdle even once causes anxiety in subsequent months. The ABBA must be withdrawn immediately from the PDS
and pensions in favour of alternative technologies such as smart cards. This will allow us to keep the baby (offline
PoS machines with smart cards) and throw out the bathwater (Internet dependence and biometric authentication).
If the government continues to insist on the ABBA, that may sabotage the PDS, which, quite literally, is a lifeline for
the poor.

Relevance : GS 2

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CONTOURS OF A COUNTER-BRI

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

India is being pulled into alliances to counter China’s connectivity initiatives.

Alliances India is being pulled into

 India finds itself at a crossroads of grand alliances unfolding in the Indian Ocean Region. While one axis is a
maritime one across the Indo-Pacific, the other is land-based, extending from Afghanistan into Southeast
Asia. Both are intended to act as a check on China’s growing clout.
 The U.S. has been more vocal in its desire to include Australia in the India-Japan-U.S. security cooperation in
the Indian Ocean Region, referred to as the “quad” — a quadrilateral alliance of “like-minded” countries.
Taking it a step further, Japan has called for the inclusion of France and Germany.

Countering China’s OBOR

 China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called One Belt, One Road , extends from Afghanistan on India’s
west all across the Northeast and into Myanmar and the Southeast Asian countries.
 China spent over a decade building capacities independently in its areas of interest — for instance, it built a
series of dual-use facilities across the Indian Ocean surrounding India which is popularly referred to as its
‘string of pearls’ strategy. All such efforts have now been consolidated under its grandiose idea of BRI,
bringing legitimacy to them and succeeding in getting the global community on board with offers of lucrative
investments and long-term returns
 India has been trying to build connectivity under various initiatives in its own Northeast region, in its
neighbouring countries, and further into ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
 Now the U.S. has begun investing in India’s periphery, and Japan is attempting to align its own development
initiatives to improve connectivity in the region with India’s Act East policy.
 In September, the U.S. signed a $500 million agreement with Nepal to build infrastructure for the latter’s
electricity and transportation needs and to promote “more trade linkages with partners in the region like
India.”
 Earlier, U.S. S had endorsed India’s sovereignty concerns surrounding the BRI.

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 India and Japan are also cooperating on a project for LNG (liquefied natural gas) supplies to Sri Lanka in
addition to aligning their connectivity projects in Africa under the proposed ‘Asia Africa Growth Corridor’.
The broad mechanism is akin to China’s own build-up of the BRI initiative.

Time for caution

 While cooperative mechanisms are crucial to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean Region, it would be
prudent on India’s part to do a cost-benefit analysis of building such grand alliances in such uncertain times,
especially on the role of the U.S.
 One of the agreements reached between US and China was China’s Silk Road Fund, under the People’s Bank
of China, to promote the Belt and Road international trade initiative. This shows the dichotomy in American
policy, and India should exercise caution before jumping on to the bandwagon.
 It must await policy clarity from the U.S. both on Afghanistan and beyond.
 On the other hand, Russia has asked India to join its International North-South Transport Corridor, arguing
that it would be a gateway for India to connect with Central Asia through Chabahar port in Iran and via
Afghanistan.

Conclusion

While India has objections to the BRI, it wouldn’t be ideal to bracket the country in a counter camp, but rather it
should balance its outreach in accordance to national interests and its own terms. After all, the very countries which
are pushing India into alliances are deeply intertwined with China in terms of trade. Excessive dependence on
multilateral frameworks to fulfil national objectives may seem lucrative in the short term but could prove to be a
costly mistake in the long term and comprise Indian sovereignty.

Relevance : GS 2

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LOAN WAIVER IS NOT THE SOLUTION

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Loan waivers provide instant temporary relief from debt but largely fail to contribute to farmers’ welfare in the long
run.

Institutional Vs non-institutional credit

 48% of agricultural households do not avail a loan from any source. Among the borrowing households, 36%
take credit from informal sources, especially from moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest in
the 25%-70% range per annum.
 While 63.4% of agricultural investments are done through institutional credit, landless, marginal and small
farmers’ investment demand is met through informal sources to the tune of 40.6%, 52.1%, and 30.8%,
respectively.
 Compared to non-institutional borrowers, institutional borrowers earn a much higher return from farming.
 Similarly, access to institutional credit is associated with higher per capita monthly consumption
expenditures.
 A negative relationship between the size of farm and per capita consumption expenditure (a proxy for
income) further underscores the importance of formal credit in assisting marginal and poor farm households
in reducing poverty.
 Access to formal institutional credit also tends to enhance farmers’ risk-bearing ability and may induce them
to take up risky ventures and investments that could yield higher incomes.

Government efforts towards loans to farmers

 Since Independence, one of the primary objectives of India’s agricultural policy has been to improve farmers’
access to institutional credit and reduce their dependence on informal credit.
 As informal sources of credit are mostly usurious, the government has improved the flow of adequate credit
through the nationalisation of commercial banks, and the establishment of Regional Rural Banks and the
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
 It has also launched various farm credit programmes over the years such as the Kisan Credit Card scheme in
1998, the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme in 2008, the Interest Subvention Scheme in
2010-11, and the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana in 2014.

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 Actual credit flow has considerably exceeded the target. The result is that the share of institutional credit to
agricultural gross domestic product has increased from 10% in 1999-2000 to nearly 41% in 2015-16.

The debate on loan waiver

There is a serious debate on whether providing loans to farmers at a subsidised rate of interest or their waiver
would accelerate farmers’ welfare. A major proportion of farmers remain outside the ambit of a policy of a
subsidised rate of interest, and, for that matter, of loan waiver schemes announced by respective State
governments. In other words, this sop provides relief to the relatively better off and lesser-in-number medium and
large farmers without having much impact on their income and consumption.

What can be done?

 The credit market needs to be expanded to include agricultural labourers, marginal and small land holders. It
is, therefore, important to revisit the credit policy with a focus on the outreach of banks and financial
inclusion.
 The government along with the farmers’ lobby should desist from clamouring for loan waivers as it provides
instant temporary relief from debt but largely fails to contribute to farmers’ welfare in the long run.
 Farmers’ loan requirement is for non-agricultural purposes as well, and often goes up at the time of calamity
when the state offers minimal help.If governments are seriously willing to compensate farmers, they must
direct sincere efforts to protect them from incessant natural disasters and price volatility through crop
insurance and better marketing systems.
 It should be understood that writing off loans would not only put pressure on already constrained fiscal
resources but also bring in the challenge of identifying eligible beneficiaries and distributing the amount.
 There is a need of accelerating investments in agriculture research and technology, irrigation and rural
energy, with a concerted focus in the less developed eastern and rain-fed States for faster increase in crop
productivity and rural poverty reduction.

Conclusion

Additional capital requirements estimated for 20 Indian States are ₹2.55 lakh crore by 2022-23.. A diversion of
money towards debt relief, which is in fact unproductive, will adversely impinge on state finances, may dissuade
lending by the banks, and hence prove counterproductive to the government’s broader mandate of doubling
farmers’ income by 2022-23.

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ON MATERNITY BENEFITS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, which were introduced this year, in particular the provision of 26
weeks of paid maternity leave and the mandatory crèche facility, are path-breaking, but there are concerns over
their feasibility.

Why the amendments have been introduced?

The amendments seek to improve infant mortality rate (34 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rate (167
per 100,000 live births.

How maternity benefits are crucial?

 The state and society have much to gain from ensuring effective implementation of maternity benefits. For
example, one of the key goals of any maternity benefit policy is to facilitate breastfeeding by working
mothers.
 Studies have shown that health benefits that accrue to both the mother and her child by breastfeeding are
more than matched by economic returns at family, enterprise and national levels.
 A report released by by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, has termed breastfeeding the “best
investment in global health” generating $35 in global return for every dollar invested.
 India spends an abysmal $0.15 (less than ₹10) per child to ensure that it meets the breastfeeding guidelines.
Hence, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy, or 0.70% of its Gross National Income,
due to a high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and Type II
diabetes, directly attributable to inadequate breastfeeding.

Why concerns arise about feasibility of the recent amendments?

 The Labour Ministry has placed the financial burden of implementing these measures squarely on the
employers; which makes the implementation of the amendments difficult.
 The measures introduced, particularly the crèche facility, are cost-intensive and may deter employers from
hiring or retaining pregnant women.

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 In fact, the Standing Committee on Labour in 2007 had suggested that. However, no government has shown
the will to change this status quo even though

What can be done?

 Employers should not be solely liable for the cost of maternity benefits for this reason. Maternity benefits
should be provided either through compulsory social insurance or public funds.
 The government should create a corpus fund to partially sponsor the costs to be incurred by the employer to
provide maternity benefits.
 Employers should be enabled to seek reimbursement of the expenses incurred by them in this respect.
 The government must find innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure that working women are not forced
to discontinue breastfeeding.
 A simple method is to express breast milk and store it to be given to their children while they are away. The
only provision that needs to be provided by employers to facilitate this would be a clean and private
pumping room.

Conclusion

It is time for the government to shoulder the financial responsibility of providing maternity benefits. This could be
implemented by.

Relevance : GS 1, 2

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WARM, WARMER

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn shifts into high gear, developing
countries including India are focussing on the imperatives of ensuring adequate financing for mitigation and
adaptation.

India’s efforts towards mitigation

 India’s progress in reducing the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 20-25% from
2005 levels by 2020, based on the commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009, has been positive.
 It is on track to achieve the national pledge under the 2015 Paris Agreement for a 33-35% cut in emissions
intensity per unit of growth from the same base year by 2030, and thus heed the 2°C warming goal. There is
a parallel target for 40% share of renewable energy by that year.
 The country has chalked out an ambitious policy on renewable energy, hoping to generate 175 gigawatts of
power from green sources by 2022. This has to be resolutely pursued, breaking down the barriers to wider
adoption of rooftop solar energy at every level and implementing net metering systems for all categories of
consumers.
 At the Bonn conference, a new Transport Decarbonisation Alliance has been declared. It is aimed at
achieving a shift to sustainable fuels, getting cities to commit to eco-friendly mobility and delivering more
walkable communities, all of which will improve the quality of urban life. This presents a good template for
India, building on its existing plans to introduce electric mobility through buses first, and cars by 2030. Such
measures will have a beneficial effect not just on transport choices, but on public health through pollution
abatement. A national law to raise the efficiency of transport could well be the answer, which the States will
readily adopt if supportive financial arrangements are built in.

 There is some worry that an increase in coal, oil and gas production could negate some of the gains made.

Conclusion

The rich countries must give up their rigid approach towards the demands of low and middle income countries, and
come to an early resolution on the question of financing of mitigation, adaptation and compensation. Of course,
The climate question presents a leapfrog era for India’s development paradigm.

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A REDISCOVERY OF NON-ALIGNMENT

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Four nations — India, US, Japan and Australia —are to form a quad.

Significance of the quad

 India has joined so many mini-lateral forums since the end of the Cold War, still ‘quad’ is gaining so much
attention because US is a part of the quad.
 The quad comes amidst the growing Chinese unilateralism in Asia. India did much the same when it sought
to hedge against America’s unipolar moment by forming a political triad with Russia and China that later
became the BRICS to include Brazil and South Africa. If the explicit purpose of the triad was to promote a
“multipolar world”, the quad has the big task of preventing the emergence of a “unipolar Asia” dominated
by China.

Quad and the non-alignment

 India’s founding fathers did not define non-alignment as “anti-Americanism”. That distortion was a
product of the 1970s. As US-India relations deteriorated and domestic politics drifted towards left-wing
populism, a new dogma emerged. It decreed that working with Soviet Russia was “progressive” and
cooperation with America meant “surrendering national sovereignty”. In utter perversity, “non-alignment”
was interpreted as “aligning” with Soviet Russia.
 This system began to slowly unravel after the Cold War ended. In the new era, conflict among the major
powers ebbed. India opened up its economy to globalisation and Western capital and technology.
Restoration of cooperation with America became central to the recalibration of India’s foreign policy since
the 1990s. If America has become more empathetic since then to India’s concerns on terrorism, Kashmir
and global nuclear order, a rising China has turned hostile. To make matters worse, tensions on the
disputed Sino-Indian border have become more frequent and intense. Moscow, which once helped India
balance China, is now in a tight embrace with Beijing.
 Discarding the ambiguities inherited from the 1970s, Delhi now appears ready to expand cooperation with
the West or East on the basis of enlightened self-interest. If the quad helps India improve its ability to
defeat terrorism, improve regional connectivity and extend its naval reach, Delhi is not going to thumb its
nose. If China is ready to cooperate on terrorism and stop blocking India’s rise, Delhi will be happy explore

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the multiple possibilities with Beijing.

Conclusion

The original conception of non-alignment was about building strong ties with all the major powers and making
independent judgements about international affairs. In what was described as “suckling from two cows”, Delhi
benefited immensely from simultaneous cooperation with Washington and Moscow in the 1950s and 1960s. The
proposition that India must tilt to one side, towards Russia and China, and keep distance from America is a legacy
from the 1970s. It does not square with contemporary reality. This is indeed non-alignment that India is pursuing
now by agreeing to a quad.
Relevance : GS 1, 2

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MONEY CAN’T ALWAYS BUY VOTES

Points to be noted in this article :

Why has this issue cropped up?

There is a widely held belief that voters in India, especially the poor, sell their votes in exchange for cash,
liquor, saris, and many other such goodies.

Does money really buy votes?

It is indeed true that a candidate with greater resources has a higher probability of winning elections in India.
This is true in many other parts of the world. However, cash flows during elections not to buy votes but
rather to support a campaign for a number of reasons:

 Parties have weak organisations at the local level and face heavy institutional constraints. Most parties
do not have enough committed volunteers to mobilise votes. Money acts as a substitute for the
organisation as cash is used to engage vote mobilisers or local individuals who will seek votes for a
party and/or candidate.
 Institutional constraints also make money extremely critical. The Election Commission (EC) allows only
14 days of official campaigning, which ends 48 hours before the scheduled close of polling. The fact
that parties do not finalise their nominations for most constituencies until the very end puts pressure
on candidates to mobilise votes as quickly as possible. Thus , candidates spend huge sums of money
on cash, liquor and gifts.
 Money signals resources and power, or access to powerful networks. It allows candidates to mobilise
supporters who in turn can pull a crowd together. The role of money as a symbol of power is especially
important in a hierarchical society such as India.
 In many parts of the country, the display of money during elections is socially approved in certain
ways, is a political necessity, and is born of cultural expectations. Voters ask themselves whether
someone who has no clout — monetary, political, or familial — can work the levers of administration
for them. In most cases, the answer is no. Witness how many independent candidates lose elections in
India, and even when they win, it is because of attributes like family legacy, money, and muscle power.

Way forward

 Campaign finance reforms should begin by increasing the number of constituencies and the duration
of the official campaign period.
 Smaller constituencies with longer campaigning period are more likely to curb the negative influence
of money in politics in comparison to putting a cap on the expenditure limit.

Conclusion

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Cash and goodies do get distributed during elections, but their influence on vote choice is marginal.
Competitive populism in Indian politics has led to the development of a system in which politicians and parties
are forced to put money and goods into the pot before they could play a hand. And this is amplified by weak
party organisations, limited campaigning periods and the humongous size of constituencies.

Relevance : GS 2

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THE ASEAN OUTREACH

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, Philippines has been the centre of attraction with Manila hosting the ASEAN-India and East Asia
summits as well as special celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of ASEAN. Prime Minister Narendra
Modi joined these meetings, underscoring India’s commitment to deepening ties with the ASEAN member
states and the wider Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East’ policy.

ASEAN : The centre of global politics

 The Indo-Pacific region is now central to global politics and economics and recent days have merely
reinforced the trends that have been emerging for some time.
 China has managed to emerge as a beacon of open and free global trade order. This has resulted in
the regional powers taking it upon themselves to shape the regional economic and security order.
 On the one hand, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being resurrected without the U.S., and on the
other, the idea of an Indo-Pacific quadrilateral involving Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. is back.

India and the ASEAN

 India's relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of its foreign policy. India is pursuing Act East Policy in
this context.
 China is the most important player in the region. This makes it very significant for India that have a
stake in the long-term stability of the region.
 As China’s profile grows, and the U.S. continues to be unsure of its security commitments, there is a
new opportunity for India in the Indo-Pacific region.
 Unlike in the past, New Delhi is no longer diffident about engaging with other regional players if it
helps to further Indian interests in maintaining a stable balance of power in region.
 The ASEAN members and India together consist one of the largest economic regions with a total
population of about 1.8 billion.
 ASEAN is currently India’s fourth largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade.
India is ASEAN’s seventh largest trading partner.
 India’s service-oriented economy perfectly complements the manufacturing-based economies of
ASEAN countries.
 In a symbolic move, all 10 ASEAN heads of state have been invited to be guests of honour for next
year’s Republic Day function.

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Way forward

There is considerable scope for further growth:


 Formidable security challenges remain, and the two sides must think strategically to increase
cooperation for a favourable balance of power that would ensure regional stability.
 India needs to do a more convincing job as a beneficial strategic partner of ASEAN by boosting its
domestic economic reforms agenda, enhancing connectivity within the region, and increasing its
presence in regional institutions.
 The ASEAN nations should be clearer and more specific in their expectations from New Delhi and
nudge India for a deeper, more broad-based engagement. There is much at stake for both side.

Relevance : GS 2

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OVERREACH

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Tamil Nadu Governor had a meeting with officials in Coimbatore without any Minister present.

Is such a meeting democratic?

 Tamil Nadu Governor’s meetings with officials have no place in a parliamentary democracy.
 It is an act of constitutional impropriety for the Governor of a State to review the work of government
officials when an elected regime is in place.
 By holding meetings to review programmes, the Tamil Nadu Governor has breached the constitutional
limits of his office.
 Article 167 of the Constitution says it is the Chief Minister’s duty to communicate to the Governor all
decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration and proposals for legislation. It
enjoins the Chief Minister to furnish such information relating to the administration as the Governor
may call for.
 If the Governor wants to understand how schemes are being implemented, he can seek details from
the Chief Minister instead of holding meetings in the districts.
 There may be occasions when the Governor may need to ask a top bureaucrat or the head of the
police force for a report on a major incident or development, but even that should be for the limited
purpose of getting an accurate picture before sending a report to the Centre.

Conclusion
The Governor should refrain from taking an independent view of any matter or legislative proposal. His
functioning should be within the bounds of established norms and conventions.

Relevance : GS 2

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NEW RIPPLES IN THE OCEANS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Amidst all the excitement and anxiety about the Indo-Pacific quad — which brings together India, United
States, Japan and Australia —the significant prospects for Delhi’s bilateral maritime security cooperation with
Paris in the Indian Ocean should not be missed.

Should France join the ‘quad’?

 The debate on “getting France to join the quad” entirely misses the point about the nature of the new
grouping. The quad is a flexible mechanism to coordinate the approaches of like-minded states to
promote their shared political objectives in the Indo-Pacific.
 It is a work in progress and will take time to achieve institutional heft and make a real impact. When
this quad is eventually up and running, there will certainly be room for its expansion. Until we get
there, there is much that India needs to do in elevating its bilateral security cooperation with the
members of the quad as well as other partners in the Indo-Pacific. France is at the top of that list.
 France has territories in the Western Indian Ocean and South Pacific and has been a maritime power in
the region for nearly four centuries. Paris has military bases in the Indian Ocean. It has the lead role in
the Indian Ocean Commission that brings together the island states of Mauritius, Seychelles,
Madagascar, Comoros and the French territory of Reunion.
 As a member of the NATO, France does not need the latest quad to do things with America.
 As it seeks to reclaim some of its historic role in the east, France is already stepping up its security
cooperation in the Pacific. It has two quads of its own in the region.
 Paris also has a trilateral arrangement with Australia and New Zealand (FRANZ) to provide disaster
relief to the island states of the Pacific.

India - France relation

 Looking beyond the traditional areas of high-technology and defence cooperation, and the more
recent focus on global mitigation of climate change, Delhi and Paris appear ready to lend a strong
regional dimension to their strategic partnership.
 A series of recent high-level consultations between India and France have focused on finding ways for
India and France to work together, especially in the Western Indian Ocean.
 The missing link has been the inadequate political and security cooperation between Delhi and Paris.
This limitation stands in contrast to the general affinity between the French and Indian quest for
different degrees of strategic autonomy during the Cold war.
o France was among the first to propose raising a coalition of middle powers to promote a multipolar

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world in the mid-1990s to limit the dominance of what the French called the American “hyper
power” after the Cold War.
o Paris also was the first to argue that ending the atomic blockade against India and integrating Delhi
into the global nuclear order were important objectives. If this demanded a revision of the non-
proliferation system centred on the NPT, then so be it, France said. This idea was taken forward by
the US President George W. Bush in the historic civil nuclear initiative with India.

 One can recall two earlier efforts — in the early 1980s by President Francois Mitterrand and in the late
1990s under Jacques Chirac — to transform the partnership with India. But the lack of consistent
purpose in Delhi led to limited results from the two earlier efforts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
however, appears determined to realise the full potential of the partnership with France.
 The case for a bold re-imagination of the India-France partnership has never been more urgent than it
is today. The rise of China, the renewed tensions between Russia and Europe, the uncertainty in the
US political trajectory, and the loosening of the old alliances demand more leadership from middle
powers like India and France.

 Nowhere are the possibilities greater than in the maritime domain. An intensive dialogue with the
French on maritime issues under the Narendra Modi government over the last three years has created
the basis for sharing intelligence and military facilities, promoting inter-operability between their
navies, and the future conduct of joint operations.
 Once progress is made in the Western Indian Ocean, France could also help boost India’s strategic
footprint in the South Pacific. Although India and France have long shared the Indian Ocean maritime
neighbourhood, they have not put it at the heart of their partnership until now.
 The new regional framing will help develop the much needed depth to the India-France strategic
partnership through maritime burden-sharing and reinforcement of each other’s positions in the Indo-
Pacific.

Conclusion

If India discards its military isolationism, develops productive defence diplomacy, and embarks upon deeper
security cooperation with its partners through bilateral, minilateral and multilateral mechanisms, the “quad
talk” might generate a lot less heat than it does today.

Relevance: GS 2

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FARM POLICIES FOR INDIA

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Farmers from across the country are out on Delhi’s streets agitating just as the deliberations for the 2018
budget are beginning and it’s time to seek solutions to the structural issues that plague the system.

Flaws in government’s farm policy

 The “one-size-fits-all” policy created for the farm sector is self-destructive in design.The Pradhan
Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) is a classic case where the best intentions were muddled.
o The PMFBY is designed to provide crop insurance and the Central government shares part of the
premium subject to conditions.
o To receive the Central government’s share, the state has to walk the dotted line; whether the
region is rain-fed or irrigated; whether the cropping density is less than 100 per cent or upwards of
200 per cent.
 An incentive of Rs 75 lakh per mandi is given by the Centre to the states for linking each market with E-
NAM, the electronic platform for trading commodities. Much of the recorded turnover is, in fact, a
sham. States like Haryana log in all FCI purchases as E-NAM transactions.

 As per the Constitution of India, trade negotiations are under the purview of the Centre, even though
agriculture is in the domain of the states. That is precisely the reason that every time food prices rise,
the Centre intervenes to rein in inflation by facilitating the unhindered import of agricultural
commodities. This constantly drives down farm-gate prices. But when prices fall, the Central
government remains apathetic.
 When different states announced farm loan waivers, banks were asked to provide farm loan data.
Scrutiny of the data revealed the horrifying fact that public and private sector banks have
indiscriminately given loans of over Rs one lakh crore to gullible farmers based on their asset value
rather than economic viability. In the frantic quest to meet their own priority-sector lending targets,
they have given these loans beyond the farmers’ scale of finance or actual value of crop sold each year
by individual farmers.
 Fund utilisation is not as desired in the states, where policy is influenced by the whims of individual
short-sighted policy-makers.

Way forward

 The Central government shouldn’t negotiate international trade treaties on agriculture commodities
without the consent (which differs from “consultation”) of state governments .
 States should demand that the Centre set a floor price for all such farm produce, where only the

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Central government shells out the shortfall between the market price and floor price via a “Price
Deficiency Payment”.
 At present, farmers and states are penalised for the fallout of a policy not sanctioned by them and
have to share the cost.
 To prepare Indian farmers for global assimilation, funding for programmes such as the Rashtriya Krishi
Vikas Yojna and the sub-mission on agriculture mechanisation should be doubled and the funding ratio
should be changed from 60:40 to 80:20, where the Central government’s contribution rises to 80 per
cent.

 For farmers to prosper, hundreds of changes are required but, more importantly, a devaluation of the
Indian rupee is essential.
 Even how funds devolve to the states in a federal structure has to be looked at afresh by the 15th
Finance Commission.

 Each state needs to be nudged and funded to create a data bank and adopt a blockchain process for
government decision-making. Big data analytics will usher in improved governance and transparency.
 Simply allowing each state to design its own crop insurance scheme and yet receiving the Central
government share of the premium would yield the desired results.
 Rather than forcing E-NAM on states, incentivising each state to have the electronic platform which
meets the basic criteria of interoperability with other states is the correct path.

Conclusion

In the recently concluded “World Food Day” extravaganza of the food processing ministry, investments for
over Rs one lakh crore were signed. The only lasting impression, however, was the Guinness World Record for
cooking 918 kg of khichdi at the event. Sadly, the “mega food park” policy, like the “farm policy”, has been
botched. It’s time to end the policy khichdi by merging the ministry of food processing with the ministry of
agriculture and farmer welfare to create synergy.

Relevance : GS 3

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OPENING THE DOOR

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this cropped up?

Justice Dalveer Bhandari, who has been at the ICJ from 2012, won a place in the 15-judge court after Britain
withdrew its nominee.

How the election process took place?

 The ICJ election was for five seats. To win, a candidate must secure majorities in both the Security
Council and UNGA
 Bhandari was the Asia nominee who defeated the candidate put up by Lebanon in the early rounds.
 In the normal course, Bhandari and the British candidate, Christopher Greenwood, would not have
been competing for the same seat.
 But the two were locked in an unusual run-off for the last vacant seat after each one failed to win
enough votes — Bhandari in the Security Council, and Greenwood in the United Nations General
Assembly (UNGA). Their run-off, too, was deadlocked over several rounds of voting for the same
reason.

Significance of Bhandari’s win

 The election of Justice Dalveer Bhandari to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is a victory crafted by
India for all non-P 5 members of the United Nations, and a symbolic moment in the years of discussion
on United Nations Security Council reform.
 This was the first time that a P-5 candidate could not get enough votes in the UNGA, and the first time
a P-5 country will not be represented in the ICJ, a privilege taken for granted until now.
 It is a clear indictment of the closed club of the Security Council, and its accumulated failures to ensure
peace.
 It shows that India pushed the right diplomatic buttons, lobbying hard for Bhandari among UNGA
members at each round of voting, what could well go down as a turning point at the UN.

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Conclusion

However, it should be clear that the Indian victory in no way means that India has planted its flag at the ICJ. As
a member of the court, Bhandari does not serve India’s interests but those of international law. The
expectation that having an Indian representative at the ICJ will help India in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case with
Pakistan, is misguided. Under ICJ rules, if the bench in a case includes a judge who is a national of one of the
parties, the other may nominate an ad hoc judge to the bench.

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SMART-BALANCING CHINA

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The recent revival of the ‘Quadrilateral’ (or Quad) and the consequent talk of an ‘Asian NATO’ have brought
the India-China rivalry back to the limelight.

China’s growing clout

 If it utilises the power vacuum left by the US, China’s superpower ambitions are bound to have a
system-shaping impact on the Asian region. There will be China-led alliances, Chinese client states and
the establishment of Chinese spheres of influence.
 The alleged China connection to the recent ‘regime change’ in Zimbabwe is perhaps a harbinger of
things to come. Moreover, it would ensure that its access to overseas resources/markets and the
oceanic trade routes are unhindered. In doing so, it is increasingly seeking to build military facilities
overseas and offset the U.S.-led coalition in the region.

India’s concerns :

India’s concern is how to deal with a rising superpower next door with whom its has had a historical rivalry
and whose brazen inroads into its traditional sphere of influence, but whose trading relationship is important
to you?

There are several sources of increasing Sinophobia in India.


 For one, Chinese revisionist claims in the land and oceanic space have been a major source of concern.
o Beijing’s deployment of naval assets to enforce its claims across the South China Sea,
o construction of artificial islands in the region, and
o the rejection of a UN tribunal judgment on a complaint filed by the Philippines, last year have
only strengthened this feeling.
o China has also been increasing its naval presence, including dispatching its nuclear submarines
on patrol, in the Indian Ocean.
It is in this broader context that China’s revisionist statements on Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are
worryingly viewed in New Delhi.
 Second, along with military assertion, Beijing has also been stepping up its political and economic
footprint in the region, dismissing New Delhi’s protests.

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 Third, and perhaps most importantly, what worries New Delhi is the ever-strengthening China-Pakistan
military alliance and its implications for the country: the insecurity stemming from a so-called
‘nutcracker’ situation.

What should be India’s response:

 In this big picture of Chinese grand strategy, New Delhi, seen increasingly aligned with the U.S., is a
spoiler. Denying India entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, repeatedly blocking UN sanctions
against Pakistan-based terrorists, and ignoring India’s sensitivity over the China-Pakistan Economic
Corridor are outcomes of this vision

 The current Indian strategies to ‘checkmate’ China seem more zero-sum and less efficient.
 New Delhi has chosen to adopt an unequivocal U.S.-centric strategy to deal with Beijing, most recently
the Quad. There are several problems with this approach:
o the U.S. is a quickly-receding extra-regional power whose long-term commitment to the region
is increasingly indeterminate and unsure;
o U.S.-China relations are far more complex than we generally assume;
o and Australia is caught between the U.S. and China.
o while India may have shed its traditional reticence about a strategic partnership with the U.S.,
it would still not be what Japan is to the U.S., nor should it.
 The second broad policy direction seems to be to compete with China for regional influence in South
Asia. Let’s be realistic: trying to match the powerful yuan, backed by vigorous political support from
Beijing, with our humble rupee is a losing battle.

 Military preparedness to offset any potential Chinese aggression is something that India can and
should invest in. But again, Chinese military aggression has really not been India’s central concern, but
a China-dominated region in which India is hemmed in and forced to play second fiddle. Military
preparedness, in which we will inevitably lag behind China, alone cannot address such a concern.
 Some have suggested that India should use its $70 billion-strong trading relationship with China as a
bargaining chip to check Chinese behaviour. However, doing so would hurt both sides. While it is true
that India-China bilateral trade is heavily skewed in favour of China, let’s not forget that China’s
exports to India comprise under 3% of its total exports (and India’s exports to China is 3.6% of its total
exports). Boycotting Chinese goods would also mean Indian consumers paying more to get them from
elsewhere. Clearly then, trade as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis China is just a popular urban myth.

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 So what then are our options? New Delhi would be better served by adopting a more nuanced
balancing strategy, a strategy of ‘smart-balancing’, towards Beijing, one that involves deep
engagements and carefully calibrated balancing, at the same time. A possible road map Let’s examine
some elements of such a strategy.
o First of all, it would involve co-binding China in a bilateral/regional security complex: that is,
view China as part of the solution to the region’s challenges (including terrorism, climate
change, piracy, infrastructural/developmental needs) than as part of the problem, or the
problem itself. Some efforts in this direction are already under way such as India-China joint
anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden. The two countries could consider initiating regular,
structured consultations in this regard. A mutual ‘complex interdependence’ in economic,
security and other domains should be strengthened and front-loaded over zero-sum
competition. This security cooperation should most certainly be enhanced in the Indo-Pacific
where India should, even while being part of the Quad, talk of cooperating with China.
Language is important: talk about security community and joint efforts than containing China.

o Second, India should cooperate with and trust China while at the same time keeping its (gun)
power dry, for after all, in the anarchic international system that we inhabit, the role of military
strength in guaranteeing national security cannot be underestimated.
o Third, New Delhi’s response to Beijing’s refusal to act against Pakistan-based terrorists needn’t
be strait-laced. However, while Beijing is unlikely to make Islamabad politically uncomfortable
by public terror-shaming, the more China gets involved in Pakistan, the less it can afford to
ignore terrorism within Pakistan. Around 30,000 Chinese nationals currently reside in Pakistan
(and over 71,000 Chinese nationals visited Pakistan last year) and these numbers will only
increase over time which will perforce motivate Beijing to ‘work with’ Islamabad on the terror
question. That is precisely where New Delhi should use its diplomatic skills to make an impact.

Conclusion

India urgently needs to develop a clear vision for a stable regional security order and work out what role India
would like China to play in that vision and how it can nudge China towards that. Keeping China out of the
regional security order is not realistic, letting China dominate it is not desirable: smart-balancing China within
such an order is indeed the optimal strategy.

Relevance : GS 2

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LOCKED OUT, WITHOUT A GI TAG

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The existing law for Geographical Indications leans too heavily on documentary proof .

Understanding GI:

 The law of Geographical Indications (GIs) is linked to the terroir, that is the quality of a product is
essentially attributable to the territory where the product originates from.
 GIs support local production and are an important economic tool for the uplift of rural and tribal
communities.
 Unlike other Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) which guarantee the protection of individual interest,
GI is a collective right.
 If their products qualify, producers can use the collective GI mark while commercially exploiting their
products.

Indian GI Act

India implemented a legislation on GI in 1999, a prime reason being its obligation to have a law on GI as a
member of the World Trade Organisation-Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WTO-TRIPS).

Shortcomings in Indian Act

 TRIPS only provides a minimum standard of protection. Nowhere is there an insistence on a particular
framework for protection of GI.
 Against this backdrop, proof of origin is a mandatory criterion for registering GIs in India.
 What is cause for concern is not proof of origin as a criteria to register GI, but the focus on historic
proof in the form of documentary evidence (such as gazetteers, published documents, news articles,
advertisement materials).
 Documentary evidence as proof of origin may be a foolproof mechanism to ensure the link between
the product and territory, but in a country such as India where there are regions like the Northeast
where oral history has had far wider convention over written history, this provision will prove to be a
formidable hurdle.
 For instance, Assam has been exploring its natural, agricultural and traditional products as potential GI

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material. One such example is a traditional rice wine called ‘Judima.’ The State government has been
tracking academic discourse on the subject with the intent of exploring possibilities in registering it.
But a stumbling block has been the difficulty in gathering documentary evidence as proof of origin. It is
the same case with many other products from the Northeast.
 For most products, especially those of tribal communities, this is bound to be a recurrent problem.
 A few years ago, India faced difficulties in a patent case involving turmeric when two scientists of the
University of Mississippi Medical Centre, were granted the U.S. patent for the use of turmeric in
wound healing. India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which opposed this, was
asked by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to submit documentary evidence of usage of turmeric
for healing purposes in India in order to revoke the patent. On finding the existing documentary
evidence insufficient, CSIR was compelled to launch a project of translating ancient Sanskrit texts
which were later produced as evidence, and accepted.

Conclusion

So, what happens in cases swhere a written history is rare? Do the products of the region then not stand a
chance under the GI law? The GI authorities should amend the existing provision.

Relevance : GS 3

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A TOOLKIT TO THINK LOCAL

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue croped up?

Recenty, the findings of India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative has been released. A team of over 250
scientists and others from around 100 institutions who are part of the India State-Level Disease Burden
Initiative has analysed and described the health trends for every State from 1990 to 2016. The estimates
were produced as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.

How is this initiative signficant?

 Till now, a comprehensive assessment of the diseases causing the most premature deaths and ill
health in each State, the risk factors responsible for this burden and their time trends have not been
available
 The findings of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative will aid in decentralised health planning.
 Policymakers in India need reliable disease burden data at subnational levels.
 Planning based on local trends can improve the health of populations more effectively.
 The findings of the study are based on analysis of data from all available sources such as the sample
registration system, large-scale national household surveys, other population-level surveys, among
others.
 The key metric used to assess burden is disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which is the sum of the
number of years of life lost due to premature death and a weighted measure of the years lived with
disability due to a disease or an injury. This allows comparisons of health loss between diseases, risk
factors, States, sexes, age groups, and over time. Inequalities among States

What are the important findings of this initiative?

 The per person disease burden, measured as DALY rate, has dropped in India by 36% from 1990 to
2016, but there are major inequalities among States with the per person DALY rate varying almost
twofold between them.
 The burden of most infectious and childhood diseases has fallen, but the extent of this varies
substantially across India. Diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, iron-deficiency anaemia,
neonatal disorders, and tuberculosis still continue to be major public health problems in many poorer
northern States.

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 The contribution of most major non-communicable disease categories to the total disease burden has
increased in all States since 1990.
 The continuing high burden of infectious and childhood diseases in poorer States along with the rising
tide of non-communicable diseases and injuries poses a particularly ominous challenge for these
States.
 The findings of the study reveal that three types of risks – undernutrition, air pollution, and a group of
risks causing cardiovascular disease and diabetes – are akin to national emergencies as these have the
potential to significantly blunt the rapid social and economic progress to which India aspires.

What can be done ?

 It is important to note that the State-specific DALY rates for many leading individual diseases varies
five- to tenfold between States. Major differences are also observed for individual diseases between
neighbouring States that are at similar levels of development. This points to the need for State-specific
health planning instead of generic planning.
 Disease burden can be reduced by addressing the risk factors for major diseases.
 Unless serious attempts are made soon to address this surge through massive upscaling of
interventions in the health, food, agriculture, housing and urban development sectors, these risks can
result in major deterioration in the health status across all States, rich and poor.
 An important point to note related to undernutrition, air pollution, and the risks causing
cardiovascular disease and diabetes is that the interventions needed to address them have to involve
extensive collaborations between the health sector and other relevant sectors.
 The chances of achieving the overall health targets for India and of reducing health inequalities among
States would be higher now if the biggest health problems and risks identified for each State are
tackled on priority basis rather than with a more generic approach that does not take into account
these State-specific trends.

Conclusion

These findings reported by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative provide the most comprehensive
mapping so far of the magnitude of diseases and risk factors in every State, their age and sex distributions,
and trends over a quarter century — all in a single standardised framework.. This new knowledge base and
the annual updates planned by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative will provide important inputs
for the data-driven and decentralised health planning and monitoring recommended by the National Health
Policy 2017 and the NITI Aayog Action Agenda 2017-2020.

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CHILDHOOD FOREGONE

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Two years after governments set a 2025 target to end child labour, delegates from 100 nations at a recent
conference in Buenos Aires were told that they will miss the deadline. The implication is also that realising the
objective could take well over 20 years after the expiry of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Extent of child labour:

 The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that eight years from now, around 121 million
boys and girls would still be engaged in various occupations. The present figure is around 152 million
children aged 5-17.
 That is to say, only 31 million children are expected to be rescued between now and 2025 from
conditions that deprive them for life of the fundamental ingredients of basic survival.
 Should countries resolve to reinvigorate their efforts to reach the target, they would be looking at a
reduction each year of 19 million. That is close to five times the prevalent pace of decline. That would
be a stupendous record of eradicating a practice inconsistent with modern democratic norms. That
goal seems elusive at the moment on a number of indicators.
 Overall, there was a slowdown in the reduction of child labour, just one percentage point, during the
four years until 2016. In contrast was the fall of three percentage points in the corresponding period
up to 2012.
 More worrisome is that there was almost no progress with respect to the rescue of children under 12
years in the four years since 2012. Equally, the decline in child labour among girls was only half the
proportion of that of boys during this period.

Major factors responsible for child labour:

The ILO points to the following systemic failures that underpin the lack of progress.
 Foremost is the absence of national legislation to give effect to global conventions on the employment
of children in hazardous industries, as well as on the minimum age of work.

 There is incoherency between laws that prescribe a minimum age for employment and those for
completion of compulsory school education.
 Complementing the legal inconsistencies is the lack of effective labour inspections in the informal

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economy. Around 71% of working children are concentrated in the agriculture sector, with 69% of
them undertaking unpaid work in family units.

Way forward:

 A strong legal framework that mandates punitive action against errant firms and recruitment of youth
and adults are important tools to guarantee the protection of children.
 Above all, it is inconceivable that these policies could be entrenched in the absence of strong collective
bargaining mechanisms and effective social protection policies from the cradle to the end of their lives.

Relevance : GS 2

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RETHINK SCHOOL EDUCATION

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

There has been a significant shift to private education from government schools.

The piteous condition of education in India:


 India is too embarrassed to participate in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment
tests covering reading and computational skills for 15-year-olds.
 Successive studies have repeatedly established that a majority of those in each class in India have
educational attainments much lower than the one they are in.
 Only half of all students who enter primary school make it to the upper primary level and less than half
that — around 25 million — get into the 9-12 class cycle.
 We have around a million primary schools and only half that number at the upper primary level. The
number of secondary schools is less than 150,000 for a country of 1.3 billion, and even this comes
down to just 100,000 at the higher secondary level.

Shift to private schools

 The inexorable shift to private school education along with the Right to Education Act represents a
failure of the public-school system.
 It is government schools that should be the drivers of change by becoming the first, not the last, choice
of parents to send their children to.
 For that to happen, our public-school system must be swiftly and radically revamped, while our
teacher training institutions, of which the District Institutes of Education and Training constitute an
important part, speedily re-jigged to turn out world-class teachers, of the kind that will encourage
children to stay on in, not drop out of, school.

 It is time that India began viewing school education as a critical strategic investment and gave it the
status of a vital infrastructure project.
 As all in-country efforts have failed, we should go in for a radical overhaul of our educational
infrastructure with the help of countries that have an amazing record in providing quality school
education — Finland, for instance. We can surely afford to pay for that.

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Conclusion

If only India had begun revamping school education at the start of economic liberalisation, it would by now
have had the world’s largest pool of well-educated and highly trained workers. Fortunately, India continues to
have the largest number of young people anywhere. By ensuring they get a world-class education over the
next few decades, India will be well on its way towards becoming a developed nation sooner than expected.

Relevance : GS 2

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FIRST AMONG EQUALS

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Prime Minister said that the Legislature should have the independence of making laws, the
executive should have independence in taking decisions.

Judiciary and the separation of power

 The separation of powers is a load-bearing beam of the fundamental structure of the Constitution.
However, while the prime minister has stressed its need, he has done so in a way that suggests that
the government would like to see the legislature, the judiciary and the executive as silos at arm’s
length from each other, with each allowing the others to go about their business.
 Law Minister has said that if the people can trust the prime minister with the nuclear button, surely he
can be trusted to appoint judges through his law minister. This argument seems to misunderstand, or
to deny, that in the constitutional scheme, separation of powers is also a way of institutionalising
checks and balances.
 Finance Minister has said that the judiciary may intervene in the event of executive failure, but only to
issue directives to spur it into action. It should not commit judicial overreach by getting into executive
functions, like organising the running of sports organisations or dealing with the non-performing assets
of banks.
 The reality is that much of progressive law was developed in courts through the innovation of public
interest litigation, precisely because the legislatures had failed to enact laws in the public interest. The
finest fruit of this process is the entire corpus of environmental law.

 If the ambit of the PIL territory has widened and the people regard the judiciary as the court of first
resort, it only betrays a lack of confidence in securing executive or legislative action. The prime
minister affirmed the nation’s allegiance to the balance of powers, but stressed that each pillar of
democracy should be aware of its “limits”. The president drew attention, instead, to the “intricate and
delicate balance” between them.
 The pillars of democracy are not supposed to stand coyly aloof. They were designed to lean into each
other with countervailing force, in order to hold up the edifice of democracy.
 Besides, amidst the high-minded talk of the equality of the three institutions, it is all too easy to forget
that the judiciary is the first among equals. It is the custodian, interpreter, upholder and defender of
the Constitution. The power of judicial review sets it above the others.

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Conclusion

If the government tries to even the odds, it must run the risk of being perceived to be in search of a
“committed judiciary”, a mercifully short-lived institution which India’s people cast into the dustbin of history
in 1977.

Relevance : GS 2

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THE ROAD TO AN OPEN INTERNET

Points to be noted in this article:

Why has this issue cropped up?

The struggle to keep the Internet freely accessible to all has got a welcome shot in the arm The telecom
regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has supported Net neutrality.

What is net neutrality ?

Put simply, Net neutrality creates rules of the road for a free and open Internet. It requires that barriers
should not be created by telecom and Internet service providers for user choice by limiting their power to
discriminate between content providers and different classes of content

Significance of Net neutrality

 The willing embrace of Net neutrality by many, including the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
(TRAI), is not only a function of mass rhetoric and intelligent campaigning but of the concept of Net
neutrality itself taking forward values of Indian constitutionalism.
 It immediately appeals to our sense of fairness, for it based on maintaining a level of equality in the
use of a common resource.
 The Supreme Court has acknowledged that the power to license spectrum and telegraphs is held by
the government as a trustee of public interest.
 The Suprem Court also observed that “as natural resources are public goods, the doctrine of equality,
which emerges from concepts of justice and fairness, must guide the state in determining the actual
mechanism for distribution of material resources.”

 Taking this forward, TRAI in its recommendations on Net neutrality has suggested amendments to the
various classes of telecom and Internet licences to have an express recognition of a non-discriminatory
principle for Internet content.
 Beyond equality and reasonableness, a more tangible appreciation of Net neutrality is immediately felt
on our liberty. The Internet today affords millions of Indians with an immediate audience without the
traditional costs of distribution. Tinkering with its character, or carving it up in slices as would happen
in the absence of Net neutrality, would fragment its community and the diversity of choice offered by
it. This would impact both the right to speak and the ability to receive knowledge, hence impacting our
right to freedom of speech and expression.

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 The concepts of equality, reasonableness and liberty which underpin the social contract which gives
rise to the Indian Constitution are not mere black letters of the law. They are more than mere
limitations on state power in favour of individuals. By themselves, they are at their very best when
they are put into motion by positive actions by regulators and governments. To achieve these
objectives, there is a necessity to popularise the constitutional doctrine in ways and methods which
seem immediate and cater to the daily problems of the modern world.

Exception to net neutrality

 While batting for the right to an open Internet, however, TRAI has been careful to allow some
exceptions that allow companies to discriminate between content if it helps them regulate the flow of
traffic or offer “specialised services”.
 TRAI has been open to adopting a nuanced view that differentiates between various forms of content
instead of imposing a blanket ban on all forms of price differentiation.

Way forward

 While TRAI’s new guidelines will help the cause of building the Internet as a public platform with open
access to all, the concerns of service providers should not be dismissed altogether. The Internet has
spread all over the world, so widely that many believe it is now an essential good. But the
infrastructure that serves as the backbone of the Internet has not come without huge investments by
private service providers. So their interest must kept in mind as well along with welfare of the public.
 TRAI has left it, with important caveats, to the government to decide on services that count as
“specialised” and deserve exceptional treatment by regulators. To this end, a proper mechanism needs
to be instituted to make sure that the exceptions are not used as loopholes by the big Internet players.
 Policymakers will also need to think hard about creating an appropriate legal framework to prevent
the capture of regulation by special interests.

Conclusion

The enjoyment of Net neutrality will require constant, hard work — no victories are permanent. But for a
moment we can pause to celebrate how TRAI’s recommendations on Net neutrality provide hope that
modern technologies can refresh constitutional doctrine and also deepen participatory democracy.

Relevance : GS 2

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CHROME IAS ACADEMY


2018
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