16-08-2017-The Hindu Editorial

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Paper I: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India; Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism and Secularism.

Future Perfect:

Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st Independence Day speech highlights.

The Vision of a new India:

  • A New India free of casteism, terrorism, corruption and nepotism by 2022.
  • Envisaging a future where farmer income would double and where youth and women would have many more opportunities.
  • Demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax, the movement toward a digital economy are all seen as achievements which would secure a happier, more secure future of our country.
  • All these would lead to a corruption-free, transparent India.

Terrorism and Violence:

  • Kashmir problem cannot be solved by bullets, but only by embracing fellow Kashmiris.
  • Prime Minister asked the terrorists to join the mainstream.
  • He asserted that violence in the name of faith, saying it is unacceptable in India.
  • He had already mentioned Communism and Casteism as twin evils before.
  • We should become a compassionate society that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or religious background.

Team India:

  • He invoked Team India to run for a New India.
  • He echoed the sentiments of the President of India, Shri Ramnath Kovind who said a partnership between the citizen and the government should be formed.
  • This will ensure that the benefits of government policy reach all sections of the people.
  • He spoke about the support India has received from several countries in its fight against terrorism.

Domestic Audience:

  • There was no mention of China/Doklam stand-off or Balochistan either.
  • The speech seemed directed entirely at the domestic audience.
  • The focus of the speech was largely on development and a reliance on technology-enabled solutions to transform the country over the next five years.

Paper II: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Judiciary.

No case for an All India Judicial Service:

Context: The proposal to create an All- India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS) is been endlessly debated. The debate has once again come to the fore with a fresh move to implement it and nine High Courts expressing their disapproval.

Outline of All India Judicial Service:

  • District judges will be recruited centrally through an All-India examination.
  • They will then be allocated to each State along the lines of the All India Service.
  • Arguments for the creation of an All India Judicial Service:
  • A transparent and efficient method of recruitment.
  • This will enable the Judiciary to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession.
  • Similarly, judges recruited by High Courts on the basis of a common examination is currently being debated in the Supreme Court.

Against the creation of an All India Judicial Service:

  • The idea of an All India Judicial Service was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950s.
  • The above proposal inadequately diagnoses the problem.
  • The malaise is deeper because:
  • The serious mismanagement of legal education by the Bar Council of India.
  • No efforts to improve the standards of legal education across the country has been taken.
  • There are few islands of excellence and they are an exception.
  • The above includes few law colleges set up and funded by the government.

Abysmal Career growth and Remuneration:

  • The avenues for career advancement are limited as well.
  • The pay is unremunerative.
  • The above scenario persists, despite the efforts from the Supreme Court in its judgement in orders in the All India Judges’ Association case.
  • It is comparatively low viz a viz the corporate sector.
  • There are no sufficiently good terms and conditions of service, and a defined career progression is absent.
  • A study published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2016 is important in this context.
  • It shows that less than a third of seats in the High Courts are filled by judges from the district cadre.
  • They are appointed later in their careers.
  • And their tenure is shorter than most of the judges appointed directly from the bar.
  • Low pay can be redressed by the State governments.
  • Career advancement can be addressed only by the judiciary.

New problems created by All India Judicial Services:

  • Those from less privileged background are shut down from entering the judicial services.
  • Local laws, customs and practices which vary widely across the states will be given a go by.
  • This will increase the cost of training for Judges selected through All India Judicial Services.
  • If the All India Judicial Services aims to fill up vacancies, then it may go down the All India Services way.
  • Therefore, both the decentralised approach of each High Court conducting its own appointment and a centralised one seem to have roughly the same efficacy in filling up the vacancy.

The Way Ahead:

  • The problems of the Indian judiciary at all levels have reached catastrophic levels.
  • It is likely to be a combination of delays, cost, uncertainty, inefficiency and corruption.
  • Centralising the manner of recruitment of judges won’t solve anything.
  • Focus should instead be on implementing more direct solutions to address the problems of Indian Judiciary.

Paper III: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and Minimum Support prices; Issues of Buffer Stock and Food Security; Technology missions; economics of Animal rearing.

The Crisis facing Indian Agriculture Today:

Context:

As India marks 50 years of the Green Revolution this year the architect of the movement, M.S.Swaminathan, reflects upon the greatest challenge facing Indian agriculture. The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) chaired by M.S.Swaminathan submitted its report for improving the state of agriculture in India in the year 2006 which contained suggestions for inclusive growth of farmers and agriculture sector in India.

 

The greatest challenge facing Indian Agriculture:

  • Back in the 20th century it was achieving self-sufficiency in in food grain production.
  • But today there are two major challenges before Indian agriculture: ecological and economical.

Ecological Component:

  • The conservation of our basic agricultural assets such as land, water, and biodiversity is a major challenge.
  • For instance, in Punjab, and in other Green Revolution States, the water table has gone down and become saline.
  • Addressing the ecological challenge requires more technology.
  • Heavy use of pesticides and high-yielding varieties of paddy during Green Revolution have resulted in environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.
  • Hence its time for an Ever Green Revolution.
  • This approach will see increase in farm productivity but without ecological harm.
  • Ever Green Revolution involves, integrated pest management, integrated nutrient supply, and scientific water management which rules out any damage to ecology.
  • Practices like mandatory rainwater harvesting and introduction of fodder and grain legumes as rotation crops by the wheat farmers in Punjab are recommended.
  • The above will improve the sustainability of farming.
  • Declaring fertile zones capable of sustaining two to three crops as Special Agricultural Zones, and providing unique facilities to farmers there will ensure food security.
  • Soil health managers should be appointed to monitor and ameliorate the soil conditions in degraded zones.
  • They should also help rectify defects like salinity, alkalinity, water logging, etc.
  • Adopting Global Best Practices in agriculture will help to bring in new techniques.
  • The idea of more crops per drop has been implemented well in Israel.
  • Post-harvest technologies like threshing, storage, etc. will have to be given greater attention.

           On employing Genetic Modification technology for improving yield :

  • One has to measure the risks and benefits before arriving at conclusion.
  • We need an efficient regulatory mechanism in India.
  • An all-India coordinated research project on GMOs with a biosafety coordinator must be put in place.
  • To make the most of GM technology we must choose a problem where there is no other way to address the challenge.
  • GM in most cases is not necessary. Normal Mendelian breeding itself is sufficient in most cases.
  • The Norwegian legislation, with considerable restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms need to be considered.
  • In conclusion, devise a way to get the technology’s benefit without its associated risks.

 

        On Organic Farming:

 

  • Organic farming can have a good scope only under three conditions.
  • Farmers must possess animals for organic manure.
  • The capacity to control pests and diseases.
  • Adopting agronomical methods of sowing such as rotation of crops.
  • Adoption of the requisite crop-livestock integration is essential.

   On addressing climate change challenges:

  • Both less rainfall and a higher mean temperature affect farming adversely.
  • There are both adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • We need to evolve a drought and a flood code.
  • Establishing a multi-disciplinary monsoon management centre in each drought-affected district must be a priority.
  • This will help provide timely information to rural families on the methods of mitigating the effect of drought, and maximizing the benefits of good growing conditions.
  • Animal husbandry camps could be setup to make arrangements for saving cattle and other farm animals.
  • Because usually animals tend to be neglected during such crises situations.
  • Enabling women to manage household food security under conditions of agrarian distress should be tried.
  • Start breeding varieties characterized by high per day productivity than just per crop productivity.
  • This will help get higher yield in a shorter duration.
  • We should also enlarge the food basket to include nutri-millets.
  • The Food Security Act must be implemented properly to address the situation.

Economic Component:

  • Increasing productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm is the need of the hour.
  • The growing population pressure has made it pertinent to increase crop yield.
  • The economics of farming will have to be made profitable to address the current situation.
  • Addressing the economic component requires more public policy interventions.
  • A new formula for calculating the Minimum Support Price would raise the current MSP.
  • The government is willing to pay Seventh Pay Commission salaries to insulate government servants from inflation.
  • Now farm loan waivers are posing a bigger burden on the government than higher pay for farm produce will incur.
  • No government is prepared to take long-term steps to ensure the economic viability of farming.

Three Ways to improve the income of the farmers:

  • Minimum Support Price and Procurement is one.
  • Improving productivity.
  • The Marketable surplus from agriculture too need to increase.
  • Making value addition to Biomass is a way to achieve the above.
  • For instance, using paddy straw, a biomass to cultivate mushrooms.
  • Thought needs to be given to how we could reduce the cost of farm production, minimise risks and maximise returns.
  • This will help reduce the incidence of farmer’s suicide.

Way Ahead:

  • Farming is the most important enterprise in this country and farmers are an integral part of our country.
  • We need to treat this large group of entrepreneurs with dignity.

 

Paper III: Indian Economy and issues related to planning, mobilization of resoureces, growth, development and employment.

Caution from a sobering survey:

Context:

Looking at the macro economic climate in the light of the Economic Survey Volume II which was released recently.

       Economic Growth:

  • Economic growth for fiscal year 2016-17 was 7.1%.
  • The fiscal year 2016-17’s macroeconomic context too was benign:
  • This was the year when oil prices and inflation were moderate
  • Monsoon rains were abundant and inbound foreign direct investment was at record peak.
  • And the currency was stable and the fiscal deficit was under control.

But the year did not record at least one percentage point higher growth than the previous year.

Why the growth slump:

Demonetization is the biggest suspect for bringing down the growth.

The second half of the last fiscal saw the growth rate plummet by 1.2 percentage points compared to the first half.

The Survey says that signs of slowdown were evident even before Demonetization in November 2016.

Next year too, the Survey forecasts a growth closer to its lower bound, possibly lower than 7%.

The continuing deflationary trends arise from:

  • Lower investment ratio and low farm prices especially for non-cereals foods,
  • The cutting back on development spending by State governments owing to the burden of loan waivers,
  • And of course the twin balance sheet problem.
  • The above factors prompted the slashing of development spending by the states.

News from the Industrial front:

The latest June data on the index of industrial production (IIP) shows contraction of the index.

This contraction is not due to the introduction of Goods and Services Tax and the destocking of warehouses.

The contraction is in fact widespread.

Especially across manufacturing sectors, with 15 out of 23 industries showing negative growth.

The twin balance sheet problem adds to the worries.

Banks are helpless with a stretched balance sheet heavy with Non-Performing Assets.

Corporates, with excessive borrowing at high interest rates from the past, too are reeling under defaults.

Their excess capacity and not-so robust demand for their products is not helpful either.

Their situation is made worse with the flood of imports, which takeaway their domestic market share.

Because strong rupee makes imports cheaper.

Countervailing duty which is now tax deductible, makes imports that much more attractive in comparison with domestically produced goods.

Thus a strong rupee harms domestic economy.

Problems in the Industry: A Structural and A Cyclical one

Even if it is cyclical, it has long term structural dimensions.

The investment to GDP ratio has been abysmal for the last five years.

The private sector component growth too is low.

The Bank Credit growth to industry has been consistently negative.

Even though Sensex is touching new heights, the sentiment is not reflected in the physical investments.

The state of the Financial Sector:

The survey implicitly blames the high interest policy of the Reserve Bank of India.

Despite the Monetary Policy framework focusing on Inflation, maintaining a hawkish stance is considered as conservative.

But the hands of RBI is tied by the Inflation expectation survey which shows people’s anxiety about future price rise.

Bringing down the interest rate will not automatically result in huge investments.

Many other factors too weigh in the minds of the investors namely the Non-Performing Assets.

The Scope for optimism:

Improving fiscal situation at the center and exports reaching positive territory.

Building blocks of long term growth are being put in place:

Goods And Services Tax

A new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to deal with NPAs

A new monetary policy framework

And the Aadhaar linkage to government services.

How does one revive this sentiment and get back on the growth path:

Opportunities from Digital India, Smart Cities Mission and Housing for All are huge, but a kicks tart is needed.

Eventhough, near term growth may not be upbeat, the medium term has strong signs of sustaining along an 8 percent growth path.